Meers_It is a once-in-a lifetime opportunity...elk season at The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. The park opens its gates to hunters, but just a select few. The coordinator says it's the most coveted hunting opportunity in the state of Oklahoma. Over 20,000 hunters apply for only about 200 permits.
"I've been sending in for the last 35 years, and I got the permit this year. This will be my last hunt. This is a once in a lifetime hunt," said 73-year-old hunter Connie Jones. His name was drawn for the hunt in 1973, and he had to wait 5 years before he could apply for another permit. He reapplied, and reapplied, and finally won the lottery again. No elk on the first day of three, but day two of the hunt was easy.
"I went and sat down on a log, just up a ways from where I seen him in a timberline. Just right before 11, two bulls came in behind me and three cows following the two bulls. So that was my opportunity," said Connie. He fired one shot from 100 yards...a perfect kill. Not bad for a guy with rheumatoid arthritis.
Refuge officials say it is more of a harvest than a hunt. It is necessary to control the animal population. "If you just let the animals just prosper and keep growing, the population would just get to where they would all--start having a disease that could possibly come in, and other things. They would just basically eat themselves out of house and home," said Biological Technician Steve Hodge.
Hunters bring friends to help them get the elk ready to take home. That's what happened to Keith Williams 10 years ago, when his brother won the permit lottery and he came to help. "That's when I met a young lady that was also hunting out here. She was successful. She had no make-up on, her hair was up in a ponytail and a cap, camouflage, carried a big rifle, and I knew I had to meet her." Keith ended up marrying Rene10 years ago this month.
"While I've never personally been drawn to hunt elk out here, coming out here and meeting a young lady and eventually marrying her, it makes me feel like I've won the lottery," said Keith. He added an elk this year would be a perfect 10 year anniversary present.
The refuge changed its permit rules few years ago. Now, you can only win a lottery permit once.