Daybreak on November 17, 2017, didn’t show great promise for deer hunter Kyle Walker. It was going to be exceedingly warm—and windy. Wind blows scent around, and to a deer the world is smell. Not to mention it hampers a hunter’s hearing.
Walker was lucky to be drawn in a lottery for a chance to hunt white-tailed deer at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge in North Texas, an 11,320-acre refuge known for quality deer hunting. He had done his homework, scouting the refuge for three days in July for places that would likely harbor deer. What’s more, he was required to take a bowhunter education course and pass an archery shooting proficiency test to even enter the lottery draw at Hagerman. Come opening day Walker was secured in his stand in a choice spot in the hardwoods that paid dividends.
“I took the best buck I have ever harvested on public lands,” said Walker. “It was the hunt of a lifetime.”
Walker, who makes his living as an administrator and professor at a seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, relies on public lands for his hunting opportunity.
“I hunt public land exclusively; I live in the metroplex where there are a lot of people and lots of concrete—public lands have been my only place to hunt in Texas—and I am very grateful.”
Hagerman NWR has an earned reputation for producing both quality and quantity when it comes to whitetails, says its manager, Kathy Whaley.
“I’ve worked the deer check stations for nine years, and have seen a lot of harvested deer and many trophy bucks,” said Whaley.
The refuge has been open to deer hunting since 1984. Over the last 15 years, hunters harvested an average of 40 deer each season. The refuge has six units from 800 to 3,300 acres, of which only three are open to deer hunting on a given year. The deer hunts are managed for safety and quality experience.
“It’s affordable, too,” said Whaley. “Successful applicants pay only $50 to hunt on the refuge, in addition to state hunting license fees.”
And it’s a cost Walker is willing to pay again—he has every intention of hunting the Hagerman NWR in the future.
Hagerman is located near Sherman, Texas. It’s open to hunting turkey and feral hog by lottery draw and dove, rabbit, and squirrel in accordance with regulations with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Learn more at fws.gov/hunting/.
Craig Springer, External Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southwest Region