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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Public Lands: Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge Consistently Produces Quality Deer

   bow hunter with harvested deerScouting paid off for public lands hunter Kyle Walker. Photo by Paul Balkenbush/USFWS

Daybreak on November 17 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 a 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.

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He had done his homework. Walker scouted the refuge for three days in July for places that he knew from experience might harbor deer. What’s more, Walker was required to take a bow hunter education course and pass an archery shooting proficiency test to 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,” says Walker. “It was the hunt of a lifetime.”

Walker, who makes a living as an administrator and a 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.”

processing the harvest
Kyle Walker prepares his harvest. Photo courtesy of Kyle Walker  

Walker and his family enjoy the bounty of the harvest, free-range organic meat. He is able to share the harvest, too. This deer went into his freezer and that of a graduate student where he works, who has a family of teenagers.

Hagerman Refuge has an earned reputation, 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,” says Whaley. The refuge has been open to deer hunting since 1984. Over the last 15 years hunters have harvested an average of 40 deer each year. 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,” says Whaley. “Successful applicants pay only $50.00 to hunt on the refuge, in addition to state hunting license fees.”  And it’s one that Walker is willing to pay again—he has every intention of hunting at the refuge in the future.

Hagerman is located near Sherman, Texas. In addition to deer, 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. 

Craig Springer, External Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Southwest Region

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