With the start of May next week, it’s officially time for bowhunters to start dreaming of big bucks again at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge.
That’s because the annual May 1-31 application period for hopeful archers is ready to begin again, a process that annually fuels the big antlered hopes and dreams of hunters hoping to draw a bow tag and take the biggest buck of their hunting careers.
You can understand such big buck fantasies when you consider some of the monster whitetails tagged at Hagerman NWR over the years, some of the best bow bucks ever taken anywhere in Texas.
That includes the legendary Big Boy, a massive buck tagged by Jeff Duncan on Nov. 4, 2001 as he bowhunted at the refuge. The record-setting buck featured 26 scorable points and eventually stretched the measuring tape to an amazing net score of 225 7/8 inches.
So lofty was that final number that it made Big Boy the Pope & Young Club’s Texas state record for non-typical deer, a bowhunting benchmark that stood for several years and one that still rests in the P&Y Club’s Top 100 all-time rankings.
While Big Boy is the largest official non typical to ever come from the local refuge, that buck isn’t the only gnarly specimen to be arrowed there. In fact, in a single season a couple of decades ago, not one but two giants fell to local bowhunters.
Dubbed the Hagerman Hatrack Twins, the pair of giant Boone & Crockett Club non-typicals were killed by the late Forrest “Junior” Robertson of Sherman and Donnie Brewer of Dodd City.
Robertson’s buck — taken with a recurve bow — scored 200 5/8 inches and was tagged in late October 1995. A few weeks later in early December, Brewer tagged the second big non-typical of the fall when he caught up with a buck that scored 201 5/8 inches.
Occasionally, someone even arrows a big clean typical buck just like Sherman’s Jim Lillis did as November turned into December back in 2007. By the time Lillis had secured his tag on the antlers of his own dream buck, he had claimed Grayson County’s top hunter harvested typical buck, a 175 2/8-inch Boone and Crockett whitetail.
And while those four are the biggest headliners tagged over the years, there have been numerous others too, some big enough for the upper reaches of the record books, others big enough to serve as the best buck that a hunter has ever tagged.
While the hunting at Hagerman might not be as great now as it was 10 to 20 years ago, it’s still pretty good. And with plenty of dense bottomland habitat and surrounding uplands remaining at the refuge, not to mention several favorable years of weather and habitat conditions, it’s only a matter of time before another massive Hagerman buck falls to a well placed arrow.
Perhaps that will be this fall when the Hagerman NWR bowhunt will feature 225 archery permits for the 5,570 acres found in the Big Mineral, Harris and Meyers units open during the 2019 bowhunt segments.
For hunters fortunate enough to draw one of those tags, hunt dates this year are Nov. 1-3 for Segment A, Nov. 15-17 for Segment B, and Dec. 6-8 for Segment C.
As in other recent years, the non-refundable application fee is $5 per hunter and applicants must have successfully completed a bowhunter education course prior to applying.
The 2019 drawing will take place on June 7, followed by the deadline to turn in the $50 hunt fee and shooting proficiency test scorecard on July 12.
For more information on the 2019 archery deer hunts at Hagerman, call the Refuge office at 903-786-2826 during business hours Monday through Friday or visit the refuge’s online page at www.fws.gov/uploadedFiles/Hagerman%202019%20Archery%20Deer.pdf.