Outdoor Notebook — Hagerman bowhunts known; Wheeler wins again; Okla. turkey regs change

Lynn Burkhead
For the Herald Democrat

In a sure sign that summer can’t last forever, the 2021-22 Drawn Hunts page is now live on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website.

What’s important about that, you ask? Simple — with the Drawn Hunts page going up late last week, the clock is now ticking for those who hope to draw a coveted archery deer hunting permit at Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge later this fall.

Now in its second year as a part of the TPWD drawn hunts system — at least as far as the application process goes, that is — the deadline to enter the drawing for a Hagerman bowhunting permit this year is Sept. 1. It costs $3 to enter the drawing, $80 to hunt if you actually get drawn, and the application process is completely online at https://tpwd.texas.gov/huntwild/hunt/public/public_hunt_drawing .

With the usual three bowhunting segments — Segment A is Nov. 5-7, Segment B is Nov. 19-21, and Segment C is Dec. 3-5 — applicants will hope to draw one of 202 permits available this year for the Big Mineral, Sandy, and Godwin units being hunted. Incidentally, the TPWD website indicates that 1,616 hunters applied for Hagerman bowhunting permits a year ago.

In addition to providing proof of International Bowhunter Education Program course completion, Hagerman bowhunters will once again be subject to providing an archery proficiency test score of 80% or higher if drawn. After that requirement was dropped last year, it is back again this year and is required for all hunters who are drawn for a bowhunting permit at the 11,320-acre refuge established on the southern shores of Lake Texoma in 1946.

For information on the 2021 Hagerman NWR whitetail bowhunts, contact the refuge office during business hours at 903-786-2826 or visit the TPWD drawn hunts web page.

Wheeler wins again — Kevin VanDam proved a few weeks ago that his angling career is far from over, capturing his 29th career professional bass fishing title and his first as a member of Major League Fishing’s Bass Pro Tour. In winning the BPT Stage 4 event at Tennessee’s Lake Chickamauga, KVD outlasted runner-up Jacob Wheeler.

If there is an heir to KVD’s throne, it just might be Wheeler, who notched his fourth career BPT title last week on New York’s St. Lawrence River at the circuit’s Stage Five derby. Wheeler did so by catching 35 scorable bass on the event’s Championship Day, fish that weighed a cumulative 129-pounds.

Wheeler also broke the single-day heaviest weight total earlier in the event, a whopping 165-pound, 1-ounce effort on Day One. In claiming the most recent BPT win, Wheeler picked up the $100,000 winner’s check, his second of the year to go with the $100,000 victory he picked up during the circuit’s April visit to the Austin area during a stop on Lake Travis.

Now a regular competitor with BPT and Major League Fishing, the latest Wheeler win gives the Harrison, Tenn. resident 10 pro level wins…and counting. That includes his four BPT victories, two wins on the Bassmaster Elite Series circuit, and the 2012 Forrest Wood Cup Championship among others.

Wheeler, currently ranked No. 1 in the latest BassFan.com world angler rankings, also won the 2019 MLF World Championship (a made for television event) and has pocketed more than $2.6 million in career earnings.

With a BPT win in 2019, a BPT win in 2020, and now two BPT wins in 2021, who knows how far J-Wheels can push his career. Maybe even to the point of one day threatening KVD’s grip on the professional bass angling record book.

Oklahoma adopts new turkey regs — During a special meeting last week on June 28, the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission approved sweeping changes for the Sooner State’s turkey hunting regulation package, starting with the 2021 fall season.

Those changes include: restricting fall archery harvest to one tom only statewide (the fall seasonal limit is one tom only for gun and archery seasons combined); restricting fall gun season method of take to shotgun only in all counties currently open to fall turkey gun hunting; setting spring turkey season dates as April 16-May 16 statewide; restricting spring turkey harvest limit to one tom only statewide; and setting spring youth turkey season as the Saturday and Sunday before opening day of the regular statewide spring turkey season.

The vote came after Bill Dinkines, Wildlife Division Chief for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, presented ODWC’s recommendation to the state’s Commissioners. That recommendation came after a presentation by ODWC biologist Eric Suttles on the state’s ongoing wild turkey population decline, up-to-date hunting data, and a hunter survey that produced a record 5,000+ public comments concerning the hunting regulation change.

A news release from ODWC indicates that prior to the staff-recommended proposal being adopted, Rules Committee Chairman James Barwick made a motion to maintain the one-tom county limit but allow resident hunters to take a second tom as long as at least one of the toms was taken with archery equipment.

The release goes on to say that Barwick's proposal would also have limited nonresidents to one tom. His motion was seconded but subsequently voted down 4-3 after being discussed. At that point, a motion was made and seconded to adopt the proposal put forth by ODWC and it passed by a 5-2 vote.