The odds of being drawn for an elk hunt in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge are not good.
They are the most difficult hunts to obtain through the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s controlled hunts program, which is like a lottery process.
This year 37,199 hunters applied for the 326 elk permits available statewide, which includes the less popular elk hunts on the Cookson and Pushmataha Wildlife Management Areas.
The chances of being drawn for an elk hunt are 1 in 114. The odds against Mark Ashcraft of Edmond were even greater.
He was one of 10,500 hunters who were seeking an elk permit for the third scheduled hunt of six overall to be held in the Wichita Mountains this season. Only 22 permits were available for this hunt.
A longtime whitetail deer hunter, it was Ashcraft’s first elk hunt. Not only was Ashcraft lucky enough to get drawn for the elk hunt, he also got an either-sex tag, meaning he could hunt a bull or cow.
Ashcraft, 32, had been trying to get drawn for the Wichita elk hunt for 14 years. But that’s nothing. He met another hunter while in the Wichitas that had finally gotten drawn after 39 years.
"I’ve known others who have tried even longer,” he said.
The Wichita elk hunts are truly once in a lifetime events. Once you’ve been drawn, you cannot be drawn again. That’s true whether you kill elk or not or even if you are unable to make the trip.
Hunters who are lucky enough to be drawn also get to see parts of the refuge not open to the public. Unlike most whitetail deer hunting where you sit in a stand and wait, in the Wichitas you have to spot and stalk the elk.
It was 19 degrees with a stiff 30 mph north wind on Dec. 15 when Aschraft was dropped off at his hunt site in the Wichitas at 5:45 a.m.
After waiting for first shooting light an hour later, Aschraft started moving through Elk Pass in search of a bull and quickly spotted two cows and a calf on a far ridge about 200 yards away.