January 1945 Oklahoma Game and Fish News
January 1945 Oklahoma Game and Fish News

Browsing through the first edition of the Oklahoma Game and Fish News (January 1945) I came across the name of former Medicine Park resident H.T. Wails. He had been hired as a helper on a deer trapping and transplanting project conducted at Fort Sill beginning in December 1944.

I discovered the vintage issue through a recent email from the Oklahoma Department of Libraries announcing that the state’s wildlife magazines from 1945 to 1970 are now available on Digital Prairie. It is going to be a great adventure to read every issue!

The article Mr. Wails was mentioned in was titled “Whitetails on the Move” by Juanita Mahaffey, editor of the new publication. In 1944, an agreement was made between the state game commission with the commandant at Fort Sill to thin the deer herds.

Ms. Mahaffey traveled to the local army base on a mild winter day to observe the live trapping of the deer and interview the officials involved in the project. The goal was to depopulate crowded herd areas and move the deer to a suitable environment. She reported that they saw more than 80 deer traveling together on that day. Overpopulation in the Wichita Mountains and the adjoining military reservation was a concern. Deer herds were in the way of military vehicles and personnel. They were moved to areas that had good habitat but no deer.

Just 45 years prior, in 1900, market/subsistence hunting and unregulated harvest eliminated nearly all the whitetail deer from the state, according to a timeline on the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) website. It’s hard to imagine Oklahoma without any whitetail deer! Thanks to restoration efforts from state agencies and the legislature through the years, the species was restored to a thriving population in the state.

The deer restoration program began in 1943 with the trap and transplant of 22 deer. This came on the heels of many years of no hunting allowed. In 1917, the legislature had totally banned the deer harvest. Whitetail deer hunting did not resume until 1933, when a 5-day regulated hunt was permitted. This also marked the beginning of safety regulations for wearing a red upper outer garment (later to become “hunter” orange).

From 1933 until 1940, limited hunting seasons were approved and then banned. The ODWC timeline noted that in 1941 through 1943 all deer hunting was closed due to many Oklahoma Game and Fish personnel called to active military service during World War II. In 1945, deer restoration efforts resumed with the trapping and transplanting project at the Wichita Mountains and Fort Sill. An interesting fact is that Oklahoma’s whitetail deer population was rebirthed and managed from southwest Oklahoma.

Anyone interested in reading more of the ODWC deer timeline can find it online at the agency’s website. The back issues of Oklahoma’s wildlife magazines can be found on the Oklahoma Digital Prairie website.

I tried to research information on H.T. Wails just to see if there might be more of a local storyline to follow with him, but I didn’t come up with anything. The only information gleaned from internet search engines is that he may have been one of the principal owners of the former S & W Oil Company and possibly buried in Okmulgee. There was nothing to confirm, however, that this was the same man mentioned in the 1945 article.

Other articles included in the January 1945 Oklahoma Game and Fish News include an article on conservation, a beginning series on knowing Oklahoma fish species, a list of game law offenders prosecuted, and a story titled “War on Coyotes!”

Just curious ... would you eat a coyote?

Any comments, responses (coyote recipes) or info, email me at thechronicle@hillcom.net.