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    Wapiti took me off guard. No, not an actual Elk but the word itself.
    Browsing through the September 1963 issue of “Oklahoma Wildlife” at digitalprairie.com, I came across the headline “Wichita Wapiti”. It immediately intrigued me and I wondered if there were some sort of animal in the Wichitas that I had never heard about.
    Okay, I hope there aren’t too many out there laughing at me and I’m not the only one who didn’t know “Wapiti” is a Native American word for Elk. It comes from “waapiti,” which was used by both the Shawnee people and the Cree Nation, according to the website rangelandbison.ca/why-we-call-elk-wapiti.
    As a word, wapiti dates back to about the 19th century and derives from the word “wap” (white). It refers to the white tail and rump characteristics of the animal. Elk are one of the largest deer species, according to animalwised.com. Wapiti have shaggy necks, which makes them distinguishable from other deer species. 
    Elk were originally indigenous to the Wichita Mountains area, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at fws.gov. A naturalist with the U.S. Biological Survey, James H. Gaut, explored the Wichitas in 1904, which was before the days of paved roads, wrote Art Halloran in the article “Wichita Wapiti”. He camped at the Mt. Scott post office, located east of the present-day location of Meers. Gaut roamed the mountains and talked to Indians and pioneer settlers.
    “He found that in 1881 A.T. Hopkins killed what was probably the last elk of the Wichitas” Halloran wrote. “The location was Rainey Mountain, now in Kiowa County. Mr. Gaut also learned that Supervisor E.F. Morrissey of the Wichita Forest Reserve frequently found elk antlers on the slopes of what is now known as Elk Mountain, just southwest of Refuge Headquarters. These antlers were the last known remains of native elk in southwestern Oklahoma. They were not saved.”
    By 1901, when the land which became the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge was set aside, no native elk remained in the area, according to fws.gov. In 1908, the city of Wichita, Kan. presented a bull elk to the Wichita National Forest and Game Preserve. In 1911, five Rocky Mountain Elk, one bull and four cows, were transplanted from the National Elk Refuge herd in Jackson, Wyo. In 1912, Wichita Supervisor Frank Rush brought in 15 more Elk from Jackson Hole, Wyo. That was the beginning of the present-day herd, after the native herd extinction of the late 1800s.

WIN A GUIDED ELK HUNT
FROM ODWC ON FORT SILL
Here's an opportunity to win a guided, either-sex elk hunt on Fort Sill. Details at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation website require anyone interested to purchase single tickets or a five-ticket bundle by Dec. 3 for a chance at this January 2022 hunt. This Wildlife Department raffle is available to residents and non-residents, regardless of whether you've ever been drawn for an elk hunt through the Oklahoma Controlled Hunts program.
Plus, winning this hunt doesn't affect your Controlled Hunts preference points or eligibility for once-in-a-lifetime elk hunts offered through the Controlled Hunts program.
The hunt will take place Jan. 5-7, 2022. There is no limit to the number of tickets that you can purchase, and proceeds go directly to the Wildlife Department to fund conservation and public hunting and fishing opportunities for everyone. A portion of the funds raised will support the natural resources management on Fort Sill, including military veterans, active duty and youth hunting opportunities.