Participating in a once-in-a-lifetime elk hunt at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Oklahoma was definitely a bucket-list item for Shawnee residents Mark
Thompson and Lance Carter. Both hunters harvested typical elk that scored high enough to be recognized as the first two elk in Oklahoma’s Cy Curtis Awards Program.
Thompson now holds the state record for his elk, which scored 307 6/8. Carter’s elk scored 282 1/8.
Thompson and Carter both live near Dale. “We live about two miles from each other as the crow flies,” Carter said. Being from the same small town with children the same age, they got to know each other. Little did they know in 2013 they would share an unforgettable hunt.
When both hunters realized they were drawn for a bull elk hunt through the Wildlife Department’s controlled hunts program, they were shocked. Thompson’s hunt was “amazing to say the least.” The morning of hunter orientation, the temperature was a chilly 4 degrees with snow on the ground. With no wind and the sun rising, they could see elk on every ridge. Thompson decided then that he would be picky and get just the right bull.
On the first morning of the hunt, Dec. 2, 2013, five of the hunters in his group tagged out by 10 a.m. Thompson passed up a bull elk early that afternoon, but he “knew the fun wasn’t over yet.”
“I wanted to hunt longer. I knew the other guys had all tagged out and that afternoon I would be the only one hunting.” After observing some bulls in a deep valley that afternoon, he set up for his shot. About 30 minutes before dark, three bulls came in close enough for a shot. He picked out a bull at 350 yards and harvested his state-record bull elk with a .300 Winchester Magnum.
When he retrieved his elk, Thompson quartered it and packed it out himself. It took him two trips over a mile each in 20-degree weather with the wind blowing 20 mph. “I took my time so I didn’t hurt myself.”
Thompson took an iPad in the field with him and recorded much of his hunt with video and pictures. “I knew this would be the only time I would be able to have pictures of the whole elk and this was a once-in-a-lifetime hunt. I wanted to remember this.”
The next morning, Carter was part of a different group that was still out hunting. He successfully harvested his bull that morning with a broadside shot at long range. “The terrain is unreal, nothing like you would expect in Oklahoma,” Carter said.
The Wildlife Department established the Cy Curtis Awards Program in 1972 to recognize trophy game hunters in Oklahoma. For 42 years, the program recognized only trophy white-tailed deer and mule deer. But in 2014, the Cy Curtis Awards Program was expanded to include elk, pronghorns and black bears that exceed the minimum qualifying scores. The minimum score to be recognized in the Cy Curtis Awards Program for typical elk is 270. For non-typical elk, the minimum score is 310.
For more details on the program and how to apply for an award, go to the Cy Curtis page at wildlifedepartment.com.