column By: Lee J. Hoots | March, 19
Now and then I run across hunters who are more than satisfied pursuing the same game in the bottom of the same canyon or atop the same mountain year after year. This I find peculiar because from age 12 to the present, what I enjoy most about hunting is seeing new country and spending time with people I would never have otherwise met.
Brad Fenson’s “Oklahoma Whitetails” feature in this issue served as an interesting reminder: Why on Earth would you want to go to Oklahoma? Those words, more or less, were proffered from a bird-hunting buddy upon hearing my plans to head to “Indian Territory” more than a decade ago. My response, looking back, was predictable: “I want to hunt wild bobwhites before they’re all gone, and to see the vestiges of the once great, undulating grasslands before they’re gone, too.”
While early pioneer families once put down roots and appreciated every square inch they owned, the “American Dream” has been sadly altered over time. Inherited land is too often sold off for lack of interest, a quick cash transfusion, traded as a commodity or wringed for every penny a bank can pinch. (Yes, my wife reminds me often that I was born far too late.)
Fortunately, a number of old family owned ranches remain intact today. Sue Selman’s kin settled in what was considered the “west” in the late 1800s before Oklahoma was issued statehood in 1907. According to family legend, John Selman was responsible for the death of John Wesley Hardin. Sue is the perfect picture of a tough, pioneering rancher with an underlying heart of gold and an important sense of tradition. This I quickly deduced upon seeing her generous smile and visiting for several days after a small handful of otherwise strangers parked pickups on her vast ranch near Buffalo (selmanranch.com).
As it turned out, the weather was not conducive to good quail hunting. A cold, damp wind with exceptional gusts kept the birds hunkered and hindered the dog work. Even the heavier cover near the Cimmaron River and along Buffalo Creek would not relinquish its bobwhites. I shot exactly one and missed exactly one other, but one bird seemed to be plenty.
Sue Selman permits hunting on her property but is not a resource squanderer. She had an early hand in helping to launch the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Festival held annually in Woodward, Oklahoma, to raise awareness of the bird’s dwindling numbers (lektreks.org). Friend James Dietsch, an ardent Oklahoma quail hunter, tells me she was more than marginally involved, though when I asked Selman about her involvement, she responded, quite modestly, “Yes, I was part of that.” This “salt-of-the-earth” rancher, and others like her, are the heroes who maintain wildlife and our remarkable American landscape while providing access for sportsmen.