Hunters Worried About Future Of Camp Gruber

Sunday, August 27th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The military has a battle on its hands with area hunters.

Locals have hunted land at Camp Gruber for decades, but now the military wants to change that. They say it needs the land for more training.

Generations of hunters have walked the land in Camp Gruber.

"I came out her in 1957, when I was nine year old, with my dad and grandad to deer hunt," says Ron Justice, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife.

Justice comes out here still nearly everyday, and he's been working nights lately.

His dashboard is dirty because the windows need to be rolled down when he's counting deer.

"Get an estimate on deer numbers and what our projected numbers might be," says Justice.

Justice calls his job a dream job; he's a biologist with Oklahoma's Department of Wildlife. He works with the land and animals in and around Camp Gruber.

If the military wins a battle against the wildlife department, he'll still get to work some of this land, but he's worried for the hundreds of hunters.

"I feel more for them, then for me," says Justice.

The contract with the Oklahoma Wildlife Department runs out in two years. The military does not want to renew that contract. It wants to control the activity out here. And it wants to shorten the hunting, fishing and camping seasons."

The 30-thousand acres in Muskogee County are the training site of the Oklahoma Army National Guard. Camp Gruber leaders say they want their forces and other troops to use the land more often.

Hunters get to use the land three months a year, and the military wants to cut that in more than half.

"They keep gradually taking more and a little more," says

Virgil Woodworth's father, grandfather and great-grandfather hunted Gruber. So do he and his son and they say, so will Virgil’s grandson.

“We are going to be loser's all the way around and it is time for Oklahoma to wake up, they are not making any more hunting land, that's it," says Woodworth. "If there was a war or something going on, I could see them taking all that land, they don't need that land."

The military leaders want to work with the hunters, but say training the military and police forces is their primary purpose.

Ron Justice and his fellow hunters say their going to the military leader’s bosses-the lawmakers.

"We are not going to let them have it, they have a fight on their hands as far as I'm concerned," says Woodworth.

A military spokesperson says the guard gets priority.

In 1942, President Roosevelt signed an order declaring the land for military use.