McALESTER, Okla. -- It's not going to happen this year, but sometime in the future the tall, slender sportsman in the beige cowboy hat who managed the renowned deer hunt at McAlester Army Ammunition Plant here for nearly two decades will likely return in pursuit of his own trophy white-tailed deer.William R. Starry retired July 3 from his position as the chief of the Land Management Division, Directorate of Engineering and Public Works, at this Army post that is better known to the public for its large white-tailed deer than for the munitions it produces. Ironically, he hasn't hunted on MCAAP since being hired as the forestry technician in October 1981."The first three or four years, it was pretty tough," the self-proclaimed died-in-the-wool deer hunter said about not hunting on MCAAP. "It was more than pretty tough. It was really tough. Now, I am going to deer hunt."Starry's involvement with the deer hunt at MCAAP began as a volunteer in 1977."I was asked if I wanted to help with the deer hunt and I thought, 'man, you can't beat that,'" he said. "Little did I know that I would end up hunting less than helping."Through the interaction, he became acquainted with Jim Hodge, who called him in the summer of 1980 to inquire if he was interested in a job.At the time, he was working full-time at then-Aero Commander, an aircraft factory in Bethany, Oklahoma, was running his own part-time tractor business, and was helping his late father, William R. Starry Sr., who owned and operated Starry Live Bait."I was working three jobs and making pretty good money, but I was up there in the concrete jungle (near Oklahoma City) and I wanted to get away from there and did," he said. "It worked out real well."With his wife, Mary Lou, and his sons Andrew and Dale, he moved to McAlester and began a new career as a forestry technician at the Army ammunition plant.But the decision wasn't so easy. The job represented a significant cut in pay and, perhaps more importantly, he thought about a bit of advice his father had given him several years before."My dad told me when I started to go to college, 'son, if you love to hunt and fish, which I know you do, do not get into the hunting and fishing business because when you're working, everybody else will be hunting and fishing. And, he was absolutely right," he said with a laugh.Undeterred, he accepted the job when it was offered. In 1996, he was promoted to manage the 16,823 acres of timberland, 14,437 acres of grassland, 10,731 acres of brush land, and 3,085 acres of wetlands, which includes 150 ponds and lakes on the plant.He worked with agriculture, wetlands and aquatic habitat, endangered species, invasive species, and fish and wildlife. But it was the deer herd that yields buck with antlers large enough for the Pope and Young Club, for which Starry became well-known."Probably the thing I'm most proud of is … anywhere I go, and it can be in Colorado, it can be almost anywhere … I am recognized by people because of this deer hunt here," he said. "To get this deer herd in the shape it's in right now … it's probably my greatest achievement."But it wasn't always easy for him. From 1977 through 1984, the success rate for the hunt soared from seven to 24 percent and the buck to doe ratio was out of proportion. He needed to fix these problems, but the solution would not be an easy one.New compound bows and elaborate tree stands had made the hunt easier. After considerable thought in 1985, he pitched his controversial plan -- restricting the hunt to traditional archery -- to the commander. The commander agreed, but they still had to sell it to their partners at the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation in Oklahoma City."I'll never forget this, the (ODWC) director was Greg Duffy, and he said, 'I'm going to tell you right now, you are in for one helluva fight' because he knew the public," Starry said."The (commanding officer) at the time was Col. Jim Boddie and he said, 'Mr. Duffy, fightin' is what we do for a livin'."With ODWC in agreement, they promised to hold the hunt with the old rules and to promote the change for one year before reverting to traditional "stick and string" archery.Dissent from sportsmen was considerable and it included several congressional inquiries, but the hunt with traditional archery proceeded in 1986 and it achieved the desired result."Since then the hunt has stabilized at 13 percent because there is only so much you can do with a recurve bow," Starry said. "That's what you want. You want to be able to predict what your success rate is going to be. That way you can tell how many people you need to harvest a certain number of deer."Each year, about 22,000 applicants from across the nation apply for the 1,600 deer-hunting permits that are drawn by ODWC and spread out over a seven-weekend period in October and November.While the deer are coveted by sportsmen, they weren't popular with a farmer on the west side of the base who began planting peanuts."For two years I spent half of my cotton-picking summer nights over there keeping the deer out of his peanuts." Starry said. "When you're sitting there all night long, and then have to come to work the next morning, you figure out a way so you don't have to sit there."Ingenuity prevailed with Starry's brainchild -- the peanut watch program. He sought the help of a hunter who lived near Yukon, Oklahoma, who formed two-man teams that for 12 weeks spent their evenings on the farmer's property, with his consent, scaring deer out of his peanuts. In return, they received a hunting permit for one weekend.The conflict ceased when the peanut subsidies were abolished, and the farmer planted Bermuda grass and brought in cattle. But then a new problem arose. Feral hogs began digging in the field, as they do on MCAAP.Since 1999, Starry and his staff have removed more than 3,200 feral hogs. They've used all means available to try to remove them.The hogs continue to be a problem, but they are not the only invasive species. Starry said the eastern red cedar tree is the biggest problem."It's a good plant when it's controlled, but once you lose control, it becomes a terrible plant. And right now, it's a problem, not only for the wildlife, but as a fire hazard," he said.Even with these challenges and others, Starry routinely told everyone that he had 'the best job in the world.' The Land Management Division has received many awards over the years from Army, state and national organizations for their work. His legacy is large."We take great pride in saying that when one outstanding Soldier or civilian employee leaves our Army, we have another ready to capably carry out their duties. But there is no denying that Bill Starry has left an indelible mark on MCAAP, our Army and sportsmen, across not only Oklahoma, but also our Nation," said Col. Joseph G. Dalessio, former MCAAP commander who relinquished his command, June 24.Deciding to retire wasn't an easy one. Starry has toyed with it for several years."There comes a time when you feel like you've done what you felt like you wanted to, and there comes a time when you need to turn it over to someone else," he said."The younger generation has some new ideas," he said. "You get stagnant as you get older, especially in the same job for several years, and in wildlife management, you can't be stagnant. You better be looking ahead all the time and the younger generation can do that better than I can now."After 47 years of marriage, all of it working full or part-time with natural resource conservation which entails long hours, he wants to spend more time with Mary Lou.But that doesn't mean on a given autumn morning in the future he'll not again be found walking the fertile grounds of his old haunt. Only this time, he'll be in pursuit of his trophy white-tailed deer."I may do that and hopefully, get drawn, and just be a deer hunter because I know it's changed tremendously since the last time I was out here," he said.--------------McAlester Army Ammunition Plant is the Department of Defense's premier bomb- and warhead-loading facility. It is vital to ammunition stockpile management and delivery to the Joint Warfighter for training and combat operations. MCAAP is one of 14 installations of the Joint Munitions Command and one of 23 organic industrial bases under the U.S. Army Materiel Command, which include arsenals, depots, activities and ammunition plants.