Saturday, October 12, 2013

151" 11 Point Archery Buck on Public Land

Saturday, October 5th, I was working and Matt was in the deer stand. We were texting back and forth as he passed the time and I was wishing I was there. At 9:30, I receive a message stating he just had a huge buck walk out at 40 yards and angle away from him, never presenting a shot. Matt said he could've been a 12 point and it appeared like he had some non-typical points off his antler bases. We immediately put a plan together to ambush him the next day with our stand selection.

Sunday morning was cold for the beginning of October at 45 degrees with a windchill flirting with the high 30's. I convinced myself to get out of bed. When cold fronts push through, you have to get in the stand. I meet Matt at our typical prep spot. He brought Mike, his soon to be brother-in-law, to hunt as well this morning. Mike was going to sit where Matt had been the morning before. I had trouble making up my mind as to which stand I was going to sit in. We have 2 trees 70 yards apart in a bottom. I made up my mind to hunt the one that I shot my 7 point out of last November. I get setup in the tree 20 minutes before shooting light. I have my camera with me, but this tree just doesn't allow for self filming due to the paths the deer use and the camera arm preventing certain shots with a bow.

As the sun came up, it was cold. Fog rolled in and the wind picked up out of the Northwest as planned. Matt was about 400 yards to my Northeast and Mike was 200 yards to my East. The wind began to swirl where I was and I started to question sitting there. Knowing the wind was going to be about 15mph eventually, I stuck it out. The morning was uneventful for all 3 of us until 9:15 when Matt had a 4 point walk almost directly under him. We were all surprised with the weather being what it was, that we weren't covered up with deer. At 9:50, Matt and I decided to give it another 20 minutes, then call it a morning.

At 10:00am, I put my bow on a gear hanger and grabbed my drink. As I had the drink to my mouth, I hear a stick snap. I look to my right, mid-drink pose, and see a 2.5 year old 6 point. I quickly made the decision to pass, but also to put my drink back in my backpack. As I released my grip from the drink, the 6 point gets spooked and takes a few bounds to my East. Movement in the direction the 6 point had come from catches my attention and all I can see is antler, 15 yards away, following the 6 point to the East. I grab my bow and pull it next to my chest. The two bucks stop behind a group of trees and thick brush. My safety harness is wrapped around my right-side, forcing me to turn 270 degrees instead of 90. I slowly turn to my left, having to turn my back on the deer for a second. I quietly cursed my decision to wear the harness.As I spun, the 6 point abruptly turned South and bounded through the last shooting lane the deer would intersect on their path. I knew I had no time to lose. The 6 point stopped at the far edge of the shooting lane. I smoothly drew my bow as the large buck began to enter the shooting lane, broadside. I put my 20 yard pin on his chest, just above his elbow. Knowing the small buck was spooked, I was not going to attempt to stop the large buck. As I squeezed my release, he stopped, at 25 yards, broadside. I hesitated for a second, verifying my pin placement. My index finger curled, releasing the arrow. I watch the arrow head for it's mark through the sight. I hear a solid "thwack" as the arrow passes through the buck's chest.

The bucks tear out of there, running through waist-high grass, and disappearing to the south. I tried to listen for their movement, straining to hear anything to give me confirmation as to my shot placement. The woods are quiet as I begin to fall apart. I hadn't had time to process what was happening prior to the shot, instincts had taken over. My safety harness assisted in keeping me stable as my knees became weak. My eyes watered as I whispered a "thank you" to the Lord. I try to call Matt, but cell phone reception prevented the conversation from happening, so I shoot him a text. "Uh, I'm going to need help". He asks if I got one, to which I reply, "Yeah, he's big". I let my bow down from the tree and begin to get situated for my decent when I spot movement to my West. A 4 point is quartering toward me at 20 yards. I pull out my phone to snap a few pictures as he makes his way under my stand. He almost steps on my bow. He jumps up and back at the same time, not knowing what it was. Another 4 point appears 30 yards behind him. For the next 5 minutes, the 2 small bucks work their way around me, following the same path as the deer I just shot. Then angling toward Mike. I text him to let him know then I began to climb down from the tree.
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I find my arrow, and confirm it is covered in dark blood. I set my bow down and head to meet Mike and Matt. I relay the story to Mike and Matt as I set my gear down and we head back to the arrow. The blood trail is slow to start with a few drops here and there. I grow concerned as the next 50 yards pass and we are still only finding small areas of blood spray. As we enter a more wooded area, we find where the wound has opened up, leaving much more blood behind. We hit a dead end at the edge of a thicket. I backtrack a few yards, and see where the buck made an abrupt left turn. We've already trailed 150 yards. Pools of blood cover the leaves. I look up to verify my path and spot the white of the inside of his legs. As I make my way to him, I am in awe of the rack. The shot had happened so fast, I hadn't been able to count the points, but I knew he was bigger than any other buck I've killed.
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After I caped him out and the meat was safely in the cooler, I went to the store and purchased a flexible measuring tape. I looked up the measurements to take on a rack and started putting the tape to him. The gross green score totaled 151 inches. I was shocked when I saw the total. What a trophy. I couldn't be more proud. The taxidermist began to skin him out while I was there and gave me a look at the teeth. The Taxidermist aged him at 6 1/2 years old. I'm sure I'll still be smiling 6 months from now when I pick him up from the Taxidermist.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Oklahoma Predator Tournament

On February 16th, my alarm blared at 3:30am. No matter what time you go to sleep, 3:30am is hard to deal with. I had been invited to film a 3-man team during the Oklahoma Predator Hunt Tournament. The team was forming almost two hours north of my house, so I had to get an early start. The air was bone-chilling as I got in the truck. It's amazing how dark the side of the highway is at that time of morning when the city is in your rear-view mirror.

I met with Tyson, Jerimy, and Jesse at 6am. We exchanged introductions and headed to the first set. I setup almost 200 yards away from the team as they started calling. I started to hone in on an area that looked like a predator's sanctuary  15 minutes into the set, I had turned the camera off to save the battery as this was going to be a 12+ hour hunt. As I scanned the treeline, I hear the crack of a rifle. The coyote had come in from the due north on the other side of a slight berm, blocking my view. The small female was the first to succumb to lead traveling at high velocities.
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After one set and a kill, hopes were high as we setup on a fence-line a few miles away. We were calling into a draw with a small pond 150 yards in front of us. Behind us was a large, freshly plowed, field. A road was just beyond the field, with another large field on the other side that had a rise a 100 yards further creating the horizon at roughly 350 yards. The three hunters setup along the fence, each separated by 100 yards. Tyson began the set with a rabbit in distress. Not two minutes into the set, I caught a coyote trotting over a hill to our right and into the draw. As he was headed to the pond, we waited for him to appear. Several minutes later, Tyson switched to a coyote howl, hoping to challenge the dog. As he was calling, Tyson looked behind us and caught a glimpse of two dogs working the field on the other side of the road. We turned our attention to them, but with such a wide open expanse of land between us and them, it was in vain. The dogs chose to disappear into a thicket in an area eroded by water runoff. All three dogs locked up, and although we moved several hundred yards down the fence-line and attempted a few more calls, they were not tempted enough to present a shot.

We headed to some land that was setup as a deer hunter's dream. The fields were planted and green with elevated box blinds built for comfort on long hunts. There was a mix of draws, flatland, and old hardwood bottoms. As we drove through the edge of a field, toward our targeted area, there was movement on a rise 250 yards in front of us. Jesse threw the truck in park as a bobcat was moving through the field. We all got out quickly with me trying to get the camera on the cat. The lens was zoomed all the way in as I tried to find the feline in the viewfinder. Suddenly, a shot went off as Jerimy could no longer contain himself and sent a round down-range at the cat. A puff of dust kicked up and the bobcat took off like lightening. Jesse couldn't believe that the cat, who was seemingly unaware of our presence, was missed. Bobcats in the tournament were worth 2 points and sure to get a team in the running for a top placement. The group decided to setup in a green field to the west were the cat had made his escape route. As we entered the tree-line on the edge, an old doe in the hardwood bottom opposite of us flagged and took off, with another 2 deer following her lead. Tyson made his calls to no avail, the bobcat was gone and given the presence of bedded deer, coyotes were not likely around. After 30 minutes, we packed up to head to another location.

Throughout the day, we made set after set trying to get on the predators, but the wind had picked up to 25mph or so, which made calling and scent control difficult. The guys had several friends who were in the tournament providing updates on their predator counts via text. Upon learning that two other groups had 5 and 7 coyotes down, it was determined that everyone making the 2 hour drive to the check-in with 1 coyote would do nothing but burn gas and we were all rather exhausted from burning the rubber on our boots all day. It was almost dusk when we agreed to part ways for the day. Jesse and Tyson were going to make one more stand on their way home. They headed back to the same spot where we had made our fourth stand that morning. I had been on the highway for about 10 minutes when I received a text from Tyson with a picture attached. They had coaxed a dog in immediately and put a good shot on him.

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I want to thank Tyson, Jerimy, and Jesse for allowing me to tag along while they chased predators around the countryside.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

One Shot, One Kill

The day before the opening of rifle season found Matt, Mark, and I packing up to head north. We had made a scouting trip on Labor Day and setup a few stands and felt good about our chances.

Saturday morning we were up early and headed to our stands. The main road heading to the area was closed for repairs and caused us to follow the detour. During this excursion, you could see the train of vehicles forming behind us as everyone headed to the woods. Matt and I decided to share a stand for filming purposes. Even though it was the middle of November, we had a strong south wind gusting up to 40mph. No matter how you dress, that type of wind will cut right through you. As the sun rose, a doe and a fawn fed off the ridge, barely visible in the shrinking shadows. Although both Matt and I were looking to fill doe tags, we were there for two days and not 5 minutes into the season, so we passed as they moved through at 60 yards. An hour passed and another doe snuck out of the wood-line at 130 yards. Mark was 300 yards to our South and the doe was directly between us. We all kept an eye on her, hoping she would lure a buck. Several minutes passed and she got spooky, heading back into the woods. Another hunter appeared 225 yards to our West, spotted us, and disappeared back into the woods. Mark was seeing deer after deer, yet Matt and I's sit was uneventful beyond this point. Around 11am, my back was killing me from poorly placed support bars on the back of the stand, so I got down to stretch out in the 5 foot tall grass below us. Another 30 minutes passed and we found ourselves heading back to the truck for lunch.

After lunch, we found 2 other hunters sitting in the area I was going to cover, so Matt and I decided to head further South to try an ambush in the bedding area. We found an opening in the bedding area along a ridge about 150 yards deep by 175 yards wide. It was 2pm, so Matt took a nap while I kept an eye on the area. When he woke up, I gave in to the early morning and fell asleep. As I started to sit up from my nap, Matt whispered, big deer!. I slowly grabbed the camera and turned toward where he pointed only to see a tail flagging as it disappeared into the brush. The deer was to our North with a South wind. We had counted on the deer coming from the Southeast. As we were facing East  and sitting against a ridge, darkness crept in well before the end of shooting light. Matt got up and crept over the ridge looking back West. He spotted a decent buck as it snaked through the grass. The distance between them was only 100 yards, but the sun was dropping faster than the temperature and judging the size of the buck's rack was near impossible, so he passed on the shot.

Sunday morning, I sat where the hunters had been the previous evening, Matt was 600 yards to my Southwest and Mark was 400 yards to my South-Southeast. Right at dawn, a doe creeped into my shooting lane at 80 yards, but she was nervous with her gaze constantly returning to where she had come from. As I was hoping for a buck, I let her continue on the trail that would give me a shot for the next 200 yards. She had only made it 10 yards before she darted off the trail and into the woods. Nothing ever appeared from behind her. I was facing directly into the wind and tears were forming from it's sting. Matt text me that he was going to still hunt as another hunter had setup a ground blind 60 yards from his stand. Matt kept me updated as he jumped deer after deer in the thick scrub brush. My mind started wondering why I was sitting in the wind with no deer movement and he was jumping multiple bedded deer. I had just text him that I was going to still hunt the other direction when I noticed a glint of something in the weeds. As I was bringing my gun up, I saw a buck's rack moving through the weeds. I pushed my magnification on the scope up, but couldn't find the buck. I dropped the magnification some, found him, and pushed it back up. As I settled the crosshairs on his chest at 230 yards, he started to trot. He was already providing a quartering away shot, and even though he was a big, mature 8-point, when he started trotting, my finger pulled off the trigger and I watched him disappear to the South. 10 minutes later, I hear a shot from Mark's location that startled me. I knew the buck I just saw was dead. Matt headed to his dad's location while I stayed seated, hoping they might push a deer to me with no luck. As they approached, I packed up and we got the deer cart from the truck. As we made our way to the downed buck, we saw rub after rub. I quit counting after 15 in the first 150 yards. The buck's shear body size was incredible for an Oklahoma deer. His swollen neck still showed his pride. It was the same buck I didn't get a shot on. His mass reached throughout him beams. Mark gutted him and we got him on the deer cart. Even with the cart, it was no easy task to move this 182lb beast the three quarters of a mile back to where we could get the truck.

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After spending a day and a half in stand with warmer weather and the wind picking up, we decided to pass on the evening hunt and head home as the thought of a 3 hour drive wore on us.

Matt decided to head back to the same area on Thanksgiving day. I had family obligations, but entertained him via text as he passed on several does and smaller bucks. As the sun was setting, he spotted movement 200 yards away in the 6 foot tall grass. The tines of the rack were the only visible indicators that the deer was on the move. The path he was on was going to bring him by the stand at 170 yards, slightly quartering away. The buck was on a mission with a goal in mind, so when Matt attempted to stop him, he slowed slightly, but would not stop. Matt's crosshairs settled behind his shoulder and the rifle barked. The buck kicked his back legs, tucked his tail, and bounded 30 yards before succumbing to the wound. Matt didn't even realize how many points the buck had until he walked up on it as the scene had unfolded quickly. The 10 points are amazingly symmetrical with his main beams attempting to touch each other. As he loaded the buck on the deer cart, a group of hogs moved in at 70 yards. As daylight had faded, Matt could only work his way around the hogs, making his trek 200 yards longer as he pushed through the swamp grass and over a steep hill. Matt made it back home around 10 that night and his dad was able to provide some decent pictures. Matt, although excited, doesn't smile for hunting pictures. The rack taped out at 137" 7/8. Not bad for public land and a do-it-yourself hunt.



The rest of deer season has been quite uneventful with the moon, temperatures, and drought all working against us. Duck season will be challenging.