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.
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.