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.

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