Howard finally encountered the 4x5 in the bone-chilling final hour of the last morning. The tall buck scores just over 150 inches.
Blame my manic need to move, or my eagerness to connect on a great whitetail buck. Whatever the reason, the deer I shot last week in southwestern Oklahoma wasn‚t the one I was hunting.
I was hunting the sprawling, deer-rich Turley Ranch near the Texas Panhandle in extreme western Oklahoma. I was stoked to be here, the first fall that the ranch has been open to rifle deer hunting after a few years of bow-only whitetail hunting.
The ranch is a rich mix of open grasslands and high-quality forage in the bottomlands of the Washita River.
The Turley has been experimenting with all sorts of forage designed to appeal both to livestock and wildlife. Hundred-acre food plots are strewn with purple-top turnips, ryegrass and alfalfa.
This is classic western red-shale country. This abandoned schoolhouse, constructed with native brick-red rock, glows in the winter sunlight.
The Turley is full of quality whitetails. Within my first two hours on stand, huddled against the wind in a plywood ground blind, I spotted a solid 5×5, a tall, wide and heavy 4×4 and two funky bucks that had antlers all busted up from fighting. Bushnell‚s Darin Stephens tagged this 4×4, which traipsed 8 yards beneath his treestand. He let it get out to about 80 yards before piling it up with his Model 70.
Kevin Howard, who handles media relations for Winchester, Browning and Bushnell, hunted relentlessly for a huge buck he always saw from a long distance, working does in the corner of an endless alfalfa field. Howard cobbled together this blind in the catch pen of a corral out of tumbleweeds in hopes he might ambush the buck.
Howard finally encountered the 4×5 in the bone-chilling final hour of the last morning. The tall buck scores just over 150 inches.
My hunt ended a little differently. I had seen a giant 5×5 at sunrise as he rose from his bed in a brushy draw, but he was 600 yards away and surrounded by does and younger bucks, so I had no chance at a stalk. I worked in just close enough to get a good look, counted all 10 points and set up on a rocky knob, waiting for him to screw up. Soon I got my chance as he started working a doe, which ran from cover right underneath my knoll. Problem was, she kept going, and he ran after her.
I backed out to a high ridge, then ran on its off side, keeping pace with the buck and doe as they gobbled up ground in the bottom of the draw. I kept popping out, thinking I was ahead of them, only to see their rumps disappear in front of me. Finally, I made a big, hurried loop and came out at the head of the draw. If the buck came out, he‚d have to run right under my position. Almost on cue, the buck came up the drainage, head down, still bird-dogging that doe. I counted 5 points on his left, and anchored him with a shoulder shot. When I walked up to him, my heart sank. It wasn‚t the buck I had seen earlier. This guy wore 5 points on his left, but his right side had 4 points, a bright white scar on his main beam where his G3 had broken off shortly before our encounter. His rack was light and short, not the tall and heavy antlers I expected.
I’m not complaining. Any time you decide to pull the trigger, you agree to be satisfied with your decision, and I had literally a fraction of a second to acquire my target and make the shot. I had a great, electrifying hunt, and came up with a fine Oklahoma plains buck, and back at camp, we added that 10th point with electrical tape.
Still, I’m haunted with what might have been, which isn‚t a bad way to end a hunt. Scott Grange of Browning had a similar experience. Not far from where I tagged my buck, Grange found this skull (displayed by Turley Ranch manager Tony Sumpter) still attached to a skeleton, further proof that western Oklahoma produces great whitetails, at least one of which should survive until next year.
A rushed shot ends with a pretty good Oklahoma buck