After striking out bowhunting for deer in Pennsylvania and Illinois — and missing a shot in Ohio, I still had a chance to harvest a deer since my final hunt of the season was set for Oklahoma.
A group of us met at Turley Ranch, a 15,000-acre cattle operation, just starting to offer commercial hunts. The hunt was organized by Kevin Howard of Howard Communications. He pulled together hunt sponsors Mossy Oak and Heat Max.
In addition to sending the group of hunters a set of clothes with Scent Blocker in the new Mossy Oak pattern, Tree Stand, Howard sent us e-mails describing sightings of numerous shooter bucks, some in the 150-170 class! It would be my last hunting trip of the season, and as I read the glowing e-mails I grew hopeful. Maybe this hunt would be the "saving grace," the hunt where I sent an arrow through a season-making bruiser of a buck.
The first morning, Turley Ranch guide Lorrie Sumter led me to the base of a sturdy ladder overlooking a huge expanse of winter wheat. They call the field "turkey strip," because they’ve seen as many as 100 — that’s right, 100 — jakes feeding together in the field.
Wildlife Abounds In Okla.
I settled in the ladder and as daylight approached, saw numerous dark blobs that seemed to morph shape in the pre-dawn light. Those couldn’t be deer, I thought, I just got here, and surely our walk into the field spooked out anything in hearing range. I dug out the pair of binoculars Howard lent me, Bushnell’s "Elite," and took a look — those shapes were all deer!
It was unbelievable! It was like watching that old show, “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom,” where they’d pan a field and the narrator would intone, "Dawn, on the Serengeti in Africa." The field absolutely teemed with animals: many groups of deer, hordes of geese arriving and leaving the marshy area, and flocks of Rio Grande turkeys picking their way through the short, green fodder.
I glassed the bucks in the field, nothing really big, but several racked bucks. I counted nine button bucks feeding together in their own little club. About an hour after daybreak, I saw a group of deer milling around in a patch of cottonwoods directly across from me, a sea of moving brown backs — there were so many that it reminded me of carp swirling for food in a small pond.
From the pack a lone doe emerged, running hard across the field, and just a few jumps behind her, more does and two bucks followed. As if she’d planned it, the lead doe hit the brakes and the herd split behind her, including the bucks. But it didn’t take them long before they realized they no longer had that demanding scent, and one of the bucks whirled, dropped its head and headed back for the doe.
Well, there he goes, I remember thinking, watching him chase her back into the cottonwoods and harass her. The others had filtered to other areas of the field, dropped their heads and started to feed. I slipped out my grunt tube, although I was thinking it was a lost cause, and grunted a couple times.
Doe Comes Toward Stand
Sometimes I think the does have had enough, that they want to lead the buck chasing them to another buck. Or maybe it’s an instinct — she’s nearly ready to breed, let the best buck win. That doe got a bead on the grunt sound and moving at a purposeful trot, she came directly towards the stand.
She made a circle, coming along the field edge, and once past the stand, stopped, and looked back at the buck. I’d already drawn, and the buck was nearly directly under the stand when I shot. I remember getting a clear view of his rack, a 9-pointer with a small crab claw at the end of one beam, and having an instant of hesitation before hitting the trigger.
The buck ran out into the field, started to wobble, stopped, stretched his back legs out and fell to his side not 50 yards away
The author and her Turley Ranch 9-Pointer.
I’d heard it before — you’ll never shoot a big buck if you keep shooting little bucks. In the days to come, as I saw bigger bucks and tons of deer, I wondered as I have many times why most of the lessons you learn hunting have to be so hard.
I knew from Howard’s e-mails that there were lots of big bucks on the property. It was only the first morning of a four-day hunt. But that morning, I’d reached the mindset that I was not coming home from another hunt with nothing on my game pole.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m proud of that buck and proud that I shot him cleanly. But, the truth is, I shot that buck because I felt I needed to do it, to answer the "how did you do in Oklahoma?" questions I’d get when I got back home, to salvage what had been a frustrating season.
The Oklahoma buck is the one who taught me a most important lesson — that "getting my buck" might not feel as good as I thought it would. In that sense, he is the best buck I’ve ever shot and I am grateful.
For a fine assortment of Archery gear, click here.