Keeping Up With The Jones Bucks

The monster whitetail that Mark Hanaway killed near the Oklahoma City suburb of Jones last fall wasn't the first giant from that area.(September 2007)

When Mark Hanaway first saw this huge buck, he mistook it for a big 10-pointer that he'd seen in the area. It wasn't until after the deer was down that Hanaway realized what he'd killed!
Photo by Mike Lambeth.

Each season, hotspots all around our state yield numerous good bucks. Most big-buck encounters are credited to being in the right place at the right time, but in the last 15 years, certain areas have seemed to produce more frequently than have others.

If asked where the state's biggest bucks come from, most hunters would have their own opinions. Some would pick Pushmataha County, which leads the state in entries in the Cy Curtis record book. Others might select the northwest part of the state, home to some real heavyweights. A faithful reader of this magazine will no doubt have noticed the recurring mention of bucks taken in Oklahoma County. A quarter-century ago, this county in the heart of the Sooner State averaged checking in only 25 deer annually.

Boy, have things changed! Consider these impressive facts.

Chris Foutz's late-season 16-pointer from 1992 bested the state's top typical whitetail and, at 179 6/8, was eventually crowned the new state record; taken in Edmond, the huge bow kill held the record for three years.

An Arcadia resident hunting mushrooms in 2005 stumbled across a partially buried 32-point rack attached to a deteriorated skull. Measured at 201 B&C points, it was entered in the "open" category, which is for antlers either picked up or taken by unknown means. The gnarly mass of bone --bleached white by the elements, moss on its beams -- testified to yet another Oklahoma County giant.

In 2003, Doug Cleary, afield in the northern part of the county, shot a heavy-beamed non-typical grossing 187 inches. On that same tract of land, lease member Chris Caplinger arrowed two fine P&Y typical bucks -- a 174 7/8 gross and a 146-incher -- in just three days.

So what makes Oklahoma County so productive?

"I believe the main reason that Oklahoma County has produced so many big bucks is that the small parcels of land there are overlooked by most hunters," opined Russ Horton, a biologist with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. "We already have good genetics, but the deer have the opportunity to grow old and grow their best antlers. These deer in the metro areas have learned to adapt."

THE JONES CONNECTION

Jones resident Rick Chandler can attest to big deer being found near that rural community in eastern Oklahoma County: Within walking distance of his home, he took a gnarly non-typical in 2002!

Primarily agricultural land with very few trees, Chandler's 80-acre hunting spot didn't look like a prime place for taking a big buck. But it did seem to attract does each evening.

On opening weekend of the 2002 blackpowder season, Chandler hunted from a ground blind on a levee overlooking a dry pond converted to a food plot. On the opposite side of the levee was a small waterhole.

During the first seven days of blackpowder season, Chandler saw does but no bucks -- understandable, as the weather was unseasonably mild, with showers. Around 4:15 on the final evening, Chandler settled in and began working his grunt call sporadically. About 15 minutes before dark, a big deer ran toward the blind, obviously lured by the sound. It stopped at the edge of the small pond, presenting a 50-yard broadside shot. Settling the open sights just behind the buck's front shoulder, the hunter touched the trigger.

Later, an amazed Chandler gazed at his buck's unbelievably heavy, multipointed rack. "I was ecstatic," he said. "I had never seen any antlers this large before. I had never seen this buck before on my property."

Rick counted and recounted the points on the gnarled rack, eventually ending up with 26. The field-dressed buck later bottomed out the check station's 200-pound scales. Witnesses estimated the buck at 240 pounds.

Scored at the Backwoods Hunting Show, the heavy non-typical rack tallied 182 5/8 points.

OKLAHOMA COUNTY'S BEST NON-TYPICAL

There's an old saying about keeping up with the Joneses. Enter Mark Hanaway, another Jones resident who tagged a remarkable deer -- and just last season, too. Hanaway, who's in the horse-breeding business, lives on a small parcel of land bordering the interstate. Again, it doesn't look like the most promising deer habitat in the area at first glance. At a mere 40 acres, Hanaway's horse farm could easily be overlooked as a much of a hotspot for deer. But then, huge bucks seem to show up where they're least expected.

"It may be hard to believe, but I see deer in my pasture almost every day," said Hanaway. "There are a good number of bucks in this area that have obviously learned to adapt in the midst of all the commotion out here."

In fact, if you read Oklahoma Game & Fish, then you know that some of the biggest bucks in the state are sometimes taken in the smallest, most inconspicuous places imaginable. For example, Stillwater's Chad Hane lives on a 5-acre tract -- and it was just big enough to surrender the state's archery record non-typical to him!

Hanaway, a diehard deer hunter who's a veteran of 28 seasons, has taken some nice bucks, but the buck he killed last season left him speechless. Hanaway hunts all three deer seasons -- archery, primitive arms, and gun season -- and hunts nearly every day.

After a lackluster archery season, Hanaway took a nice 8-point buck during primitive season. Mark had high hopes for gun season: While he was feeding horses, he'd caught sight of a big 10-pointer in the pasture. As a seasoned hunter, he knew that the big buck didn't grow its large rack by being careless, and so he devoted himself to hunting the impressively endowed whitetail.

Chores finished early on Nov. 22, Hanaway grabbed his blackpowder rifle and rushed to his stand accompanied by his wife Wendy. After several days afield, the Hanaways hadn't had so much as a glimpse of the huge buck, and in an effort to spend a relaxing evening together, husband and wife climbed into their "doublewide" ladder stand to begin their vigil.

Opening weekend afforded Hanaway lots of sightings, mainly does and small bucks. With a 139 5/8-inch typical already in the Cy Curtis records, Hanaway knew that he'd have another buck in the state's records -- i

f the 10-pointer showed up.

Mark had just remarked to Wendy on the pleasant evening when some does appeared on a trail leading toward the pasture, behind them a buck that veered off through thick brush, reappearing 30 yards away. Slowly Mark raised the blackpowder rifle, settled the sights on his target's shoulder and fired, dropping the buck on the spot.

"The buck fell before Wendy got to see him," Hanaway said. "I only got a brief glimpse of the buck before I shot, but I was sure I'd shot that big 10-point I was after. Boy, was I surprised!"

A few minutes later Mark and Wendy stood over the huge buck. The presumed 10-pointer had 24 points and a nearly 2-foot spread. "I was speechless," Hanaway remembered. "I've taken some exceptional deer, but this was my best one."

The huge buck's rack initially scored just over 218 inches, but Hanaway is considering having the antlers rescored owing to differing measurement interpretations. Even at that score, the buck has the distinction of being the largest non-typical ever taken in Oklahoma County.

* * *

Where will our state's next big buck be killed? I'm betting that when it comes to trophy-grade deer, it'll be hard to keep up with the Joneses.

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