Our Top Gun Bucks

Here's a closer look at some of the incredibly large deer killed in Oklahoma last gun season and at the lucky hunters who bagged them. (Nov 2006)

Show owner Dale Welchel puts on a dandy event that attracts a crowd. One of Welchel's main attractions is the Whitetail Wall of Fame — a long wall showcasing the state's best bucks. Hunters come from all over the state to get their trophies scored. Although many racks are average, others are spectacular.

While walking the show, I met a landowner from the north-central part of the state who was carrying around the largest shed antler I've ever seen. The huge piece of bone probably weighed 10 pounds, and represented one side of, I assume, a 12-point typical rack; the beam exhibited incredible mass throughout. When scored, the single antler tallied nearly 95 inches.

Let's consider this hypothetically: If the other side matched and the inside spread was 20 inches, you have a deer that scores 210. That's not far from the world record. Best of all, that deer came from Oklahoma!

Before giving a rundown of the state's best trophy bucks, I must climb up on my soapbox once again. Once-in-a-lifetime bucks can only be found if hunters allow young bucks to grow old enough to develop their best antlers. Generally, the nutrition in Oklahoma is pretty good in most areas, and the genes are adequate — but maturity is the vital key to producing a deer for the ages.

In our state, trophy bucks are liable to be found in any county at any time, as this look at the best gun-killed bucks from last season will indicate.

ROYCE MORRIS

Royce Morris is a normal 15-year-old in most aspects, except that the Elmore City teen is able to add taking one of the state's all-time best non-typicals to his résumé. In fact, his buck was one of the top trophies taken in the nation last season.

On Nov. 25, Morris was hunting a heavily wooded area owned by his uncle in Pushmataha County. After grunting on his call, Morris noticed a doe coming up a trail toward his stand. Soon Morris spotted another deer and recognized instantly that it was a big buck.

When the buck entered an opening, Morris fired, dropping the buck in its tracks. But in an instant, the gnarly-horned beast got up and ran off. Trying to let his nerves settle, Morris waited for his dad Billy, who was hunting nearby, to come and help him look for the buck.

The blood trail was scant, and soon there was no sign of the buck, causing the pair to believe that the shot must have been non-fatal. Before giving up the search, Billy climbed atop a high ridge and noticed an object below that appeared to be the deer. Upon arriving at the spot, the pair was elated to find Royce's buck, and amazed at the mass and number of points the deer's rack carried. The point count the Morris' arrived at was 50.

The massive brute was checked in near their home in Garvin County, where the field-dressed buck weighed 184 pounds. The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation officially scored the buck. The scorers deemed the non-typical rack with clusters of points on each beam to have only 32 scorable points. Though the rack spanned nearly 21 inches, the inside spread was only 13 inches. After the mainframe 8-point buck was scored, the abnormal points were added in and the score totaled 225 7/8 points.

BRANDON DANKER

Brandon Danker of Chandler hunted 14 seasons before taking his best buck ever. Danker had taken his fair share of deer previously; he estimates the tally to be somewhere between 40 and 50 whitetails. Danker and his brother Jeff produce an outdoor television show entitled Buck Ventures — a program that showcases some of the finest whitetail hunting in the nation. But the biggest buck they've ever taken was the one killed last season in Oklahoma by Brandon.

Danker hunts on an 1,100-acre lease in Garfield County that has been managed extensively for three years. During that period the Dankers purposely shot does only.

The property is described as primarily open with several food plots, shelterbelts between fields, some big timber and several creeks.

"When I got the place" Danker said, "I planted milo, soybeans, wheat, and turnips in an effort to enhance the property's habitat."

Danker also spread 26 tree stands out around the property, strategically placing them in an effort to create a multiplicity of optimum ambush locations. Danker placed his favorite stand in a wooded natural funnel area between two fields; there a narrow well-worn trail lets deer travel within a sanctuary from most human contact. The stand was only 50 yards from the road. Although it offered a limited view, the location could be entered without disturbing any of the area's deer.

Last August Danker saw a huge buck in velvet feeding in the soybean field every evening. The buck was tall, wide, and had good mass — all the components necessary to run up a high score. He figured the buck used the trail in the funnel, and anxiously awaited archery season for a chance at the bruiser buck.

However, the deer was not seen again after Sept. 15, not during archery or blackpowder seasons. That caused Danker many sleepless nights' worth of wondering about the elusive buck. He took solace in the fact that other nice bucks were on the property. A set of sheds found there was estimated to score 166, and a dead buck was encountered that taped to 170 inches.

Last season was Danker's first crack at an antlered deer since his management plan started, and he had high hopes as he and a cameraman headed to the funnel stand on opening morning. However, according to a weather report, the wind would soon change, so Danker knew he only had two hours to make something happen.

While walking to his stand, Danker and the cameraman noticed a silhouetted deer feeding in the turnip field. Both men got situated in their closely placed stands and the morning soon dawned. Shortly, a big buck appeared near a waterhole. After surveying the area, the buck jumped the barbed-wire fence and began walking down a trail toward the stand.

"I told the cameraman, 'That is the big buck I've been waiting for,'" Danker remembered, "and soon the buck stood broadside 15 yards away. I was trying to let my cameraman get as much footage as possible, and when the buck walked away toward his bedding area, I knew I needed to shoot."

Danker raised his 7mm Ultra Mag. and shot the buck, 50 yards away. The shot was true, and the buck bolted, running 25 yards before collapsing. After a brief wait, Danker collected his trophy, and was amazed at the size of the ra

ck, which he'd earlier estimated at near 170.

"The buck was everything I wanted," Danker said. "It was such a release for me to finally take that buck. I was worried that a road hunter might shoot him illegally."

The huge buck sported a 6x5 rack and scored 164 7/8 as a typical. It tipped the check station's scales at 210 pounds.

GEORGE CRUMP

Taking big bucks seems to be a normal thing for the Crump family. In fact, their farm in Hughes County has produced some phenomenal bucks, including a 22-point giant taken by David Crump in 1999 that scored 180 3/8 points.

George Crump Sr. taught his son George Jr. as well as his nephew David the finer points of deer hunting. That knowledge enabled both men to become fine hunters.

George Jr. took the woodsmanship and prowess he learned from his father to take an estimated 60 deer, with his best an 8-pointer that scored 120.

Last season, George Crump Jr. hunted every day of gun season leading up to Thanksgiving Day, but without success. Crump decided that he would either take a real wallhanger buck or not pull the trigger. His 240-acre family farm had yielded several nice bucks in the past, and he dedicated himself to wait on a good buck, even if that meant going home empty-handed. The farm had a wheat field that had become a magnet for feeding whitetails, and some thick woods with several creeks running through the property,

During the first five days of the season, Crump passed up several bucks, while holding out for a record book-quality deer.

"I actually passed up nine bucks, including one that was a nice 10-point that most hunters would have shot," Crump said. "I just decided that I was waiting for a real nice buck to hang on the wall."

On Thanksgiving morning, George hunted his favorite stand and failed to see a buck before heading in for Thanksgiving dinner. Crump returned to the woods around 2 p.m., but opted to hunt a heavily wooded area near a creek bed. The spot was on a bluff that overlooked the narrow waterway and offered a view. Crump positioned himself for the afternoon vigil.

The afternoon was eventful as several does, a raccoon, a possum and a bobcat entertained Crump. In the final minutes before dark, Crump was aroused when a buck walked out 35 yards away. "I knew the buck was a wallhanger, because his rack looked wide," Crump stated. "I raised my .25/06, and when I shifted my position the buck looked straight at me, so I shot and the buck dropped in his tracks."

Crump was excited as he walked toward his downed trophy, but kept his rifle aimed at the buck for fear of the monster getting up and running off. The deer never moved, and Crump was amazed at the massive antlers that stuck up from the wide rack. As darkness rapidly approached, Crump knew he would need help getting his buck out and phoned his cousin for help.

The 19-point non-typical rack worn by Crump's deer was later scored at 201 inches, and currently ranks as one of the top 30 all-time best non-typicals taken in the state.

Ironically, just a few miles away a hunter took a non-typical that scored 186. According to the Cy Curtis record book's 2005 edition, Hughes County has produced more non-typical entries than any other county, and is the fifth-highest-producing county for record-book typicals.

While bowhunting the late archery season last year, Crump spotted a fresh rub on a tree that is 8 inches in diameter. Crump believes the signpost was made by a huge buck that lurks somewhere on the property — and he's hoping to get a crack at that buck this year.

ROBBIE KEYLON

Robbie Keylon is one of the fine military men who are protecting our country; he's already served a tour of duty in the Middle East. Living in far Eastern Oklahoma, Keylon serves in the Arkansas Air National Guard when he's back stateside.

Keylon has hunted deer since he was 9 years old and reports having taken nearly a dozen deer in 22 years of hunting, his best being an average-sized 10-point buck. During the past four seasons, Keylon has hunted with Roger Graham — a friend he serves with in the Guard — at Graham's deer camp in southeast Oklahoma. Graham has hunted the Ouachita National Forest area in LeFlore County for nearly 40 years, and knows the area is home to good numbers of bucks.

Last year on opening weekend, Keylon hunted a promising spot where a nice buck was known to frequent. He spotted a huge buck chasing four does. With darkness approaching, Keylon knew taking a shot was out of the question. He opted to return the next day, but failed to see the monster buck.

On Monday, two of the guys that were in camp returned to work, so Graham insisted that Keylon hunt his personal stand farther up the ridge from where Keylon had been hunting. Keylon arrived at the stand early Monday morning. Soon after, four does appeared in a drainage nearby. The deer fed and then vanished. Two hours later, a pair of does came out and walked directly under Keylon's stand before leaving.

"At 11:15 I started getting hungry," Keylon said, "so I started gathering up my stuff to return to camp, and actually started to lower my rifle, when I heard a noise." The noise soon proved to be a doe running with a buck in tow. Almost on cue, the buck stopped 40 yards away before entering some thick brush."

Keylon steadied his .30/06 and fired, causing the buck to run directly toward his location. The shot missed and the next two shots were errant as well. Keylon squeezed the trigger again only to hear the telltale click of an empty rifle.

Keylon nervously reached in his fanny pack and found he only had one shell left. He loaded the last available bullet in his gun and aimed while the bewildered buck stood still a short distance away.

This shot was well placed behind the shoulder; the mortally-hit buck traveled only 15 yards before piling up. "I was literally shaking," Keylon said. "I thought, 'Man — that is a monster! I wonder what the guys will think back at camp?'"

A young boy hunting nearby walked up after hearing the shots, and together he and Keylon found the buck in some brush 15 yards from where the deer was shot. The awesome buck sported 15 points on his 20-inch-wide typical frame. It field dressed at 142 pounds and later scored 167 2/8.

Graham stared at the huge buck in disbelief, amazed that the behemoth had been killed from his tree stand. "My son Jared will sure be disappointed that he or I didn't get that buck," Graham exclaimed.

The buck was entered and won a big-buck contest in Fort Smith. Ironically, Keylon originally had no plans of scoring the buck. "I wasn't even going to get the buck scored," he said, "but I'm glad I did, because I won a hot tub for winning the big-buck contest."

Keylon gave the prize to Graham in appreciation for allowing him the privilege of hunting his stand. Graham in turn gave the hot tub to his son Jared.

Now that's what I'd call a win-win situation!

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