Drawing my bowstring on a truly big Oklahoma whitetail has been a dream of mine for years. Like legions of other archers, I long for the day that a bragging-sized buck will stroll within range of my tree stand. And then, of course, I’ll still have to control my nerves long enough to place a razor-sharp broadhead in the deer’s vitals.
It’s true: Taking a big buck by bow is tough at best. The effective range of a bow is in most cases much closer than the killing range of a 12-gauge shotgun on an unsuspecting gobbler.
However, any deer taken by bow is a trophy, and perhaps famous conservationist Aldo Leopold said it best: A trophy should not be measured in inches, but in effort! Well — that said — please read these stories, and find out how the efforts of a few of our state’s archers paid off big time last season with some outstanding stick-and-string trophies.
KYLE WILKINS’ 26-POINT GIANT
This 19-year-old occupies an enviable position among bowhunters, having taken a whitetail that most can only dream of. Last season, the Krebs archer took a giant that will enter the Cy Curtis records as the third-largest archery non-typical ever. In addition, the buck is the second-highest scoring deer ever taken in Pittsburg County.
After deer hunting for 10 years, Wilkins had taken 30 deer, his best being an 11-point that scored 130.
Upon graduating high school, Wilkins upgraded his archery gear by taking his graduation money and buying a bow and accessories. Then, joining with his dad Royce and younger brother Brandon, the trio improved the habitat on their property by building food plots.
As the season approached, Wilkins was optimistic after seeing a 160-inch 10-point as well as 10 other bucks. Tree stands were hung so Kyle and Brandon could hunt from opposite sides of a food plot.
The 2007 archery season opened with Wilkins having some close calls with big bucks but no shot opportunities. Things changed on day four. After Brandon got home from high school, the Wilkins brothers headed to their hunting spot, arriving at 5:30.
“When we got in the woods it was warm, and we were sweating and swatting mosquitoes,” remembered Kyle. “My plan was to put Brandon in the best stand to kill the big buck we had seen.”
On their way to the tree stands, the duo busted a big buck from its bed. Kyle then decided to sneak up on the food plot to check for deer activity.
At 80 yards, Brandon spotted a big buck already on the field, but after stalking closer, the younger Wilkins didn’t feel confident with a long shot and asked Kyle to try it. Ironically, Brandon and Kyle were looking at completely different bucks. Both bucks were alerted as Kyle released an arrow.
The shot flew true and passed through the buck, which vanished from the feed field. After finding blood on the arrow, the Wilkins brothers decided to go home for dinner and give the buck time to expire. Returning at 8 p.m. with their dad Royce, the brothers followed a short blood trail to Kyle’s trophy.
Brandon, first on the scene, was ecstatic. “I wished I would have shot now,” said Brandon. “Oh, my God! I freaked out. The buck was awesome.”
The downed buck wasn’t the main-frame 10-pointer that the boys had hoped for, but they weren’t complaining: It was a main-frame 8-pointer with a total of 26 scorable points! The big non-typical, scored officially at the Backwoods Hunting Show, netted 192 6/8, easily besting Kyle’s previous top buck score of 130.
Wilkins credits his younger brother with his success, and hopes to get a crack at the big typical 10-pointer this season.
Photo courtesy of Kyle Wilkins.
DARRIN HARGROVE’S MONSTER IN THE TALL GRASS
A rancher from Haskell, Darrin Hargrove works hard but tries to make time to hunt deer as often as possible. Last season, relying on an inner hunch, the soft-spoken archer was rewarded with an awesome buck while returning to his truck after an unsuccessful hunt.
Hargrove has bow hunted for 18 years and has taken five deer — his best a small 6 point. Nevertheless, Hargrove knew his hunting spot bordering the Arkansas River was capable of producing a big buck.
While working last Oct. 10, Hargrove had a gut feeling that he needed to be hunting, so he left early from his ranching duties, grabbed his bow and hurried to his tree stand, arriving at 5:15 p.m. His hour’s vigil produced no deer sightings, so he climbed down from his stand at 6:15.
While walking across the river bottomland, Hargrove came to a draw and surveyed the area. “I looked over to one side of the draw and saw nothing,” he said. “Then I looked at the opposite side of the deep opening, and noticed four bucks walking toward me 50 yards away.”
Obviously unaware of Hargrove’s presence, the biggest buck in the group stopped 25 yards away from the excited archer. Hargrove’s heart was pounding and his arms quivering from holding his bow at full draw awaiting the shot. He released a well-placed arrow, striking the brute and causing it to bolt.
The big buck crashed into some head-high grass and vanished. Hargrove called his wife and stepson to solicit their help. Soon the trio was on the trail, illuminated dimly by a small flashlight. Soon their worst fears were confirmed; the buck had not expired, but fled from where he’d bedded.
Two days later, Hargrove found the remains of his ravaged trophy left in a gruesome condition by coyotes and buzzards. Holding the remains of the deer’s head and antlers in his hands, he marveled at the buck’s quality. “I was beside myself,” he said. “I never thought I would see a buck that big. I have two nice deer mounted, but this was the deer of a lifetime.”
The monster’s rack, nearly 23 inches wide, carried 21 points. The big non-typical net scored 182 4/8.
“You always should trust your gut feelings,” opined the bowhunter.
ROY COLEMAN’S PUBLIC LAND BRUTE
While most hunters today rely on private-land hotspots, it’s refreshing to know that big bucks can be taken on public land. Last October Roy Coleman, a building contactor from Braggs, did just that, taking
a real dandy with his bow on the rugged, sprawling Cherokee Wildlife Management Area near his home.
Cherokee WMA hosts a series of draw hunts each season, and Coleman was fortunate enough to have been drawn previously. On a blackpowder hunt a few years back, he tagged a nice 10-pointer there.
On Oct. 20 last year, Coleman, along with his brother-in-law Bruce Ross, decided to hunt the refuge prior to blackpowder season. The refuge was open to archers so the pair deciding to walk in and hang tree stands in an area familiar to Coleman.
“We arrived around 2 p.m. and Bruce and I hung our tree stands,” said Coleman. “About 4:30 we were finished, so I walked back to my stand and climbed up in it.”
Within 30 minutes, Coleman heard a noise and turned around but saw nothing. Turning the opposite direction, Coleman saw a big buck standing 5 yards away and directly under his stand.
Photo courtesy of Darrin Hargrove.
“All I could see was the buck’s big old rack, but I didn’t have a shot because of some branches,” remembered Coleman. “When the buck walked 15 yards away from me he turned and gave me a perfect angle.”
Coleman, already at full draw, released a lethal shot and the buck piled up 60 yards away. An ecstatic Coleman called Ross on his radio to tell of his good fortune. Forty-five minutes later the pair walked the short distance to the big buck.
“When we arrived where the buck lay, I believe Bruce got more excited than I did,” said Coleman.
Bruce shared the excitement of the entire experience. “I couldn’t believe how big the buck was,” he said.
Coleman’s big non-typical carried 15 points and netted 168 4/8. Interestingly, the buck is the third highest-scoring buck ever taken in Cherokee County, but the largest bow kill.
JOHN BATTERSHELL: “I SMOKED A MONSTER!”
After returning to his Seminole County hunting spot in hopes of shooting a bragging-sized buck, John Battershell was joined by his friend Carl. The pair discussed where each would hunt the following morning, but were greeted by less than ideal weather. The morning dawned foggy with temperatures in the high 40s — not the best weather with the pre-rut hunting conditions they faced.
Battershell opted to hunt a seldom-used tree stand situated deep in the woods. Unsure of his finding the stand in foggy darkness, Battershell chose to wait at another stand location near a food plot until it got light enough for him to sneak over to the other stand.
At first light, a doe entered the food plot at about 250 yards. It walked to within 80 yards of Battershell’s location before exiting into the thick vegetation.
Battershell climbed down from his food plot perch and headed to the deep-woods stand location. Getting close, the hunter was stoked when he saw a fresh scrape 15 yards away; a sapling bore the freshly rubbed marks of a buck polishing its antlers. Climbing into his stand just 60 yards away from the rub, Battershell’s optimism soared. He glanced down and saw just 18 yards away an old scrape that had been freshened recently.
After being in the tree for 15 minutes, a distant movement alerted Battershell to a doe moving through the area. Forty-five minutes later, rustling leaves behind him revealed a small buck 15 yards away. All the deer activity had John excited.
Soon another doe appeared 75 yards away, not long after followed by a second animal. “The deer appeared to be a doe, so as the deer got closer I drew my bow in preparation for a shot,” said Battershell. “But when the second deer appeared I saw antler tips and realized it was a small buck.”
The young buck caught Battershell’s scent and snorted before bolting. An hour later, still feeling confident of his setup, Battershell scanned the area and located a huge buck 40 yards away. “The buck was mature and had a big rack. The deer was browsing my way and totally unaware of my presence.”
An excited Battershell calculated that the buck would enter a shooting lane 18 yards away. As luck would have it, the animal passed through before the archer could draw. Sensing danger, the buck turned and headed back in the direction from which he’d come. When it stopped to check the air, the hunter had his chance.
Battershell’s nerves were tensed as he drew and held his pin on the buck’s shoulder 30 yards away. The shot was true and the buck retreated deep into its wooded sanctuary.
Battershell returned to camp to eat breakfast and to give the buck time to expire. Two hours later, he returned with his friend Carl; they were soon joined by two other archers. They all scoured the area, finding the buck dead nearby.
When Battershell approached his fallen trophy, he was amazed. “The buck was indeed as big as I thought,” he said. “I smoked a monster!”
The buck’s rack spanned 24 inches and carried 13 typical points. After some high fives, the hunters photographed the buck and took it to be processed. Later, the trophy was scored by an official Pope & Young scorer at 150 7/8.
* * *
That’s how some of the state’s best bow bucks fell last fall. How will you arrow yours this year?