Most of Oklahoma's deer hunters dream about taking a buck that will be the envy of their friends. Though taking a huge buck doesn't necessarily jet one into expert status, it seems that today's hunters are judged by the trophy bucks that adorn their walls.
Each year the Backwoods Hunting Show in Oklahoma City displays some of the biggest bucks ever taken in our state. The show's Oklahoma Whitetail Wall of Fame showcases an impressive amount of whitetail bone. Onlookers gawk in amazement at the sometimes unusual trophies displayed there — non-typical trophies over 240 inches have adorned the wall, as well as typical bucks nearing 195 inches. Every year the state's deer hunters seem to take more trophy bucks than any year before!
It's a fact: The monster buck craze is alive and well, and many outdoor companies have made millions capitalizing on the phenomena. Growing and taking trophy bucks is where it's at in today's deer-hunting world!
Oklahoma hunters can rest assured there are plenty of good bucks to be found in almost every county in our state. Just remember that big bucks can show up virtually anywhere, but some areas seem to produce more than others.
So just how good were last season's trophies? Well, check this out; 12 bucks were taken that qualified for the prestigious Boone and Crockett records! Read on for the scoop on the 2011 Oklahoma Deer Outlook for trophy bucks.
WHAT MAKES A TROPHY
A famous conservationist once observed that a trophy animal shouldn't be measured in inches, but in the effort taken to harvest it. A whitetail trophy can be defined in various ways — sheer mass of the antlers, an incredible body weight, a memorable stalk, a long shot, etc.
If you are seeking to put a buck in the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation's Cy Curtis Trophy Deer Awards Program, then you must ethically harvest a typical buck net-scoring a minimum of 135 inches, or a non-typical that nets a minimum of 150 inches. A typical mule deer must net at least 155 for entry; a non-typical must net at least 185. The open category utilizes the same standards and is for deer that are found dead.
For inclusion in Boone and Crockett records, a typical whitetail must net a minimum of 170; a non-typical 195. Bucks reaching or surpassing these minimum scores are officially recognized in B&C's all-time records book.
The club also has period awards, which recognize bucks that didn't reach the minimum scores for the all-time books, but nevertheless are worthy of recognition. To be recognized in this category, a typical buck must have a minimum score of 160; a non-typical at least 185.
The Pope and Young Club recognize trophies taken only with a bow and arrow. To qualify for P&Y, a typical whitetail must score a minimum of 125; a non-typical 150. The club restricts the types of archery equipment allowed, and so-called "fair chase" affidavits are required.
Bucks taken by crossbow are ineligible for P&Y entry, but qualify for B&C if they meet scoring criteria.
OUTFITTERS PREDICT A GOOD SEASON FOR TROPHIES
Carter hunting outfitter Dale Eagon predicts another great fall season. Eagon, who operates Eagon's Hi-Point Ranch (580-729-1009), started a supplemental feeding program last spring in an effort to add inches to the whitetail buck's antlers on his property. Eagon expects his area to yield some real trophies this fall.
"We carried over some real nice 3 1/2- to 4 1/2-year-old bucks that should have some dandy antlers this season," Eagon said. "We have a few that would score well in the record book."
Croton Creek Adventures, located near Cheyenne, offers some dandy deer hunts, as well. Owner Scott Sanderford said that last season three bucks were taken by his hunters that qualified for Cy Curtis. "I expect this season to be good also," Sanderford said. "We only shoot a limited number of bucks to ensure trophies for future seasons."
Danny Pierce operates Rush Creek Guide Service (806-323-3030) and offers hunts in both Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle. He expects this season to be on course with last season, when his hunters shot some nice trophies.
"We've got some good moisture here and the deer numbers are as good as I have ever seen," Pierce stated. "Since we try to be selective in our harvest, there are several trophy bucks that carried over and should be available for our fall hunters."
I have hunted with all of these guides and rate them all as excellent. When you factor in the cost of leasing good hunting land, many times a guided hunt is cheaper, and your odds for harvesting a trophy are better.
LAST YEAR'S TOP TYPICALS
Ironically, last season's top two typicals were taken in the western corners of the state. Wade Ward shot a giant 14-point buck in Rogers County in the northwest that netted 188 4/8, while Brian Strickland arrowed an 11-point buck in Harmon County in the southwest that net scored 168 6/8.
The third best typical was "smoked" by Travis Faulkner during blackpowder season. Faulkner's 10-point buck scored 168 0/8, and was taken in Beckham County.
The state's top two non-typicals last season were a pair of gnarly bucks that scored less than an inch apart. Michael Cole shot a massive-racked 28-point buck in Lincoln County that netted 221 2/8. The second biggest non-typical was also a gun season bruiser taken by Jarrett Orrell in Caddo County; his 28-pointer scored 220 7/8.
Coal County was the home of the third largest non-typical — a 200 7/8-inch brute taken by 13-year-old Kelsey McKay. McKay's 10-point buck is the largest ever taken in Coal County, and the second highest scoring non-typical ever taken in the state by a female hunter.
2010/2011 TOP COUNTIES FOR CY CURTIS BUCKS
The top northwest county for Cy Curtis bucks was Woods County with three entries. In addition, several counties reported two entries including Blaine highlighted by a 160 0/8, 10-point typical taken by Marty Compton, and a 159 5/8, 10-point typical taken by Gale Dawson.
Grant, Logan, and Woodward counties also had two entries each, while Oklahoma County had two noteworthy entries — both non-typical archery giants — an 18-pointer scoring 191 4/8 taken by George Moore, and a 17-point brute scoring 183 7/8 taken by Jody Slingo.
Several counties reported one entry including Alfalfa, Canadian, Dewey, Garfield, Harper, Major, and Roger Mills. Kingfisher County also had one newsworthy entry — a 156 7/8, 11-point typical, taken by Michael Rogers.
In the southwest where deer numbers are increasing, the top county for record-book bucks last season was Grady with three entries. Tillman County had two entries, while Beckham also reported two entries — one of them a 12-point, 160 0/8-inch typical, taken by Tom Owens.
The following counties reported one Cy Curtis entry each: Caddo, Garvin, Harmon, Jackson, and Stephens.
The top county in the southeast was Coal with five entries. In addition to McKay's Coal County buck, two dandies were taken during blackpowder season — Mike Paciorek took a 23-pointer that scored 178 4/8, and Jason Pebwolz shot a 17-point buck that scored 177 7/8.
McCurtain, Pushmataha, and Pottawatomie counties reported three entries apiece. Pushmataha Wildlife Management Area yielded a 175 7/8, 13-point non-typical to Clyde Still.
Seminole and Pittsburg counties had two entries. Hughes also had two entries including a 21-point non-typical scoring 199 3/8 taken by Othor Boyd. Pontotoc reported two entries, with their best a 192 7/8, 23-point, taken by Nick Wilson. Johnston County also had two entries with one being a 156 6/8, 10-point, taken by Julie Marquis.
In addition, several counties reported one entry, including Leflore, Bryan, Choctaw, Murray, and Atoka where David Bryant took a big 12-point typical that scored 157 6/8.
In the northeast, the top county was Kay, with four entries, followed by Pawnee with three CC entries.
Several counties reported two entries, including Cherokee, Payne, Lincoln, and Ottawa where Beca Hopping took a dandy 11-point typical, that scored 155 0/8.
Noble, Osage, Tulsa, Sequoyah, Okfuskee, Okmulgee, and Rogers counties all came in with one entry apiece.
Though the Panhandle is home to some gargantuan whitetail and mule deer bucks, no entries were reported last season. That unusual circumstance is certain to be corrected this year.
HUNTING CLUBS & PUBLIC LAND PROSPECTS
Having finally made the "destination list" for trophy buck hunters, Oklahoma and its newfound notoriety has helped boost tourism. Lease prices are soaring and making affordable hunting land harder to find.
Hunters not leasing or owning land have few options. They can either join a hunting club like the Edmond Sportsman's Club (www.eschunting.org), or the Oklahoma City Sportsman's Club (www.okcsportsmansclub.com). Both clubs lease thousands of acres for their members to hunt. Or hunters can hunt our public WMAs.
The Panhandle probably receives the lowest amount of hunting pressure in the state, and at times offers fair hunting for both whitetails and mule deer. There are two good public land choices there — Rita Blanca and Beaver River WMA. Both areas feature wide-open terrain with draws and river bottoms.
In the northwest, Black Kettle WMA, the Hal and Fern Cooper WMA, and Canton WMA are good choices. There have been some nice bucks taken off of each area. I took a buck that grossed 150 inches off land bordering Black Kettle last season.
In the southwest, undoubtedly the top trophy area is the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge, but you can only hunt there by drawing a permit after applying in the spring. The NWR's bucks receive very limited hunting pressure and grow incredible antlers. I saw some Booners there, while on an elk hunt.
Other possibilities are Sandy Sanders WMA located south of Erick and Fort Cobb WMA located near the town of the same name in Caddo County. Caddo County produced a 220-inch buck last season.
In the southeast, hunting the Three Rivers and Honobia Creek WMAs is a wise choice. For a $40 fee, hunters have access to more than 250,000 acres of prime, timbered deer habitat. I have hunted the area and seen some monster bucks. Another area that is worth hunting is the Pushmataha WMA, where you might also see a big bull elk.
Another sleeper with public access is the James Collins WMA located near McAlester. I hunted that area several years ago and was amazed at size of the bucks that adorned the wall at WMA headquarters.
Next to the Panhandle, the northeast probably has the lowest deer density in the state, however some real trophies are taken in the region every year. Before you pass on hunting in this quadrant consider this: Two of the three highest-scoring non-typicals ever taken in the state, and one of the top three typicals, were taken in northeast Oklahoma.
Best bets for public land hunting are the Kaw WMA located near Ponca City, Spavinaw WMA, Cherokee WMA, and at Arcadia Lake. Arcadia Lake is open to archers only and operated on a quota system. For a nominal fee archers can hunt the lake area where several record-sized bucks have been taken.
Though the state doesn't officially keep records of heavyweight deer, nevertheless there are some real bruisers taken each season. Northwest Oklahoma Outfitter Steve Purviance of Mt. Hide Outfitters took a buck a few years back that field dressed 235 pounds. Purviance, who guides in counties bordering Kansas, said that over a period of years his clients have taken dozens of bucks that weighed more than 200 pounds.
There have been several heavyweight mule deer taken in the panhandle. ODWC biologist Wade Free reports that a few years back a hunter took a buck that weighed 242 pounds field dressed, while an archer took a mulie doe that dressed at 177.