Giant whitetails are the obsession of most deer hunters I know. Some whitetail fanatics travel North America, Canada and Mexico in pursuit of a legendary buck. Huge bucks are wary creatures, and tend to show up where they are least expected. In fact, many record-class bucks are sometimes taken in the smallest, most inconspicuous places imaginable. Some hunters take book bucks in their own backyards.
A whitetail biologist told me that most hunters overlook small patches of woods in favor of larger parcels. As a result, bucks living on smaller plots are relatively safe, and some grow huge antlers.
If you think big bucks don’t show up in the most unlikely places, then read on, because these buck that hunters have taken in tiny land parcels are the stuff dreams are made of.
In the small community of Jones, Okla., in eastern Oklahoma County, Rick Chandler took a gnarly buck within 200 yards of his home — virtually in his back yard.
Chandler’s 80-acre spread doesn’t look like the optimum place to take a big buck. It’s primarily pasture with a few trees, but the spot attracts a few does each evening. Buck sightings are rare, though Chandler had occasionally spotted a small buck crossing the property.
On opening weekend of black-powder season a few years ago, Chandler hunted from a ground blind sited on a levee near a pond. With the state in the grips of a heavy drought, Chandler reasoned that the spot was promising. After grabbing his .50-caliber frontloader, Chandler walked a short distance from his home to his stand.
He saw only does during the first seven days of the nine-day season, and blamed the lack of buck sightings on unseasonably mild temperatures and rain showers.
On the final evening of the season, Chandler settled into his spot at 4:15 and began calling on his grunt call, with renewed hopes buoyed by cooler weather. At last light, a big-bodied deer responded to the call and ran towards Chandler’s location. As the deer came closer, Rick noticed it was a buck with unique antlers. The brute stopped broadside at the edge of the small waterhole 50 yards away, offering the hunter a close shot.
With tensed muscles, Chandler settled his open sights behind the buck’s front shoulder and squeezed the trigger, filling the air with thick, sulfurous smoke. When the smoke cleared, Chandler saw that the buck had vanished, which made him wonder if his shot had missed its mark completely. On closer inspection, however, Chandler found a blood trail.
After tracking the giant whitetail to some nearby trees, Chandler soon stood over his buck and was mesmerized by the sight. “I was ecstatic, I had never seen any antlers this large before,” he said. “I was really surprised; I had never seen this buck on my property.”
The compact, but massive 26-point non-typical buck, field-dressed at over 200 pounds, net-scored 182 5/8 Boone-and-Crockett-Club (B&C) points.
In the tradition of “Keeping up with the Joneses” is Mark Hanaway — another Jones resident who tagged a great deer during the 2006 season, practically in his backyard. Hanaway is in the horse business and lives on a small parcel of land bordering the interstate near Oklahoma City.
At first glance, Hanaway’s land seems to be a lot like Chandler’s. It doesn’t look like the most promising deer habitat in the area, but looks can be deceiving. Hanaway’s 40 acres attracts whitetails. “It might be hard to believe, but I see deer in my pasture almost every day,” says Hanaway. “There are a good number of bucks in this area that have obviously learned to adapt to all the human commotion.”
Hanaway has hunted whitetails every season for 28 years, and he’s taken some nice bucks. But the buck he took last season left him speechless.
After a lackluster archery season, Hanaway took a fat 8-point buck during primitive arms season. With gun season approaching, he had high hopes after seeing a big 10-point buck in his pasture. Being a savvy hunter, Hanaway knew the buck didn’t grow his large antlers by being careless, so he devoted himself to taking the big-racked whitetail.
On November 22, with gun season in full swing, Hanaway finished his chores early, grabbed his .50-caliber muzzleloader and rushed to his deer stand with his wife, Wendy, at his side. The pair hoped the elusive 10-point buck that frequented their pasture would show up before darkness fell.
In an effort to spend a relaxing evening together, the husband and wife duo climbed into a “double-wide” ladder stand and began their evening vigil, while automobiles sped by nosily on the interstate, a short distance away.
The Hanaways were mesmerized by the blissful evening, and soon some does appeared on a nearby trail, heading toward the pasture to feed. Behind them was a buck that took a different trail before reappearing 30 yards away from their tree stand. Slowly, Mark raised his rifle and placed his sights on the big buck’s shoulder.
At the roar of Hanaway’s smokepole, the nice buck dropped on the spot. “I fired, and the buck fell before Wendy got to see him,” Hanaway recalls. “I only got a brief glimpse of the buck before I shot, but I was pretty sure I’d shot the big 10-point I was after. Boy, was I surprised.”
A few minutes later, Mark and Wendy walked up and stood over the huge buck. The presumed 10-point buck had 24 points and nearly a two-foot spread. “I was speechless,” Hanaway remembered. “I’ve taken some exceptional deer, but this was my best one ever.”
The huge buck’s rack scored just over 218 gross B&C points; however, Hanaway says he might have the antlers rescored due to differing measurement interpretations. Terry Mayberry of Terry’s Taxidermy in Oklahoma City mounted the huge buck, and said it’s one of the largest whitetails he’s ever mounted. In fact, Hanaway’s buck has the distinction of being the largest non-typical ever taken in Oklahoma County.
Read Part II