SOONER STATE DOUBLE: A less-than-promising bowhunting locale quickly turns into a must-hunt whitetail area.
With those words, my binos detected a pair of Oklahoma does slipping into the field's northwest corner.
"Big buck," Scott said, just as I lowered my binos. Scott's 15x56 optics were glued to his eyes. "There are two more behind him moving through the CRP."
Popping my optics back into position, I quickly spied the three bucks. All of them were Sooner State shooters. The largest of the trio would push the tape well over the 150-inch mark. The early season "boy band" made their way along the west fence, hugging the dotted row of trees. Then, like ghosts, they dipped down and were gone.
Scrambling to make sense of their Houdini act, I pulled up my on X Maps app on my phone and looked over an aerial image of the property. It wasn't easy to stay focused. Scott, who now had his binos up on a tripod, kept saying things like, "More bucks coming from the east," and "a big group of does and three bucks coming across the road from the south."
A quick study of on X told me all I needed to know about the bucks' disappearing act. The field had a small dugout not noticeable to the naked eye due to the topography. The dugout held water.
By the time darkness started to swallow the land, there were over 50 deer in the field. They looked like ants, and almost all of them, at one point or another, drank from the pond.
With dome lights beaming, Scott and I pored over the field's aerial image on our phones, and just like that, it all made sense. To the north was a sea of neck-high CRP. To the east and south were massive pockets of timber. More CRP lined the west fenceline. The wheat/triticale mix was the only green food around, and there was water. It was a deer magnet.
Later that night, Scott and I visited with the landowner and decided to take a leap of faith and lease the field--a field that had been turned down by 12 other bowhunters in the area. The landowner was a bit shocked. He wanted to lease his property, but still he asked, "How are you going to bowhunt it?" Scott and I explained that we didn't know yet, but we planned to figure it out.
FIGURE IT OUT!
The next morning, after we were certain all the deer had exited the greenfield, Scott and I strapped a couple of stands onto our backs and took a walk. It was a long but rewarding morning. In total, there were two trees on the property that would hold a stand, and neither was situated near the pond. The positive: One of the trees would work on any north or west wind, and the other would work on a south or east wind. Another bright spot was the discovery of locked-together deadheads on the west fenceline. This find added to our excitement, and let us know deer used the field during the rut, as well as during the early season.
We trimmed and cut and trimmed and cut. Our choice to tote in a pair of Millennium M7 Microlite stands was the right one. These stands weigh nothing, and the platform measures a mere 20.5 inches wide and 26 inches deep. Had we brought larger stands, it would have been impossible to fit them into the gnarled trees. We felt good about our stand locations. The previous night we'd watched bucks walk by both trees. One tree was an old, towering cottonwood located smack in the middle of the field's lower southeast end. The other was a small elm nestled against the west fenceline.
The fenceline stand would be a solid field-edge locale, and the big cottonwood --well, it just seems that deer naturally migrate to a single tree in open terrain. Our next move, after a midmorning strategy session, was to place a ground blind over the pond.
"We just can't," Scott told me after I suggested setting up my usual hub-style blind. "I live here, and the winds will beat that thing to death. Even if we tie it to the fence and anchor it really well, the winds will get in under it and rip it to shreds. We need something solid. We need something we can leave on the field year-round."
Because the lease had been passed up by so many other bowhunters, and we'd been able to pick it up for a ridiculously cheap price, we decided to make a run back to town and purchase a Lazyman FatGirl blind.
The blind had 10 injection-molded windows that promised silent and easy use. Most importantly, though, the windows would accommodate bow shots. Scott had a blind platform on a trailer, and we simply loaded the blind on the platform, hauled it out to the field, and set it 26 yards from the water.
The plan for the evening was for Scott to watch deer movement and to see how they reacted to the blind. With the wind blowing from the south, I took sanctuary in the big cottonwood.
The first doe hit the field at 4 p.m. It was awesome to see early movement. A high-pressure system had the barometer at 30.9, and the moon phase was waning crescent. The wind was light and a bit fickle, and temps dipped into the low 60s.
Within minutes, the doe was under my stand. It was a cool feeling. This was the first time I'd actually leased ground, and after spending only a single morning prepping I had a deer at less than 20 yards. I was itching to loose an arrow, but I opted to pass.
By 6 p.m. the field was loaded. Deer had surrounded my position, and I was having a blast. My Ozonics unit was killing my stink, and the few deer that had drifted behind my stand never so much as lifted their noses to the air. Scott was texting me often. His texts filled me with optimism. The last one read, "Big buck at the pond. He was a little nervous about the blind at first but is drinking now."
Looking up from my phone, I spied antlers bobbing through the woodlot to the east. The appearance of the buck as he leapt the fence and landed on the county road took my breath away. He was a brute, well over the 160-inch mark. Behind him was a pair of 130-class deer. All crossed the county road and hurdled the fence into the wheatfield. Their eyes locked onto the base of my tree. Turning slowly, I spied what had caught their attention. A 140-inch nine-point had slipped in from behind me--yes, dead downwind--and was standing directly under my perch.
Slowly, I reached for my bow. My heart was in my throat. There were deer everywhere. Just as I got the bow off its hanger and my release clipped on, I noticed the bucks, still 90 yards out, were getting nervous. Then, just like that, they bolted. The nine-point under my stand followed suit. Unsure of what had happened, lifted my binos to watch the fleeing bucks and detected a pair of coyotes slipping along the east fenceline.
I was sick but excited all at the same time. Over the course of two hours, I'd seen over 30 deer and laid eyes on four shooter bucks. I stayed put in my stand until well after dark. I could hear deer moving around me, but I could no longer make them out. I texted Scott to drive down the road and park. The deer were used to traffic on the road, and passing cars typically pushed them deeper into the field and away from the road. This is a great tip, especially when you're getting out of a stand or blind that requires a walk across an open food source. It's always better to bump deer with a vehicle than to walk right through them.
The blind had only been set for 24 hours, but the northwest wind combined with temps in the 70s made the waterhole stand an ideal location to hunt for bucks and does wanting to slake their thirst.
Scott and I brought some duct tape and black trash bags. Even though the FatGirl's windows were tinted, we wanted to go the extra mile and black out all but two windows. We got in early--too early according to Scott. However, I hate running late to a stand. Even a single doe out in the field could spook and go blowing off into the CRP. Plus, we had no cover to hide our approach. We would be trekking in the wide open, and with the CRP running right up to the fenceline, I wanted to get into the blind long before the deer got on their feet for the evening. When it comes to whitetails, I try really hard to eliminate errors. Scott and I wore shorts and T-shirts as we walked in. We changed into our clothes--already-washed in Wildlife Research detergent and treated with Ozonics DRiWASH--once we climbed inside. Even though we were sitting in a scent-contained blind, I situated my Ozonics unit and faced it out a cracked window.
Twenty-three minutes after climbing into the blind and getting situated, a doe meandered in for a drink. It pays to be early. It was 2 p.m., and although temps in the blind were bordering on uncomfortable, the feeling quickly dissipated when I sent an arrow into her lungs. Her death sprint was short. She made the leap into the CRP, and then crumbled to the ground. Scott and I had put in a lot of work in over a 48-hour period, and it was already paying off in spades.
At 6:23 p.m., nine does, six fawns, a forky, and a spike were drinking from the pond. In the distance, four shooters inched toward us. Their approach was painfully slow. Finally, with only minutes of legal shooting light remaining, a short-racked eight-point dipped his snout into the cool water and started sucking. He was close--just 12 yards from the blind. I could see his throat muscles working with every slurp. Having never pulled off a same-day double, I decided to take the shot. The big boys had fed out, up, and over a rise in the hill. With the video camera running, my arrow once again found its mark, and the buck erupted up the small bank and scrambled down the fenceline. He made it only 80 yards before piling up, and just like that, our small 80-acre parcel had produced a first-time-in double.
With multiple doe tags and a buck tag still in my pocket, I vowed to return to my little slice of Oklahoma heaven during the rut, but family and work obligations prevented it. Scott took full advantage of it, though, putting two other bowhunters into the blind on two separate evenings. Both killed Pope and Young-class bucks.
I can't wait for October 1,2019.1 know where I'll be: Nestled in a ground blind or treestand on 80 acres of dirt most whitetail bowhunters would completely ignore.
What makes our little 80-acre locale so good is the mix of green food and water. Without these two deer magnets, the parcel wouldn't be worth leasing. In addition to the food and water, it's surrounded by timber and CRP. The deer funnel out of these areas into the wheat. Does use the food source year-round, making it an effective location during the early and late season, as well as during the rut.
The property, though not conducive to bowhunting at first glance, had a lot going for it. All we had to do was invest some time figuring out how to hunt it. Don't turn your nose up at a property before you do your homework. Finding ground to hunt is getting harder and harder. If you're looking to lease some hunting property but don't want to dip into the kids' college fund, spend some time searching for ground that most will ignore.
The author is an accomplished bowhunter, outdoor writer, and photographer from La Junta, Colorado.
Caption: While walking the 80-acre wheat patch, I stumbled upon this set of deadheads. This pair of bucks locked antlers along the field's west edge during the 2017 rut. This was just another piece of intel that screamed, "You need to lease this ground!"
Caption: Deer tend to migrate toward lone trees in open terrain. During the rut, one of Scott Sander-ford's clients killed a 136-inch buck from this stand.
Caption: Few things rival the feeling of knowing where your meat comes from and being able to go out into God's great outdoors and harvest it.
Caption: After killing a doe earlier in the afternoon, I couldn't resist the chance to run a Rage-tipped arrow through this Oklahoma eight-point.
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|Date:||Oct 1, 2019|
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