Oklahoma has been turning a lot of heads in recent years with the caliber of bucks it’s producing. And several of those noteworthy whitetails have been featured in the pages of this magazine.
Before now, none were felled by a crossbow.
Once permitted only for hunters with physical impairments, a regulation change two years ago made it legal for anyone to hunt with a crossbow.
On Jan. 11, 2011, Foyil, Okla., hunter Wade Ward took advantage of a 15-day January archery season, armed with his wife’s crossbow, and shot a monster buck that had eluded him for two years. Wade’s buck stands as the state’s largest Perfect in the BTR’s crossbow category and the second largest among all weapons classes.
The state’s top Perfect was taken in 2007 by John Ehmer of Tuskahoma. Ehmer took his chart-topper in the rugged hills of Pushmataha County.
Wade lives in Rogers County near Lake Oologah in northeastern Oklahoma. He says the area has some pretty good deer hunting now, but that hasn’t always been the case.
“In 1968, there were only 33 deer killed in this county,” Wade said. “My wife’s dad, E.A. Burns, took the biggest buck in the area then with a shotgun slug.”
In 2009, Wade set out a trail camera near his home and retrieved photographs of a big typical-racked buck he had never seen before then. Excited by the photos of the giant, he put out additional cameras and feeders in hopes of getting a crack at it.
Wade started feeding Oklahoma-made protein pellets, and the buck soon developed an affinity for them. It devoured the stuff, but only at night.
“As far as I know, nobody ever saw that buck during the daytime,” Wade said. “It spent a lot of time on public hunting land, there’s no doubt about it.”
No hunters in the area had ever reported seeing the big buck, even though Wade’s land is close to Blue Creek Park on Oologah Lake. However, Wade says someone did find a huge shed antler near Blue Creek.
In January 2011, Wade was at a coon hunting competition in Illinois when his son, Jared, called to tell him that the big buck was coming out just before dark. Wade returned home, pumped over the possibility of getting a shot at the previously nocturnal whitetail.
On Jan. 10, snow fell in northeastern Oklahoma and the temperature plunged to single digits. Wade was laying tile at a friend’s house nearby with plans to hunt that afternoon, but a phone call from his wife caused a change in plans.
One of his coon dogs was loose.
The next afternoon, Wade grabbed his wife’s crossbow and went to his pop-up blind at 4 p.m. He figured the crossbow would work out better in the bitter cold.
“It was just easier to sit in a ground blind with a crossbow,” he said. “They have a scope on them and are easier to shoot. They are also really accurate.”
As light started to fade, Wade spotted the big buck walking out of the woods 50 yards away.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” he said. “The buck looked sooo much bigger in the flesh!”
When the buck stopped 20 yards away, Wade put a bolt through its chest. The deer ran 70 yards across the field before collapsing.
Wade walked over to collect his trophy and was amazed. The massive buck had antlers nearly 2 feet wide!
Wade still ponders his good fortune.
“It’s just amazing that such a deer could live there without anybody seeing it ... before it walked in front of the cameras,” he said. “If it hadn’t been for those photos, I would’ve never known it was out there.
“That buck’s a freak of nature,” he added, “a one-of-a-kind, like Secretariat.”
Hunter: Wade Ward
BTR Official Score: 175
BTR Composite Score: 196 6/8
— Photos Courtesy of Wade Ward This article was published in the September 2012 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.
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