By Mike Handley
Because of a foreboding weather forecast, heightened by bad luck at the onset of his planned weeklong hunt in Woods County, Okla., Gary Fears headed afield on Nov. 24 with the resignation of shooting the first decent buck dumb enough to wander into his crosshairs.
Not even a doe was safe.
"I just wanted to kill a buck, any decent one, and go home," he admitted.
When he went out that day, he fashioned himself a ground blind from a couple of hillside cedars overlooking a canyon. Soon afterward, while thinking about hoofing 500 yards to possibly get a shot at one of the two great bucks he saw chasing does in the distance, a handsome 10-pointer began dogging one much closer.
When the buck tired of the chase, the doe came on out into the open and began browsing, leaving her boyfriend standing guard within the scrub. While Gary watched, trigger finger itchy, the 5x5 suddenly whirled and took off in the opposite direction.
"I couldn't figure out why it ran," he said. "There was no way it could see or smell me, and the doe hadn't spooked."
So accustomed to misfortune that week, Gary decided to take the proverbial bird in hand. He eased his .270 WSM to his shoulder and put the crosshairs on the feeding doe. Before squeezing the trigger, however, he glimpsed more deer legs above his scope and raised his head to check out the newcomer, a much bigger buck than the AWOL 10-pointer he'd fancied shooting.
"It all happened so quickly, I didn't have time to get nervous. I'd already used that up on the 10-pointer," Gary said. "Plus, I saw only the right side of the deer's rack. I really didn't have a clue that it was so big."
As soon as the buck stepped into the clear at 220 yards, Gary's rifle spat a 150-grain ballistic tip at it.
"The buck hit the ground instantly," he said. "And when it raised its head, I popped it again ... for insurance's sake.
"The doe never moved. She stood there throughout both shots. So I thought, 'I'll just shoot you, too,' and be done," he added.
As Gary approached the buck, he realized it was far bigger than he'd imagined.
"My knees got weak when I saw all that antler," he said. "One look, and I knew that, after 40 some odd years, after hunting regularly in Kansas, Iowa and Missouri, I'd finally broken the 200-inch mark."
His estimate was on the money, too. With a BTR score of 206 4/8 inches (227 1/8 with the spread), Gary's bruiser is Oklahoma's new No. 2 Semi-irregular and No. 7 in the world among rifle kills.
The full story will appear this fall in RACK magazine.