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Sooner Surprise

By Clint Savoini

Oklahoma whitetail
He might be unlucky at the poker table, but do you think he cares? Here’s Clint Savoini with his last-day Oklahoma whitetail.

It was a short drive from my home in the Texas Panhandle to Woodward, Okla. The hunt with Cimarron Valley Outfitters was set up by my Arizona cousins Jimmy and Joey Savoini. They brought friends Randall Bryan and Doug Lindberg, and I met the crew in Woodward on Monday, Nov. 21, 2005, two days after they’d arrived. We grabbed some supplies in town, got some grub and headed to the camp for an afternoon hunt. Randall had already shot a really nice buck by the time I joined the group. In fact, seeing all the deer that were harvested during the opening weekend was a real eye-opener. It helped me to know what caliber of deer were in the area.

I had never hunted this type of country before. The Canadian River cut through open farmland. Deep creek bottoms provided many places for a big whitetail to hide. We’d be hunting from tower or ground blinds and glassing the open spaces. Mornings were cool and the rut was in full swing.

Oklahoma Whitetail
The author and posse gather around his
Thanksgiving Day buck.

Doug mentioned that one of the tower blinds north of the camp was on top of a hill, and with a cold morning and north wind blowing, this blind quickly became known as the “North Pole.” Doug saw a trophy buck there, but he never could get a shot. With that in mind, I made a mental note to sit in the blind during an afternoon hunt. (Joe took a nice buck there later in the hunt.)

The first afternoon, I sat in a blind near the river. I didn’t see anything, but I could hear the deer crossing to enter the feeding grounds. That day, Jimmy killed a really nice buck in a field that would become a special place for both of us. I hoped the next day my luck would change as it had not been very good the night before at the card table.

We headed out early into the field, and the cold had the bucks running the does. When it was light enough to start glassing, we could see deer in the wheat field. The bucks had more on their minds than grass. As you know, when the sunlight hits the big bucks on their backs, they start to make their way to cover, and this morning was no different. I saw a lot of shooters, but none of them presented the right shot. Tuesday morning ended with Doug harvesting a gorgeous buck with his brand new rifle. What a great way to break it in!

That afternoon found me in the “North Pole” with some steady action, but it was mostly at a distance greater than 500 yards in the wheat field. My unlucky streak at the card table continued that night at the camp card game. Tomorrow will be better, I thought, as I went all in only to have my full house beaten by a bigger full house.

Wednesday was my next-to-last day to hunt, as I wanted to make it home for Thanksgiving dinner with my wife, Jill, and our two wonderful children, Rhett and Sloane. This day was filled with missed opportunities, flat tires, and another trip to the processing plant to drop off Doug’s and Joey’s really nice bucks. I was the only hunter without an Oklahoma whitetail! For the afternoon hunt, James and I decided to head back to the river country and try to rattle up some bucks.

As the sun was setting, we started to rattle and grunt in an attempt to entice a big boy into the open. I fumbled the rattling antlers and dropped them to the ground, so I had to scramble back down the stand. I just knew I had blown this hunt. As the field filled with deer, mostly does and a small buck, we continued to wait for the big one. Then I heard some noise behind us in the tree line. As we stood motionless, a really nice young buck approached from behind us. It had the widest spread I’ve ever seen on the hoof. What a sight! The buck had short tines and was maybe only a 7-pointer. After much discussion, we decided to let him walk for a lucky hunter in a year to come. I am not sure who had the harder time watching him walk, but it turned out to be the right decision.

At camp that night, we laughed about the day’s events and antics including the dropping of the rattling antlers by yours truly. I didn’t last long at the card table. I was the first one to sit and watch the latest hunting videos on the satellite TV.

Thursday morning — Thanksgiving Day — I was only going to hunt in the morning. James and I positioned ourselves on a ridge above the big wheat field, where earlier in the hunt my cousin Jimmy had killed his good buck. When the light broke, James spotted what we thought was a huge buck; and before we could make a sneak or even a plan, he disappeared into the creek bottom.

About 30 minutes into shooting light, we glassed up another buck crossing the opening in the creek bottom. James said, “You need to shoot that buck. He’s a very tall 8-pointer.” But by the time I shouldered my rifle, the buck had slipped deeper into the creek. We then decided to advance on him because the wind and our position were right for a pursuit.

Subscribe Today!Just then, out of the same area of the creek, a doe burst full speed right at us like something was chasing her. You guessed it: The massive buck was on her tail. The sight of him running at us and not knowing we were there ... Well, that’s something I’ll not soon forget. James and I just froze as I prepared to shoot at this love-crazed whitetail.

The doe was still hauling the mail right at us, but when she saw us at 40 yards, she quickly headed off to our right, and we expected the buck to follow. As the buck approached our position, he also found us and knew he was caught out in the open. His home country was off to our left. Instead of following the doe in heat, he headed back to his grounds. Now he was heading away to our left and fast! All of this was happening about 50 yards in front of us.

I know this has never happened to any other hunters out there, but in all of the excitement I forgot to turn my scope off 9x. The buck was now running in front of us at about 45 yards, as fast as a buck can run when he knows he is in trouble. I shouldered my .270 and squeezed the trigger when he came through the crosshairs of my scope. My first shot, with the 140-grain bullet traveling at 3,200 feet per second, was a little far back but good enough to stop his rapid escape to the thick woods on the other end of the wheat field.

It took me a couple more shots to anchor the buck, with my scope still turned way too high. In fact, one of the shots grazed his back and James said, “Oh [poop], you shot his antler off!” This worried me until we finally laid our hands on the buck. I had simply grazed his back, causing dust and some hair to fly up, which looked like a cloud of white antler dust. By 7:30 a.m., we had loaded the buck in the truck and were headed back to camp to show off the trophy.

See More Buckmasters Feature StoriesWhen we arrived, the rest of the team was still snuggled up in their bedrolls sleeping. I told them that I had weakened and taken a small meat buck. As they slowly emerged from the camp, one by one, their excitement went up as they saw the great Oklahoma whitetail. After telling the story multiple times, taking pictures and measuring, it was time to take the buck to the check-in station and then to the taxidermist. The buck had 12 points, and we green scored him at 167 5/8.

-- Reprinted from the November 2006 issue of Buckmasters Magazine

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