Excerpts from "Okie Tails"

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    I’m a “low budget” hunter. Most of my outings don’t involve much expense. Gas, ammo, food, cheap beer and maybe a cigar are all I need. Of course appropriate license, stamps or tags are required, but since they cover the season(s), I don’t consider them part of my hunting budget. I’ve never really seen the need to buy up all the new gadgets or fancy camo that hit the hunter’s market each year. A lot of my gear, including most of my guns, are almost as old (some of my guns are older) as I am. I admit I will buy new waders periodically because I get tired of putting band aids on an old pair. The patchwork does make for a unique camo pattern though.


    I’m an old Eagle Scout and like to be prepared for anything the outdoors may throw at me. So what should I (or can I) take with me? Since I’ll be traveling by air and won’t have my Jeep packed full of everything I need (or think I need), I’ll have to limit what I take. Gun, ammo and clothes for cold and or wet. That should be it. Oh, and something orange. I will need a minimum of 144 square inches of the stuff according to Oklahoma game laws. I don’t own anything orange except for an old hat. It was required attire by a pheasant club I hunted over 20 some odd years ago. I should take a good knife. Then I’ll need a stone to refresh the edge. And I have a really nice pair of binos, compliments of The Union Sportsmen Alliance, they will have to come along too. And hunting boots, which pair, or all? And I always feel naked without a side arm while in the wilds. I wonder if my .44 mag Super Blackhawk can be shoe horned into my “airline approved” long gun case with my rifle, ammo, knife…


    We arrived at the lodge around 5:00 pm after traversing several miles of weather beaten and rutted muddy roads after leaving the pavement. I now know where DL’s truck got its red clay patina. After Introductions to the WOTO crew, we quickly unloaded and stowed the gear in our bunk room. Little daylight was left and I wanted (needed) to get on the range to check zero because airlines aren’t known for their good baggage handling procedures. Brett Carden, the owner of the lodge looked a little disappointed when he saw my .30-30. He pointed out a 100 yard target for me to pick at. I put three shots that grouped under an inch of the center, Brett looked at me, smiled and said: “we’re good”. A few more video and picture takes ‘till dark rounded out the time at the range. After a nice dinner and a couple of beers, I was ready to turn in.


    12/02: Hunt day one.

    I couldn’t sleep. It may have been caused by a lot of anticipation, like the old ketchup TV commercial, or maybe because of the snoring roommate. I was up at 3:00. After showering, I stepped outside and stared into the clear and starry Oklahoma sky. The half phase moon gave off ample light and the sounds of an oil well pump working somewhere in the distance provided the only background noise. The crisp, 25 degree air and light breeze carried with it a sweet odor of skunk.  After a full breakfast, everybody loaded up to head out to their assigned hunting areas. Julie, Adam and I climbed into Brett’s mud caked truck for our own “blind date”.


    After bounding and sliding down the slick red clay roads for twenty minutes or more, we arrived at the trail that would take us to our blind. The cameras rolled as we made the short walk to where we would hole up for the day.  It was a great little set up, a utility trailer converted into a mobile blind. I shall call it the “Trailer Trash Blind”. There was plenty of room inside for the three of us and all our stuff. I settled into the far automotive bucket seat strategically located in front of the gun port/window.  Adam sat next to me with Julie on the opposite end setting up her camera. I placed my binos, ammo and gun within easy reach. As the early morning light began to filter in, I stuffed my little Marlin full, levered one into the pipe and placed her on half-cock. I WAS READY!


    The “Trailer Trash Blind”. By no means did the name refer to anybody that occupied this mobile hunting blind, except for maybe me…

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    Incoming! Wait, it’s just a doe. And look, another doe. And yet, there’s another one. There was nothing but smooth heads all day that came into view. They were pretty entertaining. Some came with youngsters, some in small groups. They were fun to watch dance, play and feed. One doe actually tripped and stumbled on something. I thought they were more sure footed than that. Plus the bobwhites, turkey, crows and cardinals provided more entertainment for us. After a beautiful sunset, and it became too dark to shoot (or at least see), it was apparent nothing will be taken today. We were all tired and hungry. We had just sat (except for pee breaks) in the blind for almost thirteen hours.


    We headed out, a little later than yesterday, but still plenty dark. The decision was made not to drive in as far and walk a little more to get to the blind. I found out camera lights in my face don’t do much for  night vision as I stumbled along probably looking drunk on video. It was a little warmer this morning too. Had to be at least 30 degrees.

    All set up inside, everybody was ready, especially me. With a 7:30 sunrise, legal shoot time was around 7:00. It was easy for the first light to play tricks on your mind as the shadows moved around. A few doe materialized in the dim light. Then a little after 8:00, a big mature doe showed up with a little buck in tow. I threw my scope on him just to watch. I think Julie thought I was going to take him because she quickly whispered not to shoot. I knew he wasn’t up to par for our adventure, but certainly would have taken a shot had I run across him back home.


    …Julie, in a very excited whisper said a nice buck was coming in…The angle of the sun lit his rack up like a beacon. He was working his way in with the rising sun right behind him. The glare in my scope prevented a good sight picture… At about 80 yards out and away from the sun, I now have a clear image in my scope. But I don’t have a clear shot. The other deer were crowding around and blocking his vitals. I scoped him for what seemed like hours, but was probably less than five minutes. All of a sudden he turned a little toward our direction and appeared to be looking right at us. Were we busted? At the same time, I told Julie I had a shot: “take him!” was the reply. My little Marlin broke the silence and that buck dropped like a sack of potatoes. I quickly levered in a virgin round expecting him to get up and bolt. As I watched him lay there, not really sure I believed what just happened, Julie kept repeating: “he’s down, he’s down, you can relax now”…


    I was numb and stumbling the up the path toward my buck. My mind was so full of thought it couldn’t process anything. There he lay. Not a huge wall hanger as seen in many of the fancy big name sports stores, but certainly a trophy. This buck looked much better up close and personal than through the view of my scope. He sported six inch eye guards and three solid points on each side with a point broken off on both sides. THIS RACK HAS CHARACTER! I turned him over to see if shot placement was anywhere near where I was aiming. It was, right through the heart. I could feel the spent bullet just under the hide on the opposite side. I rubbed some of his blood on my face and clothes, something I have always done after recovering a kill. There were more high fives, handshakes and hugs all around.

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    News of my take had already spread through the other hunters gathered round the lodge lunch table. They congratulated me as we unloaded and hung him up for processing. I like knives, so I’d brought one of my favorite skinners along, a 119 Buck I’d carried for nearly 30 years. It is no virgin. Turns out, the guttin’ and skinnin’ duties are part of the package here. So I just watched as Josh skillfully prepared my meat for a game processor. Since I planned to have it shipped to California, it had to be professionally processed and documented. I ask Josh to save the heart for eating if salvageable. It wasn’t, my shot turned it to jelly. We cut the rack from the skull together and Josh presented me with the spent bullet.

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    After another fine lodge meal was consumed, Eric, Brett, Josh, Adam and I headed for the trap range for an evening shoot. Critters had chewed up the wires on the electric launcher, so while Josh attempted to MacGyver it together, we commenced by hand throwing the clays. Even shootin’ an unfamiliar gun, a 12 ga. auto with feed issues and no front bead, I still managed to break more than I missed. But Brett out-shined us all. He would toss up a stack of birds, then pick up his gun and take ‘em all (at least most of the time). After getting off the range, we fired off a couple (maybe more) liquid shots in celebration of my morning’s success.


    Wow, I really slept in. It was 8:30 before I finally crawled out of my bunk. I didn’t realize how worn out I was. After a shower and a bite, I began to clean the skull cap on my rack. After boiling for a while, I used my trusty Union Sportsmen’s Alliance logo Buck knife to scrape the cap clean. I studied all of it’s oddities in close detail while making up stories in my head on the cause of each little imperfection. I continued to re-live the vision of him just dropping in his tracks. I think I was going through PHSD (post hunt stress disorder).

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    Adam and I were taken out to a blind on a bluff overlooking the Red River. I shall call it “Bluff Man’s Blind”. We crawled in and set up around 3:30 pm. No one really expected any pigs to show. There hadn’t been many sightings. Turkeys were gathering everywhere. I even spied a porcupine in a leafless tree a couple of hundred yards out. As the sun began to set, several deer began to cross the river. All of a sudden, four hogs were in my view. I alerted Adam to start the camera rolling. They were grunting and fighting over scraps of food. I had a hard time singling out a target. Low light and several moving dark masses complicated the issue. About the time I laid the cross hairs on the biggest porker, one next to it had locked on our position. It was now or never. Down it went with the others scurrying for cover. A fresh round was levered in, but that hog just laid there.


    WOW! JUST WOW! Animals down two days in a row! We phoned Julie on Adams phone (still no service on mine): “pig down!” …Looking over the edge of the bluff into the darkness filled with countless obstacles, a path was chosen for the decent toward my prize. With a little brush busting and critter trail weaving, we managed to find the spot. There laid a 200 pound black and woolly hog. Even though my shot shattered his spine just behind his neck, there was still a little spunk left in him. Unable to lift his head, he snapped his tusks as I approached. These are tough critters.

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