Oklahoma 2016 Deer Season: Top Big Deer Year!

Ok 2016 ocktor buckOne day last August I blogged: From what I’m seeing and hearing this has the potential to be the best buck season across America since 2010.

It was, and here is a good example.

From Paul’s Valley Democrat: Oklahoma’s 2016 deer season is well on its way to revamping the record books.

Alan Peoples, chief of wildlife with the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, said: “I have the privilege of seeing a bunch of big deer racks pass through my office every year and I’ve never seen this many at one time.

Several monstrous non-typicals from the bow season have been reported so far, including Travis Ocker’s 245 2/8” beast from Comanche County (photo top).

More racks scoring from 180 into the 190s have been certified by the wildlife department, and huge racks taken during the state’s firearms season have not begun showing up yet.

ok 2016 scott and me buck

I can vouch for the good hunting there last year. Our group of 5 arrived in camp in western Oklahoma the day after Thanksgiving. The rut was still rocking, and although we didn’t shoot any monsters, we went 5 for 5 on solid bucks. You’ll see the action on a 2-part episode of BIG DEER TV on Sportsman Channel later this fall.

BIG DEER TV: Fall 2016 Hunting & Filming Recap

As 2016 draws to a close, it’s a perfect time to recap my fall hunts that will begin airing in July 2017 during season 6 of BIG DEER TV. Thanks to Remington Arms, Trijicon, Wildlife Research Center and Sportsman Channel for their amazing support. And a special and heartfelt thanks to all of you who watch our show and read this blog. I hope you have a happy, healthy and prosperous 2017.–MH

IMG_1568

In September I traveled to South Carolina and hunted with Will (left) and Ethan for a few days. These kids are bravely battling cancer every day and I hope and pray for them. One evening Ethan shot this buck, and we all gathered round the skinning shed. Lots of laughs and tears that night.

IMG_1597

IMG_1608

IMG_1627

From there we traveled to Taos, New Mexico. It had been a few years since I had hunted elk, and I was raring to go…until I hunted a couple of dry days and figured out that no elk had yet made their way down from the high country to the lower elevations where we hunted. We gave it our best shot, hiking hard for 10-12 miles every day, to no avail. I don’t know how much if any of the footage we shot will air on TV…a shame, because the Rio Grande Gorge country is magnificent.

In late October I trekked out to the Milk River in northeast Montana. It was my first trip back to my old familiar hunting grounds since 2010, when a combination of EHD and flooding devastated the local whitetail herds, killing more than 90 percent of the deer.

IMG_1802

For 6 years I kept in close contact with my dear friend Luke Strommen, until we finally decided to try another TV hunt. Luke shot a doe (above) and then a buck later in the season, though not on camera.

IMG_1649

IMG_1661

After hunting 3 days, I knew that while the herds had come back well on this section of the Milk, it would still take years before it gets as good as it was from 2006-2010, when Luke and I killed a bunch of good bucks with our bows. But I did find this amazing deer trail, and that evening hunted off the ground at the far end of it. I was lucky to shoot this 4X4 with my Remington muzzleloader. I figure it will take 2-3 more years for the age structure of the bucks to be as it should be, and I have fingers crossed that the Milk River will be spared EHD for years to come.

IMG_1707

I can’t imagine what early November would be like unless I was shivering in a ground blind for 10 hours a day somewhere in the remote bush of north-central Saskatchewan. Except last month when I hunted there, the temperature soared into the unheard of mid-50s! (I have hunted this country when it’s been 70 degrees colder.) This time I hunted out of a rustic camp with my old friend Trevor, with whom I had hunted elk 30 years prior in B.C. Turned out to be a fantastic reunion, as I got my Saskatchewan mojo back and shot a beautiful mid-150s buck. There is a twist to the story, but you’ll have to wait till next summer to watch.

IMG_1771

I hurried back home to hunt the second week of the Virginia blackpowder season, which is typically peak rut. My friends Jack and Cecil and I had gotten pictures of good bucks all summer long, and as the rut approached we found some big rubs, including the largest cedar I have ever seen thrashed in VA. We hunted a week hard, and never saw a shooter…we had hit the dreaded “lockdown” phase dead on. BTW, there are recent stories floating around that lockdown–when bucks hole up with does and don’t move–might be a myth. Don’t buy it! Unfortunately it’s real, and the buck hunting is downright difficult if not impossible.

IMG_1591

But there was a highlight from Virginia. One of our friends, Alex, who hunts Jack’s farm had a big bear amble beneath his tree stand, and he drilled it with his bow (unfortunately not on camera). Our black bear population is exploding.

IMG_1790

The day after Thanksgiving I hopped a plane to Oklahoma to hunt with my good friends Scott and Joni at Croton Creek Ranch. We had 4 guests in camp, and the hunt was epic. Although it was late November, we hit the rut just right. I stalked and shot an old 8-point we named “crabclaw” as he tended a doe and ran off young bucks.

IMG_1792

The next 3 days, everybody in camp tagged out. The highlight was Chuck Wahr’s beautiful 150-class 9-point. I had hunted that deer 2 days and had seen him twice before I tagged out. Chuck picked it up from there and shot what Scott figures was the biggest buck on the ranch last fall.

IMG_1860.JPG ks blind

IMG_1824

I pulled a rifle tag for southeastern Kansas, and headed out there on a semi-guided but mostly DIY hunt, a fine way to do it. It was warm for 3 days and we didn’t see much. One afternoon I decided to bag the tree stand and brushed in a blind in a cedar-thick staging area near a bean field. I stepped back, examined the blind and thought it looked like a great spot. Three hours later I shot a cool buck with 6 points on one side.

Looking back, the fall of 2016 was a fun and successful year, and it’s not over yet. Well, 2016 is, but in January 2017 I’ll be heading down to south Alabama for one last hunt, hoping to hit the rut right again, hoping for one last buck and another new and interesting episode for BIG DEER TV.

Thanks for watching, and again Happy New Year!

 

The Hunting Mentality: “Keep Your Head in the Game”

Got this from Bud awhile back:

Mike, watch your show all the time. My son and I hunted together in Kentucky last year. One day I sat in a blind and saw deer from dawn until 10:30. I let 16 smaller bucks go, waiting for Mr. Big. I didn’t see another deer for 4 hours.

All I thought about was what you said in one of your shows: “Keep your head in the game you never know when he will step out…”

ky bud 1

Well, my buck came out at 2:45 in the afternoon, and I dropped him at 217 yards with a .30-06 shooting a 180-grain. I’ve been hunting since I was 16; I’m 69 and he’s my best deer. Just got him back from the taxidermist.

My son has been hunting since he was 11. He’s 35 and also took his biggest deer, a 9-point, on that trip.

Thanks for the advice and looking forward to next season of BIG DEER.—Bud Cummings

Great job guys, way to keep your heads in the game and your instincts ready. Deer hunting is 80% mental. You never know when a shooter will step our, and you need to be poised to cash in.

BIG DEER TV 2016 Episode 5: Kentucky’s Coal-Country Elk

KY elk 1a

Did you know that Kentucky has the largest herd of wild elk east of the Mississippi River?

In 1997, seven elk were shipped from Kansas to the mountains of southeastern Kentucky. Over the next several years some 1,550 more wapiti were transported from various Western states into the Kentucky mountains. The animals thrived in the hilly, rugged reclaimed strip mine habitat. Today Kentucky’s elk herd is estimated at a strong and healthy 10,000 animals.

ky elk 2

It is one of America’s top wildlife restoration stories, and we highlight and celebrate that success on tonight’s episode.

The conservation story is weaved amid a great hunt that took place last October. My friend and Sportsman Channel colleague, Graig Hale, somehow beat astronomical odds and drew a tag. As you will see, Graig encountered several Appalachian bulls and cashed in with a nice one.

KY graig elk

I had hoped to somehow get a tag and go along on this unique hunt. The folks in charge of the elk tags laughed and said, “Yeah, maybe you can draw one in 20 or 30 years!”

So we let Graig and ace videographer Danny Dodge handle it, and as you will see they did a superb job.

Set your DVR, BIG DEER TV Wednesdays at 7 pm ET on Sportsman Channel.

BIG DEER TV 2016 Episode 3: “Rut Race Saskatchewan to Idaho”

sask woods before cut

As the script goes: Saskatchewan’s muzzleloader season is 2 weeks earlier than my usual rifle hunt up here, and the warm, wet weather is killing us. It’s hard just to get around in the mud and slop, and the deer are inactive in their thick winter coats…the forest is dead…but you have to keep your head up.

That I did, though I did not see a single buck all week. A few does, but not one buck. My 10-plus-year streak of amazing buck hunts and good fortune in the Saskatchewan bush had come to a crashing end.

I could not let it end that way. I’d have to come back next month…

Down but not out, I put a tough hunt behind me and prepare for daunting terrain in the river canyons of northwestern Idaho.  A far cry from the mental fatigue of the ground blind, this hunt will test my physical stamina and work ethic…

white bird

White Bird, Idaho, named after a chief of the Nez Perce tribe, is surrounded by prime western whitetail habitat…but you have to earn your buck in this tough country.

First no buck in Anticosti Quebec and ditto for Saskatchewan last week. My rough start to the 2015 whitetail season rolls on. The first guy I met in Idaho was a local game warden named George, a nice fellow who said, “You should have been here last year. Plenty of bucks. This summer, EHD hit the whitetails hard in the area you’re hunting.”

…you have to keep your head up.

We started glassing and hunting in this stunningly beautiful paradise where during a normal season you can find 10 or more whitetail bucks a day without too much effort, along with lots of mule deer and elk. Some mule deer and herds of elk were still here, but we were hard pressed to see one whitetail buck. Just as I thought I’d eat my third tag in a row, Bob and I crossed a creek, looked up and…

idaho buck mike

As the show ends, you’ll see how to make a whitetail backpack and carry the whole darn deer, sans legs, up and out of the mountains on your back. (Not mine, but a strong, tough 20-something named Ryan.)

whitetail backpack

This new episode of BIG DEER TV airs 7 pm Eastern tonight on Sportsman Channel, set your DVR.