Bowhunting Oklahoma's Early-Season Whitetail

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Patrick Meitin returns from another visit to Oklahoma for October whitetails.

I spent last week on Western Oklahoma's Croton Creek Ranch, bowhunting whitetails. This part of the world is a whitetail destination with several interesting twists. At first glance the country doesn't inspire visions of trophy bucks -- a land of gypsum breaks, sporadic cedar and shin-oak draws and vistas of open grasslands. Compared to typical whitetail habitat, it appears wholly desolate. But harbor deer it does, some wearing antlers that'll give you the jitters. It brings back memories of West Texas, where I pursued my first whitetail long ago. Such sentiment wasn't shared by many campmates arriving from greener pastures...

Western Oklahoma's generally open nature can mean bowhunting concealment becomes a bit contrived. Spotty cottonwoods and elms provide standard treestand bases, but the relative rarity of large specimens means hanging stands where you have to instead of where you want. More commonly ladder stands are stabbed into crazy-crooked trees. Then there are places, brushy areas and wheat-field edges, where only a pop-up blind will suffice. This was my fate last week, an interesting mode of operation where whitetails are concerned. Enclosed blinds tend to lack the 360-degree view of the average treestand. I end up feeling blindered, shots normally limited to a single set of forward ports (mechanical broadheads supplied by a hunt sponsor made the large, shoot-through screens a frightening proposition).

The fact we've enjoyed such consistent success in Oklahoma (70 percent shooting opportunity on mature bucks in two years) hinges directly on legal baiting. Without this, few deer would have reason to pass by those inconveniently-placed trees. Getting off a clean shot through the single shooting port available to me would have proven tricky -- like the coyote I missed during a hurried stab, unrehearsed shooting position and resulting contact of my top bow limb with the blind's roof.

Another contributing positive factor was Buck Blitz, a highly-aromatic, nutritious pellet feed that draws deer in more efficiently than corn alone. When we temporarily ran out of Buck Blitz last year, deer traffic slowed to a trickle despite an abundance of shelled corn. Once replaced, deer resumed regular visits and I arrowed my buck that very morning.

Think what you will of baiting, but I harbor no reservations. As I've noted during Texas hunts in the past, deer arriving on feed are some of the most nervous and paranoid you'll ever face. Just getting drawn, even on the youngest doe, requires spot-on shot timing and smooth, even draw cycles.

After three days in my lonely pop-up, passing seven mature bucks, "The One" arrived. It was surrounded by seven jumpy does. I pointed into the southeast blind corner, powered my bow to full draw painfully-slowly, slipped from my stool and onto my knees before leaning into the shooting port, pulling my head away from anchor to double-check clearance, snugging back into anchor and making the perfect 10-ring shot at 18 yards. It was my first whitetail pop-up kill. The big Rage assured he didn't make it out of sight.