The Great Plains region I’m responsible for as a Field & Stream Rut Reporter stops at the southern border of Kansas, but properly, the Great Plains extend much farther south onto the Llano Estacado of west Texas. So, I don’t feel out of line offering up this bonus report based on my experiences bowhunting in southwestern Oklahoma last week.
I was hunting just west of Cheyenne, Oklahoma, with Croton Creek Outfitters. I’d like to say the conditions made for some tough hunting, but Field & Stream whitetails columnist Scott Bestul and Yamaha representative Van Holmes, along with a few other writers and manufacturer’s reps along on the hunt, all tagged nice bucks within the first couple days. In what is becoming a nail-biting trend, I waited until the last afternoon before managing to punch my tag.
The reason it took me so long? Last week’s cold front brought uncharacteristic northeast winds to the area, which put many of outfitter Scott Sanderford’s stands directly upwind of the feeders we were hunting. In fact, Thursday afternoon, I came to full draw on a nice, tall eight-point just as it crossed downwind of me. When he caught my scent, the buck put the brakes on, standing for just a second with his vitals covered by brush before spinning and disappearing into the fading light. It was the last buck I saw until Saturday night, when this guy stepped from the shadows in the last seconds of daylight. He too was downwind and disappeared into the dark, but a wind shift Sunday afternoon played to my advantage, and I used my Bear Anarchy to put a two-blade Rage (see a spirited discussion about mechanical broadheads here) into him as he came to feed at 4:45 Sunday afternoon.
Normally, a cold front will get deer on the move, but when changing weather patterns bring a wind shift, it can make hunting tough, especially if you’re forced into using pre-set stands hung with seasonal prevailing winds in mind. The high winds can also put deer on lockdown, making them so nervous they barely move during the daylight hours, something Bestul and the others encountered the first morning before I arrived in camp.
The deer at Croton Creek were also off the feeders a bit, concentrating instead on the emerging winter wheat. Sanderford took advantage of a late-summer rain that dumped up to three inches of much-needed moisture on the region, planting his wheat crop much earlier than normal. That put the growth ahead of schedule, and deer seemed to be keying in on the sweet, green stuff.
As for rut-related behavior, there were some shenanigans going on in the red dirt country of western Oklahoma. My buck had a few battle wounds, with hair gouged in several places and, once we got him skinned, showing some signs of bruising. His neck also looked swollen, just as a rutty buck would. Justin Behnke, of LaCrosse Boots, sat overlooking a wheat field Friday night and saw two bucks pushing each other around, while a third, bigger buck ran does off the field. According to Sanderford and his guides, this type of behavior is weeks earlier than normal for the area.