Ward lives on northeast Oklahoma’s Oologah Lake, and his 80-acre plot backs up to public hunting area that gets lots of pressure during the firearms season. For the past two years, he’s gotten trail cam shots of a buck that’s huge for the area, where even a 150-class whitetail is big news.
“We’d have 2 or 3 pictures a month, maybe more,” Ward says. “Sometimes he’d show up five nights in a row. But the funny thing was, about a week before gun season started he’d disappear, and then a week or two after gun season ended he’d come back. He did that two years in a row.”
Other than regular visits to Ward’s feeder well after dark, the buck was something of a ghost–albeit a famous one. “Nobody I know ever saw him. We hunted him hard during bow season, muzzleloader, whatever, but never laid eyes on him until the night I shot him. A couple of boys got some nighttime video of him and sent it around the Internet, so everybody knew about him. But nobody saw him with their own eyes.”
Ward did come into possession of the big deer’s shed antler in 2009. A local shed-hunter picked it up on public land about a half mile from Ward house. “I think this buck spent a lot of time on public land,” Ward says. “He had to be awful smart, I guess.” Ward totaled up 68 inches on the single antler. When he shot the buck the next year, the same side measured 84 4/8.
Because of the bitter cold on January 11, Ward decided to use his wife’s crossbow and hunt a ground blind that was situated about 15 yards from a hackberry tree where his feeder hung. Trail cam photos showed the buck had come in just after dark the night before, but now the temperature had dipped into the single digits, and Ward was betting the buck would need to feed a little earlier.
He was right: The 14-pointer stepped out of a thin line of timber that separates Ward’s land from the public hunting ground. Trees damaged by an ice storm several years ago create a tangle of blowdown that Ward believes made a perfect bedding site for the buck. “He was about 45 to 50 yards away when I first saw him, and he was facing right at me. I didn’t have a shot, but I figured he’d come on in to the feeder. He stood for what seemed like a long time just staring at the feeder. It was probably five minutes, but that’s a long time when you’re waiting for a big buck to walk to you.”
“After he decided to walk in he came straight to the feeder. When he got to 20 yards and stopped, I shot. I was a little nervous, but I’ve shot big bucks before in Kansas. But nothing like this. You just don’t see bucks like this and get them killed around here. I thought I was awful lucky and I couldn’t believe it was happening.”
The highly symmetrical seven-by-seven rack netted 188 4/8. “He’s really wide and he’s got good mass; he carries his mass all the way out,” Ward says. “His circumference measurements were really good, and his main beams are over 25 inches long. He’s just big all over, bud.”
Ward says his score has been accepted by the Boone & Crockett Club, and he’s waiting now for official word from the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation’s Cy Curtis program, the state’s record keeper for trophy bucks. Cy Curtis records show that Ward’s buck will be the largest ever taken with archery equipment in Oklahoma, surpassing this 185 6/8 inch typical shot November 11, 1997, by Larry Luman in Bryan County.
Only two typical bucks have scored better than Ward’s, both taken with firearms in 2007 in Pushmataha County. On November 18, Jason Boyett of Glenpool shot this 13-pointer, which scored 192 5/8.
That buck’s reign as Oklahoma’s top typical lasted only 10 days. On November 28, John Ehmer of Tuskahoma harvested this 13-pointer, which taped out at 194 even, despite having an inside spread almost two inches narrower than Boyett’s buck.
Ward says the cold weather (which stimulated the buck to feed earlier), the extended season (which allowed him to take advantage of the cold weather) and the introduction of crossbow hunting all contributed to his success. “It’s hard to hunt with a compound bow in a treestand when it gets that cold; you have to wear so much clothes it’s hard to draw,” Ward says. “Some people don’t like crossbows, but I think any way you can kill a buck of this caliber, whether it’s a rifle, a crossbow or a muzzleloader, I think it’s quite a deal no matter what you use. We hunted him hard, but I just got lucky–that’s all it amounts to.”
_A decision last year by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation to extend the whitetail hunting season by two weeks and to allow crossbow hunting for the first time paid off big-time for longtime Foyil deer hunter Wade Ward.
Hunting during a cold snap on January 11, 2011, Ward finally got a shot at a huge 14-pointer he’d been tracking on his trail camera for two years. The buck turned out to be the Sooner State’s third largest typical–and the largest ever taken with archery equipment._