“Larry it’s been a couple of years since you visited Oak Creek. Would love to have you come hunt with us again.” As Donald Hill owner of Oak Creek Whitetail Ranch, located in central Missouri, spoke my mind drifted to years past and some of the absolute monster whitetail bucks I had taken hunting with Donald. All of those bucks had been taken with handguns, save one which I shot with a rifle. “Would love to have you come in early to mid-November just about the time the rut starts. Be a good time to rattle up some bucks, could be fun….”
When he mentioned rattling, I was hooked!
Oak Creek Whitetail Ranch is not unlike the “Jurassic Park of Whitetaildom”! A high fenced operation of essentially “unreal bucks”! And I’ll be frank, it is not a place for everyone who loves hunting whitetail deer. As mentioned it is high fenced, and some deer are annually released on the property from the ranch’s breeding program. Deer are released as 6-months to yearling and allowed to mature in the presence of extremely good nutrition, both supplemental food and abundant fertilized food plots. I know there are those who oppose such operations…
I enjoy Oak Creek’s camp, the food, and Donald and his family, that includes his guides! I also like looking at big antlered whitetail bucks that previously only existed in dreams. Being on the property as the rut is about to begin is exciting, throw in rattling and it gets REALLY exciting.
On Oak Creek you’ll get to see numerous mature bucks with big antlers each day…well maybe! Bucks there are hunted essentially every day during a long liberal hunting season for such operations. It doesn’t take long for bucks to adapt to hunting pressure and become extremely wary and secretive! Rather than move during daylight hours, they often bed in brush piles and extreme dense thickets, easy to hunt for, but not to take!
My first afternoon on the property was spent mostly walking from one food plot to the other in light rain. My guide Shane and I saw several deer, mostly does and fawns and young bucks. We did see one buck that caught my attention. Saw him long enough to only get an impression of what he really looked like. He was a basic 8-point, but, his back tines looked like they might impossibly be 18-inches long! Before we could get a better look, he was gone! Shane and I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to get another look at the buck, but failed to do so!
That night over supper, Blake Barnett, my co-host for “DSC’s Trailing the Hunter’s Moon” who was also hunting and I compared notes. I told him about the big basic, long-tined eight. He smiled. “We were hunting a good mile from where you were. But, very late just before dark, I think we saw the same buck. Think he’s a basic 9-point and his back tines looked at least 18-inches long! But we didn’t see him very long. We only got a brief look at him.“
“Could well be. Bucks roam quite a bit this time of the year. From what we saw this afternoon, the rut is at best only a few days away. Want to try some ratting tomorrow. I found a couple places while we were walking today where I think I might be able to rattle up a buck or two.”
Next morning shortly after first light, we were sitting behind my Nature Blinds Stalking Shield watching a fairly open white oak studded slope that lead to a dense thicket bedding area. Acorns on the slope were there in great abundance. As dark faded to gray morning light, we spotted numerous deer; does, fawns and bucks. The bucks were young, their hocks fairly “clean”.
A light rain was falling, making for ideal slip or still hunting. The rain had softened the carpet of fallen oak leaves.
“Think we should head to that little bottom we walked on the edge of yesterday. Got a feeling there are some bucks spending time there, and maybe, just maybe, you can pull one out of it with your Rattling Forks.” Suggest Shane.
Forty or so minutes later I found the exact spot I wanted to rattle. Even though I watched downwind I had shooting lanes immediately to my left and right and quartering of either side directly downwind. Before starting to rattle I set up my tripod shooting sticks and there rested my Ruger Super Blackhawk Hunter in .44 Mag, loaded with Hornady’s 240 grain XTP. This is a load my Ruger single-action revolver absolutely loves! I had shot my Ruger revolver many times at the FTW/SAAM at ranges much father than I would ever shoot at an animal, 300 and 350 yards and beyond. I felt extremely confident on any shot out to 100 yards.
I started my rattling sequence by rubbing one of my Rattling Forks against a nearby branch. Next I did a “snort wheeze” and almost immediately brought the Rattling Forks together, meshing them loudly, while at the same time pushing leaves, branches and the ground with my feet. I did my best to imitate the sounds of two bucks fighting. Kicking the ground and turning over fresh earth also served as a cover scent.
No sooner had I started my rattling sequence I spotted movement to my left. It was a buck coming in, slipping in as mature bucks often do. I could not believe the size of his antlers. They were tall and wide, with many, many points, mostly going up but also some going down.
I kept rattling, doing so behind my Stalking Shield. My intention was to slowly set down the Rattling Forks and then reach up for my revolver. As I was doing so, I felt Shane grab my arm. I slowly turned. He was shaking his head in a negative manner. I looked at him questioningly. He formed the words, “Don’t shoot!”.
I’ve never questioned my guide but was seriously wondering why he was telling me not to shoot. Before me was the biggest antlered whitetail buck I had ever rattled in!
I kept the buck interested in my rattling and grunting for easily three minutes. When he finally walked away I turned to Shane. “Before leaving camp this morning I talked to Donald about a buck I saw last night after supper. I had to check a water gap because of the rains we’ve had. The buck I saw is an absolute monster. Basically a typical with extra points and probably 30 inches wide with extremely massive. If you’re up to doing a bunch of still hunting I think we might be able to find him. That’s why I called you off of that buck you just rattled in.”
“That sure was a big buck. But I’m always up to a challenge when it comes to whitetails. Where’d you see this monster?”
Shane explained he had seen the buck on a long narrow food plot one which had several persimmon trees in the middle of it. The plot paralleled a creek bottom. I knew the one, and had hunted it several times in years past. “The wind is right for us to start at one end of the bottom and end up just below where I saw that buck last night. ‘Course we’ll have to put up with the rain. Doesn’t look like it’s going to slack off.” I looked at my cameraman, Jake Johnson, who just happened to be my oldest grandson. Jake was busily fitting his camera with a rain cover.
Twenty minutes later we started our hunt. We moved slowly and cautiously into the wind and rain, which had now both increased in intensity. We moved slowly taking one step, waiting and looking, then moving forward. We soon saw some does and fawns and two young bucks. Thery were bedded. We kept moving until we were just below where Shane said he had seen the buck the night before. We continued still hunting our way up slope toward the food plot. As we came to the edge, we glassed the opposite brush line. That’s when the rain let up a bit. I spotted what looked like antlers protruding above the top of a brush pile. Glassing carefully, I spotted the outline of two bedded bucks. Both were big, but one was HUGE! I noticed Shane too was looking at them. “We can move to our right. I think we can set up there and when he stands up you can get a shot. That bigger of those two bucks is the one I saw last night!”
While the rain fell hard, we made our move to within about 75 yards of the bedded bucks. There I set up my Stalking Shield and rested my Ruger revolver on it…then waited. Little did I know the wait would be nearly an hour. I could see the buck’s head and antlers, nothing more. Rain poured and ran off the brim of my brown felt hat. I was thankful I was wearing a raincoat from Drake Waterfowl. I wondered if the deer would ever stand up. At one point about twenty or thirty minutes in to the wait I considered at one point hollering loudly. Thankfully I did not do that.
I was watching the deer through my long-eye relief Zeiss scope. I saw him shake his head and mighty huge antlers, sending a spray of water from his rack. I also noticed he was moving his legs. He was about to stand up! I glanced back at Jake. He had his camera trained on him. I cocked the hammer of my Ruger.
The buck stood up and shook. I made certain my crosshairs were right behind his front leg and started squeezing the trigger. At the shot I saw water droplets fly off of the buck’s coat right where I had been aiming. He took off running. I cocked the hammer again, then followed him through my scope. I could see he was fatally hit. I knew he was not going far before going down.
I felt Shane pound my back. “You’re going to be really happy you didn’t shoot that big buck you rattled in when you see the one you just shot! Congratulations!” I accepted his congratulatory hand.
Even in the pouring rain it was easy follow the trail he left! I could hardly believe my eyes. Before me lay a buck that got bigger with each step I took toward him. At his side it took me three times to count his points! And still I came up with three different figures, 28 30 and 32. His rack was extremely wide! I reached over and grabbed a stick and laid it on the buck’s rack, then marked the spread. Laying it on the ground I stepped besides the stick. His outside spread was nearly two and a half size 13 boots wide.
This indeed was the biggest rack I had ever taken. But not only that, the buck weighed very close to 300 pounds and yield some extremely delicious venison.
Needless to say there was a bit of celebrating back at the ranch’s headquarters after we had taken care of the meat and the cape which would be sent to the Wildlife Gallery where they would do their magic.
I went back out that afternoon and saw several nice bucks scouting for Blake in hopes he might have a chance at the monstrous, long tined 8-point. We did see another really outstanding big slick 8-point, but he only had back tines about 15-inches or so long…..
About an hour and a half before dark while I was trying to rattle up some more bucks, we heard a shot. I hope it was Blake. We decided to head in that direction. A few minutes later we rand into them. On the back of their pickup was the long-tined buck. I congratulated Blake, then asked how long the back tines were. “Eighteen and a little and just shy of nineteen!” came his reply, trying to hide a smile!
Oak Creek Whitetails Ranch, as I mentioned is not for all hunters, particularly those who do not like high fences, or breeding operations. But if you’re looking for a place where you can see and have a chance at bucks that are so big they can best be described as “almost unreal”, as well as getting to watch, observe and learn what mature bucks do during the fall, then it just might be the place you’re looking for!