January 27, 2020
By Lynn Burkhead
You’re probably well aware that Oklahoma is part of an ongoing record book rewrite currently taking the deer hunting world by storm.
Guner Womack, an 18-year old Oklahoma State University college student from Morrison, Okla., took his first ever archery deer on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019. With 16 points, the Womack buck—which will get officially scored in late February at the annual Backwoods Hunting & Fishing Expo in Oklahoma City—currently sports a green gross score of 209 5/8 inches and a green net score of 192 6/8 inches.
And now you can add 37-year-old Troy Bryant’s name to the stellar list after the Laverne, Okla. resident took a monster whitetail of his own last fall that now ranks as one of the top-five typical whitetails ever tagged in the Sooner State.
Killed on Nov. 23, 2019 in Harper County—in the northwestern corner of the state—the buck has 11 scorable points, sweeping main beams measuring 25 0/8 inches on each side, an inside spread of 19 inches, every mass measurement taping out to 4 inches or more, and great tine lengths including three points measuring 12 inches plus and another at more than 11 inches.
So good are the dimensions of the Bryant buck that it was recently given a 60-day entry score of 197 7/8 inches gross and 190 6/8 inches net. No matter how the Womack Buck ends up scoring in a few weeks, that places the Bryant buck in some rarefied air as a top-five all-time typical buck in Oklahoma.
For the record, John Ehmer’s rifle kill from Pushmataha County in 2007 remains the state’s benchmark buck at 194 0/8 inches (according to the Cy Curtis Program). Jason Boyett’s buck – also from Pushmataha County in 2007 – checks in at number two with a score of 192 5/8 inches (Boone and Crockett Club). And Michael Hooper’s Payne County buck in 2017 continues to rank third with a score of 191 0/8 inches (Cy Curtis Program).
Bryant is happy to be in the top-five conversation since just a couple of years ago he was left wondering when deer hunting would return to a sense of normalcy on the 4,000-acre ranch his family owns and operates on the state’s Beaver River.
“Back in 2017, we had a wildfire that burned about 90 percent of the ranch,” said Bryant. “We were in the middle of all of the wildfires out here [in western and northwestern Oklahoma]. After that happened, we got on horseback—this is a big ranch and we still do all of our work on horseback—riding the fences and checking on livestock and wildlife and such.”
What Bryant and his family members discovered upon riding the smoldering range was heartbreaking as they encountered dead cattle, dead wildlife, and dead whitetails.
But with better precipitation in recent months, the resiliency of creation has been on full display as the ranch has rebounded with new growth and a return towards more normal wildlife numbers.
“We’ve started to recover a good bit and we had a great spring and summer this year, as far as our deer herd goes,” said Bryant. “This year, we have seen tremendous growth of our deer herd. As the doe numbers have slowly rebounded, we’re starting to see a comeback. This ranch holds a lot of deer and it holds some really good deer and we saw some of that again this year.”
Knowing there are some top-end whitetail genetics on the ranch, Bryant was encouraged this past summer as he rode the rolling terrain on horseback with his wife Ashlee. As the couple checked the river bottoms on the ranch, they saw several good deer that had Bryant optimistic heading into this fall’s hunting season.
That optimism went sky high a few weeks ago when the rancher got a trial-cam photo of a deer that nearly took his breath away.
“I didn’t get a picture of that deer until the beginning of November, but when I saw him, I knew he was a good one even if I didn’t really know how good,” he said. “I got my second set of pictures on Nov. 18. Once again, I knew he was a good deer from those photos, but I still didn’t know he was a 200-inch kind of deer.”
On the Saturday prior to Thanksgiving, which also happened to be opening day of Oklahoma’s deer gun season, Bryant got in a morning hunt that brought plenty of deer movement but only sightings of lesser bucks with small or broken racks.
After heading into town to watch his son’s basketball game, Bryant got his wife’s blessing to head back afield for a lengthy afternoon sit. That sit would eventually prove to be a memorable one as a couple of does, the giant buck, and a tight-window shot all came together quickly for the longtime deer hunter.
A couple hours later, Bryant, his wife Ashlee, son Dawson, and five-year old son Bray were all standing together, looking at a whitetail that was almost too big to imagine.
Later that afternoon, Bryant was able to share the hunt’s success with his dad Jerry, who helped his son discover a love for the outdoors world and is currently battling lung cancer.
Only a few days before Thanksgiving Day, Bryant was battling back the tears and remembering all the many things that he had to be thankful for.
“I’ve been so blessed by the Lord to be able to live out here on this ranch and to be able to do the things I’ve been able to do outdoors, including to be able to hunt,” said Bryant. “Without Him, none of this would be possible.”
Admitting that he may never take another whitetail of that magnitude, Bryant considers himself semi-retired from the sport as of now.
“It now moves to let other family members enjoy it,” he said. “I will still do everything I was doing with it, but I plan on letting my boys, my wife, my brother Jody and his family—they live on the ranch too—enjoy the deer hunting (that we have) going forward.
“It’s kind of a surreal experience,” he said. “To be able to do that right here on your own ranch – and to have your family involved – it’s been a very surreal experience.
“Like I said, I’m just so blessed to be able to live out here and do this.”