October 25, 2019
By Lynn Burkhead
This week, an Oklahoma State University student reminded the nation's deer hunting crowd that the state isn't just known for football, oil and gas exploration, and a Great Plains breeze that seems to always blow.
It's also an increasingly popular big buck destination, filled with plenty of whitetails, good habitat, abundant food, and superior genetics that are helping Oklahoma hunters write new hunting stories that are increasingly big and grand.
That seems apparent after Guner Womack, an 18-year old from Morrison, Okla., took his first ever archery deer – a world-class, 16-point typical bruiser – on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019.
After a day of social media photos, rampant speculation, and headlines declaring Womack might have taken a new world record typical buck, an Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation official put a measuring tape to the 8x8 whitetail rack. When the scoring session was complete, the numbers of the Womack buck added up to a gross green score of 209 5/8-inches and a net green score of 192 6/8-inches.
In the end, the late Mel Johnson's legendary buck from 1965 - which net scored 204 4/8-inches and has been the P&Y world record typical for more than a half century now - remains safe from yet another challenger.
But Womack doesn't care much, having wrapped his tag around a viral buck that after the mandatory 60-day drying period is complete, could potentially become a new overall state record as well as an almost certain new bowhunting benchmark for Oklahoma.
For now, the state's top overall buck in the Cy Curtis Program listings is a 194 0/8-inch buck taken in Pushmataha County back in November 2007 by rifle hunter John Ehmer.
Whether 60-day scoring causes Womack's buck to go up any remains to be seen, but one thing seems fairly certain – it will become Oklahoma's top bow buck, topping the 185 6/8-inch bruiser arrowed in Bryan County by ODWC game warden Larry Luman back in November 1997.
"I didn’t quite get it at the time I got the buck, just how big he really was," said Womack in a phone interview on Thursday, Oct. 24. "I just knew when I got him that he was a really big deer.
"But when my buddies Taylor Smith and Tanner Neely came over to help me pick him up and put him in the back of the truck, they were like 'Holy cow! That might be a new state record!'
"Honestly, that never crossed my mind until then. I was just ecstatic to be able to see a buck like that in my lifetime and to have a chance to kill him."
Womack and his dad Steve first saw the buck a few seasons ago on the moderately sized tract of land the family owns in Pawnee County.
"We first saw him three years ago," said Womack, who has been deer hunting with his dad since an early age. "We had him on camera the last three years. He was a 6X6 the first year, a 6X8 last year, and an 8X8 this year. From the first time we saw him, we had pretty high hopes for him back then.
“Dad actually saw him last year and had a shot at him, but he passed on him," said Womack. "He was really broken up, plus, we knew what he could become. He really sprouted up over the last year."
Earlier this week, Womack was able to catch up with the typical, getting a shot that he and the state of Oklahoma will remember for a long time to come. While the full details of his hunt are being saved for a future issue of North American Whitetail, the basic components of the story found the young bowhunter managing to keep his composure as the giant buck came in and out of a field he was guarding.
When the deer finally stood within bow range, Womack - who has only been bowhunting for three years - made good on his shot opportunity, sending a lethal arrow downrange from his Mathews. Moments later, he was walking up on the buck of a lifetime.
"There was definitely no ground shrinkage," said Womack. "He was bigger than I thought he was - the pictures don't do him justice."
What does the buck justice is its amazing numbers - one main beam is more than 26-inches, the other more than 24-inches. Add good tine length, a wealth of typical points, and solid mass, and this deer's rack is built to score well.
So well, in fact, the buck has made Womack an overnight sensation in the deer hunting world.
"Yeah, it's been a crazy, hectic couple of days," said Womack. "I woke up next morning with 200 or 300 new friend requests on Facebook, and it just kept rising from there. I've been hearing from random people all over the country sending me their congrats and showing me their own big deer pictures. I'm just trying to take it slow and have fun with it."
One keenly interested observer in all of this has been Dallas Barber, the big game biologist for ODWC. As the current caretaker of Oklahoma's deer herd, Barber isn't surprised that his state has cranked out yet another giant.
"Yeah, the high we've been on here the last 3, 4, and 5 years - there aren't many better places to deer hunt in this country right now than here in Oklahoma," said Barber. "Oklahoma is a premiere deer hunting state and we're doing some good things here."
That recipe includes several factors, including the state's deer population, solid genetic potential, ample food and good habitat, and increasingly selective hunters like Womack and his dad. Put it all together, and the end result can be the growing of huge trophy class whitetails like the one harvested by Womack in recent days.
Instead of trying to achieve that end result through more restrictive regulations, Barber believes the educational campaign by ODWC is helping what has been a traditionally good deer hunting state become an increasingly great one.
"Yeah, if the last five years haven't been motivation enough, a deer like (this one) will get people talking about our state and its deer herd even more," said Barber. "With the trophy management mindset that our hunters have taken to heart in recent years, I only see it getting better."
For now, it's hard to believe it can get much better than a potential new state record whitetail, a bow buck that appears destined for "Top 10" all-time status in the Pope and Young Club's hallowed record book.
"It's kind of surreal, I guess," said Womack as he tried to soak it all in. "Just to be a part of something like that, to be a part of something bigger than yourself, it's really cool."
Especially in Oklahoma, a place where in many ways, the state's modern rush of big buck stories seems to have only just begun.