October 18, 2023
Oklahoma bowhunter Ethan Kile had only one buck on his mind going into the start of the 2023 deer season. And his obsession with that buck started in 2022, when Ethan’s uncle bought a new 40-acre property.
When his uncle granted permission to bowhunt the land, Ethan was eager to place a few cell cams and feeders (legal in Oklahoma at the time of this writing) to see what was on the new parcel. “I was actually out mowing hay on it, when I noticed quite a bit of deer sign,” Ethan says.
“It’s basically just a big 40-acre bedding area,” Ethan says. “And it’s interspersed with a grove of trees. On Sept. 7, 2022, one of my cell cams went off on the new property, and that’s when I first became aware of the giant buck. I couldn’t believe the big deer was calling this small grassy area home. I have 1,600 acres of leased land for hunting in other parts of the county, but at that moment all my efforts focused on this deer.”
By scouting the land and using online mapping, Ethan placed two hunting sets just off the small block of timber on the property, for two specific wind conditions. “I was trying to hunt the property smart, and I didn’t want to take any chances and blow him out,” Ethan says.
The first encounter the bowhunter had with the massive buck was in October 2022, when the deer came in from behind Ethan through some trees. Ethan never got a clear shot opportunity though, and simply had to let the buck go. After seeing the buck come in from the trees, Ethan moved his pop-up blind to that location. The next time Ethan was in his “new” spot, he couldn’t believe it when the buck showed up again. But, unfortunately, the buck was walking within easy shooting distance of where the bowhunter had previously just had his blind!
“That was really heartbreaking to watch,” Ethan says. “All I could do was glass him from 60 yards as he fed out of range. Nov. 9 was the last pic I got of the buck that season. After that, he just disappeared for the rest of the year. It wouldn’t be until June 7, 2023, that I would get photos of the giant buck again.”
Soon after the buck re-appeared in summer 2023, he became a regular visitor to the 40-acre property once again. “I’d get pics of him constantly through the summer months,” Ethan says. “I had very few photos that were in the daylight. But on Sept. 30, the day before opening day in Oklahoma, my cell cam went off, and there he was in daylight!”
That photo was taken a half-hour before the end of legal shooting light. However, Ethan really didn’t think much of it, as the daytime temperatures were hovering over 90 degrees. Besides the bad weather, Ethan had to work on the opener. Reluctantly, he elected to wait to try hunting the buck during the coming weeks when the weather would be cooler.
But, after getting off work later the next day, Ethan told himself: You know what? You can’t kill ’em from the couch! So, when he arrived home, Ethan hurriedly grabbed his bow, release and camo. Ethan arrived at his pop-up blind and waited patiently for the evening to unfold. The first deer to show to the feeder was a lone doe.
“Later on, I noticed another deer approaching,” Ethan says. “It was a small fork-horn that had been in nearly every trail camera photo with the giant non-typical throughout the summer, so I knew he was near. I instantly perked up and grabbed my Mathews Vertix bow, readying myself for whatever could happen next.
As the doe and small fork horn fed in front of Ethan’s blind, the bowhunter noticed something big heading his way. “From about 50 yards out, I caught sight of the big non-typical,” Ethan says. “His rack was so big, it looked like a tree walking towards my location. I knew he was big; but seeing him in person, I couldn’t believe how big he was.
“The buck was downwind of my blind for over five minutes,” Ethan says. “He didn’t come down the trail the other two deer did. Instead, he’d come through the thickest part of the brush.” Standing in the thick cover, the buck didn’t move for over five minutes. Exhibiting classic behavior of a wise, old buck, the big non-typical was obviously surveying the area before making his move. When the deer finally put his head down and started to step out of the brush, Ethan a careful move of his own.
“I reached for my bow and came to full draw,” Ethan remembers. “As soon as I was at full draw, the buck stopped walking and looked in my direction. He was 28 yards away. I took aim and cut loose a shot! The shot felt good, and I heard a loud crack. But I could see my arrow impacted a little to the right.”
Ethan was in shock by what had just transpired. “I laid my bow down in the blind and quietly went to inspect where he stood when I shot,” the hunter explains. “All I could find were two drops of blood. I was sick, and I started thinking I’d messed up. I called my dad, and all I could get out of my mouth was ‘I shot him, I shot him.’”
After Ethan’s dad calmed him down, the two men decided to give the buck some time to expire. Arriving back to the scene a few hours later, Ethan and his dad began the slow track job. Only 30 yards in, they found good, steady blood. This gave Ethan hope he'd made a fatal shot. As Ethan followed the blood trail, he marked the way on OnX using the app’s “track” feature.
About 250 yards later, the father and son team located the expired buck in a tall patch of grass. Ethan says: “My dad isn’t one for getting overly excited, but when he saw the buck, he was overwhelmed with excitement! I simply couldn’t believe how big he was when I got up to him. I knew looking at him lying there he was easily over 200 inches.”
A few days later, Ethan and a few friends rough-scored the Sooner State giant at 229 7/8 gross, which should place the buck comfortably in the state’s all-time top 10 archery kills. As it often does, some new information arose after the big deer was taken. Several hunters from around the area came forward with pictures of the buck, some from as far away as six miles from where Ethan was hunting!