By Gordon Whittington
Legal issues can keep a mega-buck from getting the respect he deserves. Even when no law has been broken during or after the hunt for said deer.
Sadly, that describes the situation with the Michael Crossland non-typical, a 248 6/8-inch brute shot in southwestern Oklahoma’s Tillman County on the afternoon of Nov. 23, 2004. Due to legal issues, a deer that went on to hold the overall state record in a trophy-rich state for well over a decade hasn’t received all that much favorable ink.
The hunt began innocently enough, and with little promise it would produce anything of note. An old friend invited Michael to go hunting with him on a ranch where the former still worked and the latter had once worked. While Michael didn’t have direct permission to hunt the property, he hadn’t been told he couldn’t, and he was there at the invitation of a friend who had permission. They were mainly out to relax, as both worked nearly nonstop even during deer season.
That Michael didn’t have individual permission to hunt wouldn’t have been such a big deal had he not fired a shot that day. But fire one he did — into what would be judged the highest-scoring deer in state history. The 24-pointer that came out with a doe (while Michael was waiting for his friend to return with the ATV, so they could check another location before dark) offered him an 80-yard shot, and he made it count.
The celebration that followed was short-lived. The landowner insisted the deer had been improperly harvested, due to the fact Michael didn’t have specific permission to hunt there. The deer was seized by the state. Only after a long legal battle was Michael able to clear his name and get his trophy back.
Likely because the legal process took well over a year and ended up with hard feelings all around, the Crossland buck never was celebrated to the extent a deer of his size should have been. Oklahoma remains a sleeper state for trophy bucks, and this is the biggest hunter kill so far certified from there. For him never to have been that highly acclaimed is an oversight. But at least Michael ended up with his deer and the record to offset his troubles and media neglect.