Trent Jones loves to chase ducks. And as a guide with North Texas Outfitters, that’s a good thing.
But the 21-year old also loves to chase whitetails with archery gear too. So much so that after a recent duck blind sit, Jones decided to grab his Elite Impulse compound bow and head for a well-known patch of deer woods in southwestern Oklahoma.
To the outsider, the Sooner State’s farm and cattle country near the Red River doesn’t look like territory to chase anything but tornadoes and rattlesnakes in. Upon closer examination, however, the red dirt country supports a surprisingly robust number of whitetails, ducks, geese, quail, and wild turkeys.
Years ago, the region even produced what was then the Oklahoma state record typical whitetail, a 13-point giant that netted 181 6/8-inches after Altus fireman David Gribble took the buck with a rifle on Nov. 22, 1995. With other huge bucks being taken in the area in subsequent years, including a few on the south side of the Red River in North Texas, the area is surprisingly good.
You won’t see a lot of deer as compared to some other areas, but then again, you won’t see a lot of hunters either. And given the genetics and age of some area bucks, every once in a while, a cotton country whitetail can grow some eye-popping antlers.
Jones knew such a buck existed in his hunting area this year, thanks to a half-dozen trail camera photos since July that showed periodic visits by a massive whitetail. Despite a number of bucks to his credit, this deer was the likes of which Jones hasn’t seen in a hunting career that now numbers more than a dozen years.
“I have pictures of him back in July when he was in velvet, growing his main frame and those first knots on top,” said Jones, who grew up in the Longview, Texas area, chasing Lone Star State whitetails with his dad. “I knew he would be a good deer, but not that he’d be the freak buck that he became.”
After those initial game camera photos, Jones got a couple more the first week of September, then a few more – in velvet, no less – on September 22. But after that, Jones’ collection of game camera photos dwindled down to images of other less desirable bucks and does as Oklahoma’s Oct. 1-Jan. 15 archery season approached.
“Those deer up there, they travel around a lot in the draws and creek bottoms of the area,” said Jones. “They are here today and liable to be a mile down the road on a different place tomorrow. I was excited to know he was still around earlier in the fall, but then he disappeared again, and I wondered if I would see him during hunting season.”
But there came a day where this buck was suddenly front and center on Jones deer hunting radar screen after weeks of radio silence.
“The evening before I got him, I was going in to check my camera cards on a different spot, and when I topped the hill, there he was grazing in the middle of a pecan orchard down along a creek bottom,” said Jones.
That Nov. 8 sighting left Jones ecstatic because it was the first time he had ever actually seen the ghostly apparition of a buck.
“Yeah, I had never actually seen him in person before,” said Jones. “But when I saw this buck down in that bottom with about 10 does, I got my binoculars up and I knew instantly that he was that deer I had gotten on camera earlier in the summer and fall.”
The next morning on Nov. 9, Jones guided four clients to a limit of ducks, a mixture of redheads, gadwalls, and even a few mallards making it into the Red River Country thanks to a few strong early season cold fronts.
“I got done with our clients, got the ducks cleaned, and had everything put up shortly after midday and I thought, ‘Hey, I’m going deer hunting,’” chuckled Jones. “About 1:45 p.m., I’m up in my stand.”
As he sat there on a beautiful fall afternoon with a cool northerly breeze blowing and temps in the 40s, Jones wouldn’t have to test out the warmth of his new Sitka Gear whitetail duds for very long.
Because only a half hour into his sit in a Millennium hang-on treestand, there was movement to his right as a doe wandered out of a ravine and into the bottom he was guarding. And just behind the doe was the giant non-typical buck that Jones was hoping to see.
While the doe wasn’t in full estrous yet as the pre-rut chasing phase dwindled down, the big buck didn’t want to leave her either as the peak rut approached. So, he slowly milled around the area as Jones’ heart hammered within his chest.
After a few moments of a woodsy cat-and-mouse game where the buck raked some trees, made a couple of scrapes, nibbled on some browse, and stood statuesque still, a shot opportunity finally presented itself.
As the doe started to get antsy, the buck walked to a pecan tree that Jones had ranged at 18-yards. But instead of walking behind it, the buck walked in front and looked up at the hunters’ camouflaged figure sitting high up in a creek bottom tree.
When the buck looked down and away again, that gave Jones the chance to suck his bow back to full draw. When the buck raised his head, the first sight pin was on the whitetail’s boiler room, allowing Jones to cut the 16-yard shot and send the Easton Axis arrow and Xecutioner broadhead down range.
The shot was good, although Jones initially wasn’t sure of that since the arrow broke off as the deer jumped, crashed through nearby brush, and bolted some 55-yards away where he bedded down. After texting back and forth with his dad and NTO head man Dakota Stowers, Jones watched the tips of the buck’s antlers over the top of some distant grass, determined to give the huge whitetail time to expire.
Shortly before sundown, Stowers drove in and the pair started their search for the downed giant. As it turned out, the double-lung shot had been good and their quest would be a short one.
“We found the broken half of my arrow and the blood trail,” said Jones. “Then we walked up the trail to a highpoint, and I looked where I had last seen him. I saw his white belly hair laying there with his horns sticking up in the air and said, ‘There he is Dakota!’”
Indeed, he was, a buck sporting 25-scorable points, excellent mass for a prairie whitetail, and a beautiful rack that gross scores into the low 200-inch range on the non-typical scale. While no net score has been obtained yet, there’s little doubt that when the 60-day drying period is over, the Jones’ buck will easily qualify for the Pope and Young Club record book, the Oklahoma Cy Curtis Awards program, and maybe even for the Boone and Crockett Club record book.
“While we were standing there taking some photos, I couldn’t believe that it had happened,” said Jones. “I only had a half-dozen photos of him and I only saw him once in person on the evening before. I couldn’t believe he was that big either, I have never seen anything like this.”
Now that his whitetail season is over, Jones will happily go back to guiding for ducks and geese…and dreaming about the next time he gets to draw a bow back on another good whitetail.
“I’m super passionate about the bow, I just don’t get much enjoyment shooting a deer with a rifle anymore,” he said. “Some of my friends urged me to get after that buck during Oklahoma’s upcoming gun season, but I was pretty resilient about wanting to shoot him with a bow.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever kill one that size again (with my bow), but I’m sure going to try.”