November 05, 2010
To take down a trophy whitetail with a bow is no small feat. Oklahoma's Darren Ambrose did it with a wooden longbow, no sight and a maximum range of 20 yards!
By Clay Newcomb
Darren Ambrose's Comanche County longbow buck netted 189 4/8 inches as a non-typical, making it the second-largest Oklahoma longbow buck ever!
It may have taken two shots, but Darren Ambrose made it count when it mattered, putting down Oklahoma's second-largest non-typical longbow buck ever!
Sitting in a tree stand with a longbow in hand watching a 190-class non-typical crunch the leaves within bow range is perhaps one of the most unnerving situations possible in hunting. Regardless of the type of weapon you are carrying, the sight of a drop tine buck will unravel the strongest of hunters. Add to the situation a wooden bow without sights and a maximum range of roughly 20 yards and you have perhaps the challenge of a lifetime. This is precisely the situation in which Ambrose found himself on Nov. 18, 2009, in southwest Oklahoma. Hard work, persistence and fate all converged on that cool "bluebird" morning in Comanche County to create the perfect situation for a legendary story to unfold.
Ambrose, 51, has been bowhunting for 30 years. He started out with a compound at age 21 but gradually transitioned into traditional archery. The simplicity and the enjoyment of hunting with a "stick bow" overtook his desire to go back to compound hunting. For the last 10 years, Darren has hunted with a Bear Montana Longbow, throwing shafts tipped with two-blade Magnus Stingers.
Coming into the 2009 Oklahoma season, Ambrose had his sights set on a big typical buck that he had been chasing for the last three years. He and his hunting partners gauged the deer to be a 160-class buck in 2008. In 2009, they hoped he would be better. Ambrose hunts a 400-acre tract of private land within a few miles of his home in Fletcher, Oklahoma. Plenty of food, thick bedding cover and regulated hunting pressure make for the perfect ingredients.
Ambrose missed his first shot at his 20-point non-typical trophy, but thanks to the relative silence of his longbow, he was able to down the buck with a second shot.
In late October during the muzzleloader season, Ambrose was hunting the property when he saw a doe enter the field with a decent buck following behind her. He continued to watch the pair, when suddenly, a huge non-typical drop tine buck entered the field following the two deer.
"This was the first time that I saw the buck," Ambrose said. "Through my binoculars I could see a drop tine. He was about 200 yards out, which was too far for my muzzleloader. Some guys would have taken the shot, but I just don't take questionable shots."
Despite the size of the rack, Ambrose knew the limitations of his weapon and held to his standards. All it took was one sighting to ignite a fire in Ambrose that would burn until the day he had the buck in hand.
The weeks following the initial sighting of the buck were filled with anticipation and time spent hunting the monster non-typical. By mid-November Ambrose had not seen "hide nor horn" of the buck. He surmised his best chance at the deer would be during Oklahoma's modern gun season, which opened on November 21. As Ambrose reviewed his work schedule, he realized that he was scheduled to work on opening weekend! Knowing the rut was in full swing, he asked four different co-workers to trade shifts with him but none were able to. "I was sick to my stomach about not being off for the opening day of rifle season," Ambrose recalled. "I was scheduled off the three days before the opener, so I decided I better bowhunt hard."
On the Wednesday before the gun opener, Ambrose arrived at his stand at 6 a.m. It was November 18 and the 17-foot-high lock-on stand was located in a narrow creek bottom funnel bordered on both sides by large pastures. Ambrose had recently moved the stand into the small strip of timber after he had watched the non-typical enter the timber here in late October. After the initial sighting, Ambrose had gone to investigate the area and found the section of the funnel to be littered with huge rubs, scrapes and trails.
"There was hardly any wind the morning of November 18, and the temperature was in the low 30s," Ambrose said. "The first deer I saw that morning was a small spike at about 7:15 a.m., and he was running around all over the place."
By 8 a.m. Darren had seen six other deer moving through the funnel, none of which were in bow range. "At about 8:10 I heard something behind me," he recalled. "I turned and saw a big doe coming. I hadn't killed a deer yet that year and I thought, 'I guess I'll shoot this lone doe.' She came right under my tree stand and as I was getting into shooting position she caught my movement. She looked up in the tree at me and I froze. After a minute or two, she calmed down and continued browsing."
It was at this point that Ambrose caught some movement out of the corner of his right eye. As he slowly turned to assess the approaching deer he was amazed to see the huge non-typical 15 yards away following the same path as the doe! The wary old doe had just saved herself and in doing so, caused Ambrose to hold off on the shot long enough for the big buck to arrive!
The drop tine buck came in from the field edge on Ambrose's right side and slowly walked into a shooting lane. At 10 yards the buck stopped, quartering away, offering him a perfect longbow "chip shot." Ambrose slowly drew his Bear longbow, took a solid anchor and released the arrow. Though the shot situation was perfect, he was shocked as he watched his arrow sail a foot over the buck's back! He missed!
"Fortunately, a longbow is super quiet," he said. "At the shot, the buck didn't jump or move; he just tightened up and flinched as the arrow hit the leaves behind him. This gave me an opportunity to reach into my quiver and grab another arrow." Amazingly, after the shot the buck proceeded to move towards the doe. In doing so, the buck actually moved closer to Ambrose, offering an even better shot than before.
"The buck had his eyes on that doe, and as he stepped into an opening at eight yards broadside, I released a second arrow," Ambrose said. "This time the shot was good."
As the buck ran off, Ambrose could see the fletching of his Easton carbon arrow sticking out of the buck. "After the shot is when I got nervous," Ambrose said. "I have never been so shook up in my life. I was shaking uncontrollably. It was so bad that when I called my wife, Melany, she laughed at me over the phone!"
After a three-hour wait and many phone calls, Ambrose and three of his good friends went to track the buck. After a short 50 yards, they recovered the buck in a grassy field. The group was thunderstruck by what they found. With 20 scoreable points and an eight-inch drop tine, the rack made it easy to understand why they were shocked.
The buck was scored by Rod Smith of the Pope and Young Club and grossed 197 3/8 inches and netted 189 4/8 inches.
Ambrose's success can be attributed to his decision to adjust his strategy mid-season. After seeing the buck in late October, his recalibration of stand sites based upon the sighting was a bold move that produced success. Secondly, Ambrose hunts smart. He plays the wind in each setup and takes scent control seriously. Third, and perhaps most important, Ambrose was persistent. After 20 days of not seeing the buck, he was still hunting for the giant on November 18. In the midst of his persistence, he managed to hunt the area hard without applying too much pressure.
The buck is undoubtedly in the upper echelon of longbow non-typicals ever killed and is the No. 2 Oklahoma longbow buck ever, missing the top spot by one inch! If the drop tine on the left side hadn't been broken off, Ambrose's buck might have surpassed Ronny Lambeth's 191 4/8-inch longbow record. Ambrose sends a special thanks to his wife, Melany, and the property owners, Tyler and Ronnie Glover!