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Memories Never Die

I suspect it was nearly 18 years ago, maybe even 20. It doesn't really matter, but the events have replayed vividly in my mind each and every season that has followed.

I suspect it was nearly 18 years ago, maybe even 20. It doesn't really matter, but the events have replayed vividly in my mind each and every season that has followed.

In Oklahoma, there is a 50,000-acre military base whereon an armament of considerable size and destructive power is stored in a vast assortment of bunkers, ready to be shipped wherever needed to protect our country and others. This is the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant, and as you might guess, like many similar government installations across our great country, the depot is crawling with deer, turkeys and assorted predators such as bobcats and coyotes, not to mention at least a half million armadillos.

Hunting the base is allowed by draw only, and during the time period mentioned, my sons and I drew on a regular basis. It was something we always looked forward to. Since then, the base has changed its policy and now only allows traditional equipment. This is fine; there are lots of fine traditional archers in our state, and of course lots of modern shooters who grab any sort of non-compound bow they can find if they're fortunate enough to draw a tag. McAlester is one of the premier deer hunts in our state.

In those days, I was particularly fond of a winding creek bed that was virtually dry save for a few scattered rocky seeps. It was surrounded on both sides by stately oaks that annually tossed bushels of acorns upon the rocky ground mixed with several stands of persimmon, hackberry, cottonwood and wild plum. The creek bed was perhaps 100 yards across at is widest point but averaged much closer to 40 or 50 yards in breadth. In most of the narrower locations, a bowhunter could shoot 20-25 five yards in either direction if he was set up close to the middle. On each side of the creek bed, the land gave way to open prairie grass interspersed with stands of brilliant sumac and low-growing thickets of what I always called a form of hefty briars. It was nasty stuff.

As luck would have it, I found a perfect tree in the middle of the creek bed where a narrow pinch point gave me a clear view of the creek and the open grassland to either side. Deer tracks were everywhere, as were remnants of masticated acorns; it looked perfect. I quickly hung a Loc-On-Lem, one of the premier stands of that era, and slipped away hoping tomorrow would be the day.

The following morning dawned crispy cool. There was just a slight hint of frost on the grass as I made my way to my access point and, in the pre-dawn gloom, slipped into my stand cringing with each creaking screech of it, though they were not really all that loud. With the gloom turning to silver and all bushes beginning to look like deer, I hung my bow nocked with its deadly arrow, arranged my clothes and sat back awaiting the inevitable. Suddenly, I could hear a deer walking through the scattered leaves, coming closer. Carefully, I retrieved my bow.


I do not believe I'm inclined to give deer the super big eye, but when I saw his head moving in the shadows, my breathing stopped. This was a golly-womper of a buck. Not much more than 20 yards from my stand, he proceeded to tear up a scrape, beat the hell out of knee-high young oaks and pee down both his hocks, all the while twisting and turning in the scattered little clump of brush that I should mention was the only one within 50 yards.

While I prefer standing to shoot, I felt moving was too risky. I was not much more than 12 or 15 feet high, so I sat at the ready as the buck started walking almost directly to me. The anticipation of getting a shot was suddenly suffocating, and as he turned slightly to his left, I drew very slowly.

KA-WHACK! A Derek Jeter home run has a similar sound, and while those are accompanied by lusty crowd roars, this sound met my ears accompanied by an explosion of flying gravel, mud, rocks an acorns, punctuated by an awesome snort. I just sat there in a crestfallen daze, arrow buried in the ground right at my feet, bottom limb tip chipped badly where it came in harsh contact with the stand, big tears filling my eyes as the echo of the buck's galloping flight faded away.

No matter who you are or what you do, there are times when things just don't quite work out right, and it's always the little things -- something a simple, quick check could most likely have made right. But it still happens, like anything and everything in this game called bowhunting; a sport of unparalleled highs and lows, of super shots and just plain dumb misses.

Yeah, I think about that buck every year. He was big. I'm not sure how big, though in my mind he was at least 160, with beams that passed his nose and tines that reached way high into the sky. Maybe he was bigger, but I doubt it. I do know this. That's the kind of buck that keeps you going back and back and back.

And I do.

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