Every hunter dreams of harvesting a trophy whitetail. For Daniel McVay of Buckventures Outdoors, harvesting mature whitetails is his business, and last fall business was booming.
As Land Manager for the popular hunting shows Major League Bowhunter and Buckventures Outdoors one could say that it’s in McVay’s job description to really know the deer on the properties he manages. So when a small two year old buck on their ranch in Northwestern Okla., later named “Freak”, exploded into a 170 inch three year old, McVay gave him his full attention.
“When Freak first came under the radar we knew he wasn’t showing up on a lot of other properties. In fact, the first time he was seen on the hoof was during a hunt with Realtree when Freak was an impressive three year old. Our own Jeff Danker was running camera when Freak strutted by at 15 yards that day. It was this encounter that made us aware of how special a deer he really was. It was also a perfect demonstration of how letting deer grow can pay off,” said McVay.
For some hunters a 170” deer is a deer of a lifetime, and a lot of people wouldn’t have thought twice about drawing down on him at that range. But hard work, and the vast understanding of their present populations paid off for McVay a season later. It was decided early in the 2014 hunting season that Freak was on the hit list. There were several hunts dedicated to Freak that season, and even Realtree came back for another round. Freak remained unscathed until that November when McVay traveled to the panhandle ranch. McVay had made this trip many times, but this would be his first time to actually hunt this property. It was a hot calm day on November 5th, that he would harvest the biggest buck of his life.
McVay described the hunt. “To be honest I didn’t have the highest hopes of getting a shot at Freak. The setup I had was perfect for a North wind, and in fact we see better movement out there when there is more wind. But this day was hot, so I was excited when I finally started to see some activity. There was a smaller buck and a few does around the tree line we were hunting which is situated between two windmills. I noticed a larger buck by one windmill in the distance. Then the deer around us reacted to something coming. All of a sudden I noticed a mess of thick antlers peaking over the brush and heading our way. I knew immediately it was Freak.”
As one could imagine, the sight of such a magnificent deer had McVay’s blood boiling. But, as a seasoned hunter he remained focused and true to form. When Freak closed the gap to within 40 yards, he patiently waited for a closer shot. Although he thought this may have been a huge mistake, the monster deer had noticed the other buck in the area and had made it his duty to see him out. Luckily for McVay, patience and dedication to the sport came full circle 25 minutes later when Freak showed up trailing a doe. This time the deer wouldn’t have a second chance. At 30 yards McVay stopped the deer and let an arrow rip. The shot was low, and caused concern until they reviewed the footage later that night. The video footage revealed a hit that, while on the low side could still produce a mortal wound. Based on what they’d seen they waited until midnight to hopefully retrieve the deer. To McVay’s relief Freak had expired relatively close to where they last lost visual, and until that moment, this prime example of God’s creations, had hardly been seen in person. McVay described he’s reaction.
“We knew he was big but we never thought he would gross over 200 points. It was overwhelming to put my hands on him. I was so nervous he would be gone forever after shooting a little low. After it was all done I couldn’t help but reflect on all the work it took to get to that point.”
These two hunting shows operate by understanding their herds. They feed in volumes, but they do so for inventory purposes rather than to kill. They also rely on trail cameras. In fact, McVay mentioned he knows at least 80% of the population of the deer on the ranch in Oklahoma. He utilizes 60 cameras and of these there’s only one that has produced a picture of buck he doesn’t recognize. McVay also puts a Kubota RTV X series to work on the properties he manages.
“I use the RTV all the time. It makes all the difference when working in tight places or setting stands. I don’t have a single camera I can’t access without the RTV. It’s a workhorse and its the perfect utility vehicle for me as Land Manager,” he said.
When asked what advice he’d give to hunters seeking their buck of a lifetime he said, “let them grow.”
“Always hunt the wind and always have good access to your spot. Access is everything.”
Access may be a key to success, but hard work throughout the season has it’s rewards.
“Freaky Story” By Reed Boettcher was originally published in the Fall 2015 issue of
Great Plains living
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