Category Archives: Whitetail Deer Management

Wild Cat Springs…Where The Deer And Buffalo Roam And You Can Play

The interview with Jarrett Williamson, Manager of Wildcat Springs Ranch began like any other minus the Zebras.
Wildcat Springs Ranch is a hunting ranch located just south of Fittstown, Okla., a geographic area of the state known for it’s rocky terrain, crystal clear springs, and it’s quality and quantity of wild game to hunt.  It was late September, but the morning was still cool and there was game running everywhere, which as a hunter, made it hard to focus on the task at hand.  As ranch manager, Williamson is accustom to giving ranch tours, servicing clients, and ensuring the best possible trip to the ranch as possible.  Williamson was content to drive around the huge property all day discussing his passion for guiding and hunting, but I wasn’t there to sight see.  I wanted to find out what made this high-fence hunting paradise different from all the rest, and that’s exactly what I found out after touring the rustic terrain that made up the expansive landscape of the ranch.
The ranch sign which reads, “Billy D. Howell’s Wildcat Springs Ranch” resembles many iron constructed ranch gates, but as the gate opened, and I drove towards the ranch lodge I realized this gate was an entrance to an entirely different type of ranch.  It was late in the morning and yet there were whitetail deer on the move just within a few hundred yards of the gate.  Needless to say I couldn’t wait to see what
else this hidden gem had to offer.
Tucked away in the eastern part of the Arbuckle Mountains, Wildcat Springs offers almost 8,000 acres of prime hunting and fishing land that is fueled by an endless aquifer that supports the wildlife of the ranch.  It’s private and secluded, yet it’s just short drive from two major cities, Dallas and Oklahoma City.  Steep hills and expansive views can be expected as can quality game animals like elk, buffalo, deer, hog, turkey, Aoudad sheep, and other exotics.  The wide range of game animals are managed year round by a full-time staff of seven employees in order to provide hunters the highest quality of trophy animals available.  The ranch also features spring fed lakes stocked with bass, crappie, catfish, and even walleye.  One of the bigger watersheds is an impressive 40 feet deep in places.  At Wildcat Springs Ranch guests create custom hunts to fit their preferences and budgets, but regardless the hunt, it’s always an experience to remember.
Hunting
One of the things that makes this hunting ranch stand out from others is the surprising low amount of hunting pressure it has.  Wildcat Spring would exist as is, without serving  a single hunting client.  That being said there’s anywhere from 60 – 80 clients that hunt each year.  The fully guided hunting trips offer a variety of tactics and methods of hunting.  You can hunt from a heated blinds or spot and stalk more elusive game like the Aoudad sheep.  With over 35 miles of high fencing there is a hunt that can be tailored for everyone.  In addition to your hunt there is on site processing and taxidermist available for your trophy.
Fishing
Guests looking to get away and spend the day on the water while catching truly big fish have found the right place with this ranch.  The trophy fishing lakes are complete with fishing docks and boat ramps, and vary in size and types of fish offered.  The water and underground springs are one of the more interesting features about this ranch.  The Arbuckle Aquifer has been a topic of much debate in recent years, and one can easily see why when fishing on such quality waters as what is available on this ranch.
Lodging
Excellent lodging and accommodations are what you’ll have after a full day of being outdoors.  Speaking from experience, clean and comfortable accommodations can make or break a hunt.  When you spend long hours outside, a good place to regenerate is always a plus.  Guests at Wildcat springs can take full advantage of  the luxurious  4,000 square foot lodge, featuring a master bedroom, 3 private rooms and two bed/bunk rooms.
The lodge can  accommodate 12 guests at a time. There are a variety of leisurely comforts around the lodge including an on-site chef, coffee bar, poker and pool tables, sitting areas, outdoor hot tub, and much more. The entertainment pavilion is equipped with restrooms, showers, full kitchen, and built-in wood burning grill.
Other Options
Those who don’t enjoy the thrill of the hunt or the excitement of catching a largemouth bass can request nature watching tours or a relaxing weekend at the lodge.  The ranch is also a great place to host company picnics.
8,000 acres would be hard to manage without the use of serious equipment.  The ranch utilizes a variety of equipment.  From skid steers, to UTVs, and even machines for building and maintaining roads, Wildcat Springs takes full advantage of equipment in their operation.
Before heading out to explore the ranch further we passed an old Kubota, which, at first glance appeared to be sitting idle, but Williamson quickly referred to the late model Kubota as “ole reliable,” and Williamson should know as he is no stranger to benefits of good equipment.  He has years of experience operating and maintaining equipment, and when asked what he liked best about the Kubotas they use at Wildcat Springs Ranch Williamson said this:
“Everything is right there where you can get to it.  They are easy to operate, but most of all they are reliable tractors.  We use a lot of different machines out here but we can always count on the Kubotas.”
After touring several large bottoms and passing multiple lakes we began to make our accent towards an elevated part of the ranch where the buffalo roam.  We pulled up to a Kubota M9960 hard at work discing up a rocky field to prepare a food plot.  This year alone, Williamson and his team will plant over 650 acres of food plots.  They plant a variety of seed but the main seed planted is one developed by the National Wild Turkey Federation.
There are a lot of different things that make this ranch special, but when you break it all down, its really about the thrill of the hunt.  So when I asked Williamson what hunt provides clients with the best overall experience, Williamson could only talk about the buffalo.  Their size alone make them a difficult animal to hunt, and with options ranging from trophy bulls, to meat cows, hunters have different choices and methods to hunt them.  The meat alone would be a reason for me to hunt them.  There something about this animal that ties it with our nation’s wild past.  They are the very hide of the American West’s history.  From Native Americans, to the expansion of the railways, the American Bison has always been a symbolic animal of wild America.  Native Americans wasted no part of this huge animal, and if given the chance I would do the same.  The trophy, meat, even the hide could all still serve a purpose to the modern hunter.  Williamson enjoys guiding these hunts because he feels they provide clients with much more than just a thrilling hunt.
“Our buffalo hunts offer the most bang for your buck.  You couldn’t buy as much beef as what it costs to harvest our buffalo, plus you get a trophy of a lifetime.  Last year I guided a buffalo hunt where, after being shot, the bull charged several times.  It was thrilling and rewarding to both myself and the client.”
Wildcat Springs Ranch is a great destination for any outdoorsman. Whether it’s friends looking to experience the hunt of a lifetime, or groups needing a get-a-way that offers top-notch hospitality with plenty of adventure, this unique ranch has it all!  For more information about the amenities and services of Wildcat Springs call Jarrett Williamson at (580) 235-7599.

Advertisements

Freaky Story

RTV Buck

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

Click Here

For a free subscription online or in your mailbox

Whitetail Deer

Building Relationships And A Better Deer Herd

partnering with land owners to improve deer herds is just the beginning

When neighbors Garrett Clark and Chuck Roberts decided to improve their deer herd near Fitzhugh, Okla. they couldn’t have foreseen the impact a common interest would have in building strong neighborly relationships and better hunting opportunities.

The Limestone Game and Range Management Association consists of 25 land owners working with the Noble Foundation and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife to improve deer herd balance and health over a combined 13,000 acres.  Associations such as this are rare in both existence, and how they operate.  This group has taken a step back from social media posts to use face to face communications, and hands on learning to achieve their goals, which, have now become a side note in comparison to the profound connections made among the neighbors involved.

Misunderstandings between neighbors have led to many a conflict, but when Garrett and Chuck figured out they were both shooting each others bucks they decided to benefit from this new found knowledge.  They called upon the Noble Foundation, and set up a meeting with Russell Stephens to form a plan which eventually guided them and their neighbors to where they are today.

Garrett has seen many benefits to this program since it’s inception.  Not only does he get great enjoyment managing a quality deer herd, he feels this association is improving the land and it’s value as well. Garrett noted these aspects about the program and the association he helped create.

“We’ve already noticed a difference in herd quality in some areas.  I can honestly say my hunting land wouldn’t be as productive without this program, or the cooperation of the land owners, and the knowledge of the aiding organizations.  Sharing trail camera pictures and other information is really just the starting point.  Without the shared idea of a healthy, balanced herd our individual acreages wouldn’t be as collectively productive.  The only other way to achieve something like this would be to fence the deer off with “high fence”, but that isn’t hunting in my book,” said Garrett.

Whitetail Deer
Great Plains Kubota Sales Manager, Garrett Clark harvested this mature buck with his bow in part of his cooperation with the DMAP program he and neighbors participate in.

Without the complete control of a “high fence” neighborly cooperation seemed to be the only option to manage a balanced deer heard that would produce a closer buck to doe ratio and larger, more mature bucks.  What everyone in this association found out that fewer does meant increased herd health.  By harvesting more does, and shooting fewer bucks, the given amount of nutrients would be distributed equally.  Chuck commented on this aspect.

“I have not always been a management hunter.  I’ve tried for several years to harvest mature bucks, but this didn’t always happened because of elements that were out of my control, and honestly harvesting does wasn’t a consideration of mine until recently,” Chuck said.

Chuck Roberts has seen the improvements of this program on his family farm, but admits the most beneficial part has had nothing to do with deer at all.

“I’m most happy with the increased communication among my neighbors.  Deer hunting was just a catalyst for this cooperation.  After we fined tuned our deer management ideas, and were all on the same page, everyone began to benefit both on the farm and socially,” explained Chuck.

Of course the main focus of this association was to increase health and buck to doe ratios, but this all hinged on the cooperation between neighbors.  The level of success relies not only on cooperation, but of the expertise of outside agencies such as the Noble Foundation and the wildlife department.  The DMAP program, or Deer Management Assistance Program allows these hunters to harvest anterless deer any day during the archery, muzzle loader, and gun seasons with special DMAP permits.  In cooperation, members of the Limestone Game and Range Management Association collect detailed biological information on their harvests.  Department biologists then analyze this data to provide further management recommendations.  Spotlight surveys are the groups primary means of counting deer, and through this hard work they’ve determined the percentage of bucks that they should harvest.  This is really the key factor to the whole program.  By setting a cap on the amount of bucks harvested, which has been less than 20% of their entire deer population, the association has improved there buck ratio.  Garrett committed on this process.

“It doesn’t really matter the age of the bucks harvested.  They can be spikes or extremely mature bucks.  What really matters is the number taken.  This is where the cooperation and complete involvement of all the neighbors pays off.  Within a few years we should see a real difference,” Clark said.

The neighbors of the Limestone Game and Range Management Association  have become closer friends and better neighbors.  With a common goal and lots of cooperation they’ve built equal hunting opportunities and a healthier herd.

– Visit www.greatplainsliving.com or www.greatplainskubota.com for more information about this story or the Kubota dealership that produces the quarterly magazine Great Plains living from which this article was reproduced.

Deer Management
Garrett Clark of Great Plains Kubota discusses management plans with neighbor Chuck Roberts and representatives from the Noble Foundation.