Combine these elements into a hunt for white-tailed deer and imagine what your expectations would be? The State of Oklahoma, Chain Ranch, a historic ranching property with thousands of acres of prime whitetail habitat near Canton, OK, Smith and Wesson AR MP-15PC, Performance Center rifles chambered in both .223 and .300 Whisper, EOTech sights and 3x Magnifiers, and the unique DRT ammunition. My expectations for success were exceedingly high going in.
Circumstances of the Hunt
Unusual for me, this Oklahoma deer hunt was conducted days before Thanksgiving. Those dates do not coincide with the rut in my home state of Mississippi, but they do in Oklahoma. So the decision to forego the opening deer hunting weekend at home was not that tough a choice. Especially since I had never yet hunted in the Sooner State. Naturally I figured I should take up this hunt “sooner” than later. I could not resist that one.
Prior to the hunt, I conducted my due diligence. I researched the prospects of deer hunting in Oklahoma and in particular on the Chain Ranch. I was rewarded with positive information about both. Oklahoma is not the sleeper state they might prefer to be known as when it comes to producing high quality trophy white-tailed bucks. Quite the reverse I discovered.
Equally of interest to me were the firearms, sights, and ammo to be used on this hunt. I had not deer hunted previously with an AR platform rifle, but was eager to do so. I had an AR rifle at home but had never used it on whitetails. I had also recently bought a new EOTech 512 sight, but it was yet uninstalled, so I was exceedingly anxious to try one out in the field. I held the same anticipation over the use of Dynamic Research Technologies (DRT) ammo on big game.
Flying into Oklahoma City to meet the crew of the hunt organizers Blue Heron Communications out of Norman, OK we learned the first caution of the hunt. High winds were predicted across the Sooner plains and perhaps some cold rain coming as well. It was going to be an interesting hunt.
The Accommodating Chain Ranch
The Chain Ranch owned and operated by the Chain family of cattle ranchers since 1893 has only recently gotten into the commercial side of conducting hunts on their properties. Currently they hunt deer, hogs, wild turkey, quail, dove and waterfowl. I think all total there are seven ranches scattered about the regional area. The uniqueness of the Chain Ranch is in the diversity of the extreme different types of game habitats found on the different ranches.
You can go from open, wind blown flat sand plains, to hardwood lined draws flowing with creeks, and an area where I hunted I called the Dunes. This was a section of rolling hills of near beach type sand with low, thick growing oaks, wind blown cedars, and isolated islands of trees sprouting about amidst sage grass with a meandering river in the background. Each of these excellent areas holds the potential to produce quality whitetail bucks.
Once at the headquarters, we were shown the lodge arrangements and the eating hall next door. We were given sleeping room assignments and the hunting entourage settled in, unpacked, and began the greetings process. The hunt host Newley Hutchison, grandson of the Chain family patriarch gave us a briefing on how the hunt would be conducted. Hosts from Smith and Wesson and Blue Heron Communications discussed the firearms, and other details of our hunting plans.
Then we were off to the Chain Ranch shooting range just down the road. The Blue Heron guys had everything set. We test fired and zeroed the Smith and Wesson ARs in both .223 and .300 Whisper to our liking. We shot DRT in .223 and Hornady in the .300 Whisper. The EOTech sights were a wonder and dead on. We were ready for some deer hunting.
The Chain Ranch Lodge is a simple affair but entirely adequate. There were three double bunks in the room I shared with two others. Had there been six in there, no way would there have been enough room for gear. Three was tight, but doable. One of the unique issues on this particular hunt is that we were blessed with two lady hunters that took up another bedroom, but I have to say their company was worthwhile as they were both excellent, dedicated hunters. The lodge being cozy, I do understand they are taking steps to improve a few things.
The eating hall next door is a rather historic cattle show barn set with picnic tables. The dinners were catered in and all were exceptional fare, including ribeyes, quail, fried chicken, and BBQ ribs. We ate out local Mexican one evening. Mornings were grab a quick breakfast snack and a cup of coffee at the lodge. Brunch was usually eaten later after the morning hunt at a nearby town café called The Hill’s Café in Seiling, OK, which was also quite good. I highly recommend a study of their web site at www.chainranch.com to glean full details on the whole operation.
Hunters were split among several guides, each giving us very personal attention. They were among the best guides I ever witnessed work as a unit for an outfitter. We were out of camp early knowing exactly who we were leaving with. Each day we were taken to different hunting areas and/or different kinds of hunting stands. After one hunt we could change areas or request the same spot. Some hunters among us did both.
I was paired with guide Justin White, which like a line from a Kevin Costner western; he was “affable”, somewhat quiet, but cordial and pleasant to be around. He warmed up considerably as we grew to share hunting experiences. Justin served me like a virtual hunting valet. If I asked, he delivered without hesitation. I have worked with few guides as good as Justin.
My first morning out, the wind was blasting at 40 mph from the northwest with gusts exceeding that with a temperature to match. The combination was pretty brisk. I was placed in a 16-foot tripod overlooking a fantastic area. At one point I was almost glad I saw no deer, because with the swaying tower, I doubt I could have held tight on a buck’s vitals. It was cold, too, which did not help. I was glad I packed my fleece wind pants at the last second. Remember Oklahoma in November can be dicey. I missed packing my better cold weather gloves.
That afternoon, I sat in a round enclosed fiberglass deer hunting stand. This stand was up the bank from a river in a fenced corner offering views to a feeder and two field roads. I saw several does and one buck far at the end of the field jumping a fence. It was too far to shoot. Near dark a huge coyote wandered into the feeder area, and I cleaned its plow. Chain Ranch encourages the take of all coyotes as a bonus to the hunters. The EOTech sight was the boss.
On Sunday the 20th, I was taken about an hour away to the Woodward area to another ranch where I discovered the Dunes. Again I was atop a tall tripod stand nestled up into the limbs of a tree perched on top of a dune. The visibility of the area was incredible. It was a good hide. It was windy again and much colder. Truthfully had I not had some Hot Hands warmers for my gloves, I am not sure I would have lasted very long.
About an hour into the hunt, a buck appeared across the dunes, head down in pursuit of a doe. They slowly but surely marched with 75 yards of me. The buck was a fairly decent 9-point, but crazy enough I came with the goal of a 10-pointer so I held off. Good thing I did.
An hour later, I was near shivers in the stand. I was glassing the dunes to the south when I caught sight of another antlered buck moving my way. It went left and out of view for quite some time. I was afraid it had veered off on another course, but alas, it appeared again coming down a rough road paralleling the river toward my position. I readied the Smith AR on the stand rail and punched on the EOTech red sight then lowered the illumination several step downs.
The buck came into view at a bit over 100 yards out in my judgment. Its head was down sniffing the same line the previous doe and buck had followed. Collateral interest I guess since the rut was on. The EOTech was on target. I was just waiting for a pause and a good shooting angle.
The buck moved a little closer, raised and turned its head slightly offering me a front neck/shoulder shot. He had no clue of my presence as the wind was in my face not his. I raised my favorite Zeiss binoculars to confirm the antler point count to be ten. I re-centered the lighted red reticle onto the buck’s vitals, slipped off the Smith and Wesson’s safety and took the shot. The buck collapsed on the spot. I believe it was the largest buck taken by the group.
In summary, a deer hunter could hardly ask for a better experience. The hunt ended in success, but it was rewarding much beyond the kill. The ranch did their part and I did mine. The operation was first class in every way. I would go back tomorrow for another trophy buck and maybe a hog or two. The guides were competent, friendly, and very accommodating. Newley was always around making sure everything was working according to schedule.
Guns, ammo, and sights worked per the script. I have to comment here on the efficiency of the DRT .223 ammo. Some would suggest this combination too light for whitetails, but I certainly beg to differ. The 79-grain, frangible, powder core, lead free bullet load I used brought a lightning instantaneous impact to the buck I shot. It was an absolutely dramatic terminal hit.
Oklahoma is off my bucket list now, but not off my wish to return list. Imagine taking a trophy buck off a cow ranch being worked everyday since 1893. If this is the type of buck hunt you are looking for then I can highly recommend you look into the Chain Ranch for your next hunting trip. Make sure the BBQ ribs are on the menu.