“Southeastern Oklahoma should expect five to seven inches of wet snow over the next twenty-four hours,” spoke the TV weatherman. Outside, the January winter’s night wind foretold of the coming “white stuff”! Inside the Choctaw Hunting Lodge’s headquarters, we enjoyed a most delicious supper, fried blue quail, then later planned the next day’s hunt in front of a warming fire.
“Starting to remind me of last year’s hunt on the Great Western Ranch in western New Mexico,” said Carl Clary. His hunting partner Callaway Huffaker nodded in agreement. Dusty Vickrey, Hunt Manager for the 40,000-acre Choctaw Nation’s hunting operation and I listened. Carl’s statement indeed brought back memories. That predator calling hunt, like the one we were currently on, Carl and Callaway had purchased at a DSC Chapter fundraiser. That hunt had indeed been a tough one, complete with extremely cold weather, howling winds, snow and ice. Coyotes had been “sparse” in spite of Burnham Brothers’ Gary Roberson expert calling! But even with seeing very few coyotes, bitter cold, high winds, snow and icy conditions, a good time had been had by all.
I had driven to southeastern Oklahoma’s Choctaw Hunting Lodge directly from hunting mule deer in the lower Texas Panhandle with Double A Outfitters. There I had hunted a particularly large-antlered buck. Unfortunately during my hunt, he decided to take up residence a few hundred yards into the ranch just to the south of the one I hunted. We glassed him several times and looked at him closely through my Meopta spotting scope, but seeing him at a distance well across on the neighbor’s fence was as close as I got.
Time to switch to predator hunting.
Before leaving for Oklahoma, I had decided to only call, film and photograph and not shoot. Before leaving the Double A camp I unloaded the 145-grain Hornady Precision Hunter ammo from my .270 Win Mossberg Patriot, wiped the dust from my Trijicon Huron scope and cased it. I started to do the same with my .454 Casull Taurus Raging Hunter, but reconsidered. There might be a chance at a wild boar while driving from one calling site to another. The Choctaw Hunting Lodge is one of North America’s premier wild hog hunting destinations.
Prior to our arrival, predators on the Choctaw had not been “called to” in recent years. During an Eastern turkey hunt with the Stacy family (Russell, Mary Edith and Kaylee), a hunt they had procured at the annual DSC Foundation Gala, I had seen considerable coyotes and bobcat sign. We too, had coyotes respond to our turkey calls. We also saw considerable black bear sign. The year previous I had seen four sizeable black bear during a summer-time wild hog hunt.
I arrived at the spacious and most comfortable Choctaw Lodge late afternoon, just as Dusty Vickrey was finishing last moment details preparatory to our hunt. It was good to see Dusty again. After proper “Howdies” and catching up, I stowed my gear.
A short time later Carl and Callaway arrived. Moved into their most comfortable quarters, we enjoyed a delicious meal prepared by Dusty’s gracious wife and great cook, Nicohl. We were joined by Drake Stowe, one of the Choctaw capable guides.
“We’ve got a westward wind, so let’s start on the eastern edge of the property and work our way west, essentially keeping the wind in our face. Based on what the weather-guessers are saying the wind should continue out of the west and bring with it rain and snow,” stated Dusty.
Satiated with food and drink, we all “heard our beds calling.”
Morning broke cold, moist and breezy, a bit windier than I had hoped. We soon found a relatively open area in the rolling low mountains covered with oaks and pines where we should be able to see any approaching coyote or bobcat.
After letting things settling down, I started blowing my Burnham Brothers C-3 mouth blown call. “WhannnK, WHannNNK….” I called for a full minute, stopped momentarily caught my breath then continued calling. Nothing! I continued calling off and on for another ten minutes. The only critters that responded were crows. I felt assured when they flew overhead creating quite a ruckus, coyotes or a bobcat would respond. But it was not to be.
As I walked to where waited the two hunters, Callaway asked, “Did you hear them? Coyotes barking a long way away…” I had not.
The Choctaw being as larger as it is, allowed us to drive at least two or more miles between set ups. The morning passed, as did the rest of the day, with only crows responding to my calling. I could scarcely believe with the crows drawing attention to my calling, that coyotes or bobcats did not respond. But nary a coyote or bobcat showed.
About an hour before dark Dusty suggested we try calling in the area the Choctaw Hunting Lodge maintains a small herd of buffalo, which they also hunt. Several minutes later I crawled under a big cedar’s low-hanging limbs. It provided an ideal “hide,” but also a stout tree to crawl into should the buffalos decide to get aggressive.
No sooner had I started calling when I caught movement coming my way. It was far larger than even a monstrous coyote. When the brown hulk stepped out of the oak and tall grass, I stopped and peered the hulk’s way. I raised my camera and took several photos of the monstrous buffalo bull which seemed unsure of what it would do next. I had quit calling as soon as I had seen the oncoming animal. Hopefully, the old, mature bull, which was soon followed by two younger bulls and several cows would lose interest if I quit calling. But, that did not happen, the lead bull kept coming, stopping only when he was 20 steps away. There he stood and stared intently in my direction.
I thought about trying to sneak out the back or climbing the tree. But then saw Dusty driving toward me to position the vehicle between the buffalo and me. He was smiling when he said, “You might consider stepping in…”
We made did one more set up before heading back to the lodge and another delicious meal and a discussion with Matt Gamble, the newly appointed head of the Choctaw Nation Wildlife Conservation Division and Clayton Porter, one of the Division’s wildlife biologists. Visiting with Matt I was reminded he and I years ago, when he was quite young, exchanged letters about his desire to someday become a wildlife biologist. Truly enjoyed and appreciated our visit, and I know the Choctaw Nation’s Wildlife Conservation Division could not be in better or more capable hands!
It was late before our fireplace discussion came to an end. Before heading to my room, I peered outside. Snow was falling – big flakes and lots of them. The morrow could prove interesting.
I was up long before first light, peaked out the back door and noted there were five to seven inches of fresh snow on the ground. After breakfast we headed afield. We spent the day hunting in fallen and falling snow. We called several places where I would have lost money on calling in coyotes. I “knew” it would happen, but the coyotes must have read the script and wanted no part of it. Only critters I called in using both electronic and mouth blown calls were more crows. They responded just about every set-up. In the past whenever crows responded, so did coyotes and/or bobcats. Throughout the day I tried numerous different sounds, calls and sequences but no matter, I could not entice a coyote or bobcat to make an appearance.
That night I texted back and forth with Dr. Mike Arnold, author of the extremely well-written and fun to read “Bringing Back the Lions” (www.mikearnoldoutdoors.com). Mike and I had become friends when I interviewed him for my “DSC’s Campfires with Larry Weishuhn” weekly podcast (available many places, including Biggame.org). I knew he was soon headed to Oklahoma to hunt predators. Mike graciously read my laments, then responded, “My wife wants to know if you blew into the proper end of the call?” My friend!
Up early last morning of our hunt, when we stepped outside of the lodge Callaway saw a coyote. By the time he could grab his rifle, it was gone. Well, at least now we knew there was at least one coyote on the property!
We had time for one good set up before having to start packing for our drive home.
“Let’s go right across the lake from the lodge. It’s an area we have not yet tried,” suggested Dusty.
It was still snowing. Carl headed in one direction, Callaway in the other. Dusty and Drake stayed with the vehicles. I could see them watching from a hundred yards away. Both, no sooner than I began calling, started pointing in a direction behind where I knew Callaway was set up.
Unfortunately, as I learned later from Dusty, and confirmed by Callaway who found tracks, the coyote had come up behind a snow-covered stand of brush, where it could not be seen by either of the two shooters. He stood watching me and the vehicles for a while, then turned and trotted away on the same trail on which he had made his approach, unscathed. So it goes…
After proper good-byes I headed home, as did Callaway and Carl. Before leaving I set up a fall deer hunt on the Choctaw. I plan on using my Taurus .454 Casull Raging Hunter. On the road, just before dark I got a message from Dusty. It was of the sound of coyotes howling, just behind his house. Moments later I got a text from him.
“We actually do have coyotes on the Choctaw! Where they were when y’all were here, I have no idea! Not really liking them right now!
See you this fall, if not sooner!”