Editor’s Note: Mark Davis of Sperry, Oklahoma, a fire fighter for the Oklahoma City fire department, has been a member of the Mossy Oak Pro Staff for 7 years. He’s been deer hunting for 31 years, since he was about 9-years old.
I planned a trip to Honobia in southeast Oklahoma. I went to bed at 7:00 pm the night before the trip with everything already loaded into my truck. I planned to stay for the weekend. I had my bedding in the back of my truck, so when I came out of the woods after dark, I could go to sleep and be ready to hunt the next day. I had scouted the river bottom area a few months before and had camped there years ago, but hadn’t been back to that spot in a while. I got to the area, put my tree stand on my back and made the hike to my stand site, a bend on a small creek. An old logging road crossed the creek near my stand site, and a good deer trail ran along the edge of the road. I went up the tree and waited all morning, but didn’t see a single deer. The morning was cold, and the air coming off that cold water made my stand site seem even colder. I stayed in my stand until about 10:00 am. I decided, “I’ve sat in my stand for 4 hours, and I’m about to freeze to death. I’ll walk back to my truck to warm up before I come back to my stand this afternoon.”
I was at least a mile from my truck. I started walking down the road. As the road turned and went close to the creek, I spotted something standing in the creek but couldn’t determine what it was. As I sneaked in a little closer, I saw the worst-looking buck I’d seen in a while. He was whitish-gray with a small body and not much hair, but his horns were massive. As I got closer to the buck, I could see that he was in the water almost up to his chest. I thought to myself, “This is the strangest-looking deer I’ve ever seen.” Because the water in the creek was bubbling over the rocks, the buck couldn’t hear me as I kept moving closer and closer to him.
I was carrying my tree stand with me and knew I’d have to set the stand down quietly to draw my bow and nock an arrow. I took my time, nocked an arrow onto the string of my PSE Bow Madness, and moved quietly and stealthily closer to the buck. At about 30 yards from the buck, I found an opening through which I could shoot. Before I took the shot, I noticed the buck was panting hard like he’d been running. When I released the arrow, the buck only took one step before he fell over in the water. I never had seen a deer fall over dead that quickly. The deer flopped around a little, and then floated down the creek. “I’d better hurry up and get that buck before the water carries him away,” I thought.
I ran down the creek to where the bank was low enough for me to get to the edge of the water. There was no way I could go into the ice-cold water, since I didn’t have any dry clothes or shoes. I thought maybe I could lasso his horns with my pull-up rope. As the buck floated to me, he came close to the bank where I could grab an antler and pull him out of the water. When I got the buck up on the bank, I inspected him more closely. His shins and chest had no hair. His hooves had the toenails worn off, and both his ears were ripped. He was the strangest-looking deer I’d ever seen. At first, I thought he might have been beaten up because of the rut. I wondered, “What has happened to this deer?” Finally, I field dressed him by the creek and got him back to my truck. Field dressed the buck didn’t weigh 90 pounds, but he was carrying the rack of a much-bigger deer. His antlers were in the 120 Boone & Crockett class, a nice size for a public-land deer in Oklahoma.
On the way home I called a friend of mine who’s a game warden and described the deer’s condition. He said, “Mark, I wouldn’t eat that deer, and I wouldn’t give him to anyone else to eat. A healthy buck shouldn’t be in that condition at this time of the year.” I emailed pictures to him, and he admitted, “That’s the strangest buck I’ve ever seen in my life. I’d dispose of that deer and not even consider letting anyone eat it. You don’t know what’s caused him to be like this. He may have been just an older-age-class buck that had been beaten up during the rut and wouldn’t survive, but we don’t know that for sure.” Replaying the hunt in my mind, I could see the buck standing in the water and panting. It’s been my experience when deer get sick or hurt, they go to water, so I agreed to dispose of the buck and not eat him. Without question, this was the strangest hunt I ever had in my life.