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Tailgate Talks: Jessi Cole's Oklahoma Slammer

Jessi Cole holds a huge Oklahoma whitetail

Absolutely beautiful, old 8 point. A classic look with nice, gnarled bases that still had green bark in them. 

Hunter: Jessi Cole
Pursuit: Whitetail
Weapon: Savage Impulse Predator in 6.5 Creedmoor
Ammo: Nosler 95GR Ballistic Tip
Location: Western Oklahoma, Canadian River Hilton

The Thursday before Thanksgiving, a group of us from Mossy Oak drove from West Point, MS 11 hours to western Oklahoma to hunt big whitetails during their rifle season.

The opening day of rifle season, that Saturday, couldn’t have been timed better. The temperature dropped significantly and the rut was ON, no doubt about it.

We were hunting with Canadian River Hilton, an awesome outfitter with some fun characters to hang out with at night and hunt with during the day. And don’t get me started on the food. Let’s just say I was prepped for Thanksgiving after eating with them for 5 days. (Don’t even TRY asking for the homemade honey butter recipe—it’s a family secret!)

Savage Arms provided the guns and Nosler provided the ammo. As soon as we arrived to the ranch, I sighted in the Impulse Predator in 6.5 an inch high at 100 yards and felt confident that I could put the crosshairs right where I wanted it on anything under 200 yards that walked (or ran) in.

Mighty Joe, one of Mossy Oak’s producers, came with me to serve as a guide and cameraman. He’s been to Canadian River Hilton probably 25 times over his hunting and filming career, and he knew the ropes of the land and what kind of deer to expect.

We sat in a Primos Double Bull pop up blind that was situated on top of a little hill, so we had an excellent view for probably miles on any side of us. The landscape was very different from the Mississippi and Tennessee hardwoods I am accustomed to; there was cattle roaming around us, walking up about 10 yards from us completely unconcerned.

cow in front of blind

The Oklahoma "wildlife" was a bit different than the squirrels and raccoons of my neck of the woods.

The brush was very new to me, and I quickly learned what a sand burr was. I sat down in a bush and stuck my hand in another one, and I swear I’m still finding little needles in my camo.

Anyway, so the first day was extremely productive. We saw 8 bucks, all chasing, and a handful of does. None of the bucks were quite mature enough—there was one that might have been 4.5 years old but honestly another year would have done him a lot of good. It was hard to say for sure. The deer were moving great, and I just knew anything could be running up any moment.

The next day was a complete night and day difference. We saw nothing that morning, save for a buck chasing a long way off that we never got good eyes on. It was perfect conditions, a cold 22-degree morning and a crisp to the air that just felt promising. But for whatever reason, not many deer were on their feet that day.

That afternoon was very slow, and Mighty and I had settled in to heating some Poptarts on the Mr. Buddy heater and chatting about anything and everything. Two coveys of Bobwhites whistled back and forth to each other on either side of us, something we absolutely considered a good sign and good luck. It helped lift the spirits a bit in the wake of a slow day.

pop tarts on a heater

Nothing lifts the spirits quicker on a cold day than a heater-toasted Poptart. (just make sure your wind is right)

Around 3:45 a doe came trotting over a hill 400 yards away. I told Mighty, “she’s being chased by something…she’s coming fast.” And sure enough, about 30 seconds later, a giant old point with tall beams and a lot of mass at the bass came over the hill running after her. I immediately knew that was the one. If I could get a shot at him, he was going home with me.

He chased the doe about 300 yards away to a thicket where we could really only see glints of the white of his antlers to keep confirming that they were still there. It was torture—I had had a good look at him through my Leupold binos and knew how big he was. After about 10 minutes of bone flashing through the thicket and me shaking the entire blind with my legs out of nervousness and anticipation, the doe ran back over the hill and he followed right behind her.

It was extremely frustrating. But we kept our eyes on that hill, willing them to circle back to our area. Sure enough, she came charging over the hill after only five minutes, and he came a few minutes after her. Looks like she had gotten close to losing him.

big whitetail

I can't say for sure who was more excited: me or Mighty Joe.

This time, she takes him right out in front of us where I’d have a clear shot. They were moving fast, and I was terrified he’d just keep on running and we’d never see them again. So as soon as he took a beat to pause and work a scrape, I told Joe that I was about to shoot. I didn’t want to miss any opportunities. He was about 160 yards away with his neck stretched up into the branches of a tree.

As soon as I shot, he did the classic mule kick and started charging straight towards us. It was a chaotic few seconds as I reloaded and tried to get back on him in case I needed to take a second shot. But he all of a sudden realized he’d been hit and landed belly up just 80 or so yards away from us. Double lung and heart shot.

There was a lot of celebration in the blind, once I got my hands on him, and when we arrived back to the ranch with the buck in the back of the truck. Mighty and I were greeted with lots of high fives, slaps on the back, and two cold Miller Lites delivered straight to us. There’s not much of a better feeling out there than the pride that comes with killing a big deer after a long, cold day of hunting.

I went home with a cooler full of meat and a trip to the taxidermist ahead of me. I’d consider that a successful trip!

dragging deer man and woman

Mighty and I dragging my deer to the truck.

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