The Comeback Kid A rookie gets a shot—or two—at redemption in the heart of Oklahoma whitetail country

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The way I was shaking, you’d have thought I’d seen an apparition.

He appeared in the brush on Halloween night. I was chasing slopes, selecting burrs from my bootlaces and viewing the stream base feigns turn pumpkin orange, when the greatest deer I had ever observed on the foot seemed 100 yards out. It paused for a minute to scatter the skepticism.

My body, nonetheless, kept on shivering as though I were controlled. I battled to hold consistent, yet I knew I had missed even before the smoke cleared to uncover the hailing deer. I reloaded and held up. Sunset didn’t, and neither did the buck, who soon came back to his dinner of corn parts. With more self-restraint now, I crushed the trigger once more.

I’d neglected to supplant the spent groundwork. I swore, a flood of foulness filling the visually impaired as I mixed for a new top. When I got off the shot, my adrenaline spiked and I missed a moment time. He didn’t return once more, and I exited Oklahoma with an unfilled tag in my pocket.


My exclusive solace was that this frightfulness story positioned generally low on the considerable rundown of setbacks my pals and I were in charge of that excursion. As close as should be obvious, the aides at Chain Ranch later imagined that week of blackpowder season never happened. They put us on develop deer and we whiffed—most more than once.

Our gathering of six still figured out how to tag a couple of bucks, yet even those triumphs were cursed. One attractive deer was left away from home overnight after the seeker incorrectly revealed the heading in which the buck had run; coyotes guaranteed him. The other took a .50-cal. neatly through the temple rather than the planned focus on (his vitals). He was bound to end up distinctly a serious European mount.

Before my own bungles, I passed on a more youthful buck—a shooter back home, yet excessively youthful by the Chain’s guidelines.

oklahoma hunter windmills

Tom Fowlks

A blackpowder seeker strolls into his visually impaired.

I couldn’t trust my obvious good fortunes: Thompson/Center had sorted out a modest bunch of authors to test another muzzleloader (that year, the Pro Hunter), and this included me, another Outdoor Life procure who had already just pursued deer in a little corner of southern Indiana. Be that as it may, I was idealistic, anxious to chase well and hard. I was a 23-year-old junior editorial manager working out of the magazine’s New York City office, and substantiating myself with a record-book buck wasn’t precisely on the motivation. I simply needed to make a spotless, lawful execute. Also, all things considered, my first deer had tumbled perfectly/C muzzleloader—my grandfather’s.

I wasn’t superstitious, however, I gathered that needed to mean something. Things being what they are, it considered about much as a shot over a buck’s back.

However, for every one of its inadequacies, that first “business” trip left me in high spirits. I had lurched into a fine deer camp: a swarmed normal live with lagers and wild-hoard grill for supper, and discussion to run with it. I’d never met my allies, yet together we giggled harder than I had in quite a while.

So I came back to the city, timid about my disappointment yet more astute for it. Encouragement came as a fat winter doe, labeled on the family cultivate after Christmas. Months passed and another deer season drew closer.

Staggeringly, a welcome arrived about indistinguishable to the past year’s: Did I need to go to another blackpowder chase at the Chain?

I acknowledged. It would be another season and a new beginning. Then again so I thought. When I landed at LaGuardia Airport to get the flight to Oklahoma City, my plane had as of now been noticeable all around for 60 minutes. I had misread my schedule and appeared to a crossed out reservation.

The self-undermine had as of now started, and I wasn’t even in the visually impaired yet.


Jeff Puckett moved down his window as he moved up to the control at Will Rogers World Airport.

“All things considered, hi, hi,” he stated, smiling from in the driver’s seat. “Happy you could make it.”

I dropped my sacks in the truck informal lodging into the taxicab, propped for a ribbing that didn’t come. He saved me the jokes and rather we got to getting up to speed. I had met Puckett one year before at this same terminal. On that event, he welcomed me at the baggage carousel and conveyed my duffle to the truck. Such comforts had slipped by now that we were amigos, both veterans of a year ago’s difficulty, and I was thankful he was around to safeguard me out with a ride to Canton.

Barn Eaves Chain Ranch

Tom Fowlks

The Chain’s founder, Oscar Chain, traded fifty dollars and a shotgun for 160 acres in Dewey County, Oklahoma, in 1893.

bunkhouse at the chain

Tom Fowlks

Inside the bunkhouse at the Chain Ranch.

Oklahoma cattle

Tom Fowlks

The Chain bargains in Red Angus, Black Angus, Limousine, and Herford dairy animals.

The little homestead town sits 90 miles northwest of Oklahoma City, Chain Ranch simply outside it. The Chain was conceived on a 160-section of land fix in 1893, and six eras later it has detonated into a 60,000-section of a land homestead, dairy cattle operation, and chasing outfit. A line of Red Angus busied themselves at their troughs, looking at us as we stopped before the wooden bunkhouse. Aside from the dairy cattle, the camp was betrayed. Everybody had effectively left for an evening sit.

Simply inside the yard screen entryway was a weapon rack. I lifted one of the rests of the .50-cal. T/C Strikes from it and made a beeline for the range, doing whatever it takes not to consider how I had wasted a night chase.


Lincoln Mulherin flipped down his sun visor as we sped along State Route 51 at a young hour the following morning, obstructing the full moon from sparkling in his eyes. My guide rubbed the bristles that didn’t exactly hide his boyish face before illustrating the day’s arrangement: Sit as far as might be feasible. Deer had been encouraging hard throughout the night, because of the moonlight, and wouldn’t move until late morning.

This investigation was exact, albeit a lot of activity unfurled before first light. It might have been brilliant outside, yet the visually impaired’s inside stayed as dark as on any moonless night. Coyotes cried ceaselessly, jogging past my stow away all alone chases. One ripped into a rabbit twelve yards off, the sharp shouts snapping my make a beeline for consideration.

full moon over oil rig

Natalie Krebs

The full moon hovering over an oil drill, as seen through a binocular.

oklahoma ridges

Natalie Krebs

The creator’s view from the visually impaired on a principal morning.

As the sun step by step supplanted the moon, I could see the crate was arranged on the purpose of a slant, an oil field station at its back and a wheat plot high and to one side. A glade spread underneath; dry edges and slopes ascended past. There was a bounty to keep my binocular occupied, however, a morning of glassing didn’t uncover to such an extent as a tail flick.

A meal break was booked for 11 a.m., however, I recalled the moon and approached Mulherin for an additional 30 minutes by means of content, which he conceded. All things being equal, he seemed sooner than anticipated. Not long after we traded messages he came running from the oil station, multiplied over. He dove inside the visually impaired and stuck his binocular to his face, whispering enthusiastically.

“Did you see him?”

Mulherin had as of now been in transit when my content came through, so he stopped 500 yards out and began glassing to take a break. Minutes after the fact a 150-class buck jogged into view along an edge, doe close behind.

“I couldn’t state on the off chance that she was hot or not yet,” he stated, eyes settled on the edge. “In any case, the buck was driving, so I don’t think so. They were traveled along these lines. He was enormous. Huge.”

Mulherin shook a few circumstances, however, it was just late October and nothing proceeded onward the skyline. Indeed, even with the guarantee of lunch, I was hesitant to leave the remain—there was a trophy buck in the area. In any case, I was additionally expected to meet my week’s chasing pal on our break, and I chose I would do well to go gather him.

hunter walking to truck

Natalie Krebs

Mulherin returns to his truck, rattling antlers in hand.


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