Thursday, July 8, 2010

Oh hell, not another "sign"...

(Picture of Howard Hill shamelessly ripped off from somewhere in the Internets...) 

Just found out this morning that I got drawn for what is surely one of the most coveted and unique deer archery hunts in not only the state but the entire nation, the fall archery hunt at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in southeastern Oklahoma.

What is it, exactly? Well, that's where our bombs are made and/or stored...

Located on 45,000 acres in southeastern Oklahoma, MCAAP is centrally located in the United States with access by major highway, railway, and waterway. MCAAP has six ammunition production, maintenance and renovation complexes and is a major ammunition storage site for all branches of the Armed Forces with nearly 2,300 storage magazines and six million square feet of covered explosive storage space.

It is the Defense Department's largest explosive storage facility. MCAAP has a proud history of meeting the munitions needs of our customers - America's Armed Forces - through war and peace for over 60 years. Team McAlester has but one goal, "a total commitment to ammunition and missile readiness with our focus on the Warfighter".

But it's not the bombs that make this place so cool, it's the deer. Since the hunt's inception it's been strictly managed as an archery-only trophy whitetail hunt. Simply put, you've got a better chance to kill a P&Y whitetail there than anywhere else in the state and possibly the nation. The hunting is that good. I've talked to several guys who have drawn out without killing anything and they tell me it's like nothing they've ever seen.

But if it's so good, then why is it so hard to fill a tag? Well, for one southeastern Oklahoma isn't what most outsiders consider "Oklahoma." No sweeping plains here: It's rough, rugged, mountainous, isolated country. Second, this is a working military base, security is very tight and as such there are restrictions on where, how and when you can hunt. Third, take a look at this photo gallery of some of the 2009 bucks taken by hunters and tell me what you see, or more specifically, don't see.

That's right, there aren't any wheels or cams on those bows. The McAlester hunt is and always has been a traditional archery only hunt. A stick and a string. All you space-age carbon-fiber speed freaks, well, you can just suck it.

As a space-age carbon fiber speed freak, that means I've got to dust off my old Damon Howatt Hunter, order a couple dozen Port Orford cedar shafts and start flinging arrows, because the Bowtech is going to be seeing some closet time this year.

But here's the thing, and the reason I think this might be...a sign (and for a brief introduction to my previous experience with "signs" click here ). I was planning on doing that anyway. I shoot both modern and traditional bows, and I go through stages with both. For the past few years I've been shooting a compound, but last year I really started missing the allure and simple, elegant deadliness of traditional gear, so I decided this next season I'd go back to hunting with the recurve.

And when this morning I logged on to the state wildlife department website and found I'd been drawn for the McAlester hunt, well, I just knew it was one of those signs I'm famous for.

The internal voice whispered "this is the year you get your P&Y whitetail, and you're going to do it with traditional gear. I'm telling you, self, it's...a sign. if ever there was one."

Which means, of course, that I am so freakin' doomed...

This is a unique enough hunt that I'm planning on pitching it as a feature story somewhere. The only questions are where to pitch it and what angle that pitch will take. Normally that would be easy: pitch it to one of the bowhunting mags and write about the incredible hunting, the high-security setting (for example, no cameras in your stands or blinds) and the difficulty of taking a trophy buck with traditional gear.

But since it's me we're talking about and the result of one of my "signs" I'll probably end up in McSweeney's and the pitch will be the folly of unsubstantiated faith...


  1. Wow, Chad. I have to admit, I am one of the 'space-age carbon fiber speed freaks,' but drawing a tag like that would make me want to go back to traditional gear. Heck, reading your post makes me want to! I checked out the photos over there and yowza, there are some brutes.

    Best of luck to you on your hunt!

  2. Chad

    Looking forward to reading both pieces, and the commentary on your trials and tribulations getting there.

  3. Okay, that. is. awesome! You'll do fine. And trad gear isn't any worse than training wheels. You just have to shoot and hunt, and if you love those, then you'll do fine.

  4. Ha! I looked at the photo gallery and thought, "Oh my God, you have to be a white male to do this hunt?" But then I spotted a white female.

    Sounds like a great and challenging hunt. I'm not surprised it's archery only - makes sense at a munitions plant. But traditionaly achery only? I'd be interested to hear the reasoning behind that.

  5. Chad, I wanted to point out what I noticed looking at that cool-A picture of Mr. Hill.

    Today's archery instructor would have been all over him for his bad wrist, his head jerked forward, and his bent posture.

    It just goes to show you how individual archery can and should be.

  6. Hi Albert, thanks for looking and come back often...

    SBW, get to practicing, put in for it, and bring a BBC crew over here with you. It'd be a hit...

    Norcal, I think the reasoning was to keep the advantage in the deer's corner and really give the hunt the potential to be something special, trophy-wise. I think. At any rate I can't complain...

    Josh, too true. You should see my "form" when I shoot my recurve. Like an old man having back spasms. Which isn;t too damn far from the truth...

  7. Man, you had me chuckling uncontrollably throughout the day with that mental image.

  8. As you may have noticed from my string of four year tardy comments, I am reading your blog from older to younger. When I saw and immediately recognized the iconic Howard Hill, I was instantly excited. Being a primitive/traditional bowhunter (primarily, but with strong hankerings for shotguns and birds), I look forward to encountering more installments of this nature.