Just west of Alva in northwest Oklahoma, the two-lane state highway begins climbing a bit until it tops out on a small ridge. If you slow down a bit and take it all in, the expanse of rugged terrain stretching toward the skinny Panhandle is mesmerizing.
By Alan Clemons, Managing Editor
Stark, of course, but beautiful. You literally can see for miles and miles. The sky at night is amazing when you don’t have city lights cluttering up the view.
There’s not much out here. Farming for grain and cattle, mostly, and punching holes in the dirt for oil or gas. And hunting. Deer, upland birds, antelope, even some elk. Despite the harsh conditions in winter the animals thrive.
Ted Jaycox operates Tall Tine Outfitters in Protection, Kan., not terribly far over the state line from that ridge that overlooks western Oklahoma. The town was established in the 1800s and today has about 520 residents in only a couple of square miles. Blink going through town and you’ll miss it. Drive more than 20 mph or make a turn across the yellow lines in town and you may get a citation. They’re serious about safety after one of their own almost got hit by a vehicle.
The town also is notable in our nation’s history. Fifty years ago all the residents were inoculated with the Salk polio vaccine, the first town in the country to receive it. Jonas Salk declined to patent the vaccine and the scads of money he could have earned from its mass production. Instead, his generous gift to the world helped eradicate one of the most deadly diseases ever known. A tiny southwest Kansas town, a blip on the map, was the first to receive that gift, and from there the nation and world benefitted greatly.
Finding A Gem
Jaycox owns a few hundred acres and has hunting rights 18,000 thousand more in this rugged country where the creeks lined with elm, cottonwood and cedar along with patches of woods here and there are in the minority to the wide open spaces.
He lives in Ocala, Fla., and began bowhunting here with a friend after Kansas opened hunting to non-residents. They hunted near Pratt and Jaycox said “we didn’t like what we saw there, so my friend called the Kansas wildlife agency to ask about some of their better areas.” They were directed to a few southwest counties, made a few calls and checked out a few areas.
Jaycox had a televison show years ago and after hunting here a few years, he got his outfitter’s license and began bringing some show sponsors. He loved Kansas so much he decided to buy property, establish Tall Tine and come here for the bow and gun deer season every year. Jaycox also has an outfitter service for turkeys in Ocala and for Coues deer and Rio Grande turkeys in Mexico.
Getting Set Up
Our crew of four was arriving from literally both ends of the country, two from the west coast and one from the east, and after getting in late we decided to sleep in the first morning.
Aaron Carter, a managing editor for the NRA, hit the stand since he was confident in his Mossberg MVP Patrol and scope. But Linda Powell with Mossberg, Dean Capuano with Swarovski and I were more skittish and wanted to double-check our scopes’ zero after being on planes.
“I do a lot of flying and traveling, and whenever at all possible I want to sight in my rifle just to make sure things are OK with it,” Powell said. “It’s for several reasons, including good ethics for making a clean shot and also for peace of mind. If you’re on a trip for a big deer, an elk, a moose, a bear or something else, you don’t want anything to go wrong that you can control or make sure of.”
My Mossberg MVP FLEX was outfitted with a pistol grip and adjustable stock, along with the Swarovski Z3 scope that needed some tweaking. Whether it was from different ammo used to sight in at the Mossberg plant or air travel, it was off several inches. We got it dialed in at 100 yards within a few shots and it was good to go.
The scopes on Capuano’s Mossberg 4×4 in 7mm Rem Mag and Powell’s MVP FLEX also needed a little adjustment. We didn’t have time for loitering with temperatures in the 20s and a northwest wind. Our adjustments were made, shots fired, hits checked and once they were dialed in we were ready for the afternoon hunt.
Manages for Big Bucks
Jaycox’s deer management plan is pretty thorough and has been in place since he began Tall Tine 13 years ago.
He’d like for bucks to be at least 150 inches or 4.5 years old, and desires hunters to be discerning with a patient eye for what may well be their buck of a lifetime. Jaycox has multiple stand sites for different wind directions, including ladders, lock-ons and ground blinds. He also has more than 25,000 photos of deer from his game cameras and studies them regularly to see what shows up during summer and the season.
“We’ve averaged about 158 (inches),” he said. He’s had hunters see multiple 150-plus bucks in a day, “but there’s not 150-inch bucks behind every tree. We had good moisture this year so things have bounced back a bit from the last two years when we had a drought.”
Feeding is legal in Kansas and Jaycox has feeders stationed throughout his property. He also fed protein pellets this year to help with the post-drought rebound. Agriculture fields, much of it winter wheat and alfalfa, also is a boost along with natural forage.
The bucks mounted in his lodge and photos of successful hunters show heavy racks with great mass and high tines, the benefits of age, food and genetics. Some have forked brows and split tines. Some have extra stickers and “junk” that lend character. A few are roundish, others high, many wide. They’re not cookie cutter racks by any stretch. The occasional freak appears with grotesque beams that, of course, have their own uniqueness.
They’re all cool, though. That’s why we hunt them.
Coming tomorrow: Bone-chilling weather and layering up to withstand its’ effects in the stand.