Oklahoma Archer Gets "Ace of Spades"
When it comes to the Wildlife Department's Controlled Hunts program, few places are revered and esteemed so highly as the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant (McAAP) in southeast Oklahoma, and one hunter added to the mystique Oct. 17 when he harvested one of the area's most sought after "nicknamed" bucks, known as the "Ace of Spades."
Ronny Lambeth of Edmond said he was not very familiar with the ammunition plant's "10 Most Wanted" bucks when he drew into the McAAP hunts, but after bringing the big non-typical buck into the McAAP's check station, it was immediately recognized as one of the deer on the list.
Over the years, McAAP's wildlife managers have given nicknames to various deer with exceptionally large or unusual antlers. Many of the bucks are given their names during the summertime when McAAP managers conduct population surveys and have viewed or photographed the bucks while their antlers are still "in velvet," as was the case with the "Ace of Spades."
2005 photo of "Ace of Spades" in velvet
Although unofficial until scored by a certified Boone and Crockett Club (B&C) big game measurer after a mandatory 60-day drying period, Lambeth's buck has been "green scored" at a gross measurement of 201 4/8, with a net score of 197 2/8 after deductions. Although far from surpassing Oklahoma's state record 248 6/8ths non-typical buck taken by Michael Crossland in Tillman county during the 2004 rifle season, Lambeth’s deer will likely meet the Boone and Crockett Awards minimum of 185 points and may meet B&C's minimum of 195 points for inclusion into the all-time records for non-typical whitetail deer. It will certainly meet the minimum for recognition in both the Wildlife Department's Cy Curtis Awards Program (minimum for non-typical whitetails – 150 points) and the minimum for the Pope and Young Awards Program (minimum for non-typical whitetails taken with bow and arrow-155 pts.)
The "Ace of Spades" buck has 23 scorable points, and the rack has an inside spread of 26 ¾ inches. He was aged at eight-and-a-half years old and tipped the scales at 186 lbs. whole weight. Hog-dressed, the buck went 139 lbs.
Lambeth said he first spotted the buck at about 40 yards away and watched the deer for about 30 minutes before getting an awkward but successful eight-yard shot with his primitive archery equipment.
"I think I probably shook all the leaves off the tree I was in," Lambeth said about his wait for just the right shot opportunity.
Lambeth's success at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant and in other controlled hunts attests to the value of the Wildlife Department's Controlled Hunts program in providing unique opportunities to hunters. He drew out for this year's hunt at the "Ammunition Depot" with three friends who had never been on this type of hunt. Though they did not harvest deer, they had the chance through the Controlled Hunts program to get a rare glimpse of one of the military's most important installations (especially for wartime explosives production), as well as hunt in a deer hunter's paradise.
"It's a privilege to get to hunt in that area," Lambeth said.
According to Lambeth, "there's not a better place in the world" in terms of successfully managing deer for age structure, buck to doe ratio and quality of genetics, but he said it's "not in any way an easy hunt." Although successfully drawn hunters are given some time to scout their hunting area and hang their treestands, it's only a few hours after the mandatory pre-hunt briefing held on Thursdays. Hunters must interpret such deer sign as tracks, rubs, scrapes, and then consider other factors such as wind direction and topography to determine where they should set up for the best shot opportunity.
Although none have been quite like his latest buck, Lambeth has harvested three or four other quality bucks through the Department's controlled hunts program. Each year, an average of between 25 to 35 thousand hunters apply for at least one or often multiple controlled hunt categories. Controlled hunts are conducted on Department and/or other government owned lands where unrestricted hunting would pose safety concerns or where overharvest might occur.
The Wildlife Department's Controlled Hunts program is offered annually through online application. Hunts are offered across the state for deer, elk, antelope, turkey and even raccoons, and special hunts for youth and persons with disabilities are available as well. For more information on the Controlled Hunts program or to begin preparing for next year's drawing, log on to wildlifedepartment.com.