MIKE WALTER, 48 – OKLAHOMA/ARKANSAS
Everyone that knows me well, knows that fall is one of my favorite times to be in the woods. This fall has been bittersweet though. Yes, I have had amazing success hunting out of my saddle set up with a large Arkansas bear on opening day of the September season, and then killed my largest public land 8-point whitetail in Oklahoma in mid-October. It was at about this time that cancer really started to take its toll on my elderly mother, and she was rapidly losing her 10-year battle with cancer. As with all my hunting adventures over the years, mom was unbelievably excited about my bear and deer hunting success so far this season even though her health was failing her. She told all her friends and nurses about my big bear and deer with her motherly pride.
On Thursday, November 4, 2021, mom lost the battle with her cancer, and as our family started to deal with the grief of her passing another surprising thing happened. The evening of November 5th, one of my cell cameras reported a very large 11-point whitetail on our property. This deer was new and had not been in the area all summer or fall. November 5th was also the night that I pulled my #1 arrow from my quiver and wrote “MOM” on it. Over the next few days, as we planned and attended mom’s memorial service, the large 11-point continued to sporadically make an appearance on camera.
On the morning of November 11th, I finally got the right WNW wind and cool temps to sneak into my preferred spot and hang my predator platform and get tethered into my phantom about 18 feet up. Deer started to filter through my area at 6:45am and at about 7:20am, I caught a glimpse of the big 11-point directly downwind of me, just before he caught my scent. He quickly melted away into the timber and out of sight. I remained on stand for a total of 12 hours with no other action.
The morning of November 12th brought cool temps, clouds, drizzle, and little wind, but deer started moving about 6:40am, and by 7:30am, two small bucks and a doe had passed through, and hopes were high. The big 11-point materialized out of the brush at 7:33am and he was already at 22 yards and closing fast on my tree. I had a good opening at 16 yards and when he stopped perfectly broadside in it, I was already at full draw.
Mom didn’t get to see my best whitetail to date that morning or hear the story of the hunt, but she did get to be part of that amazing November morning. My #1 MOM arrow found its mark and he only made it a short distance before crashing.
My 2021 season has been marked with many highs and lows, but memories were made that can never be forgotten or replaced. I lost my biggest hunting fan, but she will always be with me when I head to the woods for every trip to come. I also achieved several “firsts” this year.
- First black bear ever taken with a score of 16 13/16 inches.
- Largest public land whitetail ever taken with a gross score of 116 4/8 inches
- Largest Whitetail taken of my hunting 35-year hunting career with a gross score 158 3/8
- First full season of hunting from a saddle.
I sure wish I would have found saddle hunting years ago. It is a true game changer.