On Monda (Jan. 21), O'Neal's wish came true. Hunting as a guest of Lane Cox on Winter Quarters Hunting Club in Tensas Parish, he put the crosshairs of his .35 Whelen on an impressive 11-point deer that has been taped at nearly 150 inches Boone & Crockett.
"Lane is a good friend, and he has invited me to his club to bow hunt for the past couple of years. My goal has been to take a doe with my bow there, but so far I've only had close calls without success," said O'Neal, 28, who works as coordinator of academic internships at the University of Louisiana Monroe.
On his most-recent trip to Winter Quarters with Cox, good fortune smiled on him when Lane mentioned that his grandfather had a club buck tag he didn't plan to use and gave it to Lane, who gave it to Kyle.
"I couldn't believe my good fortune to actually have a chance at one of the big bucks this place is known for," O'Neal said.
With deer season winding down, O'Neal and Cox left after church Sunday and drove to the club for a two-day hunt. They saw several deer Sunday afternoon but nothing allowable on the club to shoot. Only older mature bucks are legal fare for hunters on Winter Quarters.
"I'm accustomed to hunting from a box or tree stand, but Lane told me we were going to hunt from the ground," O'Neal said. "I'd never utilized the sit-and-stalk method before. We passed up a very nice 10-point in the 140-inch class, as Lane determined it was a fairly young buck."
The following morning, the pair saw several more deer, including a few young 8-points. That afternoon, though, things began to take a turn for the better.
"We went to an area where Lane felt we might have a chance at a mature buck, maybe even the one they'd seen on trail cameras for the past couple of years," O'Neal said. "We sat for an hour or so, with Lane periodically rattling and using his grunt call.
"Then he whispered to me to get my gun up; there were deer headed our way."
A herd of doe came running through the woods with a group of five bucks chasing them. Scoping the bucks, Cox spotted the big one following one of the does. He told O'Neal to get ready.
"When I finally saw the buck, I just about freaked," O'Neal said. "I eased my gun up, found him in the scope, but about that time a doe snorted and all the deer took off, white flags waving.
"I figured the game was over."
A few minutes later, to his surprise, Cox saw the buck; it hadn't run off with the others.
The buck was feeding along toward the hunters, and it stopped broadside at 75 to 80 yards. Cox whispered to O'Neal to take him, but there was a problem — the deer's vitals were behind a big tree with only its head and rump showing.
"The buck finally took two steps, and I was able to get him in my scope and squeezed the trigger," O'Neal said. "The buck, obviously hit, took off but stopped, staggered and laid down.
"I could see him in my binoculars, and saw his head up looking in our direction."
Cox and O'Neal were able to sneak forward, where a final bullet put the buck down for good.
"When we got to the buck, we were screaming and yelling like two little girls who had just met Justin Bieber," O'Neal laughingly recalled.
The buck was a dandy. Sporting 11 points on a main-frame 10-point rack, 19 7/8 inches of air separated the two sides. The main beams stretched over 24 inches and sprouted from bases over 5 inches around. The mass carried throughout the rack, and had the tines been taller – the G-2s were only 6 5/8 inches – the score would have been higher than the 149 ⅝ inches attributed to the rack when it was scored at TP Outdoors in West Monroe.
O'Neal gives all the credit to Cox who invited him on the hunt, gave him a buck tag and served as guide.
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