Zach Meadows spent most of November 3 trying hard to slow his heart rate and keep his hands from shaking. The typical whitetail buck of a lifetime was marching around right near him, and while he wasn’t quite within arrow range yet, the deer was getting ready to spar with a nontypical of similar size.
Meadows and his sons had been watching these two bucks for months, and after passing up every other buck in the area and changing up their strategy for this year’s rut, Meadows was finally close to success on the biggest whitetail he’d ever seen.
But then, something happened that Meadows would’ve had to see—and hear—to believe.
The 42-year-old bowhunter from Edmond, Oklahoma, watched and listened with a combination of shock and defeat as a smaller buck on the outskirts of the group let out a massive fart. This wasn’t just any old animal fart—it was loud enough to scare every other buck and doe around him, including the two monsters about to spar. The sound, which Meadows likened to a whoopee cushion, scattered the group. The non-typical buck stayed in visible range, but the other big buck was gone.
“I've never heard a deer fart in the woods, but the wind was down and you could hear every little step and everything was so tense,” Meadows told MeatEater. “Then they all scattered. Even the one that did it, he scared himself. I'm like, ‘you have got to be kidding me. I got this close and a deer fart ruined it all.’ It sounded too perfect. I almost thought someone was messing with me.”
Meadows stayed still for about 15 minutes and watched as the deer slowly calmed down and returned to their original locations. The non-typical and the smaller gassy buck were chasing does around when suddenly the group’s behavior changed again.
“I could just tell by all the deers' body language that the big one was coming back,” Meadows said. “Then I see him coming in the same way he came in before. He gets about 20 yards from that non-typical and they just start posing, like they were about to get into it. He got his head cocked all funny, and I was getting ready to see the biggest buck fight of my life. But the non-typical ended up backing down and running off.”
The big buck started chasing does around but stayed within 60 yards of Meadows. He decided it was time to trust the new bow sight he purchased this year. He forced the buck fever aside, drew back his bow , and let the arrow fly. The buck ran out of Meadows’ line of sight, but he could see the arrow’s white-turned-bloody fletchings sticking straight up out of the ground beyond where the buck had been standing. After an hour's wait, he began slowly searching for the buck with a near-nonexistent blood trail. Finally, Meadows spotted the motionless antlers and approached his heart-shot whitetail. He brought his 12-year-old son Logan along via FaceTime.
“It was unreal,” Meadows said. “I literally worried I was going to have a heart attack. I was like, ‘I'm going to die at 42.’”
Whether the buck will end up breaking the 194-inch Oklahoma typical record or the 188 5/8-inch archery record remains to be seen. The antlers must go through a 60-day drying period before they can be officially measured, but a local taxidermist came up with a gross score of 210 inches. The buck will face many deductions for small abnormalities that make his antlers possibly look more non-typical than typical, even though its general symmetry fits the description for a typical buck.
Meadows attributes his success to the new strategies he and his sons carried into this hunting season: paying attention to their wind, not overhunting their stands, setting up in areas where they could enter and exit without blowing out deer.
“We weren't hunting if the wind was even questionable, and we were trying to set up stands where we could get in and out without spooking deer. We really changed our hunting tactics up,” Meadows said. “And we were seeing big bucks in the daylight. Every sit we were seeing a good shooter buck. We were just overhunting in the past, we were pressuring them. So, we gave the deer a sanctuary zone that we didn't go in and we started working from the outside in.”
The Meadows family and other neighboring landowners had decided to leave the young bucks in the area alone for a few years in hopes of growing some older, high-quality deer. Needless to say, their patience paid off. According to Meadows, they've only just begun to reap the rewards.
“I want to get my son back in that stand to get that non-typical,” he said.