As luck goes, opportunity knocked the very next year. The 2011 trip was a deer/hog combo hunt with the party expanded to include AH contributor Brian McCombie and outdoor writer John Woods. We hunted with the M&P-15 again, but we also were among the first to spend time on the range with the new-for-2012 addition to the M&P line: the .300 Whisper, a cool chambering that offers sub-sonic and supersonic capabilities and lessens perceived recoil. The M&P Whisper model features aluminum upper/lower receivers coated with Realtree APG, a 10-round magazine and a six-position, collapsible stock. I already knew the S&W M&P-15 line in general attained sub-MOA accuracy out of the box and that their accuracy rivals that of some custom target rifles. But as Paul explained, the Whisper model also features a 16-inch Melonite barrel threaded for a suppressor with a 1:71/2-inch rate of twist to stabilize heavy bullets used for subsonic work but won’t hinder accuracy if using lighter hunting bullets.
I’d never used a suppressor, let alone one on an AR. So I was on the verge of feeling like a bad@## again—until I remembered where that got me in 2010.
The next morning Clint said we’d hunt in stands not far from where I’d sat the previous year so I anticipated sunrise to get a lay of the land. From the bottomlands of the South Canadian River to the rugged gypsum cliffs of the Cheyenne Valley, I knew from experience the Chain Ranch was a deer-hunting paradise with ample treestands, tripod stands, ground blinds and tower stands cleverly situated along travel corridors, around feeders and in green fields. I sat there enjoying the last few minutes before dawn. The rest of the world was still sleeping. We hunters had nature all to ourselves.
Then Mother Nature said, “Let there be light,” and I was filled with the energy of a butterfly breaking free from its cocoon.
I was in the trees maybe 30 yards off a shallow stretch of river and I’d watched deer all morning, just no mature bucks. By 10 a.m., thankful for the sun’s warmth, I wondered whether the Booner that gave me the slip the year before would appear. I saw a small buck approach from behind on my left, snapped his photo then glanced across the river. Standing motionless in the water 150 yards away was a tall-antlered buck surveying his domain. Where did he come from? I wondered as I snapped his photo, too. He was bigger than I thought, so I swapped my camera for my bino then my bino for the EOTech riflescope. He only had seven points, but the left half of his rack sported a double beam.
I was shooting this cool-racked buck.
Suddenly another buck ran across the creek toward him, spooking “Double-beam” back into the brush. An hour later when Clint picked us up, I swear I glimpsed that 7-pointer standing under a patch of trees half a mile from my stand just before he turned and ran. By day’s end, we remained a buck-less lot, but with the temps expected to drop maybe we’d all be hunting hogs by the next afternoon.
The next morning was the polar opposite both in temperature and deer activity. Nonstop action occurred 100 yards to my right in the trees and thick brush near the river. They were busy bees, those bucks. But when you’re fighting the wind near open water, a whitetail parade wards off the cold only for so long. A gunshot took my mind off the weather for a minute. But an hour later I was shaking in my boots, praying for a nice deer to show—not another glimpse of brown hide or antler, not another white-beamed apparition that flashed in and out of view, but a buck, a nice buck.
Fortunately, prayers and positive thinking work in Oklahoma. Not a minute later another buck moved in the trees. Again it was off to my right, again it was heading for the same river passageway—and it was a nice, mature whitetail. I took my shot and he ran 40 yards and dropped.
In the distance I saw Clint driving toward my stand. More than a few points were sticking up and out of the truck bed, meaning both Paul and John had scored. We were three for three—and all within the past hour. As we pulled away from my hunt area, there was ol’ Double-beam standing under that same patch of trees. I snapped his photo just before he split.
Back in camp, Brian said he still hadn’t gotten his buck so he returned to the stand after lunch while the rest of us warmed up on the range with S&W handguns then headed for ground blinds to hunt hogs. From North America to Africa, Paul, Bill and Gary had quite a few critters under their belts with big-bored S&W revolvers like the Model 500 in .460 and .500 S&W Mag. I silently wished I were in their league and again started to feel like a bad@## as I fired the big and heavy S&W .460. But I remembered to zip it.
In my ground blind I watched birds and squirrels, but no hogs—until it was too dark to shoot at the noisy black blobs squealing and grunting around the feeder 50 yards in front of me. Considering their exploding populations (thanks to a sow’s ability to have hundreds of hogs in its 6-to 8-year life span) and the amount of damage they cause, I yearned to pull the trigger but struggled to make heads or tails, literally. Maybe it was a good thing the headlights in the distance meant my ride was coming.
As it turns out, the hog hunters got skunked—but the deer hunter got a hog. Brian dropped a whopper—his first hog—a huge, jet-black sow. He never did get a deer. But he had one heck of a time with an M&P 15. Come to think of it, we all did. I think I’m beginning to like hunting with an AR. Maybe I’m not bad, but I now know where the new “bang for the buck” comes from these days—it’s in hunting with an AR.
Thanks to the team at NRA’s American Hunter Magazine for contributing this article – visit them here http://www.americanhunter.org