Buffalo hunting in Elk City


Thursday, February 8th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6


By RON JACKSON
The Daily Oklahoman



ELK CITY, Okla. (AP) -- Bow-hunter John Adair of Weatherford has tracked big game throughout the American West.

Now he can talk about the time he hunted the biggest game in the American West.

Adair recently crawled through brush with his compound bow, tested a stiff breeze and tasted the Old West when he killed a 1,200-pound buffalo cow.

That's right, a buffalo -- a real buffalo.

"I just feel like I've gone back in time," Adair said as he rode away from his kill on horseback.

Adair's true adventure took place a short distance from his Custer County home at the Flying W. Guest Ranch west of Elk City.

For $3,000, Adair was given the opportunity to stalk a buffalo with his bow and arrows, and experience what most people haven't in more than 120 years on the Western plains.

For $4,000 he could have hunted a buffalo bull.

"How many people can say they've hunted a buffalo?" asked Terry Case, the ranch's manager. "He can."

Real buffalo hunts are part of a dream envisioned by ranch owner Don Whinery.

Whinery opened his dude ranch last summer to cater to Western romantics.

Horseback riding, chuckwagon cookouts and fishing are all offered to guests.

Guests can pay $100 a night for a cabin during the weekdays or $125 on Friday or Saturday. Or guests might choose to sleep outdoors in a tent for $75 a night. An old-fashioned meal is included with each choice.

In addition, Whinery's ranch offers horseback riding. Prices range from $25 for an hour, $39.50 for two hours, $60 for four hours, and $110 for an all-day ride with a meal.

Seasonal hunts for deer, turkey and quail also can be included for a price.

"Then I thought, 'Why not stage buffalo hunts?"' Whinery said.

"Ive always loved buffalo. Why not let people go out and hunt them?"

What is the market for live buffalo hunts? No one knows for sure because there have been none in Oklahoma in recent memory.

"Gosh, that would be hard to tell," said Bob Duke, a chamber of commerce member in the nearby hunting haven of Cheyenne. "We get a lot of hunters over here, so I imagine it would do pretty well."

No state license is required for buffalo hunts. Only nerve.

Whinery even guarantees success. Hunters simply accept the risks.

"A wild buffalo can be a dangerous animal," Whinery said.

"They go where they please, and they're faster than a horse. You just never know what they're going to do. That's what makes it so challenging."

Adair certainly had no idea what to expect. Nor did his friend John Taylor, who sat armed with a hand-held video recorder to document the moment.

Mounted on horseback, Adair pondered his upcoming hunt when he said, "I just hope they don't stand there like a cow. Really, it's hard to know what they'll do. I guess we'll soon find out."

Whinery grabbed his rifle and climbed aboard his horse. Ranch hands Jason and Jacky Breeze followed in line.

"Just in case one charges," said Whinery, armed with the rifle. "This will be like stepping back into the Old West."

With a few minor exceptions.

The hunting party rode to a ridge where Adair overlooked an arroyo filled with trees and plum thickets. Beyond the arroyo, Jacky Breeze spotted nine buffalo. The ranch hand then trailed the herd to Adairs ground-level roost.

As Adair found cover behind a patch of plumb thickets, those in his entourage silently crawled on their bellies for fear of stampeding the herd. Adair quietly positioned himself for a shot.

That's when the ring of Whinery's cellular phone broke the silence.

Giggles subsided and the hunt continued. But not for much longer.

Adair watched as the herd circled to his left in front of a seemingly giant orange sun. From Adair's position, he could only see the silhouette of the buffalo in his sights. He drew back his bow, aimed and fired.

Adair's first shot pierced the buffalos side, but failed to stampede the herd. A few moments later, Adair again gained a clear shot at his buffalo and fired another arrow into her side.

Both shots sailed clean through the buffalo.

This time the herd galloped away, down an embankment and seemingly out of sight in seconds. Adair stalked his bleeding beast down the embankment only to discover her dying underneath a tree.

The hunt was over.

"What a beautiful animal," said Adair, stroking the dying buffalo gently with his hand. "What can you say? This was quite an experience. I think any time you kill an animal it's a blessing.

"Now I can tell my grandchildren I hunted a buffalo."

Minus the cellular phone, naturally.