I have always loved the area around Possum Kingdom Lake. With the Ranger Mountain Escarpment running through it, it really is a kingdom of fish and game.
For the last seven or eight years, I’ve been watching the progress of the high fenced PK Game Ranch right next to my home on Possum Kingdom Lake with great anticipation. With the ranch already rich in wildlife, I always thought, if done right, the land could grow some really big whitetails.
The owner of PK Game Ranch, Ray Hawrylak, has figured that out and has some true brutes on his place. He invited me to come to the ranch at the end of the 2015-2016 hunting season as he was having a few limited hunts. The ranch will be fully open with a half-dozen or more buck hunts in the 200-300 class for the 2016-2017 season.
On the first visit, I met his son Matt, who is in the picture with the monster double drop-tine, billy-club 17-point buck. I was privileged to be able to see and touch such a brute of a buck, up close and personal. The hunter hunted him for a week and, after the shot, the buck had hidden so well where he fell, we walked past him several times before discovering him. They can really disappear on this ranch.
Later that evening we sat in a stand looking at four other bucks in that category. On that first evening hunt, I saw more big bucks than I had seen in any whole hunting season.
Four of the bucks I saw would easily go 180 to 240 and up, and I am probably low-balling those estimates. There was so much action it was hard to keep up with it all.
Does came and went, so I tried to just age and score big bucks while we sat there. The variety would keep us on our toes all evening.
There was the perfect symmetrical 10-pointer that looked to be five to six years old and was a perfect specimen. Then there was the buck that came in and had so many points I quit trying to count at 22. He was sparring with another buck of almost equal “hornage.” That buck is in the accompanying pictures.
We let it get completely dark before sneaking out of the stand, and I was excited when Ray told me to meet him at the gate the following morning for yet another hunt. Ray is a long time hunter as am I, so we enjoyed each other’s company in the stand. He told me that one of his goals for clients who are hunting a special buck, he would be doing something most outfitters don’t, which is to let them hunt till they get that one particular buck. This could involve multiple hunts before they get their buck. He is also making his hunts all inclusive, lodging and meals included. This comes from decades of good and bad experiences he has had hunting other ranches.
The next morning he put me in another one of his Monarch stands (www.deerfeeder.com) that were tight, warm and comfortable—so the wait until daylight was easy. The songbirds and doves brought in the morning as we talked as quietly as possible, A young 1 1/2 year old buck walked in. He was already a 13-pointer, from the genetics of a 300 class buck .
Just as Ray was commenting that this one would be a giant in four to five years, a monster 12-pointer entered the area and pushed the young buck out. He proceeded to feed from the protein feeder. As he settled in, out of the corner of my right eye I caught movement as the most beautiful tall horned blackbuck antelope snuck in and brought our conversation to an immediate stop.
We watched as prime time rolled in and at least 20 deer were all around us. There were many multiple-point bucks, and bucks of all ages, with several over 12 points. They were true monsters, but they didn’t hang around long. There were so many nice bucks in and among the does that I couldn’t give them all the proper binocular or camera time they deserved.
I would have surely had buck fever at that point, had I been on the hunt for one of these bruisers, so I appreciated this dry run before getting to hunt this great ranch for real. At the end of that first weekend, Ray showed me a picture of a buck that he would be letting me hunt this coming season. Naturally, I agreed and thanked him for the offer. It was a 12-14 pointer, but I couldn’t really tell because he was still in velvet—but definitely a trophy. So I was eager to come the next weekend to get a look at him, to see the buck I would be hunting.
Now, just for those naysayers out there who write off high-fenced ranches as canned hunts, I can tell you this is not at all true. I hunted this buck on at least eight separate hunts and never once saw him. He was sighted by others, at other feeders, but I was always in the right place at the wrong time.
My second weekend hunt began in the middle of a nasty cold front with sleet blowing, so it was great to walk up and settle into those nice Monarch stands. Daylight first brought two groups of three-generation families of does to the feeders. The matriarch does kick-boxed for first bites, as the younger fawns chased each other. Then they fell into their positions and began to feed.
At that moment I caught movement from behind as two big-bodied deer entered the arena. First to clear the brush and into the opening was a perfect, symmetrical 10-pointer. Following him was an older version of him that was a majestic, tall, wide 12 point basket rack—a very impressive typical buck.
The two played off each other’s senses and methodically moved in through the does and checked the perimeter before feeling comfortable and settling in to feed. As we watched the bucks and does feed, a beautiful blackbuck antelope walked in, followed by a younger blackbuck and doe. They moved gracefully among the whitetails as if they were part of the group. A bigger blackbuck I had seen on an earlier hunt was a true trophy of his species, with spiraling horns that looked like 30-plus inches on each side.
I thought to myself, what a perfect end to a great hunt. But wait, it wasn’t dark yet and still more deer were trickling in. They all took turns at the protein feeder, and a few stopped on their way out at the corn feeder for a few kernels to chew on their way to their bedding areas. I saw monster typical and non-typical bucks with drop tines and blackbuck antelope, and, right at dark, a couple of pretty axis bucks showed up to cap it off. It was a well-rounded trip, another great outdoor experience to store in my memory banks.
Ray Hawrylak will be offering a half-dozen or so hunts this season (2016-17)—all inclusive, as mentioned earlier—and should have some bucks in the 300 class. The ranch has a lot of nice drop tine bucks on it.
I will be one of the hunters this year, so maybe I will get to do a follow-up story and be able to chronicle a successful hunt. Ray is also looking for a site to build new lodging with a view of the lake and has connected with a fishing guide for clients who want to fish or do other activities between hunts.
To learn more about this remarkable ranch, call 817-925-9690 or go to Ray’s website at www.pkgameranch.com.
—story by Dean Heffner