Word spread like wildfire about the slaying of the famed “BP' buck of Latimer County.
Hunters and local residents were outraged that the monster buck had been shot out of season, decapitated and its carcass left rotting less than 150 yards from SH 2, the road between Wilburton and Robbers Cave State Park.
Game Warden Shane Fields had been watching the buck for two years. “Pretty much babysitting it,” he said.
Fields learned its traveling patterns and where it liked to bed down at night. He knew a whitetail of that caliber would eventually attract a poacher.
Fields, the game warden for Pittsburg and Latimer counties, first learned of the buck's existence in 2007 when a landowner got a photo of it on his trail camera.
Fields didn't believe the man when first told that a buck with 200 inches of antlers had been on his place. Then he saw the photo, which quickly spread over the Internet and cell phone cameras.
“People in western Oklahoma and Texas knew about this buck,” Fields said.
In 2008, Fields believes the buck was adorned in headgear that would have been a state record.
“There is no telling what it would have scored,” he said.
It became known locally as the “BP” buck because it spent much of its time on land owned by British Petroleum.
Mostly, it roamed between the British Petroleum property and land owned by Eastern Oklahoma State College in Wilburton. Both were off limits to hunters.
But that didn't stop one man from shooting it.
“It made me sick at my stomach when I found the carcass,” Fields said. “I was very upset.”
The carcass was discovered on Oct. 1, 2009. It had been shot been shot several days earlier, Fields said.
Six weeks later, a tip from a confidential informant led authorities to execute a search warrant on a Bokoshe home.
The antlers from the “BP” buck were found hidden in an air duct compartment in a wall. Authorities also discovered 103 other untagged deer antlers in the home.
Kenny Nixon, 35, of Bokoshe pleaded guilty on March 17 in Latimer County to several misdemeanor wildlife violations in connection with the “BP” buck, including shooting a deer in a closed season and illegal possession of a whitetail deer.
He admitted shooting the buck with a .25.06 Browning rifle. Nixon was fined almost $5,000 and his lifetime hunting privileges were revoked for 20 years. He still may have to pay as much as $5,000 in restitution to the state.
Nixon also is facing possible wildlife violations in Le Flore County for illegal possession of 103 sets of antlers, said Fields, who has ticketed Nixon in the past for spotlighting deer. Records show that Nixon only has legally checked in four deer in his lifetime.
The “BP” rack measured 186 inches typical and 220 inches non-typical. A non-typical includes abnormal points in the scoring or measuring while those points are deducted on a typical rack.
State wildlife officials plan to use the “BP” rack in an educational display, part of a new Operation Game Thief trailer that the Oklahoma Station Chapter of Safari Club International has funded.
“It's going to have a wall of shame,” said Robert Fleenor, head of law enforcement for the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. “These antlers are going to be the centerpiece.”
Operation Game Thief
Operation Game Thief is a program where people can call a hot line and report suspected fish or game violations and receive cash rewards.
People can report violations by calling 1-800-522-8039 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Callers can remain anonymous.