Summer 2018 issue CANADA/USA 6.99
THE BARB WIRE BULL Darrick Gross FEATURE ARTICLE
GOOD THINGS COME TO THOSE WHO WAIT Dallas Cota
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In This Issue GOOD THINGS COME TO THOSE WHO WAIT 06 By Dallas Cota
THE BARBED WIRE BULL
THREE FOR FOUR
By Darrik Gross
By Eric Shippy
By Jackie Lawres
By Joshua Hirschfeld
GOOD THINGS COME TO THOSE WHO WAIT By Dallas Cota
Last Saturday around 10:30am I harvested a buck of a lifetime!
WAITING IS NEVER EASY
NEVER GIVE UP, THE BUCK OF A LIFETIME!
WILDERNESS DREAM HUNT
QUEST FOR MR. T
THE HEAVY FIVE
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE WOLF KIND
By Kelly Lesmeister
By Lane Carles
By Seth Carlisle
By Cody Griffin
FROM MOMENTS TO MEMORIES By Jon Behuniak
Driven by adrenaline, I steadied the sights and pulled the trigger. “You missed”, my grandpa hissed while holding back laughter.
FROM MOMENTS TO MEMORIES By Jon Behuniak
By Evan Schmidt
By Warren Smith
GOOD THINGS COME TO ... ... THOSE WHO WAIT! By Dallas Cota
Last Saturday around 10:30am I harvested a buck of a lifetime! After accumulating 14 years of priority, I decided 2017 was the year to pull my Alberta Mule deer tag. Yes, you read right, 14. I have a serious addiction to sheep hunting and the mountains they live in, chasing anything else has never really crossed my mind. So, with little to no knowledge of the area I drew the tag in, I was a little worried. By a stroke of luck, I met a local fellow that knew the area well, has harvested some cranker mule deer and had one hell of an eye and ability to judge deer on
the hoof. This skill is like nothing Iâ€™ve seen before. This fellow hunter started off as just a general acquaintance with a passion for big mule deer and a willingness to help out. The many hours spent together spotting deer, digging out trucks, walking coulees and telling me to hold off for a better deer, made him the key to my success. Of course, we had lots of laughs too! I was also welcomed into his home and treated like family. Whether this hunt was successful or not, a friend for life was made. 7
We had a few tips on three good deer that had been seen earlier during the archery portion of the season. One was a clean 190”, the second one was a 190” heavy framed deer with a split and the third was a 180” buck with a drop tine. I had set my sights on a 190” deer as the goal but with no sightings of any of the three deer we had heard of, we came to the realization that we had our work cut out for us. Travelling back roads and chicken trails in snow storms, not to mention several truck extractions from waist deep snow drifts, had us questioning our sanity and reason. Although it was all fun at the time, and looking back on it we can have a laugh. At the end of the day these things take their toll on you mentally. After passing on more good bucks than I care to admit, a guy starts to question himself. “When is enough? When have you seen all the deer, have you seen the biggest deer in this zone? Will you ever see the buck you just passed on again?” are all thoughts racing through your mind. And then, having friends telling you not to pass on a deer that you’d shoot on the last day, is another factor that weighs on you. The pressure was continually building, with many highs and lows. Friday morning, we saw the #2 buck on our list, or as I referred to him as the “Friday buck”. He was a 185”-190” heavy framed buck with the split. We decided after a short glassing session that we should keep looking and come back later to reevaluate. Friday afternoon came around and we made our way back to take a look at the “Friday buck”. Long story short, he had disappeared. Feeling deflated and questioning the early morning pass, I spotted a good framed deer walking away in the back of the field. We raced to find a better glassing position. Quickly we determined he was buck #3, the drop tine buck. He had a decent frame, 175”-185” and a unique twisting drop tine made him very appealing. A quick look through the spotter and we knew it was the drop tine buck we had been looking for. With only two 8
minutes of legal shooting light left, I decided to wait until morning. We watched him to well after dark and left the field with him in his bed and us on an all-time high. First thing Saturday morning we were on our way back to the field where we left the drop tine buck the evening before. We set out earlier than any of the previous days, but as luck would have it, we had extremely high visibility due to the clear skies which now had us racing to the field, worried that someone else may see or find the drop tine buck before us. As we turned down the last road, we looked ahead to see a truck ahead of us and our hearts sank. We tentatively watched to see if it was headed into the same field where we left the drop tine buck. The truck continued passed our respective field and we were elated. We pulled in, started to glass and wait for legal shooting light. Long before legal light, we came to the realization that the drop tine buck was gone.
“Friday morning, we saw the #2 buck on our list, or as I referred to him as the “Friday buck”. He was a 185”190” heavy framed buck with the split.” We headed out of the field even more deflated than the day before and resolved to eating strudels and cupcakes to drown our sorrows. Still not giving up, we put the spotting scopes to work again. We spotted a few good framed deer in the next quarter to the east of the field we had just left. They deserved a better look but required us to gain some permission before we could get closer. Once we obtained permission, which was foot access only, we made our way through the
Dallas Cota anchored a buck of a lifetime hunting in his home province of Alberta in 2017. He spends most of his time chasing sheep but decided it was time to cash in his 14 years of Alberta priority draw points on mule deer in 2017. Needless to say it was worth the wait when he tagged this tremendous mule deer. Dallas is also the Canadian Sales and Marketing Manager for Kuiu Ultralight Hunting. www.kuiu.com
farmer’s yard and instantly spotted a good buck about 650yards away. As I was setting up my angled spotting scope to get a better look, my buddy shouted, “It’s the drop tine buck!” I looked back to see him holding his spotter up like a pirate, I laughed as he said, “You are too damn slow.”
stalk. We were one small hill away from where the drop tine buck and his does were bedded. As we snuck around the last hill we bumped three does that we were unable to see. As our luck would have it, they got up and ran behind the hill, then picked up the other does, the drop tine buck and headed west.
Completely out of character, I said, “Well let’s go and look at the rest of the deer we saw up further before pursuing drop tine.” The look on my buddie’s face was priceless. About 200 yards later it dawned on me that I had just passed on the drop tine buck twice. I quickly said to my buddy, “Hey, let’s go kill the drop tine buck!” He was elated and we headed back and began a simple, textbook
The drop tine buck stopped at about 440yds, and I was able to send two shots his way. Being somewhat rushed and a good crosswind they were clean misses which resulted in the drop tine buck and his harem of does heading another 700 yards farther west. A quick sprint and I was able to close the distance to a big hill. I believed the deer to be on the other side. Peaking up over I saw antler 9
tips. Returning back to the base of the hill to catch my breath and wait for my buddy, we collected ourselves and belly crawled to the top of the hill. With drop tine bedded and nine does staring directly in our direction, we cautiously creeped over the top and got into position. A well placed 220 yard shot to the bedded drop tine buck brought this adventure of massive highs and lows to an end. Walking up to the buck of a lifetime, the antlers kept getting bigger and I started to shake. In a previous conversation with my buddy, I had told him that if we see a big shooter buck, not to tell me how big he was and to just say “shoot” to avoid me getting the infamous buck fever. So, as we started the walk up to our quarry, as I had never really looked at the antlers closely during the previous events, I was overwhelmed with respect and
admiration of this magnificent animal. I was at a loss for words and shaking as I picked up the antlers from the snow. A little history is that this buck was spotted on October 30th and 31st and hadn’t been seen since. When we spotted him on the evening of November 18th, he was 16 miles from the original field where he was 20 days earlier and another four miles away from the evening before. These big mature bucks will travel many miles when the rut is on and show up anywhere. To anyone chasing big mule deer, keep at it and don’t give up. You never know what’s in the next field or coulee. And I guarantee you’ll experience many highs and lows during your adventure. This buck is as much my buddies as it is mine. A team effort all around was needed to harvest this buck of a lifetime.
THE BARBED WIRE BULL By Darrick Gross
The day I found out that I had been drawn for elk, I felt like I had won the lottery. In the previous year, mid December 2016, a massive bull elk had come across my trail camera. It was fate that I was now going to have the opportunity to make him mine. In the time leading up to the season I was filled with hope and anticipation. Unfortunately, when the season opened up I was not seeing anything. There were pictures circulating of some really nice elk others had harvested, but I was not having any luck. Reality caught up to me quickly and I realized this was not going to be easy. It was going to take more than luck and fate for me to take down my dream elk. I was able to call in a few small bulls, but I passed on them in hopes of bigger and better opportunities in the late season. It was very frustrating to not be able to find any decent bulls. What had started out as feeling like my lucky season was turning out to be a disappointment. The September season for elk passed by and I switched gears to whitetail. While out in one of my Dad’s pastures looking for a big buck I came over a hill and spotted a herd of bull elk. I counted six smaller bulls and one big guy. I watched them get 12
up and wander around a bush to join up with five more bulls. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Seeing this herd renewed my enthusiasm and gave me hope for the upcoming December season. Day one of the late season was a let down, I did not see a single elk. After that I didn’t have another opportunity to get out for the rest of the week due to work. I had holidays booked for the following Monday and Tuesday, which were the last two days of the season. I knew I would not want to be at work those days if I hadn’t yet been able to get an elk. After getting through the work week, we were back at it again. We searched all weekend, seeing only herds of cows and a few small bulls. Monday morning, we set out again, this time with a friend who was excited just to get the chance to see elk in the wild. We spent most of the day searching the land around our farm, then decided to meet up with another friend, Scotty, who was only a few miles away. On our way to meet him I skipped going down a dirt road, remembering the dead end from the day before, and decided to drive another mile to the grid road. It was 3:30 and we hadn’t seen a thing. 13
Disappointment was creeping in. All of a sudden, my friend yelled at me, I looked over and saw two small elk about 100 yards in to the pasture. My buddy was encouraging me to take my shot, as we both knew it may have been the best I could do. It was the second last day of the season and we weren’t seeing anything. I was reluctant to shoot one of the small guys, but I knew it might be my only chance to fill my freezer. I got out of the truck, grabbed my rifle, and noticed that the glass in the scope was turned sideways. We were able to fix this scope rather quickly, but by that time the elk had moved about half a mile in to the field. We stood watching them, waiting to see where they would end up. It wasn’t long before we noticed that on top of the hill to the right of these guys were 7 nice bulls waiting for them to catch up. I immediately called Scotty and told him that we had found the herd of bull elk and to get over to us as fast as he could. Everything was perfect. We were downwind, so they saw us but did not get spooked. When the two smaller elk caught up to the herd they slowly took off over the hill and out of our sight, but we knew what direction they were headed. When Scotty found us, we made a plan for him to get around them and us to head out where we last saw them. We waited until he got in to position, and that’s when we headed in to the field to the location we had last seen the herd. We started in to the field and tried to stay down wind as best as we could while we made our way to the bottom of the hill where the elk had disappeared from sight. I went through a slough and started up the hill, close to the top I spotted one and then another just to the right of him. I took another step and realized that the rest of them were down in the hollow about 150 yards in front of me! It was amazing to see these massive majestic animals so close. They saw me as well though, and started to take off. They went about fifty yards and then
stopped to look back at me. At that moment, I knew I had to be quick. I had a split second to decide which I thought was the biggest and then I took a free-standing shot. I ran through the hollow and up to the next hill and there he was. Everything happened so incredibly fast, it was hard to comprehend what had just taken place. Scotty had watched the whole thing from his spotting scope and was able to confirm that I had taken down the biggest one of the herd. It was amazing and fascinating how everything so suddenly came together and it turned out to be the perfect hunt!
“At that moment, I knew I had to be quick. I had a split second to decide which I thought was the biggest and then I took a free-standing shot.” I want to give a special thanks to all the people who helped. The first person I want to thank, and the one who encouraged and supported me the most is my wife, Alauna. The next is Scotty Garner, he was there every day with me and believed that I was going to get the big one. He was there from beginning to end. I want to thank my Mom and Dad for all their help and for the use of their tractor and Quonset. Lastly thanks to Brandon for doing the rough score and taking him to get panel scored with Henry Kelsey. 434 4/8 non-typical was the final number! Thanks to everybody that helped, it was a dream come true.
We waited until he got in to position, and that’s when we headed in to the field to the location we had last seen the herd. We started into the field and tried to stay down wind as best as we could while we made our way to the bottom of the hill where the elk had disappeared from sight.
THREE FOR FOUR By Eric Shippy
This season started out a little different than most. I went into the season with a different outlook, promising myself to stay positive no matter the outcome and with a solid plan in place. It just so happened to be the best season anyone could ask for.
I had set a goal to try and take a mule deer, bull moose, bull elk and a whitetail all in one season and all with my bow! “Big goals equal big results, I hoped” Although I fell slightly short of my goal and was unfortunately not able to fold my tag on a whitetail, I was still more than happy. My youngest sister Jackie and I headed south to start off the 2017 season chasing mule deer. We arrived at our destination in Alberta, a day before the Friday, September 1st opener to do a quick scout and to confirm permissions. This was a totally new zone and area that I had never hunted and we gratefully accepted the challenge. Moving forward to day one of the season, we had spotted several deer that morning. A couple of them definitely fell into the ‘shooter’ class. So the hunt began. Trying to get on one of these deer proved to be more of a challenge than first expected. Once in the large, steep, jagged coulees they seemed to disappear into the thick, and I mean thick, brush in the bottoms. So thick in fact that it could hide a herd of elk in a 20 X 70 yard chunk! However, we kept on trying to locate a buck to go after. After searching for a couple hours, we finally found a beautiful 3x4 in full velvet bedded in a perfect position, so we started the stalk. With very little wind, and dry, crunchy conditions, this was just one of the challenges we were faced with this week. We managed to make it to 25 yards straight above him and it was looking promising. I believe he must have heard something he didn’t like given the conditions. So needless to say, he didn’t stick around.
Since this was only the first day, Jackie and I decided to work a coulee on the way back towards the truck to venture to another location. We decided to cut down through the coulee and push through this thick chunk of brush. When we started our climb out, Jackie spotted something in the brush in the bottom.
“My first thought was that it was a just a moose so I glassed it and holy smokes; it was a bull elk browsing the willow tops!” Excited was an understatement. We moved into a better position to set up. In this small chunk of brush, 20x70 yards or so, there was a handful of elk. While in position, a cow came out followed by her calf and they decided to bed 30 yards away in the open. Another cow came out and headed down the drainage. Two and a half hours later in the plus 30OC temps, the bull finally stepped out at 35 yards slightly quartering towards us. This is where practice, knowing your equipment and having full confidence come into play. A quick shot followed with an insurance shot, and we had a bull down! A few high fives and some fist bumps with Jackie was simply incredible. I usually prefer to solo hunt but I will go everyday of the week with the little sis. From there, the work began. We got him quartered and cooling as quick as possible. With the first load on our backs we headed back to the truck. Once we got into cell service, we made a call to a couple good friends that I knew were in the same zone, Blaze Miner and Derrick Weibe. It turned out that they were close, super close, so close in fact that they almost saw it all go down! I’m so grateful for friends and family that are willing to lend a hand and help pack out.
The next day was spent getting the bull taken care of and regrouping. Sunday rolled around, and due to regulations, we were limited to scouting as well as practicing to be on point for Monday. Early the following morning we headed back to the same place where we had spotted all the deer on Friday. When we arrived, there was a true giant on the flats with a group of young bucks heading to the deep, gnarly coulees. We didn’t need a second look at this monarch and we bailed out of the truck. Jackie and I tried to catch up to them to see were they were heading and just like that, they all disappeared like a bunch of dang ghosts. This turned out to be a long day full of searching, glassing and pushing, just to turn up empty handed and not spotting another deer all day. Tuesday morning, September 5th is a day I will never forget as long as I live. Same road, same time and as sure as the sun will rise, there he was, not even 50 yards off the edge of the road. We stopped and admired him for a minute before he slowly made his way to the ‘sweat boxes,’ also known as coulees. We decided to leave the truck without our packs and water with expectations that it was going to be a short hunt. Turns out we were wrong; this was the longest day full of challenges in all forms. From managing patience, to keeping composure through some of the most heart pounding excitement, to being uncomfortable for hours and enduring the excruciating heat without water. Talk about cottonmouth! Everything we did, every decision we made, seamed to be the right ones up until he disappeared. Losing sight of him while four kilometers from the truck, we began to think we passed him in a coulee. Jackie and I were almost down in the river flats and small drainages when we decided to hunt our way back. It was looking like it was going to play out just like the previous mornings, but a last quick glance and there he was. He was about 800 yards away and he had just dropped into a small drainage so Jackie and I booked it! There was a small patch of bush maybe 10x20 yards and I knew he had to be tucked in tight somewhere. We inched up and all 21
I saw was giant front forks full of fuzzy velvet at 28 yards away. My heart was pounding, my mind was racing, everything in me was telling me to stand up and shoot but I got ahold of my nerves and settled out for a long, grueling hot sit in plus 35oC. With every twitch of his antlers my adrenaline would skyrocket. I had never been so close to a deer of this caliber. After almost five hours, he finally stood up, giving me a small shooting window through the brush. I sent an arrow, and to be honest, the shot was not perfect, hitting slightly back. We watched him run up the drainage about 150 yards and bed. I knew the first shot was fatal, but I had an opportunity to get another shot on him. I got into 20 yards and this time released a perfect shot. He ran a short distance and expired. Still in disbelief from the bull elk a few days prior, we were now in amazement as we had a huge mule deer on the ground. As we walked up to recover him, he continued to grow. My first mule deer was a giant! After some photos and some more high fives and hugs, the work once again began. But this time around, we had to start off with a five kilometer hike to the truck to grab our packs and 22
most importantly water. At the end of the day, we were able to get him cooled off and back to the truck without suffering heat stroke. I would have been more than happy with a bull elk and mule deer but I still had time and goals in mind. After getting home and spending a couple of days regrouping, building some more arrows, I headed north after my bull moose. I shared a camp with the Wiebe family and low and behold, God had another success planned for me. Three days up north, with again some of the most action that I had ever encountered. From bull elk screaming in my face to a rutting bull moose 15 yards away destroying willows, I was able to capitalize on a great bull at 25 yards. He had come in for a fight that he was no match for. A one-minute stare down while at full draw, he gave in first and I released the arrow. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take my second bull. I would like to extend a thank you to all those who support me including my wife and daughter also to G5 Outdoors, Prime Bows and Spot Hogg Archery.
SHOOTER By Jackie Lawres
When the draw results came out in the spring, I knew it was going to be a great hunting year for the books!
“My fiancé Carroll had been rewarded either sex elk, and I had been rewarded Either sex moose and mule deer.” We were ecstatic about all three but the mule deer tag excited me the most because it was a species I wasn’t really familiar with. I grew up in Northwestern Ontario in a fairly small town not far from Lake of the Woods and Mule deer were something we didn’t often see roaming around. My parents were the ones who got me into guns and hunting. Growing up we were a super outdoorsy family. In the summer, any nice day we could we were on the water fishing and during the fall my parents would pull my two brothers and I out of school to go bird hunting. We also spent a lot of time at the shooting range which I’m probably the most thankful for now. I still, to this day, can’t remember the first time I even shot a gun; I just remember loving it my whole childhood and I always seemed to have a freaky good shot. My Dad has always hunted moose and deer and I remember the excitement every time he came home with a kill, but I didn’t get into big game hunting until I met Carroll almost five years ago, after moving out to southeast Saskatchewan on a whim. Since he introduced me to it, I’ve never looked back. I shot my first whitetail buck in the winter of 2014, he was an ancient deer who barely had any tines left. We joke that he looked like melted candle wax and I really couldn’t have asked for a better first buck. I’m not sure who was more excited, Carroll, my Dad, or me. I’d say it was a three way tie. I then ended up shooting a nicer whitetail buck in the winter of 2015, and then an almost 300” bull elk in the fall of 2016. When my draw moose season opened up this fall 26
I had unintentionally booked a trip during it so I only had a few days to get the job done. On our fourth and last day of not seeing anything worth pulling the trigger on, we positioned ourselves at the edge of a corn field and my brother-in-law Klint let out a few grunts to see if we could draw anything out. Within seconds we could hear corn smashing and right ahead of us this bull was coming in hot, straight at us. I couldn’t even see his antlers because they were so full of corn, he was raking the corn sending it flying through the air and he was closing in FAST. He was mad and was looking for a scrap. He ended up coming right in to about 20 yards and gave me a perfect broadside shot. I squeezed the trigger and dropped him with a clean shot to the lungs. I thought that nothing would ever even come close to the excitement of that hunt… until my mule deer happened. After posting my draw results on Facebook, one of our friends Heath commented that he knew some people in the zone I was drawn in. Within minutes he had hooked us up with land to hunt, and a place to stay. Trying not to wish the summer away, the countdown to November 1st started and it felt like a lifetime. When it finally arrived we all met down there on opening day, met the locals and made a plan for the morning. The first day of hunting we decided to do some scouting and get our bearings in the area. I was blown away at how many deer and just wildlife in general we saw. This was my first time spending any time in the southwest side of the province and I still can’t get over the beauty of it, those rolling hills and coulees really are something else. It also helped that it seemed like every fifth coulee was loaded with mule deer. I’ll admit I was a bit trigger happy the first day. Not being used to mule deer, every time I saw a nice buck I would think it was a shooter, so Heath and Carroll quickly took away my trigger rights and joked that I wasn’t allowed to even touch the gun until they said, “Shooter”. Since we had already filled our elk and moose tags, they wanted me to shoot a nice big mature buck, not just shoot
“So much for my ‘good feeling’ about the morning,” I thought. After about an hour I shrugged it off and just kept telling myself that something better was up ahead and it didn’t work out for a reason. I’ve always believed that everything happens for a reason, and this time that was definitely the case. We went back to where we were staying and cooked up some lunch. After that we decided to go for a pheasant hunt to kill some time while we waited for our local friend Serge to finish up some chores on his farm. He was going to take us out scouting on his land to see if there was anything worth putting a hunt on. When he was finished we went to pick him and his eagle-eyed son Chase up. I have to admit at this point I was feeling a lot of pressure. I was the only one with a gun and a tag and I really didn’t want to make myself look stupid in front of four people! Especially four guys who all really know how to hunt. I was freaking out a bit, to put it lightly. Pretty much the minute we left Serge’s yard we started seeing deer.
Jackie Lawres enlisted the help of friends and some local landowners when she pulled a draw tag in southwest Saskatchewan. She travelled from her home in southeast Saskatchewan and proceeded to tag a monster 213” buck. It was her first ever mule deer and only weeks after tagging a big bull moose in her home zone.
one to fill a tag and be done. Thank god they didn’t let me convince them otherwise. At the end of day one, we had seen a few nice bucks and marked where they were on a map so if it came down to the last day we could always go back and look for them if need be. But I kept telling the guys that I had a good feeling about the next morning. The next morning, we woke up and headed out. It had snowed a bit overnight which got us all excited and I still had that good feeling from the day before. We did see a decent buck that morning, but I was told it was too small. So, being pretty upset about not being able to try and hunt it, I kept quiet and tried my best to be hopeful that something better was up ahead. We parked up on a ridge where we were surrounded by coulees. While the guys were glassing looking for 28
something we could put a hunt on, I decided to hop out, stretch my legs and just look over the edge of a coulee that was right in front of us. Well I wasn’t even 15 feet from the truck when I jumped up a NICE buck. I froze in my tracks, spun around and looked at the guys like I had just seen a ghost. Of course, I didn’t bring a gun with me when I went to peek over this edge! “Rookie move,” I thought. Heath and Carroll both had binoculars on it as soon as they could see it. They told me it was a shooter and to get my butt back to the truck and grab a gun. Carroll and I ran down a hill to try and get a shot on him while Heath stayed up high to see where he ended up going. The bipod got stuck in some snow and the scope was way too zoomed in so I couldn’t get him in it. The buck ended up running over a hill and gave us the slip. He was gone and I wanted to throw up.
We were hunting on his land so they knew the ups and downs of it like the back of their hands, and how the deer move in it. This was a huge advantage. Chase ended up spotting a buck in a herd of about 20 out in the distance. After putting the binoculars to it and everyone getting a good look, they all agreed that it was a shooter. I had told the guys previously that if it’s a monster buck just to play it off like it’s a decent one, otherwise I’d crack under the pressure and probably just freeze up. They did exactly that.
“Ok Jackie, it’s just a nice buck.” “It’s not massive, it’s just decent. Has some junk, perfect buck for you”
I still find it hilarious that I believed them. I took a peek and agreed it looked like a good buck, I wasn’t going to doubt them at this point. Serge knew how to get around them without spooking them. So off we went in hopes that we could park the truck somewhere they wouldn’t see and put the sneak on them. We came over a hill and there they were, not where we were expecting them to be. Half of the herd split one way and half of them went the other. Lucky for me the one I was after had went off in the right direction for a chance at a shot. I ran to a nearby fence to get a good rest on it. He was in a herd of about 10 other deer and a couple of the others were decent bucks. There was no doubting which one he was once I got the scope up. As soon as I got him in the crosshairs two other bucks closed in right behind him, single file, and he was in the lead. I couldn’t get a clean shot at him! Shaking like a leaf, I somehow kept him in the scope and in a split second the two that were behind him split off to the side, I took a deep breath and squeezed the trigger. He was on a dead run away from me at about 200 yards. I looked up and couldn’t tell if I had hit him or not but I heard Serge say, “I think she got him!”. We decided that the best plan would be to intercept him at the next fence line. Serge and Chase were still sure that I had hit him with my first shot, but we weren’t exactly sure how good of a shot it was. I still wasn’t overly convinced. I was too busy beating myself up in my mind for not dropping him in his tracks. When we caught up to the herd again, all of them had crossed the fence already and were on still the move. At first Carroll thought that my buck was gone with the others. That’s when Heath and Chase piped up that no, he wasn’t in the group. We inched up a bit farther along the fence line and in a low spot there he was. Standing there, like a gift from God. My jaw almost hit the ground! He knew he couldn’t make the jump over the fence with the others. Carroll and I put the bipod down and 29
got into position, I lined him up in the scope and squeezed again, he dropped. It was the biggest relief I think I’ve ever felt. Still at this point I didn’t know just how BIG he really was, it was when we got up to him after the fact that I realized it. He has that gorgeous unique white face on him and the double throat patch along with over 200 inches of bone! This is a bucket list buck that anyone would be pumped to get. Yet, I was the one who got him AND he was my FIRST mule deer. The luck I felt in that moment is pretty indescribable, every time I think back to that day all of the emotions come flooding back. We got my field pictures with him and then hurried back to the shop to get him dealt with and scored. He ended up grossing 213” and netting an unbelievable 204 6/8”! We were talking earlier that day and I said I didn’t want to shoot a monster because then what would I have to look forward to in the future? I’d have a hard time beating that. And Heath said, “You get to
stare at your giant buck forever and remember the hunt” and he couldn’t have been more correct.
“This is a hunt I will cherish for the rest of my life and this great story will never be a boring one to tell.” None of it would have happened without the help and hospitality of a few great people. Carroll, Heath, Serge, Chase, Cody & January. Thank you for everything you guys did for me that weekend. And last but definitely not least, thank you to my amazing parents for getting me involved in the beauty and fun of the outdoors at a young age. Photography by Arlis Hanson
BUSH KINGS By Joshua Hirschfeld
The only thing better then having your wife as a hunting partner, is watching your wife drop a bigger buck than you! She let me have my glory for a short week and then she set her cross hairs on the king. Having had our trail camera set up since the end of August, we had checked thousands of pictures. With the same small bucks coming in daily we figured it was just a regular year. Mid October we finally got a picture of a good deer. He was a main frame 4x4 with a 7 1/2 drop tine. ‘Good deer’ may have been a bit of an understatement. He was amazing! Hayleigh instantly fell in love and he became number one on our hit list. We had our stand set up for both archery and rifle, not wanting to miss an opportunity. He was coming in every day like clock work, it seemed like it was going to be a piece of cake. As we all know too well, real life gets in the way. I went up north to guide whitetail and Hayleigh was on the road 32
from cattle show to cattle show for the entire month. I continued checking trail cam pics, and he had clearly become the new boss of the area. He was there almost all day long every day for the duration of two weeks, all while we were gone! Then the rut came and he began showing up less and less. We still had hope but we knew it was going to be a challenge. With the bigger bucks starting to make more and more mistakes, we decided that we needed to try and keep the deer away from the roads. We set up a new spot about one mile away from our original spot in hopes to keeping the deer in the bush as oppose to the fields. It really goes to show how deer have boundaries, the first day the camera was out we had a new monster show up. He had giant brow tines and mass like I hadn’t seen in a long
time. I literally started shaking looking at his pictures. I decided that I was going to set up to hunt this dream buck with my bow. A bow kill is always more satisfying to me. I finished up my guiding season with time to spare. First time in five years that I’ve had time to hunt for my self. I’m not a very patient person but with a buck like this I knew I was going to have to work for it! I sat for four long cold days in that ground blind, the first day was slow, -18 degrees Celsius and 20 to 30 km/hr wind. With the second day in full swing the weather was way better, -16 degrees Celsius and 4-8 km/hr wind. I had deer all over and it wasn’t even legal shooting light yet. Around 9:30 I heard a twig snap and looked to my left, all I saw were horns. I picked up my bow and waited for him to step out.
He was giant, but it was the 4x4 with the drop tine that Hayleigh had fallen so hard for, I just couldn’t shoot him. Knowing that the brow tine buck was out there made it a little easier to leave that guy. He came in and out of the stand four times that day, each time getting harder and harder to pass. When the third day came I was so excited still from the previous day that it didn’t even bother me that I hadn’t seen a deer all morning. Noon rolled around and I had only seen one deer, that’s when the regret popped into my head.
“Why did I let that buck slip away!! The feeling was eating at me all day”. 33
“With only five minutes of shooting light left she got down on her knee, set her gun on the shooting sticks and squeezed off a shot.”
I called Hayleigh that night and told her all about it. With her show season in full swing I was convinced that she wasn’t going to have anytime to hunt this deer! After a bit of sweet talking, she gave me her blessing that if I had the opportunity again I was going to take it! The fourth day was my last day, the wind was going to switch and I had to go back to work. Of course, as my luck would have it, I only saw two deer all morning. I couldn’t handle it, I was already un zipping my heater body suit to pack it in when a little buck walked in. It was a sign, it had to be a sign. I sat back down and waited. With the last half hr of legal shooting light left I started to see deer again. A couple little bucks chasing a doe who was clearly in heat. I thought to my self, “If this doesn’t bring a big boy in, nothing will.” Just as I said that I saw him out of the corner of my eye. The 4x4 was walking straight in, no hesitation at all. He stopped broad side at 19 yards, I drew back my bow and watched my luminock disappear into his chest. I haven’t shaken like that in a long time. I couldn’t even comprehend what had just happened. Sitting for four days straight and it all came down to the very last 10 minutes.
“I phoned Hayleigh instantly, I could tell she was excited for me but at the same time I had just shot “her” deer!” As I made the walk out I phoned my buddy Shane! Told him the story and he was pumped. No one likes a big buck down more than him! After waiting for what seemed like forever I made my way back to where he ran. I picked up the blood trail right away. Walking only thirty five yards I found him! After dragging him out and loading him in the truck I still hadn’t calmed down, this was my first whitetail buck with my bow and it 34
was in the end of November! Hayleigh returned home later that week and it was back to work for the both of us! The weekend came and she decided that with the ”brow tine” buck still at large she had to give it a shot. She only had a day and a half to hunt, but luck is usually on her side. We made our way to the stand around 2:00pm, a late start to the day but we had obligations that morning. We had this buck on camera on Wednesday, we were hoping that he was not locked down with a doe. Now if there is anyone who’s is more impatient than I am it’s Hayleigh. She got into the heater body suit, got all set up and we waited! Three hours went by, we had only seen a few deer and her feet were frozen. We decided to get out of the stand a little earlier to see if maybe he was out grazing in the field. As we walked over the hill we could see more and more deer. And wouldn’t you know it, he was standing on the edge of the field about 300 yards away. We could make his brow tines out clear as day and he was larger than life! We slowly snuck up a bit to close the distance between us. We got within a couple hundred yards and had to make a stand. With only five minutes of shooting light left she got down on her knee, set her gun on the shooting sticks and squeezed off a shot.
Thwack! The sound of her bullet hitting that deer was deafening! We watched him run and I was sure I could see his front leg dragging! He disappeared into the bush and the day quickly turned into night, everything was quiet. Hayleigh finally calmed down enough that we could attempt to look for a blood trail. With hundreds of deer tracks out in the field it was going to be impossible to find his, especially in the dark. It’s
a hard call to make but we decided that we would let him lay and not pressure him. As for as far as we knew he could be laying 20 yards inside the bush!! It was a long sleepless night for the both of us. Replaying the whole thing over and over in our minds, talking about what we would do differently. I could tell she thought she missed completely, her excitement started to dwindle. We were up bright and earl the next morning, we made our way back to where we figured he made it into the bush. With in minutes we found his blood trail, finally the excitement started to grow again. We followed the blood for a while but then it just stopped, we went in every direction, but nothing! We knew he was hit and it was a matter of time before we found his blood again. Hayleigh went one way, I went the other looking for any sign of him. In the distance I could hear Hayleigh yell. She had found his track again! This time he had bedded up and was bleeding a lot.
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JOIN TODAY! ORIGINAL
Late in the 2017 season, Joshua Hirschfeld tagged a tremendous droptine buck that his wife Hayleigh had been targeting. However, he only had a few days to enjoy being the one to tag the biggest buck of the year as only a couple days later Hayleigh tagged Joshua’s number one target buck! Both are tremendous Saskatchewan whitetails and Josh and Hayleigh will definitely have their work cut out for them to beat the 2017 whitetail season.
I knew for sure we were going to find him. With him bedding up every few yards he wasn’t going to make it very far, but this guy was relentless. We quickly made a plan. We got Hayleigh’s Dad to pick her up and drive around to the far side of the quarter. Hayleigh began making her way down the fence line. She had only walked about 20 yards when she saw a doe and fawn jump the fence. Her heart started to race, she knew he could be right behind them. She kept creeping up, slowly and meticulously. All of a sudden, he was there, facing her head on at 100 yards. He was so recognizable, you couldn’t miss those brow tines from a mile away. She froze, flicked the safety off and got down on one knee. She had him on her cross hairs, took a couple deep breathes and pulled the trigger. She laid him down right there on the fence line. Finally! That moment could not have been more 36
“It was in that moment that I knew she kicked my ass. None the less, it was one of the most rewarding years to date! Both bucks truly were Bush Kings.” rewarding. Having her Dad there to share it with her made it even more special. We walked up to this Saskatchewan giant and stared in awe. It was in that moment that I knew she kicked my ass. None the less, one of the most rewarding years to date! Both bucks truly were Bush Kings.
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FROM MOMENTS TO MEMORIES By Jon Behuniak
My fingers numb from the cold, I fumbled around my pocket in search of a shell in my haste to reload. Driven by adrenaline, I steadied the sights and pulled the trigger. â€œYou missedâ€?, my grandpa hissed while holding back laughter.
Jon Behuniak grew up hunting grouse, berry picking, spending weeks all summer outdoors. All of it led to a serious drive to get outside. Eventually, he picked up whitetail hunting and in 2017, downed a classic mature, mahogany antlered, Alberta whitetail. The big deer was holed up with a herd of does at the peak of the rut when Jon snuck in on them and made the shot count when they all busted out of cover at close range.
I watched as two of the three ruffed grouse flew out of sight. One didn’t fly; my first shot had found its target! I went to collect my prize that grandma was sure to transform into the succulent creamed grouse I grew up to love. After dinner my grandpa watched as I wandered over to the old shed in the corner of the farm yard. I loved going into that old rickety shed, for that was where my grandpa and uncle kept most of the discarded antlers from past hunts. Moose racks, elk, sheep and goats; I still get giddy thinking about it! That night grandpa came walking over holding something, a huge moose shed antler! He had found it years ago and just tossed it into a corner. He handed it to me, nearly as big as I was at the time! My eyes doubled in size when he said I could have it, I clasped onto the dark mahogany coloured treasure and swore to never let it go! 20 years later I still have that antler! Little did I know those simple moments in time would lead up to a lifetime of memories. We all can look back at moments that shaped who we are. Things that seemed insignificant at the time, but as years pass, its evident those simple seconds have turned into the foundation of our lives. For me, it’s the early days of riding in my Dad’s old Ford looking for grouse, berry picking with my grandparents, spending the summers living out of a camper with friends and family, walking the riverbeds looking for dinosaur bones and fossils, and the list goes on. It all led to a serious drive to be outdoors. Almost instinctively, I found myself outside more and more. I loved ecology and all things about animals, nature was my playground. Soon, I found myself obsessed with understanding mature whitetails and their habits. When I harvested my first whitetail in 2003, that little fork horn was the biggest buck in the world to me! After the shot, I made my way to the downed deer, I was startled by flushing two ruffed grouse, and my mind drifted as I recalled the two grouse that got away on the same field edge years ago. Year after year, my passion grew, and nine whitetail bucks later here I sat. Again, I found myself cold, alone and 40
in the dark. I was happy! It was mid November and the rut was coming in hot! I had set up a stand 30 yards from a quagmire of scrapes and rubs. The bitter cold shot through my boots into the tip of my head. I was numb from the inside out! My grunt call was frozen to my lips!
“Out of the corner of my eye I caught movement, This is it, I thought. I glanced over to see the tan body move behind a spruce tree twenty-five yards away.” HE WAS WORKING A SCRAPE! I could hear the pounding hoofs and antlers smacking off the frozen twigs. Instinctively I went to draw my bow in preparation for what was to come. I can tell you, after five hours of sitting in -25 Celsius my arms didn’t like the seventy-pound draw weight, with shaking arms and wobbly legs I finally came to full draw! The deer was on the move and soon cleared the underbrush. A young two-year-old buck passed by at fifteen yards. My heart slowed as I let the young deer walk by. He was not what I was looking for. The following days had me back up and down that stand ladder. The cold was still there. There was no shortage of that! But the deer, they had seemed to be laying low. I figured more does had been coming into heat and the bucks moved off the rub line for now. So I began to scout for a new stand location. Rifle in hand I slipped in around downwind of some of my old honey holes. The tracks told me all I needed to know, the Clydesdale sized hoof prints zig-zagging in and out of the small parcel of bush had me convinced. That evening a huge
blizzard moved in, visibility was terrible. I couldn’t even see the end of my rifle barrel! I left looking like frosty the snowman, without seeing a single animal. Work called early the next day and I was out of hunting commission. The skies had cleared, and it was crisp and cool! That’s the weather that makes deer move! I was as giddy as a kid in a candy store. Would you believe me if I told you that I ended work early that day? In a hop, skip and a jump I found myself walking along an all too familiar field edge working downwind of a bedding area. This time I didn’t even flinch when two ruffed grouse flushed from the bush. Though I only had an hour or so until dark, I was pleased to see fresh tracks littered the field from the night before. My senses peaked, I worked my way around the edge of the bush. My plan was to set up on the small cleared seismic line that cuts through the timber.
“With every step I took, my heart thumped in my chest, anticipating an explosion of deer if I spooked them.” Sure enough, one of those steps it happened. A flagging tail bouncing up from the field edge 30 yards away! The small single doe ran off out of sight. “Busted like a rat in a trap,” I mused to myself, while I scanned the bush with my binoculars for any sign of life. Admittedly, I felt slightly defeated. My paced quickened as I still had a hundred yards to go. I knew I was down but not out, so I didn’t let my guard down at all. I don’t know how they do it, but deer can seemingly disappear or appear out of nowhere! Suddenly, with one step an eruption that would rival Krakatoa exploded in the bush 42
a mere stone throw from me! Does were bounding left and right through the bush. All but one stayed in the cover of the trees. I shouldered my rifle when I gazed upon mahogany set of heavy antlers bobbing straight down the cutline. He appeared only thirty yards from me.
“Well a bullseye is hard to miss at that range, and he was giving me a clear shot at “his” so I went for it.” Looking back now it feels like that moment lasted for an eternity, watching those does scatter with my heart pounding in my chest. As I walked up to the buck, I suspected I knew which one it was from having trail cameras in that area for over 10 years. Upon lifting the chocolate rack out of the snow, I realized I had never seen this buck before. A quick look over insured he was a very mature whitetail. I marvelled at the amount of does he had held up in this small area, overlooked by many. After a couple hours of rewarding work, I loaded up the last load of meat onto my back for the trip back to the truck. The sun had since set and the stars had begun to take over. Wincing under the heavy load I admired the glittering sky above and I realized this moment will become a memory that I will remember forever. At least I kept telling my aching back that!
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WAITING IS NEVER EASY By Kelly Lesmeister
As a hunter, I know that waiting patiently is a vital component to success. In some cases, we have to wait to draw tags, wait for the seasons to come around, and wait for opportunities to go hunting. Unfortunately, people that know me would probably say that patience is not my strong suit on a day to day basis. Hunting is different though, I expect and accept having to wait on the game I’m pursuing. I waited seven years to draw a North Dakota muzzleloader tag, which is extremely lucky. Typically, it takes eight to ten years to successfully pull a tag from the lottery system. I spent as much time as possible throughout the summer running trail cams and scouting several different areas in anticipation for the December 1st opener. Although I found several good quality bucks I just couldn’t find the, “jaw dropper” I was looking for. We had unseasonably warm temperatures and minimal snow as season kicked off. Deer movement was still pretty fair and I passed on a couple bucks in the 135-140” range the first 10 days of season. Tuesday morning of the last week I was glassing a hay meadow at first light in an area a co-worker had trail cam pictures of a giant buck. Scanning 44
the field, I laid eyes on the buck I’d been waiting my whole life to hunt! He was scent checking a few does as they made their way into a pasture to bed for the day. As the sun rose, I decided to hike down a fence line in hopes of getting in front of them. I had covered about a half mile when I spotted some tines sticking out above a rock pile a couple hundred yards ahead. I crawled to 150 yards and determined it wasn’t the big buck I was after. It was, however, a beautiful 5x5 with a split g2 that would score somewhere north of 150” and would be in my personal top two or three. The rockpile was about sixty yards off the fence line so I decided to try and crawl past him and hope to find the big shooter. At 65 yards, it was really, really hard to not pull the trigger on the 5x5. Luckily, the decision to pass was made for me when I caught a glimpse of the giant buck ahead of me bedded down along the same fence line at 167 yards. The odds began to stack up against me as he was facing straight at me. I was out of cover and slowly gaining elevation and becoming pretty exposed. On top of that, I was confident to 140-150 yards with my muzzleloader (North Dakota regulations are open sights or 1x scope for
Kelly Lesmeister waited eight long years to pull a North Dakota draw whitetail tag, but the wait was worth it! He spotted a monster buck early in the hunt, but his muzzleloader, and the wide open country, made closing the deal especially challenging and it took many attempts to finally tag the monster buck. His big deer ended up scoring 174 4/8”, including a longest G2 of 14 4/8” and a right antler that scores 90” all by itself!
muzzleloader season). At this point I didn’t really have a plan, but a yearling buck had walked up to about three steps and was grunting at me. When he jumped the fence and got my wind, every deer on the hillside turned themselves inside out and scattered in all directions. Wednesday found me at home with a sick kiddo, waiting and wondering what the final few days of season would bring. Thursday morning, I found him again at first light through the spotting scope. He was with a large group of does and the big 5x5 headed to the pasture again. I watched this group of deer for over five hours that day. Each time I would scheme up a plan once they bedded, something would get a deer on its feet and soon they would all be up and on the move, but never in the same direction. I sat until dark on the edge of a grain field hoping they would come to feed, but to no avail.
“Friday was completely opposite. I saw him at first light for 10 minutes and couldn’t relocate him the rest of the day.” Deer movement was minimal at best so I had high hopes that Saturday would have them on their feet. Saturday morning had me at the hockey rink watching my son play. I left from the ice and was glassing by noon. After an hour, and turning up a dozen deer but no big guy, I pulled into an approach to grab a bite to eat and catch a quick nap. I happened to catch movement on a hillside about a half mile away and sure enough, it was him with six does! I knew right away where I wanted to get to, the same fence line this all started at five days prior. This time, after a half mile, I bumped a large group of does that joined up with the group I was trying to intercept. As I watched my dream buck and 23 does trot over the horizon, I was pretty dejected, knowing that was a lot of eyes to 46
try and slip into range of. Luckily, after relocating him, he and eight does had split from the group and were headed east. I circled around to get the wind right and began to close the distance. Coming over a small rise, I spotted the group bedded down in a small depression. The belly crawl began again. After 100 yards, which felt like a mile, I was out of cover but laying 120 yards from him. I checked the clock which read 2:30. I had a ton of time to just wait and let him stand up. Over the next hour I was able to calm down some and visualize the shot I’d been waiting my whole life for. He was the last one in the group to stand and I was on him and ready. He turned broadside, I took a deep breath and squeezed the trigger. A mass of emotions went through me all at once! I knew he was hit but also knew it wasn’t exactly where I wanted the shot to be. He covered about 100 yards and bedded down while I reloaded and tried to breathe. I made a loop around to try for a follow up shot but he busted me and trotted over the hill. I backed out and went to my spotting hill in hopes to turn him up. I found him bedded down on a hilltop. After calling my Dad, brother, and a couple good hunting buddies, I made the painful decision to not push him anymore that evening and just watch him until dark.
“Thankfully, it was the right decision. We found him dead in the spotting scope about 40 yards from where I left him.” Walking up to this deer with my Dad, brother, and best friend sure made all the waiting worth every minute. My buck gross scores 174 6/8” his right g2 is 14 4/8” and his left horn is 90”! Special thanks to my wife and family for their support as I pursue my passion of the outdoors.
NEVER GIVE UP, SASKATCHWAN BUCK OF A LIFETIME! By Lane Carles
Prior to the season, I had no idea that the deer of a lifetime existed in my hunting area. The 2017 hunting season was a year I would never forget. Prior to the season, I had no idea that the deer of a lifetime existed in my hunting area. Every spring my Dad, myself and my younger brother go bear hunting with my Uncle.
Lane Carles tagged his buck of a lifetime in September of 2017 after following him throughout the summer and executing a perfect plan on only his second sit of the year! Unfortunately, the recovery was not as perfect, but Lane and his Dad Carey put in a herculean effort and never gave up, eventually finding his buck and being able to finally put his tags on him.
Considering that I had already shot a couple bears with my bow and Dad hadn’t tagged one since before my brother and I were old enough to start coming, I was really hoping he would get one and wasn’t to concerned about getting one myself. The first night we sat, Dad was
in a ground blind and I was in a tree stand a few miles away with my uncle in a stand in between us. I didn’t see anything that first night but Dad had quite a bit of excitement. A sow walked up to the blind, knocked over his bow case and brushed against the side of the blind. This scared the crap out of Dad and instead of picking up the shot gun beside him he blindly swung his arm out of the blind in an attempt to scare the bear. Instead the bear ran back a few yards and stayed there, freaking Dad out even more! Eventually the bear made its way out into the front of the blind and Dad took a shot with his bow but it was a clean miss. A 49
A while later he crawled out of the blind and saw an absolutely massive bear sauntering across the stubble field directly toward him. At this point he was understandably freaked out and took his shotgun and sat on the road in the dark and texted me to “Come get him NOW”! The rest of the night Dad couldn’t stop talking about how big the bear was that he saw heading towards him. The next day we headed back, with me sitting in the stand that uncle Tyler had been sitting in the night before. It was about 7:00 pm and I was watching some squirrels running around when all of a sudden they disappeared. I turned around and there was a small dark chocolate sow just sitting there and I could hear something coming behind me. I looked down and an absolutely massive blond bear walked directly under the stand! I picked up my bow as he was under me.
“I drew when he was looking at the sow, put my pin about a third of the way up his body and released. It felt good and looked like a perfect hit.” I had just shot an absolutely massive colour phase bear and hadn’t even had time to get excited but I sure did once I watched the arrow make a perfect hit. I was shaking so much that I could hardly hold my phone to tell Dad what had just happened! After notifying Dad, I called Uncle Tyler to come help me track the bear. He told me that he would be there in 15 minutes and to wait in the stand until he got there. Well that wait was painful, and I was pretty much jumping up and down in the stand by the time he got there. We found the arrow and it showed good blood on it. We tracked him for about 70 yards and there he was at the 50
bottom of a hill! The biggest bear I had ever laid my eyes on! It was an incredible experience that I will never forget. Fast forward a couple months and it was time to start putting out cameras for whitetail. I had been gone to college for the past two years and had little opportunities to hunt so I really had no idea what type of deer where in the area but considering the fact I had never killed a whitetail buck with a bow, I was not planning on being too fussy. After having the cameras out for a couple weeks I was happily surprised to be getting pictures of quite a few mature deer that I would be more than happy to get a chance at with my bow, little did I know what I was about to stumble across. On August twelfth, everything changed. I was clicking through the photos when I noticed a forked antler in the corner of the picture. The thought, “Oh cool, a mule deer” crossed my mind and I clicked to the next picture. There he was! By far the biggest whitetail I have ever laid my eyes on. All of a sudden the rest of the deer didn’t even matter anymore, I knew I had to do everything I could to get a chance at this deer. I texted a picture to Dad right away and then to Uncle Tyler. They both agreed that this was probably a deer of a lifetime, especially if I could get it with my bow. Now came the worst part. The waiting and hoping he stuck around. I checked the camera again a few days later and to my relief he had been back every night! Over the next couple weeks, I got pictures of him every night. I put up a stand a couple weeks before the season opened so that the deer where used to it being there. He kept coming every night and even showing up in daylight every few days. I started to believe that I might actually get a chance at this deer. Then the fields around the old yard where I had my setup got combined and for the first time since the first day that I got a picture of him he was missing for three or four days at a time. I was worried that there had finally been too much activity in the area and that my deer of a lifetime had moved on. Thankfully he came back on September third and had shed his velvet while on his little adventure. I was slightly disappointed
as I had hoped he would hold it for a freakishly long time and that I might get a chance at him in velvet but on the bright side he was back into his normal routine of showing up every night and occasionally during the day time! By this point, even though we were combining at the time, this deer was the only thing on my mind. I would get just as excited imagining getting a chance at this deer as I usually do when I actually see a deer. Finally, even though it seemed like it would never come, the 15th of September rolled around and the wind was right to go sit in my stand. I had extremely high hopes as it was fairly cold out and raining off and on. The type of change in weather that I hoped would get the deer moving around a little earlier. I discovered sitting in my stand getting rained on with a cold wind in my face that it was more miserable out than I thought and the deer where likely hunkered down. Around 5:00 PM I had my first action, just a doe and a fawn. Every year there is something about watching that first whitetail walk up to me that gets my heart
racing. Other than them and a spiker the evening was pretty uneventful. The camera showed that the deer I was after didn’t show up until 3 in the morning that night. I decided to wait a couple days until the weather turned for the better, hoping I would see a few more deer. I knew that if I was patient there was a pretty good chance I would see him eventually. On the 17th, I headed out again. The weather had changed and it was nice and sunny out. I wasn’t in the stand for more than an hour when I had a little spiker showed up but he caught my scent and took off right away. “That’s not a good start,” I thought. Thankfully it wasn’t long before I saw more deer, a doe and a fawn and a little later another spiker. At about 6:30 I heard something coming in behind me and fast! Then three bucks came in like they owned the place and chased the other deer away. I had kind of expected the big one to be with them because he was usually with one of the bucks in this group. I waited and waited straining to hear another deer coming but nothing. I started 51
thinking I was going to be kicking myself for passing on these deer in front of me but I knew I had to be patient. Finally at about 7 PM I heard something behind me, I slowly turned my heard and saw an image that will forever be burnt in my memory!
“The deer of my dreams jumping over a log on the trail and headed my way! “This is it!” I thought, “Don’t waste your one opportunity at this deer.” I tried to keep my nerves down and picked up my bow as he was watching the other deer. He came in on a string without hesitation and stopped at 20 yards, quartering away slightly. I drew my bow as he stopped and put my pin right behind his shoulder and low in his body in case he ducked. Then I released, everything felt perfect! The instant I heard the arrow hit my heart went from being in my throat to the ground far below the tree stand. I knew instantly that the arrow definitely hit something that wasn’t lungs. I had just wounded a deer of a life time. From what I could see when he turned and ran it looked like the arrow had hit a long ways back and high. He only ran about 50 yards and stopped, none of the deer really knew what happened until 3 in the morning that night. and were still in the area. It was at this moment that nerves took over and I forgot everything I know about bow hunting and what to do when you make a less than perfect shot. The only thing on my mind was getting another arrow into this deer instead of backing out and letting him do his thing. I could still see him as he was standing just across a dam on the other side of a dugout beside me but there where way to many branches to get a shot. I 52
figured if I got down and snuck to the top of the dam there was a pretty good chance I would get another shot. By the time I had gathered my things and got down he wasn’t there anymore. I walked up to where he had been standing hoping to find some sign, but as I approached he got up before I even saw him and took off down a tree row. At this point, I had finally calmed down enough to realize what I was doing was futile and definitely making the situation worse. I walked up to the top of the hill he had gone over to try to see if he laid down again so that we would know where to start looking in the morning but I couldn’t see him anywhere. At this point, I called Dad and then Uncle Tyler to tell them what had happened. Everyone agreed that it was definitely best to wait until morning before pursuing him. Even though I thought the shot was too far back I was hopeful I had still hit his liver because he was quartering away so we were all pretty hopeful that he would be lying dead in the tree row where he was last seen. Regardless, I couldn’t sleep at all that night. The next morning we were out there at first light and our game plan was to for me to walk down the tree row where he was last seen and Dad would sit at the south end with binoculars just in case he was still alive and tried to run out into the prairie. As I got further and further down the tree row I knew the chances of ever finding him where getting slimmer and slimmer, especially because there was no blood trail to speak of. I got to the end and had found nothing, Dad hadn’t seen him run out either. Dad went home to get a bike to start searching through the many sloughs in the area and I walked the rest of the tree rows, finding nothing. Then I back tracked and started searching sloughs closer to where I had shot him just in case he had started to circle. While Dad searched sloughs in the direction he had been heading. We both knew that this was a long shot because the sloughs where so thick with cat-tails that we would have to be on top of him before we ever saw him. Shortly into searching the first slough I saw an
antler! It didn’t look right though and as I walked up, I saw something that I definitely wasn’t expecting. I had just found the second largest deer in the area that had disappeared about a week before. His skeleton and antlers were all that the coyotes left. I continued my search hoping that there would be something left of the deer I shot when we found him. Dad occasionally called me to ask where I was and where I had looked. Every time I answered there was a faint glimmer of hope that this would be the time he said, “Found him!” instead of, “Where are you?” but no such luck. By 11:00 that morning I had covered well over three miles on foot and Dad had covered many more than that on the bike. Our neighbor was having an old fashioned combine day and we couldn’t miss it so that was the end of looking that day. Anyone who talked to me that day could tell you I wasn’t a happy guy. Considering what the coyotes had done to the deer that I found we decided the
best strategy for the next day was to bring the second bike and split up and look for coyotes and crows in the prairie to the south. By this point the odds of finding this deer were getting very slim. Again at first light Dad brought the other quad from his yard and I met him there in my truck then we split up. I started angling southwest and Dad to the south east. It was about a half mile from the old yard across the field where we had been searching the day before to get to a dirt trail and then to the prairie. I was picking my way through a small block of hills and hadn’t even made it across the trail and into the prairie yet when Dad called me for the first time that day. Expecting to hear him ask me what was taking so long I answered the phone. By this time my hopes of hearing him say, “Found it” were pretty much gone. 53
Right away Dad said, “Did you get my text” to which I replied, “No?” and he said, “I found him” which was followed by a long pause! I don’t really remember the rest of the conversation, it is all a blur and I felt a combination of extreme relief and excitement, I think Dad was just as excited as I was. I remember telling myself to try to go slow and not crash the bike on the way to Dad and the deer. He ended up in the only slough on the quarter that we hadn’t checked yet and only about 15 yards from the trail separating the stubble field and the prairie but it was impossible to see him. I went to them with the bike first because I had to see him with my own eyes then went and got the truck so we could load him into it after taking pictures. After taking a few pictures the tags went on, sealing the deal on the over a month long hunt that had turned into an emotional roller coaster. I wish that the last half of my story didn’t exist. I wish that I could tell you that the arrow found its mark, making a perfect double lung shot and he died right away like pretty much every hunting show depicts happening every time. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened and the harsh reality of hunting, especially bow hunting is that even though we practice for hours on end and do everything we can to ensure an ethical shot, there is no way to guarantee that will happen perfectly every single time. If a person hunts for long enough they will eventually wound an animal. Unfortunately, this just happened to be the time that I wounded one. Upon finding him we realised that I had been wrong about where I had shot him and that I wasn’t actually as far back as I had thought but I had hit a lot higher than I had thought with the arrow passing just under his spine. Had it hit a quarter inch higher he would have dropped in his tracks. Fortunately, it did cut a lot of blood vessels and he was likely dead within a shore time and didn’t suffer for long. I am just extremely thankful that we were able to recover this deer of a lifetime. I owe a huge thank you to my Dad Carey for being understanding when I 54
was scouting for this deer when I should have been farming and for the hours he spent helping me search for him. Also to my Uncle Tyler for presenting me with the opportunity to shoot a bear of a lifetime.
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WILDERNESS DREAM HUNT By Seth Carlisle
The beginning of the story starts over a decade ago, but I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. My brother and I would be turning 12 soon and that meant that we would finally be able to enter our own names into the hunting draws. 56
We were sitting in our living room when Dad walked in and said, “You boys have an important decision to make, you need to choose between mule deer and elk for the draw”. My brother chimed up first, “I want mule deer”, and, I think just to be different more than anything, I answered, “I’ll go with elk!” Fast forward twelve years, and through twelve hunting seasons that have come and gone, complete with some great memories and adventures. Up until this point I was more or less just tagging along, helping friends and family on their hunts. This October, however, was going to 58
be different. I had drawn my own muzzleloader elk tag! It was in a unit that we have hunted plenty in the past, a road-less area where we would be packing in on horses and mules, ending up miles away from cell phone coverage and the civilized world, a wilderness dream hunt to say the least! My Uncle had drawn the same tag a few years prior and he had hunted hard for the full ten days before finally getting a bull on the ground. From the looks of things I was going to be in for a similar experience. All the preseason scouting hadn’t produced any shooter bulls. The archery and rifle hunters had their shot first and many went home empty handed. The weather was
exceptionally hot and dry this year and the rut seemed to be delayed with the elk mostly active during the night. The day before the opener found me and my entourage of family and friends in a string of trucks and horse trailers snaking our way up the winding, switchback filled dirt road. The days leading up to hunt were just filled with anticipation, but I was starting to feel some anxiety mixed in that must come with being the tag holder. I felt the pressure of knowing that everyone’s hard work and sacrifice would come down to me making the final stalk and shot. This
was my first time hunting with a muzzleloader and the regulations don’t allow the use of magnification scopes which greatly limited my effective range. I’d been spending quite a bit of time practicing, and I was feeling pretty confident inside the 100 yard mark but any farther and my accuracy dropped off fast. We finally arrived at the drop off point, horses and mules were unloaded and all our gear spread out on the ground before eventually being loaded into panniers. When we hit the trail we had a string of nearly 20 animals in all. We rode along the single track trail as it made our way towards our base 59
camp located in a narrow meadow surrounded by pines and quakies. Upon arriving in camp we quickly unloaded and split into two groups in hopes of finding a bull to go after in the morning. My group rode out and found a good vantage point to glass over, even with all those eyes and expensive glass we only turned up one elk. It was a bull, but impossible to tell how big, due to the incredible distance he was away from us. So, with the sun fading we started making our way back to camp hoping that the other group had more luck. On our ride in we jumped a rag horn bull bringing the total elk spotted for the night to two, the other group saw a couple black bears but not a single elk. That night, as I lay in the wall tent, straining my ears in hopes of hearing a distant bugle, the only sound to be heard was Dennis snoring like a locomotive. I began to prepare myself for what 60
looked to be a long, tough hunt. After a restless night, we were up before dawn, saddling horses and going over the morning plan. Since neither group had seen much of anything the night before we figured we might as well split up again and look in some different spots. My Dad, brother, uncle and I set out on a trail heading west out of camp. The morning air was cool, but it felt more like July than October, and with the sun on the rise, things were about to heat up quick. We rode single file through the oak brush, heading for an open saddle on the next ridge. As we came through the pass, the sun was at our backs and a light breeze at our face. We could slowly see more and more as we crested the saddle. Aspens extended down both sides of the long open draw and there at the bottom standing in the dried 61
grass was a herd of at least 20 elk! We were out in the open, totally exposed, and the elk couldn’t be more than 600 yards away, I had just enough time to pull up my binos, get a shaky three second scan over the herd before we quickly dismounted and heading for cover in the trees. Even though I only got a glimpse, there was one set of horns that looked pretty impressive. We quickly tied up the horses and started side hilling our way down the canyon. Miraculously, the elk must not have seen us due to the sun being at the perfect angle, blinding everything in our direction as we came over the top. But they were on the move, heading into the quakies to bed for the day, but if we hurried we might be able to intercept them.
“We were out in the open, totally exposed, and the elk couldn’t be more than 600 yards away in the brush.” I had just enough time to pull up my binos, get a shaky three second scan over the herd before we quickly dismounted and heading for cover in the trees. Even though I only got a glimpse, there was one set of horns that looked pretty impressive. We quickly tied up the horses and started side hilling our way down the canyon. Miraculously, the elk must not have seen us due to the sun being at the perfect angle, blinding everything in our direction as we came over the top. But they were on the move, heading into the quakies to bed for the day, but if we hurried we might just intercept them. As quickly and quietly as we could, we moved our way along the hill in the direction the elk were heading. We were getting close, cow chirps and the occasional bugle kept us updated on their location, but due to the trees and being on the 62
same hillside, we hadn’t seen them since we came over the saddle. We jumped some deer, one of which was a great buck, but my only thought was, “I hope they don’t run down and spook the elk!” Luckily the muleys skirted around us, heading back up the draw. A few more minutes of stalking through the trees and we started to see elk. They were spread out, moving up the hill in front of us. Some were 100 yards out and some were closer, but too close. A few cows that had come farther up the draw knew something was wrong and started getting nervous, turning the herd and moving them faster up the hill. I got the muzzleloader steadied alongside a tree just in case the bull turned out to be a shooter. I watched as a few more cows and some raghorn bulls made their way up and over the ridge out of sight, just when I was starting to doubt whether or not there was a mature bull in the group, he appeared, walking steadily up the hill where his herd had just went! Looking at him with just my naked eye he looked like a nice one but I wanted to be sure. I didn’t have enough time to look through the binos, in seconds he would be over the ridge chasing after his spooked cows. I had another tough decision to make as it could be now or never. My Dad started to say something along the lines of, “If you’re going to shoot you bet….” BOOM!! The blast from the Thomson Center cut him off, but the bull didn’t budge as I hurried and reloaded and started walking up the hill in the hopes of getting a better angle as the bull disappeared into the trees and over the ridge. We walked up the hill, and all of us scoured the ground in search of hair, blood, anything that would prove a hit, but nothing was found. Feeling frustrated and embarrassed for missing, I walked to the top of the ridge hoping to at least get a better look at him and see what direction he was heading. To my great surprise the bull was standing right there! Not 20 yards from where he had went over and from where I now stood! I pulled up the gun and took a quick shot just as he turned and stumbled down the hill into the oak
Seth Carlisle headed deep into the backcountry away from any roads or crowds in order to tag a big bull elk. It was a truly memorable experience and could not have ended any better, with him tagging a big bull in the 375” class!
brush. Obviously my first shot was right on the money but didn’t exit which explained why there wasn’t much blood to be found. While we gave him some time to expire we radioed the other group to head our way and to bring the horses. Everyone showed up to admire and assist with getting the bull back to camp, we stood around all talking at once, some telling stories of the stalk, others venturing guesses on what he would score but we were all low on our estimates, the bull
ended up just shy of 375”! This truly was a remarkable hunt, one I should never forget. I’d like to thank my family and friends for their help in making this hunt what it was and a special thanks to Zach who is no longer with us. Zach carried the horns all the way out to the truck because we didn’t trust any of the mules with such precious cargo.
THE QUEST FOR MR. T By Cody Griffin
My quest for Mr. T all started a few years ago when I got a few pictures of him in late July and the middle of August on my Moultrie camera.
Cody Griffin had the buck he called Mr. T on the radar for a few years before finally tagging the 189 4/8â€? 15 point bruiser in his home state of Ohio. The recovery of Codyâ€™s buck was extremely challenging but with the help of family and friends, and a commitment to never give up they finally located the downed deer after hours and hours of searching in very difficult conditions.
When I saw the first few pictures of him I recall saying, “That deer has all the potential to be a giant one day.” At that time, he was about a 125”, tall tined ten point and I only got a few pictures of him in 2013 season. I never hunted that farm at all that season, as I filled my tag on a 172” ten point on October 4th. Fast forwarding to the next year, I was excited to say the least, to see if MR. T would show up on camera again. The first time I pulled the cards in June I had several pictures of him. As the summer went on, every time I would check cameras, I had a bunch of pictures of him and he seemed to be piling on the inches from week to week. At the end of summer when he shed his velvet he had blown into a 160” tall tined ten point with a small kicker on his left g2 and he seemed to have made my mineral site and food plot a major part of his core area. I elected that I would never hunt a day on that farm in the 2014 season and instead focused on harvesting a mature deer on one of my other properties. I was fortunate enough to harvest a 157” deer on October 30th that I had a bunch of history with. It was a very long year hoping every time I went to check cameras that MR. T was still alive.
“I continued to get pictures of him every day and on February 6th, as my brother in law and I checked the cameras, we found his right shed.” We searched everywhere we could for his other side, but were never able to find it. Going into the next season, we had high hopes 66
that MR. T would once again pile on the inches. I pulled the cards on the Moultrie in late May at the mineral site and MR. T was once again a regular. As the summer rolled on, we got countless pictures of him and once again he was piling on the inches. He was definitely the number one hit lister buck. When he shed his velvet in early September I was blown away with the size of this deer. Soon after he shed his velvet, like every big deer does, the daylight pictures started to slow down. Two weeks before the season, we had a big weather front roll in and we were getting some north-northeast winds. I never had pictures of him on any of the days we had those winds. The only days I was getting pictures of him was with south-southwest winds, which is what we typically have in early season and that is what my stands are set for. Before I knew it September 26th, opening day was upon us and as fate would have it we had a north northeast wind, which was totally opposite of what we needed. The first evening we went to hunt our second buck on the list and I was fortunate enough to video Holden kill the 171” deer we called Walt. The second day of season we had the same north northeast wind so we were not able to hunt him. Finally, on the third day of season, September 28th, we had a big front pushing in from the south and we had the perfect wind to hunt him. It was about 74 degrees with a light south wind and it was supposed to start raining at 1am, so we had a good feeling that the deer would be up on their feet early. As we settled in the stand that evening my stomach was in knots. I just had a great feeling that we were going to lay eyes on him that evening. The evening started out pretty slow. Finally, around 5:45, a doe worked her way into the food plot out in front of us. About ten minutes later two does come in from the right and worked their way to the lone doe. The old doe walked up to the doe that was already out in front of us and started shoving her around. She ran back out to my right about fifteen yards and stood there for a long time. The whole time she stood there
I noticed it was like she was watching something out to my right. Being early season I couldn’t see much in that direction due to the leaves. Eventually she made her way back up to the other two does but I still noticed them watching to my right. About five minutes later, twenty five yards to my right, I saw the legs of a deer walking in and caught a glimpse of a big split g2.
“Right away I knew it was MR. T and told Holden to get ready with the camera”. MR. T slowly worked his way up through the brush and eventually out to the does that were about twenty five yards in front of us. It seemed like it took him forever to make his way out in
front of us. When he came out into the shooting lane he was quartered to me a little so I waited and let him feed. After a few minutes the two older does started to run each other around the plot and I knew this was my opportunity to draw on him. I came to full draw with my Hoyt and started to settle my pin behind his shoulder. As I was settling the pin something behind him made him turn his body and opened up the vitals perfectly and I let the Bloodsport fly. The nocturnal hit right behind the shoulder a touch back but definitely a lethal shot and I knew the rage three blade chisel tips would get the job done. As he crashed off through the brush Holden and I could not believe what just happened. I was so shook up I could hardly stand. We reviewed the footage and the shot looked good so we gave him about 30 minutes and climbed down to see what kind of sign we could find. He was dumping blood everywhere right away and we 67
Then I heard it again and I knew he had found him. I took off on a dead run in the direction it was coming from with Dave right behind me. As I came to the edge of the flat I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Thirty minutes earlier I was at the low of lows and now at the high of highs. MR. T was every bit as big as we had thought. If it wasn’t for the great friends that helped me in the pouring down rain who knows how long it would have taken me to recover him. I am forever grateful to them. The shot was a touch back; it was a liver shot. He has all the character in a deer that every hunter dreams of. He is a main frame 10 point with split g2s, kickers at the bases, a hole in his left main beam and a small drop tine on the left beam. He has 15 scorable points for a total of 189 4/8” My journeys with MR. T had finally come to a close and owe it all to God, great friends, and family that helped me look for him in the pouring down rain.
followed it for about 70 yards then it started to get real spotty. We discussed the shot and went back to the footage again and we were confident he was dead but we decided to back out and wait for a few hours to be safe. It was a long few hours of waiting because I knew there was a storm moving in around 1:00a.m. We returned back to where the blood started to get spotty and picked up the trail around 10:00 trying to beat the rain. We followed blood for about another 30 yards and the blood stopped completely. We searched everywhere within a 100 yard area of where we lost blood for more blood but we come up empty handed. We looked until 1:30a.m. and never found another drop of blood. We decided it was best to leave and come back at daylight to try and find him. It was a long night with very little sleep but at daybreak we were back in there looking for him. I called a local guy with some tracking dogs to see if they could find him but they were unable to track him any farther than we did. So, the search was on. 68
Holden and I spread out about 50 yards apart and walked back and forth and checked every place we could in the direction the deer was headed. It was pouring the rain down and we were soaked from head to toe, so around 12:00 we went back to the house and got something to eat and a dry shirt. One of our good friends, Dave decided to come help us, so we came up with a game plan and after lunch we started checking in the direction he was headed once again, but still no sign of the deer. About 2:30 we decided to check in the direction that deer come from. We began searching in that direction and about 3:30 the doubts started to set in that I wouldn’t ever find this deer. I felt very confident that the deer was dead but it was just a matter of where at and when we would find him. About 4:00 it was raining so hard you couldn’t hear anything and I thought I faintly heard Holden screaming about 150 yards down over the hill but I wasn’t sure. Dave and I looked at each other wondering if that was indeed him yelling.
THE HEAVY By Evan Schmidt
The story for the buck that I would be lucky enough to wrap a tag around on the 28th of November, 2016, began much earlier than that. It began two years earlier in 2014. I had just been given permission to hunt a neighborâ€™s pasture that had long been a hotspot for dark antlered Saskatchewan bucks.
had been making. Pictures were now few and far between and hardly ever in the day. The buck had become completely nocturnal and as rifle season opened, I sat many hours without any glimpse of the buck that I was after. The season closed, and I was anxious to see if this old buck was able to survive another season, and hopefully another cold Saskatchewan winter.
“A couple days after the season closed, my trail cam showed me that he had walked by my stand, and he had survived another season!”
The area was a mixture of tall spruce and poplar woodland that seemed to be a good hiding spot for the elusive whitetail. Having spotted many good bucks in previous years throughout this area, I was excited to get my cameras out and get a look at what my 2014 season would hold. I was blown away by the variety of bucks that walked by my cameras throughout the season. This was the first year that the regular rifle whitetail season in our area had been shortened from three weeks to a mere twelve days. Opening day rolled around in November and I could be found in my deer blind. I was after a mature deer that already carried good mass and I would be happy to put my tag on. After passing on five different bucks by noon, I could tell it would 72
be a good day. Shortly after lunch, buck fever took hold as a beautiful dark antlered buck presented himself and I took advantage of the opportunity. My season was over, and I forgot about the mature buck that I had been targeting, until the next season. The 2015 season rolled around, and I was just as eager to get my cameras out again and see which bucks had survived another Saskatchewan winter. It wasn’t long before the mature buck that I had been after the past season showed up. He had gone from a heavy 4x4 to being a 5x5 that was just as heavy as he had been the previous year. I knew that this buck would again find himself a place on my hitlist for the year. But the months past, muzzleloader season came and went and with it so did the regular appearances that the heavy five
My tag was hung on the Christmas tree as I prepared for the next season. As soon as the snow melted I was eager to look for his sheds. I walked many miles of trails and was able to pick up a few antlers, but none from that elusive buck that had managed to elude hunters for many years. As the 2016 season came, I again put my trail cameras out and just like clockwork, it didn’t take long before my cameras were taking pictures of the Heavy Five again. With the past winter being a mild one, it was sure reflected in his horn growth. He had grown a ton of character, now having bladed tines and even more mass. His G-4’s had skyrocketed, and I knew that this year I would have to put in the effort to be able to have an opportunity at this beautiful animal. Throughout the summer I had built new box blinds that I now realized I would spend many hours in come November. This year the Heavy Five had become a regular on my cameras. He was now showing himself during daylight regularly throughout October, except for the days that I was able to sit during muzzleloader season but that just made me even more determined to seal the deal come rifle season. A dump of over a
foot of snow made travel extremely difficult and I was not able to make it up to my blind for a few weeks. I would just have to hope that the Heavy Five was still a regular visitor. November rolled around, and I was finally able to make it to check my cameras. I was thrilled to find that the Heavy Five was still a visitor, but I knew that the rut would kick in shortly and with it this old warrior would be covering many miles, being a traveler that these old bucks tend to be. With only a week before season was set to open, I was thrilled to lay my own eyes on this secretive animal on my way to check my trail cameras. This was the first time I had ever been fortunate enough to see this buck firsthand. A final camera check two days before season opened had me more excited than ever as the Heavy Five had just recently walked by my stand in daylight hours. Season opened and once again I could be found sitting in one of the stands that I had spent my summer constructing.
“The day quickly came and went with nothing to show for it. I sat as often as I could the next few days but once again the Heavy Five had simply vanished.” It was only until the 23rd of November that he would once again make another daylight appearance, but as it so often goes, I was unable to sit at my stand that day. I continued to sit as often as I could each day, but again he had continued to elude me. Every time I could hear faint gunshots from my stand, I cringed with the thought that this beautiful buck 73
that I had dedicated the past two years to chasing had ended up being taken by another hunter. The morning of the 28th rolled around and having the full day to hunt followed by days full of other commitments the next few, I knew that this would likely be the last chance that I would have to hunt this season. With the Heavy Five not having been on camera for the past few days, I knew that chances were slim but it was the rut and I knew that at any minute there was a possibility that he could step out. The hours wound down and before I knew it there was only about an hour and a half left of legal light. I was already beginning to admit defeat for the season, until I looked up and saw as sight that was almost surreal. There, standing on the edge of the timber was the buck that I had been after for the past three seasons! A few does looked back from the middle of the clearing and the Heavy Five slowly stepped out and suddenly stopped just short of the group of does. He raised his ancient rut-swollen neck and sniffed the air. I could not believe my eyes, and it was just like I had played it out over and over again in my head, I gently opened the window and lined his shoulder up in his scope, squeezed the trigger and watched the events unfold. The Heavy Five jumped and charged back into the timber. He barely made it fifty yards before crumpling to the forest floor. When I looked through the binoculars and saw that he lay motionless, I could hardly believe what had just took place. The sight walking up to this buck was surreal. After three years of watching, I was finally able to wrap my hands, as well as my tag, around his heavy antlers. My first phone call was to my Dad. “I got him!” I instantly blurted out.
Evan Schmidt lives in the middle of whitetail country in St.Walburg, Saskatchewan and spent three years chasing an elusive monster near his hometown. Finally, the monster buck stepped out and Evan was able to play out the scenario he had dreamed of so many times. The buck he named the “Heavy Five” appeared in an opening where he was setup in late November trying to capitalize on the rut activity in his area. It was his last day to hunt for the year and it paid off!
Dad was just as excited as I was and it didn’t take long for him to arrive and we started taking pictures, just letting the moment sink in. I would like to thank all the great landowners that allow us to use their land so that we can pursue our passion. I would also like to thank my Dad and Grandpa for helping me keep an eye on the deer as well as well as the rest of my family that support my passion of hunting. I look forward to trying to top this buck in the future. 75
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE WOLF KIND By Warren Smith
November first of 2017 found me headed to my whitetail stand with high hopes of tagging a big whitetail!
Warren Smith was out hunting whitetails in the Alberta wilderness when he inadvertently rattled in a pack of wolves. The wolves proceeded to approach him aggressively at very close range and he had to shoot three of them before the rest of the pack finally backed off!
There had been some good deer on cam, so even just pulling the card and seeing what had been hanging around had me excited. It had been 11 days since my last cam check, and with the cooler weather and whitetail rut around the corner, I knew there would be some good deer on camera. I walked into my stand just ahead of day light, quickly and quietly pulled the card from my camera and then settled into my tree stand! I plugged my memory card in and began to scroll through the pictures. There were almost no pictures at all, no bucks and not even any does! It had been days since a single deer had even walked past my camera. I could not help but wonder, “Where did they go?” A million thoughts and questions raced through my mind, but I decided that I would continue with my plan. I pulled out my rattling antlers and call and grunted a few times followed by a few rattling sequences. I continued with this routing, on and off until 10 am. There was no action at all, and no sign of any deer, so I decided to carry on and head to another spot where I had another camera up on another ridge. I thought, “Maybe all the deer moved over there for some reason”. As I surveyed the area, it was silent, not a sound from anywhere. It was an eerie feeling as I climbed down. I got to base of stand when something caught my eye and I looked to my right. It was very close range, just staring at me and seemed not to be scared at all. I looked down at my rifle, thankful that I had it in hand and thought, “Should I or not?” I figured since it was not scared and it was not running away that it was a sign, so I turned and dropped it with my 300 Tikka wsm! It dropped so I walked over and looked down when I heard a loud crashing noise to my left. I was startled and turned to see four big wolves running at full speed through the thick timber towards me. It happened so fast I did not have time to think. The first two skirted around me, with the third going to my right. I followed it for a moment then looked back just in time to see the fourth coming straight at me! He was at close range, about six yards when I took the shot, dropping him in his 80
tracks. I turned to one on right who was now coming at me, but slowly, and I shot but missed in the excitement. The other two came back around and just stood there looking at me! I couldn’t believe this was happening, and wanted to put an end to it, so I shot one of them and finally the other one ran off! As I stood there to survey the scene, all three were within 20 yards of me!
“I was shaking badly in disbelief. “What just happened?” I thought as I stood there in shock.” I snapped a couple quick pictures then quickly headed out to truck and immediately called my wife Pam and told her the story. I am not sure she understood anything I said as it was all a blur and I was still shaking with fear and disbelief. Once I got home, I managed to calm down and began to think, “My best whitey spot is trashed now with dead wolves lying all over!” There was no way I was going back alone at this point, so I called my good friend Matt Richie who agreed to come with me and get them out of there. We quickly hiked in and got them all out of there. All three were in great shape and nice looking healthy wolves. A few days later, surprisingly enough the deer were all back using the area! A few days later, when I was sitting in that same stand I passed on a nice four point whitetail buck. As he slowly walked away from the stand he paused and looked up right into the stand and I swear he was saying, “Thank you”.
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Record Saskatchewan Elk, Whitetails, Mule Deer, Moose, Alberta, Canada, Midwest Whitetail, Archery, rifle hunting