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ILLUSTRATED BIG GAME
Volume 2 Issue 1 Spring Edition 2014
In This Issue...
Field of Dreams as told by Parry Boyko
written by Stu Christiansen
12 Obsession by Dustin Lee 18 Years of Patience by Bruce Craig 24 Time & Effort Pays Off by Lane Hodnefield 34
28 Big Norm
by Cody Forsberg
34 Monster Moose
by Keith Comeau
38 For the Love of Hunting by Scott Smith 42 Big
Woods Beast by Albert Richard
48 Kick Off to a Dream Season by Scott Carstairs 42
54 Lightning Strikes Twice by Tyler Wilson 58 Monarch by Chris David 62 Midwest Monster by Trevor Volz 68 Ultimate Alaskan Adventure by Chris Maxwell
Twelve Year Wait by Bev Emigh
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An incredible, but very young buck captured on the BGI trail cameras. The buck was only 2.5 years old and already grossed nearly 170â€?!
22 A Case for Hunting by Chad Wilkinson
Making a stance for conservation and ethical hunting.
Going back to the feelings you had as a child towards hunting.
by Kevin Wilson
Dedicated to all the young hunters.
Early Season Key to Success
by Kaare Gunderson
Why we hunt - a personâ€™s choice to hunt for pleasure, food or conservation.
The Future of Hunting
Going Back by Cody Robbins
Preparing to successfully hunt during the early season.
Parry Boyko with the two incredible animals he harvested in the fall of 2012. The veteran hunter took the mule deer with archery tackle in September, and later killed his giant whitetail with his shotgun during the November rut. His mule deer ended up with a gross score of 205 7/8â€? and was the top mule deer ever taken by a member of the Saskatchewan Bowhunters Association. His whitetail was no slouch in the score department either, stretching the tape with a total gross score of 187â€?.
DREAMS WRITTEN BY: STU CHRISTIANSEN AS TOLD BY: PARRY BOYKO
he definition of a dream season varies widely depending on the big game being hunted, the region they are being hunted in, and methods used, but few could argue that seasoned hunter Parry Boyko had nothing less than a dream season in the fields of Saskatchewan in 2012. Parry is an ex-guide, avid outdoorsman, knowledgeable gunsmith and archery authority. The resident Saskatchewan hunter spends any time he’s not working at the family business either thinking about big game, hunting big game, planning to hunt big game, or taking great field photos of the amazing animals he’s been able to harvest since he started hunting a couple of decades ago.
Spring Bear Having harvested over a dozen black bears over 19”, countless mule deer over 180” and whitetail topping 170”, Boyko knows his stuff, and he put his knowledge and passion to good use in 2012 with a true dream season. Most hunters would gladly give up their favorite rifle or coveted honey hole just to experience part of Parry’s adventures. It started in early spring, as the 2011-2012 winter in Saskatchewan was unusually mild and lacked the horrendous snowfalls seen the next winter that devastated so much of the big game population. This relatively easy winter allowed the hibernating black bears to come out of their dens in good shape and hungry for food. Boyko has been hunting in the dense forests of northern Saskatchewan for years, and he decided to sit the first day he could. It was an established site that has been active for 23 years. With plans to film his own hunt this year, he got his brand new climbing stand organized and set up in a location he hadn’t used in the past. Previous years had some success but he’d figured out the travel corridors for the big bears and changed up his action plan this year. Unfortunately, he had yet to see any bears on his trailcams when he arrived that day to hunt. This was not because there were no bears to be found, but because the cams had been malfunctioning since they’d been put out and the only indication of bears in the area was some brown fur caught on some barbed wire that Parry had
put out along some main paths as an old trick to catch loose fur as the newly awakened bears came out of their winter slumber searching for food. Early in the afternoon of April 23rd, with his camera in hand, and his Bowtech Destroyer hooked on the tree some 15’ above the forest floor next to his treestand, Parry decided a quick afternoon siesta would be in the cards on this early spring day. The nap, however was cut extremely short. He awakened to a soft noise below him, off to the side. Around 4pm, he slowly opened his sleepy eyes and looked down, he was shocked to see a behemoth of a chocolate colored black bear standing below his tree. He stayed quiet and motionless, hoping the bear would not spook and still make his way into his shooting lane. Luck was on his side this day and the bear unknowingly walked right into the shooting lane of Parry’s archery tackle. Waiting for a good shot angle, Boyko was able to get the camera on and patiently sat nearly 15 minutes, waiting for this giant bear to present that fatal quartering away angle. It never happened. The bear was lying down, eating, and paying no mind to the camo-clad hunter with a finger itching to put an arrow into his vitals. With years of provincial 3D archery tournaments under his belt, he knew he could make the shot as it presented itself, and with confidence, he slammed an arrow through the vitals and the bear ran just 25yds before it perished, in plain sight. In shock at what had just taken place, he sat awestruck, excited to climb down to the moss and new growth coming up from the earth. But he waited a few moments before he was able to collect himself and walk up to the 19-3/8”, gorgeous color phase black bear taken on his first sit of the season.
Early Season Mule Deer After spring moved to summer, and scouting turned to planning for both whitetail and mule deer, the Saskatchewan hunter started seeing some real nice bucks on his trailcams. In fact, some of his honey-hole areas contained more than a dozen quality deer with a few true trophy deer being captured on camera during the day time. As summer ended, temperatures slowly began to cool, and the archery season opener hit on September 1st. Opening day always gets the adrenaline pumping, but Parry was able to keep his veins cool as ice as he set out on the fourth day of the season with his bow in hand. He hiked to the edge of a PFRA field. He had seen a herd of seven bucks using while scouting throughout August. Thoughts of the big deer filled his mind as he made his way there; he knew that two of the bucks were shooters. He parked his truck strategically, as a decoy at the edge of the trail system leading from the pea fields to the hills they resided in during the day to block the usual trail. He then walked up the NW edge and purposefully left a scent trail in the area. This ensured that the only reasonable option for the muleys to travel was directly past his ground blind that was set up just a couple hundred yards away. He arrived to the area at 4am. With sunrise at 6:30, he sat patiently without seeing a thing. At around 8am he got out of
the blind and moved a step at a time away to quickly glass an area with his binoculars to see if the deer were again following their routine of leaving the pea fields to head up into the hills as the sun rose higher on the prairies. This morning would be a little different, as he was caught in the open by a whitetail buck. As the whitetail bounded into thick cover, he saw the two large shooter mule deer bucks just 100yds away, and coming towards him! They were big, but exactly how big was hard to tell. As he scrambled quickly and loudly back to his ground blind, he figured he had blown his opportunity that morning, but he grabbed his bow anyway and got ready. He watched in amazement as the two velvet bucks made their way right toward his blind! At 48 yards, just moments after being busted out in the open, the largest muley buck stopped and did what every hunter dreams of…it turned broadside and stood there! With his bow at full draw and his emotions as wild as the deer lined up in his sight, he pulled the trigger on the release and the arrow hit its mark with a perfect double lung pass through. The buck kicked and headed for the nearest cover. Boyko realized this buck was enormous and was so excited that after picking up the arrow and seeing great blood sign, he headed straight for the last sight of the buck towards the trees and couldn’t find a blood trail. But it didn’t matter…as he literally stumbled upon the buck, almost tripping over it before reaching the brush that he thought the buck would be bedded down in. As he looked down, he trembled with the realization this was no ordinary Saskatchewan mule deer buck. This was a 205-7/8” gross mule deer that turned out to be the #1 velvet typical mule deer ever taken by a member of the Saskatchewan Bowhunters Association and is believed to be the biggest taken in the province in 2012 with any weapon. A trophy of a lifetime and a continuation of a dream season!
Rutting Whitetails With a successful archery mule deer tag hunt in the books, Parry changed his focus to the renowned whitetail in his home province of Saskatchewan. As he continued his scouting with trail cams, as well as trips out to the field to scout and glass the fields and trees he knew so well, the season progressed and
snow started to fall. With the rut starting, and sometimes seeing 80 deer in a night on a quarter section of land just minutes from one of the largest cities in the province, he took a drive down to the local small gas station coffee shop and was able to track down information for the landowner. The landowner remembered that Parry had obtained permission years before, and that meant he still had permission, but Boyko wanted to ensure he was ok going into the area in search of a giant. It was the right thing to do. The same afternoon he set off with his climbing tree stand on his back, shotgun in hand, and bulky winter boots leaving tracks in the now deep snow. That day in late November, with the rut winding down and stiff winds blowing out of the northeast, the deer were moving more than they had been the few days before. The trek was a long half mile from where the truck could be parked. Just as he started off on his journey to the edge of the poplar bluff he had planned on setting up in, a truck drove up and stopped next to his. The driver got out, somewhat frustrated about seeing someone hunting land that was assumed to be free of other hunters, and he approached Boyko asking who he was and if he had permission. After a brief discussion, and some diffusing remarks, it was learned that ¾ of a mile away, the truck driver had a stand set up and was worried that is where Parry was heading. When Parry explained that he was actually not heading any further than the trees the other direction, and that he had planned to setup far from this other hunter, the early afternoon gab session ended and the driver left to allow the day to go on as planned. With the long walk behind him, Parry was at the fence line just before the poplar trees. The snow was deep and carrying all of his gear, Boyko got caught up in a ball of old barbed wire trying to cross the barbed wire fence! He turned his head to see a buck starting across the field. He was surprised because it was early, around 2 in the afternoon! In a tough situation, still hopelessly entangled, he decided to stop moving, stay still, and see if the deer, now at 200 yards would continue coming his way. With his shotgun slowly pulled to his shoulder, crouching steadily in the snow, he looked through the scope to put the
crosshairs on a beautiful buck that was now at 110yds. For this experienced marksman, it was a chip shot, and as he squeezed the trigger, the slug gun barked and he watched in horror as the shot went way back, into the guts of the deer. Even established hunters sometimes need a second shot to finish off their targeted big game trophy, and Boyko followed up his first shot quickly with a lethal second shot into the vitals of the monster whitetail buck. After a stellar black bear in the spring, and a velvet mule deer monster, he put his hands on the 187” gross whitetail.
An amazing buck that wrapped up a season of a lifetime in 2012 that also included a cow elk, two mule deer does and a whitetail doe in zones littered with big numbers of deer. Seven animals in a year filled with ups and downs, changes in plans, adjusting to new locations, trying new tactics, and some good luck crowned what one could call a prairie season full of fields made of dreams. Author’s note: Boyko is now a prostaff member of the “Feel the Rush TV” show and has had another great season in 2013.
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OBSESSION BY: DUSTIN LEE
unting has not only been a passion for me but it has also simply been a way of life. All of my childhood memories have something to do with being outdoors. My dad made it clear to me at a young age that being in the outdoors was the best way to live. I was lucky because it was nothing but open country for miles in every direction, a landscape that offered endless possibilities of hunting and fishing adventures. One of my most memorable hunts took place during rifle season when I was six years old. My dad finally let me sit in the driver seat of being the actual hunter, rather than being the sidekick as usual. That evening, we set out in a very thick wooded area not too far from home. We weren’t set up for long when we had a spike come walking in, just a mere 20 yards away. At the time, that was the biggest buck that I had ever seen. My dad was able to get me calmed down before squeezing the trigger on the deer. After the shot my dad and I watched the deer run off into the thicket. Dad said, “He’s down!” While we set there giving the buck time to expire I said something that forever got me hooked on whitetail hunting. “Dad, I’m happy, and I’m cold.” I remember him replying, “That’s buck fever.” I had never experienced anything like that before and the words cold and happy come nothing close to truly explaining the feeling that you get after such an experience. That same feeling is what drives me. It does not matter how much work I put into a hunt, those few moments of pure adrenaline make it all worth it. Fast forward 13 years to where I am now. Nineteen years old, and excited to share one of my greatest accomplishments of my hunting career. The story starts in the spring of 2010 when I was out shed hunting one evening. I came upon a shed off a yearling buck. A light, but good looking eight point with great potential. In 2011, I had high hopes of catching this buck on trail cameras to see how he progressed. Sure enough, in October he showed up and was a good looking two and a half year old, with a lot of growing to do before reaching his potential. I couldn’t wait for the next season to see how many inches he packed on.
Dustin Lee of Gore, Oklahoma harvested his best buck to date in the fall of 2013. He had years of history with the deer, including many trail camera pictures, which made the feat that much sweeter.
In Late July of 2012, in the first place I put out a trail camera to capture the buck, I instantly picked him up. The buck had made himself to the hit list for the season. He hadn’t grown more points; however he had become a solid 140 class buck. However, after only a few pictures he vanished from the cameras and was nowhere to be found. After those few pictures, the “shooter nine point” remained anonymous for four months without a single picture! The season came and went and I only had one brief encounter with the buck, but no chances for a shot. Once deer season passed, I figured it would be a great time to do some walking around learning the terrain better in the area. A lot of the big bucks that are killed nationwide are killed with a lot of luck. However, I thought I could up my odds by scouting out the area and getting to know it like the back of my hand. I put in a lot of time and got a good understanding of the layout of the terrain, the types of timber there; creek bottoms, food sources, and bedding areas. I hoped that knowing all those things would be the difference of not seeing a deer and shooting the biggest buck of my life. The following season I had my eyes set on that one particular deer. I decided to go back to the same place I had encountered him the year before. I used the information I gathered while scouting, and headed to some natural deer trails. Sure enough, the deer had been hitting them pretty hard going from their bedding area to feeding grounds. After putting up a few cameras and returning a week later, my cameras revealed a great surprise. The Big Nine had returned and had remarkably grown into a big 13 point. At this time, the big buck received the name “The King” Simply because his rack went out and wrapped all the way back together creating a perfect crown on top of his head. The big buck certainly put on the inches over the summer and was definitely on the very top of my hit list! The once camera shy buck had turned into a model for the camera. Out of the 15 deer in the area, he was on the camera more than any other deer. Though I was really happy to have the buck on camera, it was still two months away from opening day! I knew I had to be careful, so I would pick the windiest days when the bedding areas were upwind to check my camera. Eliminating as many possible reasons for the buck
to flee the area is another great tactic skill to use year round. Thankfully, my efforts were successful and the buck stayed on the same pattern for those long and dreadful two months. A few days before archery season opened I snuck in the area as quietly as possible and hung a stand at mid-day, hoping my scent would be gone before the buck made his daily pass down the trail that evening. After an excruciatingly long wait, opening day had finally arrived. The trail camera pictures showed the buck coming by the stand right at daylight, so I had a plan. I was afraid to spook him if I tried to get in first thing in the morning, so I decided to be patient and hold off for the evening hunt. The day brought with it 95 degree heat, and a blazingly hot sun which made for a miserable hunt. I knew the buck would soon leave the bachelor group and change his pattern, so the time to get him was now. With the hot sun beating down, and no breeze, I planned to make two trips to the stand. I knew that carrying all my gear to the stand would make me sweat and I didn’t want to hunt this deer dripping in sweat. So I made one trip in while wearing my average day clothes to carry in the gear. Once I got back to the truck I changed into my hunting clothes and slowly walked to the stand staying as cool as possible, trying not to not break a sweat. The wind direction for the hunt wasn’t perfect so I wanted to be as scent free as possible. Once I got about half way to the stand I even got some dirt and rubbed it head to toe on my clothes, I then even got some cedar branches and did the exact same. Once getting in the stand I sprayed down with Scent Killer. I found myself in one of the hottest and most miserable days in the stand that I’ve ever experienced. The only tree in the area to get on top of this deer sadly made me have to be directly towards the sun and I was baking in the heat, now soaked with sweat. Finally, about an hour before dark I heard a sound behind me. I knew it was something big, certainly not a varmint. As it slowly approached, I could hear it was something big, and began to get ready, hoping it was my target buck. Once it stepped out in the opening, I was very disappointed to see that it was a big hog. I have had this happen multiple times before and it usually ended the hunt because the deer don’t socialize well with hogs and will avoid an area where one is or has been. I even
debated on shooting the hog but decided not to in hopes the buck may still show. Once the hog moved off, and with daylight fading fast, I heard something walking down a trail that came out about 50 yards in front of me. Squinting hard, I could make out three does. They all slowly walked out in front of me and headed towards a persimmon patch. As they approached the persimmons they began getting pretty hesitant about going any further, then suddenly all started blowing ran off. Knowing that my chances just went down dramatically I quickly got my grunt call out and began blowing it aggressively. I was hoping this would stop the does from snorting. After a few short seconds of grunting, I heard a very loud noise from behind me about 80 yards. I could instantly tell that it was multiple deer. My cameras showed me that there were three does at this spot, and a bunch of bucks, including The King. As I listened to the loud noise I realized that it was quickly getting a lot closer. As I peeked through the trees, I realized that I had grunted in five bucks that were all heading straight towards me! Watching through a small hole about 40 yards behind me I watched each buck make an appearance. The first buck was a small basket rack and each buck that came out was a bit bigger. When it got down to the last buck my heart began to beat uncontrollably. The King was coming in! All the hours of scouting and running cameras were hopefully about to pay off. The bucks stopped and looked around for the buck they had just heard grunt from a minute ago. They slowly started making a big circle around me to get downwind. When the big buck I had my eyes set on made it to a scrape about 30 yards away, he began demolishing the tree while scraping the ground up very aggressively. One by one all the bucks made their way walking just a mere 20 yards in front of me. When The King walked out into the opening, drawing back my bow was almost mission impossible. I had ten eyes within 30 yards, all looking around for the buck they had once heard before. Time after time I put tension on the string trying to successfully draw back but then a buck would look directly in my direction and I would have to ease up. The King began to angle towards me, making for a poor angle. With my shooting light down to just a few available minutes I needed to take the
first opportunity and hope for the best. Finally, I was able to draw, but my buck was still angled towards me. I put my sight pin just above and in front of his shoulder that was closest to me. Squeezing the trigger once my pin was set brought with it a huge since of relief. The number one buck I have had been watching for three years and now on my top hit list was 20 yards in front of me. The journey to get here flashed back. Trip after trip going in the woods pursuing him, countless hours of practicing shooting at the Glendel Targets, managing about ten trail cameras in the area, getting to know him better than the back of my hand had turned itself into a feeling of success knowing that I had pulled it off and the hard part was done, getting him into bow range. As I carefully watched my arrow leave my bow, with my Killzone broadhead leading the way and my heart beginning to beat insanely fast, I watched it enter the buck exactly where I had set my sight pin at. Making a hard thump sound when hitting the buck, I saw him go down in his front end and start running as fast as he could. Blowing through the thickest brush piles that were in front of him just trying to get away from whatever just happened to him. Me, not even breathing at this point, trying to listen as carefully as possible as the big buck ran off, left me in disbelief as to what really just happened. The buck made it about 80 yards then I could hear him slow down to a stop. Just a couple seconds later I could hear him make a lot of commotion followed by silence. Shaking uncontrollably at this point I got my phone out and called my dad. My adrenaline was sky high, so when I called home I could not even talk; my dad asked me if I fell out of the
stand? His next question was, “Did you get the big one?” at this point in tears of joy I repeatedly said,” Yes, over and over with the thought of knowing that my dad was proud of me. I was about two hours away from him at this point but he didn’t even hesitate to say “I’m on the way”. I carefully got down from the stand and quietly snuck out to the truck to wait for my dad to show up. Once he did, we didn’t celebrate too much, we did not want to chance anything before getting our hands on him. I pinpointed the thick area where I thought I heard him go down. Dad and I began looking for the deer. After about ten minutes of making small circles not coming up with no sign of him I began to go back where I had shot the deer. As I walked the trail, cautiously looking for blood, I heard my dad whistle for me. He had found some blood and there was a good amount of it so we began to trail it. We had maybe gone 30 yards when I saw something just ten yards in front of us pinned up against a tree. I shined the light directly on it and there he was! I was speechless at first but then very happy, just said, “Dad”. We instantly ran those ten yards to the deer in such excitement and relief. When I reached down to pick up the deer it finally all hit me. I had done the number one goal I set out to accomplish that year and there was a sense of pride that I’ve never felt before. The monkey had been lifted off my shoulders. Normally dragging a deer out of the woods isn’t the greatest thing I like to do. However that night I didn’t mind at all and I kept a smile on my face the whole time. That night we had to stop a few times before we ever even got to the house to show some friends and family that wanted to see it. He ended up scoring a solid 160
inches, making it my second largest kill ever. Hunting is my passion, it is my obsession, and simply it is a way of life for me. Everything I do throughout the year revolves around deer season. Learning more each year about deer, getting to harvest a buck on your hit list, and getting others involved in the outdoors and watching their love for the sport grow is what I live for. I encourage everyone to take it upon themselves to accept the quest of taking someone hunting this year. All it takes is one time in the woods for someone to get hooked and their life forever be changed. I know my life certainly was after that day in the woods with my dad at six years old, and I can gladly say it is because of that one day in the woods why I am the man I am.
Bruce Craig of Red Deer, Alberta with the big character buck he anchored after 17 long years of persuing his dream of shooting a mature whitetail deer with his bow. Despite numerous trail cameras in the area, neither Bruce or the landowner had ever laid eyes on, or captured pictures of the wise, old deer. The big framed whitetail was truly a reclusive survivor of a buck, and a fitting end to Bruceâ€™s long quest to havest such a challenging animal.
PATIENCE BY: BRUCE CRAIG
began archery hunting 17 seasons ago, and every year since have had visions of that big buck that would grace the pages of every publication on the market. Reading all the articles and seeing pictures of monster sets of antlers, it seemed all too easy. Find a trail, place a stand, and shoot a deer. Those articles must have misinformed me. For 17 years, I had scouted, set up stands, placed cameras, and sat for countless hours over deer trails. Despite my best efforts, this never produced that dream buck, and for 17 years, my deer tag would have to be filled using the ear piercing blast of the thunder pole. 2010 was a year unlike most others. In the past I would put in my homework, and yet as opening day loomed, I never seemed prepared. I was committed to ensuring that 2010 was different. My cameras had been out most of the summer, trails had been picked, stands placed in early August, and by the week prior to opening day, I even had my buck picked out! He was frequenting a trail beneath my stand. Although not a giant, he was the largest that I would have ever put my pins on and would be a dream come true if I could put everything together. September 18th would be the amazing precursor that would set the stage for one of the most exciting nights of my bow hunting history. As I sat in my stand wonder-
ing if the 130 class buck that I had passed on twice in the last two outings, would return and present a shot, I noticed movement coming down an adjacent trail about 80 yards to my right. As I followed with the video camera, it became apparent that the buck that I had noticed on the trail camera was among five others, including the one that I had passed on before. As I filmed, another buck had snuck in unnoticed, and began feeding back towards my stand. He had main beams that protruded well beyond his snout, and tines that rose to the setting sun. I estimated him to be roughly 180”, at least! Then, all of a sudden, all the deer took off like cruise missiles, leaving a vapor trail of dust. “What happened?!” I thought as I tried to figure out what went wrong. Just then, a yearling bull burst out of the brush in front of me and was hot on the heels of the 6 bucks. “Unbelievable!” I whispered to myself. For the next few moments before the light was gone, I sat quietly in disappointed disbelief. I could not return until the following week, and it nearly killed me. Scampering up the tree in the middle of the hot afternoon, I knew that I was in for a long wait before the deer began to move. This gave me time to set my camera arm, and settle my nerves. The deer had all came down the trail to my right previously, so I set my camera to film
my hunt on that side of my stand. At about 6:15, I slowly turned to look behind me, and saw a buck coming down a vague trail to my left. This was a shooter, with a left side that seemed to be a wall of points! He continued to feed towards me, and was now about 75 yards away. I was able to carefully grab my bow and knock an arrow, but I could not swing my camera around to view the left trail. At 40 yards, the buck stopped dead in his tracks, behind the only two mature trees that grew behind my stand. As the minutes passed, I could see that he was more nervous than I was. He knew something was not quite right. He then began to backtrack, hoping that whatever had given him the shivers, hadn’t noticed him. But he was dead wrong! As he began to turn, I drew back and placed my 40 yard pin high on his shoulder, and let out a doe bleat. He momentarily stopped. That split second shot opportunity was utilized as my arrow cut through the hot evening air, and found its target. The buck burst across the 120 yard meadow to the far tree line, and then the woods fell silent once again. I knew he was down and the adrenalin now kicked in. I had sent a text to my hunting partner Tim, who was hunting about two miles away, and let him know what had just transpired, but not to hurry and ruin his evening hunt. He replied that there was no action where he was, and that he would make his way back to where I was. I was shaking so bad that I was afraid of falling out of the tree. With my feet finally planted firmly on the ground, I made my way to the edge of the trees where I had last seen the buck. Seeing him lying just inside the tree line, the adrenalin rush hit me again. My first buck with a bow, and he looked like a monster! His left beam sported seven points, while his right side was weaker with only four. With only about 200 yards to drag him to the lease road, and a good hour and a half before legal light, I set out to get him out of the bush. At about
Bruce and his hunting party with a good bull elk he took in Alberta.
the half way point in the drag, I heard a vehicle driving slowly down the main road, and then two rifle shots rang out. I may have loudly muttered something about “darn poacher, it’s the freakin’ bow season!” As darkness crept up on me and my buck, I saw two sets of headlights coming up the lease road. I made my way to the road, as I recognized the first truck as that belonging to the landowner. Tim was right on his bumper. The landowner was coming out to do a check on his cattle, and said that he would stop on his way back, and if we were still busy, he would leave the gate open so that we could get out. It was after the landowner had left, that Tim inquired about the location of my stand in relation to the main road. When I asked why, he stated that he had shot an enormous black bear which had been feeding in the oat field, and a mere 250 yards from where I was dragging the deer. The following morning, found Tim and I standing over a 450 pound beautiful shimmering black coated beast that would square out at 7½ feet, and his skull measured at 19 ½ inches. My buck would score at 151 ½ inches, by far the largest buck that I had taken, and of Bruce’s friend Tim with the course my first with a bow. I am not usually a big black bear Tim was able very patient person, but I must say that I am to take on the same trip as very proud of this 17 year wait. Bruce took his whitetail Author’s note: With all the cameras that we had set out throughout the year, and the countless hours of scouting, this buck had gone undetected from us as well as the landowner. He knew many of the large bucks roaming his property, but had not seen this one. He was a wise, mature reclusive buck, and as such, a true trophy. Tim also had some camera luck. He had taken the bear to a local taxidermist, who had cameras out in the spring for bears, and was given a few pictures of his bear from earlier in the year. It should also be noted that using a rifle for bears, while the deer bow season is in effect, is legal.
A Case for Hunting BY: CHAD WILKINSON
s my two year old daughter reached for one of the mounted deer, I said to her “You’re going to be a hunter, aren’t you?” She giggled. Then behind me, I heard someone say, “She sure seems to love animals; I don’t think she’s going to want to hunt.” Perplexed, I held my tongue. I recognized that the words spoken by a non-hunter were borne of the notion that hunters do not, or could not share the same connection with, or appreciation of, wildlife. The more I thought about it, the more it bothered me, and the more I wished I would have said something at the time. My life, like so many of us, revolves around wildlife and time spent outdoors with family and friends. My land is managed to benefit wildlife. I donate to organizations and clubs that support wildlife. As a whole, hunters are in fact proactive in supporting wildlife conservation.
Advocating for Wildlife To many non-hunters, especially those who oppose hunting, it may seem counterintuitive to view hunters as conservationists. However, the facts affirm this. Countless hunting organizations, from local fish and game leagues to international conservation agencies, partner on projects to benefit wildlife. Most jurisdictions allocate a portion of hunting licence and tag sales to wildlife and habitat conservation, not to mention the millions of dollars donated by hunters to groups like Safari Club International, Delta Waterfowl, the Wild Sheep Foundation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and many more.
Financial Contributors This vital infusion of resources into wildlife conservation is but one example of the connection and passion that hunters have for wildlife and the environment. Many hunters also either own land or influence land managers to preserve natural aspects of our landscape. The money we spend on hunting, and value of the wildlife that comes from these expenditures, is important to policy makers and private landowners alike. The likelihood of wildlife being recognized as a top priority is higher if there is a measurable value attached to that wildlife. Hunters help facilitate this through their annual expenses. When government and private landowners decide how to manage natural resources, they consider the overall value of those resources. Hunting adds real economic and perceived value to the equation. In turn, it ensures that relevant wildlife concerns are addressed as they arise, and wildlife conservation remains a priority.
Managing Wildlife Hunting is also used as an effective and important management tool. Wildlife management plans are designed to support sustainability by establishing a balance between populations and the carrying capacity of the land. An overpopulation of most species can eventually result in disease, starvation and mortality. The fact that harvest quotas can be increased, decreased, or even eliminated if necessary, demonstrates the value of hunting as a management tool. Furthermore, the importance of hunters as wildlife managers is heightened when human influences eliminate natural processes. For example, increased food sources as a result of agriculture, or removal of large predators such as wolves in areas where they cannot be supported, means that an unregulated population of animals like deer would almost certainly result in an overpopulation, disease, and die-offs.
Procurement of Food One of the most basic of values associated with hunting is the ability to harvest one’s own food. Wild meat collected in accordance with game laws, provides healthy, organic protein-rich
table fare. In a day and age when environmental responsibility and being green is all the rage, few can argue against sustainable harvests through hunting. Venison provides a healthy source of protein. Like many of us, I grew up on wild game. Not that long ago hunting was more than a luxury; it was a way to fill the freezer. In many cases, it is still a subsistence activity, while for others, it is a way to provide for our families while enjoying the outdoors.
Family Time This brings me to another key aspect of hunting, and that is time spent outdoors with friends and family. Every hunter remembers their first kill, and all the work it took to get there. A special bond is formed between people who hunt together. Hunting is an activity detached from everyday life. This escape is special, and it can be enjoyed by friends, family, and even alone. Hunting is a part of who we are, and how we are made. It is a primal aspect of our being, regardless of whether or not it culminates in the taking of game.
The natural world is, by its very character, is more cruel than the ethical delivery of a bullet or arrow by a hunter. One of the most common arguments against hunting is that people are too evolved to continue with an activity that inflicts pain on animals. The reality is that death is a natural and inevitable part of the circle of life. Mortality resulting from disease, starvation, or even predation is unpleasant and often violent. An expedient kill by a hunter minimizes suffering. Indeed, humans have altered the environment in ways that influence wildlife populations. Regulated hunting helps to offset this. My response would be that humans are in fact, too evolved to ignore these realities. We have a responsibility to hunt and, our efforts support game managers in doing their jobs. In turn, animal suffering is actually minimized. In hindsight, this should have been my response when I heard those words … “she sure loves animals, I don’t think she will be a hunter.” My hope is that she will continue to love animals, and because of that, she will be a hunter! You can bet that the next time I hear someone challenge the ethics or motives of conservationist hunters, I will be sure to expound on the virtues of hunting and today’s hunter. I encourage you to do the same.
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BY: LANE HODNEFIELD
y scouting for the 2013 season started July 15th. It started off slow and I wasn’t having much luck. I had been scouting for two weeks and hadn’t seen a deer over 170 inches. I was starting to get a little discouraged but I kept going out every day and worked hard. I was determined to get a look at a good deer that I could target in the archery season. Finally, I got a break on the 29th of July. My hunting buddy Riley Schick, his younger brother Jordan, and I were out scouting. We stopped at a big draw and started glassing. I spotted a deer. When I looked at him though my binoculars my heart started to race! “There he was. The deer I have been looking for since I started bow hunting,” I thought to myself. As I pointed him out to Riley, I thought he was going to have a heart attack! We stayed on the hill until dark and watched him through our spotting scopes. We were completely in awe of the spectacular buck! I didn’t sleep a wink that night. That deer was all I could think about. It consumed my every thought. The monster buck had become a part of my every day routine….wake up, go to work, watch my buck, and go to bed. I saw him every time I went out. The more time I spent with my monster mule deer the more anxious I was getting for September 1st to arrive.
Finally, it was the week before opening day and I was getting very excited, thinking that I had the big old buck figured out. I headed out after work like I usually did. I got to the spot where I had seen him every time previously, but this time, he was nowhere to be found! I was a little nervous but still confident that I would find him again. I was hopeful it was just a onetime occurrence and hopeful he would show up again the next day but I was wrong. I didn’t see him for the next five days. Panic was starting to set in! It was August 31st, the last
Lane Hodnefield took this absolutely beautiful double drop tine mule deer in Southern Saskatchewan in 2013. The amazing rack carried 23 points and is loaded with long sticker points, and matching droptines. The deer ended up with a gross score of 222â€? and netted 214â€?.
of scouting before the big day. All of my hard work and planning had just vanished, along with any sign of the buck. I headed out with spirits low, but like a gift from the deer hunting gods, I found him! I was ecstatic. I watched him until dark knowing he would likely be in the same place opening day! It was another sleepless night as I tossed and turned with the anticipation of opening morning overwhelming me. On opening morning, Riley and I set out with our bows in hand and ready to take care of business! We found my buck and watched him bed down. The weather was just not cooperating. It was really hot and there was next to no wind. As bad as I wanted to make a move on him I decided to leave him alone in fear of jumping him and scaring him out of the area. I sat and watched him all day to make sure no other hunters stumbled across my dream buck. The second day I set out again with my hopes high. The morning was uneventful with no sightings but we didn’t give up and continued to scour the area for any sign of him. After covering a lot of ground and with weary eyes from straining through the binoculars at everything that looked like it may be an ear of a deer, or a tine of an antler, I found him later in the afternoon! The wind was howling and he was in a great spot to pull off what could be the most important stalk of my hunting career. I drove until my truck was out of sight and parked. I was getting ready to start my stalk and then my heart sank! I looked down where he was bedded and saw another truck driving toward the buck! The truck stopped beside the buck and promptly scared him away. It now became apparent that I was not the only hunter that knew about this trophy buck. The next day at work, all I wanted to do was get out of there and find my buck. As soon as 5:30pm rolled around, I was in my truck and back in the
Lanes cousin Cole took another great deer, grossing 186”
field. It didn’t take long to find my buck. He was bedded about two thousand yards away, on the side of a large hill in a chick pea field with two other bucks. It was time. I was finally able to make the stalk on the deer of my dreams. Beside the pea field was a large cow pasture. I grabbed my bow and dropped into the pasture, out of sight from the buck. This was good for me because I could gain a lot of ground without being detected. After about 30 minutes of walking, I was at the bottom of the hill where my buck was bedded. I slipped under the barbed wire fence ever so carefully. I knew that I was now within 200 yards of the buck, and had to move as quietly as possible. Still out of sight, I got into a sprayer track through the crop and headed up the hill very slowly. With every step, the peas were popping under my feet like bubble wrap. It was a terrible sound! I stopped and took my boots off to try to minimize noise. I was getting to the top of the hill, still out of sight from the buck, but I knew that I had to be getting close. I was moving ever so slowly; scanning in front of me, and trying to make as little noise as possible. “If he was still bedded in the same spot I have to be very close” I thought to myself. I got to the top of the hill and I peeked up very slowly to see if I could see him. I will never forget that moment, when I saw what I was looking for! There he was. Although all I could see were antler tips, I knew it was him. I dropped down to my belly. I was only 30 yards from the
monster buck! I laid there for a second, trying to calm myself down. Still undetected I slowly inched closer and closer. I crawled very slowly, staying as flat as I could, and watched his horns at all times. I got to 18 yards and stopped and waited. At this point I thought my heart was going to beat right out of my chest! I started taking deep slow breaths to try and calm myself down. I kept repeating in my head, “relax - take aim squeeze the release.” I was sitting there waiting for the monster buck to stand… and waiting. I waited for about an hour and a half when I moved my body to get in a better shooting position. I shifted my weight very slowly when I heard a loud “pop”. It was a chick pea pod that popped as I moved! I looked up and his horns were facing straight toward me! I knew that it was now or never, so I came to full draw! I was ready. My heart was
pounding. The buck rose up from his bed, looking right at me! This was the moment I had been waiting my entire hunting career for. I rested my pin right in the middle of the monster bucks lungs and released the arrow! I watched my arrow hit a little high and the buck dropped like a rock! The shear excitement running through my body was incredible! I sat there for a while to let what happen really sink in. Then it hit me - it’s all over - I got him. A buck that had become a part of my daily routine was now mine! I walked up to the massive mule deer and held the beautiful velvet horns in my hands. It was an amazing feeling. It was awesome to see that all the time and effort I put in to finding and patterning this buck had paid off and I was rewarded with a 222 inch mule deer buck of a life time.
BIG NORM BY: CODY FORSBERG
BY: CODY FORSBERG Cody Forsberg with the giant non-typical mule deer he named â€˜Big Normâ€™. He was hunting with a his dad and their good friend Norm, during the whitetail season of 2012 when they had their first encounter with the giant deer. Cody spent every spare second that summer trying to pattern the buck, and was very successful. He managed to capture a number of spectacular live shots of the buck in August before anchoring him in October of 2013. The numbers on Big Norm are truly world class ... making him the top non-typical muled deer from Saskatchewan for 2013.
fter an adrenaline filled 2012 archery season I was able to wind down and reflect on my experiences in the field. The fact that I had just shot a monster non typical mule deer that scored 245 3/8 with the bow was barely setting in. It seemed so surreal that a dream of mine had finally come true. I caught myself over and over again viewing photographs from that unforgettable day and each time it brought a smile to my face. Once November rolled around it was time to start gearing up for an action packed whitetail rifle season. It’s almost like it is in our blood as hunters, to sense the cold weather approaching, meaning the rut season is on its way. Motivation is not hard to come by at this time of year so I spent countless hours maintaining whitetail baits, checking trail cameras and scouting during low light hours. I was fortunate to see many different up and coming whitetail bucks but nothing quite what I was looking for. As the season progressed the odds of finding a giant whitetail were starting to diminish so I decided to start covering more country in hopes of coming across a diamond in the rough, and that I did. During our travels on a cold November day my father Hugh, our friend Norman Ballek and I were searching some unfamiliar territory in hopes of finding that elusive whitetail. After a couple hours spent walking tree bluffs and slough bottoms we came across a breathtaking sight. All three of us stood in awe as we watched an absolute giant of a mule deer buck walk out of a draw accompanied with four does and two other small bucks. We stood there at 150 yards away, all eyes on the massive non typical as he chased around a doe in estrous with his nose in the air. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing; he sported a beautiful typical frame with a ten inch flyer off the left side with additional stickers and a fence row of inline tines on his right antler. I knew instantly it was a 240 class mule deer. He
did not once look at us because he was deep in rut, neck swollen and was completely preoccupied with breeding as he disappeared over the hill. It made for an interesting conversation on the way home when each of us could say nothing more than “WOW”. My dad’s good friend Norman is commonly known by most people as Big Norm and even has a burger named after him at a local restaurant in our home town, so it was only fitting that this giant non-typical buck received the name “BIG NORM”. I started thinking to myself about what a remarkable deer we came across and felt somewhat relieved that rifle mule deer season was over. This meant that as long as Big Norm could stay healthy and withstand an unforgiving Saskatchewan winter than I would have an opportunity to pickup his sheds in the spring. At this point I then realized that for the 2013 Big Game Draw for mule deer, my application would fall in the Super A pool giving me a promising opportunity to get a tag. It all seemed too good to be true that I may have the chance at anchoring two Boone and Crocket non typical mule deer in consecutive years. The 2012/2013 winter was a harsh one with high winds and intense snowfall. The deep drifts and snow covered foliage made it a challenge for many deer to access adequate food in order to survive. I seen it more than once where crusted snow permitted coyotes and other predators to run on top while the deer broke through, leaving them accessible and helpless. I was able to pickup many sheds during February and March including one massive right side off of Big Norm but it was white as snow and from the spring of 2011. With not a single fresh shed off him all I could think about was Big Norm, hoping he survived the winter elements and that he didn’t become dinner to a pack of coyotes. Finally, warm weather rolled around and summer was here,
birds chirping, fish jumping and deer feeding heavy in order to put on weight in preparation for another cold winter. I usually begin my preseason scouting during late July and early August when the deer are starting to finish out their new velvet covered racks. This time of year is so exciting because you never know what you may come across and it’s interesting to watch how some deer develop from year to year. Big Game Draw results came out and I scored big with a mule tag that I wished for so I didn’t spend much time anywhere other than in the area we located Big Norm last November. With high expectations I established a couple of good vantage points hoping to catch a glimpse of Big Norm in order to reassure myself that he survived the winter. Over the course of sixteen days my cousin Beau Stewart and I visited many different vantage points scanning the open prairie and lush grain fields with my full sized spotting scope from different angles. There were many does and respectable bucks in the vicinity but nothing that could even resemble the frame size of Big Norm. Weeks went by with no sighting and I began to get discouraged so I started spending time in other areas in order to locate a different bruiser. At this point in time Big Norm was basically a ghost to me, the only thing keeping me in high spirits was the single shed I had stumbled across. The middle of August came around and I continued to hit the back roads in search of this giant ghost. My father and I decided to head out the evening of the 15th back to Big Norm’s stomping grounds to see what showed up. As we approached our lookout point, I spotted two deer along the edge of the cropland. Once I was able to mount my spotting scope and dial it in on the animals I was overcome with complete disbelief. Big Norm was laying there in the pea field partnered up with a 150 class buck, I literally shook my dad till his hat fell off I was so excited. “There he is!!!” I said quietly, trying to refrain from yelling. I immediately began analyzing his impressive head gear and recognized the same big flyer off the left side from the year before along with many other gnarly points but it looked like he put on a lot more mass this year. My whole body was shaking as I watched the proud beauty while he laid there in full alert. That moment right there truly proved how persistence pays off, Big Norm was basically non existent until suddenly boom, he’s right there. As I watched Norm feed while he was bedded I thought to myself it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to capture some amazing live shots of him in all his glory. The wind was in my advantage, the evening sunset was perfect lighting, and his small partner decided to wander off. I then made the gutsy decision to sneak in and snap off some close-ups. After a big high-five from my dad for good luck I set out down a ravine, camera in hand in hopes of getting close. In quick fashion I turned 500 yards into 45 yards and I could just barely see the tips of his antlers in the pea crop. With the mosquitoes buzzing and the crickets chirping I moved in a little tighter to where I felt comfortable. Once I adjusted the settings and zoom on my Cannon I was ready to rock. While waiting for
him to stand up I was able to snap a few vivid shots of him lying there and then suddenly three whitetail bucks ran into the field catching Big Norm’s attention. I had the feeling he was going to stand up so I ducked for cover and sure enough, the monarch rose to his feet at only 40 yards away looking the opposite direction, a sight I will never forget. I dialed in the focus and started snapping off pictures as quick as possible, he acted like a rock star giving me all sorts of cool angles and looks. Once I was satisfied with the photos, I didn’t want to push my luck, I backed out of the field undetected and tucked him in for the night. My family and fellow hunting partners were as thrilled as I was at the stunning pictures I was fortunate enough to capture; I now had proof that Big Norm was indeed alive and well. September 1st, the first day of archery season could not come soon enough, but before that I had to head back to Alberta and reality for two weeks of work before I could return home and continue the pursuit. It was a long fourteen days of no sleep and stress as I thought about Big Norm, causing me to lose the little extra weight I had and drove my co-workers nuts. Finally I returned home to Saskatchewan, shot my bow, gathered my hunting gear and prepared myself for a morning bow hunt for Big Norm. I had a specific spot in mind as to where I wanted to sit depending on the wind so each morning and evening I adjusted accordingly waiting for a sighting. One day passed by, and another, eventually I burnt most of my time off sitting in the wind and crawling through tall grass without once crossing paths with the giant. Hot weather and full moon phases seemed to shut the deer down and not many deer were spotted. Mature free range mule deer bucks are an extremely hard species to relocate once you have lost them so knowing that I had to play hide and seek with Norm before I headed back to work was enough to make me sick. After a helpful tip from my long time hunting partner Tony Pyette, I began looking at the country from different directions and started covering area. Two days later I ended up spotting a large bod-
ed mule browsing in some brush. With relief of what I saw, Big Norm was back in my scope along with his partner. He had travelled close to two miles of where he was spending his summer months and his velvet was gone! Huge bladed out tines looked almost bleach white in hard horn; he would rake almost every brush pile he walked past to sharpen and darken his rack. An indescribable feeling rushed through me knowing that I was back on Norms trail. The only problem was that I had to go back to work once again so I literally begged my parents to keep an eye on him while I was gone. I truly enjoy my job with Newalta but it was a painful few days at work knowing Norm was out there waiting for me. Every morning and evening I would check in at home and nag for scouting results. Sightings were few and far between but the parents were able to reassure me a couple times that he was still there, thus allowing me to sleep. My coworkers came up big, including my cousin Beau and were able to accommodate me, so that I could take the first week of muzzleloader season off; I figured this would be my best opportunity at connecting with him. I had not experienced a lot of muzzle-loading in past seasons so I decided to visit the staff at Exsile Outdoors in Lloydminster in hopes of finding a nice muzzleloader. The service was great and in short manner I had a 50 calibre CVA Accura in my hands and was ready to go. They accommodated me so well there that they even had the gun shooting tacks for me and I can’t thank them enough for that. It meant that with a couple test shots I would be ready to hit the field and pursue the deer of a lifetime. For the past few months I have been very fortunate to be apart of the Big Game Illustrated production team. Owners of big game, Chad Wilkinson and Devin Gorder welcomed me with open arms and motivated me to get out there and start videoing and doing photography. It gave me a lot of drive, not that Big Norm wasn’t enough already, but their expertise and support along with the rest of the team truly helped. Chad and I came to an agreement that it would be an amazing opportunity to capture the hunt and Big Norm all on video so the nerves started kicking in. October 1st rolled around meaning it was my last day of work and first day of muzzleloader season, pressure is on. After a long conversation over the phone, Chad and I made a game plan for the morning that we would meet for the first time ever at five am. I never imagined hunting the biggest mule deer I’ve ever seen with a guy I’ve never met but it couldn’t have worked out better. Chad showed up early and I was
late so we quickly hit the trail, hot coffee in hand. We arrived to my vantage point and got into position in hopes of spotting Big Norm. There was no time for talking and getting to know each other better because we were glued to our spotting scopes. Not even 20 minutes into the hunt I spotted a young mule deer buck down in some thick bush, as Chad focused in on the same area he spotted another deer. After coordinating me as to where it was I exploded with excitement and said there he is, we had already found Big Norm in the first morning! I thought to myself, good thing I met Chad because he just picked out the monster for me. Our jaws dropped as we watched the king of the area, strut his stuff across a stubble field and down into a draw. After some great footage of the buck a couple hours had passed without seeing any movement and we both came to the conclusion that he bedded down for the day. We were able to determine within 100 yards of where he was bedded down but he was out of sight so we decided to leave him be and setup on the draw for the evening as long as the wind was favorable. Both of us exhausted after a long drive from the previous night we opted to go for some brunch, a quick nap and return early in the afternoon. A couple hours vanished and it was time to get back out there but before that I wanted to test how the gun was shooting. After some consistent shots at different yardages I was confident in my equipment. Once we returned to Big Norm country we prepped our gear, packed the camera, and ditched the vehicle on foot. With a 30 km northwest wind at our face, we fought the gusts until we reached our desired location to sit. As silent as possible we setup and got comfortable on a side hill for a three hour wait. My mother and sister supplied us with two more sets of eyes and sat on a vantage point so they could see the bigger picture and alert us if they seen any
movement. During a wait that seemed like an eternity Chad and I were able to share some stories and have some laughs while constantly scanning the brushy edges of the bluff for any action. The geese flying over and cold gusts of wind kept us on our toes as we tried to keep warm. Overcast skies caused sunlight to darken sooner increasing odds of Norm rising early. During mid conversation I suddenly froze, looked Chad’s direction and asked “You hear that?” “Yes” he replied as I gently crawled to the edge of the hill. Once I peaked down into the brush I could see a chocolate brown rack sticking up in clear view. He stood up out of his bed and was looking directly through me; I thought I was busted until he began scratching his hind quarter with his gnarly antlers. I turned to Chad and waived him into good range for the camera before Norm went back to alert mode. Just in the nick of time Chad was able to setup before Norm started looking around again. My full body began to shake and my eyeballs were likely popping out of their sockets at the size of this legend. He took two steps forward exposing his front quarter from behind a limb and I sent a 150 grain ballistic into his boiler room. After a solid crack I was convinced that I just made a great kill shot on the biggest mule I had ever seen! Norm disappeared back towards the bluff with Chad and I on his trail, as we approached, we spotted him laying motionless at the very edge of the cover. After a gratifying hand shake, I found myself hugging my newest friend as we celebrated our accomplishment like school girls. With caution I greeted Norm with both pride and sadness as I lifted his rack Cody with one of the sheds off out of the tall grass. ‘Big Norm’. It was similar size A bittersweet feeling to the antlers the buck carcome over me as I ried, showing he was a mature sat at his side appreanimal. ciating how stunning he was. Everything from his faint double throat patch, paddled out tines and big flyers I couldn’t imagine anything better. Chad and I returned to my father’s hunting lodge where we celebrated our achievement and the life of Big Norm. Spending my spare time in the outdoors is a huge passion for me and plays a vital role in being successful. It is very important to not judge your success by the score of your animal but by the challenges you overcome in order to get
the result. It just so happens that an animal that scores high is highly sought after making it more weary and smart after years of eluding hunters. For me it is the ups and downs a hunter faces when pursuing a dream buck. This sport has been very good to me and to have the unique opportunity to pursue an animal of such beauty is a dream come true. I have tremendous respect for these animals and look forward to many more adventures in the wild. At this moment I would like to thank Chad Wilkinson and the rest of the Big Game Illustrated team for assisting me with this hunt. Catching it all on video and sharing the moment with an experienced hunter like Chad who loves it as much as I do was truly remarkable. The staff from Exsile Outdoors in Lloydminster deserves a huge thank you as well for accommodating me and going over and above to ensure I had the equipment required to get the job done. And of course I can’t forget my family and friends, without the support from my cousin Beau, my sister Nina and my parents Colleen and Hugh, scouting season would have been a lot more difficult. I owe it all too each and every one of you. Special thank you to Bentley Coben for scoring my deer for the second year in a row, thanks to Lyle Waddington of Prairie taxidermy for mounting my deer for the second year in a row as well as Darryl Sanders from Sander’s Meats in Beechy for processing the deer meat and last but not least, the farmers and landowners who make it all possible.
Keith Comeau with the once in a lifetime double droptine moose he took in his home province of New Brunswick in the fall of 2013. Keith was a relatively new hunter with only one season under his belt when he put the giant bull on the ground. Thankfully, his father in law was a seasoned hunter and graciously showed Keith all of the skills required to take such an incredible animal, even going so far as to lead the hunt that fateful day. The bull carried gigantic antlers sporting 31 points and is over 66” wide!
night before the ﬁrst day of moose hunting, while driv“ingTheback to the camp, we saw an absolute giant bull and my father in law instantly gave him the name of ‘The Monster’.”
‘MONSTER’ BY: KEITH COMEAU
ever in my wildest dreams did I think that the incredible events of the 2013 moose season would happen to me. The 2013 season was only my second year of moose hunting, and although I thoroughly enjoyed the hunt, I did not believe that I would be so lucky to down a monster so early in my moose hunting career. It began in 2012, when I was invited by my father in-law (Bruno Levesque) to join him on his annual moose hunt. After hearing many of his hunting stories, I did not think twice to say yes! I had heard that he was a fanatic of big game hunting. I was especially happy because in New Brunswick the moose tags are given out through a draw, and the lucky hunter who is drawn is allowed to take one ‘second gun man’ with him on the hunt. In the short two years that we have been hunting together, he has proven to be a skilled moose hunter and I have already learned a lot. In 2012, we had killed a great bull with a 42” spread only 15 minutes into the first day of the hunt! That moose provided us with over 600 pounds of meat for the freezer and really got me hooked on the experience that is moose hunting. In the summer of 2013, I was overjoyed to hear that I had been drawn to hunt moose in the fall season of 2013! I had only one person in mind as my second gun man and that was my father in-law. I was really looking forward to repaying the favor to him, after what he did for me in 2012. However, after offering him the title he decided to give it to his son, my brother in-law, (Charles Levesque). My father in law was still really looking forward to the hunt though and he offered to come out with us as our guide/mentor. With over 30 years of hunting experience, Charles and I were very excited that my father in-law was going to help us out, and we knew our chances were much better, with such a knowledgeable hunter alongside us. Since
I first met my father-in-law, he has always dreamed of killing, what he called, the monster. my father in-law. I was really looking forward to repaying the favor to him, after what he did for me in 2012. However, after offering him the title he decided to give it to his son, my brother in-law, (Charles Levesque). My father in law was still really looking forward to the hunt though and he offered to come out with us as our guide/mentor. With over 30 years of hunting experience, Charles and I were very excited that my father in-law was going to help us out, and we knew our chances were much better, with such a knowledgeable hunter alongside us. Since I first met my father-in-law, he has always dreamed of killing, what he called, the monster. Little did we know at the beginning of the 2013 season, that he was about to help our group do just that. Four days before the season started the three of us headed out into one of his favorite areas to scout for moose sign, and if we were lucky, maybe even spot a few moose. My father in-law and his son knew the territory very well, however the territory was new to me do I was depending on them to show me the spots that may hold some moose. The night before the ﬁrst day of moose hunting, while driving back to the camp, we saw an absolute giant bull and my father in law instantly gave him the name of “The Monster”. After leaving some cow moose urine in some preferred areas close to the spot where we sighted him, we were ready for the ﬁrst day. It was an early morning as thoughts of The Monster had us all wide awake very early. The three of us piled into the truck, along with our wives, which made for a crowded but enjoyable ride. As we slowly got closer and closer to the area, I was literally praying that a nice size bull would show itself. After a few slow hours, in was now 9am we still hadn’t seen a single moose.
We got to a great looking spot and my father in-law called out “the cow call” at the same area where we had seen a lot of sign. After no response we continued on to the spot where we had encountered The Monster. We did more calling but still had no response. One hour had past and despite our best efforts; still no moose had been spotted. At 10:15am we decided to return at the same location where he had called earlier and close to the area where we had seen The Monster. As we got close to the area, we saw a big cow standing in the woods. My father in-law repeatedly said that during mating season that where there’s a cow, there’s a good chance there’s a bull! Those words echoed in my ears as we sat watching the cow, our eyes straining desperately to catch a glimpse of the bull that we hoped was nearby. We stood very still, and quietly, hoping to see a bull. The cow decided to walk downhill towards more open area. My father in law said “we should go around and try to cut her off ”. As we snuck around to get in front of her, we were met with a scene that will forever be etched in our memories. The Monster was standing in the open, less than 200 feet from us, surrounded by four cows. His back was facing towards us, angling away. The gigantic set of antlers turned and The Monster stared at us. I immediately began to try and find an angle for a shot. The top of the vital area and the neck were the only options from our angle. I was blown away by the sheer size of the bull, as his shoulder towered at least 2 feet above all of the cows. One of the cows moved directly in front of the bull
blocking any shot I had for a moment. Finally, she moved off and my brother in-law gave me the command to take the shot, and he was ready for a follow up shot right after me. I ﬁred the ﬁrst shot and the moose slowly started running straight up the hill into the cleared area. The adrenaline kicked in and I already had another shot ﬁred which was quickly followed by another from my brother in-law. The bull stopped, still surrounded by the cows and I shot the last bullet in my magazine. The bull then dropped where he was! I was already screaming and howling thinking he was down for good. Surprisingly, the monster gets up and kept going. I reloaded my last two rounds as Charles shot two more. The monster dropped once again. I began screaming and howling thinking it was finally the end, but shockingly he got up again. I shot my last two rounds. I was out of ammo and very disappointed because I thought we were missing a lot of our shots. My brother in-law then took a few seconds aiming and shot the last bullet dropping the moose for good. On closer inspection, we saw that every shot was into the vital organs of the moose. Only a monster bull can walk 800 feet from the ﬁrst shot. As we walked up to the bull, the size of his body and antlers was shocking. It was unbelievable how big The Monster really was, as we finally put our hands on him. With antlers measuring 66 inches wide, 31 points, and over 840 pounds of meat, this was the trophy of our lives! The feeling was indescribable for me. I thought of my father in law, hunting and wishing for this for over 30 years, and I felt honored to be a part of it. Celebrating the moment our wives who witnessed the full experience, was a special moment for us all. It was truly an experience that I would do over again every day of my life. This would have never happened to me if I wouldn’t have had the help of my father and brother in-law. This trophy will be shared with them all my life.
Keith and his family are all smiles after working together to anchor the giant bull. Family spending time together, and a freezer full of over 840 pounds of meat is truly what hunting is all about!
HUNTING BY: SCOTT SMITH
grew up in rural Saskatchewan in a family that loved to hunt and fish every chance we had. Since then, my love for hunting has grown and now, to me hunting is almost a religious experience. I have a belief that hunting and fishing creates a more well-rounded individual, one who has a deeper respect and a truer understanding of nature and our environment. Harvesting a deer, moose or an elk is an amazing experience. That being said, even if I knew I may never shoot another animal I would still hunt. Having that big buck or bull in range can leave one intoxicated with adrenalin and keep you coming back for more. It has also taught me so much about myself and life, it has molded me and so many young men and women into who we are today as hunters and individuals. This day and age of technology makes these experiences even more special, and important. Spending time in the forest or on the river beats concrete and high rises any and every day of the week in my books. This is who I am! I enjoy the peace, the exercise, and the clean air. I enjoy trying to outwit the game on their turf, and I enjoy the freedom. Hunting has found a way to heighten my senses and the enjoyment for life. Coffee has never tastes as good as it does at five am heading into the woods. There is something special about the experience as nature appears before you, revealed by the sun as it rises a crimson red, then changes to bright yellow in minutes. It is amazing! It’s the solitude of been alone and hearing the woods come to life on a cold fall morning. It’s a feeling indescribable to most. It’s about having the courage to test myself against the elements. Translating the emotions from a hunt makes it impossible to explain to someone, but this is why we hunt.
Hunting is also the perfect chance to spend time with family and friends. There is no better way to get to know someone than spending a couple days hunting or fishing together. You may also be surprised at what you may discover about yourself. The most important part of my outdoor experiences is when I come home to my family and see the smiling faces of loved ones, the wagging tail of my dog and I get to tell the tales of my journey! I have passed through various different phases in my 30 plus years of hunting. From pellet guns to magnum rifles, birds to big game, each one has had their place and time in my life. Archery has consumed a large part of my hunting time over the last eight years and changed the way I prepare to hunt. From making sure I’m in good physical condition, constantly testing and tuning my gear, to studying the habits of my prey I’m about to pursue, all in the anticipation that Mother Nature will cooperate and lady luck will look down on me. It’s always a learning experience. I learn something every time I hunt whether it’s about me or the game I’m hunting. Just when you think you have that big buck locked down, he does what is least expected. It becomes a real life game of chess and sometimes you capture the king. That brings me to my 2013 archery mule deer hunt. The mule deer hunting experience is always amazing for my brother Mike and I. We grew up chasing whitetails in the pockets of poplar bluffs in south east Saskatchewan, so mule deer hunting was a very different experience. The four days of our mule deer hunt brought sagebrush, deep coulees and big trophy bucks! It truly is the one trip every year that we look forward to most.
Scott Smith with the beautiful velvet covered mule deer he harvested on September 8, 2013. He and his brother Mike hunted hard for four straight days but were on their way home, empty handed, when they spotted this buck and had to try one last stalk! The early season beauty has over 20” of abnormal points which give the rack tremendous character. The gross score is right at 205”, and after 10 7/8” of deductions, the buck has a net score of 194 1/8”.
We spent four full days hunting hard. Up at 4:30am, hunt all day, and back to our room by 8:30pm. On our last day, we were exhausted from walking coulees and hunting steady for four continuous days. We packed up to head home. A short time into the ride home we are talking about the area that we were passing through and that some good bucks have been taken from there. Just as the words came from my mouth I looked over and at the edge of a dugout surrounded by tall grass, I noticed a buck standing there. “Mike Stop the truck” I said. “We have to go back and look at that deer I think he is a good one!” Once he came into sight, we were amazed with what we saw, a majestic mule deer buck! We watched him and his smaller counterpart cross a quarter section and over a ridge. I thought to myself “He’s heading to the hills and will be long gone.” I needed to try an get one more look at him so we stopped on the edge of the alfalfa field that he crossed into. We walked out about 100 yards and started glassing the field. We had little hope, thinking they were likely gone by now. Then I heard my brother, "Scotty, there they are and the big one is just bedding down.” He was lying on the hill side on a bit of a flat, with the smaller buck milling around and constantly whipping his head in every direction on the lookout. I was thinking he may never bed down and just bolt out of there. As we watched, my mind was still planning how to get closer. Every step in the
dry cut alfalfa snapped and popped under our feet like a camp fire. We started trying different ways of being stealthy in the cut crop and nothing seemed to work. My mind was whirling with thoughts of him hearing me 60 or 70 yards away, and then I realized I had all my socks packed in my bag and thought it was worth a try! Then my brother showed what a truly good guy he is, he said “Go for it alone and I will stay back and direct you with hand signals on where you are from the buck.” I didn’t need to be asked twice so instantly geared up, sprayed down with scent killer and shed my boots for six pairs of socks. I took one last look before heading out and was relieved to see it looked like the little buck has settled down. I started my stalk at a little over a kilometer away. It felt like it took me forever but finally I crawled around a big hill to a spot where I could see my brother, Mike. I could see his hand signals with my binoculars and with a couple visual landmarks I noted before I left, I knew I was getting close! Mike put me right on top of the buck. When I got to 40 yards I crouched right down, at 30 yards began crawling on my hands and knees, and at 20 yards went down on my belly. I thought that I had to be right on top of him. The feeling was unbelievable as I saw the buck’s massive rack sticking up out of the alfalfa. It was a hot day with no wind, and I was out of breath. I can feel my heart pounding; my mouth is so dry that when I try and swallow my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth. I'm shaking, hands are sweating, I can feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins, and I could not be more excited for what I know is about to happen. I tried to calm down, control my breathing and slow my heart down a bit. I carefully removed my quiver off my bow and took an extra arrow out. Neither of the bucks moved an inch, and clearly they did not know I was in position for a kill shot. My initial thought was that I will would them out, until they stood up, careful not to spook them. As I start to survey the situation, one of the first things that started to cross my mind was that there was no wind and the thermal currents may carry my scent up the hill right to them causing the bucks to spook. Knowing they just bedded down and I could have be there for three or more hours waiting and with no water, I knew I couldn’t risk it.
Below and top right, opposite: Scott is a veteran hunter and has many trophy class animals under his belt.
I thought I'd try an unconventional method to get them to stand. I tried to whistle but nothing would come out, hence the dry mouth, so I try kissing noises and nothing but a flick of an ear. A half hour has passed I didn’t know how much longer I could sit, so I started to talk to the deer in a soft voice out of desperation, “Hey buck, Hey buck stand-up.” I did this a few times and nothing. Finally I held my bow up over my head and slowly waved it back and forth making the kissing noise again and that got the attention of the smaller buck. As I drew my bow he stood, still unaware of what I was. He looked at me, then right past me as I held at full draw for a minute or two. I let down because the big buck wouldn’t stand up. The smaller buck started to turn his back on me and slowly began to walk away. I looked over just in time to see the big antlers begin to wave back and forth. Instantly I draw, and seconds later the buck stands. He was quartering broad side towards me, uphill with the alfalfa covering his bottom third. I felt like I didn’t have the best shot angle, but I had a clear route into his vitals. I slowly squeezed my trigger and my arrow takes flight and hits its mark! It was a little high, but his legs fold and he drops back into his bed. Instantly, without even thinking, I have another arrow nocked and at full draw once again. As he tried to get back up, I make no mistake and put it one through both lungs it was all over in seconds as he laid there motionless. This is the moment that every hunters lives for. When you have totally immersed yourself in a hunt, a hunt of predator versus prey and you can stand with your arms raised in victory.
This the moment that you realize how fortunate you are to be a hunter and now have that opportunity to lay your hand on such an impressive animal. This was my chance to do that, and I was very happy that I was not alone! I turned away and started walking. I’m not sure how far I went as everything in the world had come to a stand still for that moment. I reached into my pocket and pulled out my phone and texted my wife “I just shot a giant!” Then I called my brother and told him to bring the truck, it was all over. “Hurry I’m waiting for you to lay our hands on him together!” was my last words to him before the phone went quiet.
BY: ALBERT RICHARD
Albert Richard of New Brunswick, Canada, with the massive, big woods, buck he harvested in the fall of 2013. Bucks of this caliber are truly rare along the east coast of North America. The antlers carry incredible mass with the biggest measurements on each side being 6 7/8” and 6 4/8”. The brow tines are also very impressive at a matching length of 9 2/8”. Despite a relatively narrow spread of 15 2/8”, the buck still ends up with a gross score of 155 2/8”. Ashley Richard Photos.
t was a week after the 2012 season and I was scouting for next season, looking for fresh buck sign and trying to find some promising spots to set up for next fall. In New Brunswick, there is a very short time frame between the end of whitetail season and full blown winter, which often results in making many areas completely inaccessible until the snow melts the next spring. Experience has told me that this is a very important scouting period, when big bucks are on the move trying to put weight back on after the rut, and before the depth of winter challenges their survival. I try my best to put all the extra time I have scouting for big bucks before the snow comes and covers all the evidence of the season’s rut. Having around ten trail cameras in the woods all year long, and checking them regularly in the time leading up to the whitetail season, gives me a good idea of what bucks I want to target. This year was no different. I was pleased to see that I had three good bucks that I would be more than happy to put my tag on. As the summer went on, the once predictable, easy to pattern whitetails began changing their habits dramatically. The closer it got to archery season, the fewer and fewer pictures I was getting of my target bucks! The cameras also showed me that they were beginning to travel further, covering more territory in preparation for the rut. I expected this, as it happens every year as bucks shed their velvet and the prerut gets closer in New Brunswick. Another significant factor that seems to drive the big bucks deeper into hiding is the September moose hunt and the weeks prior when the woods are full of people scouting for one of the big bulls that call the province home. With archery season starting on Oct 6 I was ready to go but the target bucks were all showing up completely randomly. They were no patterns at all, and I knew I was going to have to get lucky. However, I knew that I had a lot better chance if I was out in the field, than if I was sitting at home thinking about it! In New Brunswick, we have a three week archery season followed by a four week rifle season. Despite my best effort, the archery season flew by. In total, I had seen a couple young bucks, but it was time to put the bow away, take out the rifle, and hope the approaching rut would turn my luck around. The first three weeks of rifle season flew by, and my bad luck continued. I was committed to putting in the effort and hoped it would eventually pay off. I was encouraged by an increase in the intensity of buck movement, but the vast majority of the trail camera action was during the night. I had a whitetail hunting trip planned for late season in Saskatchewan. As a result I was going to miss the last few days of the New Brunswick season. This meant that I now only had a few days left to hunt! The pressure was mounting. I had put in the effort, and really wanted to shoot a nice buck in my home province, while also making sure I had everything packed and ready for my trip. As I hunted the last few days, I was distracted with the upcoming trip, but continued to put in the time with very little to show for my effort. My mind was racing a mile a minute, I was down to one day left to hunt and I still had to pack for my trip, goto a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon and then get out hunting for
One of Albert’s target bucks, the mature whitetail eluded him throughout the season.
the last few hours of the last day. Luckily for me, everything went well that day and I rushed home to get in the woods for the evening hunt. As I walked out the door at 3pm I knew I wouldn’t have time to get to my tree stand in time to setup without risking spooking all the deer in the area. As I was walking from my house to the woods, I quickly decided I had nothing to lose if I still hunted and very slowly crept along my ATV trail. With the rut in high gear, I hoped that a big buck, cruising for a doe, might just decide to use the trail to cover some ground as well. After walking slowly for a half hour I noticed something to my right. I froze, and waited to see what it was. Out of the thick trees, a beautiful doe trotted along the brooks edge, followed closely by her fawn. The rut was in full swing, so I knew that there could be a buck behind them. I sat and waited, not daring to move for at least ten minutes. Finally, I decided to begin slowly moving again. I quietly crept along, and after only three steps I noticed another doe, eighty yards away, slowly making her way onto my ATV trail. She was acting differently than the first doe, frolicking and jumping around. I hopefully thought to myself, “Maybe she is in heat”. She quickly jumped off the trail. Thirty seconds later, I was just about to make a step forward, when suddenly there he was, looking directly at me. I was caught in the wide open, standing as still as I could and hoping the hot doe would distract the monarch of a buck standing, staring at me. I knew immediately that he was
A trail camera picture showing the incredible body size, and mass of Albert’s buck.
a shooter. I just stood there, whispering to that doe to come back and grab his attention so that I could make my move. After what felt like forever, he looked in the direction of the doe, put his head down and started moving ahead, towards her. In a split second, I put the gun up and took the shot before he completely disappeared in the thick timber. As I stood there I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I knew by his reaction he was hit but I was not sure how good. I waited for a few minutes and called to tell my wife that I had shot a monster buck! I then waited for her to arrive home from work and get ready to come help me look for a blood trail. As we walked back into the area where I had taken the shot we knew that we didn’t have much time to find where the blood began. We were going to lose daylight shortly so we had to move fast. We walked to where the buck had been standing when I fired the shot. My heart sank deeper and deeper as we searched and came to the realization that there was no blood! All we could find was the impressions of his hoofs in the dirt for about fifty yards. Finally, we spotted blood on the leaves. After only finding five or six drops of really dark blood I knew I hit him
far back, so at that point with low light we decided that my best option was to pull out and go back the next morning. As soon as I got back to the house I called my father and some friends to discuss what we should do and to ask for some help with the tracking. We decided to wait till morning to pick up the search. As I lay in bed, I replayed the events in my mind over and over again. All I could think about was the image of the monster buck looking at me; it was an image that was burned into my head. Let’s just say it was the longest night of my life. All I could hope for was that we would find the buck quickly. I knew that the longer the search went, the lower the chances that I would find him. We headed out the next morning and had no luck. After an hour and a half of searching and still no buck, I was really starting to worry. I was just beginning to think I would never lay my hands on the incredible animal, and would regret it for the rest of my life, when I heard my friend Steve yell, “He is right here!” All I can remember after that was sprinting through the thick timber and putting my hand on the ‘Big Woods Giant’. I was grateful to have my wife, our unborn child, my parents and some good friends who shared that wonderful day with me, and all played such important parts in my success.
GOING BACK BY: CODY ROBBINS
n our world of hunting that we have created today, as a whole, I believe a hunters mind set is getting somewhat derailed from what it should be, to truly enjoy all the elements of our great sport. When I was a kid, I remember lying in bed at night before a day of hunting… My eyes wide open, staring into the darkness. My mind racing, trying to envision an encounter with the buck of my dreams. All of the questions that would come with trying to foresee the future. Obviously, I never had any answers, but I never remember feeling anything but a ﬂock of positive butterﬂies ﬂowing through my veins. To me, that's what hunting should be, whether you're 12 years old preparing for a hunt with your Grand dad, 33 and hosting your own TV show, or the Grandfather yourself, just the opportunity to go hunting should put a smile on your face. What I'm getting at is, in the hunting world, we have created this huge pressure on ourselves to bring home the biggest critter in all the land, and if we don't, we have failed. It seems a lot of the happiness and joy that you are supposed to experience while hunting, is put on hold until a person is successful, and instead of the journey getting there being fun, it's a roller coaster ride of anxiety. Nowadays I ﬁnd myself lying in bed, wondering if the batteries in my Stealth Cam are dead, and why I haven't seen my target buck for ﬁve days… Like many trophy hunters, I convince myself he's gone… “Another hunter shot him,” I think when I heard that gun ﬁre. “A wolf ate him,” I think when I hear a distant howl. I give myself ulcers with the analogies I come up with in my head. Now with this mind set, what you end up having is three months of stress on your hands, instead of ﬁnding peace with a cool breeze, and a beautiful sunset. The simple pleasures that our great sport of hunting is supposed to bring, fade away. I think I speak for almost every hunter in this situation;
you’re in your favourite hunting spot… You come over the hill and see another hunter! A shot of poisonous venom shoots through your soul! You jump to ten million conclusions in a split second; “What is he doing in my spot? I'm the only one with permission! Does he know about MY buck? Has he seen MY buck? Who does he think he is?! Does he know something I don't?” As your brain short circuits, subconsciously you picture how perfect the world would be, if you were the only hunter in existence. Just the idea of that sounds so great at the time. But, imagine such a thing once hunting season was over. You would have your giant buck that you're so proud of, and you'd be dying to share your story, but no one would listen or care about your accomplishment. Not so perfect anymore. My wife Kelsy is a passionate hunter too, but she doesn't let the pressure of trophy hunting consume her in a stressful way. She appreciates the sport, as I did when I was younger. I ﬁnd myself wishing I could go back to that more simple, enjoyable way of hunting. And the fact is, each one of us can. This hunting season, when I go to bed at night, I'm going to envision that giant buck walking in… I'm going to let that wave of positive anticipation rob me of my sleep. When I come over the hill and see another hunter in my secret spot, I will turn back and give him a wide birth, and wish him luck… just maybe not too much! We as trophy hunters need to stay competitive because that truly is the rocket fuel that drives us, but I'm just saying we need to keep that energy POSITIVE. Don't lose sight of the little things that drew us to this wonderful sport in the ﬁrst place; the fresh air, camaraderie, and the feeling of freedom that comes with being in the wild. One day you'll look back and realize all those little things, were the big things. Every one of us has that same dream, to shoot a smoker buck and make it on the pages of a mag like Big Game Illustrated, but you can't force it. If you put forth the most honest effort you can, I'm a ﬁrm believer that every dog has their day. Create a mindset that's positive so you can enjoy every step of the ride, and when it's meant to be, your turn will come.
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26/03/13 10:08 PM
BY: SCOTT CARSTAIRS
fter a long off season, and hot, wet Alberta summer, finally the time had come. It was early August 2013 and I was on the back roads around home looking for a nice mulie buck. It didnâ€™t take long and I found a nice group of bachelor bucks doing what had become a familiar activity, feeding in the bright yellow canola fields. All you could see were their heads and velvety antlers sticking sky high above the crop. There was particular buck I was in search of, due to the fact I had picked his sheds up in early March of 2013. As I glassed with my spotting scope, I soon identified the buck I was in
search of, and also spotted a second mature buck that sported a clean and very even five point rack. After my initial sighting, I spent day after day on the roads and in the fields, glassing for this group of summer bachelor bucks. Day in and day out I would find them and watch as their antlers were growing through the last month of summer. As I counted down the days of summer, the anticipation of the upcoming opening day was building. Finally after nine long months, the season was just around the corner. It was opening morning and I had made plans with a good friend of mine, Cole Oâ€™Neill, to make a game plan to get on the velvet tined mulies in the morning. The plan was to meet at my place at 6:30am on September 1st and hopefully put the bucks to bed. Backing up to August 31st, the eve of hunting season. Instead of hitting the hay early that night I decided to go with my wife and daughter to a ball tournament in Fort Assinaboine, Alberta. We had a great night with family and friends and may have had a little too much fun, as I woke to my wife Angela handing me my cell phone at 6:10am on September 1st. What do you know, it was Cole calling to see if I was on my way as he was only 20mins from my place and I was still in Fort Assinaboine, 40 minutes away from home! The conversation was short with few words said. I shot out of bed and almost jumped in my truck in just my undies, heading home as fast I could, not wanting to miss opening morning. On the drive I called Cole and asked him
Scott Carstairs with the classy looking Alberta velvet mule deer that kicked off the incredible season he had in 2013. He was also able to harvest a black bear, a moose and two whitetail deer. His wife Ang, was also able to take an impressive whitetail and mule deer in the 2013 season. The Carstairs are going to need to make room in the trophy room after such an successful season. Scotts big mule deer had a 22” inside spread, 15” G2’s and 9” G4’s which all added up to an unofficial score of 165”. It was the start to what can only be called a Dream Season.
get check to see if the bucks were even out in the crop. He called back and I was pleasantly suprised to here that they were feeding in the lush alfalfa on the east side of the field. I was thinking to myself, “We have a real chance to see them go to bed.” As I approached home I also passed by the field and soon realized that me sleeping in caused us a chance at putting one of these big mulies to rest. The bucks were right at the tree line and soon disappeared down the pipeline they travelled daily back to bed on the hot days of summer. Despite the tough start, we were not going to give up. The weather September 1st was hot and calm and I figured the bucks had bedded in the bush to stay cool and grab a drink of water in the nearby beaver pond. Cole and I took a quick tour around the backside of the bush in the early morning to see if the bucks had went to feed in the back field that had a lush undergrowth of clover, but once again the bucks had eluded us. After a few minutes, the banter I was getting about sleeping in really kicked into high gear. Admittedly, this was not the first time this year that I had slept in when I had made
plans for a hunting trip. Our first trip to set cams and scout in Saskatchewan began with me arriving two hours late to Cole’s house, and the second time we went my brother in-law Darren had to wake me up, so sleeping in wasn’t something new. We spent some time scouting to see if anything was still up and about and then did a few walks along a nearby river valley but never spotted any bucks. We did however jump a few does and fawns, and Cole was able to take his first duck with a bow. As I planned for the afternoon hunt, Cole had to leave to take his wife Dianne on her first bow hunt for a whitetail, so I had to hunt solo in the evening. I knew where to be as I had patterned these mulies for the past five years in this area, and have been fortunate to kill three bucks on the same field. As the clock struck 4:00 it was time to go, I grabbed my gear and was out the door and down the road. I made the long, mile walk in and got settled in for the evening’s events to unveil. I was sitting on the east edge of the field 25 yards off the opening of the mulie highway. This is the pipeline that these deer travelled routinely on their way back out to feed. Shortly after 5pm I had action; a young 3x3 had jumped the fence, and nervously made his way out to feed, steadily glancing at me. As soon as I had the opportunity, I reached for my bow, getting prepared for the rest of the bucks to be following, since that’s what bachelors do, I thought to myself. For some reason though the three point bristled up and started doing a strut back to the tree line as he saw something he did not like. I thought to myself, “The whole hunt is going to be a bust now!” Two hours had passed and it was now 7pm. AS I slowly scanned the area, I thought I saw a flash of brown behind me and thought it was a doe and fawn whitetail playing around. AS the brown blob got closer, all at once he bounced right out in front of me. There, standing right in front of me, was the 175” 5 point that I had the sheds off from the past winter. He was only 25 yards away and I had been caught with my pants down. As I reached for my bow and attempted to get up on one knee, the buck started to trot away from me, getting further and further. I was able to get him stopped at what I estimated was 60 yards and hit my release; I watched my arrow sail about an inch over his back. Talk about disappointment, I
I was instantly on the phone sending text messages explaining the events that had just unraveled. All Cole had said is “sucks, that’s a far shot”. “Thanks Cole, that’s really some nice encouragement” I thought to myself. After only a couple minutes, I heard the distinctive “thud” of a deer jumping a fence. As I glanced over my shoulder I saw three bucks coming up the pipeline. I knew the route they were taking and knew they would be within 35 yards of me. Knowing that I had just blown a chance, I was about to have a chance at redemption. The last buck of the group was the deer I had watched all summer, a nice clean 5pt with great G2’s and exceptional front forks. As the deer approached the fence line
they stopped and I thought I was busted again. Luckily, the deer gods looked down on me and the big 5 trotted past the smaller two bucks, as he approached the line I drew back. It felt like 10minutes but it was probably only a minute till the buck jumped into the field. I settled my 20yard pin about half way up his body and squeezed the shot off. I seen my arrow blow right through him, he ran about 20 yards and started to get wobbly and fell down. As I ran up to him I was calling Cole to tell him of the events that just occurred, and sending texts to all my friends. There is no feeling in hunting like anchoring something with your bow, and knowing you beat that animal on his turf.
Scott’s wife Ang Carstairs with a couple great animals she also took during the late fall of 2013.
I ran that mile back to the truck hooting and fist pumping and still vibrating with adrenaline when I got to the house. I grabbed the quad and trailer and got my wife Ang, and Daughter Taylor, to come take some field photos of this magnificent animal. I will forever relive this moment as it is etched in my
memory as one of my most thrilling kills. There is no feeling like connecting on an animal that you have so much respect for, and to do it with a bow makes it that much more rewarding.
Scott sharing the recovery of his buck with his daughter Taylor, truly a special moment for any hunting family.
Hamilton Greenwood Photo
BY: TYLER WILSON
he chance of lightning striking a spot once in a given year is said to be one in 240,000. The chance of lightning striking twice in the exact same spot, a year later, on the very same day, at the very same time, is almost impossible! I harvested a buck of a lifetime in the fall of 2012 with my bow, and one year later on the same day, from the exact same tree stand, at the very same time, I harvested a bear of a lifetime with my bow. In a way it feels like lightning has struck twice! My whitetail buck scored 172 6/8 as a non-typical and gross scored 188. It is currently ranked as the #2 all time youth archery non-typical in the province of Manitoba. My black bear scored 20 4/16, and should be one of the largest black bears taken by a youth with archery for 2013. On both hunts my hunting partner was my dad and we hunted in tree stands only 30 yards apart. - Tyler Wilson
Whitetail Hunt Fall 2012 I heard a familiar snap of a twig off in the distance. I watched the clearing in the direction of the noise. My dad, hunting 30 yards away, was also watching the clearing with great interest. I quickly looked at my dad and then to the clearing, and then back at my dad. In that quick instant my dad had taken his bow off its hanger and had it in his hand ready to draw, so I grabbed my bow down off its hanger, clipped my release on and then locked my eyes once again on my dad and the clearing that separated us. There was a deer coming across the opening straight at my dad, it was walking on the same trail that lead to my stand and out to the field. As I watched to see what deer was coming something told me it was the monster whitetail that we had pictures of, it was just like I knew, before I ever saw him. He was walking with his nose in the air and his two massive beams were waving back and forth as he made his way to my dad. I could see my dad had his bow arm outstretched ready to draw. I watched and waited, the deer walked, my dad waited, the deer kept walking, my dad waited, then he just let it walk by! I thought to myself, this monster buck is coming straight for me. I went into shoot mode just like I had so many thousands of times before shooting my bow at targets in 3-D competitions, but this was no foam target walking slowly towards me. This was a monster whitetail that was likely only going to give me only one good shot. This would be like having one shot for a gold medal at the Olympics!! It sounds kind of weird now thinking back, but thatâ€™s the exact thought that raced through my mind as I prepared for the shot. The buck approached my shooting lane and all my attention instinctively was drawn to that very special area behind his right shoulder; however, his angle would not allow me to make the shot I wanted and the only shot he would give me was in front of his shoulder as he was quartering to me. He stopped at 18 yards, I settled my pin as I have done so many times before and slowly pulled through my release. At that instant the buck kicked his back legs out and the arrow drove deep into his chest.
He whipped around and headed back through the clearing, the arrow broke off as he ran and I could see the nock glowing in the grass. He ran off past my dad and as he neared the far end of the clearing I saw him do a head first dive and his back legs kicked straight up into the air. I heard a bit of crashing in the trees where he had gone down and then silence. I quickly made my way over to my dadâ€™s stand as he had seen everything exactly as I had! The two of us were in shock that it had unfolded so quickly and that it was over. I had the buck down! With light fading we picked up my arrow checked the blood on it and decided to back out and return in the morning light. We were very confident that he was down but wanted to leave him just in case. We returned the next morning at first light and walked to where I had last seen him. We found him 40 yards from my
stand where he had done his flip into the tall grass! It was over and there lying in the grass was the largest buck I had ever seen!
Black Bear Hunt Fall 2013 I heard a rustling in the nearby corn field and figured someting had made it’s way out to the field without coming down my trail. I settled back into my stand with hopes that one of the several good whitetail deer we were hunting would stroll by, passed my dad or I on their way out to feed. We had many good bucks on our trail camera as well as a few black bears that frequented the area. I still had my Black Bear tag as in Manitoba you may use it either in the spring or fall. As I sat waiting I replayed in my head my hunt from the year before from this same stand, and to pass time I flipped through pictures of my buck on my phone. I just happened to look at the date as I flipped through pictures and realized that it was a year ago to the very night that I had shot my monster buck. The instant I realized that it was the anniversary of shooting him, I heard a loud crack in the trees behind my stand that was too loud to be a deer. A black figure suddenly appeared and sure enough it was a small black bear we had pictures of coming down the trail from the field. He continued to me and stopped on the trail in the exact spot where I shot my buck a year earlier. As I watch him there was another loud crack from the trees behind my stand and out ran a bigger black bear at full speed scaring off the little bear down the trail by my dad. I quickly scanned the area to figure out what was happening, it seemed like there were bears running everywhere. Out the corner of my eye I caught a large black shape moving through the trees from where the running bear had come from. Judging from the size of the shape I figured it was a black cow from a nearby farm that was out and was about to ruin a good night of hunting action. As it moved closer I realized it was not a cow but a bear, a very big bear! I soon realized why the smaller bear was running, if something that big was on my trail I would be running at full speed too! The big bear strolled out onto the trail and was coming my way slowly. He reached the trail below me at 18 yards, the exact spot where I had shot my buck, and suddenly I realized it was happening again. There was lots of daylight, he was about to turn broadside to me, I was going to get a shot, and it was perfect! Just as I readied my bow for a possible shot at this tank of a bear, he sat down, and then he lied down! I figured he would give me a shot I just needed to be patient and be ready. My dad once again had front row seats for the show and could see what was happening, he knew the bear had stopped in front of me and was not offering me any kind of shot. Ten minutes passed, and then twenty, and then thirty, still the bear lie on the trail not giving me any shot. Fifteen more minutes passed and I realized that it had now been forty-five minutes from when he first came in and lied down,
darkness was looming. It was now or never and my dad also could see that my window of opportunity was getting smaller. He was tapping his arrow on his tree stand ladder 30 yards away, and I knew he was trying to get the big bear to stand and look his way in order for me to get a shot. It worked, the bear looked his way but never stood and I still had no shot. Suddenly a squirrel ran across the trail five yards from the bear, I still am not sure if the squirrel startled him or it was just time for the bear to get up and move on, but my chance was now. I came to full draw and as the bear quartered away from me, I released. The arrow drove hard into his chest up to the lighted nock and he whirled and ran in my dad’s direction as my buck had a year before. I heard a loud crash, and then silence. My phone buzzed in my pocket, it was my dad texting me a message “ he’s down, he’s done, let’s go find him”. I climbed down and met my dad at his stand and we walked exactly 40 yards from my stand to where we heard him crash and there lying in the grass was the biggest bear I had ever seen. Lightning does strike twice!
BY: CHRIS DAVID
Chris David with the ‘Monarch’ of an elk he took during the 2013 Alberta rifle season. It was a long and tough hunt full of ups and downs but was worth it. The bull carries long tines and incredible mass throughout the length of the rack. G4s are both 26”, with matching 58” beams. Adding it up up results in a gross score of 397 7/8”!
eptember marks the beginning of fall; a time to head to the woods in search of another legendary hunting adventure with family and friends. For me, it is a time to face my toughest challenges of the year. As a professional outfitter in Alberta and an outdoor TV personality, September heralds the start of a grueling three-month schedule guiding clients and filming hunts for our show. More importantly it marks the beginning of the elk rut. For the last 15 years I have relentlessly chased wapiti around the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains in search of a trophy. Nearly every year I manage to tag a bull, but I rarely get to hunt the rut for myself because of outfitting and guiding commitments. If you hunt elk, you know that the best chance for success usually comes during breeding season as bulls and cows are often vocal and more easily drawn to the call. In textbook instances, you listen in the dark of the morning for the telltale sound of the bull calling his cows to leave the feeding grounds and head for the security of bedding areas. In the evening you make every effort to set up on trails used by the elk as they return to those same feeding areas. With a little luck you have an encounter. The past two years have been kind to me and my good friend Mike McDougall. Mike is a great caller and, in fact, one of the best elk hunters I know. Better yet, we work well together. In
2012, he helped me harvest my biggest bull to date, a respectable 6x6 scoring 308 inches B&C. As the 2013 season rolled around, Mike and I picked up where we left off. On September 17, we hiked into a familiar spot and captured another incredible hunt on film as he anchored a huge bull scoring 372 inches B&C. It was an epic moment, both for us and for the show. We had chased the herd for nearly two weeks during the early archery season, but never came close enough to connect with a bow. And believe it or not, his wasnâ€™t even the herd bull! The next day it was back to guiding for me. Hosting elk hunters for the next week, I would have to wait my turn. Fortunately both clients tagged out and, as soon as they left for home, I was back in the woods searching for that huge herd bull. With cameraman Milan Isaac in tow, we hiked for two straight days, back and forth over ridges and through valleys, but all we found were old tracks and more wolf sign than you can imagine. It appeared that wolves had likely pushed the elk up and over to the next range. Then it happened. With time running out, Milan received a call from his dad in northern Alberta. With news of a good bull in a familiar area, we quickly changed plans and traveled through the night. Our focus changed and we would now target that bull first-thing in the morning. This is where the story of Monarch begins.
In just three days I would have to return home again to guide moose hunters. The next morning we met with the landowner. He explained that the elk were damaging his cattle fences and welcomed us to hunt. It was sunny and warm and, by the time we left the landowner’s residence it was getting late; in fact almost too late to head out. We were so excited to have the opportunity to hunt this large property that we ventured out anyhow and immediately headed to the back end of his land. As we meandered through the pastures, we noticed a section of the fence was broken. Elk tracks where pounded into the ground where they had jumped the fence. In turn, we decided that this may be a good spot to focus on in the evening. As a gesture, we did a quick repair to the barbed wire fence and went on our way. From there, we followed cattle and elk trails leading through the poplar and spruce stands and continued to locate several elk rubs. What happened next took us by surprise. A good sized bull elk jumped up from his bed and ran past us, escaping into thick cover. Cow calling to him, he stopped just inside the treeline. Milan was quick to turn the camera on. We attempted to move in for a shot, but the bull was in good cover and offered no opportunity. He definitely had six points on one side, but we couldn’t get a clear view of the other. After nearly four minutes of cow calling to him, he vanished, and my heart sank. Frustrating to say the least, we were only 40 metres away but with no ethical shot; we had to let him go. Later that evening, we returned to the area where we had repaired the fence and noticed it was broken again. We were too late to catch the elk crossing. Continuing back to the truck, as we walked through the first large pasture, we could hear cow elk chirping and several different bulls bugling, but they seemed to be staying a few steps ahead of us. I bugled to send
out a challenge. Sure enough, a bull responded but then held up. Eventually he lost interest and disappeared. With the sun setting fast, Milan and I sat down on a knoll overlooking the Peace River valley. Admiring the surreal view, we filmed an incredible sunset while being serenaded by distant bugles … of both the human and elk kind. Hearing the other hunters off in the distance, I realized then and there that this could be tougher than I had anticipated. The next morning was slow. We glassed the valley the best we could with our Vortex Razor HD binos, but the heard was moving fast and for good reason. Two hunters could be seen hiking the adjoining property. Continuing on, we walked for nearly two hours. During that time, we spotted a couple nice whitetails, but no elk. On our way back to the truck, we stopped at a small water hole and studied the tracks. Staring in disbelief, we saw an enormous bull track in the hardened mud near the water’s edge. Mid-day we took a short break, grabbed some food, and regrouped for the evening hunt. Before heading out, we sprayed down with Tink’s B-Tech cover up spray, checked our gear one last time and started hiking. Eagerly heading to the water hole we discovered that cattle where now using it. We just couldn’t buy a break. For the rest of the evening we covered more ground, allthe-while probing with our calls. As the evening progressed, we returned again to the waterhole. There too we heard responses but they were from the same two hunters we had seen in the morning. They came in on a string and stopped on the other side of the fence. Tired and dejected, after that we called it a day. The next morning was much the same, but the wind and cloud cover began to roll in. We saw a small bull run across the pasture, but let him go.
Chris’s big bull stopped for a moment to look back, giving him the opportunity for a shot. This was to be my last day and I was getting nervous, realizing that I may indeed go home without an elk. For the balance of the morning we put on several kilometres and again saw no elk. After lunch I looked at my watch and it read two o’clock. The weather was worsening by the minute. To some extent I couldn’t help but wonder if the elk had begun to pattern us, so changing things up might just turn the tables. Few elk hunters venture out during the mid-day hours, but we had one thing in our favor. It wasn’t yet raining, but there was a light mist and we knew it would help keep our scent down. Trudging up the familiar hill one last time, we noticed fresh elk tracks in the wet clay. Then, as we approached the broken fence …even with the 45 km/h winds, we heard the sweet sound of a bugle off in the distance. I immediately responded with a whiny estrus call. We waited patiently for an answer but there was nothing. I then tried a small bull bugle. Mid-way through the call, I was cut off by a loud, raspy, deep bugle, and it was close … real close! I turned to Milan and motioned him to get down. Almost simultaneously I spotted the huge bull approaching through the middle of the pasture. Milan was ready with the camera and began to film. I knelt down in the tall grass holding my Pro source Gear trigger stick in one hand and my .300 ultra mag in the other. Almost instantly, the bull spotted us and stopped. As my father had taught me, my eyes never left the chest of the massive bull. He was clearly a monarch, so there was no reason to analyze the rack. Time stood still as we stared at each other. I needed him to move so I that I could raise my rifle and trigger sticks to shoot, but we just stared at each other both
knowing that this was not going end well for one of us. Finally he made the first move. As soon as he turned broadside, I rose up, settled the crosshairs and shot. The 180 grain Barnes VorTx bullet hit him in the heart and he bolted. Cycling another round, I followed him through my Vortex scope and shot him again, this time with a lung shot and he collapsed instantly. As we approached, all I remember is Milan shouting, “Chris, Chris, he’s a monster!” Doing my best to retain composure, I spoke a few words to the camera and headed straight over to see my bull. As we walked up to the incredible bull, it became clear just how big he really was. A massive 7x7 grossing 397 2/8 inches B&C, he is literally a bull of a lifetime! To say that I was emotional is an understatement. Milan kept the camera rolling. I literally had to stop for a moment to get it together. As I closed out the show with the largest, most majestic bull I have ever taken, I was reminded of everything and everyone who helped make this happen. From all the hours invested chasing bulls with Mike McDougall, to Kevin Wilson giving me the Tink’s B-tech, to all of our show sponsors for their support and, especially Milan Isaac for sticking with me through the ups and downs and highs and lows of the season. We did it buddy! We put him on the ground and captured the largest elk ever taken in Canada by a hunting show. People ask me all the time, “What would my dream hunt be?” My answer: I have already lived it. His name is Monarch, and I took him right here in Alberta!
MONSTER BY: TREVOR VOLZ
had my bow tuned up and was ready to get serious about bowhunting. The previous two years, I had good intentions, but only managed to get out a couple times. The problem was that I could not get to my hunting area regularly, but finally my friend Austin were old enough that we could legally drive ourselves out to the stand so we could go out hunting after school. The school day came to an end, and Austin and I met up to make a plan for the evening hunt. He was convinced he wanted to go sit in a stand that over looked a food plot where he knew a big 10 point lived. The problem was this was the only stand in the area, and only a one person stand, so I would have to go somewhere else. My thoughts turned to a lone stand we had hung earlier that year, which had not been hunted yet. After we hung the stand, the rains began and what was once a damp walk in, turned into a deep swamp. The season had been a tough one so far, and my dad had just bought a new set of rubber boots, so I made the decision to test them out for him and see if I could get through the swamp. We both hurried home and changed into our hunting cloths. I grabbed my dad’s new boots and we headed out. When we got there we both walked into our stands settled in around 4 o’clock. This was the first time anyone had sat in the stand, so I surveyed the area to identify shooting lanes. I found three clear shooting lanes, took some yardages and waited. The woods were deathly silent, and I did not see anything until about a half hour before dark. I looked down the deer trail to the north and saw three does coming down the trail towards me. As I was watching them walk down the trail that led right under the stand, I smiled when I saw them stop and begin feeding on acorns, only about five yards from my stand. To the east
of me I started to hear a rustling of something coming out of the standing cornfield behind me. I slowly turned my head around to identify the culprit, and noticed two more does coming in. I moved slowly and carefully, and was just about fully turned back around when more rustling came from the same area. I turned again, thinking that more does would be coming, but it was a monster buck coming out of the corn field and heading towards me! He was something spectacular to see. He looked at the does, but then decided to take a trail around behind me. I drew on him lined up with my 35 yard pin. He took a step into the shooting lane and stopped, so I took the shot. After releasing the arrow I didn't hear any contact, didn’t see any flinch at all and didn’t see any connection made by the arrow. He took off running north about 100 yards before stopping to look back. I had missed! I had shot right over his back. I stepped it out later and realized he was only about 25 yards away. The sound of my bow had spooked the doe’s below me and they ran about 20 yards, and then looked back at me trying to figure out what just happened. The buck watched, and then
Trevor Volz poses with the non-typical monster he harvested in his home state of Iowa. The 200” class whitetail is truly a magnificant specimen. The typical 10 point frame on the big buck has a gross score of 183 7/8”, and when you add up the total abnormal points of 23 4/8”, the total gross score is 207 3/8”. The buck does not have many deductions and scores very high, easily making the record books with a net non-typical score of 202 4/8”. He had hunted a few times the year before, but the season when Trevor took the monster was really his first full season of hunting, what a way to start!
decided to walk down toward the does so I quickly and quietly grabbed another arrow out of my quiver and knocked it. It was now five minutes t till dark so I knew I did not have much time. The buck passed behind a big old oak tree, and I took the chance and drew on him again. With him coming to an opening I needed to stop him because he wasn't going to stop till he got back to his girls. As he got to the opening, I tried to grunt to stop him, but nothing came out of my mouth! I was so that I could not make a sound. So I took a deep breath and tried again lucky this time a somewhat grunting sound came out and stopped him dead in his tracks. I put the 25 yard pin on him, took a deep breath to settle the pin, and then I shot and heard the sound of my arrow connecting. It sounded like you smashed a watermelon with a sledge hammer! He took off running and crashing thru the woods. Darkness was closing in quickly. I knew I hit him but didn't know the exact location. The whole time while he was there I could feel that my phone had been vibrating off and on in my pocket. I took out my phone and saw Austin had been calling so I called him back and he was ready to go, and he hadn't seen anything all night. I told him that I had shot a big one but hadn’t tried to recover him yet. We headed back to Austin’s house and picked up our fathers, his two brothers and a bunch of flash lights to try to go see if we could find the arrow or a blood trail. When we got back to the spot, I got up in the stand and showed them about where he was standing when I shot. They looked around the area and only found pin drops of blood and an inch by inch chunk of white hair. “This is never a good sign!” I remember thinking to myself. We could not find the arrow. We searched and searched, bit with no blood trail to follow we decide to slowly pull out and come back in the morning. On our way out we stumbled across more blood. It was him! So we took off following it. As we started to follow it we
would go about 100 yards with little drops then all of a sudden it looked like you dumped a 5 gallon bucket which we assumed was where he had stopped and stood for awhile. With this type of blood flowing out we continued to follow for about a half mile until it came to an open standing soybean field where the blood nearly disappeared. It was now after midnight so we marked the spot and headed home, with plans to return in the morning. While tracking the buck, they kept asking how big the buck was and I kept telling them he was bigger than my brother in laws buck, which was a 170 inch deer he harvested three years ago. I don’t think any of them believed me, as their reply was, “It takes a lot to be bigger than Ty’s (my brother in law) deer, and those deer were very rare.” I remember responding several times that night saying, “yeah I know that, but he is bigger!” They didn't believe me. We went home that night and I tried to sleep but it was the longest night ever. I got up the next day and had to get ready to go to school. While I was eating breakfast my dad came into the kitchen and could tell I was really disappointed at not finding him. He said he would take the day off and go search for him. So he headed back to where we had left the trail the night before. After tracking across the bean field, the trail led to a standing corn field. Not only was it standing corn but that morning the farmer had began to harvest the field, quickly destroying any blood trail that there was! With my dad realizing there was no way to track him across the field; he looked around and decided there was only two likely places he could have went across the field. He thought he would have gone into some switch grass or to a small pond that had little cover. He took the better choice of the two and went to the switch grass. He was about half way thru and decided take a break. He looked over and could see the buck lying in the grass! He immediately headed home and called me, letting me know that he thought he had found him. We talked it out and
and decide to have me and Austin come out and we would all recover the buck together. We got out there and my dad went around to where he went into the swampy area and Austin, Ty, and I headed to the other side. He got about half way thru and found him, laying there, his head in the water. I sprinted to the buck, but was the furthest away so by the time I got close, Ty was already walking back by to go get the truck. As we passed each other he said, “That’s the biggest deer I have ever seen!” This really got me excited, and I slowly walked up and was amazed at what I say. He was a gorgeous buck. It is difficult to even put into words the feelings I had that day. This was truly an amazing day in my life. That upcoming winter I took the Iowa giant down to the Iowa Deer Classic where it won the youth Archery division hands down with it scoring 202 4/8 and would have gone 3rd in the overall non typical category behind the State record buck. That year I was also inducted into the Iowa Trophy Hunter Hall of Fame sitting with the 45th largest Iowa non typical deer of all time. It honestly took
almost a full year for it to truly sink in on what I had accomplished. I had shot an Iowa record buck deer and only few people have harvested bigger animals then me, and all at the age of 15!
...with Kevin Wilson
WHY WE HUNT
e all hunt for our own reasons; mine are complex and varied. Philosophically, my motives range from a simple desire, based on a God-given right to collect my own food, to the more personal that involves pushing physical and mental limits. At times I immerse myself in the exclusivity of a solo hunt, but there are also instances when I thrive on sharing the experience with family or friends. Some argue that hitting the switch is the culmination of the hunt. Meat hunters like to fill the freezer and trophy hunters elevate the pragmatic with a more challenging quest for an elite class of game. Regardless of the goal, most hunters recognize a host of other values associated with the hunt. Brilliant sunrises, breathtaking views, fresh air, exhilarating encounters, a heightened awareness and understanding of wildlife and biodiversity, camaraderie, skill development, empowerment, and an undeniable sense of accomplishment – these are but a few of the benefits we glean from hunting. Contrary to anti-sentiment, it is not just about the kill. No point in sugar coating it, I am offended when opponents refer to my favourite pastime as blood sport. Implying that I derive pleasure from terminating a life, they clearly don’t get it. Despite mainstream media messages, lawful hunting activities encompass all that is good and right about enjoying the outdoors. Sure, one of the end goals may be to procure meat, but it’s really about so much more. A means to a variety of ends, hunting grants us an opportunity to justify time away from the stress and monotony of our corporate lives. It forces us to breathe fresh air, reconnect with friends and family, rekindle primordial instincts, and enjoy the exhilaration of the hunt. Life in the twenty-first century is a constant exercise in
time management and corporate survival. Work and family commitments keep us running from pillar to post. The consequence – less of us are using discretionary time to disappear into the woods and fields in search of game. Consider your last hunt. Did you pause to appreciate the sights, sounds, and smells of the great outdoors? Somehow every sunrise in the field is unique. I know hunters who literally don’t care if they close a tag. If they do, great; if they don’t, it’s no big deal. Their priority is to escape from their busy schedules to enjoy the serenity and tranquility, the dawning of a new day, steal a leisurely stroll through the woods, and eventually observe a peaceful sunset. Collectively, these things capture the essence of the hunt. To see, and possibly take, a game animal is merely icing on the cake. Sitting in a duck blind, slowly ambling down a cutline, or waiting in a tree stand at daybreak grants us a privileged view as a new day comes to life. Gleaming sunrises leave us speechless, and often in the most pristine settings imaginable. I can say that hunting has taken me to more remote destinations and facilitated more glorious panoramic views than any other single outdoor activity. From high alpine vistas to splendid grassland prairiescapes, boreal forest hinterlands, and countless rocky mountain basins, I get to experience these places firsthand – and all in the name of hunting. Much of society would have us believe that hunting instills destructive morals. Mainstream media bombards us with messages that our activities focus on the kill, neglecting all other values and benefits. Heaven forbid we encourage responsible citizens to use firearms for their intended purpose! Failing to acknowledge the real reasons most of us hunt, society would rather demonize our activities than credit them with enhancing core family values not to mention the inherent benefits of learning about our natural world. Witnessing the dramatic bugle of a rutting bull elk is nothing short of spectacular! Further seeing that bull charge in to close range is almost indescribable. Watching a majestic bighorn ram crest a saddle and traverse a scree slope is awe-inspiring. Listening to the wing beats of a drumming ruffed grouse, having a Canada goose land inches from your head, or watching a majestic whitetail amble along a trail below your stand – these are but a few of the immeasurable privileges we enjoy as hunters. In a similar manner, we are granted more hands-on
interactions in the world of the game we hunt. Once an animal is down we are given the rare opportunity to touch and feel the feathers, fur or hide, paws, claws and antlers of the game we hunt. Accompanying these tactile experiences is a host of smells. Pungent odors of the spring or fall, not to mention those of the animals themselves, are unique and memorable. If you have handled a moose or bear in the rut, then you can relate. We all have an identity. As such, our peers tend to appreciate our interests. Hunters share a common affiliation and an understanding of the values associated with the outdoor lifestyle. While my intention is not to judge anyone’s personal hunting ethic, I can say that there are those who get it and those who don’t. In other words, there are those who like to hunt and there are those who like the idea it. More to the point, many of us share an intense passion for hunting. In turn, we literally adopt it as a way of life. Participating in the hunt is what we do and, to some extent, it defines who we are. On the other hand, there are those who have fallen in love with the notion of hunting. In my view, formed largely through my observations as a professional outfitter and guide, these are the folks who place almost exclusive value on the identity. They dress the part and often talk the part. Sometimes they have a healthy respect for game, but too often, they value the kill more than the process. This is unfortunate. To participate wholly in the hunt, means engaging in a process of strategizing, traveling to the area of choice; locating, attracting or finding the game; working to secure a viable shot opportunity; and taking care of the downed game, then hauling it away to be processed. Historically speaking, in every nation the world-over, people have hunted. Whether it has become a thing of the past, or laws of the land still permit hunting, it is an undeniable aspect part of life. Unfortunately in many nations, the right to hunt has been taken away. In others, hunting has become accessible only to those who can afford the privilege. Thankfully, here in Canada, we still retain this freedom. Despite perpetual opposition, it will be up to us as hunters to convey all that is good and right about our heritage activities. At a time when hunting is largely deemed to be politically incorrect, those in touch with the complexities of game management, not to mention the many values associat-
ed with hunting endorse it wholeheartedly. Without hunters, wildlife would not be in the shape it is today. Political activists supporting the anti-movement would have us believe that by not hunting, we save lives. Statistically, this is simply not true. Today we face growing threats to our wildlife. Increased industrial development, encroachment, habitat destruction, tourism development, and human population growth all impact our wild spaces. Hunters and hunting contribute significantly to the financial well-being of natural resources. This occurs through a variety of means, including membership to progressive conservation groups. By closely monitoring wildlife harvests, hunters help facilitate the ongoing effort to balance animal populations with the carrying capacity of available habitat. And, let’s face it, provincial and federal dollars are allocated largely based on political priority. I’m convinced wildlife management would not be viewed as a political priority, if financial support were left solely to our elected officials. License fee levies also provide significant monetary support. For our financial contribution, as hunters, we continue to benefit from the privilege of participating in the age-old practice we call the hunt. In return we are the limited few, in fact a declining segment of the population, who actually enter the woods, interact with nature, and gain a true appreciation for wildlife and wild spaces.
ADVENTURE BY: CHRIS MAXWELL
he day had finally come! Months of planning, organizing and building excitement were finally behind us. The cool Alaskan morning met me at the cabins threshold as we prepared to depart into the wilderness leaving the warmth of our outfitters cabin and embarking on what would be the most gruelling fifteen days of hunting I have ever experienced. Joining me on this hunt would be my co-worker Brad Kile. Few people have the passion for hunting like Brad and I do and I couldn’t have found a better hunting partner for the trip. Moose, Caribou and Grizzly were to be hunted first. After landing on a remote gravel bar that was questionable at best we quickly set up camp as rain was on its way. Our guide while in the field was Doug Powers a lifetime Alaskan that could only be described as the “MacGyver of the North” and a true mountain man in every sense of the word. AKA the “Moose Killer” Doug had 90 moose to his credit and I was hoping to be 91. The first few days in the field proved to be exciting. Although it had rained everyday we were seeing moose. Several of the bulls were legal however our guide wanted to get us something that was not only respectable but enviable by Alaskan standards. We finally managed to locate 2 bulls that would have stretched sixty inches but were not able to get a shot. What people don’t realize about Alaska is that the bush will swallow you. The bush in the Alaska Range was thick, tall and spread from one side of
the mountain range to the next. I have seen photos in magazines and assumed the bush might be waist high but this is not the case. We did not get a shot but a memorable experience none the less. One afternoon while glassing for moose we spotted a caribou. A couple other caribou had been located previously but this one had nice tops and was in an area we could do a viable spot and stalk. After crossing nearly 2 miles of brush filled valley we got to a vantage point above where the caribou was feeding and Brad was able to anchor the bull. By the end of day six we were thoroughly soaked and unable to dry out. Going back to the outfitters cabin for a day to get dry cloths and dry our gear turned into a five day layover as the super cub could not get back to pick us up due to the weather. So far it had rained everyday with the exception of the day we flew into base camp.
Chris Maxwell with the culmination of his trip to Alaska, a trophy class ram. It was a well earned trophy, as he and his good friend Brad endured days of rain soaked weather, including being stranded in the wilderness, as their plane could not pick them up in the cloudy days that would not stop. He and Brad ended up scoring a double header on rams near the end of the trip, an extremely unlikely accomplishment, and one that could only be called the Ultimate Alaskan Adventure.
Finally getting a break in the weather we were able to relocate to sheep country. Glassing the surrounding mountains we immediately located several sheep, most were ewes and lambs but the occasional ram was also found. Although none of the rams were legal that we were seeing they were rams and excitement was building! Hiking further back into the drainage was wearing us down. The brush was relentless, every movement faced resistance from the willows pressing back on us and our gear. Overgrown game trails did little to make traveling easy but it was the only option, to travel high above the bush meant we would be visible to every sheep in the drainage. Four miles into our journey we finally made it to where we would drop camp. Taking a well needed break we were now lighter and ready to travel even further into sheep country. Climbing into a shale crevice that extended high into the mountain we got to a vantage point that allowed us to glass into a connecting valley. Carefully we peered over the edge, there they were! A band of seven rams was within our grasp however we still needed to be vigilant as there were also ewes and lambs in the surrounding mountains watching for any sign of danger. Glassing the rams we ranged them at over 800 yards. With 3 legal rams and two definite shooters in the group we could make a double header on the rams a reality! Then it happened, the largest ram caught a glimpse of our
spotting scope and was now staring directly at us. Carefully backing off the mountain and made our way deep into the shale crevice. Our guide immediately knew what we needed to do and formulated a plan. We would climb down our side of the mountain into the bottom of the drainage out of site of the rams, next we would cross over to the back side of the mountain behind the rams and climb over the top to get on top of the rams and hopefully close enough for a shot. The look on Brads face when he realized we would loose all of our elevation only to have to gain it back on the other side of the range had me wondering if he would make it or notâ€Ś Finally at the final accent of the last peak Brad didnâ€™t think he could go any further but I knew we had gone to far to stop at this point, it was only another 300 yards until we would be in position to shoot. After some coaxing and a short break we made the final push and got into position. Our guide located the rams in the spotting scope and we identified which rams we were going to shoot. Brad had won an earlier coin toss and was going to shoot first. I knew if we stayed hidden the remaining rams would stand and I would have a shot at the ram I had picked out. Ranging the rams now at 391 yards the shot was doable for both of us. The largest ram was bedded down still staring at the original spot we had first seen the rams from. Brad shot first and missed high. The follow up shot was a direct hit and a third anchored the ram for good. The ram I had chosen now stood as I had expected and offered a perfect shot. Pulling the trigger I watched as the shot missed just high of the ram. Reloading I got back on the ram and waited for another clear shot. Beads of sweat were now trickling down my face; the pressure to make the next shot count felt like the weight of the word on my shoulders. At this point the sheep were also starting to move away from us. I controlled my breathing and squeezed the trigger once again, a direct hit! As the sheep made its way across a shale slide and into a dip in the mountain the guide and I side hilled across the mountain to get into position for a finishing shot. Losing site of the ram we set up where we could see all of the plausible escape routes. I assumed that if he was going to leave he would go over the top of the mountain which would pose a major problem for us. What seemed like an eternity but in reality was likely only a few minutes as the ram once again appeared just above us on a jagged bench extruding from the mountain. Quickly finding the ram in my cross hairs I squeezed the trigger and a heart shot finished the ram for good. I had just secured our double header! Since booking the hunt Brad and I had talked about a lot of different scenarios for getting our sheep. I had always main-
tained that it would be the ultimate ending to our time in the field if we could secure a double header on the sheep. Little did I know how difficult it would be and even the bush pilot had commented that it was extremely unlikely that we would be able to pull it off. The only reason we did was because of our guide and a little luck finding two great rams in the same band. The double header on the rams made every rain soaked day worth while and only elevated the status of our trophies! This was not only a hunt of a lifetime it was the Ultimate Alaskan Adventure!
Bev Emigh poses with the early season Alberta giant she took in that province. The huge buck has 10 scoreable points on each side which add up to a gross score of 201 4/8â€? and, even after some deductions, still made the record books with a net non-typical score of 191 1/8â€?.
TWELVE YEAR WAIT BY: BEV EMIGH
very hunting season starts with that great feeling of anticipation, looking forward to upcoming events. I love that feeling.
The Spring Season And I love spring bear hunting, which has started the hunting season each year for my husband, Harrison and me, for more than 12 years. Just as soon as we smell spring in the air, and that snow starts melting away, our plans are underway for bear hunting. We are both bowhunters, so we continue practicing at various shoots through the winter season, but now we turn up the heat with fine tuning our bows. My dream was to shoot a blonde color phase black bear, and with the use of trail cameras our stands, my dream came true in the spring of 2012. A blonde phase bear was showing up on camera at two different stands about a mile apart. However, it soon was evident that she was a game player, and it was going to take some hard work to get this bear. We usually do not worry a lot about wind direction or scent control when hunting bear and have had success every year. Blondie was different. She would show up around the perimeter of the bait, sometimes showing herself out of range in the bush, or huffing behind us as if to let us know she was very aware we were in the tree stand, never coming into the shooting lane while we were there. Finally I went to town, on the search for a scent control spray. After learning her pattern on the trail cam pics, we took the quads out to within 300 yards of the tree stand. We anticipated Blondie would hit that evening, sprayed ourselves, clothing, backpacks, equipment including our rubber boots, and walked to the tree stand. It wasnâ€™t long and I heard some rustling, running steps com-
ing on the trail we walked in on. As I whispered to Harrison the sound I heard, she was circling behind us in the bush. She was hidden from view, likely testing the wind. Finally she showed herself to our left, on the edge of a cutline. She casually made her way into my shooting lane, not looking our way at all. She was focused on the bait we had worked hard to establish. I drew back my new Hoyt Carbon Element bow, took careful aim and released the arrow. I knew instantly the
the placement looked good as the fletch disappeared through the body. She instantly gathered herself, running left to right in front of us, disappearing into the forest. After checking the video Harrison was recording, we agreed it was a fatal shot. No deathmoan was heard but we found her about 70 yards from the bait. She is a beautiful color, long blonde hair over her back with brown face, legs and paws. She scored 16 2/16”, not record book but certainly a trophy to me!
Bev also fulfilled her dream of shooting a color phase black bear in 2012.
The Fall Season Thinking back on the past few seasons, I jokingly told some friends I was only packing luck in my suitcase this year. Each year I have had opportunities at elk without success. I just felt that luck was the missing factor, but I had high hopes that this was the year things would turn around. It worked. The first morning out, Harrison and I went for a walk at first light on a lease that was easy on my worn out knee. Sporting my new knee brace, I felt pretty good. We walked the cutline with a quad trail for ¾ of a mile, seeing a few elk tracks as we went. We came to a crest in a hill which overlooked a large area the rancher had cleared bush, leaving it in several rows running north and south to our east approach. We had stopped to call and glass. As I pulled off my backpack, Harrison said “Don’t move, there is a cow (elk) watching us.” I looked up to see a cow elk about 200 yards away between a couple of rows of the pushed bush. Both of us thought we were busted as she turned and started walking away. We grabbed our gear to move carefully out of sight. Harrison glassed back to where she was. He whispered “Hey, I think she is coming.” In the couple of minutes it took me to get the arrow on and get ready, I could start to hear the cracking deadfall as a large animal made its way through the aspens. As she came closer, I drew and followed the sounds until she came into view. I could see her head and shoulders above the 3 foot grass as she stood
broadside at the edge of the bush, 25 yards away. I focused on the kill area, releasing the arrow. It hit her so hard, she smashed into a 5 inch live aspen, breaking it off cleanly. We listened intently as she crashed through the bush, stopped, then crashed for a few more seconds then THUD, the sound of a large body hitting the ground. The celebration began. This cow was very special as it was the last species I needed for me master bowhunter buckle for our local archery club (Southern Alberta Bowhunters), an achievement I have been working on for over 10 years. This time it was the first morning, first hour out there. I am not sure who was more jacked, me or my husband Harrison who had put in many hours of calling and decoying to provide me with an opportunity at an elk. Starting to track her was easy as she was losing blood fast. Then the trail stopped or so we thought. We heard her fall so we knew she was dead but could not see her. We gridded up to 80 yards ahead of the last blood pool we found, not even a drop of blood to be found. Finally, in a spot we had not anticipated, we found her. She had made a made a sharp 90* turn, went another 20 yds and dropped. Another celebration began! My second big game animal with my new bow! I looked forward all year to staying at camp in the wall tent, reading and relaxing in my camp cot. However, after a couple of days of checking the trail camera photos and seeing a couple of nice 4x4 whitetail bucks coming to a dugout, I had an itchy trigger finger. Even though the bucks were on camera before noon each time, I decided I would try an evening sit at the dugout. Harrison decided to head back to the cut block where I shot the cow to see what else was hanging around. Since the rancher ran his quad frequently to check on his cattle, we decided to take one quad for both of us with the gear needed for me to sit in the bush beside the dugout. We have used a ground blind in the past sitting there but decided I would just use a chair brushed in, to give some cover, which we had both done last year and had 3 mule deer does walk by at 8 yards without a concern. We unloaded my gear,
Harrison cleared three shooting lanes for me (although I said one was only half a lane), left me with the 30-30 winchester because there was also a black bear on the camera, and left with the quad. He would be about half a mile away. Once I settled in, I truly enjoyed the scenery. It was a beautiful late summer evening, barely a breeze. I checked the direction with my wind checker, ranged my shooting lanes, and settled in, watching a couple of resident ducks in the dugout. I decided to use the same arrow I used on Blondie which was still in perfect condition. At about 6:45, some movement caught my eye to my right. A whitetail doe and fawn were feeding on the trail. After about ten minutes they disappeared into the woods without coming for a drink. There was no more action until about 8:45 when I looked up to my left and saw one of the 4x4 whitetail bucks from the trail cam pics silently moving in to take a drink about 25 yards from me. As I was considering the best shot option, I noticed another buck about 50 yards from me, on the other side of the 4x4, walking over the bank of the dugout to drink. I could see two tall tines on his right side as he stood with an aspen backdrop making it hard to make out anything else on his rack. I have never been a rack hunter, usually unable to estimate the size of a rack after an encounter but I decided I would let this play out, hoping if the smaller buck walked by me this one would follow. The 4x4 finished drinking and indeed walked right by me, stopping at the 8 yard window, head behind a tree, perfectly broadside and tempting me with an easy shot. “Was it a sign I should take this deer?” I thought. At the same time I was aware the bigger buck was coming closer along the edge of the dugout but I didn’t take my eyes off the 4x4 until I was sure the risk of getting busted had passed. I was committed now to the larger one as the smaller 4x4 moved out of range. Going back to my usual method of ignoring the rack, I was amazingly calm and focused, watching the buck walk to the shooting lane on my left, stopping to eat some dandelions. I had ranged that gentle slope earlier, knowing he was about 25 yds. As I drew he lifted his head but quickly relaxed not even turning to look in my direction. He was quartering away, and I aimed for the far shoulder and released the arrow. His head lowered and he was grabbing grass hard, I was certain he was a dead deer. The arrow was buried to the fletch in his chest. I watched him run until he disappeared into the bush, letting the adrenalin rush wash me over.
I texted Harrison with shaking hands to say” just shot a buck”. He replied saying “can’t come right now, I have three bull elk close. Ok to wait for a bit?” I started to track to where I last saw him. Even though I knew the arrow was buried deep in his chest, I still looked for a broken piece. There wasn’t much blood, but I did find some with the bubbles we all like to see. Losing light fast, and not wanting to walk over any drops of blood and feeling edgy because there had been a bear on camera and wolves were also in the area, I stopped tracking and decided to wait for Harrison. I was very determined to take the buck back to camp that night. The year before I had to leave the whitetail I shot until morning only to find the coyotes had eaten everything but the head and hide. Within ten minutes, I could hear the quad coming. After Harrison arrived and told me about his close elk encounter, darkness had set in. With hat lights and flash lights, drop by drop, after another half hour of searching, we found him, just off the cutline he took out on. Harrison was in front of me. He spotted the deer’s white belly but somehow I leapt in front of him, saying “wait till you see how tall he is!” When I picked up his head, I was astounded at what I saw. The buck had more tines than I had ever seen on a deer before. I looked at Harrison who had a look on his face that I have never seen in the 39 years we have been married. I think it was shock. I started giggling, hugging Harrison, and relishing the moment. It was a feeling I cannot explain and I was so happy I could share that moment with Harrison. This buck has 10 scoreable points on each side, and 25 1/8” of abnormal points resulting in gross score of 201 4/8”,with a loss of 10 3/8” side to side, he still had a net score of 191 1/8” non typical in Pope and Young scoring.
KEY TO SUCCESS
t is with some degree of mortification that I admit that it took me longer to figure “it” out than it should have. I had already had a nice little run of October smokepole success while hunting the edges of alfalfa fields before the lamp actually did more than flicker, and stayed lit. Sure, I was hunting alfalfa fields more than any other type of spot but truthfully, it was simply because that is where I was seeing the bulk of the deer at that time of year. The lamp should have lit earlier; I was seeing more deer there simply because whitetails hit alfalfa fields like University students hit the McDonald’s drive through at 3 a.m, ravenously. And so began my journey of not specifically searching for deer but instead searching for alfalfa fields. Ones heavy in alfalfa opposed to grasses, ones with good adjacent cover, and the trump card, nearby to a water source. With those ingredients one has a recipe for the potential of finding a dandy buck and killing him with his nose and eyes buried in the field, long before many people have even began to prepare for hunting season. Deer are a well evolved survival machine. They know their needs inside as well as out and will do all that is in their control to satisfy them. Enduring is the name of the game in their world and food as well as water take their place at number one in the rule book. I am no biologist, nor am I an agronomist, but when something interests me, I did deeper. I search for the “why?” For years I’ve stuffed as much about whitetails as I could into my brain and one faucet that I have put much curiosity into is that of food requirements. Obviously they need the basics, water, energy, protein, minerals, vitamins and so on. During late spring, summer and early fall, prior to frost, alfalfa simply has all of the above. An alfalfa field will produce a lot of forage during the grazing season and that is perfect for whitetails.
BY: KAARE GUNDERSON
The need roughly 5-8 pounds of food per day per 100 pounds of body weight at this time of year as they build their bodies for the ensuing winter. So, coupled with woody browse, native plants, forbs etc. the table is set for a perfect smorgasbord if alfalfa is present. Bear with me as a back track a bit on alfalfa. The plant itself is a legume and was not introduced to the Americas until the 16th century by the Spaniards. They used it as horse fodder and anyone with some history background knows that high quality horses played a significant role in what the Spanish were able to accomplish during that period. Just maybe they owed a small part of it to alfalfa? Alfalfa is found pretty much anywhere there are cattle and if we look at some of the most famous regions in North America for whitetailed deer, places like Saskatchewan, Alberta, Iowa, Kansas and Illinois, to name a few, the common theme seems to be that of agriculture. Please allow me to discuss Saskatchewan bit as that is where I live and hunt. 40% of Canada’s farmland is found here, 1/3 of our exports are things like wheat, barley, canola, peas, lentils etc. In some places agricultural crops account for 40-50% of a deer’s diet. Any of the aforementioned cops will be devoured by whitetails when the time is right but even so, in my area I have found that one’s best bet is on alfalfa, especially during the early bow or muzzleloader season. I believe that this is simply because deer know what is good for them; it is part of their instincts. The legume brought here by the Spaniards some 500 years ago is just that beneficial. In a vegetative state, prior to blooming, it can have a crude protein level as high as 33%. Field peas are somewhere around 25% and cereal grains, 11-14% on avg. It’s also plum full of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, all necessary building blocks of tissue and antler growth. Though they aren’t reading health
magazines and flocking to health food stores carrying all kinds of alfalfa related products like people are, those deer, they know it’s benefits. So let’s get to hunting the stuff! If you have alfalfa fields nearby, great, deer are eating on them. However, all fields are not created equally for hunting so what you have are what I consider feeding fields, and killing fields. Deer will feed on killing fields, but it is much tougher to kill one from the edge of a feeding field. Feeding fields are more likely to be used heavily at night simply due to their proximity to heavier cover. They are often used by many deer, including good bucks, but your odds of tagging one here in Sept. or Oct. is pretty slim. You may catch does, fawns and even young bucks lingering on them into the first hour of the day or last hour of the evening but don’t hold your breath looking for an older buck here. During the rut, things change completely, but I’m not talking the rut, I’m talking those two months of hunting before it even begins and the best advice becomes to expect the unexpected. I hang cams on the edge of such fields to try and give me an idea of what bucks may be using that field at night just for information sake. Killing fields, as I call them, are feeding fields too but they are located in proximity to the right cover and bedding areas that bucks simply feel comfortable on them during daylight hours. With the right location, and the right stand of alfalfa, I’m placing my money every time on a real dandy, if there is one there, strolling out into the wide open, in the daylight, during these early season months. This past fall I hung my tag on a mid Oct. buck that strolled out onto a field at 3 p.m, almost 4 hours before dark. Though he was not a giant, he was no slouch either and wasn’t the first, nor will he be the last
that dies in this very manner of me plunked on a field edge in October with a smokepole in my hand. Bucks know what is ensuing. The change in the air, the daylight hours, the testosterone levels, they all tell a buck with a few years survival under his belt what is coming. They know the need to breed will arrive, it’s in their instincts. Because they will often lose 25% of their body weight during this stretch, it is imperative they pack on the pounds while they can and alfalfa fields are a place to do just that. I don’t buy the theory of a nocturnal buck in Saskatchewan. I believe a lot of hunters think bucks showing up on their bait pile cams at night think those deer are nocturnal when in reality it is simply quite likely that they simply are not located where that bucks spends most of his time but instead on the outskirts of his range. Where they spend most of their time, in my part of the province anyways, is in close proximity to alfalfa fields, if they are available. I cannot even guess the number of good bucks I have watched over the years with only their antlers protruding above the standing alfalfa as they chowed down, hours before the sun began to set. With the right location, limited disturbance, this is a very possible way to hunt and kill good deer. I think in the entire equation, actually setting up and hunting these spots is likely the most simplistic. Each year, it seems to take me more time to find the right spot and find the right deer than it usually does to actually kill him. Since that lamp stayed lit those years ago it seems as though I go through much of the same routine each year. In the summer, I’m scouting alfalfa fields for the most part. Standing green canola crops will hold many deer this time of year but the odds of them being there after it ripens fall dramatically. And granted, I’m spending the majority of my time on perennial producers but I search for a new location or two each year, alfalfa stands just don’t last forever. It’s also the time to look specifically for those killing fields, the ones in close proximity to good cover. Once you find that killing field and know that a good buck is there, the hardest part is done. It is now a matter of locating the correct spot to set up and remain undetected while entering. If he has walked out onto that field in the daylight before, he is going to again as long as he does not feel threatened. In choosing ambush spots I prefer the KISS (keep it simple stupid) approach. In fact, I rarely return to the exact location from one night to the next. Stands and blinds restrict my mobility so I’m more of a ground pounder that just looks for cover that breaks my outline. If you are deliberate and slow with movements, you don’t need much. In fact, in 2012 I shot a cool old 4x4 in October while lying on the ground beside a small cultivator. Last fall my muzzleloader belched smoke while rested on a stump as I hid amongst some tall grass and brush. Hunting alfalfa fields can be a bit of a chess match as the
deer can’t be counted on to walk out via the exact trail each time so adjusting your set up is necessary from night to night and this is the way that provides me with the most mobility. It’s cheap as all hecks too!! There are things that must be considered though when setting up to hunt these killing fields. The wind, it matters. If the deer enter or linger anywhere downwind of your presence they are going to bust you. I won’t sit here and advocate for any scent elimination techniques for the very reason that I don’t use them. I’ve yet to find one that I felt actually worked as advertised and for myself, I have grown to feel that they
Another buck taken by the author, after setting up on an alfalfa field.
simply took away from just hunting. Whether it was spraying down, or carrying clothes in totes or whatever, I have felt only inconvenienced without seeing any desired results. Whatever your approach, pay attention to the wind. It will be your deal breaker. If he’s walked out before, he will again, it is up to you to be there when he does, in a spot to have you cutting your tag before the winds of November begin to blow. I’ve read somewhere that alfalfa is considered “The Queen of Forages”. I don’t know who said that but I think they are awfully close. When I glance around my trophy room walls I can’t help but to think it is King!
Future of Hunting
Keaton and Riley Kurbis
Dorian Sagel Layne Pederson
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Every spring, shed hunters across North America take to the woods, searching for treasures left behind in the depths of winter. It is a special time of year and a great activity to get out with family and friends in the ‘off season’ Lindsay Wilkinson - 79” Northern Saskatchewan
Reid and Tate Gunderson, 190” class Northern Saskatchewan
Austin Guerra 222 7/8” Northern Alberta
‘Hanger set’ Devin Gorder photo
112”er - Chad Wilkinson