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In the Next Issue... Triple Beam Saskatchewan Whitetail
Record Ontario Moose Incredible Midwest Bucks
...and many more!
Devin Gorder and Chad Wilkinson
wo years ago when we sat down and discussed how we could do our part to promote hunting, it was awhile before the idea of a magazine came up. Once the idea of a magazine was discussed, we were both instantly on board and excited with the idea. Some big decisions had to be made to decide on the format of the magazine, and in the end we decided to make it a very â€˜real and rawâ€™ magazine. Our goal was to create a place where all of those who love the outdoors can come and read about stories that could be them one day. You will not see a lot of professional hunts or product review type articles, but rather regular, every day hunters doing what we all love and telling their stories from their points of view. There are so many incredible stories and spectacular animals that get taken every year, and many of the stories never told, except for to a close group of friends. It is not because the hunters are hiding anything, but rather because the people who take the animals are often humble, regular hunters who, although they are very proud of their trophy, are also not interested in creating a stir over their accomplishment. This is exactly the type of hunt and hunters that you will see regularly on the pages of Big Game Illustrated Magazine. Some may be very hardcore hunters, and others may be weekend hunters who get out when they can and love the outdoors. The common thread among all of them is that they are willing to share their stories so that others can read them and strive to accomplish the same goals. Sure, we will bring you some of the most spectacular trophies from across North America, but we will also share the real, raw stories, straight from the hunters about how they were able to harvest the animals and what it means to them. Our goal is to provide a forum for hunters from all different backgrounds and locations to share their stories in a top quality publication built on respect for the outdoors and the wildlife that we all love. We are committed to ensuring that Big Game Illustrated Magazine is a top notch publication and we will always take the utmost pride in the photographs and content that appears in it. That being said, we do not see this as our magazine, we see it as your magazine. In fact, you will not see our faces or columns in the magazine very often, but rest assured we will be working hard in the background. As we have worked extremely hard over the last 2 years to get the magazine off the ground, it has become apparent that the most important aspect of the magazine is the people involved and we have had an overwhelming response from people contributing in one way or another. This issue, and all of the upcoming issues, is our way of thanking all of you. We want to thank our subscribers, contributors, sponsors, and anyone who gives this new magazine a chance. It has already been an incredible experience to be involved with this project, and we are just getting started. Truly the future of hunting depends on promoting what hunting really is, spending quality time in the outdoors with friends and family. We hope this magazine will help to share some of those stories and motivate others to get out there and have some fun.
More about our cover photo on page 5.
Volume 1 Issue 1 Summer Edition 2013
In This Issue... 6
The Back Forty Buck by Doug Brioche
10 Dedicated to the True Hunter by Todd Forsbloom 14 Timber Stone by Brad Fry 44
20 The Unknown Monster by Elliot Smith 26 Closing the Deal by Kaare Gunderson 32 36 44 50 54 58 62 66 71 74 78 80
The Non-Typical Gift by Tim Weiers Brothers Quest by Jaret Moffat Ground & Pound by Marc Anthony Camera Trapper by Jeremi Skelton Hard Earned Alberta Trophy by Rob Hanes The Hunt of a Lifetime by Josh Luster My Big Chance by Keith Dawson The Forks by Justin Deif The Broken Tine Buck by Dave Fuller The King of Whitetails by Phil Webb The Future of Hunting Freakshow! by Travis Hamoline
Contact Big Game Illustrated Phone: (306) 930-7448/(306) 960-3828 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org By Mail: 2995 2nd Ave W. S6V5V5 Prince Albert, Sk, CANADA
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ABOUT THE COVER
hen Big Game Illustrated began, we expected it to be difficult to get access to many of the biggest deer taken every year. So when we heard about an absolutely gigantic non typical whitetail and an equally impressive typical whitetail, we knew we had our work cut out for us. We quickly got a hold of the hunters who had taken the deer, and lucky for us at Big Game Illustrated, they were just about as excited for the new magazine as we were! As we talked with Phil Webb and Doug Broiche, we realized they were both a couple hard working, down to earth, outdoors loving hunters like us. We all shared the same goal of promoting hunting and the outdoors and agreed that a new magazine would be a great way to do that. After much discussion, both Doug and Phil expressed that they would share their deer and stories in the first issue of Big Game Illustrated Magazine. To say that we were happy would be an understatement and we cannot thank them enough. The problem we had was which one to put on the front cover. In the end we decided to do something very different, and put both of them on the front cover. The question that hunters always ask each other, ‘which one would you shoot if they were both standing there’ comes to mind and there is no right answer. These two bucks are truly incredible animals and represent the pinnacle of wild whitetail potential. These are the type of animals that most of us hunters will only see as they run around in our dreams, and yet are part of the reason we head out every fall. Doug’s buck is the highest scoring hard horned non typical whitetail from Saskatchewan in 2012 and Phil’s is the highest scoring typical from 2012. Their stories can be found on Page 6 and 70. Devin Gorder and Chad Wilkinson
Back Forty Buck
BY DEVIN GORDER As told by Doug Broich
Doug Broiche with his spectacular non-typical buck from 2012. The big old monarch ended up going into the Saskatchewan record book with a net non-typical score of 247 1/8â€? which makes it the largest non-typical ever taken with a muzzleloader in that province.
ith a fairly new move to the country and some land under my family’s feet, I was very much looking forward to seeing what and who was roaming our new piece of Saskatchewan soil this year. Earlier in the season, I had been drawn for both cow elk and moose. I had been successful on both fronts so I was hoping my luck would also hold out for the upcoming whitetail season. Now with my good friend Steve in tow, we proceeded to set up a few different stands, cameras, and feeding locations in some good looking spots where there was loads of deer sign. On the opening evening of archery season, I found myself in my treestand. A beautiful, calm, sunny evening had my hopes high. It wasn’t long before I looked up to my left and I could see a huge buck that had stood up from a treed slough edge and was calmly grazing away. He was slowly moving away from me so I figured I would climb down the tree and stalk closer towards him. He was close to my haybale blind that I had setup a few years past. I watched him lay back down against the bush just around the slough edge. Despite my best efforts at keeping quiet, it was noisy travelling as I approached with the long, uncut hay field underneath my boots. I kept looking back and forth from the stand I had climbed out of, to the blind I wished that I was sitting in, trying to judge distance and pinpoint where he had laid back down. Instead I was stuck in the middle and running out of moves. I slowly and carefully scanned the area for him, but he had disappeared as big bucks so often do. “Where the heck did he vanish to now?” I asked myself. Then in the blink of an eye he exploded up and launched through the air like a rocket! Just as quickly as he appeared, he was gone. After the initial encounter, the rest of archery season passed by without another sighting. In early October, the muzzleloader came out. I live in a wildlife management zone, so there is no rifle season where I hunt. I was hoping I could get within muzzleloader range on a good deer. After a few years of experience and lots of practice, I was pretty comfortable shooting out to 150yards. Over the next two months, it seemed every time I went out there were lots of moving deer, grouse, muskrats or coyotes playing in the fields. Despite constant action of one kind or another, there was nothing that caught my interest enough to raise the bow or muz zleloader. The sitting, watching and waiting are what make the hunt exciting to me. All those days when that
huge buck doesn’t appear are what make that one moment so special. October 25th rolled around, and finally the monster that had haunted my dreams showed up! It wasn’t in person, but rather an image of him on the trail cam. There were a few good bucks showing up now, but none as impressive as him. He truly was a buck of my dreams and I had all of my attention focused on closing the deal. All of the pictures we had were in the middle of the night, and they were very sporadic. I thought to myself ‘he is way too smart; it will be tough to even get a look at him in the daylight’. As the season continued on, the trail camera showed the buck was becoming more active and travelling more, but I still did not have a single picture of him in shooting light. There was no shortage of time spent in the field, and it was wearing on me mentally and physically. I continued on and spent every spare moment in the field, even to the discontent of my wife and kids at times. The rut seemed to be picking up and while in the field I was beginning to see more movement. I even had a few pretty good bucks chasing does under my stand. I tried rattling for the first time, with some encouraging results. I brought in a real nice looking 5x5 buck at freight train
An image that would make even the most seasoned hunter come. unglued
speed, but held off with visions of taking the NT monster that I knew was hiding in the woods. With all of the action going on, I hoped that maybe he would finally make a mistake and step out. I won’t lie, the night after I passed that big 5x5, I had shooters remorse. I was really questioning not taking that buck, but looking back now I am glad I didn’t. After a long day in town with my family, and with some encouragement from my wife, on the afternoon of Saturday Nov 17th, I headed back out. I made my walk out, pulled out the gear and settled in to the blind. It was a strange sit because nothing was moving, absolutely nothing. The hours passed and I found myself starting to quietly pack up a bit early, and question what I was doing out here again. ‘Was I missing something? Did I setup wrong? Where are all the deer?’ I thought to myself. I glanced off to the side and I caught some Doug with his son Tanner shortly after downing the buck.
movement in the brush. A quick look with the binoculars and my first instincts told me it was a doe. The body seemed fairly small, but then something caught my eye. The head rose just a bit and I thought I could make out some antlers. Encouraged by my earlier success, I pulled out my set of rattling antlers I had already packed up in my bag. I thought that it was worth a try since legal shooting light was quickly ticking by. I picked them up and worked them over for a few seconds. I could see this sparked some interest in the deer and he changed directions. This deer approached much more cautiously than the 5x5 who charged in, but he definitely took a new angle of approach and he was now heading straight towards me! I kept the binoculars up and watched as he came into an opening. He looked big now and seemed to be getting bigger as he moved in! Seconds turned to minutes as I watched him slowly move through the thick brush. I watched as closely as I could in order to avoid losing the visual I had now. He came out into the open and was within my shooting range. I finally had a clear look at him and in an instant I was almost certain it was him! The huge non typical from the trail camera pictures was now standing within the range of my muzzleloader. I could not believe what I was seeing. My heart was pounding so hard I could hear it, and my hands began to shake frantically! I gently lifted my trusty muzzleloader up to my shoulder. The big buck stood there at 140 yards. I tried to calm myself down and breathe while I watched him through the scope. He stood there with his head up looking around. I tried to just look at his body and not his antlers. I focused in on his shoulder and squeezed the trigger off. I heard the whack as soon as I shot and watched him jump, kick high into the air and spin 360 degrees. Then he just stood there, I could not believe it!! I reloaded as fast as anyone could have in that situation. My actions were on autopilot while I was in the deepest state of deer hunting panic I have ever experienced. When I looked up after reloading, he had moved slowly about 15 yards broadside and closer to me. I took aim again and this time he was hit hard. He dropped to the ground instantly.
My arms flew into the air and I jumped around like a kid hitting his first homerun. I was shaking like a paint mixer, and could not believe what had happened. I had just shot a monster!! I reloaded again and made my way to him for the final check. His antlers began to look more and more like pure craziness, better in person than any picture I had seen. I just stood there in shock of what I had shot, trying to take it all in as best as I could. I quickly sent a couple of messages to hunting buddies and snapped a quick cell phone picture. I then turned and started my long walk back to the house to get the Rhino. While driving back towards the scene of one the greatest moment of my life, I was worried I would break something off of the rack as he seemed to have points sticking in every direction. As I pulled up I realized that I wouldn’t be able to safely load him myself, so I called Steve and asked him to come give me a hand. He was already excitedly halfway out, with his father, also a hunter, with him. He quickly hopped on his quad and followed my tracks out. Handshakes, whoops and hollers soon filled the air as we stood around the buck in awe. With careful hands we loaded him up and took the return trip to the farm
An incredibly unique early season giant of the north. Photo by Hamilton Greenwood
yard. We winched him up and raised a toast to the buck, to good friends and to the season. The two of us then got to work caping him properly. We were carefully instructed via cell phone from Al at Country Taxidermy. That was it... an hour and bit and he was off down the grid road and on the way to the taxidermist. I thought a lot about the season and the hunt for the next few days. I was still in disbelief, shock and perhaps withdrawal from all of the time spent hunting. This was a season I will never forget, and already I cannot wait to hit the land again next year! I’m a now firm believer after this experience that there are monster animals out there – you just have to find them. Good luck! I want to thank my wife Kenzie, and kids Tanner and Alexa, for being understanding and supportive with all the hunting I had done this year. Also my hunting buddies, we are all there to give each other a hand when it’s needed. The Henry Kelsey/Boone and Crocket scorers: Heath, Blair and Pat. They excitedly jumped in both times as soon as it could be scored and drove distances to do so. Al at Country Taxidermy, it looks awesome hanging on the wall.
n November 17th, one of the most uneventful events happened in my life. I was at the right place on the earth at exactly the right time and I realize after it all, that life is an oxymoron.
me put this in another light. There are those who can plunk a few songs on the guitar, maybe even pretty darn well, and then there is Neal Young. I’ve been known to make a few great shots from time to time, bring home the game, but let me introduce you to my cousin/guide You see, I do not consider myself a true hunter. I’ve Mike Skrove (Neal Young), my older brother Derek been lucky enough to be in close association with true, (Bob Dylan) and my father, Wayne (Neal Diamond). genuine, hunters whose coat tails have generously drug You get my point. me along through a many a hunting season. And if there was ever a year when I thought maybe I was in Now let’s get to back to November 17th, the uneventa league with these true outdoorsmen, I was quickly ful event I mentioned earlier. brought back into reality as they all watched me struggle with a ratchet-tie-down as a two year old looks at a Neal, I mean Mike, and I (and Mike’s son Coleton) rubics cube. Or perhaps, it was the time I grabbed the are enjoying the view of Peace Country, just happy to be ‘Yellow’ gas can to fill my buddies quad, while hot coffee out for a walk along a ridge. It was the first hour of our spews from his mouth in a mad gasp to stop me. Let ten day hunt. We spotted some nice Muley bucks and
TRUE Todd Forsbloom of Calgary, Alberta with his monster typical mule deer taken in November of 2012. A day hunting with his family turns into a true hunt of a lifetime. The greatest spread is 27 2/8” while the inside spread stretches the tape at 25” even. Todd’s impressive mule deer has G2’s over 16” and the big brute grosses 198 6/8” and nets 194 6/7” as a typical. I was ready to take one, I had four tags to fill, it was trigger of my borrowed .270 and, as the bullet made its quantity, not quality, but we decided to pass and keep way, it only then dawned on me what was on the line. In walking. A few minutes later, about 200 yards below us, other words, I never really had time to think about how I spotted what was clearly a doe, but she had a mystery special and rare this moment really was, and believe me, companion a few feet behind her. We had no idea at the this was a good thing. The shot felt good and it did the time what ‘it’ was. The trees were just too thick and this job. As the three of us approached this breath taking deer would not move a muscle for the next 15 minutes. animal, well you know how it goes and I’ll leave it that. This was great for me. No pressure, no idea, no clue. I Now here’s the thing. The wrong guy shot this buck. nestled into position, adjusted my bipod one millimeter I don’t mean that in negative sense at all, It’s just that at a time, put the cross-hairs on this mystery deer, took a If it weren’t for true hunters like Mike, my brother and few practice shots in my mind, I actually remember tak- my dad, I’d be back in Calgary posing with the mounts ing another look at the view of the scenery - just to give at Bass Pro. Take my cousin Mike for example. Here’s you an idea of how disconnected I was from the reality a guy who planned his marriage and the birth of his of this situation. Mike on the other hand was sending three children AROUND hunting season, now that my off another vibe. Much like a yellow lab, on a pheasant, friends, is passion. I, on the other hand, got married in he was pacing back and forth, melting the snow beneath November, yes…November, and have spent many years him. You see, my coke bottle scope kept me in igno- calling my beautiful wife, from a hunting camp, on a cell rance. Clearly what we had before us was a deer…a Mule phone with one bar, telling her how thankful I am to deer, brown…with fur. Mike’s Hubble telescope he has screwed to the top of his gun on the other hand was telling a much different story. He knew it was a buck, thick dark brown rack, but the trees prevented him from making out if he was more than a two pointer (Time to upgrade the scope I’d say). Mike suggests he make a few grunt calls to get him moving. I agreed. Mike grunted, the deer moved to the side about five feet. What I saw at that moment I will never forget. It appeared to me that someone glued a small tree to this deer’s head. I had seen enough, and so had Mike. With the same tone as a dying man’s last breath I heard him say ‘Take this deer, he’s a four pointer…and remember me…the one who helped you…. Todd and his nephew, you find this beautiful….deer. I pulled the Colton Skrove.
have….(static)….I truly love….(static)…..All I can say is she is an amazing woman. Or perhaps it’s the phone call I receive from Mike every June reminding me to put in my draws for a list of animals (some I’ve never even knew existed in Alberta) in WMUs that God only knows where…I don’t have to heart to tell him that the Buffalo draw in Screwball, Northern Alberta just isn’t happening. (Refer to November anniversary story). Anyways, this guy is the real deal…and I love em for it.
Bottom line: Life handed me the rarest of privileges and I’m thankful for that, but I must give credit where credit is due. To the true hunters out there who wear this stuff on their sleeve and camo to social gatherings, who quad us around, tell us what bullets to buy, let us hang game in their garage and rip us around in the front seat of their trucks, this is for you. Rock on!
Todd and Mike with the almost perfectly typical giant mule deer.
Dallas Morrison with a spectacular set of sheds he picked up in Saskatchewan. The buck that carried these massive antlers would have grossed over 250 inches! He may still be alive and carrying an even bigger set of antlers.
Travis Hamoline with the giant Non-Typical mule deer he harvested in the fall of 2012. The deer was the number 1 mule deer entered into the Boone and Crocket record books killed in 2012. For the full story and more pictures of Travisâ€™s incredible deer, see page 80.
Shawn Danychuk Photo
Tim Gehan and Brad Fry with Tim’s once in a lifetime Ston Sheep from the rugged mountains of northern British Columbia. A mature Stone Ram is one of the hardest won trophy’s in North America and sheep hunter’s dream.
o what’s the plan”? My first sheep hunter of the year asked. “Well, we’ll pack up the ponies and point them down the trail towards Canyon Camp, shouldn’t be more than a 4 hour ride if everything goes well.” The beginning of each new hunting season brings with it renewed excitement and anticipation and this year was no different, in fact, even more so, as we were heading for one of my favorite Stone Sheep haunts. This particular camp was surrounded by limestone bluffs and ridges with dark timber reaching 2/3 up the slopes. Not classic thin horn Sheep terrain, but the numerous caves, nooks, and cranny’s had a way of holding old Rams year after year. I have always had a fascination with thinhorns which choose a timber existence, they hold an almost mystical like presence, rarely above tree line and rarely seen, these rams prefer to rely on their “whitetail” senses for survival. Any form of sheep hunting is as much mental as it is physical and when dealing with timber rams it becomes even more of a mind game. Actual sheep sightings are lower than when glassing for their open country cousins and remaining patient day after day is always easier said than done. However, its patience that is often rewarded in the Sheep game, and when you do finally locate a group of rams in the sticks there is usually an old timer or two leading the way. Now, putting your tag on one is another challenge all together! I liked Tim right off the bat. He’s an “honest modest” kind of guy who is a hunter thru and thru.
This would be only his second time ever putting his trust in a guide as he is typically a true do-it-yourselfer. I looked forward to spending a few weeks with someone who would truly enjoy and appreciate the entire hunt from start to finish. A mountain sheep hunt on horseback, although “romantic”, is also a tremendous amount of hard work. Having the entire group, from wrangler to hunter pitch in, always makes for a more enjoyable and successful hunt. After a full day of packing the horses, trailing them, and then unpacking and setting up a full camp, we found sleep easy the first night. The next morning smells of mountain air, coffee and bacon filled our senses as the feeling of, it just doesn’t get any better than this, were communicated throughout camp. Another blue bird day suggested lots of ground would be covered this day, as weather would not be a limiting factor, as is so often the case on a northern sheep hunt. Anticipation had reached its peak as we led our saddle horses out of camp and weaved through the remaining ponies that were more than happy to have the day off. A distant isolated ridge some 2 hrs away was our destination and after our ponies had fulfilled their duties for the morning, we tied up, removed bridles, loosened cinches and prepared our own packs for a day of hiking and climbing. After promising ourselves that next year we would be in better shape, we finally reached a suitable glassing point. I couldn’t get my bino’s out fast enough to begin tearing into the terrain with my eager eyes. After 5 minutes of “skimming over” the
landscape yet another lesson was re-learned, slow and methodical wins the sheep glassing race and sure enough within minutes of slowing down I had located my first ram of the season, perched on a limestone ledge mere feet above tree line. I quickly exchanged my bino’s for my spotting scope, as my adrenaline surged in anticipation of the ram’s size. The ram uncharacteristically cooperated, posing in
a variety of angles allowing for a thorough investigation of his honey brown horns. Unfortunately, he was a considerable distance off and although my gut was suggesting a younger type ram I couldn’t help but feel the need to have a closer look, not to mention to have a look at what was over the next ridge. Eventually the ram finished working his cud and began lazily browsing on the fresh willow in a shallow draw adjacent to the dark pines below. Once the ram fed out of sight we began to close the distance and eventually relocat-
ed him an hour later, some 450 yards out and across an impenetrable canyon for any 2 legged creatures. I put the spotting scope on him again which backed up my earlier hunch. There was no doubt about it; we were looking at a 7 ½ year old Ram with a shallow curl, just breaking the bridge of the nose by maybe an inch. Although this Ram would be deemed legal by the government, he was not what we were looking for, especially with two weeks of hunting ahead of us. I was confident we would find a Ram suitable for Tim’s hard earned tag. On our way back to the horses that evening a small rain squall came up over the ridge. Scrambling for our rain gear, we took cover on the downwind side of some large boulders, intent on waiting the brief storm out. Instinctively, while waiting out the rain, I couldn’t help but glass a series of distant ridges where I had planned on checking out the very next day. As Tim watched me quickly reach into my pack for my spotting scope he knew something had caught my eye. Without saying a word he patiently waited for my assessment. I had no sooner found the Rams in my scope when I blurted out a couple of “oooohs” and “aaawes”. Even through a sheet of rain, it didn’t take an experienced eye to know we were looking at Tim’s Ram, but, before I could get a real good look, the 5 rams simply melted back into the timber, leaving many questions for the next day, if in fact we could locate them again. Sleep would not come easy that night! Early the next morning found us going through the usual horse camp proceedings, finding the ponies, catching the ponies, cursing the ponies, and
finally saddling the ponies. Once this was accomplished we were able to get on our way and get hunting. By the time we took the horses as far as we could it was near noon and we still had a couple of hours of climbing and side hilling to go. We were in no hurry though; we knew it was a long shot at best to catch these rams out on the open slopes during the middle of the day. Most likely we would have to wait until the evening to have a chance at catching them up and on the move. By mid afternoon Tim and I were glassing the mature pines some 500 feet below us. It always feels a little weird to be hunting sheep by looking down into the trees hoping to catch some form of movement, instead of looking up at all of the open slopes with trails and beds scattered about. It felt anything but funny an hour or so later, when directly below us 7 rams came running out above tree line about a half mile to the north of us. There was no question they were the same rams, even with just our binos we could tell there were two Rams that stood out. We immediately packed up and headed over for a closer look. Due to the lay of the land we were only able to get within 500 yards of the Rams, any attempt at getting closer would leave us exposed, and a shot attempt from that distance was not an option. We were going to wait them out, hoping they would feed up the slope and into a better position. Now, anytime you are hunting sheep and you are able to get above them, you are in an enviable position. This gave us the luxury to judge every aspect of each Ram as we had plenty of time to look them over. The largest Ram was my dream ram. Heavy, old, long, dark and broomed, he was absolutely stunning. I remember telling Tim, we were looking at the nicest Stone Ram I had ever laid eyes on. The second best Ram was no slouch either. I guessed him to be pushing the magical 40” mark, with exceptional mass, a deep curl and both lamb tips, he was a classic looking thin horn, on the down side he was only 8 ½ years old and given another year, and possibly two, would be as impressive as the bigger one bedded beside him. There was no debating which Ram we were going after; the 11 ½ year old broomed Ram was a marked man. Although we were both in awe of these Rams, the day was growing long and we weren’t any closer to sealing the deal. We were just in the process of discussing a risky move to get closer when all 7 Rams bolted away from the timber as if something had
spooked them. Eventually, they all calmed down and began feeding again, but now they were closer, the plan was obvious. We needed to drop back out of sight and descend down the loose rock on the opposite side of the ridge we were on. Hopefully we would get down into range before they fed over the ridge and caught us in the open. Adrenaline and panic carried us over the treacherous face and eventually down to the safety and solid footing of the open slope, just out of sight from the other side, which hopefully still held our Rams. Not wanting to waste any time, and breathing heavy, we peered over the ridge only to find an empty slope. Not good!
The largest Ram was my dream ram. Heavy, old, long, dark and broomed, he was absolutely stunning. I remember telling Tim, we were looking at the nicest Stone Ram I had ever laid eyes on. Seconds ticked by, eventually fading into minutes, as our full senses scanned the barren slope below us as we worked our way down. If the rams weren’t spotted soon, as we were almost to the bottom of the slope, it would surely mean they reached the timber and our hunt would be over for the day. Just as hope was fading, I caught a flash of movement directly below us, just over the horizon of the sharp ridge. Dropping down out of reflex, I motioned for Tim to do the same. Ripping our packs off, the adrenaline surge slapped me in the face. With unsteady hands and strained neck muscles, my binos scanned the terrain and eventually steadied on the tops of dark stained horns. We had them less than 125 yards, bedded directly below us, and completely unaware. All 7 Rams had found a slight depression, amongst some young aspens to bed in, out of the wind and within easy reach of the mature pines. Tim slowly inched his way into shooting position. I readied the video camera. A small ram stood and stretched as I began scanning the group to locate the broomed ram. I found the second biggest ram but after counting out 7 rams I was positive the massive ram was not one of them. Just as I was beginning to let pessimistic thoughts enter my mind out stepped an eighth ram from behind some aspens.
What a sight! There he was, just like I had envisioned in countless dreams. Staring straight at us was my dream ram, he had everything. Dark, deep curls, evenly broomed tips, massive bases and tight growth rings. He had seen us, no question, but it was too late. The old mountain dweller had fallen in with the wrong crowd this time and had let his guard down. Tim had already zeroed in on him as I gave him the go ahead. “I can’t shoot”. “What!” “The tree is in the way”! Sure enough, 20 yards from us and directly in the line of fire covering the rams’ vitals was about a 2 foot tall dwarf spruce tree. Now the giant ram had one more chance. He could bolt for cover and live another day, or hopefully take one more step in any direction, and Tim would have his shot. Time crept by as the ram stood statue like pondering his next move. We didn’t dare move as I silently cursed that tough little tree for choosing such an inconvenient spot to cling to life. Then, as if the hunting gods had had enough fun torturing us, a young ram stood up from the herd, attracting the attention of our ram. All in one motion,
the massive Ram swung his head towards the herd and casually began walking in their direction. We had our chance. Tim was back on him in short order, as he walked through the bedded rams, and just as he cleared the group I eagerly gave Tim the final go. This time there was nothing in the way and in a blink of an eye the ram was down. Year after year, mile after mile, and mountain after mountain I had envisioned such a specimen and now the proverbial needle in a haystack had been tracked down. Over the years, a ram of this caliber was what kept pushing me when the mind and body wanted to quit. As my hands finally lifted the heavy, banged up bases from the short mountain grass, my eyes feasted on the near perfect ram. He was awesome, and it was now obvious to both of us that we had taken a true world class Stone Ram. I vaguely remember the pack back up and over the top of the mountain and down to our horses. It was one of the toughest I ever endured, fitting I suppose for such a regal ram, but time has a funny way of weeding out the bad and only allowing the good memories and this was one of my best.
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Hard work paid off for Wisconsin hunter Elliot Smith. The massive buck has main beams of 24 4/8” and 25 3/8” and a greatest spread of 24 1/8! The buck grossed 169 3/8” . Photos by Tony Smith.
BY ELLIOT SMITH THE BEGINNING
his hunt actually begins in 2009. The year 2009 was my 2nd year of bow hunting. I was in pursuit of my first buck ever. On November 7, 2009, I harvested my first buck ever, he just happened to be a 120” 10 point that I had taken at 10 yards. This adrenaline filled experience, which was shared with family and friends, is why I fell in love with managing and growing mature whitetails. My latest hunt in 2012 may have never taken place if it were not for this eye opening experience. Fast forward to late 2011, at age 15, my father and I began looking for a separate piece of property apart from our 625 acres in Dodge County, Wisconsin. This is because we wanted to become a serious part of QDM. Many people know that premier property can be the key to growing and harvesting trophy whitetails.
We searched hard, going through tons of websites looking for that perfect property. And after looking at multiple properties, we came to a conclusion in early 2012, on a beautiful 40-acre parcel in the one and only Buffalo County, which is known for its world famous deer hunting.
THE PREPARATION Immediately my father and I fell in love with the country, and our new heaven. We consistently
went to the property every weekend, just preparing for the upcoming deer season. We had placed trail cameras, and noticed that not only were there some great deer around but some phenomenal turkeys! So that was our focus during spring. Beginning in late spring to early summer, my father and I began planting food plots and setting tree stands. All of these little things that a person does can be the deciding factor in a hunt. So we put countless hours in on all of the little things. As everyone knows the beginning of summer comes with the beginning of a new set of antlers for the deer. We had been getting pictures of multiple shooter bucks that we
would be looking to harvest the upcoming year. There was one deer that caught our eye at first, but had not thought much of after that. This was because we had only captured one picture, and the deer was not fully developed. The deer was not a regular according to our trail cameras but stayed in the back of our minds. A couple months went by and we were ready to get in the stand. The bucks had shed their velvet and we had sat a couple nights just as observation. Opening day of the 2012 archery season was just around the corner, and my Dad and I had prepared ourselves as best we could. The season was under way on the new property.
The only trail camera picture that Elliot and his dad were able to capture of his big buck.
THE SEASON Extremely excited, my Dad and I headed out to the stand we thought would give us the best chance to harvest a trophy buck on the opening morning of the 2012 season. Unfortunately opening weekend of bow did not go exactly how we wanted it too. We saw a lot of deer, many does and a couple small bucks, but none of the shooter bucks we were targeting that season. Opening weekend came to a close with no big bucks hitting the ground. Many weekends went by with the same result, no shooter bucks. We had identified some great looking 1-2 year old bucks that would be great upcoming trophies, but our focus stayed on this first
On the way [to the cabin], my Dad and I looked at each other and said, “You’re/I’m going to shoot a buck.” year. October rolled around and what is known as the October lull was in full swing. There was a drought and it was fairly warm. So the deer were pretty nocturnal trying to keep cool. Towards the end of October the weather was finally beginning to cool down. We were hearing of some bucks starting to rut, and they were beginning to hit the ground! THE MAGICAL WEEK This was THE week to be in a tree in our neck of the woods. Several bucks had hit the ground. Although this was a hot week, our neighbor had harvested a
great 130” 8 point a week or two prior to it. So we knew that prime time was coming! I had school this week, so I was not able to take off and hunt as much as I would have LIKED too. But my Dad got off the whole week and connected on a great 8 point buck on Wednesday, October 30th. He texted me the night he put the buck down and told me that the deer were moving, and I should get up to the cabin this weekend. I already planned on going up because both he and I knew it was the week. I packed all of my scent free clothes, and my trusted bow, and Friday, right after school, we headed back up to the cabin so I could hunt the weekend. On the way, my Dad and I looked at each other and said, “ You’re/I’m going to shoot a buck.” We arrived at the cabin that night and went straight inside, doing our best not to disturb a single thing. We organized, and went straight to bed looking forward to the morning hunt. THE MORNING OF NOVEMBER 3RD I woke up well before I expected too. I was incredibly excited to climb into my perch tall up in the tree because I knew that the rut was in full swing. I jumped into a scent free shower as I usually do, and woke myself up. I went back out into the living room and checked the forecast. It was to be an overcast sky all day and hover around 32 degree Fahrenheit. Right away I thought, “Perfect!” My Dad had already cut an apple to help cover the scent of my breath. I was all dressed and ready to go! I threw in a piece of apple gum to, again, cover my breath. I sprayed down with some scent killer and walked out the door and headed to my morning stand. I would be sitting on the end of a 6-acre cornfield we had on the top of the bluff, hoping a hot doe would bring a big buck past me. As the sun started to rise in the sky I peered across to the opposite end of the cornfield, a deer following very close behind another deer! It was still fairly dark, so I couldn’t identify what exactly what the deer were. As the morning proceeded I had one white-racked small basket 6pt walk past my stand. I passed the small buck and sat for another hour or so. I crawled down out of my stand around 10:30 and headed back to the cabin to wait for the afternoon hunt. At the cabin my Dad and I talked about an afternoon strategy for me. He was convinced
that a specific stand would be lucky. I had not sat there yet this year. He finally convinced me to sit there. I wanted to go back to the stand I sat in the morning, but looking back now I sure am glad he convinced me to go to this particular stand. He always encouraged me to get out in the stand extra early. I couldn’t have agreed more, so I headed out for my afternoon hunt around 2 o’clock with some doe estrous dragging behind me. Little did I know this was going to be the afternoon where all my hours in the stand would finally pay off. THE AFTERNOON OF NOVEMBER 3RD (THE OPPORTUNITY) I crawled up into my afternoon stand after I hung the estrous rag from a tree. The stand was located right on the edge of the 6-acre cornfield, but there was a valley that funneled right up and into the cornfield. The stand was located right in a sort of a pinch point. There was a regular trail that led right up to the field. I sat for about an hour and I decided to grunt and rattle with no response. I sat another hour or so until 4:30. I looked behind me and saw a doe that had entered the cornfield. I watched her for about 5 minutes when a second doe
entered the field at a trot which made me think a buck was trailing her. I was 100% correct. Out came a small yearling fork buck that was raising a little havoc in the cornfield. After about 15 minutes of chasing around in the field the small fork buck proceeded to wander off down the opposite side of the cornfield. The 2 does continued feeding in the corn stubble. At around 5 o’clock some commotion caught my attention below me at the bottom of the valley. Two does had stepped out into the clover plot in the bottom of the valley. All of a sudden deer began to come from all directions. I stood up and grabbed my bow. Just in case something big came with. Seven doe funneled from the bottom of the valley directly under my tree stand! One mature doe thought something was up, but proceeded to move with the crowd. They congregated behind me up in the cornfield at about 35 yards and began to feed. I was still standing with my bow in hand. It had taken roughly 10 minutes for the does to funnel into the field. Suddenly I heard sticks breaking, brush rustling, and a couple deep grunts. I knew it was a buck, and thought it sounded like a mature buck. The buck stepped out of the thicket right where the does came from and I immediately knew it was a shooter. I couldn’t believe my eyes; this deer was the biggest I had ever seen!
One thing that caught my eye was the width of the deer’s spread. I told myself, “Don’t look at the antlers, look at the kill zone.” The buck started making his way directly to where the does went. This is when I knew I would get my shot opportunity. I drew my bow back. He marched his way up the hill like he owned the place, all the way to 15 yards broadside. I stopped the enormous buck with a light, “Mehh!” and I release my arrow and watched it enter the huge buck. Right away I knew I had hit him a tad far back. He bounded up the hill and stopped. I was shaking like a leaf! I couldn’t believe it; I had just hit the biggest buck I had ever seen
We came upon a scrape and there was blood in the scrape! We could not believe that this deer was working a scrape with an arrow possibly still in him. in my life! He turned his head and then I really saw the caliber of the buck. He was a tall tined 10pt with an extremely wide spread and massive main beams. The buck slowly walked over the hill and out of sight. It was a surreal moment in the tree for me and one that I will never forget. It was only 5:20 and still a lot of light left. I figured I shot him around 5:15. I immediately called my Dad. “D-d-d-d-a-a-a-a-d-d-d! I j-j-j-ust hit a m-m-m-onster!” I stuttered. “Awesome! I had a feeling you were going to! I’m watching Righty (A target buck of ours) on the next bluff over! I knew they were moving!” he said. We hung up and I sat down. I had to just take it all in. I climbed down my tree after I settled down and sprinted all the way back to the cabin. I was still jacked, I didn’t even care that there was still
deer in the field I sprinted across in clear light yet. I arrived back at the cabin and dropped to the ground in tears. I explained to my Dad the entire story and the caliber of the deer I just put an arrow in. We called our newly befriended neighbors to come up and discuss everything. We came to the conclusion that the shot would do the job, but decided we were going to leave it until morning. No need to say it was a long night for everyone and our prayers for sure went up to God to find this deer. I had even asked friends and family to pray for me to find my deer. It was daylight savings, so that made the night even longer. I could not wait to get back to the stand and start tracking my deer. He was a TRUE giant buffalo county buck.
THE TRACK No need to say, after a long sleepless night my Dad and I headed out to the stand I had shot out of. We immediately found blood, which was a very good sign. We did not find an arrow, which I thought was odd because I swore it was a complete pass through. I had not even looked at all the previous night. So we followed the blood trail inch by inch. It was a tough blood trail and began to thin out at about 150 yards, right when the deer began to go down the other side of the bluff and into a deep valley. My Dad and I had totally lost blood and my heart was at an all-time low. I did not want to lose this deer. We began walking the backside of the ridge/
bluff, thinking that is what he might have done, scanning for any blood. We headed down to a small stream that ran through our property. I had hit the deer a little far back so he might have headed to the water. Our neighbor also looked near their pond, no traces of blood anywhere. After about 2 hours of of looking we headed back to the cabin to regroup. We ate breakfast and settled down. I was very upset at this point and couldn’t believe this deer was going to slip out of my grasp. We headed back out to put some more hours of looking in. We headed back to the last blood and headed straight down into the valley. No traces of blood anywhere on the hillside. My Dad and I spread out and began searching. Then out of the blue, my Dad yelled, “Elliott! I have blood!” This raised my hopes higher than ever! And my confidence was back up. To be honest finding that blood was like finding a needle in a haystack. He had to walk in just the right place, and we were right back on the trail. We continued following the blood trail for about 75 yards. We came upon a scrape and there was blood in the scrape! We could not believe that this deer was working a scrape with an arrow possibly still in him. We decided to split up and go opposite ways. I walked about 25 yards when I heard my Dad yell, “Elliott! We got’em!” I sprinted over
Elliot and his Dad Tony shortly after Elliot arrowed the seclusive whitetail.
to him and neither of us could believe our eyes! It was beyond big; it was the largest buck my Dad or I had ever seen! And he was all mine! I set my bow down, trying not to tear up and held the fabulous deer in my hands. It was one of the proudest moments of my life to harvest such an amazing and impressive animal as this buck. This was an unbelievable moment between my father and I, and it will be one I will never forget. I guess all of the prayers paid off! This buck truly had been a ghost to our cameras. Our neighbor that we communicated with a lot did not have a single picture of this particular deer either. He was a deer that was an unknown to us because it was our 1st year in the area and he avoided trail cameras. The buck unofficially green scored 175 5/8” gross and dressed out at 205 lbs. One unique feature about this deer was the patches on its back. The antlers had rubbed away the fur from scratching and making scrapes. After the 60 day drying period for the official scoring of the antlers, he taped out at 169 3/8”gross. Just short of 170”! His net was 163 1/8”. This will be a memory I will hold forever. And I hope to continue growing as a hunter and harvesting trophy whitetails throughout my life.
Kaare with the gigantic northern Saskatchewan whitetail. The longest tine on the brute measures 11 inches. The 15 point rack ended up grossing 195 6/8â€?.
CLOSING THE DEAL BY: KAARE GUNDERSON
ach summer I look forward to pulling the memory cards from my trail cameras that I set on salt licks throughout the areas I hunt. The anticipation of seeing an older buck I had thought of many times during the winter, surviving and showing up a year older on my camera is surely comparable to my kids waiting for Santa to come on a snowy winter morning. Disappointment is a part of life and a big part of hunting. I have often pulled summer camera cards to end up disappointed that certain deer had been removed from the equation, or moved. I think that is what makes the success so sweet. There really is no feeling like targeting a specific deer, especially one that you had passed on numerous occasions and that had grown to maturity and evaded all other things in his life that were looking to take him. Predation, winter, other hunters, rut mortality, there are just so many factors working against its possibility. Going into the season I was hoping to be able to focus on one of two deer, if they were around. One was an old drop tine buck that had been on the radar for 3 years. The previous year he had grown a single drop tine, the year before and drop tine and a large flyer off the g2. The other had been around just as long and had been a main frame 5x5
with split g2’s the previous fall and a 5x5 with one An early season trail camera split g2 and an inline flyer of g3 on the other side picture of the big brute helped the year before that. I knew which trail cameras Kaare to plan his ambush. would reveal them if they were still alive. Basically a mile apart, they had produced pictures of each buck previous summers yet neither buck would appear on both licks. I stood by the first lick, eager to check my card. Most of my cams are homebrew trail cameras by Jeremi Skelton of Monarch Images. They allow me to view images right on them and I never wait to get home. Skip, skip, skip went through them until WHAM!! There stood the old buck I had been so wishing to be alive and he looked just plain cool! He had a big split brow and 2 droptines! He may not have been huge but just a great buck. Instantly I began to plot his demise and I thought that I would have him figured out by the time bow years previous and I would be waiting for him. To this season arrived. day I have not figured out why he moved, but my best Those plans lasted about 3 days, until I got to the laid plans would not work out the way I had planned. other camera. I was elated to have pictures of the oth- I would kill him on the other side of the river where I er buck too. He was alive and WHOA! He had put on thought the drop tine buck would be. As it turned out,
My plan was set into motion. I was almost certain I would get him and even thought I knew where. some serious inches as what I think was a 6 1/2 or 7 1/2 year old deer. He had kept the split g2's but the g2's were way longer and the splits deeper. The inline abnormal was back and bigger and he now had a dagger like tine off his left base. As I studied the picture, I thought to myself, he has to be over 190”. My plan was set into motion; I was almost certain I would get him and even thought I knew where. He would stroll out into that alfalfa like he had the two Another look at the spactacular velvet covered antlers on the huge bodied deer.
the drop tine buck wouldn't have been where I thought either. So much for thinking you've got it all figured out when it comes to hunting whitetails. By the end of August he wasn't showing up on the licks anymore and not once did he show up on that alfalfa field while I sat in a tree in September during the evenings with a good wind. By the end of September my trail cameras had been on field edge scrapes for about a month and they were void of him too. I decided to try and hunt the other buck and moved my trail cameras to a field edge on the other side of the river where I thought he may be now. "You're kidding me”, I thought as soon as I checked the first trail camera. There was the split g2 buck walking into a scrape, roughly half a mile from where I had been hunting him. I do not know why he moved, the food was better there, I always hunted with good winds, but now, in early October, here he was standing on a hay field that just wasn't as active of a feeding spot for deer as the other one. I decided instead of diving in, I would play it safe and observe a time or two. On my first
sit of the year with the muzzleloader the wind was wrong for the area, so I returned to the other side of the river. “Maybe he was still feeding there but crossing the river working scrapes further from his core area?” I thought to myself. That night the deer were simply pouring into the alfalfa while I sat in a tree 50 yards away. There must have been some environmental condition that evening because I hadn’t seen nearly that many deer on the field the other times I had sat there. Suddenly, out he walked... the drop tine buck. At a mere 50 yards he stood there, a tremendous old deer but not the deer I really wanted. He had never stepped onto that field while I had watched it over 4 hunting seasons, yet there he stood, with the sun still high above the trees. He was now here, with so many deer, so early, "it must be environmental, that other buck will be coming too", I thought. I went home empty handed to an empty house. My family was away for Thanksgiving weekend but I had stayed put. It had been my lucky weekend, I had killed some great deer over it and I had planned to again. And I could have again, maybe should have... that great drop tine buck. By the time darkness fell 24 hours later I was sitting at my friends' kitchen table. I had driven to their house to ask for help loading the gigantic buck, his body was
enormous. I had left home about 3 hours earlier with the intention of scouting the other piece. I took my muzzleloader, a small chair, my binoculars, a small saw and a hunting magazine to help pass the time, along with my backpack. I found a small spruce tree along the field edge and basically just carved a little bunker into the boughs where I could face south and watch a depression in the field close to where the scrape was. I felt the low spot was the most likely spot for him to enter from. I wasn't close enough to shoot him if he did, but this was a homework mission. I do not know how he did not catch my wind based on where he came from. However, I am not really sure where he did come from. Like big bucks do most often, he was just suddenly there. He was maybe 30 yards away and staring a hole through me and the spruce tree. I know he was looking for the movement that had to have happened, when my head turned and was able to actually see the buck coming by a wee bit north and east of me. I had turned my head as something had caught my eye and caused me to look left. It was a group of deer moving to my left, from behind to ahead of me. They were heading in the direction I had been so intently focused on, coming from parts unknown. And they had seen my head move. So here I was, in a staredown with some does and a hawg of a buck I had been Another angle of Kaare’s big buck. Look at the size of the body and neck on his buck!
remained frozen, unblinking, likely not even breathing, and it worked! The lead doe eventually gave the “all’s well tail flick” and the procession continued on. I was very likely saved by a porcupine. Old porky had been out in front of me about 10 yards and I am sure it’s actions distracted the deer enough that they were unable to make me out as a threat. My gun had sat there on my lap and now I was watching the buck I was targeting stroll by at a stone’s throw. I flicked off the safety, raised the gun to my shoulder, aimed and fired. When the smoke cleared his death run was ending and he crashed down right in the field. He was absolutely beautiful. Mother Nature's art at its finest sat on his head and he was now mine to proudly display and admire in my trophy room. I had been blessed that fall. I had taken the buck I had set out to and that feeling is just so hard to describe. It's a lot of fun seeing bucks age to maturity and trying to identify them and keep tabs on them through their environment. It's
a challenge with a huge reward that non hunters can't even begin to grasp. It is a tremendous privilege to have access to lands that allow a person like me to chase my dreams and create situations that allow for a feeling of accomplishment that achieving such a goal creates. I would also like to say a huge thank you to the landowners that allow me to access their property. Thanks for letting my dreams happen. As for the drop tine buck, I'd kill him the next year. Editor’s Note: Kaare has a trophy room full of monster whitetail deer that would amaze even the most seasoned hunter. Big Game Illustrated is excited to announce that Kaare is going to be a regular contributor to the magazine. Watch for his articles in upcoming issues where he will provide tips and stories on how he is able to consistently put huge whitetail deer on the ground. I know we are all looking forward to reading his articles and hope that you are too!
An early season scouting trip in western Saskatchewan resulted in this unique photo opportunity for Shawn Danychuk
Tim Weiers with his gigantic Saskatchewan non-typical whitetail. His friend Jeff Zacharias had been hunting the monster, but tagged out earlier in the season. He then offered Tim his â€˜spotâ€™ where the big bruiser had been showing up.
Gift BY TIM WEIERS
first recognized the unselfish manner of my co-worker and friend, Jeff Zacharias during a conversation that took place near the end of this past summer. Over one of our breaks at work, Jeff was showing me some of the great looking whitetail deer that he had on his current trail camera and we ended up in a conversation regarding hunting areas and permission. Being relatively new to the area, I had been struggling to find a quality area to hunt whitetail that was accessible with permission. Jeff told me that he would show me some area, give me a guided tour and introduce me to the land owner. It was an offer I could not refuse. Shortly after, we spent an afternoon looking over a great looking potential whitetail area and I decided that I would put my efforts into hunting deer there this fall. I proceeded to set up tree-stands and trail cameras to monitor the activity in the area. As archery season was underway, I spent as much time as I could after work and on weekends in the stands and still hunting. I observed plenty of wildlife including elk, moose, whitetail and mule deer, but had not crossed paths with the trophy whitetail I was after. The archery season came and went and now we were into the muzzle loading season. Jeff was hunting his personal area in a location different than where I was set up. Daily he would show me pictures and give me updates of an awesome non-typical that was showing at his set up. He had his sights set on taking this deer. He had been watching him for the past few years, and he figured the deer had reached its
prime. I clearly remember the morning that Jeff came to work and stopped in my office to tell me he had filled his tag the previous evening. As he shared his story, I did not sense the excitement in his voice and I realized why when he shared that he had mistakenly shot the wrong deer. The non-typical was still at large. I joked with Jeff that he had better get very busy building a fence to keep this deer contained or he may never see him again. To my surprise, later that week, Jeff stopped by my office and did the most unselfish thing a hunter could do. He offered to let me hunt his set up for the remainder of the season. It was a gesture I will always be grateful for. My focus now shifted from my previous set ups to the potential of taking a one of a kind non-typical GIANT! I spent every available bit of free time trying to close the deal with this deer. For the next three or four weeks, as the rut activity increased, the non-typical had vanished and did not leave any trail cam pictures or sightings. Knowing that this particular deer was being pursued by other local hunters, I was starting to wonder if he was still alive. I had the last week of November booked off from work and I planned on spending as much time as possible in the blind. Conditions were favorable as we had been getting plenty of snow, the temperatures were dropping and the rutting activity was still very present. Another angle showing the tremendous character and flyers coming off the one of kind rack on Tims deer.
It says something special that another hunter would give his â€˜spotâ€™ to a friend after seeing pictures like this!.
Early in the week, I had a huge 5x4 in the crosshairs of the 50 calibre and I failed to get the shot off before he trotted away hot on the heels of the doe in front of him. Although disappointed that I could have just watched one of the biggest typicals I have seen disappear, I was still hopeful that I would see him again or possibly the big non-typical who consumed most of my thoughts. The next few days were slow with very little deer movement. The mercury was dropping hard by mid-week and I anticipated a good hunt the next morning. As I made my way to the blind I caught flashes of movement
der if any lead was going to fly this season. A minute later I caught a glimpse of a whitened tine moving back towards the fence line at a distance of 60 yards. He was back and this time I was ready! As he stepped into clear view and exposed the vitals, I squeezed off the shot. I knew the shot was solid and it made for a short tracking job. I could not believe that I had a second chance, but the evidence was now lying in the snow in front of me. After taking some field photos and getting the deer loaded up, I called Jeff on my drive out. His first words were “you shot the big one!” I told him I had good news and bad news. The bad news was that he would not be able to pick up his sheds this year and the good news was that he was in the back of my truck! I stopped in at Jeff`s, showed him the deer, took a few pictures and had a celebratory drink with him. I thanked Jeff for giving me this non-typical gift. I don’t think I will ever be able to repay him. Hunters truly are the most generous people on earth and Jeff is proof of that. I offered to do a timeshare with him on the shoulder mount that is being prepared by Owen at Round Table Taxidermy so that we can both enjoy the incredible buck.
as deer left the area. After sitting the first couple of hours, I went for a walk to warm up and replaced the card in the trail camera. Back in the blind I anxiously viewed the evenings pictures on my camera and the last few pictures revealed that the non-typical was back home. I had kicked him out of his core area on my walk in! I knew then that it would be a long sit today as I was not going anywhere for the day. There was no chance that I was going to take a time out for lunch in the truck today. Early in the afternoon I caught movement only 30 yards to the side of the blind. The elusive non-typical walked up to the fence line directly in front of me and stood motionless studying the area. He looked incredible, bigger than I had thought. As so often happens with big deer, he had caught me totally off guard and I now had to reach for the Wilderness Taxidermy muzzleloader and get it up to shooting Melfort, SK position without scaring him off and ruBest Value ining the opportunity. As I slowly eased For the gun up, I watched as the huge deer Your “Buck” turned and walked back where he came from as quietly as he had appeared. Once again I could not get the shot off before he had slipped away. I studied hard into the thick under brush to try and catch another glimpse of him to no avail. My heart sank as I reflected on the events of the week. I had just watched the second of Kent Ringheim Box 3414 Melfort, SK Canada S0E 1A0 two of the nicest deer I had ever seen walk Phone: 1-306-752-3352 • Cell: 1-306-921-9192 Email: email@example.com • Web: kentringheim.weebly.com away unharmed. I was beginning to won-
BY JARED and TYLER MOFFAT
Jared Moffat from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan with his 2012 bull elk. The back country monster had four tremendous eye guards of between 17” and 22” long. Bases on the massive bull were both over 9”. The final net score on Jared’s bull was 360 4/8”. Photos by Tyler Moffat.
he day finally arrived in August of 2012 that my brother Tyler, our father and I had learned we finally drew either sex tags for the majestic bull elk. The location was a big forest zone well known for tough conditions, but also huge bulls. The next few days found us in the forest, scouting different areas we are familiar with in our zone. Scouting was eventful, if you were hunting wolves or spot and stalk black bear’s! Although we hadn’t seen the elk sign we were hoping for, it would not deter us. Years of hunting this forest had taught us many lessons. With the wolf and bear population’s evidently at all-time highs, it was clear elk behavior would be impacted by these deadly predators. Every morning you could hear the local wolf pack of 8 or 9 animals making themselves known with a chorus of howls. Fast forward a couple of weeks of hard scouting and finally the night before opening day was upon us. With camp set up and the alarm set for 4:30am, we were prepared for a long day of hunting. Opening morning was calm, a perfect setting for releasing some echoing calls into the big forest in hopes of attracting a rutting bull. The 45 minute walk into the area we were targeting was just as enjoyable as finding out we had drew the tags. There is something about September that is special, whether it’s the garden being ready for harvest, the start of the decaying foliage and the smells that follow, and, of course, hearing your first bugle of the year! We
had set up on top of a poplar run, overlooking a small creek. We started mewing and calf calling, it was about 10 minutes into legal hunting and we had an animal coming in quietly. We sat and waited for the coming animal to show itself, then KABOOM. ‘What the heck, how did someone make it to the other side of the poplar run?’ we said to each other. So with a shot filled opening morning, we decided to go and see what had happened and where the shot came from. When we came back down off the run, I could hear a vehicle driving off in the distance. As we approached the trail that I thought was impassable, it was obvious what had happened. Whoever it was thought it was a good idea to shoot a center fire rifle at a ruffed grouse, and you can imagine what that looked like. Staying positive I was able to get a very clear vehicle description, and a phone call was made to our local game officers. That evening, a good camp meal was followed by a much needed sleep in the wall tent. The rain began, and temperature stayed the same. Our game plan was to cover as much ground as possible and find the herds. We hunted hard with limited success. On day 5, the weather changed, it was a calm morning and we were now about 10 miles away from the area we had started. After a 2 hour walk, we got into some of the thickest hazel brush you have ever seen, but with fresh elk sign, and soaked clothes from the morning’s dew,
we pressed on. It took weeks of scouting and 5 long days of hunting, but we finally found ourselves in the heart of elk country. Atop a poplar hill overlooking a ravine, filled with fresh water from a stream that had been damned up by beaver’s. We decided this was a great spot to call from. Five seconds after the first calf mew, I told my brother Tyler, ‘bear, big bear, he is running right towards us!’ Tyler looked at me with a smirk, thinking I was kidding, but when he saw my face he knew I wasn’t kidding. From our vantage point we could see across and down the ravine for miles. However, the hazel brush was thick, 6 feet tall and deep, so thick that you couldn’t see an arm’s reach in front of you. We quickly devised a plan. Tyler always kept a bear tag in his pocket, and we would take the calf killer if the shot presented itself. I dropped back 15 yards and kept calf calling. We both found downed tree’s we could climb to get a better view. After what seemed like a half hour but was probably more like 5 minutes, we heard him. The bear was close, so we called a couple more times. Right after calling again, and with fresh cow estrous lingering on our clothes, the bear started huffing, and I don’t mean once or twice, this big old boar huffed at us for at least 6 – 7 minutes. He was close, couldn’t have been more than 10 yards away. Tyler had his .338 lined up, waiting for a clear shot. We could see the tops of hazel brush moving back and forth while he was huffing and walking side to side from us. With no clear shot, he eventually wandered off.
us as we now had some meat for the freezer. He only had a few day trips left to hunt elk, and all the walking and experiences from the first half of the season made the decision to fill the freezer an easy one. We were all extremely grateful to have a bull on the ground. With Tyler tagged out, my holidays from work were coming up quickly. I set out alone to set up camp to chase the majestic monster bull elk that I knew was roaming the back country. The afternoon of September 10th was beautiful, sun was shining and the smell of fall was in the air, I spent the first day setting up the wall tent and getting camp in order, listening to my favorite hits by George Jones and Old Crow Medicine Show on my iPod. Later on I was entertained by the sounds of three separate packs of wolves howling in the distance as the sun began to set. Tomorrow the journey would begin again and I could not wait.
As my alarm went off at 4:20am I was already awake, packing my camelbak back pack with food and water for the days hunt. I needed to cover ground to get on top of the herd because I had been away from the area for almost a week and the herd could be anywhere in this back country wilderness by now. With a back pack full of rations, gun ready to rock and a lip full of Copenhagen I set out to hunt the elusive monster that roamed the back country. After walking slowly and quietly into the darkness, I found a spot to set up once the My father and I had to return to work, while Tyler sun began to rise and started calling. After a few hours stayed to continue hunting. As he explained to me, the of silence, I continued down the trail in hopes of cutnext morning he was on his way back into the heart of ting some fresh sign or hearing distant elk talk. I set up again after hiking down the trail and began cow calling. This time I got a response; two cows mewed back so I With about an hour and a half left of sat patiently, and exchanged calls. After a short while sunlight and the wind picking up, I fithe cows lost interest and stopped calling. I spent the rest of the day trying to locate the herd without sucnally heard what I was out here for, the cess. As the day began to wind to a close I decided to monster called back. He chuckled only head back to camp for a hearty meal and a stiff drink to twice and went quiet but it was music end the first day of the hunt, and rethink my strategy.
to my ears.
the elk country where we had the encounter with the black bear. It was another beautiful, calm morning, and he heard a bugle off in the distance. So trying to make some ground he cow called right back and made tracks to the last area he had heard him. Out of nowhere, a spike bull walked out right in front of him at 50 yards. BOOM, bull down! What a relief for all of
Day two began much the same as the first as I headed back to the spot where I had encountered the cows the day before. I setup and began to call. I tried cow calling and then a few soft bugles but was met only with silence. Once reaching the river I decided to set up for lunch and take in the picturesque scenery of the fast flowing river with the breeze in my beard. While eating my lunch I was surprised to see the boat traffic on the river. I knew that with all the pressure of river hunt
hunters, along with the bears and wolves that I would have my work cut out for me. After I had finished lunch I decided to go back up the trail and set up for the afternoon at a spot I thought looked enticing to a herd of elk and awaited the right time to begin my calling again. With about an hour and a half left of sun light and the wind picking up, I finally heard what I was out here for, the monster called back. He chuckled only twice and went quiet but it was music to my ears. I knew he was here and left him alone as darkness fell. As I settled in at camp, I was full of optimism that my dreams of shooting a trophy bull elk were getting closer to becoming a reality. That night the wind picked up with gusts that were threatening to blow my wall tent into the back country and leave me sleeping under the stars.
hoped for the best but the bull didn’t seem too interested in me and I never heard from him again. Day four I decided to head back to where I had heard the bull bugle the evening before with high hopes of attaining my dream of shooting the trophy I had set out for. The weather was a bit better, the wind was a light breeze and a light drizzle of rain to keep me cool. Once getting to the spot I was calling from the evening before I checked the ground for sign. Bingo, there was a set of a cow and two calves wandering around in the ground. As I walked a few more yards I found it, the bull track! ‘Yes, I got him interested, finally’, I said to myself. I spent the rest of the day calling off and on and had no luck. Day five and six were much like day four, only this time my luck had taken a turn for the worse. My heater had ran out of propane during the night of day six and I awoke to see my breath above my face and knew this wasn’t going well . In addition, the area that was holding elk was now covered up with wolf sign. I was starting to get down on my hopes thinking the wolves had scared the elk back to the river. So by midday, I decided to make the long hike back to my truck and head to the
The next morning the wind gusts were still blowing hard and the rain had begun to fall making it a tough morning for much of anything. The thought of that bull raced through my mind and I decided to head out and see if the herd had visited the spot I had been calling from the evening before. I had been toughing out the rain and the wind for the better part of two hours when all of a sudden CRACK, SMASH, BANG. A 60 foot jack pine had snapped in two only 20 yards from me! With my heart in my throat and the feeling that my pants were a little heavier, I carried on. The rest of the day was spent covering ground, checking spots I thought the herd would visit. With about two hours of light left the elk gods pulled through and the weather began to subside. I settled in to call again. After about 45 minutes, my heart jumped, he chuckled back and couldn’t have been more than 200 Jared with the backcountry bull where he fell on the moss covered yards away. I waited ground, deep in the Jack Pine forests he called home. out the daylight and
town for propane and supplies to get me to the end of the hunt. Once back on the main road, I was astounded as I counted over 15 sets of wolf tracks that ran over the 11 kilometers on the road before turning and running into the bush. ‘ARRRRGGGGGHHHH, things are getting worse, I can feel it!’ I thought to myself. After picking up supplies and returning to camp I decided to head out to my spot I had been seeing the cow tracks from and hope for the best. Once returning to my spot, my hopes had been renewed, there were more tracks, not one, not two, but five separate sets of cow tracks with two calves. I sat down and began to call again. After a few hours of calling, I had no luck again and decided to head back to camp. After supper and a few drinks, I sat and pondered what I could be doing wrong. Just short of smashing my head into a pine tree from over thinking I decided to bust out the trusty old six string guitar and sing renditions of Neil Young songs. I needed to do something to keep my sanity from being in the bush all alone for almost a week and being so close but yet still so far from shooting my trophy elk. Day seven began and I didn’t like the sound of my alarm going off as it hurt my head. However, after a brief pause, my renewed hope sprung me from bed like a mossy whitetail buck in rut circling in the field after an estrous doe, semi sneak. I again went back to the same spot I had seen the fresh cow tracks the evening before and packed enough food and water to sit the day if I had to. The first part of the day resulted in nothing
but the snorts of angry whitetail does and the sounds of coyotes and wolves in the distance. However, this wouldn’t have me discouraged today; I had a real good feeling brewing inside of me. Even though I had no responses in the morning I decided to lie down on the foliage, sprawl out on a fallen pine tree and shut my eyes for an afternoon nap. I awoke to a drizzle of rain, but I could see through the trees it would be short lived. As the shadows of evening began to show themselves, I lit up an estrous cow in heat scent stick and began calling. After 30 minutes my heart picked up pace because the bull bugled back. However, the bugle was very faint in the distance, but I knew I had hooked his attention. After twenty minutes or so of trading bugles back and forth, every time he bugled back he was getting closer and closer. Then all of a sudden BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG! ‘NOOOOOOOOO’ I screamed inside myself,
Tyler Moffat relaxes for a few minutes after a long night of field dressing the big bull. He and Jared were focused on filling the freezer, but ended up taking a true monster.
somebody had shot my bull! I bugled back to try and calm things down, hoping for the best. My heart sank; I haven’t heard him in over five minutes and I was so mad I could deadlift a chevette at this point. All of a sudden the monster screamed back, and this time he couldn’t have been more than 250 yards away. I called two more times and went quiet as I could hear him rolling over trees and breaking branches. It sounded like my Cummins diesel bulldozing through the bush. I knelt down beside a tall jack pine and waited for him to come out of the dense bush for me to get a shot. HOLY CRAP there he is, my monster, the one I’ve been waiting so patiently for! After the initial sighting, I lost sight of him for a few minutes but could hear him breaking branches. Then he bugled for the last time, the hair on my neck stood on end and all I could see was the white ivory tips of his antlers as I watched him through my scope as he
ran through the hazel brush. When he crested the hill, he came out of the hazel brush into the opening only 50 yards in front of me. He caught my wind and came to an abrupt stop as the moss rolled up both his hooves. That moment felt like an eternity before I squeezed off a shot with a .338 Tikka T3 with a 225 grain custom hand load Nosler Accubond. I sat in amazement as I knew I had perfectly placed my shot to blow through his vitals but he turned and put his head back and ran through the bush ripping young jack pine trees out of the ground with his antlers like he was running through a field of dandelions. As I stood in amazement I realized he was still running and shelled another round into the chamber. It was too late; he went behind a skiff of trees. I got up from my spot just in time to run 10 feet forward and watch him hook his right antler around a 70 foot jack pine and come to lie in his final resting place. ‘‘BOOOOOYAAAAA’, I screamed out and could hear my echo in the distance. I had finally fulfilled my dream, but the work had just begun. It was getting close to final light so I had to move quickly or I would risk losing my trophy to bears or wolves. I quickly hiked back to my truck to find out that the battery was dead from leaving my glove box door open. Luckily, I had cell service and called upon my brother for help. One he received the message, I returned to my trophy and lit a fire to keep the wolves and bears at bay. As I awaited the help of my brother Tyler, I began to apply my tags and field dress my trophy. After a short while, I could hear the sound of my trusty old Husqvarna chainsaw and knew that it was my brother. He was following my marked trail in, clearing a path to the big bull. Once Tyler made it to me we stood in amazement at the trophy that lay on the ground. I hadn’t yet taken the time to soak in the experience. By the time my iPod went dead, we had skinned, quartered and packed the trophy out by hand. It was 4:45am, an amazing day that was a long time coming but well worth the wait! The rest is history.
Everything Outdoors with Kevin Wilson
s Big Game Illustrated (BGI) makes its debut, I canâ€™t help but smile. Why? Because my faith in a way of life lives on! Allow me to explain. I believe in the written word and the undeniable intimacy of losing oneself in a great hunting story. Like many of you, I certainly enjoy watching contemporary hunting shows on television, but I grew up leafing through the pages of hunting magazines and, at least to some extent, I feel strongly that print publications are an integral aspect of our hunting heritage. Donâ€™t get me wrong; the Internet is great, television is wonderful, but there is something special about sitting down with a good hunting magazine, and immersing yourself in the stories, news, and reviews that are highlighted within. Reflecting on what it has taken to get to this first issue, I am in awe. At a time when so many aspects of our heritage are threatened by this or that agenda, it is re-
freshing to know that so many outdoorsmen and women place such immense value on hunting, not only as a way of life, but something to be celebrated and shared. Scan the pages of this issue and Iâ€™m sure you will agree. Home-grown in Saskatchewan, publishers Chad Wilkinson and Devin Gorder have a dream and they are turning it into a reality. Their ambition is to create a magazine that will herald the core values, opportunities, and successes of real hunters like you; hunters who understand the ups and downs of chasing exceptional animals, recognize that hunting is a vital part of our rich history, and who want to promote every good thing associated with our favourite pastime. The truth is hunters are among the most passionate people in the world. We maintain a land ethic, we beEvery elk hunters dream, this Alberta back country bull looks back before disappearing into the pine forest. Photo by Lindsay Wilkinson
lieve in conservation, and we cherish our opportunities to enjoy some of the finest outdoor sporting opportunities available right here in our own backyard and abroad! We believe in our way of life and we stand behind it. As hunters, we love to tell our tales; in fact there are no greater story-tellers … and that is the focus of this publication. Keeping it real and raw is the focus. Stories from real hunters who want to share their experience … that’s what you’ll see in the pages of BGI. We’ll do our best to convey these narratives in the most professional manner possible. What you won’t see is the glitz and glamour that is prevalent in so many of today’s hunting magazines. We at BGI recognize that not every hunt is about taking the biggest or the best, nor is it only about the kill. We do believe in celebrating those special hunts that culminate in a buck, boar, bull, billy, ram, or other animal of a lifetime. Whether it is sheer luck, or countless days or even years of commitment and effort that result in the taking of a trophy – we want to hear about it; and we want to share those stories with you. Aside from those exceptional trophies, we also want to hear about unique and special hunts, the kind that memories are made of. When Chad and Devin presented the opportunity to write a regular column for BGI, I asked the obvious question, “what will make this publication different from all the others, and what exactly did they want me to write about?” Aside from this inaugural issue, my job as the Everything Outdoors columnist will be to bring the more formal to you, the reader. I’ve been a freelance outdoor writer and columnist for the better part of 25 years. Over those two and a half decades, I have seen the outdoor industry evolve in leaps and bounds. I am fanatical about nearly every form of hunting and have had the privilege of pursuing most North American and even some exotic big game species abroad at one time or another with rifle, muzzleloader, and bow. With a diminutive response, the guys said, “Kevin, we’d like you to write about everything outdoors.” And so, a column was born. Looking ahead, I’ll endeavor to bring you tips and advice that will help you as a hunter, i.e., advice for the travelling hunter, getting kids involved in hunting, new outdoor gear reviews, and we might even take a look at women and hunting. Regardless of the focus, my commitment is to address topics, events, or opportunities relevant to you.
Many of you know my wife Heather, or have at least seen her in the pages of other publications over the years, and some may have even attended our seminars at this year’s Parkland Outdoor Show and Expo in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. At Chad and Devin’s request, Heather will more than likely weigh in from time to time in Everything Outdoors to share her own thoughts on an assortment of topics relevant to you. If you’re dying to read about a specific topic, we are only an e-mail and a mouse click away. I’d love to hear your feedback, and hope to get to know you, our readers more as time goes on. Sooner than later, we hope to be found on store shelves, in your homes, at your places of work, in your lunch rooms, on the dashboards of your trucks and a whole bunch of other places. Most importantly, we sincerely hope you read and thoroughly enjoy the magazine from cover to cover. We’ve got some amazing material coming down the pipe; hold on, we’re in for a great ride!
Marc Anthony with the line up of bucks he has harvested. Many of them have been taken on the ground using the strategies he outlines in the next few pages. There
POUND BY MARC ANTHONY
are few experiences more exciting than harvesting a big whitetail buck on the ground. Face to face, in the bucks element, may be the ultimate hunting challenge.
t was just the other day when I received an email that said: “Marc, I’ve been reading your articles and am really glad you created ground hunting for whitetails!” Now I must admit, I can’t take credit for “creating ground hunting” no more than Al Gore can take credit for “Inventing the Internet” but nevertheless, I appreciated his gratitude. Even though early settlers and the Native Americans were hunting this way hundreds of years ago, it somehow got pushed aside and mothballed for another day. Well, that day has arrived! It may be just the time for you to climb out of that treestand and see what you’ve been missing all of these years! WHY GROUND HUNT? If you’ve ever been only 60 yards away from taking a good shot on a decent buck or always seem to see all of the action on the other side of the property you’re hunting on, you’ll see why ground hunting doesn’t sound like such a bad idea after all. Mobility, agility and access to a big buck’s hiding area are all reasons to hang up your treestand for good. If you’re a headhunter like me, you’ll soon find out that most of the places these monarchs like to hide are not places that will support a treestand! Getting into and around these special places requires a stealth-like maneuver that only your feet can provide. Simply sitting and waiting in a tree stand with Marc with a great buck he harvested while hunting on the ground.
the “hope” of seeing action will limit your hunt to just that tree and not the multitude of acreage that adjoins it. Being able to move and adjust to any given set of circumstances will ultimately put you on top of your game! Although I’ve hunted deer from treestands for 2 decades, I decided to change my strategy after having too many opportunities pass me by…literally! As I was sitting in a stand one day, I was recounting my days hunting turkeys and how I used to head them off by circling around to catch them. I thought to myself, “Why can’t I do this with deer”? Although I have mentioned this idea to other hunters in past conversations, it was mostly received with laughter. Funny or not, I realized that it was worth the risk, as I just couldn’t stand to watch deer from the distance! The turning point came one day in early October as I was sitting in my treestand during an evening hunt. I was hunting a very large buck that I knew was in the area. Although I hadn’t ever seen him, I knew he was there because of some pre-season scouting signs I had discovered in September. It was about an hour before the sun was setting when this giant buck came from a grassy hill over to the cut bean field I was hunting over. He stayed about 90 yards or so out, the entire time I was there. Eventually, he slipped back to the grassy field and headed over the hill. I said to myself “I can’t let this happen again, I must take the chance”, so I lowered myself from the tree and carefully crawled across this very small bean field trying to get a peek over that grassy hill to see where he was going. I was hoping to map out his route and head him off on the other side but instead, he turned around and came straight back! I was stuck in the middle of this field with no cover or trees to hide behind, so I knelt down in my Ghillie suit and made myself the shape of a bush. The buck stepped out into the field and without any suspicion, began to feed! With
a 30-yard broadside shot this 204” Illinois giant fell to a Muzzy 125 grain broadhead. What a day! CAN THIS BE A STRATEGY? When a successful hunt is implemented, you must ask yourself: “How can I do this again”? For comparison, in business the main objective is to find a product that sells. Then you must find a way to sell it over and over again, to create a reoccurring revenue stream. Without the reoccurring part, you’ll just start all over again each time trying to find a product that sells. It’s the same with whitetail hunting. Without finding out which ways to overcome your obstacles, you’ll just make the same mistakes over and over again. You must have options and must not be limited or your hunts will be. By practicing better discipline with ground hunting, I was able to refine and turn my hunting game into a reoccurring strategy plan. Of the dozens of pope and young bucks I have harvested to date, (5 are Boone and Crockett all time high net bucks), 85% of them have been from the ground. Ground hunting became a defining point in my whitetail-hunting career and it should be in yours also!
prefer to use tennis shoes because they are lightweight and nimble compared to boots. Of course, if the weather doesn’t permit the use of tennis shoes, then opt for rubber boots. • Lighted nocks will help in darker conditions, so be
Marc’s Tips for a Successful Ground Hunt • WEAR PROPER GEAR • PICK THE CONDITIONS • KNOW WHAT TO LOOK FOR • BE PREPARED AND CAUTIOUS
HERE’S HOW IT SHOULD BE DONE THE GEAR •
sure to install some. It could save you some money in lost arrows and help in the recovery effort when The Ghillie suit is a must. No exceptions. The Ghillie searching for your deer. suit breaks up the human profile and totally confus- • Wear gloves to cover scent. es the deer. Even when spotted, an archer usually • Remove all glaring items like watches. Deer DO nohas time to draw and shoot their game as it takes tice these items. several seconds for the deer to decipher what it is they’re actually looking at. Most of the time you are THE CONDITIONS not even seen. I can recount several occasions when I’ve had large mature bucks within 7 feet of me while • It is very important how you choose your days to I was on the ground. It’s downright scary! I also use hunt. Remember, you’re on the ground! Here’s what a carbon based scent eliminator. Activated carbon to look for when picking a day to ground hunt: really sucks in the smell. When you are up close and • Choose windy days. With the wind blowing and personal with mature animals, you DO NOT want everything moving from the wind, your draw will to be detected! become completely undetectable. Deer will not be Use a self-containing arrow rest so your arrow alarmed when they see your arm move under these doesn’t flop around. conditions. It also makes the noise from your shoes Use high quality sight pins with ample light gathunnoticeable. It’s very easy to walk and to draw ering capabilities. This is important because when down on your game under these conditions. still-hunting in the timber, the trees cover most of • Rainy days are great also as long as it’s not a drivthe sun’s light. ing rain. The softer leaves offer a much quieter stroll Use rubber boots or tennis shoes while stalking. I through the woods.
• Temperatures should be above freezing if there is even a hint of humidity on the leaves or the leaves will freeze and make a horrible crunch sound. • Check the wind before you leave and expect it to be different once you’re in the woods. • Plan to hunt all day! Pack some snacks and bottled water. WHAT TO LOOK FOR • Always keep an eye out for a tree wider than your body. By stalking from tree to tree, you can hide your silhouette and have ample room to draw your bow. • Always try to walk on matted down leaves instead of fresh ruffled leaves, to avoid noise. • In rain and during the pre-rut, hunt directly towards scrapes. Big bucks will freshen those scrapes in the rain and on windy days, even if they’re nocturnal. They can’t stand to have their scent covered up by rain or leaves. • Hunt the sides of the gullies, under downed trees, in thickets and anywhere the terrain changes. Before the rut, hunt food sources and small patches of timber. Avoid the larger tracts of timber after the rut. In early season, look for a place that has food, water and cover all within 200 yards of each other. A tremendous early season character buck from Northern askatchewan. Lindsay Wilkinson Photo.
• By ALL means USE YOR NOSE! This is another reason why ground hunting can get you closer to your game. Repeated bedding with active glands can turn a bed area into a very smelly place. Once found, I make sure I never go within 20-30 yards of that area. The set-up is an easy one from that point. HOW TO • Always walk into the timber exactly like a deer will walk, no exceptions. Exit the timber in the same manner but not FROM the same way. Deer WILL pattern your routes! Make your moves calculated by moving very slowly and targeting the next tree to stand by. Always stop by a tree that is wider than your body. When drawing down on a deer, do so by drawing behind the tree if available and then carefully moving to the side of the tree to take the shot. So there you have it! Be creative, be stealth-like and enjoy the hunt. You’ll have no more boring days sitting in a treestand waiting for action. It’s much safer than being in a tree and more exciting too! You now have more options to consider for this year’s hunt, so get out there and try something different! Do you need to throw your tree stand away? Not at all, but at least you’ll have a choice to consider when the time comes!
Cody Forsberg with six sheds off a big Saskatchewan whitetail. The typical frames on the set he is holding are 82 4/8 and 82 7/8â€? and have a total of 29 1/8â€? of abnormals points!
Photo by Hamilton Greenwood.
In the early morning hours, the glow of a desk lamp emanated through a frosted window of my basement suite. As the rest of world was fast asleep, I sat inside at my desk starring at the mess of wires that connected my 35mm point and shoot camera to a motion sensor. Following plans found on the internet, using a garage light motion sensor, a used 35mm camera and an army surplus ammo box, I was in the process of constructing my very first home-brew trail camera…with absolutely NO electronics background. Beads of sweat rolled down my forehead as I shakily soldered the last wire in place. As the last wire was secured I was relieved, if only that no sparks or “fireworks” occurred as I fumbled my way through this process. “There no way this is going to work” I thought to myself as I connected the power source and flicked the toggle switch. Before that thought even passed, the camera flash lit up the room like a sheet of lightning! I couldn’t believe it actually worked! From the moment that flash fired, I was hooked on home-made (AKA – home-brew) trail cameras…addicted even. Knowing that I just built something with my own two hands that could photograph wildlife while I was someplace else was extremely exciting. Not only was this my first home-made trail camera…it was also my first trail camera, period. I could not wait to get it out in the bush to see what it might capture, so the very next day I ventured to one of my favorite hunting areas…found a good intersection of deer trails and chained the big steel ammo box to a nearby tree. From the moment I turned my back and began to walk away, I already started to imagine the possibilities of these camera contraptions. In the early morning hours, the glow of a desk lamp emanated through a frosted window of my basement suite. As the rest of world was fast asleep, I sat inside at my desk starring at the mess of wires that connected my 35mm point and shoot camera to a motion sensor. Following plans found on the internet, using a garage light motion sensor, a used 35mm camera and an army surplus ammo box, I was in the process of constructing my very first home-brew trail camera…with absolutely NO electronics background. Beads of sweat rolled down my forehead as I shakily soldered the last wire in place. As the last wire was secured I was relieved, if only that no sparks or “fireworks” occurred as I fumbled my way through this process. “There no way this is going to work” I thought to myself as I connected the power source and flicked the toggle switch. Before that thought even passed, the camera flash lit up the room like a sheet of lightning! I couldn’t believe it actually worked! From the moment that flash fired, I was hooked on home-made (AKA – home-brew) trail cameras…addicted even. Knowing that I just built something with my own two hands that could photograph wildlife while I was someplace else was extremely exciting. Not only was this my first home-made trail camera…it was also my first trail camera, period. I could not wait to get it out in the bush to see what it might capture, so the very next day I ventured to one of my favorite hunting areas…found a good intersection of deer trails and chained the big steel ammo box to a nearby tree. From the moment I turned my back and began to walk away, I already started to imagine the possibilities of these camera contraptions.
CAMERA By Jeremi Skelton
n the early morning hours, the glow of a desk lamp emanated through a frosted window of my basement suite. As the rest of world was fast asleep, I sat inside at my desk staring at the mess of wires that connected my 35mm point and shoot camera to a motion sensor. Following plans found on the internet, using a garage light motion sensor, a used 35mm camera and an army surplus ammo box, I was in the process of constructing my very first home-brew trail camera…with absolutely NO electronics background. Beads of sweat rolled down my forehead as I shakily soldered the last wire in place. As the last wire was secured I was relieved, if only that no sparks or “fireworks” occurred as I fumbled my way through this process. “There is no way this is going to work” I thought to myself as I connected the power source and flicked the toggle switch. Before that thought even passed, the camera flash lit up the room like a sheet of lightning! I couldn’t believe it actually worked!
From the moment that flash fired, I was hooked on homemade (AKA – home-brew) trail cameras…addicted even. Knowing that I just built something with my own two hands that could photograph wildlife while I was someplace else was extremely exciting. Not only was this my first home-made trail camera…it was also my first trail camera, period. I could not wait to get it out in the bush to see what it might capture, so the very next day I ventured to one of my favorite hunting areas…found a good intersection of deer trails and chained the big steel ammo box to a nearby tree. From the moment I turned my back and began to walk away, I already started to imagine the possibilities of these camera contraptions. That week at work seemed extraordinarily long. I sat in the office every day thinking about what had, or what might be walking past my trail camera. Emerging from the daydreams, I soon found myself at a brisk walk, ducking twigs and branches as I scrambled to reach the spot where my camera was set. I opened the ammo box
After hunting season is over, do not put your cameras away. Camera trapping is an excellent way to keep track of many of the animals in your area. Start camera trapping year round and you may be suprised what you capture!
and was elated to see that all 24 exposures of the 35mm film had been taken! I quickly re-set the camera with a new roll and fresh batteries and dashed off to the nearest 1hr photo lab for developing. A few hours later I stood at the counter of the photo lab with an envelope full of my very first trail camera photos in my hand…a defining moment of my life you could say. The excitement intensified with the passing of each photo, and I was blown away that the trail camera I made myself
worked so well and captured so many amazing photos its first time out. Before I knew it I got to the end of the stack of photos and it was all over…I was left wanting more. This first experience of mine into the world of trail cameras was a huge success, but I soon discovered that would not be the case every time. There was, and always will be times of disappointment…standing at the photo lab counter staring blankly at 24 or 36 photos of a blade of grass or branch as it blew in the wind
A spring setup along a creek. Waterfowl, foxes and other small critters can provide incredible photo opportunities in the ‘off-season’.
wildlife photos from something you built yourself. I use my trail cameras for scouting, as that’s what I originally intended them for…but as time went on, I discovered that I was more concerned in capturing a truly great image of an animal as opposed to just knowing its presence, and home-brew trail cameras allow you to achieve this. As my passion for this new hobby grew, I found I was using my cameras less for scouting purposes and more for photography. Over the years I’ve used my home-brew trail cameras in some pretty unique and interesting set-ups and situations, capturing photos of a diverse list of wildlife including, deer, elk, moose, coyote, red fox, swift fox, badger, bobcat, wolverine, great horned owl, northern harrier, bald eagle, sandhill crane, Canada geese, and an extensive list of duck species. Using trail cameras in this method is known around the world as camera-trapping. Much like a trapper having to use different traps and sets for a certain animal…a camera-trapper does the same thing with their trail cameras, or camera-traps as some call them. I’ve been camera trapping now for 10 years, and my home-brew trail camera hobby has taken me from that first, 35MM film camera mentioned at the beginning, to today, building 12.0 Mega Pixel digital units that can fit in the palm of your hand. Most recently, I just finished building a Digital SLR trail camera, using a Canon Rebel and 18mm-55mm lens, which
in front of my motion sensor, and burned up a roll of film just minutes after setting it. Trail cameras, both home-made and commercially made have come a very long way since those days with digital cameras and LCD screens to view you photos on the spot. False triggers are just one of the factors that contribute to an unsuccessful trail camera outing, among a list of others including: cold weather, moisture, broken parts, operator error, bad batteries, bear teeth, elk antlers, cow tongues, and the dreaded two-legged thief to name just a few. The rewards however; scarce as they may seem at times, definitely overshadow all those dreadful episodes. Getting back to the topic, building your own trail camera gives you the freedom to make the camera to suit your needs and wants. You can choose from a variety of high quality point and shoot digital cameras, motion sensor circuit boards and various parts and accessories to complete the build. One of the things I love best about home-brew trail cameras is the fact that you have only yourself to blame if something goes wrong, but most importantly home-brew trail cameras give you the satis- A couple Sandhill Cranes captured in early spring by the faction in capturing unique author.
I could ramble on, and on about trail cameras, camera-trapping and Home-brewing etc…but I think I’ll stop here, as there’s only so much room in this magazine; However, I will leave you with this…making your own trail camera is not as hard as it sounds. I realize that it might seem intimidating at first; after-all I’ve been in your shoes as well, but once you actually break the barrier and get started it’s a lot easier than you might think. There are lots of great people in this “community” that will help steer you in the right direction to get you going, and answer any questions you have along the way. I encourage anyone with even the slightest interest in it, to pursue it further. Home-brewing and camera-trapping are extremely rewarding and enjoyable hobbies and ones that anybody can enjoy at any time of the year. Even though I’m the owner/operator of Monarch Images, a small company that specializes in making cus-
tom home-brew trail cameras, (as well as a few manufactured ones) for people, my whole purpose for starting this business, was not to get rich, but to try to bring the joy of home-brewing and camera-trapping to others. I hope that some of you out there will end up deciding to take the plunge like I did many years ago, and start building your own home-brew trail cameras and become a camera-trapper yourself. Author’s Note: For more information on building your own trail camera visit these sites: www.camtrapper.com www.snapshotsniper.com www.yeticam.com Or Contact Jeremi at www.monarchimages.ca
Amazing reflection picture of a tremendous mule deer taken by one of the authors ‘trail camera traps’. The author is an experienced trail camera builder and trail camera trapper. His insights into camera trapping will help you take advantage of all your trail cameras have to offer year round.
EARNED HARD ALBERTA TROPHY BY ROB HANES
Rob Hanes with his unique whitetail taken near Strathcona, Alberta. The right antler on his buck went 82 3/8” and the gross score was 178 5/8”. The buck had a serious, healed injury on his foot which may have contributed to the non-typical antlers, but sure didn’t affect the health of the big buck!
he excitement of the approaching 2012 hunting season found my mind constantly wandering to the big Alberta woods and the big whitetails that lived there. Unfortunately, work commitments had me on the road more than I would have liked in order to prepare for the season. Luckily my younger brother, Shawn is also consumed by hunting this time of year and he was able to get out scouting and running trail camera's in hopes of capturing pictures of a big old gnarly buck. Each and every day I would get texts and emails from Shawn telling me about the deer. We would discuss where they were and what we needed to do this season to put a good one on the ground. Despite Shawn’s best efforts, as the season grew near, the situation wasn't looking good. Bucks of any kind were few and far between. After the hard winters we had recently, the quality and quantity of mature bucks were just not there. It seemed like every time Shawn checked the trail cameras, pictures of young deer with great potential were abundant. The season began without a target buck on the radar and my brother was able to hunt hard. Af-
ter a few weeks, half of the season had gone by and we had yet to get a picture of a shooter buck. Then one day as I was away for work again, I got the picture. A buck we had never seen before, a buck I would be
happy to take and very proud of. I instantly knew this was a buck that I would make every effort to track down. It worked out that I would have the last half of November off work. This was the best opportunity I have ever had to try and put a giant on the ground. Days went by and the buck we named Stickers seemed to
I didnâ€™t even look closely at his rack, I just knew he was mature, and that was enough. As he ran by me at 80 yards, I did everything I could think of to try and stop him for a standing broadside shot. I realized as he passed me that stopping was not on his agenda, he was focused on the doe and his competitor who was in front of him. elude all of our trail cameras and time ticked by without any sightings of the old buck. I feared someone else had harvested him early in the season. So after a week filled with frustration, I made the decision to head west to an area I had never hunted before but knew there had to be trophy deer living there. It was big bush country, the perfect habitat for a smart old buck to evade hunters, predators and survive the harsh winters. I knew the hunt in this type of country would be more difficult, but I was prepared to put in the effort which I hoped would make success that much sweeter. After scouting the area I found a few different locations with tremendous potential. Heavily used trails and buck rubs and scrapes scattered through the area had my hopes at an all-time high. Once identifying the areas I wanted to concentrate on, I sat for 8 days from morning to night in the frigid Alberta temperatures. The deer were moving with the rut in full swing. I passed up some great bucks, with the largest being 150" clean 5x5. It was still too early to cut my tag and I was looking for something special. After some great luck initially, the days went by I started to get frustrated with deer sightings slowing down. One evening, I talked to my brother who had been hunting back at home every chance he got. He told me the deer were really moving there and that he had seen a couple of new bucks that were indeed shooters but he just couldn't quite seal the deal. I made the decision to sit out west for one more day and then I would head home and try my luck there for the last few days of the season. The next day it had warmed up considerably and I didn't even see a deer that
morning so I decided to head home early. I got home just in time to go for a little walk to one of our honey holes before it got dark. My brotherâ€™s reports had me thinking this area should be holding a buck or two. I had a particular spot in mind where I had sat numerous times in the past. It was a hill overlooking some thick willows where you could see down into the trees, but the deer still felt safe as they travelled through. It was a funnel between bedding and feeding areas and almost always held does. Considering the time of year, I knew there was a good chance a buck may be holed up there with one of the does. As I made the long walk in, I hadn't even reached the spot I was going to sit when a doe came running across the field with her tongue hanging out. It was obvious that she was getting chased and this time of year I knew it wouldn't be long and a buck would follow in her footsteps. After a couple minutes, I was beginning to think that maybe I was wrong and the doe was by herself. Just as I was about to get up and continue on to the spot I had picked out to sit, two bucks came running out of the trees and across the field. They had their noses to the ground and were on the trail of the doe. If they followed her trail they would pass just in front of me. I quickly glassed the bucks to try and determine if either one was a shooter. The first buck was a big, tall 5x5 and my heart jumped
as I thought he may be a shooter. A closer look showed that he had a broken G3 and his body size told me that he was a young deer with great potential for years to come. As I refocused on the second deer I knew instantly this was a mature buck. His massive neck, big pot belly and short legs told me he was a shooter. I didnâ€™t even look closely at his rack, I just knew he was mature, and a shooter, and that was enough. As he ran by me at 80 yards, I did everything I could think of to try and stop him for a standing broadside shot. I realized as he past me that stopping was not on his agenda, he was focused on the doe and his competitor who was in front of him. Since I had my 50 caliber TC muzzle loader I knew I had one shot and I had to make it count. It was a difficult decision, but I elected not to take the running shot on the big old buck. The buck jumped the fence and into a slough where I lost sight of him. I instantly felt sick to my stomach thinking I completely screwed up and just let him get away. After all of the effort I had put in this season, I wasn't about to let this buck go easily. I raced to the fence line where the deer crossed. I didn't even make it to the fence when I saw the buck but again he was off and running. He was at very close range and I felt steady so I thought, it was now or never! The buck was only 60 yards away and running full speed. I settled the crosshair on his giant body and pulled the trigger. The buck collapsed and I knew I had just shot a great deer. I frantically reloaded my gun but it was not needed. The first shot had hit its mark and killed him instantly. I knew he was a great buck
but I didn't know exactly what he was until I lifted his head from the snow. I instantly recognized the buck. It was the buck from earlier in the season that we named stickers! I was tickled pink to say the least. I immediately got on the phone and told my brother to meet me at the field. He knew right away by the tone in my voice that I had harvested a big buck. The work began but I was more than happy. We later put a tape on him and to say no score will do this deer justice is the honest truth. The gross score on him was 178 2/8â€?. But a score is just that and either way he is a trophy in my eyes, truly a one of a kind buck. I really need to thank my younger brother for always pumping me back up with enthusiasm after I get frustrated. Shawn is always there to keep me going and working hard. We make a great team and when you add my dad in the mix we make an amazing team! Some of my best memories are hunting with my family. and I look forward to it more than anything else. Another view of Robs big buck showing his big frame.
A couple up and coming early season bucks from northern Saskatchewan. Photo by Lindsay Wilkinson.
The Hunt of a Lifetime BY JOSH LUSTER
Josh Lusters typical velvet 4 x 4. With 13” G2’s, the clean 4 point has a net score of 153 2/8”. Photo and taxidermy by Jesse Bergen at Vivid Taxidermy in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
ugust of 2010 was a month filled with hot weather, lot of fishing and a forest full of trail cameras as I kicked my scouting into high gear. During one of my regular scouting trips, my brothers and I came across a group of whitetail deer. As I lifted my binoculars, velvet covered antlers filled my view. I searched the group for any bucks with good potential for the upcoming season. It didnâ€™t take long to determine that this bachelor group was more than worthy of a closer look. With a new group of target bucks on the radar, that afternoon anoth- A daytime picture of a big mature buck like this er trail camera found its way into is rare. Josh wasted very little time closing the deal on this big buck after seeing the day time the woods. This camera overlooked picture! a mineral lick in some heavy cover and was truly a whitetail haven. I smart and wary buck that did not make many mistakes. managed to stay out of the area for a week, but then I had several close encounters with the tall whitetail, but curiosity got the best of me and I had to swap out the the shot never presented itself. Later in the season as memory cards to see what caliber of deer called the area snow began to blanket the ground, the buck became a home. As I flipped through the pictures, a young deer ghost, vanishing from both the trail camera and myself with a set of the tallest antlers I had ever seen caught my as I went out to hunt him every chance I got. The season eye. He was a 3 x 4, but had sky scraper tines and awe- ended with tag soup, the buck won the battle every time some width. So began the story of this buck. I got out after him. The 2010 hunting season raced by, and the buck September of 2011 rolled around and to my delight, proved that although he was young, he was also a very the giant 3 x 4 showed up on the trail camera. I was Josh with his big velvet buck also excited to see that he had shortly after it hit the ground. grown the G3 on his left side and had put on a lot of mass. He was now a true stud of a buck. As the trail camera pictures of him rolled in, I was filled with hope and determined to have this deer down come archery season. As luck would have it, I would not have much of a chance to hunt the buck because a week later I was on a plane to the Yukon. A friend of mine from high school called and asked if I could go and help guide at his outfitting camp in the northern Yukon. It was a tremendous opportunity that I could not pass up. I spent most of the 2011 hunting season with Blackstone Outfitters chasing
enormous Yukon moose, wolves, grizzlies, and caribou. It was truly the experience of a lifetime. Despite the incredible adventure, I often found myself wondering if the big buck I had my sights set on was still around and doing well. Arriving back home in Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, I was not surprised to find that the big buck had once again disappeared. Despite my best efforts, I could not locate him in person or on my trail cameras after the 2011 season. Anxious months went by hoping the buck would survive the harsh winter. Finally, a full year after my last encounter with the buck, my trail camera found its way back onto the big poplar tree overlooking the same mineral lick where I first saw the big 3 x 4 two years earlier. With the excitement of seeing if he had
a great wind, had made my way in quietly and was in place early. Everything, it seemed was lining up perfectly for me to kill a big buck. Nocking an arrow, I hung my bow in a tree and prepared for the evening to come. Several does and a couple smaller bucks filtered through the trees under my stand, completely unaware of my presence. An hour before sunset, I heard the faint sound of rustling bushes off to my right. I had a feeling this was him, and I dared not move. I could feel my body tense up with anticipation, looking out of the corner of my eye but not daring to turn my head. I could see a body, but that was all as his head was blocked by thick trees. I took the opportunity to slowly reach for my bow and clip my release onto the string. Although I had not yet seen the antlers of the buck, somehow I knew it was him. My heart was beating out A side view showing the big typical of my chest when massive velvet covered antframe on Joshâ€™s velvet beauty. lers appeared and instantly I smiled. The giant 4 x 4 whitetail that I had been chasing for 3 years was about to step into my shooting lane. My ears were filled with the pounding of my rapid heartbeat. Just as he reached my shooting lane, I raised my bow and slowly and deliberately drew back. I quickly found the 20 yard pin and placed it just behind his front shoulder. With one last deep breath, I sent the muzzy broadhead flying for the vitals. The load smack of my arrow hitting its mark sent a rush of joy and excitement over me. I watched as the big brute crash less than 60 yards away. The feeling of accomplishment was incredible as I approached the buck and touched the velvet covered 4 x 4 antlers survived, and how much bigger he was this year, I could for the first time. My brother met me and we spent a lot not wait a full week. So after a few days, I headed in of time in the woods, taking pictures, exchanging high to pull the card. My brother was with me and he was fives and just enjoying the moment. Finally we hauled flipping through the pictures. As I watched him scroll the deer out, loaded him in the truck and headed for through the pictures, his jaw hit the floor and I knew it home. had to be the same tall buck from previous years. He Harvesting such a beautiful whitetail is truly a priviwas back and had gained mass, width and tine length. lege and the story and history with this deer makes the This deer was now truly a Giant Saskatchewan White- hunt something that I will never forget. This memory tail! will stay with me forever. It truly was the Hunt of a Fast forward a few weeks to September 1st, 2012, Lifetime! opening day of archery season. I made my way to the The taxidermy work on this velvet beauty was done stand, bow in hand, and then crawled up the poplar tree by Jesse Bergen at Vivid Taxidermy in Saskatoon, Sasthat I was prepared to call home all month long. I had katchewan.
[T ] 306-725-8240
[E ] firstname.lastname@example.org
Chance BY KEITH DAWSON
Photo by Gwen Nesvold
y phone chimed and my eyes got really wide as I read the latest text from my buddy, Blair Mitchell.
“Just seen an absolute Monster Moose! WOW! Unbelievable!” Blair lives five miles from my cabin and has a pretty good handle on where the moose, elk, and deer in the area are. He is used to seeing big bulls and to put this text in perspective, he would describe a fifty-inch bull as merely being “nice”. “Ok. If you’re excited, I’m REALLY excited” was the reply I shakily managed to type out. Blair got right back to me with, “One of the biggest bulls I’ve seen…… Yeah, it takes a lot to get me rattled and I am rattled!” Wow, that really got me revved up! I still had eight
long days to wait until October 1st , the opening day of moose season. I had been receiving some pretty interesting texts from Blair throughout the fall and I was really optimistic about my chances of harvesting a trophy bull. The Saskatchewan farmland moose tag, that was in my possession, is the most coveted tag in the big game draw. Finally, the eve of the opener arrived and Blair and I met up to go for an evening scouting tour. We started seeing moose right away and had just passed an intersection when I looked behind us just in time to catch a glimpse of a moose crossing the road. “Turn around, let’s check him out,” I told Blair. We found the moose in some bush a few yards from the edge of the road. He was an absolute brute of a bull and was breeding a cow within twenty yards of us. We couldn’t get any pictures of him but we could see he had an enormous body, lots of points on his rack, and a great looking drop tine on his left side. I knew if I saw him the next morning I’d
Keith Dawson with the incredible Eastern Saskatchewan Moose he harvested in 2012. When his friend Blair Mitchell excited called him with the news of a big bull in the area he knew that it had to be a good one, but he didnt know how good. The big bull ended up being the biggest moose taken in Saskatchewan in 2012 with a net score of 200 4/8”. shoot him in a heartbeat. We later found out that some locals called him in the next day and passed him up. I’m thinking it was probably because of a severe case of buck ….or, bull fever. In total we saw four bulls, four cows, and two calves on the evening drive but we saw no sign of the monster when we got to his home turf. There were a few volunteer canola and alfalfa fields where the moose seemed to be congregating and we thought he was probably close by. It had been seven days since Blair had texted me about the giant bull and it had not been seen since. It
had seemingly vanished. We talked things over and made a plan for the next morning. “What are you going to shoot tomorrow?” Blair wondered. “Fifty inches wide,” was my minimum standard for opening morning. I was glad that Blair would be able to go along with me because he has the eyes of an eagle and is great at field judging big game animals. It was a short night and at 6:20 a.m. we were off to see
what we could find. We started seeing moose right away but nothing quite big enough to shoot. It was almost seven and the sun was up when we were approaching the area where the monster was thought to be hanging out. We were worried that he might be holed up with a cow and we’d never see him again but when we got to one of the volunteer canola fields there was not one, but two enormous bulls standing in it. We got the binoculars out and Blair started to get pretty excited. "Keith, that's him! That's the bull you want to shoot!" Blair was pretty wired up, a condition that seemed to last for the next few days. The two huge bulls slowly approached each other, swaying their huge racks back and forth as they walked. We thought we were going to see an epic battle, but the monster bull slowly changed direction and walked into a large tract of bush. My bull of a life time disappeared and was possibly gone forever. I really wondered if I'd ever see him again. “Lets go get him,” was the consensus that Blair and I came to and we were off. We passed by the other huge bull as we headed to the edge of the bush. He was well over fifty inches wide and only a hundred yards away.
Passing him up was really tough, I would have shot him without a second thought on any other morning. As we got closer we could see he was in rough shape, the monster must have just hung a licking on him and he was barely able to limp away from us. I was having some serious doubts about the wisdom of passing up this great bull and being able to find the bigger one somewhere in the bush. You know the old adage about “A bird in the hand being worth two in the bush”? Well, we had one bull in the hand and one in the bush. We kept on going and reached the edge of the bush. We went a few yards in and could see a little bit of black hair through the trees. He was close! Blair started calling and the bull started coming towards us. The bull was grunting, Blair was cow calling and all I could think of was “Man, I better not screw this up!” “I’ve got no clear shot,” I told Blair as I followed the black shape moving through the trees. We could hear the bull “oooking” and could see his head swaying back and forth as he broke branches while closing the distance between us.
Finally, at about forty yards away he stepped into an opening and turned broadside. The bull was so close he looked absolutely enormous! The setup was perfect. I rested my rifle on a poplar tree, picked a spot on his chest and slowly squeezed the trigger. I knew my shot was a good one and he was hit hard. The bull’s knees buckled and he went down for a moment but then he got right back up and staggered a little. I shot again. The big Keith with Blair Mitchell and Heath Dreger enjoy the moose tried to steady moment and pause for a few pictures before the daunt- himself and wasn't ing task of hauling his moose out of the mudhole. going anywhere but
also wasn't going down either, so I put a third shot into him. With that, he tipped on his side and it was over. It had all happened so quickly. The bull dropped right in the middle of a mud hole. We sank up to our ankles as we walked up to him. What a bull! His enormous antlers made his body look deceptively small. He'd definitely been a fighter. We could see that his forehead was scarred and he had gashes in his hide. One of his antlers was cracked and he had chipped off a few points. It didn't take too long for a bunch of friends to arrive and for the measuring tape to come out. Some rough measurements were made and the numbers kept adding up to the unbelievable total of two hundred inches net! It was an incredible hunt and I was really happy with how it all worked out; we got the bull we were after and having him disappear into the bush and calling him
back sure added a lot of drama and uncertainty to the hunt. It was an incredible experience! The official scores were 204 7/8" gross and 200 4/8" net. It was the biggest bull moose shot in Saskatchewan in 2012. It still seems unbelievable. I knew I had a good chance of getting a great bull, but having it actually happen was a dream come true!
Photo by Shawn Danychuk
When the Time is Right: Understanding the Whitetail Rut By: Daniel Andres
any hunters see the rut as a prime opportunity to cross paths with a trophy whitetail. Few of us would argue against this point, but we often disagree on one aspect of the rut: the timing. So when does the rut happen, and what affects its timing? Ask one hunter this question, and you might hear something about the moon’s influence. Ask another, and you may be told that the rut is on the same day each year. Who is right? The answer is neither of them. In this article I will review what biologists know about the rut and its timing. What I cover mostly revolves around northern whitetails, but the knowledge applies equally well to mule deer, elk, and moose. Before diving into the topic, we need to define what the rut actually is. When biologists talk about the rut, we refer to the short and intense period in which most does of a population are bred. In Canada and the northern states, you can count on the rut’s peak falling sometime in November. The exact timing depends on where you are located, and these differences in timing are explained by local climate. Spring arrives in some places earlier than it does in others, and this is the number one factor that explains the rut’s timing. To really understand the rut, we need to first understand why the timing of seasons, birth and breeding is important to whitetails. WHY CLIMATE MATTERS The longer days of spring cause the green-up of woods and fields, and this is an important time for whitetail mothers. The survival of their fawns is best when birth is timed to this green-up. At green-up the growing season is at its maximum, mothers have ample food to produce milk and feed their fawns, and there is plenty of cover for fawns to hide. When fawns are born too early or late, their survival prospects decline. This means that natural selection has weeded out the genes of mothers that give birth too early or late. It’s a case of survival of the fittest, and in the end, the deer that do best are the ones who are biologically programmed to give birth around spring green-up.
DARKNESS AND THE RUT Wherever they roam, whitetail mothers give birth 200 days after being bred. This means that for the best success, a mother needs to be bred about 200 days before the major flush of new plant growth. We as humans can easily calculate when this breeding time should be. If we know when the average date of spring green-up is, all we have to do is count backwards on the calendar by 200 days. That should be the day most females come into estrus. So if this green-up time happens on average on June 6th, then peak rut should happen on November 19th. Obviously deer don’t carry around a monthly calendar, nor do they do any math. Yet somehow their bodies still know when the right time is to breed. How do they know? It turns out that deer also use a calendar of sorts. Like our human calendar, the ‘deer calendar’ is based on daylight cycles. Longer days tell the body that spring is arriving, and shortening days predict the impending winter. The deer’s brain responds to short days by producing more of a certain hormone, called melatonin. Once a certain level of melatonin is reached, the female deer’s body responds by coming into estrus. So, mystery solved: deer use daylight as their portable calendar to time estrus. But one piece is still missing. The math! No, I’m not about to tell you that deer really can do math. As things stand, they actually don’t need to. Like I mentioned before, natural selection weeds out those mothers that breed and give birth too early or too late. The ones that are left are those deer that have the correct ‘date’ marked on their internal ‘calendar’. Also, contrary to popular belief, the moon plays no role in the timing of the rut. If you think about it, this makes sense. The amount of daylight is a much better calendar than the moon cycle. That is because the moon cycle doesn’t predict when spring will come, but daylength does! If you have any doubts about daylength and the rut, then consider this fact. Biologists have been able to
induce estrus at any time of the year, even during the summer months. All they do is reduce the hours of daylight, or administer melatonin. Maybe more surprising is that bucks willingly and successfully breed does that enter estrus in the summer. It just goes to show us that does are in charge when it comes to the rut. Or are they? THE RUT AND A ROLE FOR BUCKS Although shorter days allow for the rut to happen, once the days are short other factors can come into play and affect the rut’s timing. One of these factors involves bucks. It turns out that does come into estrus earlier when they are exposed to bucks. In elk, biologists have found that the scent, sound, and sight of bulls cause cows to come into estrus earlier. Studies on whitetails have found similar effects. The scent effect might explain why male deer make scrapes and rub-urinate. This scent marking might make females ready to breed when a buck is available to do his deed. This has an obvious benefit for the does. By paying attention to buck scent, they won’t miss their chance to breed on their first estrus. Any delay in breeding comes at a big cost for a doe. The whitetail reproductive cycle is 24 days, so a doe that doesn’t get bred on her first estrus must wait nearly a month for another chance to breed. If this happens, her fawn will be born late, and the shorter growing season will reduce its survival chances. So it’s another case of survival of the fittest. Those mothers that don't pay attention to bucks don’t pass on their genes to future generations of deer. The fact that does come into estrus when bucks are around doesn’t really help us predict the rut. That’s because any normal deer population has at least some bucks. But bucks can still affect the rut’s timing, because the age of bucks matters too. In elk, herds with more old males have an earlier rut, and this is probably true for whitetails too. As hunters pass on more young bucks and increase the average age of bucks, then earlier ruts can be expected. Even though buck age can influence the rut’s timing, does probably play a much bigger role in the matter. A ROLE FOR DOES – AGE AND NUTRITION Every hunter knows that not all deer are alike. When it comes to bucks, we can often tell them apart with a quick glance at their antlers, and if we spend enough time watching deer, we can also learn to tell
them apart based on their facial features. Just as all deer don’t look alike, all deer don’t breed alike. Researchers now know that some deer consistently breed earlier in the fall than others. We also know that age affects the time a doe will breed; young and very old does breed later in the year than middle-aged does. Malnourished females also breed later. What this means is the peak of the rut can in fact change from year to year. As the average age of does increases in a population, the rut will become earlier. Also, a reduction in herd health will cause a later rut. Population size is probably the biggest contributor to affecting herd health and the timing of the rut. That’s because as deer numbers increase, there tends to be less food available to each deer. As climate change causes our winters to be shorter and the growing season to be longer, we can expect that the timing of the rut will become later as well. It might also mean that in the future both the deer and the deer hunter will have to mark a new date on their calendar if they want to be successful! PREDICTING THE RUT I’m sure most hunters find the rut and its timing an interesting topic, but can we ever predict the rut? Even with all the information we have at our disposal, the answer to this question is almost certainly ‘no’. There are just too many factors to keep track of. What this means is every big buck hunter should be asking a different question. That is: when does the rut usually peak in my hunting area? Be sure to check back to Big Game Illustrated for the answer to this question and many more. Until then, good luck on your quest for a trophy of a lifetime! Daniel Andres is a wildlife biologist and devoted bowhunter from Calgary, Alberta. Photos by Lindsay Wilkinson
THE BY JUSTIN DELF
Justin Delf proudly poses with the Manitoba buck he had named ‘The Forks’. The split G2 on the buck give him tremendous character. Every mass measurement on the old buck was over 5” and the rack ended up with a gross score of 178”.
“This was the buck I was after, I was not going to draw on anything but him”
t was the morning of October 26th, and the first snowfall of the year was gently falling onto the fall landscape. The river flats where I hunt were blanketed with a layer of the white stuff. All of a sudden, it looked like hunting season and I was even more excited than usual to get out with my bow after some good whitetails that I knew lived in the area. That evening I headed out to the old farm like every other day in hunting season. Other than the snow, there was nothing particularly special about this trip out to my hunting area. I knew there was a big buck living on our old farm but had never seen him. My trail camera showed me that he lived in the area, but every picture was between 2:30am and 5:00am. I had pictures of him for three years and also had him on camera in our other river flat hunting area six miles away! He was a big, mature buck who was almost strictly nocturnal and had a huge home range, making him very difficult to hunt. This was the buck I was after, and I was not going to draw on anything but him. We named him "The Forks". We called him that because the year prior, he had two matching forks on the G2’s, like a mule deer. I pulled up to the gate at the farm around 3:25pm. I got suited up and began my journey into the stand. It was a clear, crisp afternoon and I knew the sit would be a cool one, but that was alright since that usually means more deer movement. On my way in to the stand, I ran into a couple does and a small spike. ‘Well that has to be a good sign’, I thought to myself. They were off in the distance, but still got me excited. I made it to my tree around 3:55pm and climbed up into the stand and tried to get comfy. I pulled up my Bear bow and put an arrow in it so it was ready. Then the waiting game began. I saw nothing until about 5:20pm then a doe came strolling down one of the trails I was watching but did not stick around too long. For the next hour or so, nothing came through the area and I was a little discouraged. The biting cold was beginning to get to me but thoughts of ‘The Forks’ kept me in the stand. The evening sun was beginning to drop and I knew now was the time that the deer should really start moving from the bedding area through the funnel I was watching and into the feeding areas. As time ticked by, nothing came passed me, not even a young buck. Just as I was started to lose hope and prepare for the hike back out, ‘The Forks’ just appeared out of nowhere. He was 30 yards from me, standing on the trail where the doe had travelled earlier. I could not believe that I was finally looking at the big buck that I had spent so much time thinking about and hunting for. I was excited to lay my eyes on him this early in the sea-
son and with an hour of shooting light left. He walked incredibly slowly and carefully. With each careful step he took, he stopped and inspected every aspect of his surroundings, carefully looking around and listening intently. Luckily for me, the wind was perfect, and my treestand placement kept me hidden and upwind of him. Very slowly, he was coming closer and closer. It was almost painful to wait for him to come into my shooting lane. Finally, I drew my bow and waited for him to step into the shooting lane I had cleared out before the season. He stepped perfectly into the shooting lane and stopped broadside. I released my arrow and everything went silent. It all happened so quickly that I truly was not sure if I had hit him or not. I waited about 45 minutes and then carefully climbed out of the treestand. I made sure to mark the trail where he had disappeared out of sight. I called my cousin Kurtis, who is an avid hunter and outdoorsmen, to see if he could come and give me a hand to track this buck. I still was not sure that I had even hit him, but wanted an extra set of eyes to help me out before beginning to track him. I waited at the top of the hill for Kurtis. A mil-
lion thoughts went through my head as I waited. I was speechless and shaking, wondering if I had dropped my dream buck finally, or had just blown the opportunity that I had waited years for. Kurtis showed up around 730pm so we went out with flashlights to take a look. We found the arrow stuck in a log right behind where the buck stood. It was covered in blood and hair and we were excited! Despite the bloody arrow, we couldn’t find a blood trail of any kind. After looking around forever, we finally decided to walk down the trail where I thought he had run. We didn’t have to go far. 40 yards down and right in the middle of the trail the big boy was there! I had made double lung shot on him. There were a lot of high fives and a lot of yelling and a few "ooohhhh yeaaaahhss". Finally, I picked up his massive rack! It was a surreal moment as I realized my dream buck was finally down and will be on my wall for the rest of my life! The forks gross score is 178” non-typical, and every mass measurement on both beams is over 5" in diameter!
Justin with the massive buck shortly after he arrowed him.
BROKEN TINE BUCK
Dave Fuller with his massive whitetail taken in the fall of 2011. Incredibly, the year before he had broken off nearly all his tines. However, the year after he kept his rack intact and Dave was determined to put him on the ground. The massive old buck grew 17 points and ended up with a gross score of 203â€?.
he quest for this buck began about a year and a half before I was finally able to put my hands on him. It was the middle of June and I was out checking one of my BioLogic food plots. While I was there, I quickly looked at a couple pictures on the Stealth camera. I was very happy to see a new buck had moved in and he had potential! There was still a lot of time for growth but he sure was coming along nicely. So, needless to say, I checked that camera a little more often! I was getting fairly excited to finally get myself big olâ€™ velvet buck with my bow. About a month later I was looking at pictures that shocked me; this buck had broken off his G3 and G4 as well as a non typical point he was
growing. They were broke right off at the main beam; I had never seen anything like it in full velvet before. I am not sure what caused the damage. As a result I made the decision not to hunt this buck that year, with hopes of him making it through the season and the winter to give me another chance at him next year. Although I was unsuccessful that summer and fall in my quest to find another big mature buck that got me excited, I continued to monitor the broken tine buck. I had planted a BioLogic Clover Plus plot and was also supplementing him with Record Rack Deer Blocks, Golden Deer Nuggets and also some Deer Mineral; so he had everything he needed and I had LOTS of pictures
of him. Rifle season was coming and I was getting nervous as to whether or not this buck was going to make the season; he had a large frame and if his good side was what a hunter saw, he would be in trouble! Rifle season came and went, and thankfully ol’ broken tine was still showing up on my camera! Now the next challenge was making it through a hard winter with lots of snow. This buck had rutted hard and was worn down like most bucks are after a hard breeding season. I knew it was extremely important to help this buck out, along with every other deer in the area, after the rut and help them make it through the winter. The deer continued to eat the BioLogic food plot and I was able to get my hands on some beautiful hay as well as put grain, Deer Blocks, Mineral and high fat Golden Deer Nugget out. The deer did great through the winter; I was able to pick up many sheds but could only find his one broken tine side. The other side is missing in action! That winter we had lots of snow and come spring we had WATER-- and I mean we were wet--the big bush and most bushes in the buck’s core area were all flooded. This wasn’t just our normal two week spring flood, the bushes had water in them for most the summer. There are three important things to keep a buck around and on your property: food, water and shelter. I had the first two but the last one, which I had the previous summer and winter, had now been turned into a lake, so the buck moved on and I lost track of him for a while. I had put cameras up all over in the area looking for him that summer. I knew the buck made the hunting season as well as the winter but come spring he was M.I.A.! It wasn’t till the first week in September that he walked back into my life again. I had been out archery mule deer hunting with a good friend and on our way back we stopped by one of my other food plots to check a camera. I wanted to show Chris how the food plot had done this year, it was AWESOME! This spot was only 1 mile from where my broken tine buck was previously living but I had never seen him in the area. The food plot was a great set up, lots of good bush, several acres of perennial and annual food plot, a little dug out; it had it all. That is it had it all except a big deer! The story of my life! I remember talking to Chris that morning while we were mule deer hunting about our bucket list of bucks we wanted to shoot. The previous year I was blessed to harvest a 252” mule deer with my bow and so now it was time for me to break the 200” whitetail mark. We joked about that for a while. I was getting a deer block out of the truck to put down in front of the camera and Chris
was checking the pictures. I can still hear him say, “HERE HE IS” and I said “Here who is?” “Your 200” buck!” I thought Chris was playing with my emotions, but low and behold we looked at the pictures and Ol’ broken tine was back, and bigger than ever! He had showed up to this new spot about three days earlier, the second day of the archery season. I had one night of pictures of him in velvet then he rubbed that night, so I missed my opportunity on a velvet buck again! I was not disappointed, I was still beyond happy that he was back and how many inches he put on. The hunt was on; I needed a north wind to hunt this buck properly. Really anything but a south wind I was in good shape. That September we had a rare streak of three straight weeks of south winds! Ol’ broken tine was there daily, he never left the food plot, so I figured once my winds changed to a northerly direction I would be good to go. Third week in September and we finally got a day with a north wind. I was pumped to finally be able to sit for this buck. I was having sleepless nights worrying about this buck, with the history of him breaking off tines while in full velvet, what was going to happen now that he was in hard horn! The flyer off his G2 and his drop tine is was what gave this buck unique character, but they were also very vulnerable to be broken off. My anxiety was not helped by a couple buddies giving me a hard time about the possibility of Ol’ broken tine doing what he does best and breaking off tines again. As I sat in the blind with anticipation of him walking into view, my heart pumped a little faster as every minute got closer to prime time when he usually visited the area. As the time ticked by and the wind died down; it went
from a nice north breeze to very light breeze. Fifteen minutes before the end of legal shooting time; when he usually showed up, the wind had completely stopped. It was dead calm; you could hear a pin drop, the chances of this buck coming into 25 yards tonight was slipping away. All of the young bucks and does were eating at the BioLogic food plot. With the calm conditions, they became very nervous and slowly walked into the bush and that sealed the deal for the night. It was nice to finally get to sit and hunt this buck, but I shouldn’t have expected to connect with a big mature buck on the first night. September days were passing by and the south winds continued, all I could do is check the camera and keep putting out the Record Rack and hope for the wind to cooperate some day. Ol’ broken tine was a regular. He stayed in the area and it was always exciting to check the pictures and see when he was coming in and which other bucks he was hanging out with; I was trying to learn as much about him as I could, so my next opportunity to sit would seal the deal. I had two more chances to sit with my archery tackle that September. Winds were good, and it seemed every deer came in those nights, but no sign of Ol’ broken tine. The nights we had the north winds he came in late every time according to my cameras. It’s like he knew I was there. There was a reason he was big! Well October 1st came and that meant the opening of the muzzleloader season. I love my archery tackle but also enjoy muzzleloading for whitetail. Now it was game on, I didn’t have to sit so close to the deer action so it opened up a few more wind directions for me to be sitting. I had set up a blind 100 yards back a few weeks earlier just so the deer would get used to it in case I didn’t connect with my bow. October 1st was a north wind which was again perfect so I was pumped to be able to sit for him. The deer activity was awesome that night; there were deer milling around the food plot all evening. I love sitting in a blind watching deer in their natural habitat doing their thing, you can learn a lot about deer behavior when doing this. As the time went on I wondered if Ol’ broken tines would show up tonight. As I was watching the other deer, out of the corner of my eye I saw a big bodied deer walk in from the right. The first thing I saw was his flyer off his G2 with the velvet still hanging on! It was him! He finally showed up. As he walked into the food plot I was nervous to let him walk around too much. There
was probably 15 or so deer in the food plot and I did not want one of them to make some movement or spook him back into the bush. So I wasted no time, I put up my scope, waited till he stopped walking, and squeezed the trigger. He jumped and ran into the bush. I knew I had made a good shot; but, when you don’t see them fall you always wonder. So I quickly reloaded and ran to the other side of the small bush he had bolted off into; I wanted to make sure he didnt come out. When I rounded the edge of the bush, there he was, lying on the ground 10 ft on the other side of the bush. What a feeling to walk up to a buck like this. He had so much character. In some ways, it was almost sad to walk up to him. I had so much history with this buck, thousands of pictures, and many sleepless nights thinking about him. He hadn’t broken off any tines this year. I couldn’t wait to get some final pictures of this buck with me finally in the picture. Then time to put a tape on him. So the question was, ‘did I knock something off my bucket list, did I manage to get my 200+” whitetail’? Once we got a tape on him and added up the numbers, I was pumped to be able to say I had done it; Ol’ broken tine scored 203” gross non-typical points. What an incredible deer, he put on a pile of antler that summer; I knew helping this deer and several other deer through the previous winter made a huge difference. It sure is rewarding when you put that much work and effort into managing whitetails and see results like that. Dave Fuller is a Wildlife Solutions Specialist with Blair’s SportsMaster Pro. His passion is helping people manage wildlife, by planting food plots, and giving deer the nutrition they need with Record Rack products; He loves to be able to help people accomplish their goals.
Written by Chad Wilkinson
he summer of 2012 was a good one for Phil Webb when it comes to big deer. As an avid deer hunter, he had put in countless hours every morning before work and in the evenings after work, with his binoculars never far from reach. Throughout the summer he watched as natureâ€™s greatest artwork formed on top of the heads of some of the local deer in his area. The velvet covered antlers and sleek shapes of summer bucks were all he needed to get fired up for the upcoming season. Finally, as the days of August slipped by and the September season drew near, he picked up a copy of the hunting guide and was devastated with what he saw. You see, Phil had decided that this was the year that he was going to close the deal on a big mule deer buck and that is where his focus had been throughout the summer. When he read the hunting guide, he saw that the over the counter archery mule deer buck tags that were usually available in his area were not available this year so he would not be able to hunt mule deer bucks in his area. With this setback, Phil decided to focus on whitetails.
He quickly switched his scouting to areas where he knew whitetails would be. In late August he set his trail cameras out to monitor a few of the best trails between bedding and feeding areas. Each week he went in to pull the cards or switch locations. Despite two months of hard scouting and running trail cameras, he had not located a mature whitetail buck. Fast forward two months to a few days before the beginning of the rifle whitetail season. Phil had located one good buck in his area. It was a 160 class whitetail with long points on each side, and a wide, albeit light frame. He had not been able to capture this deer on his trail cameras but had seen him on a few separate scouting trips. On the latest trip, a cold and snowy day, he had stalked to within 40 yards of the buck. The high tined buck had been down in a coulee and Phil could only catch a few glimpses of him. Just as Phil reached some cover, the buck decided to come up onto a hill and Phil could see his tall tines silhouetted against the evening sky. Phil momentarily considered getting into a shooting position with his bow, but the light rack of
Phil Webb with one of the most impressive typical whitetail’s taken anywhere in the world for 2012. The typical 6 x 6 frame on his giant buck gross scores 201” even. After deductions, including some long sticker points, the buck still nets 185 6/8”. It was the top typical whitetail taken in Saskatchewan in 2012. The numbers on his buck are truly world class with three tines over 13” long, 27” and 26 7/8” main beams and a 22 2/8” inside spread.
the buck matched an equally light neck. A closer look revealed the long legs, slim waist look of a young deer and he made the decision to pass this deer with the hopes that they would cross paths again in another year or two. A final check of the trail cameras before the rifle season began left Phil with little hope. There was not a single picture of a mature whitetail. The frustration built up and on November 15, the first day of rifle season, Phil made the fateful decision to pull up stakes, cover ground and visit some of the areas he had grown familiar with from years of working in the area. He knew that with the rut heating up, he needed to be where the big bucks were and, this year at least, that was not his backyard. As his hunting partner Brian pulled into the yard, they discussed the plan and were on the road. After a couple hours of driving, they arrived at an area where Phil had hunted in past years. Stopping to still hunt through the rugged, brush filled pasture, they did not have a lot of action. They looped back through the pasture and decided to head back to the truck. As they crested the last hill, a big framed whitetail caught their attention. He had only given them a quick look, but they could see he had a big frame. They could make out a brown lump moving on the other side of the trees. As the big buck got up he slowly stretched and then walked right out into the open. The buck was looking away from them and looked good. As Phil studied him in his riflescope he turned broadside to reveal that he was a short beamed 3 x 3! The hunters made the call to let him walk away, because despite their frustration, they knew the rut was just beginning and they had a lot of time left to hunt.
Phil with the giant shortly after it hit the ground.
Later that day after covering some ground they spotted a small group of mule deer on the side of a coulee and Phil remembered he had two mule deer doe tags in his pocket. As a long season of scouting and hunting will do, he had started questioning whether or not he would be able to fill the freezer and he quickly decided to fill his tags. A 200 yard stalk and a couple quick shots later and his freezer would be full. After approaching the deer and realizing how deep the snow was he immediately questioned his decision. The punishing drag up the hill and across the buck brush filled pasture had him feeling that he had earned his freezer full of venison.
An absolute monster typical whitetail stood up right beside her. As he got up, it looked like the entire tree was getting up, but it was his massive 6 x 6 antlers. The next day found Phil and Brian in some open areas where bedding areas consisted of little more than a single tree on a hillside. This open country made spot and stalk a real challenge. The spot was easy and they had spotted a half a dozen good bucks that day. The stalk was nearly impossible as the open country deer knew how to use the terrain to their advantage and seemed to have the sight and hearing of their mule deer cousins. After a few failed attempts in the crunchy deep snow they decided to cover ground and use their binoculars. Phil had worked in the area in the past and knew some of the feeding and bedding areas that he wanted to check out. As they slowly worked their way through another pasture with a coulee on their right side, they spotted a young whitetail buck on the opposite side of the valley. They watched him for a while and were just about to get up and keep moving when, back in the direction they came from, a doe stood up and silhouetted herself right where the coulee met the field above. It was only a few seconds when a moment happened that the hunters will never forget. An absolute monster typical whitetail stood up right beside her. As he got up, it looked like the entire tree was getting up, but it was his massive 6 x 6 antlers. Both Phil and Brian instantly knew that they would spend the rest
season perched on the hill overlooking this coulee if that is what it took to harvest this deer. The pair of deer had not seen them so they made the quick decision to back out and get behind the nearest hill. Once out of sight, they decided to each watch one side of the coulee and wait to see if the deer would move or stay put. After a long wait, nothing had come out either end of the coulee. The stiff breeze that was freezing them as they sat on the hill tops was now a blessing as they made the decision to move in on the buck. The problem was the pair was on the edge of the quarter and they did not have permission on the next quarter over. The pair made the decision to quickly head back to the truck, track down the landowner and secure permission on the adjacent quarter just in case the buck ran that direction. As they introduced themselves and asked for permission from the landowner, he held his breath for a moment when there was a pause in the response. After a few seconds, permission was granted. With a quick handshake the two were back on their way to the paired up deer hiding in their secluded fortress of tangled buckbrush in the bottom of the coulee. As Phil and Brian made their way back to the coulee, the biting wind did not seem nearly as cold on their skin but the distance back to the coulee seemed ten times as far. As they approached to within a half mile of the clump of trees that the pair had disappeared into, they made sure to keep one of the many small rolling hills of the landscape between them and the deer. Finally, Phil thought they were getting close to rifle range so he pulled out his rangefinder and hung it around his neck. A clump of trees just above where they had last seen the big buck was at 355 yards. They knew they had to get closer. They stopped for a few minutes to calm down and catch their breath. The picture of the mass of bone above the bucks head had both of them excited and the anticipation of closing the distance so they were in rifle range was overwhelmingly exciting. They started a pattern of taking a few steps, stopping, glassing the coulee and ranging the clump of trees. 325, 290, 260, 245. Finally, they were under 200yards when they stopped. Just as Phil let his rangefinder down, the doe stood up, exactly where they thought she would be. Phil quickly shouldered his rifle and desperately scrambled to find antlers in the mess of branches where the deer had taken shelter. Phil saw the
back end of a deer push itself up and then the front end followed. A glance up revealed a massive tangle of bone that was as clear as crystal in his scope. As soon as the deer stood, Phil shot, striking the buck and spinning him 90 degrees. Immediatly he cycled the action on his 300 win mag, after the final shot rang out, Phils buck lay there in the stubble motionless. As they walked up to the deer it was facing away from them. They could see it was a big, mature, huge bodied whitetail, but nothing prepared the hunters for what they saw when they got to the front. The antlers truly looked out of place, like they did not belong, and would be too big to carry. The guys celebrated and then went back to get the truck. Just as they were about to grab the buck and load him up, Brian mentioned to Phil that they should take a few pictures. Looking back, Phil is extremely grateful that Brian remembered to take the pictures. After loading the buck into the box of the truck, Phil pulled out a few pairs of coveralls from under the seat and wrapped the antlers to protect them from the box of the truck. This was critical because he and Brian continued to hunt for the rest of the day! Later, on the road back home the thought of where to hang the buck struck. The garage was set up, but full of mule deer from the previous day. Phil immediately called his friend Andy and asked if he could hang the deer there. This monster of a buck hung in Andyâ€™s garage until Phil was able to take it to the taxidermist a few days later! Phil would like to thank Brian and Andy for all the help on this hunt. Another view showing the solid mass on Philâ€™s buck, to go along with the incredibly huge typical frame.
Future of Hunting
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Ryan Oâ€™Shea, Age 12
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Travis Hamoline stands beside his 2012 muzzleloader buck. The buck truly is a ‘freakshow’ with antlers that look like they have no place growing out of a deer’s head. The non-typical rack went into the Saskatchewan record books with a net non-typical score of 272 6/8”. This incredible score includes 98 5/8” of abnormal growth on 30 tines. Mass measurements contribute 47 2/8“ to the score and the rack has a greatest spread of 33 4/8”!
Freakshow! BY TRAVIS HAMOLINE
ost of my hunting is done with my family. My great grandfather has been hunting since long before I was born, and my father, brother and sister all get out and enjoy the outdoors together. In 2012, I was really looking forward to the season because I was drawn for mule deer. We have access to some great hunting land on the west side of Saskatchewan, so my plan was to head out after mule deer later in the year, hopefully after my whitetail tag was filled. The muzzleloader season began for us on a Friday in October and my brother Josh and I enjoyed the day sitting in the blind waiting for a big whitetail buck to stroll by. Our plan to spend all weekend in the area focused on whitetail hunting. The day went well with a few young deer coming past us. The sun had just begun to set when a pack of wolves began howling. They sounded like they were right behind us! Despite the wolves being nearby, we decided to wait it out, since the last half hour of hunting light is really the reason you sit all day. As soon as the wolves stopped howling, the rain began to pour down and then we could hear a loud rumbling. We weren’t sure what it was, but it was getting closer. Out of nowhere a group of ATV’s came rolling passed us. After that setback, we packed up and got out of there. By the time we hiked back to the truck, Josh and I had decided to change our plans. We were going to give this area a break and head to the west side of the Saskatchewan where we would have a chance at both whitetails and mule deer. The next day my brother ended up being busy so my Dad, Grandpa and I headed out west. We had been late getting going, so it was around noon when we got to the
farm. On the way there we discussed the potential for finding a big deer, but we all agreed that this would be more of a scouting trip, and we would focus on covering some good areas and narrowing down our target locations for later in the season. When we got to the farm, I decided to take a couple shots from the muzzleloader to make sure it was hitting dead on. After a few shots it was zeroed in and we were off. The plan was to scout some fields and coulees and spend our time glassing. As we passed one particular spot, my Grandpa said ‘you should go for a walk through that coulee; I have seen some big bucks in this area in the past’. I wasn’t sure about the spot. It really didn’t look like much. It seemed like such a random location and I had my doubts. My thoughts then drifted to my grandpa’s big whitetail that I had spent so much time admiring on the wall as a kid. I had thought so many times about shooting a big deer like that. After a moment I realized that was the motivation I needed to get moving and head out in ‘the spot’ as directed by my Grandpa. We pulled up to the pasture, and discussed the plan. I was the only one who had been lucky enough to draw a mule deer tag so our plan was for me to slowly hunt my way through the coulee. My Dad and Grandpa would
Travis with the buck shortly after he put it on the ground with his muzzleloader.
drive around to the far side of the pasture and watch to see if anything big snuck around me. As I made my way through the pasture, I was encouraged by a handful of small mule deer does. I took my time and hunted my way through but didn’t come across a buck. Somewhere in the directions, things got confused, because when I got to the far end of the field, I saw the truck parked in the opposite direction, across the coulee again. I turned back and headed to where they were parked. I had not worn hunting boots or much for clothes since this was supposed to be a ‘scouting’ trip. I had to stop a dozen times to clean the cactus and burrs out of my shoes and ankles. By this time I hadn’t seen a deer in a mile or so and was getting a little discouraged. I was within a half a mile of the truck and knew my Dad and Grandpa could
Travis’s grandfathers whitetail taken in the same area in 1975. It scored 187 4/8”. Big bucks are in trouble when the Hamolines are around!
easily see me now. With my shoes packed full of burrs, I decided to head up to the high ground and take the easy trail for the last bit. I had just climbed up and out of the coulee when a shadow caught my eye. Forty yards away, a big mule deer buck was slowly working his way through the buck brush! His ears were pinned backwards as he kept them focused on the truck. I wondered for a second if Dad and Grandpa had seen him? What I didn’t know was that my Dad and Grandpa had, in fact, seen the big buck get up out of his bed. It looked like he had a mass of buck brush on his head but then they realized it was his antlers. The big, old monarch slowly walked straight away from them as they sat there in awe, with no mule deer tags in their pockets. They watched the big buck slowly work his way through the mess of buck brush and open pasture and then they saw me coming towards him. They could see me, and the buck, and it was obvious that neither of us knew the other was there. Finally, it looked like we were going to run into each other as I disappeared behind a clump of trees and the mule deer disappeared over a hill, seemingly right beside me. As my Grandpa and Dad watched this all play out in slow motion, they heard a ‘crack’ and saw a puff of smoke appear from behind the trees where I had disappeared. I had a clear, close range shot at the buck and I took it! When the smoke from my muzzleloader had cleared, he had dropped on the spot. When I walked up to him he was still. Wide eyed, I looked in amazement at his antlers and knew that this was a special deer. I counted the points five times and kept getting a different number. 31, 32, 34, it didn’t matter; I knew it was a lot! I jumped up, yelling and screaming with excitement and then remembered my grandpa and dad were waiting for me so I turned and headed to the truck. When I arrived, I tried to explain what had happened, but my words were all mumbled and didn’t make any sense. Together we walked back to the buck and then it was pure chaos as we all celebrated and stared over and over again at the massive rack. Finally, we began the task of hauling him out of the pasture to the truck. He truly had the body of a horse and it was all my Dad and I could do to move him. With my Grandpa breaking trail, we finally made it to the truck and loaded him up for the ride home. My first mule deer hunt was less than an hour long and it ended with me taking the number one mule deer in the world from 2012! The official Boone and Crocket net non-typical score was 271” which was number one. He went into the Saskatchewan record book with a net score of 272 6/8” and a gross score of 281 3/8”.