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BIG GAME BIG GAME
Volume 5 Issue 4 | Spring Edition 2018
In This Issue... 06 10 14
The Headache Buck by Dustin Catrett Late Season Alberta Snow Buck by Cody Green Freak Show by Hunter Quinn
18 24 28 32 34 36 40 42 46 48 58 60 66
A Great Life by Jason Koening Cypress County Monster by Scott Bonagofsky The Evolution of Shed Hunting by Peter Tsoulamanis Where it all Began by Grant Beniuk As They Lay by Grant Beniuk Shared Success by Dawn Williams Into the Wood: A Shed Life by Cort Bradford Prairie Alberta Bull Elk by Josh Verbeek Finding the Bone Zone by Josh Verbeek Velvet Paddles by Kyle Sturko We are Shed Heads by Craig Bell Unexpected Memories by Chad Wilkinson Truly Rare by James Knowles
Five Year Wait by Sherlyn Indenbosch
The Legend of Splits by Chris Parenteau
Match It Up by Rodney Musielak
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Don’t miss the next issue of BGI featuring record breaking Saskatchewan bull elk.
A Growing Sport with Unlimited Potential
by Chad Wilkinson
More and more people are getting out and enjoying mother nature’s treasure hunt, and why not? It is an activity that some hunters are beginning to enjoy even more than hunting!
The Future of Hunting Dedicated to all the young hunters.
BGI’s Shed Hunting 101 Shed hunting how-to’s and do’s and dont’s.
BY: DUSTIN CATRETT
Dustin Catrett travelled from his home to Florida to south Texas to hunt the famous whitetails that live there. His son Eland was able to share the entire adventure with him including the successful hunt for a 151” whitetail nicknamed “The Headache Buck” by Eland.
ook at that one!” shouted my seven year old son, as we pulled our suitcase through the La Perla Ranch headquarters in Zapata County Texas. “That buck is called heart-attack,” said ranch owner Dr. Gary Schwarz, motioning towards the super wide deer overlooking the computer desk. “And what’s your name little buddy?” “Eland,” my son softly replies. “Well Eland, I hope you and your dad get a big buck like that one while your here, ok?” “Yes sir.” Famous as the co-host of The Outdoor Channel’s The Bucks of Tecomate television show, Dr. Schwarz pioneered a form of wildlife management that revolutionized the way hunting properties were managed utilizing food-plot based nutrition to grow big deer. Now standing in the epicenter of Tecomate country with my son, I was as excited as I’d ever been in my life. The next morning on the way to the blind, our guide Juan informed us that we would be hunting a sendero regularly frequented by two mature bucks. One, an ancient ten pointer close to nine years old, the other a large bodied management eight point. My excitement was high thinking of encountering an old boss buck, knowing the Tecomate philosophy of providing large amounts of nutrition and allowing deer to age to maturity before being taken. As a Floridian having hunted the hill country on several occasions, the brush country was quite different. The terrain more diverse and much rougher, with every plant seemingly armed with some form of barb or thorns.
Unfortunately, there was still plenty of greenery and the weather was still quite warm, resulting in little deer movement on our first outing. Lunch on the other hand was quite the opposite. Xavier the lodge cook served up a delectable entrée of tacos, burritos, and a delicious Frito pie that Eland is still begging his mother to learn how to make. “Are you shooting a buck too?” asked Ranch Manager Blair Schwarz, “No sir, when I’m older I can,” replied Eland, between bites of vanilla ice cream. “Well, I think you will make a fine hunter. Juan tells me you are good at being very quiet, did you like riding in the buggy?” Blair asked “Yes sir,” Eland replied before Blair asked, “Do you want to drive one?” Just then a huge smile crept across Eland’s face and without hesitation answered: “Yes sir!” Minutes later he and I were off exploring the 5000 acre property on our own with him smiling behind the wheel the whole time. That afternoon Juan decided we should move to a new location on an adjacent property called Twin Lakes to pursue a large bodied ten point that had been showing up on the
Reconyx camera over the last few days. After settling into our stands, I began scanning the sendero with my binoculars, taking note of how it crested up a ridge. “That’s where most of the deer cross,” whispered Juan. I was a little uncomfortable knowing the distance was almost 300 yards when I’d never taken a shot at anything past 200 before. Still, the next two hours passed with little to no deer movement. I’d drifted off into a daydream after an hour or so while watching a group of javelina when Juan suddenly hissed to get my attention. “Tsst, Dustin! Big buck moving, it’s the big ten!” Quickly I laid my rifle on the rest as quietly as I could, then whispered to Eland to slowly cover his ears with his hands like we’d practiced on the plane ride. “He’s tending a doe, and there’s a smaller buck that just came out behind them,” Juan advised, as I pressed my eye to the scope. What appeared next can only be described as a horse with antlers. The massive deer was standing broadside and completely dwarfed the other deer. “He’s about 250 to 300 yards,” said Juan. “If you feel comfortable taking the shot then go for it. If not there’s no pressure.” Turning my scope
up to ten I was relieved that I’d brought my .338 Winchester Magnum, as knock down power at this distance would hopefully prevent the deer from running into the dense brush and disappearing. One last glance to check on Eland whose eyes were now fixated on the monstrous whitetail, and I slid my finger through the trigger hole. “Don’t look at its antlers,” I told myself, while readying the shot high on the deer’s shoulder. I was fearful that seeing its rack would throttle my nerves into full buck fever and throw off my shot. But the tall wide tines were hard to ignore through the scope lens. Scanning up its shoulder past its huge neck I started shaking as the full mass of horn came into view. Deep breath and squeeze I told myself. Boom! The rifle roared with an echo across the sendero and thankfully the monster buck dropped dead in its tracks. “Woo yeah!!! I screamed, as Eland shared in my enthusiasm. “That’s a big buck Dad!” he shouted, while Juan verified through his binocular that it was down for good. “Is he as big as heart attack?” Eland asked. “Not quite, but he’s the biggest buck I’ve ever killed!” “So he’s more like a headache?” I had to laugh. “Yeah he’s like a big headache buck, now c’mon let’s go get it!” Stepping off the distance towards the deer, Juan said it was somewhere around 270 yards, my longest shot ever. “It’s a ten point!” shouted Eland, rushing to its antlers to count each one. The old buck was massive, weighing well over 200 pounds, a product of what nutrition, management, and age can produce. Its antlers were classically shaped in dark tines typical of a south Texas buck, scoring just over 151
inches. It was everything I’d ever wanted, a mature chocolate horned south Texas monster. “I’d say he’s about seven and a half years old,” said Juan. After loading it up on the buggy, we were greeted back at the lodge by Gary, Blair, Xavier, and guide Armando. “Look at this thing man!” Gary shouted enthusiastically. “I’m telling you guys, management works!” he said, while playfully grabbing me by the shoulder as I’d seen him do on television with other hunters. “Are you happy?” he asked, as we knelt into position to have pictures taken with the deer. “Oh absolutely!” I replied posing with the largest deer I’d ever seen or killed in my life. Eland was completely enamored with the whole process, jumping right in and holding the deer while recounting to the other guides how he saw it had ten points and knew it would be a good one to shoot. “I understand this buck is called headache?” Armando asked Eland. “Yes sir, he’s not as big as a heart attack,” he explained, which got a big laugh from everyone. Still mesmerized by the giant deer, he kept a firm grip on its antlers as Armando took photos of us with Gary and Juan. “Well he is a huge buck Mr. Eland, I’m sure your father is very proud.” Looking down at my son soaking up the attention the big deer brought us, I could not have been any prouder.
By: Aimee Murray Travis Powell, Ashley and their son Parker with some of their best sheds from 2017 and early 2018 in southern Alberta.
Cody Green of Grande Prairie, Alberta tagged a monster droptine whitetail late in the 2017 season. He and his hunting partner, Nathan, with the help of their friend, Kevin McNeil, captured the buck on their trail camera and the hunt was on! Lucky for them, a doe pulled the big deer into the open and Cody wasted no time putting the 186â€? bruiser on the ground!
SNOW BUCK BY: CODY GREEN
ovember of 2017 was a month I will never forget! One weekend in particular was the time when I tagged the biggest whitetail I have ever laid eyes on. My best hunting buddy Nathan and I look forward to the whitetail rut every year! We know this is the time of year when anything can happen, and the time of year when big, old whitetail bucks let their guards down just a little bit. We took advantage of the timing and made a plan to be out hunting during the peak of the rut. Our good friend, Kevin McNeil, who is the owner of Bluesy Outfitting, was kind enough to offer to have us come up and hunt out of one of his blinds. Friday night Nathan and I decided we would spend the night pulling cards from the trail cameras and see what we had in the area. We knew the rut was on and the bucks were all over the place this time of the year. Most of the cameras that had decent bucks on them that we recognized from earlier on in the season. The second last camera we had checked only had 20 pictures on it. We weren't very surprised, as we had just put the camera out in that specific area. What did surprise us was what we saw on the camera! It was a buck we had not seen before, and a monster buck at that! We both were so excited just to see the brute in the area. The following Saturday morning we got up at 6am, ate our gourmet toast with peanut butter and jam and we were off! We had packed a couple snacks as our plan was to sit all day and not leave the stand for a moment the whole day. Kevin has always told us, â€œIf you want big deer you sit all day long,â€? and there is a reason he and his clients are very successful! We walked to the blind before sunrise, got our things organized and the long wait began! Overall it was a very quiet morning. We saw a coyote come out about 50 yards in front
of us and we strongly debated changing gears to a coyote hunt, but managed to hold off. We knew there were big deer in the area, so we continued to wait. Shortly after the coyote disappeared, we started rattling, but still did not see anything. After about 2 1/2 hours of waiting, finally a lone doe popped out of the thick brush. I tapped Nathan on the leg.
As we were both watching this doe we whisper to each other, "How does she not have a buck with her?". After a few minutes of watching her walking out of sight, and then back in and then back out, we saw her take a hard look behind her! She stared for probably thirty seconds and then once again walked off. It was not even 10 seconds later when I saw a pile of snow fall from a spruce tree back where she had been looking. We
looked at each other with anticipation, knowing that something was going to walk out any second! Sure enough, a snow covered buck walked out. We could tell he was a decent buck but was very hard to tell just how big he was as he was standing in the willows. As soon as he cleared from the willows, he was completely silhouetted against the white snow, and it was clear that he was a big, mature whitetail! There was absolutely no question, Nathan and I both knew this guy was a shooter! I had my rifle up to the shoulder and ready to go! Safety off, and BOOM! He dropped right where he was standing! I sighed in relief, knowing it was a very ethical shot. We both looked at each other in pure excitement! We were so pumped! We gave the buck some time, and in the meantime Nathan said, "Thatâ€™s a good deer" and the high fives continued to fly! We walked up to the beautiful buck and were completely amazed with him. I was 100% speechless, and the shakes continued for a long while! I feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to harvest such an amazing buck! And to top it off, I got to enjoy this unforgettable experience with my one of my best friends and lifelong hunting buddy, Nathan Dahl, and our good friend, Kevin McNeil at Bluesy Outfitters!Â
Freak Show BY: HUNTER QUINN
When Hunter Quinn first saw pictures of the buck he called â€œFreak Showâ€?, it was impossible to tell what was going on with his antlers, because there were points everywhere! He spent all season trying to get a closer look before arrowing the monster buck in early November.
y dad taught me everything I know about deer hunting. Years of learning about vocalizing, movement and where to be at the right time were all things that I learned over the years. Ever since I was nine years old and took a button buck in gun season, I have been hooked on hunting. Since then I have enjoyed spending time in the woods with my Dad, Bob Quinn. We spent countless hours in the deer woods learning new things, hanging tree stands, and scouting. I enjoyed every minute of it, but never really had an opportunity at a shooter buck. Admittedly, I always got impatient and would end up getting a smaller buck because he got my heart pumping. Prior to the season, we got permission to hunt a small piece of a very hilly woods. We scouted it and decided to set up on three different spots for different winds and morning or evening spots. We had only one trail camera out on one of the locations, which happened to be on a ridge top that was a natural funnel. On our first cam check, we were amazed by what we had showing up! We had four great typical bucks coming in. All shooters. Dad and I were both very excited. We started to put a plan together and could not wait to get out hunting. About two weeks later we checked the camera again. Again, we had quite a few photos on there, with the same bucks showing up regularly. We kept going through the pictures and to our amazement we had a complete freak on our camera! Despite lots of pictures, we really couldn't tell what exactly was going on with his rack. It was mid-October and we knew he was our number one hit lister. We like to nick-name bucks and the perfect nick-name for this buck was "Freak Show". Time went by until October 23rd, when Dad told me he was going hunting that afternoon. I was at work that evening, and right before dark I got a phone call from my Dad. I knew something happened. He was breathing hard and said, “I just stuck a good buck!” I was so happy for him. I quickly asked, “Was it Freak Show?”, but he had no idea because it happened so quickly. He had his camera arm set, and his camera recording and I went over and reviewed the footage with him. The footage showed buck vocalization and really good rut activity and you could tell it was one of the big typicals and not Freak Show. The shot placement looked ok but we decided to go ahead and wait until morning to go find him. I had to go to work so I didn't get to go that morning but got the pictures as soon as Dad and his cousin found him. It was the big eight point. He had a gross score of 140". For an eight point that is a great deer for our area. Dad got the card out of the trail camera and Freak Show wasn't on it. I was a little discouraged but kept my head held high, knowing I still had the big 12 point and big 10 point coming in regularly. The next time I was able to go hunting was on Halloween Morning. Dad and I were on our property and he was recording and calling for me. We had the decoy out. It was very cold that morning. Dad did a lit-
tle rattling sequence and grunted. Out of nowhere I saw white coming through the CRP field. “It’s a small buck,” I said, but he left and about a half hour later a different small buck came in. I knew this season I needed to hold out for a mature buck. It was great seeing the movement, but that was it for the day. I had to work the next two days on twelve hour shifts so there was no hunting for me on work days. November third I was off and planned on going to our spot where we had the mature bucks coming in. I showed up that afternoon and saw the landowner in his yard with his dog. I talked to him for a little over a half hour. I told him he had some big bucks back there. He just laughed. Well I headed back to my truck and grabbed my G5 Prime Shift bow and put my camo on and sprayed down and headed to the tree stand. I went in really quiet and slowly because there wasn’t much of a wind at all. It was a beautiful afternoon. I spent most of the time just being quiet and just tossing a few grunts and bleats every now again. I had nothing happening all evening except for a squirrels running around and running up my tree. They kept me occupied. Time went by and I still had no deer activity at all. Usually I’d have does coming through already but still nothing. It was getting close to the end of shooting light and I knew something had to happen. I didn’t want to get stuck in my stand with something coming in when I couldn’t see my pins, so I did a grunt sequence of a buck chasing a doe. I sat there for 5 minutes and I heard something in the distance.
I knew it had to be a deer. It was coming my way so I grabbed my bow, but still I couldn't see the deer. Then finally I saw white, it looked like a small buck through the brush. I still stood still and kept my bow in my hand. He kept walking and walked into the open and turned my way and I saw he was wide. I knew he was a shooter! I had no idea of what buck it was but I knew I wanted him. He started walking down wind of me so I hurried and grabbed my grunt call and did a soft grunt. He stopped quickly and stared for two minutes but it felt like an eternity. He finally started walking again, but this time he cut and was walking straight to my shooting lane which was 30 yards from me. I knew I needed to get my bow drawn, I
couldn't make a noise to stop him, he was aware and I didn't want to spook him. I drew back and held it and waited for him to walk through. I finally saw him in my sights and slowed my breathing. I was on him and I slowly squeezed my release trigger. I watched the lighted nock fly and went behind his shoulder! As I watched him run, my heart was racing. I kept thinking to myself, “Was the shot too low? Go down, Go down, Go down". I saw him stop about 40 yards from the spot I shot. I lost sight of him for a second and I heard him crashing, it was the best sound I have ever heard in my life. I kept thinking to myself, “This has to be Freak Show”. I instantly called my Dad who was having dinner with my Grandpa and my Mom
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at home. He knew something happened. I said, "Dad I think I just shot Freak Show!" He started chuckling and said, “I knew something good must of happened." I got down from the tree stand and saw my arrow sticking in the ground. “I got a pass through,” I thought. I went to my truck and waited for my Dad. He finally showed up and gave me a
hug, he was so excited for me. We started into the woods nice and slow. We grabbed my arrow. It was covered in bright red blood. And so much blood behind where I shot him. We followed the blood trail which was like a horror scene until I finally held the flashlight up. I saw the huge body and ran up to him and it was Freak Show! It felt unreal. I shot our number one hit list buck with my compound bow with a double lung heart shot. He only went 40 yards and dropped. Seeing him in person just showed so much more antler. It was late that evening so I left the property owner alone and was going to show him the buck the next morning. When I brought him the buck he just had a big grin on his face and was so happy for me. I was very thankful for being able to spend time in the woods in his property. The reason I believe this is a special story, is because Dad killed his great mature buck 11 days prior, out of the same tree stand as I killed mine. Just goes to show you if you hunt a location correctly with wind direction and proper times to be in the stand, you can take multiple shooter bucks off a property. I thank my Dad mostly for teaching me everything I know. He taught me what to do in certain situations and that's what made this night happen. Freak Show had a total of 20 points. With 7 3/4" and 6 3/4" bases and great mass. He had a green score by Buckmasters of 172 7/8" non-typical. Really the score doesn't even matter to me, I harvested the buck of my lifetime with memories that will definitely last a lifetime.
A GREAT LIFE BY: JASON KOENING
lthough I enjoyed hunting as a youth and then teenager in the 90s, it wasn't until my early 20s that I discovered the thrill of shed hunting. Being a young buck full of energy, simply stumbling across a few here and there was quite common, but I did not think much of it and did not go out intentionally looking for sheds. It wasn’t until I found my first really big set in 1996 that I started to put more effort into the sport. That first big set, although I had no idea what I had at the time, is what really got the fuel burning for me, which continues today. A number of years went by and as a young adult, I was not overly focused on my hunting adventures, including shed hunting. Ofter I was too busy chasing the ladies, or finding other trouble to get serious about shed hunting. It wasn’t until 2006 when I went on my first dedicated shed hunting trip that it became more than a side hobby. After my first trip, I was hooked, and it became an annual tradition! Over the years, the popularity of shed hunting has increased, so I find myself traveling long distances over “land and water” in search of the treasures the lovely creatures left behind. It is a true challenge but also incredibly rewarding when you know the time and effort you have put into finding them. There is an appreciation that comes from holding the antlers of a big, mature animal. Knowing that it reached its potential and is still out there living life from one year to the next. Shed antlers give you a small window into their lives, a way to watch their progress from one year to the next. Having the
odds against them, it is an impressive feat to live and thrive in the wild. Hunting pressure, hard winters, predators, all work against these animals but they more often than not make it and with time and effort you can find their antlers from year to year. I have been blessed to collect many shed antler sets from one year to the next, their similar characteristics and location a giveaway of who owned them. Another interesting tidbit that shed hunters realize is that some areas have better genetics than others. It is always interesting to see a common gene in one area that is so rare elsewhere. Of course there are a million variables when it
comes to antler growth, but every shed you pickup gives you another piece of information in figuring out the details. Some of my fondest memories are those long-awaited spring weekend trips across Alberta and into Saskatchewan with my shed dog Chevy, family, and a great bunch of friends. A truly great life is the life of a shed hunter! I want to personally wish every shed hunter the very best of luck in their upcoming travels.Â
A growing sport with unlimited potential. By
BY: CHAD WILKINSON
e are very excited to release the spring issue of Big Game Illustrated, with the focus on shed hunting. This is an activity that is skyrocketing in popularity and why not? There are so many positive aspects to it, that it is no wonder that it is becoming so popular. Unfortunately, in gathering articles to make up this issue, once again we received some scathing criticism about sharing details of such a great activity and how that would make more people shed hunt, which is somehow seen as a bad thing. I understand that perspective, but thankfully those who chose to share with us, and everyone, through the pages of BGI are confident enough in their own abilities to know their success will continue. Not surprisingly,
in looking at the contributors who chose to share their stories and pictures in the pages of BGI, it is some of the most successful and positive shed hunters anywhere. They should all be commended for sharing their success and spreading the word about such a wonderful activity. The positivity and confidence of these people comes through in all their articles, so I hope you all enjoy them as much as I did. With that being said, I am going to keep my column very short this issue, because I have also taken the opportunity to share a few recent shed hunting adventures in the pages of BGI! As I get older, I find myself enjoying shed hunting just as much as hunting itself, and maybe even more, so we are very excited for this issue.
Scott Bonogofsky arrowed the buck of a lifetime in Cypress County, Alberta. His buck has incredibly long tines and just a huge frame. The monster buck just kept getting bigger and bigger as he walked up to him after slipping an arrow into him at 37 yards. His buck was entered into the record books with an official net score of 222 7/8â€?.
MONSTER BY: SCOTT BONAGOFSKY
would like to start off by thanking the ranchers, Gary and Jarrod Lehr for giving us the opportunity to hunt on their land year after year. Without that permission, this buck of a lifetime would not have been possible. My story starts in 2015 when my son Brandon and I were drawn for muley bucks. We were both pretty excited, although admittedly maybe he was more excited than me! That was understandable because this was the first time he had ever been drawn for anything since he started hunting as a youth hunter. My father in law, Stan Insko, and I are both avid bowhunters. We have a great spot close to the Cypress Hills on the Alberta side where we hunt elk the first week of September. We ended up calling in a nice 6x6 bull and sent a perfect arrow into his vitals at 23 yards. It was a great start to the year! After that hunt, we focused our attention on finding a big muley! We spent the majority of our time covering ground, with a lot of scouting, glassing, walking and a few stalks in for closer looks. Eventually we located two big deer bedded in some buck brush about a half mile away. My father in law told me that the one on the left was still in full velvet while the one on the right was hard horn and was definitely the bigger of the two. We managed to quickly close the distance and got to 27 yards when we settled in to wait for them to get up. Eventually my father in law whispered to me that he was going to toss a stick to try to get them to stand, so that was our plan. I drew back while he tossed a stick and it worked perfectly! He stood broadside and I made the shot, watching the buck donkey kick and I knew I had made a good shot. We decided to wait about an hour to make sure then finally
headed over to take a look. We could not find any blood where he was standing and I started to get worried. We made a few circles until my father in law finally found some blood 10 yards away and then we found my broken arrow 20 yards away. I was relieved but after that it still took a lot of searching before we finally located him in the creek bottom. A few high fives and some pictures later and we were loading him the truck! Thank you to Wayne Stuber at True Taxidermy out of Medicine Hat for the excellent job on the mount. Fast forwarding to November, my son Brandon still had his mule deer tag and we both had whitetail tags. Our focus was to get Brandon a nice buck for his first one. In previous years, he had come out with us a lot, but the early season for whitetails
always seemed to be slow and he was a little bored with limited action. This year, with his draw mule deer tag I told him it would be different and thought we would have some good luck! He could not make it out on opening day so we scouted for him and found a great buck to chase on day two when he could come along. We noted the spot and the next morning found us back in the same spot, Brandon by my side looking for the same buck we had laid on eyes on the day before. Almost immediately we found a great buck, he seemed to have tines everywhere and was very impressive on first look! However, a closer look showed us that he was not very wide and his tines were not very long. My father in law said, “He will be a lot bigger next year”, so we made the fateful decision the let him go and look for the older buck we had seen the day before. The new buck was with a bunch of does, and they made their way into a coulee with us following behind at a safe distance. As we made our way to the coulee
and peeked over the edge, sure enough the buck from the day before was right there! Brandon wasted no time and made a perfect shot, putting the buck down for good. I could see the excitement in his face as we walked up to him. There were high fives all around, and a few hugs as we celebrated the successful hunt. We loaded him up and headed back to the taxidermist to ensure we preserved the memories of that hunt through a mount on the wall. That was the end of our 2015 season but I couldn’t help think back about the buck we passed with all the tines, and wonder what he would be like in 2016. Our 2016 season started quickly again, with our hunting partner Chris Eccles tagging a big bull elk we called in for him. Fast forward to the third week of September. It was a very wet fall and as a result the farmers in the area still had a lot of crop out in the field. A local farmer in the area was checking his barley field and saw some great mule deer bucks feeding out there, and was kind enough to call my father in law to tell him about them. He called me and in a flash was at his house and we were heading out to check them out, and potentially move in for an ambush if it all worked out. We got to the barley field and headed out to a good spot where we thought they would come out of the coulee. Sure enough they made their way out and my father in law ranged them at 62 yards, just out of
range. We noticed one of the bucks was exceptionally large, and then we realized it was the buck from the year before with all the tines. My father in law said, “Wow did he ever grow some serious inches!”. The bucks continued to come closer to me, eventually coming to 37 yards. I waited for them to put their heads down then drew back and released an arrow! He kicked up and kicked the arrow right out, but I thought it was a good hit. It was already getting dark and we knew the coulee was very thick, so we decided to wait the night to go after him. It was one sleepless night as I ran through everything that took place in the evening. Finally, the morning light came and we headed out. We headed over the coulee and about half way down we spotted him! Now in many cases when you walk up to a deer they get smaller but in this case he just kept getting bigger and bigger! He seemed to grow with every step, and I could not believe my eyes as we closed the distance. It was a celebration when we finally got down to him and laid on our hands on him. I want to thank my father in law who has also been my hunting partner for almost 20 years and I have enjoyed every minute of it! I also want to thank Wayne Stuber at True Taxidermy for bringing my buck back to life. My muley was officially scored at 222 7/8” net and was entered into Pope and Young and Boone and Crockett. This is truly a once in a lifetime buck.
BY: PETER TSOULAMANIS
Shed Hunting When I started shed hunting, there was barely anyone out there doing it. I would leave little fork horns, broken or chewed antlers and the odd deadhead where they lay. Finding antlers untouched in April or May was very normal. Then, came the idea of training my young Rottweiler how to find sheds. That was 20 years ago, and still there aren't many dogs that could beat that old brute! I would spend every day mostly watching herds and the odd time walking fields, from December to May. Today, there are guys everywhere, chasing, pressuring and bumping deer, using dogs, sleds and drones. Trespassing and bending the rules has almost become almost the norm too. Finding a shed has become more challenging than ever, and even a down right fluke to find a match or a target buck nowadays. Welcome to the new Alberta! Even though I had stopped shed hunting for years, I never quit looking while I was out in the field. But, I hadn't gone on a dedicated shed hunt in years.
All that changed in January of 2016, when a nice little muley buck decided to jump in front of me on the highway one day. As I watched him hurdle the fence, I watched his one side pop off and fall in the snow only yards from the road! I tapped the brakes, as if I should stop and pick it up, but then carried on, knowing I was already late for a meeting, and besides I didn't have permission. One the way home I thought about that little guy and wondered if my daughters would be interested in a treasure hunt? I mean anything to do with Dad is always a hit anyway. I decided to ask permission and then ask the girls if they wanted to join me? To my surprise both answers were an emphatic “Yes”, and we were out looking the next day. The temperature was a balmy -26 C but the wind was calm and the hike was supposed to be a light ½ mile trek. I told the girls all they had to do was follow the deer trails in the high snow, and look for tines sticking out of the snow. Sure enough, that chocolate muley was easily found by my oldest daughter, Kristina. I had no Idea how much competition, drive, and determination two six year old and a seven year old could have! This introductory shed hunting lesson, turned into an all-out war, with Dad being the eventual loser. Trying to keep track of three girls in an all-out
Peter Tsoulamanis was an avid shed hunted years ago with his trusty shed hunting Rottweiler by his side. However, when his old dog passed away he did not get out shed hunting for many years. One day, he watched a mule deer drop an antler and decided to ask his young daughters if they wanted to go find it. They all jumped at the chance and ended up having an unforgettable day, picking up some incredible Alberta sheds while making memories they will remember forever. sprint, in three different directions became its own challenge. Moments after the easy one was found, my youngest daughter Ellie had crawled out from the back of the bales where I had last seen that muley go. With a little shock on my face, she appeared with the matching side to him. The excitement level grew even more, and so did the competition level. Before I could even take a picture of her first shed, my oldest had ran over a ½ mile away and was screaming she found two together. “Wow!” I thought, in disbelief. Her first match on her own, and they grossed Boone at that! We spent six hours combing the fields and forests in the deep freeze that is the Alberta winter and I don't know how many kilometers we did that day, but I was tired! We ended up finding a couple more in the bush that day, but hunger and fatigue were starting to set in quickly, not to mention cold! My eldest twin Athena was starting to feel dejected that she hadn't found anything and she was downright upset we were walking back home. I tried to explain a life lesson here, but there was no use! It only got worse when her older sister found another one just at that moment. She couldn't hold the tears back and they rolled down her frozen cheeks. They only thing I could do is give her a consolation prize, of getting to hold my Swaro binoc-
ulars. She sniffled away, and started using them. Meanwhile I started to take pictures of the new shed. Within seconds, I heard my oldest twin say Dad, I found a shed. Now knowing how many stick and log sheds we found that day, I chuckled and said, “That's awesome,” as I continued to take pictures. But she was adamant, almost mad! When I finally turned, it was just in time to see her throw the binoculars in the snow and take off running as fast as she could towards it. All I could do was let her, and pray it wasn't a stick. I picked up the binoculars, brushed off the snow and looked in the direction she was headed. Sure enough, I could easily see a couple of tines! I
even thought to myself, “Wow, I think that's a good size matching set!” I watched her in the binoculars struggle to dislodge it from the frozen snow, and fall over as it broke free. Then like she was hoisting the Stanley cup for the first time I saw a massive single shed! I just stared in disbelief, because this thing was huge! She held up 101 6/8” of total inches huge to be exact! I was without words! I was so happy for her! We took some quick pictures, and got home quickly to show mom and the newborn twin boys our treasures. Each girl
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kept their sheds on their own shelf in their room. They were definitely not allowed to go in Dad's hunting room. They had found two different species, a matching set in each species, one that grosses B&C and their first 100 plus inch single all on their first trip. One thing is for sure they are now hooked on shed hunting, although I'm sure they are also ruined now! I am not sure how they will top this! However, I'm not counting these three out of anything and cannot wait to get out with them again. I never thought that I had a reason to shed hunt after my old pup passed away. I never thought that it could be the same as it once was years ago. I never believed it could hook me as it had 25 years ago. But, three beautiful girls later and they have shown me how much better shed hunting has become since I last did it. I have the three best daughters in the world, and I couldn't be more proud of them! Thank you, ladies, I love you! Also, thank you Hydehunting for the hoodies and BGI for printing our story!
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN BY: GRANT BENIUK
Grant Beniukâ€™s shed hunting obsession began as a way to become a more successful deer hunter, but it has morphed into a hunt all on its own and he has had some incredible success over the years covering hundreds, if not thousands of miles of deer trails in Alberta and Saskatchewan. Photos all by Grant Beniuk.
y obsession with shed hunting is something that started very innocently. Growing up on a farm in Northern Alberta, it was very common to see shed antlers discarded. They were seen to have no value and were viewed as only a nuisance that would end up stuck through tractor tires while farmers were working their fields. It was common to see a pile of sheds in farmer’s outbuildings and even their shops, right next to their John Deere tractors. When I was young, these piles of bone were so common that I never gave them much thought, but that all changed when I was a young teenager. The change began when I became an avid hunter. Once I seriously started hunting, and targeting big, mature deer a few years later, those shed antlers that everyone had lying around became a lot more interesting! I thought to myself, “I bet I can go out and find a bunch of those in the fields and forests near my home.” It was not long before I found myself out following the deer trails in search of big shed antlers. It sounded easy enough to do, but I quickly found out
that it was not. The first few years were a real challenge, with many days of coming home empty handed, but I found just enough to keep me interested. It took literally years of learning and patience, trying to figure out deer behaviour, finding the right locations, determining what was successful, and of course what wasn’t. Not to mention the many, many hundred, if not thousands of miles walked. Along the way I learned a lot that not only made me a better shed hunter, but also a better hunter in general and just more appreciation for these amazing animals. With all the knowledge I have gained over the years, I am successful at times, but there are also still many times when I spend a lot of time and effort, and no treasures are found. During those times, the way I look at it is that if it was that easy it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun or rewarding. There is no better prize for your efforts than looking down and seeing those tines peeking out of the grass or snow. There is nothing more exhilarating than picking up that antler to find out it’s a beautiful 80 incher. Twenty some years since it all began and I can honestly say I am hopelessly addicted. Truthfully, if I had to choose between hunting deer or hunting for shed antlers, shedding would win hands down. They can’t smell you, they don’t see you coming, and they don’t run in the opposite direction never to be seen again. What’s not to love! Cheers to all the other addicts out there and happy trails this spring!
AS THEY LAY BY: GRANT BENIUK
Dawn Williams and her husband Danny spend most of their time following their kids around at their various sporting events and activities in central Saskatchewan. They try to tie hunting and scouting into their daily routine whenever possible. Although they hunt for the meat and the experience of being together in the outdoors, when they noticed a particularly impressive whitetail in the summer of 2017 they decided to try for him when the season opened. Dawn passed many bucks immediately before their target deer showed himself and was able to make a clean shot and put the big deer down for good!
SHARED SUCCESS BY: DAWN WILLIAMS
t all starts and ends with the anticipation of the draws. “Did we get drawn for mule deer, what about moose, or elk?” If all else falls through, there is always whitetail season! That is a season that I love and hate all at the same time. Whitetails are so much smarter than the rest, and they are just amazing animals. This year was unique because we shipped the kids off to school and got to head out on the first day! This is something that never happens! My twelve-year-old son Rylan, and tenyear-old daughter Kaylee keep us busy with hockey, and my husband Danny is usually working nonstop, so it makes fitting in many days for hunting a real challenge. Luckily for us, on opening day of whitetail season in 2017, he was actually on days off. To say we were excited would be an understatement. The night before we got everything packed up ready to go so we weren’t wasting any time. We both packed our own guns, mine a .243 Savage and Danny’s 7 mm Browning. It’s always a competition in our house, bragging rights I guess you could say. Who else gets to say that they can spend all day with their significant other doing what they love to do. After last season had ended we kept our eyes peeled. With the kid’s hockey, we get to take a lot of different back roads and do some “scouting”, as we call it on the way to and from the rink. One day heading out to a hockey game we took a road we don’t usually take, we had left early and had enough time to spend scouting. Low and behold we spotted a whitetail. We both looked at each other and with excitement we knew he had made it through the season! “Yes!” I thought. Any hunter knows the feeling. When we had spare moments throughout the winter, which was few and far between, we would casually take drives, making sure we knew where this guy was living. We would see him here and there and he looked healthy all through the winter. Fast forward to the next fall. Our combining season was fast. The land was super dry and it allowed us to finish in record time. As soon as we had wrapped up, we headed out to do some scouting. Sure enough, we found him again. The excitement would grow and grow, we knew where he was, he was
hanging out in the same spot, and there was nothing around to bother him! He picked a great area to call home, with lots of bush and trees, he was hard to spot and it was clear that the trees were his safe place. Fast forward to opening day, we had made a plan. We were going to get to our spot, push some bush, and the first one to see well, make the shot count. Like I said, it’s a friendly competition. We parked the truck, gathered our things and off we went. We didn’t go right to the spot, we thought, “Let’s just see what’s really here?” So we walked some tree rows, getting some healthy exercise but nothing too exciting made an appearance. We spotted the odd doe and a few little bucks. “Let em go let em grow,” is a motto we use in both hunting and fishing.
I’m a chatterbox, and it was clearly really annoying Danny as I was told ‘SHHHH’, many times. I really need to learn to be quiet, as I know the deer can hear you and smell you a mile away. We actually went back to the truck. There was no one around us, but it was very windy and freezing cold. After about a half hour we decided to drive the truck up closer to our spot. We had just reached our destination when I jumped out of the still moving truck. Danny yelled, “What are you doing!” I pointed ahead at the ten does running out of a bush. “Oh my word,”, I thought, “What the heck is going on?” Danny also came out to join me, but I remind him that I was ready first, so I get first dibs on any bucks that followed! We move into a better position as I am thinking, “Where there are does, there are bucks. I know he is here, so he has to come out!” We decided to find a good vantage point and sit and wait. A few minutes go by and nothing, not a movement, except for the trees and the biting cold and snow blowing in our faces. Suddenly another doe pops out of the trees and then a buck pops out of the trees following her! I instantly popped in my clip and I was ready! I took a closer look and thought, “Nope he’s not the one.” Then I was amazed to see not two, three or four, but five bucks burst out and they are all following the does! “What the heck?” I thought, as I scoped out all five, and not one is the one big boy we are after. “Why are all those bucks together with all the does and not one was rutting?” I wondered. I can’t help but think back to when my daughter was three years old and we took her
hunting. We came up on some bucks that were in full rut, and Kaylee said to us, “Look that buck is ‘horning’ the mama!” It was a cute story that I was thinking about at the same time as I wondered why all these bucks and does were together. I was feeling confused and excited, but still wondering, “Where is he? He has to be here! I’m not settling, I know what I want.”
Then just as I went to take my clip out, the bushes moved on the other side! My heart started racing, and sure enough he darted out the other side, not following a doe, but rather making a break for it! I could not believe it but I did not have a clear shot, with his rear facing me. “Turn, buck turn”, I blurt out a little too loudly, as I am thinking, “He’s the one, thick body, wide and oh he is a beauty but he’s running away and I am go-
ing to miss my chance!” Suddenly for some strange reason he stopped and turned perfectly broadside! He looked back and all I could think was, “Shoot, shoot now!” and as I line up the crosshairs, “Please Danny don’t shoot, I’ve got him!” I pulled the trigger…… BOOM. He started running and I said “Danny did I get him, he’s running pretty fast?” We followed him immediately, thinking that I hit him well. We see him still running but then he went down! Immediately, I was jumping for joy, giving high 5s and then immediately head up to go lay my hands on him. As we got closer, both of our eyes were pretty big! We were both blown away at how big he actually was. Although we didn’t know how big, we were super excited and surprised to also see a drop tine off the back! He’s even better than we expected. When it gets right down to it, we hunt for meat. However, we also like to let the little guys grow up and have a chance before taking them. Our kids love jerky and sausage and this is a blessing. His body is big and wide, we harvested tons of meat, but we couldn’t believe how big he actually was from top to bottom. The wildlife we take are not what we consider trophies, as we are ecstatic to get the meat. It is not about the “trophy” but it sure is neat when you have a big set of antlers to look at to remind you of the whole story and all the time spent having fun in the field. I didn’t grow up a hunter but I can say with confidence I am now a hunter. It’s about getting the quality time with my best friend because our lives are usually so wrapped around our kids and their passions. Being outdoors is just one thing we really enjoy and being able to experience this passion together is just a blessing! There is always a great story behind the adventures no matter the outcome.
he first early morning flash of sunshine as it breaks on an ever-changing horizon. A frosty fresh wind awakens you to the beautiful sights and sounds of another day blessed in Mother Nature's woods in search of her antler rewards. The harsh whip of a hard-earned willow branch upon a cold cheek reminding you that you are there and alive. There is a calming, peaceful place in these woods abundant with wildlife and adventure that I truly live for. To some it's an escape from the everyday struggles we may face in todayâ€™s reality. It is a place to find yourself, reset, and work towards a personal goal you have set for yourself. It is a place to enjoy exercise and family and friends who share this special pastime. I have walked thousands of miles alone on the trails in search of cast antlers, and nothing compares to having a loved one or a best friend by your side for the next adventure or captivating find. Pushing into the unknown and stopping at an amazing lunch spot to share a can of soup or beans over an open warm fire is special. I have recently been able to pursue my passion
for shed hunting and many miles with my best friend Ron Kennedy. Whether it's just an hour walk or a three day campout together, I have realized the Shed Life only brings friendships closer together, and truly makes each mile and find that much more rewarding. Thank you my friend. What keeps us going is something I often wonder about? The mysterious feeling of not knowing whatâ€™s out there to be found, yet going and finding it, is what truly keeps my love for shed hunting alive. A gift placed in the wild for you to find and cherish for years is a feeling that just never seems to fade inside of me. I live for it. Whether it is a three inch chalky spiker or a glorious 90 inch pristine chocolate antler, every find measures differently to each person and each one requires a lot of work and effort. Having found thousands of sheds, I have learned each antler is so different and unique like a fingerprint on our very own hands. Each discovery teaching you something new and telling a story of its own in your imagination, making you
BY: CORT BRADFORD yearn for the next one to be told. My Shed Life has always been a very personal thing held dear to me alone, but I have recently started taking pictures and sharing my finds a few years ago and it is something I really enjoy, as I truly enjoy seeing others finds and adventures. I have a small group on Facebook called Boneheadz Outdoors that I created to share my passion for whitetail deer and my many adventures afield in search of their antlers. I am now residing in beautiful Saskatchewan, Canada and very excited to see what the future holds for me here. To all those who wander but are not lost, I wish you peace and good fortune on your journeys in the deer woods. I would like to thank my Mom and Dad in Heaven for always believing in me and my passion for the Shed Life and the Outdoors. I would also like to thank all the rest of my family, friends, and landowners for your support over the years in allowing me to pursue this great pastime. I feel truly blessed each time I set foot on a snowy spring trail, and none of it is possible without you all. To everyone at BGI I can't thank you enough for this opportunity to express what Shed Hunting means to me.
Prairie Alberta Bull Elk BY: JOSH VERBEEK
his hunt started for me in mid July of 2017 when I decided I was going to stay away from the masses that often head to northern Alberta in search of elk. I was going to stay down south and hunt closer to home this year. I’ve hunted northern Alberta a few times and have taken a few elk up there, though always with a rifle. This time I really wanted to take an elk with my bow. When I first started bow hunting the focus had always been on mule deer in southern Alberta. I had never really given too much thought about hunting elk in the same place! Most summer days were spent patterning elk and seeing what size bulls were in the area. Locating elk wasn’t the prob-
lem though it seemed as though rag horns and spikes were the only thing that we were able to turn up for the longest time. As opening day approached, I was getting nervous as some hunting permission was been revoked due to the extremely dry conditions Alberta was experiencing. The threat of wildfires was made real when some of my favorite quarters for whitetail were burned up, making some of the farmers and ranchers much more hesitant to allow access to hunters. However, there is a silver lining for the dry conditions with regards to bow hunting. Most sloughs and water sources had dried up, leaving only a couple of watering holes in the area, and with the extreme heat the elk needed to hydrate! In the first week of September I located some great bulls, and even had a couple of them come within the far end of my bow range, but I wasn’t given a shot angle I felt comfortable taking. The pre-rut was underway and there were still lots of bulls hanging out as friends instead of foes. The heat was keeping bulls in the safety and comfort of the shade. We have lots of cactus in this area and with the drought and high temperatures, even the grass felt like thorns during a “sock stalk.” If that wasn’t difficult enough, imagine trying to creep within
bow range when all the native prairie grasses sound like youâ€™re walking on corn flakes! It was September 14 and my wife and I had friends visiting from BC. I thought I would take my buddy out hunting. Having never been hunting before, or even seen an elk, I wasnâ€™t sure what he was going to think about the whole experience. The day started off with the first heavy frost of the season, which shortly afterward turned into an icy mist. This weather would turn out to be a game changer for elk behaviour. Within the first hour of the hunt we had spotted moose, mule deer
and whitetail all out for a morning jaunt. A short time later we spotted a decent 6x6 bull elk along with a few others a long ways away! We made a few long distance bugles which got their attention but they continued to graze. We tightened our
Josh Verbeek usually made the long trek into Northern Alberta to hunt elk, but decided to change things up in the fall of 2017 and hunt archery in the south closer to home. His decision certainly paid off when he arrowed a big prairie bull!
boots and headed over to where we thought they were. By the time we got nearby we were only able to locate two small bulls sparring amongst some cows. We couldnâ€™t get them to play although it was great being able to watch them at 130 yards. Eventually they got tired of waiting and headed off, as did the gloomy weather. The sun came out and I decided I had to get an elk even if it was a cow in order to show my buddy every aspect of the hunt. We spotted what we thought to be a small herd of cows, so we devised a plan to stalk up close to try and arrow one in its bed. Unfortunately, they seemed to have pulled
the slip on us, and though we only lost visual on them for a couple of seconds they had somehow disappeared. We crested the hill where I thought they may have travelled over and, sure enough, we watched a bunch of cows and calves heading away just as expected. Immediately, I dropped to the ground, and then I watched a giant set of antlers grow bigger and bigger! The huge herd bull started to make his way into view, following his cows. We bugled and cow called but it seemed to have spooked the elk and we didnâ€™t catch up to them for what seemed like an eternity. Another bull came within 100 yards and the opportunity vanished along with the bull, again. As every bow hunter knows, it is a sport with the highest of highs and the absolute lowest of lows. Feeling defeated at around noon and just over six kilometres from the truck, we were dreading the long walk back. Though I did not expect to see too much, I walked one final rise in the direction the elk were heading. I was pleasantly surprised as I watched the big bull from earlier in the day destroying some willows as he was stirring up his cows! I signaled for my buddy to come over before I began calling, in hopes I could somehow entice him to come and play. I was not very hopeful as earlier he didnâ€™t seem too interested. I let out a few bugles, to which he responded by stopping and staring, and then continued back to raking the trees. I thought perhaps by growling at him he might come over to check me out, as maybe earlier he was spooked simply from the cows taking off. Sure enough he stopped, turned in our direction and charged towards us with one thing on his
to the ground. The bull took off back to where he came, seemingly unscathed. “How could this happen? The shot didn’t feel good, it felt GREAT! Did I hit his shoulder?” were a few of the thoughts spinning in my mind. I sprinted to the top of the hill to figure it all out, and to my amazement the bull was no more than 50 yards away, wobbling with his 26 cows staring at him. And down he went! My first archery elk and what an incredible day to have this all come together! We went back up the hill to look for the arrow that we thought hadn’t penetrated, and found only half the arrow. The arrow had in fact great penetration but when the elk turned, he snapped the arrow that was still protruding from his side, and that was what we saw fall to the ground. I definitely do not take credit for my success
mind! One thing to keep in mind, expect the unexpected during the rut! We did not setup in a great spot. It was a bald hill with absolutely no cover and grass shorter than ankle high. I practically threw my buddy and our packs down the hill and set up quickly in front of a small aspen. I handed him the range finder and a few seconds later that bull was on a path straight to where we were sitting a few seconds beforehand! I drew at 75 yards and he kept on coming, stopping perfectly broadside at 55 yards. I settled my pin right behind the shoulder and THWACK! I watched the arrow hit him and fall right down
that day. I just want to thank everyone for their helping hand in this hunt, including my wife and especially the landowners who were so helpful in getting the elk back to the truck.
Checkout www.biggamemagazine.com to see Josh’s Alberta free range bison hunt!
FINDING THE BONE ZONE BY: JOSH VERBEEK
he transition between winter and spring is one of my most favorite times of year. The snow is starting to melt and you’re finally able to lose a few layers and put the boots to the trail. It’s that time the testosterone levels start to drop in animals and we start warming up to longer days and warmer weather. Whether it’s a certain buck you’ve got trail camera pictures of or the ghost that’s camera shy, there’s something exhilarating about knowing that you’re the first human being to ever hold that antler. I still remember finding my first mule deer shed when I moved to Alberta from Ontario about six years ago. A few
friends and I were in an outdoor leadership and survival course in college and thought we’d go try out some of our new gear before heading into the backcountry the next week. We headed out to some property that a friend of ours owned and began hiking down into some steep and slippery coulees. We ventured into a few areas overrun with sage, thistles, thorns and cactus. Walking down a well-travelled deer trail I came across a small two-point mule deer shed. I didn’t hesitate to grab it and noticed the other side lying a short distance down the trail. The focus of the hike quickly shifted to finding sheds. Little did I know this was going to be the beginning of my shed hunting obsession! For me, shed hunting is a passion, a hobby and an opportunity for me to learn more about deer patterns in preparation for hunting season. Even though some days involve climbing up and down endless hills and coulees, or bushwhacking and stomping through creeks, there’s something about shed hunting that is still so peaceful and relaxing. I have shed hunted the thick, tall timber of western Alberta to the wide open native prairie grasses and everything in between. Preparation is crucial to finding sheds during the tail end of the winter season. Glassing and watching where the deer feed and bed will increase the odds of finding sheds. I always have a plan so that when I start seeing one antlered bucks it becomes clear where to begin my search. Sometimes you’ll get lucky and stumble across a giant shed, while on other days you’ll hike sunrise to sunset and leave empty handed. A good strategy is to start scouting early like you would in preparation for a fall hunt. They are wild animals which means there are no hard and fast rules in predicting their behaviour. There are certainly lots of sheds to be found with careful, well-planned searching.
“At the bottom of the ravine was a small patch of grass no more than 50 yards wide. On it were nearly a dozen shed bucks sitting down soaking up the sunshine. On that small patch of grass, I collected 13 sheds, most of which still had bloody bases! I had found the ‘Bone Zone.’”
Another key factor is not to pressure an area too early. This can cause the deer to vacate that area and shed somewhere else. Last year I had a really productive shed haul due to the fact that I planned the season using maps and GPS so I could more accurately track my movements. Early in April of last year I was hiking a ridge where I had always seen lots of deer and moose activity. I had hiked this area many times before but never found a shed. I decided to drop off the back side of the ridge to see if the deer were around the area. Climbing down rocky cliffs and cactus patches isn’t the easiest terrain to navigate. At the bottom of the ravine was a small patch of grass no more than 50 yards wide that I could see using my binoculars. On it were nearly a dozen shed bucks sitting down soaking up the sunshine. How I had overlooked this sanctuary in the past was beyond me. On that small patch of grass, I collected 13 sheds, most of which still had bloody bases! I had found the ‘Bone Zone.’ It’s days like these that keep me coming back year after year to grow my collection and to find these treasures that are left behind.
VELVET PADDLES BY: KYLE STURKO
Kyle Sturko pulled a draw tag in his home province of Alberta. He and his family and friends have a tradition to go on a mule deer and elk hunt in early September, and 2016 was no different except that Kyle had a moose tag in his pocket. His plans were to scout for moose while focusing on mule deer and elk, but when he spotted a couple big bulls, he quickly turned a short encounter into a notched tag! His bull is 51â€? wide and has velvet covered dark brown antlers with white marbling, a rare trophy and one Kyle will forever enjoy on his wall. Make sure to follow Kyleâ€™s adventures on The Fever TV show on WildTV and keep up with him through their social media channels.
his hunt begins in mid-July of 2016 when I checked my draw results. I knew I had a small chance at pulling an antlered moose tag in the zone I grew up hunting in eastern Alberta. I was a 5 priority and a small amount of 5 priorities had pulled a tag in the year prior. I was elated to see that I had in fact drew the tag I was most hopeful for! Now I just had to wait for September 1 to begin hunting them. I had set up numerous trail cams in areas that we had frequently seen good bulls in the past and checked them regularly leading up to the season, but nothing to get too excited about showed itself. A couple of mid 30 inch bulls and lots of cows and calves. I had my mind set on getting at least a 45-inch bull with my bow and being that I could switch to rifle in November I was in no rush to fold the tag on a smaller bull. Every year we plan a hunt for the first week of September where we primarily focus on archery mule deer and elk. Being that we were going to be in the same zone that my bull moose draw was, I was going to keep my eyes open. For the first three days of the hunt, nothing too exciting happened. A few close encounters with the elk and a couple of blown mule deer stalks. But none of that mattered because hunting season was open and we were doing what we loved! On the fourth morning of the hunt we got a little bit lazy and had decided to shut the alarm clocks off and sleep in a little bit later. We got out of the wall tent at about 9:00 am and loaded up the trucks to begin glassing from high points and valley tops. We left camp and turned south at the first gravel road. We had only gone about half a mile from camp when I looked through my cousin Mattâ€™s window and I saw what looked to be a big bull moose feeding just over a small hill, in a low spot! It was only a quick glance, but I knew he was worth a closer look for sure.
We decided it be best to call my other cousin Mark Sturko and good buddy Chance Friend to assist in filming and watching the moose from a far. They were only a couple minutes away and arrived quickly. It was decided that Mark would film from the truck, Chance would carry the Montana decoy and Matt would film over my shoulder. We could not see the moose, but knew he had to be just over the small hill in between us, about 400 yards to the east. The wind was blowing to the south so if we stayed slightly south of the bull we were good. We began working a fence line to the east, making sure to stay low. We popped up periodically to try and get a visual. As we got closer we noticed two smaller spike bulls feeding their way to the south east. We figured that the bigger bull would likely do the same and decided we needed to get to where the small bulls headed. The small bulls crossed the fence and began feeding away and had no idea we were there. As we approached the fence line we got our first visual of a big bull. His antlers were covered in blood as he had just stripped his velvet off hours before. He was a definite shooter and he was heading our way perfectly. We sat and watched him for a while coming towards us when to our left we noticed an even bigger bull that still had all his velvet intact! I had now forgotten about the blood red antlered bull and my full attention was on the wider velvet bull. Itâ€™s not too often you get a chance at a full velvet bull moose that is over 50 inches wide! The two big bulls were about 30 yards from each other and about 100 yards directly north of us. They stood there for about 15 minutes as I tried to stay calm and composed. They slowly started working their way to the southeast to where the small spike bulls were feeding. I knew I had to belly crawl towards the east, as my shot would be way to far where they were going
to cross the fence. Myself, Matt and Chance all belly crawled along the fence trying to be fast enough, yet quiet enough, to cut the distance down and not alert the bulls to our presence. As the big bulls came to the fence there was a slough bottom that if they went around to the right I would get a shot and if they went left I would not. Luckily, the big velvet bull went right and as he came to the fence I decided to draw my bow and stand at the same time. As I rose, I figured he was about 40 yards. I grunted to stop him but as he stopped a fence post was right in line with his vitals. I could not shoot! The bull had now become somewhat alarmed and decided to slowly
trot and cross the fence. I kept grunting at him and he slowed to almost a stop. By now I figured he was 70 yards. I settled my 70-yard pin and released the arrow. I watched as the arrow dropped down into the big bull. The shot was a bit back but I could see that he was bleeding good! He began to trot again and he stopped just before entering the bush. As he stood there he began to wobble badly and as he took a step he almost tipped over. He managed to walk into the bush and out of sight. I looked back at Matt and Chance and confirmed that Matt had captured the hunt on video. We went to where we saw the arrow fall out and saw that it looked good! We were confident
that we could get to the bush line and decide whether to continue looking or back out and give him time. As we hit the bush line, Chance said, â€œWhatâ€™s thatâ€?. I lifted my binos up and sure enough he was lying about 40 yards inside the bush, on the ground and down for good! As we approached him we could not believe the size of his body and his antlers. He was way more than anything I could have ever hoped for. He measured 51 inches and his paddles were covered in a dark chocolate velvet with some white
marbling. We celebrated together and took tons of pictures and video. We were soon met in the bush by my cousins Mark, Travis, my Uncle Darwin, Ryan Friend and even the landowner and his son came to shake hands and join in the celebration. The work began and we soon had the bull hanging from the John Deer back at camp! I have a freezer full of the best meat there is and a trophy hanging on the wall to remember forever!
BGI’S SHED HUNTING I
t may sound obvious, and it is, but it is a factor that is also often overlooked. The key to successful shed hunting is to look in areas that the bucks were living when they shed their antlers. This can be accomplished in a few different ways. The most obvious one is to keep tabs on the bucks while they are nearing the time they will shed. The exact timing can vary from January through to April for the majority of the bucks. Factors affecting the timing include location and condition of the animals. Condition can be affected by a variety of factors but the main ones are the weather and snowfall immediately following the rut in November and December. The bucks will always get very run down through mid to late November and need a few weeks post rut to recover. If they do not get this, they can remain in poorer condition going into the heart of winter. A buck in poorer condition will most often experience a drop in testosterone earlier in the winter which triggers shedding of his antlers. It is also very important that the animals are not disturbed through the heart of winter, so ‘keeping tabs on animals’ should not include tromping through their bedding areas every few days. Not only will this hurt the animals and likely kill some individuals, but it will make them leave the area and lower your chances of finding sheds anyway. However, if you can find some vantage points to watch feeding areas in the mornings and evenings, you can get a good idea of exactly where they are hanging out. These scouring sessions should be treated like a hunt, with care being taken to play the wind so your scent does not drift into areas where the deer are feeding or bedding. Once you have a good idea of their habits, or if you are in an area that you know well, then there is little harm in searching feeding areas, even in the middle of winter. Again, these searches be conducted like a hunt, being mindful of the wind and ensuring your scent is not blowing straight into bedding areas at close range. Bedding areas should never be searched in the heart of winter for all the reasons already mentioned. Take notes on where the bedding areas are, and head in once the snow is melted and green up has started. Obviously, we don’t all have time, or even interest in spending the dead of winter freezing on hilltops watching deer to track where they shed, but thankfully there are easy ways to figure out where the deer have spent their winters. Even if you start from scratch in the spring, after the snow melts, with little knowledge of an area. The obvious ways are to talk to locals and landowners, use imagery and maps you can find online, and most importantly cover ground and pay attention to what you are seeing in the field. There is a big difference between
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going for a walk, and shed hunting. If you are not confident about where the bucks were when they shed their antlers, then going for walks should be your first step. ‘Walks’, as opposed to ‘shed hunting’ means covering ground quickly. Not the slow methodical approach of a shed hunt, but just covering as much ground as you can quickly to figure out where the deer wintered. It is quite obvious and can be noticed quickly once you find a spot. Signs of a deer wintering area include evidence of feeding, which can be shrubs that have been browsed, large amounts of droppings, or trails of droppings where many deer travelled, evidence where the ground has been tore up as the deer have dug through the snow, and presence of food sources (hay fields, spilled or piled grain, attractive shrubs such as chokecherries, saskatoons, etc., standing unharvested crops or swaths, green ground cover such as creeping cedars). Topography can also play a role with south facing slopes and windswept, open slopes being most attractive to animals through the winter. A walk through these areas can provide a lot of information on where the wildlife has wintered. Once you find an area with clear signs of winter feeding, then you can slow down and start the shed hunt. Another trick is that if you find one fresh shed, there is a good chance that you will find more fairly close. Late winter, deer can become herded up and often many bucks live, bed and feed together meaning all their antlers will be relatively close. If you time it just right when there is a little bit of snow left, then the deer trails will be blatently obvious as packed ice trails where the rest of the snow is melted. These trails are gold mines telling you where the animals were travelling and can identify both feeding and bedding areas depending which direction you follow it. There are not hard and fast rules when it comes to finding a lot of sheds while out hunting. Like any type of hunt, a key part
of having success is having realistic expectations. If your focus is on having fun, getting some exercise, enjoying the outdoors and finding a few sheds then your success is almost guaranteed. If you are dead set on a certain number or a certain size of shed to find in a season, then it there is a chance of failure. Generally, most shed hunters consider one shed per two hours of shed hunting pretty good over a whole season! For perspective this means that in a full eight hours, if you shed hunt steady, are experienced and have done your homework, you can expect four sheds to be a good day! Of course, with the way deer herd up in the winter you will sometimes have great luck and pickup 10 or 20 in a day, but this also means that often you will find nothing in a whole day. If you focus on having fun and enjoying the whole experience than none of that matters and it will be a great time every time out! Good luck on the shed trails this spring!
knows, and agrees upon the rules prior to starting. It can take the fun out of a shed hunt very quickly if someone has expectations that are not shared by the group
SHED HUNTING DO’S AND DON’TS
- Shed hunt at dusk or dawn in winter when animals are on the move, especially during winter. Being able to see clearly is so important, so full sun searching is much better anyway.
- If you see other people shed hunting an area, do go talk to them and share information both ways so you can avoid any conflicts - Make contact with locals living in the area who may see you out there close to their land or homes and wonder what you are doing wandering around in the springtime. Again they will often give you great information on where to look!
-Ask landowner permission before entering private land, often they will give you some great information on where to look!
- Shed hunt bedding areas in winter when the animals are already stressed (If you are constantly seeing animals or fresh beds then move out of the area)
- Focus on planning most shed trips in the middle of the day when the sun is bright and you can spot the sheds much easier
-Shed hunt directly upwind of bedding areas at close range
- Focus on open feeding areas through the winter where your likelihood of bumping animals is very low - Go slow! Focus your eyes both close and far. It is exciting to spot a shed hundreds of meters away but you will be amazed how many you do not see until you are right on top of it. - Shed hunt the thick bedding areas in spring once all the snow is gone and green up is started - Scout at long range with optics to avoid pushing animals around - Set ground rules if you shed hunt with others to avoid any potential conflict. Potential ideas for ground rules include: -Whoever finds the first antler of a set gets both sides once the match is found - Designated areas where each person is going to search - If any specific buck’s sheds go to a specific person, regardless of who finds it - Making sure everyone is ok with sheds being sold post hunt, if some want to do that - Ensure everyone knows the boundaries on where they can and cannot go - The biggest factor is just making sure everyone
-Proceed on land that is posted and you do not have permission - Give up if you see other footprints! Just because someone has already shed hunted the area does not mean they found everything - If you see other people shed hunting an area, do not go in and shed hunt right beside them!
SHED HEADS W
hat is a Shed Head? Let's start by saying it's a person who lives and breathes for antlers; someone who spends countless hours searching for cast off antlers of moose, deer, and elk. The desire to obtain these discarded trophies will drive a Shed Head to wear out the soles of many pairs of boots and lose sleep over finding "the other side". It's a passion driven by an adventurous spirit and the urge to wander. A Shed Head is a wanderer. We wander near and far, never satisfied with not knowing what could be around the next bend. A Shed Head is an addict; addicted to the feeling, when you spot that first antler. It's a rush, a feeling that I compare to arrowing a trophy buck or bull. I have found antlers that have given me the "after-shakes" and have matched up sets that have given me just as much satisfaction as if I would have killed the buck. If you are a shed antler hunter, you know the feeling that I am talking about.Â The feeling of relief, accomplishment, and happiness all at once is one like no other.Â Shed Heads are most often hunters as well. We spend all our time spare time in the trees, fields, prairies, and deserts, and if we aren't chasing game, we are looking for antlers. Looking for sheds is a big part of hunting. You get to know your quarry, the land they call home and how they use it. You learn about bedding areas, feeding areas and travel routes. This is vital to hunting success. Shed hunting every inch of a property year after year can give you an understanding of the game like nothing else. You can find some sets year after year and can learn certain deer, even becoming attached to some, almost like a friend.
Shed Heads scout and watch the herds year round, run cameras, and keep an account of all the game. It is a lifestyle, not a hobby. All this being said, a true Shed Head could surely be diagnosed as an obsessed and addicted wanderer. It is an addiction, but a healthy one! As an Indiana native trapper and whitetail hunter for over 30 years, my love of shed hunting led me to form the social media group, Shed Heads. I have discovered ways of finding hundreds of antlers in areas
where many can only find a handful. Shed hunting has always come naturally to me and I find that it fills the gap between deer and turkey season. It is now my main passion and focus. Myself, along with a select group of people from all over the country, have helped this small Facebook page grow into the largest collective group of shed hunters anywhere in the world. Meet the Shed Heads. Dan Ewaskowitz hails from the western banks of Lake Michigan near Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Dan has spent his life perfecting the art of collecting several years worth of antlers from a buck, then killing him at his peak as a mature trophy. With thousands of antlers to his credit and many true trophy kills, he is without a doubt the whitetail expert of Team Shed Heads. Mike Darby is the mountain man of the group. He can often
be found climbing the slopes nears his home in Post Falls, Idaho or searching the valleys below for big mule deer sheds with his dogs. He is a proficient hunter of elk and deer, tagging out where others cannot. Each year he collects several antlers from moose, elk, and mule deer. Then there is Eric Stanosheck who is the definition of a wanderer. Eric is our big game expert. He travels the continent in pursuit of big game from the brown bear in Alaska to the antelope on the plains of Wyoming. He consistently takes record book animals year after year. He also has found thousands of antlers, buys and sells them and has made a living as the "Antler Picasso", building one-of-a-kind pieces of art and lighting for hundreds of clients. Last but not least, is Jessie Gillard, our shed dog expert and
adventurer of the desert areas of Wyoming and the Colorado high plains. Jessie is the owner of Shed Soldier Dogs and has made a living training the best shed dogs in the business. He has also found hundreds of antlers every year from giant mule deer and elk. Jessie spends weeks at a time collecting piles of antlers out west, living like a true wild man. Many nights are
spent sleeping on the ground in the light of a campfire next to a pile
of antlers; the stuff of which our dreams are made. Shed hunting is a sport for all; both young and old. It is a great way to stay healthy and active and take in the scenery and fresh air. Whether it is a full-time venture, a weekend pastime, or a once a year opportunity. If you are an obsessed, addicted wanderer with passion for antlers, then you too, my friend, are a Shed Head.
ten reasons why you aren't
finding more shed antlers
- By Craig Bell
10. You're looking straight ahead and not scanning from side to side. You're not looking behind you every once in awhile. 9. You're looking at your cell phone , on Facebook, Instagram, etc. instead of looking around for antlers. 8. You're looking in places where there are no deer during shedding time. 7. You're walking too fast. 6. You're walking an area with a friend and more worried about where they are and what they're finding then paying attention to your surroundings. 5. You're searching for bedding areas too early in the season, pushing the bucks off of the property. 4. You're not walking enough. You're not covering enough area. The average mileage per one antler in the midwest is 5 miles. 3. You're looking for a whole antler, while you need to be looking for antler shapes, "pieces" or "points" of tines, the arch of a Tines Down Antler. Anything to tip you off to the presence of an antler. 2. You've been beat to the good spot. Someone else has watched the deer and figured out when they shed. They beat you to the antlers that were surely there. Atl's (As They Lay) for the other guy. 1. And last but not least the number one reason why you're not finding antlers is you are in your recliner or on the couch. www.shedheads.org
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UNEXPECTED MEMORIES BY: CHAD WILKINSON
often wonder if everyone does it, or perhaps I am the only one? Often I find myself dreaming of things that I know will almost certainly never happen. The obvious one is winning the lottery. I am not sure why but I know exactly how I would dole out my winnings to friends and family and how I would spend or save it. From a hunting perspective, I have similar foolish thoughts. My two most recurring are to shoot a 200” typical whitetail, and to find a 100” fresh whitetail shed. I know both will likely never happen, but it doesn’t mean I can’t dream about it. These are a couple of my goals and they help drive me during those long sits in the blind or slow shedding days when I cover 20 miles only to pick up a couple chalky old white remnants of antler. It all started in Early December. My Dad had went and checked one of my trail cameras that I had not had time to get to in a few weeks, and sent me a text with a picture of a ‘pretty good one’. When I opened the pictures, I could not really decipher what I was looking at? It was a monster whitetail buck for sure, but just exactly what was on his head was impossible to see! There were points going every direction and just a crazy mass of bone like nothing I had ever seen. Some texts back and forth with my Dad, and then my wife determined it was a huge buck
but, with only a couple days left in the season, we would leave him to try get a better idea of his age and size. I was already tagged out or I would not have been near as patient as they were. The season came to a close and I left my camera out for a couple weeks until I could finally go get it. My memory card was loaded
with 100’s of pictures of this monster buck. We were all blown away by his size and uniqueness. We estimated he was easily a 180” buck. Since the season was over and the winter was unseasonably warm with almost no snow into December, I decided to hike into the area and scout it out to get a better idea of where the deer were living, feeding and bedding. I mapped out exactly the habitat that I thought the deer were using, including some open ridges and big openings that I knew they would feed heavily when winter finally hit. The unseasonably warm weather continued for a few more weeks and the deer were in great shape. I stayed out of the area, not wanting to stress out the deer or change their habits for no reason. For the most part, the nice winter continued into late January but as I checked the weather, I saw the forecast was for a blizzard with almost a foot of snow forecasted. We only had a couple inches of snow through the winter up to that time, and something told me to head in and take a quick look for the monster set of sheds before the snow hit later that day. I only had a couple hours before having to chase kids around at their sports and the wind was already picking up, so once the sun was up I headed out with two hours to quickly walk the ridgelines and openings where I knew the deer fed. I was surprised how the little bit of snow had already drifted in and ended up having to park about a mile away and walk in. As I got closer to the areas that I thought they would spend the majority of their time feeding, I was pleased to see all the feeding activity as the deer had pawed and cratered up all the openings. Finally, I got to the best big ridge where I knew the deer would feed heavily. I slowly made my way along, scanning the south slope as I went. I looked at my watch and was disappointed to see I only had about another half hour before I would have to head back. I picked up the pace, hoping to get to one particular big bowl where it was evident the deer spent a lot of time feeding each winter. The deer trails into the area confirmed this and I found a good spot to sit and glass. I spent about 15 minutes glassing but did not see a single antler. I was a bit disappointed, but happy that I had found some great areas to come back to in the spring. I could see heavy trails heading south into the thick cover and knew the deer would be bedded in the thick brushland around the wetlands half a mile south
of where I was. I looked at my watch and knew it was time to head back. As I got up something caught my eye and there, only about 15 feet from where was sitting lie the biggest antler I had ever laid eyes on. It looked like a big knarly pine root. So dark and massy, I could not believe my eyes. I slowly inched up to it, enjoying every step as I got closer and closer and could see more and more of this incredible bone. It sounds foolish, but hard core shed hunters will know the feeling. I knew it was likely a once in a lifetime find and enjoyed it. As I picked up the antler, it was a feeling of shock and happiness combined with a twinge of guilt and regret. The reason is because the antler was way bigger than I thought! The trail camera pictures of the buck did no justice, and I knew it must have come from an old age, prime plus whitetail buck who we should have tried a lot harder to harvest during the season. I felt guilty for not pushing my wife and Dad harder to hunt this buck, but at the same time I was overjoyed at the find. I took many pictures, stared in disbelief, then finally remembered that there was a match somewhere! I began to scan the area for the match when it hit me that I needed to get home, now! I looked at my watch and knew I was already on the verge of being late so I turned and headed back to the truck. When I came off the ridge I went through a big opening probably about two square miles which was littered with deer sign. As the wind picked up and the snow started to fall, I thought to myself, “The match is probably in this clearing somewhere but I will have to wait until spring to find it now!”. I cut across the opening in a random straight line to the far side where the trail went off to the truck. About
a third of the way across, I looked over and saw a massive base to an antler sticking out of the snow about 20 feet away. I could not believe my luck as I pulled it out of the snow and it was the match! I had found both of the antlers I wanted in about a two hour shed hunt. I could not believe how much bigger the match was too. I knew we had grossly underestimated the deer and he was way over 200”. There were probably about a dozen bucks on my trail camera in the area in November, and the only two sheds I found were the ones I wanted. Luck was on my side that day and it was meant to be. Fast forward to this past February. My daughters were now four and five, and we finally had a really nice weekend weather wise. They have always been somewhat interested in sheds but were too young to go out much. This weekend I really wanted to head out so I asked them if they wanted to come along. They
both jumped at the opportunity with emphatic “Yes’s”! It helped that I sweetened the deal by offering to take the snowmobile and pull them behind it on the sleigh all day. Sunday morning came and we were packing up and heading out. Then we had a big setback as the snowmobile would not start. I explained to the girls that they might have to stay home when my four year old Camdyn blurted out, “That’s OK daddy, you can just pull us in the sleigh.” I laughed but when I looked down I saw they were both staring at me with very serious faces. “Ok, I guess I could,” I said, not very confidently wondering how much pulling I could do in the foot of powdery snow we had. We headed out and I found a spot that I knew held lots of deer and an area where we could search the feeding areas without disturbing where the deer bedded. I loaded the girls up in the sleigh and we headed out. It was a great time, with 90 pounds of
noise making weights in the sleigh, it was all I could do to keep them moving but we made a plan to spend the day shed hunting so I was going to live up to it. I kept telling myself that it was good because it made me walk slower and look more closely. We were in the hills so I got a break once in awhile as they slid down the hills, having a great time. About 20 minutes in, I spotted tines off a heavy old four point I knew well. I drug the sleigh to within about 10 feet of it then stopped and reminded the girls what they were doing. They refocused and Camdyn spotted it right away and instantly got up and ran over to it, yelling, ‘Antler’ as she scooped it up out of the snow with so much pride! It was awesome to see. She carried that shed for the next hour until we headed back to the truck to head to a new spot. We got setup again at the new spot and about 10 minutes in I spotted two big, dark, heavy tines sticking out of the snow. The shed was mostly buried with about 2” of two tines sticking out. I was not sure they would see it with all the other branches and sticks in the way. This time I stopped about 20 yards away to remind the girls what they were doing, then continued on and at about 10 feet Embrie spotted the tines and shouted, “I see a shed”! Camdyn instantly jumped
Hamilton Greenwood Photo
up and started running! What happened next, I must admit, made me roll around laughing. Embrie jumped up, caught up to her, tackled her, then they fought their way, crawling to the shed with Embrie coming up with it. It was a memorable sight and they were both super excited when they pulled it out of the snow to see it was a heavy 70” dark chocolate shed! Embrie pronounced that she would add it to her shed collection in her room, along with the half dozen she collected the previous year, and also explained that it was her biggest shed and probably bigger than anyone else would find. When we got home, both girls sprinted inside with their treasures and proceeded to tell their Mommy the whole story about how they found them. Embrie even added in the part about how hers was buried and Daddy just walked right by it and didn’t even see it, but she did. I managed to record both of their finds on my phone, and they have asked to watch them over and over 100 times and laugh and beam with pride every time they do. I never imagined that a three hour shed hunt where I almost died of exhaustion with two noisy girls would be so much more memorable and relived than finding my once in a lifetime shed, but I can honestly say it is. I replay my day with them, and will
try to recreate it as often as I can, more than my 100â€? find. It is funny how life works out and sometimes your most special moments come when you least expect it. Needless to say, it will be a shed hunting season that is etched in my mind forever,
and is another example of why shed hunting is becoming so popular and has no much potential as an activity for the whole family to enjoy.
James Knowles lives in the heartland of Alaska, but even there finding a pair of locked bull moose is a very rare occurrence. James had a good friend tell him about two bulls he saw locked from his plane in October and the next spring James decided to hike in to see if he could find them. Sure enough, the pair of 60+â€? bulls were still locked in the position that ultimately lead to both of their deaths.
ne of my good friends first told me of the amazing spectacle he had spotted while flying over a remote part of Alaska. It was close enough to my home in Manley Hot Springs that I thought I may be able to find them. As we spoke about what he had seen in October, it was clear that one moose was still standing while the other was down, but they appeared to be locked. I knew there was a good chance that they had broken free and I would find nothing, but the thought of the potential once in a lifetime find kept me thinking of those moose throughout the winter. It would be a relief and I would be happy they had survived if I found nothing, but I also knew this was a chance to find something that almost nobody else ever has. I had to take the chance even though it meant a long hike in, and potentially loaded with a lot of weight on the way out! Once the snow finally receded I hiked it to see what I could find. As soon as I got close to the area that I expected to find them, there they were! Out in the open, in plain sight and sticking up out of the willows, frozen in time. As I got closer and closer, it became clear that not only were these two locked moose, but were two big mature bulls! Both would have been over 60â€? wide when they met up for the fight to the death. Upon closer inspection, I could
TRULY RARE BY: JAMES KNOWLES
see that one of the animals had a broken neck, and the other appeared to have fallen victim to predators after not being able to escape. Unfortunately, when I tried to move them they were both still frozen in the ground and I could not budge them at all! I headed home, but with a plan to return. The next weekend found me loaded up with some tools so I could dig them out of the frozen ground. It was a big job, but I managed to get them both out, and home with me! The size of
each animal was truly impressive, although I was cursing the weight a few times on the hike out! It is a find of a lifetime and one that I am very fortunate to have seen with my own eyes. My plan is to get the skulls cleaned up and then put them back into the locked position in a display case with some pictures so that I can share my find with anyone who wants to see it! I am blessed to live in the heartland of Alaska, but even here such a find is definitely once in many lifetimes.
Five Year Wait
BY: SHERLYN INDENBOSCH
Sherlyn Indenbosch was a dedicated whitetail hunter with her archery tackle for five long years before the stars aligned and she was able to tag a tremendous whitetail! She experienced countless ups and downs throughout the five years, but grew as a hunter, passing many younger bucks while waiting for her opportunity at a very impressive whitetail buck, her first of her hunting career!
or the past four years, every August I have added my quiver to my set up and patiently, painstakingly tuned my bow for broad heads, preshot and numbered my arrows, cautiously twisted my razor sharp QAD broad heads onto my best performing arrows, wanting to leave absolutely nothing to chance. Finally, in September, I've gone out and climbed into our tree along with my husband and patiently waited for that perfect opportunity to shoot a whitetail buck. And for the first two years that opportunity came, and then went again. The first year, my target buck ducked and pivoted causing me to pierce a hole through his hide and inevitably a small amount of flesh on the top of his back above his spine. Needless to say, after I watched him bound away with my arrow bouncing precariously on his back, I was never to see him again, though I continued to put in time until the hours of that year’s hunting season expired. The following year, I again followed my perfectionist’s routine in preparation and again starting putting in as many hours
as I could based on the willingness of people around me to watch my son. Fairly early in the season, the opportunity of my year came as a nice buck came out of the trees and sauntered along my desired path that led 25 yards to the left of my tree. However, as he got closer he stopped suddenly, turned and walked directly in front of my tree perhaps to cross the fence on the right side of the tree. As he passed in front of me at 30 yards I slowly pivoted and started to draw. The reason I say started is because I could only half draw before my elbow bumped against the tree trunk. Trying desperately to make it work, the buck obviously noticed my struggle, stopped, snorted, stared, stomped and fled. Trembling, I let down my small amount of draw and watched as he disappeared into the safety of the trees. After a whispered consultation with Dan I slid forward in my seat, drew back my bow in multiple directions and positions to see where my new range was. When satisfied that I could now draw in that wretched direction should the need
arise, I tried to get comfortable and settled, hoping that another deer might still come our direction before daylight ran out. Imagine my surprise when about 20 minutes later, the SAME buck came out of the SAME spot in the trees on the SAME trail! I was really shaking this time, trying to stay still enough to avoid detection until I had opportunity to draw. The buck continued in the same manner, though perhaps more cautiously than the first time and proceeded to stop at the SAME spot, turn and continue to walk on the exact SAME course he had walked previously. I was thinking it was an impossible coincidence but also if it were happening again then I was absolutely meant to shoot this buck, as it was a replay of the previous scenario. However, as I again went to draw, somehow once more I was unable to complete my draw because of the same tree trunk. So once again my second interaction with this buck was an exact replication of my first and incredulously I watched him dash away completely unharmed toward his refuge. When practicing drawing in that direction I must have misjudged where he'd actually been or had the freedom of more motion when there hadn't been a target deer in the equation and I obviously was trying to avoid detection. I was incredibly disappointed as I correctly believed these two failed encounters were my opportunities of the year to complete my goal of shooting a Pope and Young whitetail. However, later in this same year while sitting a different stand by myself, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to shoot a whitetail doe from about 30 yards while she was quartering away after passing under my tree. It was a perfect shot that missed the heart but opened up the aorta at the top of the heart and the doe made it less than 60 yards before hitting the ground. This was my first big game animal and was an encouragement and a confidence builder. I realized that the opportunities do come, everything lines up and for a perfectionist that is important. I also came to the realization that usually those moments are extremely short and there is very little time to seize them and one has
to be prepared, physically and mentally to take advantage of those moments when every detail comes together to make a harvest possible. Sometimes the hunter even has the ability to make choices and change some of these variables themselves if they are quick thinking, have some past experience and are innovative. I know that the previous three experiences definitely conditioned me and helped me arrive in my fifth year a little more determined to seize that opportunity and make it happen because it wasn't just going to happen by itself. Following my third and fourth years, where I was able to put in little time because of the blessing of being pregnant with and the arrival of our second child, I had no opportunities on either does or bucks and once again postponed my goal for the following hunting season. I started this season out with little optimism, given the small amount of time I had to invest in the tree stand, as well as the large number of evenings that I sat a tree stand seeing nothing but the tree tops whipping wildly in the wind, as well as having a hard time getting into our stand in time because of dropping the kids off or getting out
of the house in time. This evening was one in which we just couldn't make it out early enough and the moment our sitter arrived, we hit the road. Walking into a new area, we could already see deer in the field across from the river where we had wanted to sit but we hoped to walk along the river, hidden by the bank and still get to our location. About three quarters of the way there, we busted out some deer across the river and shortly after that a group of deer on the same shore winded us and crossed back over. Glassing them up on the far bank before they disappeared I saw does, a few small bucks and a tall, cagey looking buck. Following some quick texting between my husband and his brother, Ivan, who had hunted this location the evening prior, had us trying to retrace our footsteps and set up on the bank downstream where Ivan said the deer would be crossing or continuing forward to the pump house that we had originally been headed to. After spotting a pair of two deer, one being a decent buck, close to the pump house on the edge of the field, we decided to go forward alongside the river behind the bank, climb up and shoot him. Not knowing how far we'd come, we snuck a peek too soon and blew them out, though we were oblivious to the fact until we took our next look further up the river. We then continued the rest of the way to the pump shack and stood there in the doorway on the side facing away from the river and toward the field, in my pessimistic perspective, to wait until dark so we could go home without alerting more deer to our presence. We then proceeded to watch the deer cross the river downstream just as Ivan had figured, and let me reiterate for his sake, Ivan was right. We could also see deer coming up over the bank
upstream of us. Normally, I would give myself a small pep talk before and during the quiet wait time of an evening hunt, telling myself to expect something to happen and to be ready for that perfect moment of alignment to arrive and to expound on that opportunity. In contrast, this time I was instructing myself to enjoy the moment of having a break from the kids, being outdoors in nature, the quality time doing something I loved alongside my husband and enjoy the beautiful weather because there was definitely not going to be any opportunities or star alignments or harvests tonight because we'd already done so many things wrong. There was no way a perfect shot opportunity could come out of this evening. After standing there for about 20 minutes, quietly and peacefully, with a few whispered conversations, Dan heard the noise of hoof on rock and after peeking around the edge of the shed, whispered quietly for me to draw my bow! I obeyed without question and seconds later a small buck came from behind the shed at 15 yards. With a wooden fence between myself and the deer, I only had a very small 3x3 foot window that I had to shoot through. This gave me little time to decide if I wanted this buck or not, but after quickly defining my specific goal of shooting a Pope and Young deer, I decided to let him walk, or in this case, he actually paused and then bolted into the field and stopped again. I intended to wait until he stopped looking at me before letting down my bow and as I stood there another buck walked
out. Again, I had a split second to decide if I wanted to shoot him and taking one look at his tall wacky looking tines, I chose yes! Missing the first hole in the fence I swiveled slightly, settled my 20 yard pin through the second hole and squeezed my trigger finger. Due to the fact that he was still walking, completely oblivious to our presence, I shot him a little too far back, though had I even considered leading my shot, I probably still couldn't have because of the small section of fence that I shot through. Both bucks startled and dashed into the field where they stopped, looking around bewildered while I, thinking only of a friend that didn't get an second arrow into her elk, was slowly, carefully selecting a second arrow from my quiver and trying to nock it before they continued to run.
I don’t think they could see my movements at all because I was standing directly in front of the darkened doorway of the shed and so they slowly started to walk away from us. Dan started to whisper ranges while I drew back my bow again, completely calm and focused. My buck was quartering sharply away from us and as Dan was whispering “55 yards”, I was contemplating exactly where to shoot him for it to pass through his vitals. After having one arrow in him in a less than ideal location there was no way I was going to let my hesitation cause this beautiful animal to suffer a slow death. He suddenly stopped, turned fully broadside and looked back at me once more and without my brain registering Dan’s whispered, “57,” I raised my bow mentally counting 20 pin, 30 pin, 40 pin, 50 pin and splitting pins I squeezed the trigger once more as approximately 53 yards passed my target spot. I followed through, didn’t watch my arrow fly and as the deer was once again running, turned to Dan and asked, “It felt like a perfect shot, how was it?” Dan, who was still watching through his binos figured I must have shot slightly low and probably hit the shoulder as there wasn’t a lot of penetration. I was so bothered, “How could I have managed two shots on a whitetail and screwed them both up?” We watched both deer disappear over a small hill and a couple minutes later, just the small buck appeared on the next hill and stopped and waited, looking behind him into a small marsh where my buck must have stopped. The loyal buck waited there a long time, before moving on just before the last of legal light. We walked out quickly so we could glass into the marsh and maybe see where he bedded before heading home to let the shots that I had taken do their work. We weren’t able to see him in the fading light and had to go home not knowing the final outcome. I strongly felt our decision to leave him was the right one as I really didn’t want to risk bumping him and possibly never finding him again. As hopefully all hunters feel, I was simply hoping he would die quickly and not suffer. Going to bed that night wasn’t too hard, being the realist I am, I convinced myself that he was more than likely going to die and
me not sleeping wasn't going to change that and I might as well get a good nightâ€™s sleep. In the morning, we packed up the kids and headed back to the scene the night before. We found him immediately from the crows flying around and based on the damage the birds and coyotes had done, he must not have been alive very long. While the overnight scenario was not what I would have chosen, I was immensely relieved that I had killed him and thrilled that I'd finally completed my goal! And what a deer he was, I realized that I hardly knew what he actually looked like or how big he really was in real life. What a feeling to lay hands on such a trophy after the many hours, opportunities and learning experiences that I'd had along the way. And the circumstances of this harvest will serve as experience for my future hunting as there are things I've learned or will definitely do different for my next big game harvest. And I've come to realize that though the opportunity arrives, things are rarely perfect but we prepare the best we can and we react quickly and with our past experience as a guide. The more we experience, the better hunters we will be. Despite best intentions, we still have limitations of inexperience that we cannot avoid and we still learn best by doing and not by teaching. So if the opportunity arises, without being foolish or overly zealous, take it, make something out of it. Take what you have to work with and shoot ethically and learn from the things that don't go as planned.
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The Legend of BY: CHRIS PARENTEAU
Chris Parenteau was consumed for a few years by a buck he nicknamed Splits. He made the difficult decision to pass the buck as a 180 class youngster in hopes that he would blow up and become world class. He did just that, and Chris watched him grow through velvet and into the fall as a regular visitor on his trail camera. Despite a valiant effort, Chris was not able to tag the big deer, but another lucky hunter did. Chris’s big sheds, from the year he passed Splits have an unofficial score of 175 6/8” gross (with spread credit) and the next year the buck scored an impressive 200 3/8”!
t was a long journey with the buck that I called "Splits," but I finally got closure. The last two years had been a blast watching him grow into a great buck of a lifetime. I let him walk away one sunny afternoon the year before he disappeared, knowing his best years were in front of him. I knew if I let him walk another year that he would grow into a world class buck! Last year, it was a long wait for the day he would shed his antlers. I went out every week to top off the grain pile to keep him alive to see what the outcome would be the next year with another year of growth. I was so fortunate to find his massive sheds in February! It did not take long for him to show up again! It was an early spring day when he walked into camera range with massive, thick antlers just starting to grow a top his head! The year was a rollercoaster of a ride watching him grow those massive antlers in velvet. Each week slowly getting bigger and bigger, and more and more impressive. I was happy with my decision to pass and let him reach his potential. September finally arrived and I was set and ready for the moment we would cross paths again! I had my Excalibur Micro dialed in and ready to go. It was go time! Then the day he started shedding his velvet was another crazy ride as he disappeared three days before season opened and was completely gone for a full ten days. Of course, the worst thoughts went through my head, “Someone must have hit him with a vehicle,” or “Maybe he got poached”? Despite the setback, I sat opening day for five days straight without a single sighting of him at all on camera.
Sunday came and a family gathering was in the works so I sat only the morning and left the stand at noon. Monday came and I switched cards. Sitting in the blind to wait once again and wait for the chance for us to cross paths. Checking the card as I sat flipping through the pictures, I could not believe my eyes! There he was, back smiling for the camera at 5:30 pm Sunday! I was sick beyond words. Truly, I can say that is how I felt, knowing if I was there that Sunday afternoon this story would have ended differently. The season was long, waiting every day to once again cross paths with the now legendary buck, but it didn't happen as he
proved to be one smart old buck! For some reason, it was not meant to be. I will never forget the day I got the picture message that he was taken by another hunter! In many ways, it was the worst day of my life. I still wanted to see him one last time so I went on a quest to find out who the lucky hunter was in the picture I received. Dec 11th, well after the season ended, rolled around and at scoring night I walked in and noticed "Splits" sitting there on the table! My heart skipped a beat. It was a pleasure talking with the lucky hunter and putting the chase of the greatest buck I have ever put my eyes on to an end!
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MATCH IT UP BY: RODNEY MUSIELAK
Rodney Musielak has had some great luck over the years searching for sheds on one particular bean field. He encountered a monster buck there and hunted him throughout the season, but did not have another encounter. In January of 2018, he decided to try his luck at finding the big deer’s sheds and it paid off bigtime with a matched set that came off that same big deer! The set comes in with a score of 188”, so even with a conservative 18” spread credit, it is easily a 200” whitetail!
t was early January of 2017 when my wife and I saw a monster buck along with another big buck standing out in the open in broad daylight! There was ice on the ground and it was a cold day and they were on their feet. They were both just hanging out in the same beanfield as I took video. The one buck was a true monster, and I quickly made a plan to hunt him. It all worked out, and I ended up hunting that very spot right through until the end of the season. Unfortunately, I never laid eyes on either one of those deer again!Â In the exact field where I saw these two buck, over the years I have found many sheds. The landowners usually leave some standing crops for the wildlife and if we get cold weather and snow the deer really pound the standing crops. When the temperature drops it is always a key food source for the animals in the area. With that piece of information, I knew that January of 2018 would be a good time to scour the field for antlers. On January 17th, 2018, I
took a walk in the same field and found the right antler to that same monster buck I had encountered and videoed, but hunted unsuccessfully. I looked for at least two more hours and didn't find the other side so I headed home, happy that I had one side but also wondering where the other side could be? I couldnâ€™t sleep at all that night, knowing that the other side of the giant was still out there, so on January 18th I got up early and headed back out to the field with one thing on my mind, I had to find the match! I walked for several hours through all the thickets around the field but it was no avail. I had pretty much given up and made the tough decision to
head back to the truck. As I headed back to the truck, I was actually pretty aggravated, thinking that I was never going to find the matching shed! Then, on the way back to the truck, I decided to go back to where I found the right antler. I got to the spot and stood there for a moment, looking around and just thinking about where it could be. As I stood looking around I remembered how the antler was laying,
so I had a good idea of which direction the deer was heading when he lost that antler. I looked towards the direction that I figured he must have been heading, and there was a beaten-down path through the standing beans headed in the same direction. I headed north on that trail across the bean field and when it came to the other side of the field and headed into the woods, there were two heavily-used deer trails. One looked a little more well used than the other, so I took it and headed down the trail to the right. It was only about 20 yards inside the woods when I looked up to see the other side to my giant! Persistence paid off for me, and that one last look is when I finally matched him up! I had the deer officially scored he ended up scoring 188 inches without a spread credit so either way you look at it he is a 200-inch deer and likely a once in a lifetime find!
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Special shed hunting issue! Giant whitetails, mule deer, moose, elk. Hunting, archery, record book bucks, family and youth hunts.
Published on Mar 17, 2018
Special shed hunting issue! Giant whitetails, mule deer, moose, elk. Hunting, archery, record book bucks, family and youth hunts.