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Spring 2019 issue CANADA/USA 6.99

COVER STORY

GNARLY CARL, THE SMART OLD BUCK OF A LIFETIME Danny Adrian FEATURE ARTICLE

HIGH NOON WITH OLD HANK Allie Ritchie


Publisher: Big Game Illustrated Media email: info@biggameillustrated.com www.biggameillustrated.com Senior Editors: & Circulation:

Chad Wilkinson, Devin Gorder & Cody Forsberg

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Carol Wilkinson

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Dougal Muir at Muir Associates

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32 Feature Editorial GNARLY CARL, THE SMART OLD BUCK OF A LIFETIME! By Danny Adrian

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November came and I took my regular two weeks off to hunt. I stuck to my guns and made it a goal to get my elk.

HIGH NOON WITH OLD HANK ON OPENENING DAY By Allie Ritchie

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We are surrounded by prime hunting territory for whitetail, mule deer, elk, moose, upland birds, migratory birds, coyotes, gophers.


In This Issue HIGH NOON WITH OLD HANK ON OPENENING DAY 06 By Allie Ritchie

A TRUE GIANT MOOSE & THE BUSH WHACKING CREW!

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A MASSIVE BUCK IN THE MIDDLE OF A DOZEN DOES

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GNARLY CARL, THE SMART OLD BUCK

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06

By Blake Dixon

By Lindsay Wilkinson

By Danny Adrian

AT THE END OF AN INTENSE HUNT,

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NEVER HOLLER ‘WHOA’ ON A HARD PULL!

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IT’S A STORY, A TRADITION, A LIFESTYLE

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KYLE’S BIG DREAM

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NOT EVEN STEVEN!

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THE 17 POINTER MASS OF MESS

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SNAP, THE MAGNIFICENT WHITETAIL BUCK

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SASKATCHEWAN BUCK OF A LIFETIME!

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By Tyler Wasnica

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By Mark, hunting with Clay Charlton

By Amanda Lynn Mayhew

By Kyle Bueckert

By Graham Comfort

By Paul Soke

By Parry Boyko

By Ian Blocha

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HIGH NOON WITH OLD HANK ON OPENING DAY By Allie Ritchie

I am lucky enough to live in a small town in rural southwest Saskatchewan, where the speed limit is 20, we meet at the post office for coffee, and have ample opportunity to spend time outdoors. The fall of 2017 came around with a hot, dry September. The unseasonal heat kept the deer and elk movement to a minimum. Despite this, I was seeing some good bucks on and off and hoping to get a quick start on the bow season. On September 4th, I was able to start the bow season off with me taking a beautiful full velvet 176-inch mule deer.

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I am in shock as I keep asking him, “Is it him?!! Is he the right one?! Is it really him?!� It was him alright. I am still in disbelief over this hunt. It was Incredible. I had my buck, the one that had been haunting my dreams. A once in a lifetime buck, I had him down before noon on opening day.

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We are surrounded by prime hunting territory for whitetail, mule deer, elk, moose, upland birds, migratory birds, coyotes, gophers. You name it and we can hunt it. There is no arguing we have incredible hunting right at our back door, but it wasn’t until November of 2017 that I finally took advantage of it. With my husband and son in the truck, I walked over the hill in a stubble field and pulled the trigger of my .243, landing my first big game animal. A nice 4 x 4 whitetail buck. I am not sure exactly what finally had me so motivated to fill that tag. It was probably a combination of rising food costs, and my newly found addiction to Steven Rinella’s Meateater on Netflix. 2017 would prove to be an epic whitetail season, first my husband landed an absolute monster of a buck during the black powder season, then myself with my very first deer, then came my brother in law with a beauty 5x5, and my father in law wrapped it up with a gorgeous 6x6. Needless to say I was hooked. Not only that, but I wanted to expand on that experience, and having brought home the smallest rack that year I also wanted to challenge myself to do even better.

“I walked over the hill in a stubble field and pulled the trigger of my .243, landing my first big game animal.!” With my husband and son in the truck, I walked over the hill in a stubble field and pulled the trigger of my .243, landing my first big game animal. A nice 4 x 4 whitetail buck. I am not sure exactly what finally had me so motivated to fill that tag. It was probably a combination of rising food costs, and my newly found addiction to Steven Rinella’s Meateater on Netflix. 2017 would prove to be an epic whitetail season, first my husband landed an absolute monster of a buck during the black powder season, then myself with my

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very first deer, then came my brother in law with a beauty 5x5, and my father in law wrapped it up with a gorgeous 6x6. Needless to say I was hooked. Not only that, but I wanted to expand on that experience, and having brought home the smallest rack that year I also wanted to challenge myself to do even better. The first time I ever held a bow was 11 years ago. It was during my honeymoon, working at a Bear camp in northern Alberta. The cook at the camp had her own bow and took me out to the road to let me try my hand. I remember it like it was yesterday, I could only get to full draw about 4 times. I could not believe how hard it was to pull, she chuckled and told me about some exercises I could do to strengthen those muscles. Fast forward nine years later, add a 30 pound toddler and some wicked awesome mom muscles. I wanted that opportunity again. I started researching bows, releases, you name it. FPS, draw weight adjustments, performance discs found me coming back to the Bowtech Eva Shockey Signature Series. I had my sights set, so we sold all of our old video games and consoles to get the cash together. Then we came across a wonderful couple near Winnipeg who had one for sale. On May 14, 2018, I brought my first bow home. From that very first release I was hooked. I spent the next three and half months on my driveway shooting 20, 30, 40 and then 50 yards. On June 14th I finally received the email that I had been awarded my very first mule deer tag. I knew right away I wanted to

make that harvest with my bow. My husband was also drawn for mule deer, but in the zone north of mine. He actually put off scouting in his zone to focus on my first mule deer hunt. So together with our two year old son we spent countless days and hours spotting for, “Moms first Mule Deer” We had a few nice bucks on our radar but none that felt quite like, “The One”. Friends of ours suggested moving further west in our search as there was a really nice old buck out that way. While searching for, “Old Buck” , “Hank” happened. We spent the next three weeks leading up to opening day trying our best to keep tabs on him. Just when we thought we had his patterns figured out he completely vanished, six days before hunting season. I tried not to let my hopes get too high, watching him in all his velvet glory through the scope all those evenings, but I was pretty bummed, thinking he must have moved on. I reminded myself “Big bucks don’t get big by being dumb.” The night before opening day like any other night, as I ripped out of the house to go look for Hank. Again, I had no luck. I scurried back home with a few minutes of daylight to spare and shot a few arrows, just to ease my mind that I was ready. After a couple bulls eyes at 50 yards, I figured I would be able to sleep knowing that I had done all I could to be prepared. Not a chance, the nerves, the excitement, the hours and hours of practice, the spotting, it was going to come to the test.

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With the blink of an eye morning came. I had my gear packed up, and a few sandwiches waiting at the door. We drove to the fence line that we had seen him walk numerous times in the morning. I hopped out of the truck and got settled in. Just then, some young bucks and a few does began to make their way out of the coulee. “Perfect, he should be right behind them” I thought to myself. That’s when two gloriously annoying hawks began to circle above me, screeching away for 10 minutes or more. I cannot be sure; but I do believe it was them who sounded the alarm and turned the deer in their tracks. What I didn’t know yet was that Hank was actually coming from the other direction, and turned around when he seen the others change course. After having my cover blown, I messaged my husband to come back and pick me up to figure out our new plan. That is when we saw Hank and one other buck bed down, smack dab in the middle of a beautiful wheat field! We made our game plan and waded through the waist high crop. We came to the green space that we had seen Hank and that second buck lie down. We were 24 yards away from him when we begin whispering to each other, “Maybe they left?” “But where, and why would they move?” We were beginning to let out guard down when finally Doug grabbed my shoulder, “Get Down!” There, right in front of us, tips of antlers were sticking out of the greenery. I swear I would have stepped right on top of them they were hidden so well. No way to tell which direction their bodies lay, it was only tips. We decided to wait a few minutes. I calmed my nerves. I drew back and we made a subtle noise, hoping they would stand up out of curiosity, instead, they bolt, not even giving me a sliver of hope for a shot. Then as if to taunt me, they both stop broadside at 57 yards. Just past my comfort zone, but it was incredible. They stuck around for what felt like forever. We could only watch as they slowly made their way up over the hill. We walked out of that field wondering if we would ever be lucky enough to get another chance. “I mean really, what are the odds,” is all I could think. We tracked them back into the coulee attempted to make an educated guess as to what draw they may come up out of, but as we crawled over the top they came up one draw over about 200 yards west of our location. Back to the truck we went. We watched from afar as they made their way down a fence line till we eventually lost sight. We drove to the other side of the section and my husband suggested I walk over the hill and see if I could get eyes on them. I was thinking to myself, “For fear of driving them out of the area, maybe we should leave them for today, and try again tomorrow,” but not wanting to waste an opportunity, I obliged. Taking my bow

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and the rangefinder I went for a hike, as I got to the top of the hill my heart jumped into my throat when I realized that they were making their way right to me. I backed up, temporarily losing site of them but improving my position. When I peeked back over the hill they had vanished. I kept making my way down the hill, thinking they must be tucked under the next ridge. Nothing. I sat in bewilderment, wondering how on earth they just disappeared. That is when, for a brief moment, the second buck stood up, they were bedded in a bush 45 yards in front of me. He had no idea I was there, raked the branches of the bush and laid back down. I message Doug, “I am 45 yards from the bush they are laying in, I need to make sure its him.” It took me a few minutes to determine what is antler and what is bush. All I can see are points. I cannot even be sure who is who, or if it is Hank on my side of the bush or if it’s the wrong buck on my side.

“I slither down the hill on my back with my bow on my belly through the tall prairie grass, skirting the wind.” I slither down the hill on my back with my bow on my belly through the tall prairie grass, skirting the wind. I pop back up at 30 yards under perfect cover where I watch, and wait, and watch, and wait. I wanted Doug to be there with me so bad but we couldn’t chance it. He found his way down the gravel road and was able to watch me through the spotting scope from a mile away. He was unable to see the bucks but he could see me, who apparently stuck out like a sore thumb from his angle. Little did I know my brother in law, and a couple good friends of ours were already along for the ride via updates from him. I messaged again, “I am 30 yards.” He replied, “You’ve got this, keep calm, don’t rush, that’s your buck.” I breathe. Hank stood up, and I draw back. My

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adrenaline level blasts through the roof so violently I swear I could feel my eye balls pulsing. “Calm down,” I murmur, “Get ahold of yourself”. He lies back down. “Okay breathe Allie, just breathe,” I think. He granted me another 15 minutes or so to cool my jets before he stood up again. This time he began to make his way out of the bush. I drew back and comfortably put my 30 yard pin where it needs to be and let her fly. Nothing. “NOTHING?!,” I think. It was one of those shots where the very millisecond that you clicked that release you knew it was a bullseye, everything felt perfect, but nothing?! My only explanation is that the arrow got interrupted by the very little bit of bush still left between him and I. He took about five quick confused steps, now completely out of the bush, stopped perfectly broad side and looked directly at me. I had just enough time to draw back with my second arrow and release a perfect shot. I collapse back onto the hill, and thank God for my harvest. Sitting back up, I remember Doug was watching from afar and give him a fist pump. I took a few breaths and make the phone call to confirm the good news. “I got him, he’s down, perfect shot, I got him, I can’t believe it.” I waited for my husband to get there and we approach him together. I am in shock as I keep asking him, “Is it him?!! Is he the right one?! Is it really him?!” It was him alright. I am still in disbelief over this hunt. It was Incredible. I had my buck, the one that had been haunting my dreams. A once in a lifetime buck, I had him down before noon on opening day. I am forever grateful for a couple of our friends who called off their hunt that morning to come take some incredible photos and share the moment with us. They helped us carefully get him loaded in the truck so as not to damage the velvet. This buck means so much to me. He isn’t just food for family, He is time spent with my family doing what we love. He is the incredible memories we made spotting and hunting together. He was the challenge of expanding my horizons, finding a new passion, and proving to myself what practice and hard work can accomplish. Photo credits to Colten Stock


A TRUE GIANT MOOSE & THE BUSHWACKER CREW! By Blake Dixon

Over 30 years ago my Dad and his small hunting group called the “Bushwackers.” Annually, they ventured out in search of a spot to set up moose camp deep in the forest in northern Saskatchewan. 16


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Each year, the visibility in some of our favorite spots decreases as the young trees are growing up fast, making it more difficult to hunt. The opening day of the season, we all went our separate directions first thing in the morning. I volunteered to have last pick on the trail that I would hunt, as I had been lucky the past few years and figured it was only fair to let the other guys have first choice.

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We have been camping in that spot ever since. November of 2018 found us again making the 30 kilometer trek into the bush to set up camp for a late season moose hunt. Our “Bushwacker” crew this time consisted of my Dad, my brother in law, our hometown hunting buddy and myself. The four of us have become a pretty tight group over the years. Two snowmobiles with sleighs and two quads with trailers is what it takes to haul in our tent, our food and all the gear for the five day long hunt. It didn’t take long to see good sign of moose activity in the area as we got closer to our spot. This was encouraging, as some years we have seen next to no tracks or sign of moose the entire trip! Each year, the visibility in some of our favorite spots decreases as the young trees are growing up fast, making it more difficult to hunt. The opening day of the season, we all went our separate directions first thing in the morning. I volunteered to have last pick on the trail that I would hunt, as I had been lucky the past few years and figured it was only fair to let the other guys have first choice. Day 1 is always so exciting. It is a day that I wait all year long for, the day I hope to find my next bull moose. Some tracks was all I found on this opening day, but I hoped there was good news from one of the others when I returned to camp for lunch. Some encouraging sign and a bull moose sighting was reported by one of our crew members. Day 2 I had 3rd choice on the trail I would hunt, and I chose a trail that I believed nobody else had been down for a few years because it was basically completely closed in as the trees on either side of the trail folded over and crisscrossed making it very difficult to attempt walking it. Three years ago I walked this trail, before it was closed in and I remembered it being a good walk with good potential for moose to be around. This year I tip-toed and crawled over and under this mess of trees blocking off the trail and I knew that if I could just get through this first half hour of tough walking that the trail opened up to an old clearing. Once I could see the clearing through the trees, I stumbled across some fresh moose tracks and next was a moose bed and even some moose droppings! “Things are

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looking good,” I thought, with the wind in my face and cold, snowy weather, perfect conditions to come across a moose. I very slowly and quietly hiked across the knee deep snow in the clearing for almost an hour, following tracks and encouraging signs of moose activity. I stopped to for a couple minutes to check my GPS to confirm I was going the right direction and that I would be able to make a loop without having to backtrack on my original route. Only a few minutes later, as I peeked around a small evergreen tree my heart stopped as I could see a bull moose standing uphill from me only 50 yards away! I dropped to one knee to put a bullet in the chamber of my Tikka .300 win mag and take the scope cover off. As I returned to my feet, I shouldered my rifle and got ready to shoot at any moment. The bull moose was still standing there with some thick willows and different branches blocking my shot. I took a few steps to my right, hoping it would clear a shooting lane. As I did this the bull started to take a few steps, but before he could make a run for it I had no choice but to take my chances and shoot through a clearing in the willows. I felt good and steady as I took the shot. I quickly chambered another bullet, expecting to have to shoot again, but when I looked up he was nowhere to be seen. I hustled through the trees, hoping to get to higher ground so I could see better! That’s when I saw him lying in the snow. I could not contain my excitement and began shouting and cheering to myself as our late November camping trip had just become a moose camp!

“I felt good and steady as I took the shot. I quickly chambered another bullet, expecting to have to shoot again, but when I looked up he was nowhere to be seen.”


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My heart was pounding as I walked closer to the moose. It appeared his antlers were larger then I originally expected. I waited a few minutes to ensure the big bull had taken his last breaths before I put my hands on him. I was absolutely blown away with excitement when I pulled the other half of his antlers out of the snow and realized what a true giant moose I had. Everything about him was huge! It was the biggest bodied moose I had ever had to dress.

“Everything about him was huge! It was the biggest bodied moose I had ever had to dress. He was truly an old, mature bull moose.” He was truly an old, mature bull moose. As I cut my

tags, I realized it was exactly one year to the day that I was lucky enough to harvest a boone and crockett bull moose in 2017, and somehow I was able to harvest an even larger more mature moose this year. I was able to contact my Dad that morning to let him know I had got a moose, and to make him aware I might be late returning to camp. Once I completed gutting my moose and proudly tagging this magnificent animal I began the walk back toward camp. I was met by the rest of the Bushwackers on their way to help get my moose back to camp. A couple hours of chainsawing and hacking and cutting trees later, the four of us were able to make a trail for the snowmobile and sleigh to retrieve my moose. By the time we got him loaded on the sleigh and back to camp to finish the work it was late afternoon. It was a long day but I had an unexplainable type of rewarding feeling that day. I will never forget these special days that I am lucky enough to experience with my Dad and I can’t wait to try and do it again next year with the Bushwacker crew at our same old spot!


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A MASSIVE BUCK IN THE MIDDLE OF A DOZEN DOES By Lindsay Wilkinson

Every four years is ideally when I can draw a mule deer tag. It is a sought-after tag that many hunters only dream they can attain that frequently, and one that is becoming harder and harder to pull in my home province of Saskatchewan. 25


My husband Chad and I are seasoned whitetail hunters from Northern Saskatchewan and can pattern, age and usually successfully harvest a decent buck on a yearly basis. Although, when it comes to mule deer hunting, none of that is helpful in any way. It’s like starting over, trying to learn how they travel, where they eat and where they bed. Our best hope is to be able to get lucky and catch one deep in the middle of the rut, whom is completely sidetracked by the irresistible attraction of a herd of does. November is peak rut time, so we booked time off of work, arranged babysitting by the wonderful grandparents and headed off to the vast rolling hills of southern Saskatchewan. Of course, on the way down we discussed our plan of action and set our targets on what size I was aiming for and where he would most likely be located. As every hunter knows, unless you have been following a buck for months or years on end, the plan of action rarely comes to fruition. This makes the success and thrill and purpose of the hunt that much more rewarding. I looked through hundreds of pictures of mule deer on my phone that were harvested by other hunters and trying to guess scores, just so I had an idea of what a 180” + deer looked like. I had a few days to search for one and had a coveted and rare draw tag in my pocket, so I thought I had a pretty good chance. Our first day was a lot of scoping out trails and trying to adjust our eyes to the very unique change of scenery of buck brush and hills. We saw a few does and were amazed at just how camouflaged they could be. Once we saw a few, our eyes fully adjusted to what we were looking for and were ready for the big guy to make an appearance. Right at last light on our first evening hunting, a very nice mature looking buck was standing at about 200 yards broadside staring at us. I grabbed my binoculars and took what seemed like a dozen or so looks trying to figure out if that was the one. I had a clear shot, he was standing broadside and could be tagged out on the very first day! However, he gave me that moment of hesitation, which always tells me that I should pass. In fact, it was only day one and even

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though I knew I may regret it, I also knew that I would never feel bad for not shooting an animal that I did not feel that urgency to shoot. I had a few more days, and even though I wanted my target buck, we did need the meat, so I would likely shoot a deer on my last day should it come to that. This buck that I passed did have the potential to grow even bigger, so I had no regret whatsoever. The next day we decided to walk onto a large lookout hill and sit so we could see in every direction. We spent hours waiting and glassing, hoping to catch some movement. Finally, we caught a doe and a fawn working their way through the brush with the expectation they were heading to their bedding area for the day. We both got excited thinking there must be a buck following them. “We are right smack in the middle of the rut, how could there not be a buck on their trail?” I thought. We waited and waited and no such luck. We decided to head back to the truck to grab a quick snack and make our next plan. After an afternoon of seeing little movement anywhere, we planned to sit for the evening. We found a heavily beaten path that looked to be used by the deer to head out to their nightly feeding areas. We played the wind and sat at a perfect spot to catch them sneaking out. After about a half hour a flock of grouse walked by us, but there were no signs of any deer. We started wondering if the wind changed direction and blew our cover. No sooner were we thinking of heading out, when a couple does start walking our way.

“My heart started pounding and instantly I got my rifle ready in case I had to make a quick shot.” My heart started pounding and instantly I got my rifle ready in case I had to make a quick shot. We saw many does and fawns and a spiker, but nothing even close


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My husband Chad and I are seasoned whitetail hunters from Northern Saskatchewan and can pattern, age and usually successfully harvest a decent buck on a yearly basis. Although, when it comes to mule deer hunting, none of that is helpful in any way. It’s like starting over, trying to learn how they travel, where they eat and where they bed. Our best hope is to be able to get lucky and catch one deep in the middle of the rut, whom is completely sidetracked by the irresistible attraction of a herd of does.

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to making me raise that scope up. Last light came and went, and we made the cold hike back to the truck. On the way back to our accommodations, we talked about how we may have to start looking at filling the tag. It had only been two days of hunting, so we were doing pretty good to have some encounters already, but nothing ‘big’ like you hope for with a draw tag. The next morning, our good friend Tony wanted to take us out to a new spot. We were super grateful for this kind gesture because we really didn’t know what we were going to do. We made our way to what seemed like a secret area, even though it wasn’t secret to the locals at all. The morning was sunny and very frosty, and my first thought was, this weather would make great picture taking! As we made our way, we saw deer everywhere. We had to stop a few times to get a close look at a few bucks but nothing that stopped me in my tracks. Tony said, “You will know which deer is the one when it makes you say, Oh shit!”. I laughed and thought, “That was such good advice.”

“We kept making our way down the trail and, lo and behold, a herd of a dozen does appeared and right there was a massive buck, just sitting in the middle of them all!” We kept making our way down the trail and, lo and behold, a herd of a dozen does appeared and right there was a massive buck, just sitting in the middle of them all! We ducked down and did our very best not to move. Steam was billowing out of our faces as we were breathing heavy from the walk in. He was not more than 100 yards from us. Some of the does slowly made their way away from us but he just kept laying there. It looked as though he had been working very hard

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all night and had earned a much needed rest. There was some brush in between me and the buck so all I could really see was his frosted up antlers occasionally moving. His head was turned so all I could see was the side profile of his antlers. They looked super tall and massive! I wanted a head on look, so I could see if he had any width. He continued to lay there with his massive antlers bobbing back and forth but not looking in my direction. I was getting impatient and watching his does walking away from him I thought he was going to jump up and bolt out of there at any moment. However, I also wasn’t going to take an extremely risky shot and risk wounding an animal. Finally, he turned his head and my instant thought was “Oh shit!”. He was incredibly wide and looked spectacular, like nothing I had seen in our years of whitetail hunting. His frame was just incredible and looked more like an elk than any deer I had seen. There was no hesitation. Both Tony and Chad encouraged me to get ready for when he stood, and to take a shot when I felt ready. The moment came, and he hopped up and quickly caught up to his does. I thought for sure he was going to bounce off and my opportunity slip by. He ran about 20 yards and stopped just before going over the hill and gone forever. From behind he was even more spectacular, as he swung his massive 200” antlers in my direction

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and conveniently stepped broadside! I took my deep breath, made sure the rifle was tight to my shoulder, laid the crosshairs on the biggest part of his chest, and pulled the trigger. Instant chaos as deer ran in every direction. Amidst the chaos, we all completely lost track of him. “Did he fall? Did he run with the does? Did I hit him?” I thought. I felt very confident about the placement of my shot but it’s hard not to second guess yourself, especially when you lose track of your target. Chad and Tony instantly went walking towards where we last saw him standing. I caught a glimpse of the buck standing just inside the bush about ten yards from where I shot him. He was on the hoof but wavering back and forth. I yelled at the guys and told them he was standing there and that I needed to get a second shot at him. The guys ran back behind me. I gave him another shot which immediately dropped him on the ground. We cheered and high fived. We gave him a few minutes to pass before we approached him. Walking up to him was like Christmas morning. He was the biggest deer I have been privileged to walk up on. I placed my hand on him and like I always do, gave thanks to him for what he gave my family. Beyond all the excitement of shooting a dream animal, it always makes me a little bit sad. It’s a feeling that I’m sure all hunters experience, which makes us caring individuals.


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Nine days left in the season and my attention turned to whitetails. It was perfect timing as the rut had just started to kick into gear. My dad and three other hunting partners had already put in a lot of time. The quantity of deer was really good and each of them could have filled their tags multiple times, but knowing Frank and Gnarly Carl were out there, everyone held off on squeezing the trigger.

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Cover Story

GNARLY CARL, THE SMART OLD BUCK OF A LIFETIME By Danny Adrian

It was a rainy and miserable day in August. My good buddy Tanner and I were out in our hunting area, doing the first trail camera check of the year. The first nine cameras didn’t produce much at all, let alone a target Whitetail buck that we always hope for. 33


We were soaking wet, tired and disappointed. “One more cam to go” I thought as I exchanged SD cards and plugged the adapter into my phone. The pictures started to upload, and there he was, the type of deer our group dreams of. He had everything! Tanner and I looked at each other with a big smile and a renewed sense of confidence. We had found our target buck. With limited time to hunt, archery season ended as quickly as it came. We had a blast chasing elk but finished unsuccessful and to top it off, we captured no more pics of our target buck we named “Frank”. It had been a few weeks since our archery season ended, but we made a quick day trip to finish getting permission from some landowners for the rifle opener and do one last camera check before November. There was still no sign of Frank, but a different camera produced a new target! With only one picture, and a fairly blurry picture at that, we didn’t know exactly what we had. “Tall? Heavy? Non-typical?” were all points of discussion. The quality and angle of the pic just wasn’t great, but there was something about that deer that intrigued me. I needed to either see him in person or get another picture, but it was enough to deem this deer our second target. Since he became a target, he also got a name, “Gnarly Carl.” We game planned, moved cameras around, looked over maps, and impatiently waited for the calendar to flip over to November. One thing I have yet to mention is that I was drawn for bull elk in the same area. Having never harvested a bull elk before, this was my personal goal going into the season. But with two big whitetails roaming around, I was torn! November came and I took my regular two weeks off to hunt. I stuck to my guns and made it a goal to get my elk. I worked my butt off and was able to harvest my first ever bull elk on day five. The season could have ended that day and I would have been very satisfied. I was extremely happy and proud, and it was a very respectable 6x6 to boot. Nine days left in the season and my attention turned to whitetails. It was perfect timing as the rut had

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just started to kick into gear. My dad and three other hunting partners had already put in a lot of time. The quantity of deer was really good and each of them could have filled their tags multiple times, but knowing Frank and Gnarly Carl were out there, everyone held off on squeezing the trigger. After the morning hunt on November 24th, I decided to check cameras one last time. It was the right move, because there he was, Gnarly Carl, on two different cameras about one mile apart! There were two more blurry pictures and it was early in the morning, but I could confirm my thoughts from before that he was definitely a shooter deer. With two of my buddies gone back to work, it was my Dad, Tanner and myself. With a high population of bucks and does cruising around the area, we knew this buck was going to make a mistake at some point. The next morning, we were out in our separate spots early, sitting and waiting. As soon as legal light hit, I could see the target buck about 300 yards away. I barely had time to take a look when he had already stepped back into the bush.

“As soon as legal light hit, I could see the target buck about 300 yards away. I barely had time to take a look when he had already stepped back into the bush” Even though I didn’t get a great look, I could tell that he was abnormally heavy, narrow, tall and with the light fog hovering over the trees. I sat and wait, knowing with the rut in full swing, anything could happen. Him stepping out behind a doe was an image that will be engraved in my mind forever. I mumbled to myself, “Was that my only chance?” The morning ended with no more sightings, and Tanner had to take off back home. It was down to my Dad and me. Our odds were getting slimmer, but our hopes were still


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high. The evening came, and the fog rolled in even thicker. But the deer were moving. We saw several smaller bucks and does, which was a great sign but no appearance from Gnarly Carl. The morning of November 26th came, and we both headed into our same spots as the night before. It was a brisk morning, and with the gusty south winds it made for a chilly sit. I could already see the deer moving before legal shooting light. Taking the same routes as the evening before, I had a good feeling. At 7:44am, I spotted two deer in the distance along the tree line. It was quite far, but the deer were acting like bucks then disappeared. About two minutes later, my heart skipped a beat. I saw the smart old buck sneak up about 80 yards from me. Everything led up to this moment. He put his head down and was on the trail of a doe. I repositioned my Xbolt on my shooting sticks and squeezed the trigger. Thwackkk! I knew I hit him but didn’t know how good as my buck fever was high. He ran straight away from me another 80 yards and

stopped. Thwackkk for a second time. Gnarly Carl was on the ground. The buck fever quickly turned into excitement as I was in disbelief. My phone buzzed and it was my Dad: “Was that you?” My whole body was shaking and my voice was crackling, all I could say was, “He’s DOWN!” I waited for my Dad to make his way to where I was. We both walked up to the buck together. After all this, we still didn’t know exactly what he was. Our jaws dropped, and we were like two school girls as I picked up his antlers. The trail cam pics did not do him justice. This was the gnarliest, most unique whitetail buck that I had ever laid eyes on, and I was holding him. The mass, non-typical points and narrow frame made this a buck of a lifetime. I would like to give a thanks to my Dad and hunting partners for all their efforts throughout the season. This isn’t my deer, it’s our deer. And also, to my wife for letting me take the majority of my vacation time to pursue my passion. As far as Frank goes, I’m hoping to continue that story next year.


AT THE END OF AN INTENSE HUNT, THE ELK OF A LIFETIME! By Tyler Wasnica

The 2018 Saskatchewan Big Game Draw was an exciting day, as we learned that we pulled bull elk tags. Instantly, we began scouting, spending countless hours and hanging trail cameras to try and find a target bull. My girlfriend and I went out every weekend for two months straight, rain or shine, to check the cameras and move them around to different places. In the two months of having cameras up, we had pictures of seven different bulls.

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After he stepped out, I froze and was caught myself just watching him in awe, my Dad gave me a little nudge and told me to shoot. I finally put my gun up and took a shot. I seen it was a good hit, but the big bull stayed up then took off into the bush. Me and my Dad both looked at each other but didn’t say a word.

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A couple days before opening day, my uncle Jim Kwasnica had called me saying he had located another herd of elk and there was two really nice bulls in this herd, so we asked if they were big enough that we should go after them? We already had some nice bulls so considered sticking with the plan we had, but my uncle insisted that we go after these two new bulls. As the time drew near to the season opener m dad, Mike and my brother Austin all sat down and made a plan for what to do on opening day. We couldn’t wait and were confident that all the preseason time we spent would pay off. On opening day morning we headed out to the bush that my Uncle suggested. Me and my brother posted in two different spots so we could see both sides of the bush. My Dad started out calling, and as soon as he let out the first bugle he had a couple bulls answering back. We sat there for about an hour, calling back and forth and didn’t have anything come out, so my Dad and I went to the far side of the bush where an old railway bed was. As we walked down the old railway bed, we did some calling back and forth. We were about half way down the railway bed when we heard shooting from outside the bush; we radioed my brother Austin to see if he had a bull down. He said he shot, but the bull went back into the bush, so my Dad kept on walking down the railway bed and I turned around and went back to meet Austin. As we came into an opening, we heard some trees break, so we kept going slowly, watching closely ahead. Sure enough, the elk walked into an opening about 20 yards in front of us!

“Sure enough, the elk walked into an opening about 20 yards in front of us!” My Dad shot once, then the bull turned and ran towards us. It didn’t seem to see us until it was about 15 feet away, thankfully it turned and took off into the

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field where it dropped. We had one tag cut, and we didn’t see anything else that day. We spent the week checking out different areas. We had been to one that was by a community pasture that had a number of nice bulls, but were not able to enter the pasture until November 1. We spotted a couple nice bulls but were unable to find them in an area where we could legally hunt them. So a couple days later we tried a different area and found about 20 elk, but none of them were what we were looking for at the time. So, me and Dad decided to head back to the a bush that we knew held lots of elk. They had not been calling for the last couple days but a cold front had moved in and it snowed over night, so we were hoping that the weather change would kick start them into calling again. On Sept. 22, my Dad and I made a plan to go out to the same bush once again. There was a lot of sign and we knew the elk were living there. As we were driving over the hill to get to our spot, we spotted a bunch of cows

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in the field so we stopped and got out. I started walking through the field to cut them off from going into the bush. Suddenly, my Dad came running past me. I caught up and when we got over the hill, Dad started to call. We heard a bugle in the bush, so we kept walking through the field. The cows in the field took off away from the bush. With every bugle we let out, the bull would answer back before Dad even got done bugling. I heard something move in the bush so I told Dad to stop and I got my tripod set up and got ready. Dad let out one more call and this elk finally stepped out. He came out of the bush screaming! After he stepped out, I froze and was caught myself just watching him in awe, my Dad gave me a little nudge and told me to shoot. I finally put my gun up and took a shot. I seen it was a good hit, but the big bull stayed up then took off into the bush. Me and my Dad both looked at each other but didn’t say a word. We waited a little while, then headed into the bush where he ran. Sure enough, I found him laying down about 70 yards into the bush! He was the bull of a lifetime and the end of an intense and exciting hunt. It was very rewarding knowing that all the time we had put in finally paid off.


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NEVER HOLLER ‘WHOA’ ON A HARD PULL! By Mark, hunting with Clay Charlton

As a deer and avid predator hunter, I’ve ALWAYS had a Wolf hunt on my bucket list. In the back of my mind, I told myself that I would do it, ‘When I had time”. I walked into my local post office one morning to get the mail and the lady at the desk said, “Look at this, Mark”. “Holy crap,” I said, “What a wolf ! Who’s the guy? I need his number.” She text it to me later that morning. I never hesitated! I called the gentleman and he was going through Regina on his way back to Fargo. He had just killed a beautiful Timber Wolf in Alberta with Take-Em Outfitters a few days ago and after a short chat, he sent me the number to call. So, I called Clay immediately and he told me he had

two openings in February of 2018. I said I would call him back that night. Back on the phone, I called my friend and asked if he was interested in a hunt. He said “maybe”. He asked would I go alone if he didn’t go. I said, “yes, sir”. He told me that it was too far to go alone so he would come with. I then called Clay and booked the hunt. He asked if we had a schedule and I said, “No, we will come whenever you need us there.” A few days later, he called and said, “Be here in two days!” 850 miles later we met Clay and Crystal and moved in. We each had our own bedroom and bathroom as there was only three hunters for

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three days. I met Max, who would be my guide and Clay guided my friend. We left the lodge at 6:00 a.m. and drove approximately 60 miles to our hunting spots. I walked a half mile to a box blind, turned on the heater and stared at a beaver dam eleven hours a day for 5 days, Wolves would show up every night but I did not see one wolf for the entire hunt. I learned that the only way you will be successful on a wolf hunt is if they make a mistake and show up during the day. They are not listed as, “Top Predator” by being stupid. I knew they were in the area and time was all that was between me and a Dream.” I told myself, “You never want to holler WHOA on a hard pull,” so we booked another hunt for 2019. In January of 2019, Clay texted once again and said, “load your pickup boys” but then the weather warmed up too much and we held back. Two weeks later, he called and said, “Get up here, it’s on”. We left the next morning. Clay took my friend north and Crystal took me to my stand. Same schedule as 2018. Early morning walk to the blind, turn on the heat and stare for eleven hours until dark. Day 2 was so cold we had to sit around the lodge. -39c, but we didn’t mind as the lodge is beautiful and has a great wood stove. Day 3 we were right back in the blinds. No wolf that day but I did watch a coyote @130yds chewing on the bait and I will say this was the VERY first time in all my life I let a coyote show up and walk away! It was now day four and we had to switch it up a bit Clay had to run me in and refresh the bait site as the coyotes and wolves were eating me out of house and home. We pulled in with the pickup like always to back up and offloaded the quad at the staging area but this time a huge snow drift jumped up, out of nowhere. Clay laughed and we were stuck!! A few attempts to get free but no go, so Clay just offloaded the quad right there and said get on, “I’ll get er out when I get back.” So off we went for another day of bird watching. We arrived at my blind, Clay dropped me off and then he headed over to bait up the site and in a blink he was gone. About 20 minutes later, I got a text from

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him saying, “I’m out, kill em dead bud!” The morning unfolded the same as every other day, lots of birds and the beautiful sight of just being in such an amazing place. It was about 10:40 am, the sun was shining high and the thought was always in my mind, “If only he would just walk out and give me one opportunity.” Ohhh boy, no longer thinking of it, I looked to my right at 325 yards and there he STOOD just like he came up out of the ice. THAT’S A WOLF! My heart started the, “trip hammer routine” and the hunt was on! I got myself ready like I have practiced a hundred times. He was walking straight at the bait and I slid my rifle out the small window and found him in my scope. He came to 250 yards stopped and looked in the opposite direction. I almost squeezed the trigger then, but he started walking and closed the distance. I was on him like glue.

“I almost squeezed the trigger then, but he started walking and closed the distance. I was on him like glue.” At 163 yards he stopped again! Now he was on the X, he was completely broadside to me looking straight to the west. I centered my cross hairs on his shoulder and just touched the trigger. BOOOM, I watched it all unfold in a matter of a few seconds through my rifle scope, the GIANT Alpha WOLF Clay sent me pics of him folded up in his tracks and he was stretched right out at 163 yards away. I couldn’t believe what just happened! HEE HAW! Reality set in quickly at that point. Talk about the shakes, as wolf fever set in and it was so bad I could hardly control it. At 69 years old, if I was going to have a heart attack it was going to be right then. My Remington 700 .243 with 90 grain Nosler Accubond home load did its job well. I watched him for 5-6 minutes to make sure he was dead and then started


I walked into my local post office one morning to get the mail and the lady at the desk said, “Look at this, Mark”. “Holy crap,” I said, “What a wolf! Who’s the guy? I need his number.” She text it to me later that morning. I never hesitated! I called the gentleman and he was going through Regina on his way back to Fargo.

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the surreal walk out to him. When I got there, I just stood, looked, and gave him respect. He a MONSTER! I don’t know how I did it, but I managed to text Clay, “l just stretched out a huge Wolf... bring the trailer!” He texted back, “On my way WOOOOHHH!” I had about a half hour to silently look, think, and take a few photos. My top dog predator quest had just come true. The lake was frozen and quiet, the trees hummed in the breeze, and ravens squawked in flight. I cannot fully explain my thoughts. Clay and Crystal arrived and I could hear the hoot and holler 250 yards away. We hugged, laughed, took photos and silently admired this North American top world class predator. It was a happy and sad moment for me. The years are adding up and my life-long quest was lying at my feet. It was way too cold to shed a tear, so we loaded the monster and returned to the lodge. I called my wife and she cried, laughed and screamed in happiness for me. Everything seemed to be a dream.

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This hunt is not for everyone. There are hours and days of solitude but with the right outfitter that does his homework and a little bit of LUCK, dreams do come true. Take Em Outfitters is a top notch to the second power operation. You become like family after the first meal. The girls help their Mom and haul in wood for their Dad. I can’t say THANK YOU enough. Clay, Crystal and your young ladies are truly world class. This is a hunt that I will remember as long as I am breathing. I’ll never FORGET!


A free online version of every issue is there for viewing! No need to sign up, no obligation, no cost, just 100% FREE viewing of real hunting stories from real hunters.


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IT’S A STORY, A TRADITION, A LIFESTYLE By Amanda Lynn Mayhew, Host of Just Hunt on WILD TV

Moose hunting has been our way of life for as long as I can remember with my Grandfather guiding and harvesting over 100 moose in his lifetime. My uncles and father were well into it as well, until my Grandfather passed his 30.06 Weatherby down to me in 2007 shortly before he passed away.

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Using my experience and skills, I have no problems calling out to bulls and having them come to see who I am. In fact, I also teach this to women in my Take Me Hunting Outreach Programs, even if we are hunting something else, we still chat about and practice our moose calls. I jump head first into dragging, cleaning, processing, and butchering of these animals as well.

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Where I was born and raised, moose is the most sought-after big game to fill your freezer with. I was addicted the first time I saw one and have since learned all I can from the people around me, striving to be the best moose hunter I can be. Using my experience and skills, I have no problems calling out to bulls and having them come to see who I am. In fact, I also teach this to women in myTake Me Hunting Outreach Programs, even if we are hunting something else, we still chat about and practice our moose calls. I jump head first into dragging, cleaning, processing, and butchering of these animals as well. As most of my hunting experiences are from Northern Ontario, where the population of moose exceeds deer, I hadn’t been introduced to the deer hunt until I was living in Southern Ontario for many years. Although living in Southern Ontario, I still anticipated the moose hunt each year. Applying as an individual for an adult tag in the lottery and never being successful,

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I ventured north anyway. However, in 2009 my future husband asked me to join their group on a deer hunt and I accepted. At this point, I had not hunted in a group nor hunted for deer so was pretty jacked up to get started. Not knowing what to expect in terms of the hunt or the lingo, I just tried to picture it as we were on a moose hunt. Boy, I was wrong. I learned a lot that year and keep it with me as I move forward, continuing my now anticipated deer hunt in many seasons. Everything you know about moose hunting goes out the window when you deer hunt, including the firearm. Even though I am versed in firearms and hunting, I never thought I would be harvesting big game without my trusty 30.06. However, on that first deer hunt, as they were handing me over a rifled barrel shotgun with a 2 x 7 scope, I thought, “Well, this could be fun.” The opportunity at my first deer was on the thursday of the hunt and he came out like he owned that field, chasing the does that were standing in the corn, which I didn’t know about until after the fact,


he put his head down to the ground. He sniffed the ground as I slowly pulled the gun up to my shoulder and clicked off the safety, aimed, and fired to see him jump up and straight back down. I immediately jumped on the radio and told Craig what had gone down, as he came rapidly up the hill, he looked at that deer and swore that it was the biggest deer he ever saw! I just couldn’t believe him, as I thought he was small. It turns out that he was a ten point buck scoring a 140� and, for the area, that was considered large, but for a moose hunter, it seemed small. So, when I think about how my moose hunt has changed over the course of the years from an individual solo hunt to a group effort now, and combining that with the different seasons of deer hunting I participate in, I have a very full andwellrounded hunting experience. My moose hunt, although shared with a group, is still my sacred of hunts, in my heart my parents, and family are with me. My deer hunt is

spread out between archery with my sons, rifled hunt with a group of guys near my home and the shotgun hunt with a different group. In all those groups, although I am the only female hunting, no one treats me any differently and that has never been a factor. Whatever your gender, if you are still dedicated to putting in the work and being a part of the team then you will be accepted. Even on hunts where I have not pulled the trigger all week, I always jump in and help carry or clean that animal up. Adventures in the making, stories to share and memories forever.

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Spring Edition Young Gun Feature:

KYLES’ BIGGEST DREAM IS TO GO ON A GUIDED HUNTING TRIP! Kyle Bueckert

This is Kyle Bueckert, he is 12 years old, he got his first buck when he was 11 years old! Kyle lives out in the country in northern BC. Kyle gets his love of hunting from both of his parents and one of Kyles biggest dreams is to go on a guided hunting trip.

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NOT EVEN STEVEN! By Graham Comfort

This tale starts in the fall of 2015 when a young, three-year-old deer with great potential appeared on my trail camera in a vast forest in Northeastern Saskatchewan. This forest is famous for producing giant elk, moose, black bear, and white-tailed deer. There is very little hunting pressure in this area so if a deer is given a chance to mature, and they can avoid the wolves, they can reach their full potential. That is what I was hoping would occur with a deer I named, “Not Even Steven�.

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The name comes from the fact that this young deer had long slender tines, great width, and almost perfect symmetry, but for some reason, his G2 on his left antler always grew to only two thirds of the length of the matching tine on his right side. Hence the name: “Not Even Steven.” Since he lived so far back in the forest, we had daytime pics, night time pics, anytime pics. Whenever he was hungry he would amble in, eat his fill, and bed in one of the nearby poplar ridges he called home. So, we watched him grow from an up and comer who shied away when the more mature bucks came by, to the boss. He grew each year. In 2017 he looked awesome; he grew taller but did not have the mass that indicates a mature northern Saskatchewan bush buck. Steve’s body was not huge, which indicated that he still had potential to get bigger. We would let him grow for one more year. Cue the summer of 2018. This year, Steve did not show up during the first three weeks of August. This was weird because he always was around the area where my stand was set up. I was worried that the wolves had taken him out. My family left for the National 16U Women’s baseball championship in Halifax, so we were away for the last 10 days of August. I was hoping that when I returned from our great adventure, Steve would have made his return as well. On September 2nd, my son Garet and I headed out on the quads to check if we had any newcomers to the stand. Garet checked the 800+ photos on the SD card from the trail camera. After about five minutes, Garet let out a hoot and some expletives that indicated something major must have showed up on camera. Steve was back, in full daylight, and he had grown. Oddly, his tine length was not what it was the year previous, but he had aged. He had added mass and an extra point off his right G2, as well as several stickers on his tines and around his thick bases. His slab-sided body looked like it belonged to an Angus steer. It was time. So that very afternoon, Garet and I set up the ground blind up against some spruce trees on a hill 20 yards straight south of my camera. The trees were part

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of a gnarly blowdown that backed onto a beaver pond that stretched for hundreds of yards behind the blind. We brushed in the blind knowing that we could hunt any wind coming out of the north and not have to fear deer sneaking in from behind. I planned to hunt Steve every chance I got, but the prevailing winds on the labour day weekend were from the south, so we let him be. My first chance to get in and sit was on Sunday, September 11th. I parked the quad some 500 yards away and made my way back to get settled in my blind. As I was getting organized I heard deer in the west running, obviously spooked. I assumed they were does, but while sitting in the blind, checking my trail camera pictures, I started to wonder. The pictures showed something amazing. On that September second day when Garet and I first discovered that Steve had returned; the day we had made a huge ruckus getting our ground blind prepared, Steve had returned, seven minutes after we had left on the quads. He had probably been bedded nearby watching the entire production and after we drove away he sauntered down for a look.

“I assumed the worst, that the hunt was over, and that Steve would never return.” So now, when I thought about the deer I spooked minutes before as I entered my blind, it seemed clear to me that it was Steve who I had spooked. He probably watched me get in my blind and heard me zip up the door. I assumed the worst, that the hunt was over, and that Steve would never return. That first night proved uneventful and when I returned on the following Thursday to hunt I checked the card. There were no daytime pictures of Steve. He was still coming in but only at three in the morning. I thought I would need to change my setup. I was worried about what to do but decided to stay patient and see if he would return to his daytime routine. I checked the cards


“Steve� for short, became a regular on my trail cameras. In fact, in 2016 and 2017, he was the first deer both years to make an appearance. Since he lived so far back in the forest, we had daytime pics, night time pics, anytime pics. Whenever he was hungry he would amble in, eat his fill, and bed in one of the nearby poplar ridges he called home.


two more times over the next few weeks and still had nothing but nighttime photos of him. But, the third time was the charm. On Thursday, September 27th the wind was perfect, so I raced to the bush after work. I checked the card and Steve was back visiting the spot in the daylight, but only in the mornings. But he was huntable again. My decision not to tear down the stand and move had paid off. Due to work and coaching commitments, the next morning I had to hunt was Sunday, September 30th. The thermometer in the old Dodge read a ridiculously crisp 13 below and the slight breeze was blowing directly from the north; a perfect morning. I pulled the card from the camera and parked the quad in its usual spot just before legal time. In the ten minutes it took me to return, there were already three does in, who trotted off as I approached. “A good sign,” I thought. Fifteen minutes later the does had returned, coming in from the southwest. “Another good sign,” I mumbled to myself. The fact that they passed within 5 yards of the blind had me thinking that I may have success. Fifteen minutes later I heard footsteps in the leaves to the southeast. The does heads all snapped up and they started to get nervous. I heard trotting and Not Even Steven appeared. This was the first time I had seen him on the hoof and he did not disappoint!Not Even Steven ambled in and there was no doubt that he was in charge. It was not even seven in the morning, yet there he stood, quartering away a mere 25 yards away from my blind. I was shocked that it had all happened so fast. While his head was down I drew, aimed in the pocket behind the front shoulder and released the arrow. It was a solid hit, but a tad too far back and Steve sprinted to the east after the shot. When I found my arrow, my suspicion was confirmed. The 100 grain Wasp broadhead had passed right through but the blood on the arrow didn’t look great and smelled like it had indeed hit the deer back. It was a cool morning, so I decided to back out and head to town to have some lunch, pick up Garet and the quad trailer, and head back out around 1 pm. When Garet

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and I returned, we easily followed the blood trail through a dried-up beaver pond and onto a poplar ridge. The decision to back out had paid off; Not Even Steven had only made it 80 yards. We dragged him out to the clearing and the celebration began. Further investigation showed that while the shot was back, it had taken out the liver and the far lung. Steve was everything I could have hoped for: long tines, unbelievable mass, stickers galore, and dark chocolate horns. Both his ears were torn up from fights long ago. It was almost bittersweet. I patted the old warrior on the flank and took several minutes to just soak it all in and appreciate what had just happened.

“I patted the old warrior on the flank and took several minutes to just soak it all in and appreciate what had just happened.” I have been fortunate enough to take some amazing trophies in my 30 years of hunting, but never before had I taken an animal that I had so much history with. I have hundreds upon hundreds of trail camera photos of Steve over a four-year span. He had survived in one of the harshest spots in Canada and lived to be six or seven years of age. When we checked out his jawline, he had almost no teeth left. Steve would have been hard pressed to make it through another Saskatchewan winter. Not Even Steven had indeed lost some tine length but more than made up for it in mass and character and beautiful chocolate antlers. Now I guess I must find another buck to watch grow and mature. If I only ever get to see him on trail camera that will suffice. If this new giant happens to pass by when I sit in my blind, I will consider myself fortunate, just as I do every moment I spend in the deer woods.


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THE 17 POINTER MASS OF MESS By Paul Soke

I started hunting whitetails more seriously about five years ago. I spent more time l ooking for prime locations, while putting more time in the woods and setting extra cameras up in search of bigger whitetails.

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In 2013, I found a young buck with a different rack, but I didn’t see the potential it had yet. In fall of 2014, I did not get any pictures of him. In 2015, I realized the potential of this deer and named him the 17 pointer, which eventually changed to Mass of Mess. He was a big non-typical, and the first I ever had pictures of.

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I was also trying to keep pictures from previous years to watch the smaller bucks grow. Immediately, I found this quite fascinating. It’s always exciting to see pictures in the spring when their antlers are just starting to grow or when you see a buck come through that you never had pictures of. With a short general whitetail season here in Nova Scotia, while working full time with only a few weeks’ vacation a year, running cameras helps to carry me through the year to fulfill the hunting urge and build up to my time off hunting. In 2013, I found a young buck with a different rack, but I didn’t see the potential it had yet. In fall of 2014, I did not get any pictures of him. In 2015, I realized the potential of this deer and named him the 17 pointer, which eventually changed to Mass of Mess. He was a big non-typical, and the first I ever had pictures of. Looking back at my 2013 pictures, I was sure it was the same deer and amazed that it grew substantially. I knew in August of that year, that this was the deer I was after. I was thinking to myself, “The time I have been putting in the off season and previous years were starting to pay off.” With what I considered really nice deer at multiple spots, I didn’t want to end up spending time in the wrong spot. In 2015, I had two full weeks’ vacation in November so I put as much time as possible after Mass of Mess. This was my chance for a wall hanger on top of filling the freezer. I was getting lots of pictures of does, my target buck and a few smaller bucks daily in the preseason then a week before general rifle season they went nocturnal on me and I was getting very little day time action. At this point I didn’t see a deer for days. Nonetheless I was putting countless hours in hoping to have him slip up. Thursday was five days into my vacation. I was in the tree stand and figured I would try some rattling. As soon as I did, I scared a smaller buck off who was in some cover about 150 yards out and all I saw was his tail as he ran off! This was frustrating, but I pushed on, and continued hunting every day. Saturday evening came around and I climbed down from the tree stand after an all-day sit. I was putting my gun away in my truck as I could hear a deer blowing at me in the woods

between me and my tree stand. I felt like they were waiting for me to leave to come out. I headed back out early Monday morning, sat until 10 but it was too cold to sit all day so I changed the SD card in the camera and then took a walk to hopefully shake things up a bit then go warm up. I walked slowly and carefully, make sure not to spook anything before making my way back towards the truck. As I approached the truck, I put my guard down for a minute and I could hear something. I knew by the sound it was a deer and it was close! I turned and looked all I could see was the head and antlers poking out from the under growths. It was the Mass of Mess standing 30 yards from me and he was a beauty! My heart started to race instantly and it took everything in me, as he started to run, to get the gun up and safety off.

“My heart started to race instantly and it took everything in me, as he started to run, to get the gun up and safety off.” He was coming up out of the under growth with every jump and back down I was trying my best to follow him, but I had a rookie moment, noticing my scope power was set to 8 on a 3-9x40. I fired once, but it looked like a clean miss. I went over and checked for hair or blood and I couldn’t find either. On the way back, I found two saplings broke off behind his path where the bullet had ricocheted. I had a rough few nights after that with hardly any sleep, but after telling friends and other hunters about this , the constant message to me was to keep at it, learn from your mistakes and move on. After this I was just glad to have the experience of seeing him. It was another good hunting story and the rush of buck fever is always fun. I hunted hard for the rest of my vacation and ended up getting a respectable seven point buck.

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I was glad to see pics of the big guy at the end of the season looking happy and healthy. In spring of 2016, to be better prepared to sit out of the weather and for longer periods, my brother Andrew and I built a 12’ free standing deer blind tucked into the tree line in this same area. Sure enough, the buck came back to be even bigger! I had some great pictures of him early on. This year I gained an extra week of vacation, so I took three weeks in November. I put the majority of my time into this spot without having any luck. He was there twice in shooting light but I wasn’t there to catch up with him. I had opportunities early with small bucks, but passed them up and on my second last day to hunt I took another seven point buck. This concluded another season for me as I continued to get to know the wary buck and realize what a challenge it would be to get him. 2017 was a different season for me. With the birth of my daughter on October 7th, I didn’t get as much time in the woods as past years. However, the Mass of Mess was back, and he was a bruiser, starting to really show what I thought was the biggest he would get! I only had one-week vacation in November and I spent it hunting him, but our paths didn’t cross. This was the first season in years that I didn’t get a deer but still made some good memories and got time in the woods. It was at this point when I thought this deer was never going to get shot by a hunter, and that he was too smart and got this big for a reason. Looking back on the 2017 season, I said to myself, “2018 is going to be different and I am going to put more time in then last season, to make things happen.” In the fall of 2018, I had booked two weeks vacation in November, but just before my time off, I was really busy with work. Leading up to my hunt, I worked 30 nights straight. As my holidays approached, I heard rumours that the forestry workers were working a lot in the area I hunt, spacing out the saplings that had now grown up in this clearing, it was quite thick and a mix of hardwood and softwood. They spent over a month in the immediate area I hunt, but luckily finished up about a week before my vacation started! I was relieved, but I knew that this wouldn’t be good

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for the hunting, with the scent of a few people working and walking around there for a month at a time, but that’s the risk hunting public land. I was happy to see that I had pictures of Mass of Mess and he was just that massive, something that is almost unheard of or something you hear about or see in a picture on the internet. I could not believe he lived in an area I hunted! All my pictures were from before the workers were in there. When my vacation started, I checked the camera and there were very few pics of any deer and Mass of Mess was nowhere to be found. He cleared out of the area and I was not sure he would come back. I shortly found out that he started to show up on my friend Brian’s camera, but only at night, about two kilometres away. At this point, I was coming to terms that I would just be glad to see someone get him. Brian said, “I wish he didn’t show up here, I was getting day time pictures of other bucks but now I’m only getting pictures of him, he scared them all away!” That was the thing with him, over the last few years, I would only get a few pics of other big bucks and then they would vanish but he was there regularly until now. So I spent majority of my time hunting another spot that had quality action. On my second day in this spot I was giving the chance at an 8 pointer and I took him with my muzzle loader. I was perfectly happy with the idea that I had meat to feed my family and friends and I could sit back and wait on a wall hanger without the pressure of getting skunked two years in a row, which may have been in the back of my head. I had another tag and would only use it on one particular deer. Every four to five days I would check to see if he made his way back to my camera and sure enough, a week into my vacation, a hot doe passed through in the middle of the night and he was right behind her. This was a breath of fresh air, and I knew there was still a chance for me. This was one of the coldest hunting seasons we had here in years. We had some rough days at -20c with the windchill, which made it tough to sit for long periods but it was good because we had a good layer of snow. We were not getting a lot of action at any of our spots and vacation was winding down. It was Friday mid-day and I had told my friend Vince


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I was going to my spot on the hill where I shot the 8 pointer, but for some reason when I got in the truck I went to the spot where Mass of Mess used to hang around. When I got there, I checked the camera and to my surprise there was an 8 pointer on cam that I never saw before, two hours before I got there, so I decided I would sit for the evening. I had no action that night but with only one more day to hunt, I figured I should come back to give it one more day. I had a gut feeling. I returned in the morning at 630 with lots of time before sun up. I got settled in, it was cold again, -8c with very little wind, but it was in my favour. Just like any other morning the sun came up and I was glassing with my binoculars, waiting for something to catch my eye. I saw movement behind my right shooting lane, and sure enough it was a deer and a big one!

“I saw movement behind my right shooting lane, and sure enough it was a deer and a big one!” It was a buck with big antlers at 120 yards. I didn’t have to put the binoculars up to tell if it was a buck I could noticeably see big bodied deer with massive antlers. By this time he had walked out of my first shooting lane and was in thick cover, but going to pass my second shooting lane shortly. At this point, I didn’t know if it was Mass of Mess or if it was another buck, but I knew he was a bruiser. The excitement that ran through me at this point made my heart feel like it was going to beat out of my chest. I immediately put the gun up as quietly as possible and started glassing the thick area with and without the scope trying to locate movement. Time felt like it stopped, it was dragging and seemed like hours even though it was probably only three or four minutes, but felt like an hour. Sure enough, I saw movement again half way between shooting lanes. I put my eye back to the scope and spotted him and all I see is antlers! Then on to his head and neck and he’s looking right in my direction. I wasn’t sure if I should

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go for a neck shot at 110 yards or hope for him to come to the next shooting lane but I didn’t wait I aimed right below the white patch and squeezed the trigger. Boom. I racked another bullet into my 308 bolt action and I couldn’t see him, no movement, no tails, nothing. I put my safety on, then the shaking and heart was pounding more than before. I felt like it was a good shot but you never know. I waited 15 minutes then got down out of my blind, walked up quietly with my scope powered back and prepared to shoot if need be. When I got about 30 yards away I could see him there, he was lying right in his tracks, down and out for good. As I got closer I could tell it was Mass of Mess, the deer that I spent countless hours scouting, setting up cameras, hunting and finally all the work paid off. I got my trophy deer and more meat to fill the freezer. I couldn’t be happier. His rack was bigger than trail cameras could justify. When I grabbed hold of the antlers for the first time and could barely wrap my hands around it I just couldn’t believe that it actually happened. Hunting always seems to surprise you when you least expect something to happen, that’s when you get your chance at the deer of a life time. Thanks to Vince, Rich and Char for the help getting him out of the woods, taking pictures and a special thanks to my wife Katelynn. This wouldn’t be possible without her understanding of how much I love the outdoors. I hope our daughter Evelyn will enjoy the outdoors as much as we do!


SNAP, THE MAGNIFICENT WHITETAIL BUCK By Parry Boyko

This is the story of a magnificent whitetail buck I nicknamed “Snap”. His name was short for Snapshot and he was not the buck I wanted, but the buck I needed!

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He was my once in a lifetime shot to prove to myself that all the effort and the all-consuming aspects of the hunting lifestyle that I and many other people I know, are worth it. I have managed to build great relationships with the landowners and ranchers over the years and they trust me and I trust them. In the fall, it’s a great feeling to know that if either I or they need anything, all we have to do is ask. This is very special Saskatchewan thing, a Canadian prairie strong way of land management. On this particular piece of land, I have been hunting it seriously for the past six years and three years ago a really nice young buck appeared on my deer radar and I knew that I just had to try to get him. I nicknamed him Honcho because he reminded me of an old Honda quad, not much to look at but impressed at the stuff he could do. Over the next two years he grew into a real monarch of the province with a Boone and Crockett score well over the 170-inch minimum. However, this year it seemed like the harder I hunted, the more I had roadblocks to endure. From a marauding large black bear destroying my ground blinds and demolishing my cameras after eating all my deer bait, to people driving all over posted land, disturbing everything I had worked to do, it was a real challenge. But I stuck with it, repaired the damage and soldiered on. In August and September, I had a dozen bucks of various sizes and ages all being regular visitors to my ambush site, until the trouble making black bear scared the tar out of everything to the point where I had to abandon that place until the start of November. Once I got all setup again, I realized that Honcho was gone. It was really a hard pill to swallow. “Taken by another lucky hunter or lost to the ravages of mother nature,” I thought, was also hoping to see him again. November 11th rolled around and I kept catching glimpses of a large framed buck that was chasing does around my setup, but never giving me a clear view of his headgear. It was just enough to make me wonder what was going on, but as the rut progressed I started getting pictures of him, first at night and then all day, every day and I knew I had get setup perfectly and

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avoid any mistakes in my setup. Everything had to be in turbo stealth mode for opening day in order for me to have any chance at this buck. Opening day rolled around and it happened! My first sighting of Snap was 17 minutes before legal shooting time! I clearly made him out in my Leupold VX3 scope and the crosshairs were on him but I had to let him go. During the rest of the morning, as other bucks continued to rut and come into and out of my view, I thought about Snap while also wondering about Honcho. After four long days of sitting dawn til dusk, I had to rethink my approach to the area so I let the area rest for three days and when the wind was right, I made the decision to hike in at an off time for movement, at 10 am. I walked in the long way, about 600 yards, on November 26th and I waited, and waited. Finally, at 5:32pm, three minutes until legal time, I saw an antler at the hill and sure enough, the buck it was attached to slowly came out into the open. Within seconds of confirming it was him, a 165 grain Tsx .300 WSM round was on the way! Lost in the recoil of the shot, I wondered how the shot was? After ten minutes, I went to the last place and clicked on my cell phone flashlight. I did not find any blood after making four big circles, then my battery died. I had no choice but to walk the 600 yards all the way out to the truck, then head back into my spot after grabbing my good flashlight. From there, I proceeded to lose my marbles, after not finding any blood or sign of a hit! I headed home and racked my brain as to what may have happened, and remembered the tendency of hit deer to run into the wind and directly into the thickest cover available, which, by design was a small bluff right beside my set up. I headed back out determined to scour every inch of that bluff. As soon as I got to the bluff, within 50 yards of the edge, I found him! At 194” gross and a net book score of 178 2/8”, I had my first Booner! In hindsight, all things happen for a reason in life and hopefully my life will be to continue my deer hunting passion for all the days I have left as it is my passion and what I enjoy most of all.


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SASKATCHEWAN BUCK OF A LIFETIME By Ian Blocha

The first time I laid eyes on my dream buck, I was checking my trail cameras a month before opening day.

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After going through thousands of photos of the same bucks coming in day after day, I came across two photos of a deer with its’ head down, walking away from my camera. At first I thought it was two deer, one standing behind the other. When I got home and took a better look, I thought it could possibly be one big deer with three main beams. Still there was so much going on with the antlers that wasn’t certain, but I knew I badly needed a better look!

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rubbed my camera off the tree. Even though I missed out on five days of photos leading up to the first day, I had seen enough to know where I had to be. I woke up on opening day to what seemed like a blizzard. It was windy and blowing snow, a classic Saskatchewan November day. I got bundled up and made my way to my tree stand. I sat there all morning and didn’t see a single deer; just five moose, including the small bull that busted my camera.

Two weeks before opening day, I was out to check my cameras again. Low and behold, there he was, posing for the camera. He was coming in every few days at the perfect hour, either shortly after sunrise or right before sunset. Sure enough, it was one buck with a mess of antlers on his head and instantly I knew that I had a target buck located. Right then and there, I devoted my hunting season to harvesting this deer. I went into work the next day to book the entire hunting season off, even though I already had seven days to hunt. I did not want to take any chances.

Heading into the afternoon, I made sure to get out there early. It was very cold, and I had barely warmed up from the morning hunt. I was shivering as I held my gun, perched in the cold and wind in my stand and waiting to cross paths with him. Three hours later, as if by magic, he appeared out of nowhere and I spotted him, head down, making his way through the thick bush. I knew it was him. With hardly any time to react, he was standing right in front of me! I took off the safety, aimed, and pulled the trigger. He ran a few yards, wobbled, and then tipped over. It was a perfect shot!

The day before the season opened, I went out to check my camera one last time. I found my camera cracked and lying in the snow. Luckily, there were a few more pictures of the deer before a moose came in and

The opening day of rifle season turned out to be my best day ever in the field. I couldn’t be happier with this unique looking Saskatchewan buck of a lifetime!


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Big Game Illustrated - Issue 24  

Monster Alberta whitetails, Saskatchewan mule deer, moose, elk, Midwest hunting,

Big Game Illustrated - Issue 24  

Monster Alberta whitetails, Saskatchewan mule deer, moose, elk, Midwest hunting,