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ILLUSTRATED BIG GAME
Volume 2 Issue 4 Spring Edition 2015
In This Issue...
Just Over the Hill by Andy Dubourt
10 Gloria Buck by Tanner Hudson 14 Taking Chances by JJ LaClare 20 Worth the Wait by Brett Knisley 28
24 The Right Move 28 Heart Breaker
by Jamie Legg
by Laura Lawrence
32 Split Second Decisions
by Zach Stonehocker
38 A Season to Remember by Matt Serwa 42 Hooks by Ben Funk 42
46 Itâ€™s a Shaw Thing by Brad Shaw 50 The Quest for a Non Typical Bush Buck
by Scott Tradewell
56 Simpson by Matt Lauinger
60 A Family Hunt Worth the Wait by Dorin Gulbranson 70
Badlands Bruiser by Sheldon Harvey
78 The Deer Woods: Timber & Twigs by Stu Christensen
Contact Big Game Illustrated Phone: (306) 930-7448/(306) 960-3828 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org By Mail: 28-2995 2nd Ave W. S6V5V5 Prince Albert, Sk, CANADA
as told by: Shawn Evangilista
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About the cover
Dorin Gulbranson (center) and his family with the incredible velvet moose taken in the mountains of British Columbia. This story and picture really captures what BGI Mag is all about; Time spent outdoors with friends and family, and passing on the hunting tradition to ensure its future.
18 Hunting in the Lean
It is the time of year when antlers start falling and shed hunters begin scouring their areas in search of the treasures left behind.
by Chad Wilkinson With deer populations down in many areas, there are still many ways that we as hunters can enjoy the outdoors and inspire others.
by Kaare Gunderson That final decision of whether or not to take a specific buck is always a difficult one, but it should always be celebrated once the decision is made.
The Future of Hunting Dedicated to all the young hunters.
Everything Outdoors by Kevin Wilson
An explanation of the factors contributing to low deer numbers across much of their range, along with many ideas for things we as hunters can do to help.
HILL BY: ANDY DUBOURT
It was November 29th 2013, and Brian Galambos was up early to get in some long awaited hunting while on days off from his camp job in Fort McMurray. It felt good to be home after a long shift. He hopped in his pickup and headed out of town around 8:00 A.M. The sun was just starting to peek over the horizon behind him. Taking his usual roundabout route towards his mother’s farm, the truck tires squeaked and crunched as they rolled down the snow packed roads. Snow, wind, and warmer temperatures sure made the roads slippery. Brian would have to slow down, which would mean he arrived at the farm later. “Perhaps it will give me a better chance to spot a nice whitetail on the way", he thought to himself as he tried to remain positive. The drive out was fairly uneventful. There just didn’t seem to be quite as many deer this year, as was the case in a majority of Saskatchewan’s farmland. The sun was slowly casting its orange-yellow glow on the ground as if a veil was being pulled off
Big Game Illustrated
Brian Galambos from Leask, Saskatchewan with the monster whitetail he anchored in 2013. The amazing buck had a huge gross typical score of 192 2/8” and a net score of 182 6/8”, making it the second highest scoring buck taken in Saskatchewan in 2013. The inside spread is 21 5/8”, the long beams reach out to 27 2/8” and 27 5/8” and the longest tine is 12” even. Jason Bowley had been hunting the giant buck and graciously offered congratulations to Brian and gave him the trail cam pictures after he took the big deer. Andy Dubourt Photo.
Jason Bowley also had pictures of the big deer in 2012, already a giant!
a prized masterpiece. As it climbed higher in the sky, it revealed the snow covered hills spotted with hints of green spruce and pine; their boughs heavy with snow. Some wisps of yellowed grass poked through alongside the dark red saplings and the many grey, silver, and black colored poplar trees filling in the gaps. The sparkle of clean white snow covering the ice on the lakes and sloughs was a reminder of where the land ends and water begins. It was a beautiful day in God’s country. As Brian got closer to his family farm, he decided to take a familiar dirt road that sometimes had good deer movement on either side. He pointed his truck south and headed into some rugged and beautiful rolling hills. Keeping in mind the icy conditions, travel was slow. As he drove over the second big hill, about halfway down, he saw two large bodied whitetail bucks fighting almost right on the trail in front of him. He hit the brakes and his truck slid slowly to a stop no more than 30 yards from the two battling bucks. At first glance, Brian was not sure what the bucks were going to do. They stopped fighting. The larger of the two glanced towards his truck. Brian was so close he could see the steam appear and fade with each rapid breath. Every movement of their muscles, tight like a new wire fence, showed pure power, even beneath their thick winter hair coats. It was almost unbelievable. Were they going to bolt? Which direction would they go? Before Brian had time to react, the bigger buck turned back toward his opponent with his head down. The two buck’s antlers clashed once again, breaking the silence with a jolt. Sticky snow clumps, dirt and grass tossed about as their hooves pounded the ground, neither one relenting. Brian’s mind was racing as he grabbed his rifle and got out of his truck. He stepped quickly and carefully into position and was trying to put the clip into his 300 WSM. While keeping his eye on the two bucks as they continued to fight, an unthinkable series of events started to unfold. The next few seconds felt like an eternity. Brian’s clip slipped out of his hand and fell down into the snow. Trying to stay calm and fight off buck fever, he quickly crouched down and felt around until he found it. Keeping his eyes on the two bucks, he managed to tap the snow out of 8
Big Game Illustrated
the clip and get it back in the rifle. As he raised the rifle and slid a cartridge into the chamber, he looked through his scope trying to make sense of what he saw. Hair and antlers were all he could see. There was no way he could take a shot without a good clear view. He quickly lowered his rifle and turned his scope down to the minimum power. Shouldering his rifle, he took aim a second time. This time he could see the larger buck clearly. He laid the crosshairs just behind the front shoulder and squeezed off a shot. The bucks immediately broke apart. The smaller buck ran east across the road and over the fence while the larger buck jumped the fence and headed west. Brian was almost sick as he watched the large framed buck jump the fence so easily and trot down the hill towards the thick brush below. He felt fairly confident that the shot was true; but the buck sure didn’t seem to show any signs of injury. He quietly cycled the bolt on his rifle and walked a few steps further into the field, hoping to get a second shot if it stopped to look back. Still not quite sure that the buck was hit well, he looked carefully over the hill through the small poplar trees. The buck was standing at the bottom, just at the edge of the trees. He was hunched over and definitely hit. Brian finished the job with one more quick shot, and the buck was down. Emotions running high, Brian walked down to where the buck lay. He found himself playing the whole scenario over again in his mind. He recalled seeing the smaller buck before, just a day or two earlier but didn’t get a good shot at him. He started thinking of how nice that smaller buck looked when he was alone. That was a good 5x5 whitetail that most guys would be happy to take….. myself included. So if that was the same 5x5, Brian thought to himself, “then how big is this guy?” As he got up to the big buck’s side and pulled its antlers out of the brush and snow to get a good look, he realized this was not your average run of the mill whitetail. The long sweeping beams, long tines and width were all well above average. Brian
tagged the hide, antlers and meat, and then called his mother Matilda to tell her the story and inquire if there was anyone around home that might be able to help with the loading. As he hung up the phone he took a few minutes to soak it all in, then began field dressing the deer. Just as he was finishing up, a truck came idling down the trail. It was one of the neighbours with his cousin who were also out hunting. They stopped to see what was going on. Just as they came to a stop, another truck came over the hill. It was Brian’s cousin, Glen, who got word of the situation and came to give a hand. After exchanging greetings, Brian told the guys his story while they walked down the hill to have a look. They took a few moments to admire the buck, and took a few pictures. Brian, Glen and the boys all pitched in and got the heavy buck up the hill and loaded on the truck. Brian thanked them for their help, and they said their farewells. They went their separate ways, and Brian was off to the farm to finish skinning the buck and take care of the meat. The following day Brian’s brother Larry rough scored the rack and told Brian that it would go at least 180”. But it was just a rough measurement and Brian thought it could be a bit high. Over the next couple days, numerous friends and family members got to have a look at the buck, and most of them confirmed what Brian’s brother Larry had told him. It was the buck of a lifetime, and would score very well, even when it was done officially. About a week after Brian got the massive buck, he received a phone call that went something like this: Brian answered “Hello”. “Hi there. Is this Brian Galambos?” “Yes, speaking” “You shot my buck.” Brian began to laugh a little, and so did the voice on the other end of the line. “This is Jason Bowley, a friend of your cousin Glen. He was telling me the story and showed me a few pictures. It’s the same buck I have been after for the past couple years. I wanted to phone and say congratulations!” Now, it turned out that Jason had been spending a fair bit of time scouting and archery hunting not far from where Brian shot his buck. He had taken trail camera pictures of the same buck for the past three years and was trying to get a chance at him since the fall of 2012. Jason even got to watch the big whitetail in person on a couple occasions. Once while walking into an area to check his trail cameras and do a little pre-season scouting, he ran into the big fella and some other bachelor bucks out early to feed. He got to watch them undisturbed for quite a while. No doubt that moment will be seared into his memory for a long time. But each time fall came near, the buck would become almost totally nocturnal, and when he wasn’t, it seemed that timing and luck just wasn’t in the cards for the hard-core hunter. Winter came and time ran short. Jason never did get a good chance at the buck. He just hoped that it might make it through the season one more time. After both hunters shared their stories of the big buck, Ja-
son offered to give Brian the trail camera pictures he had. He congratulated Brian on a truly awesome buck. As all hunters know, the rut can make hunting so unpredictable. Anything can happen at any time. It’s what makes it so exciting. Little did Brian know, driving a bit slower that November morning would gain him a chance at such a great buck. Sometimes you never know what lies in store - just over the hill.
Big Game Illustrated
By: Tanner Hudson
Tanner Hudson and his grandmother Gloria with the amazing non-typical they first encountered when scouting together in August of 2013. Tanner was later able to tag the big deer after countless hunts for him. The gross score is 184 6/8” including 23 6/8” of abnormals giving the deer an incredible amount of character to go along with the big frame.
t was early August, 2013 and my grandma was up visiting us from her home seven hours away. Although she is definitely a ‘city girl’ never having gone hunting before, I was very eager to get out and do some scouting for the upcoming season. Since there was not much going on that day, I asked her if she wanted to come along and help me do some scouting. To my surprise, she eagerly said that she would love to come along, and was actually excited to join me in heading out into the field for the evening. We headed out, planning to spend a few hours checking out my usual spots where I have encountered big deer before, and also perhaps find some new ground and new deer. After a couple hours, we stopped to glass a field that I knew often held many deer and off on the edge of the field, we spotted an absolute giant trophy buck! This was the first time I had ever encountered a buck of this calibre, and I was shaken to the core. I just could not believe the size of the deer. My grandma could see my excitement and she said there was nothing she wanted more than to see me shoot this deer. From that moment on the deer was named ‘The Gloria Buck’ after my Grandma. From that day on, I became determined, almost obsessed with hunting this buck. Every single day and every spare second found me hunting his area, trying to get another glimpse of him, or any signs of where he went. However, archery season seemed to come and go in the blink of an eye and the buck disappeared with only a couple fleeting glimpses to encourage me to keep after him. I had chances on a couple other mature bucks, but knowing the giant was still alive and well, I refused to cut my tag on anything else. Unfortunately, the sightings I did have of him were on posted land. However, I knew that eventually the deer would move over to feed on the adjacent alfalfa field where I had permission, so I kept my hopes up and did everything I could to prepare. Finally, the fields where I had saw him previously were being harvested, and I hoped that the changes and all the action would push him over to the still green alfalfa where I dreamed of getting a shot at him. The muzzleloader season began and I was ready for an opportunity. It didn’t take long, in fact the first week of rifle season brought the big deer out
into the open, and I was there waiting. As the evening light began to fade, I realized that he was not going to get any closer so I got out my rangefinder and made the decision that I would take the shot. I ranged him at 287 yards, a long range for my muzzleloader, but I had practiced at that range, and was confident that I could make the shot. I got locked in on some trees I had purposely setup to act as a rest and slowly squeezed the trigger. Then I saw the bullet land under his belly, it was a clean miss and he hopped out of the field into cover and out of my life forever, or so I thought. I thought that my journey for this buck was going to be over and that I would never see him again. Despite all my doubts, I still hunted the area, being careful not to overhunt it, or allow my scent to contaminate the bedding areas. Rifle season was now in full swing, and with it cold temperatures and the rut was kicking in! I spotted the buck way out in the field first thing one morning, but there was no way to stalk him, so I did not even attempt it. I did not want to risk spooking him again, but was very encouraged by the sighting. He was clearly rutting, and oblivious to my presence. On November 5th I was hunting with a good friend of mine when we spotted him at about 700 yards, but this time there was a bushline that could provide me with cover for a stalk. We checked the wind and it was perfect, so we wasted no time closing the distance on the buck. When we snuck around the corner to where we could see the deer, we ranged him and he was at 300 yards. I settled the scope on him, but I was so excited and breathing heavily from the stalk that I completely missed him again! As he took off running, I thought that was my last chance and he would be gone before, but then a doe stepped out of the bush and got his attention. He slammed on the brakes and gave me a perfect, standing broadside shot. This time I felt calm, just like I know everything was right and this was the chance
BY: COLE STARK
to make up for my misses. At the crack of the rifle, I saw the big donkey kick and know that I had made a perfectly placed shot! After literally hundreds of hours, I finally was able to put my
hands on my dream deer, the Gloria buck. He scores 184 6/8” gross and has 17 score-able points.
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The late JJ LaClare with his dream buck he was able to tag in late 2013 after taking a big risk and moving hunting spots. Despite a narrow spread of only 13 6/8â€?, the non-typical buck still managed to gross 176 6/8â€?. JJ was an avid hunter and recently took up bear hunting, proving to be a skilled bear hunter in addition to an experienced whitetail hunter. 14
Big Game Illustrated
BY: JJ LACLARE
pending most of my time hunting the farmland around my family’s home, away from big forest, I've always thought that a bigger forest would produce bigger deer. As fate would have it, my theory was put to the test in the fall of 2013. The family farm calves out about 190 head of cattle and has pasture land spread out covering a large area. The bush and hay land for the cattle is also great deer country. However, my biggest deer to date was a 162” gross non-typical that I had harvested in 2010. After the last few years of chasing after 130 class deer, I began to want more. Don't get me wrong, I love to sit in my deer blind and watch the deer at 50 yards, learning the habits and taking in the beauty of the animals and nature itself. I was looking for a new challenge, and bear hunting seemed like the right fit. So in the fall of 2012 I set out on my first attempt for bear. After discussing my bear hunting plans with some friends and neighbors, one neighbor told me he had a big black bear on his trail cameras! To make a long story short, I had beginner’s luck and it didn’t take long before I had my first bear! A 6 foot long chocolate beauty that went 18 4/8” inches. Not too bad for a rookie, and I was hooked! Fast forward to 2013 and this is where my story really begins. Deer were the last thing on my mind. It was bears, bears, bears! However, my spot by home was just not producing results, so I decided to head into the big forest 50 miles north. Although it was fairly close to home, I hadn’t spent much time in the big forest and as soon as I got into the forest, I fell in love with the peaceful atmosphere and vibrant scenery that it had to offer. My previous experience in the forest involved cutting firewood, but there's something totally different when you sit still in one place for hours and just take it all in. After that, I knew that this would also be the place I would pursue that elusive whitetail buck that had eluded me for years. The bear
season came and went but I couldn’t wait for whitetail season to arrive. When whitetail season rolled around, I started exploring the forest looking for that perfect whitetail spot and I thought I had found it, but after about two weeks of very little trail camera action I decided to keep looking. I covered miles and miles, searching for the perfect spot. After a few full days of scouting, finally I found the perfect setup, a spot where two heavy game trails crossed, and the area was littered with scrapes and buck sign. I promptly setup a trail camera and blind. I couldn’t stand it and only waited three days before checking my camera. I had caught a monster buck in his daily route right where I set up my blind! November 1st was only six days away but that was too long. I immediately went and bought a tag and phoned up a friend that had a muzzleloader to ask if I could borrow it. The next morning I spent practising with the muzzleloader, then around 2:00 pm me and my girlfriend set off for the bush. I tried not to get my hopes up, but my girlfriend said she felt today was the day. Shooting the biggest Big Game Illustrated
buck of my life only four days after setting up my blind sounded too good to be true, but if you never take chances you'll never know. We settled into the blind, but things were really slow. Not a single deer all afternoon and then with 45 minutes of daylight a doe showed up, and 15 minutes later another one came. The does seemed distracted and kept looking south. Every time one lifted her head, my heart skipped a beat, hoping my buck would step out. The one doe bolted, stopping about 10 yards from the blind, while the other was in a frozen stare to the large game trail right in front of her. Then a moment I will never forget, the buck I was after stepped out. The doe was still standing in place, not moving an inch until my dream deer charged in, pushing her out of the area. I had set up parallel to the game trail so I wasted no time lining up for the shot. It took him about 10 seconds to clear the tree line and I settled the crosshairs on him, not needing to look at his antlers to make sure. I could tell without the use of optics it was him because of his noticeably larger left antler, with all kinds of non-typical junk on it. A cloud of smoke bellowed out of the barrel from the muzzleloader and he took off, running about 100 yards and down the coulee where he stopped. â€œWhy was he still standing? How could I have missed a 50 yard shot?â€? I thought. Then he flipped over on his side and I was able to even see a flash of white from his belly! Now the adrenaline really kicked in (insert classic Rick Flare WHOOO! At maximum decibels). Now the work began as he had ended up expiring roughly a km from the truck behind a series of big hills, up a ridgeline, and completely down the ravine into the meadow! It's not every day you get to shoot a deer of a lifetime and I'm just glad I got to share the experience with someone physically fit cause after the 90 minute drag back to the truck I was happy I had brought my girlfriend and not some of my other hunting buddies. My hunting season for 2013 was officially over and I had harvested
a buck of a lifetime. He had mass, tine length, and a 5x6 typical frame. Adding the abnormals, he was able to gross a whopping 176 6/8 with only a 13 6/8 inside spread! I'd like to thank my dad Wally LaClare for teaching me how to hunt as a child and also my brother Lee LaClare and childhood friend Chris Folden for those two were the guys that really instilled the patience and
JJ always enjoyed hunting with his family
Big Game Illustrated
hard work required to harvest a big deer. Later that season I was blessed to share a hunt with my good friend Matt where he was able to take a big 4x4 with a pair of matching flyer sticker points on both g2's. The mass on his buck was solid, including with the smallest circumferences going 5 4/8â€?. The season was and probably always will be one of my favourite hunts I've ever been on and a wonderful experience that me and a great friend got to share together.
Photo by Devin Gorder Big Game Illustrated
Hunting in the Lean Years BY: CHAD WILKINSON
here is no doubt that deer numbers are down throughout much of North America. In the northern edge of their range, tough winters combined with high predator numbers and questionable management in some cases have resulted in low populations of deer. For those of us who live for hunting, these can be trying times as we struggle to find a target buck or â€˜shooterâ€™ that we feel good about harvesting. So what can we do in times like this? The obvious answer is not to hunt, to sit out a few years with the idea that if many people do this, then the populations will rebound that much faster. Although this approach will have some impact, it also has some downsides. Low license sales and low numbers of hunters looks bad for the future of the activity we all love. Policy makers and managers look at these numbers, and look at trends, as do politicians when they make decision. We need to keep hunter numbers up and growing in order to have a strong voice in decisions that affect us.
So how do we continue to enjoy the sport we love, knowing that our chances of success are lower, and knowing that we do not want to contribute to the problem of low numbers? First and foremost, if you can afford to buy a tag that you know may go unfilled, then do it. It all contributes to a number that really means something to those who are making the decisions. Second is to recognize what you want to accomplish during the hunting season and adjust your expectations accordingly. Perhaps you have young kids, or know some who would love to get out into the field. Concentrate on enjoying the time outdoors rather than focusing solely on the end goal. When it comes to the kill, know what you want to accomplish. If your goal is simply to fill the freezer, then look at alternatives such as elk or moose which are doing extremely well in many areas. If you are focused on taking a deer, pay attention to the herds in your area and make a harvest decision based on this. If you run trail cameras or spend time scouting, look at the makeup of the population in your area. Some things to look for include: Are there some older bucks that you could harvest without impacting the population? Do the does have fawns with them indicating they have successfully bred? Are there relatively equal numbers of bucks and does? Are there many predators in the area? These factors should help you make a decision on how you want your season to end. If you simply want to fill the freezer and all the does have fawns then the population will likely be okay. If you are a trophy hunter or someone who wants to see many bucks make it to maturity, then you may have to work harder and cover a bigger area in order to find them. Big, mature deer have been taken from all corners of North America in 2014, just in lower numbers than usual. In the area that my wife Lindsay and I
Big Game Illustrated
hunt in Saskatchewan, our deer numbers are way down like everywhere else and we ran more than 20 trail cameras since the summer managing to find only four obviously mature bucks. Despite these low odds, we were committed to shooting nothing else other than these mature deer. Taking an old buck has very little impact on the population, so we made this decision early. It took until the last weekend of the season but we managed to take two of these deer. Going into the final weekend of the season I had no expectations, and I was very happy with the season we had despite still having a tag in my pocket. The focus was on the season and the journey, and if it ended with a tag hanging on the Christmas tree than that was perfectly fine. Many hunters are hard core hunters and focus on taking mature deer only. Clearly, this is a good thing in terms of allowing deer to reach maturity. However, it is also very important to remember how most of us starting hunting and that not everyone has a significant amount of time to commit to hunting, but still enjoy getting out whenever possible and providing healthy venison for our families. For me, it was all about filling the freezer, and I only had a couple days to hunt usually so the first deer I had a shot at often ended up in the back of the truck. We need to remember there is nothing wrong with this and all of us hunters are on the same team. Judging someone for shooting a young buck or a doe does nothing to promote hunting.
We should celebrate successes equally and help these hunters to get out more, spend more time in the outdoors which inevitably leads to more selective harvest in the interest of helping deer populations and challenging oneself as a hunter. Remember the possibility of a kill is an integral part of the hunt, so to take that away is no longer hunting. That being said, we can also do our part to expose new hunters to the reasons why they may want to consider being more selective, but it must be done in a respectful and positive manner. We can also help out our deer herds by getting more people out predator hunting and participating in things like coyote hunting, bear hunting, and even wolf hunting where it is legal. These are all incredibly enjoyable and challenging hunts that are largely misunderstood by much of the hunting and non-hunting community alike. The best way to combat this is to get more people involved and exposed to the activities. Despite all the doom and gloom, the fact is that hunting is and will continue to be a truly great and unique activity, and one that bonds people and families together like nothing else. We must keep things in perspective, focus on the positives, work together and continue to promote, celebrate, and share all the good things about hunting, which has been and will always be the focus of BGI magazine.
Shawn Danychuk photo
WAIT BY: BRETT KNISLEY
Brett Knisley and the two big deer he took in the same season, The mule deer had a gross score of 174 6/8”, while his big character whitetail had a gross score of 175 3/8”. His whitetail had many stickers and the abnormal points added 23 4/8” to the final score.
he 2012 hunting season was hands down the best season my dad and I have shared together. I’ve been hunting with my dad as long as I can remember. He has taught me so many important lessons in the field which have greatly improved my hunting skills. This long journey started four years ago when I bought my first bow. I put in hours of practice and secured permission on a good portion of land with my dad close to our home. This allowed us to hunt every spare second. Throughout the past three years, I had a lot of opportunities to shoot my first mule deer buck with archery tackle, but just could never quite seal the deal. With many mistakes, misses, and unfortunate situations, I was determined to use them to my advantage to make me a better archery hunter in the 2012 hunting season. As the 2012 season was fast approaching, I spent every free minute I had scouting, trying to find a shooter mule deer and white tail buck. One evening in early August, I was overlooking a large hayfield. To my surprise, I spotted a very nice whitetail with tines everywhere. I couldn’t make out how many the buck had, but all I knew is that this buck gave me the shakes, even at a distance. After watching him for close to half an hour, I glassed the field again, and noticed a bachelor group of mule deer bucks enter the field. The first few bucks didn’t peak my interest, but the last buck made me excited. I kept glassing the whitetail and the mule deer for the remainder of the night until the sun disappeared behind the foothills. For the rest of the month, I watched the same hay field religiously, and when I couldn’t be there, my dad was, trying to get a good pattern on them. For the first twelve days of the season, I had opportunities to take respectable bucks, one including a very nice 175 class 5x5 that jumped the string at 25 yards. At that point, I thought to myself that it was going to be another one of those long, challenging seasons. On September 13th, my dad and I planned on heading out after I got home from school. My dad decided to hunt for the non-typical whitetail because he already filled his mule deer buck tag earlier in the season. I figured I would go to the other side of the property in hopes of seeing my target mule deer buck. While driving down the trail towards where I was going to park for the evening hunt, I kept glassing certain willow thickets where I have seen bucks bedded in before in hopes of catching movement of the buck I was after. Just before I reached the end of the dirt road, I looked to my right into a small thicket of silver willows just 30 yards off of the trail and I caught glimpse of antler tips. Immediately I knew it was him because of his deep forks. I continued to drive past him to make sure I didn’t spook him because he was in a perfect spot for a stalk and I was waiting patiently for this chance all season. As I drove 100 yards past the bedded buck, I quickly slammed my truck in park and turned off the engine. I then continued to quickly and quietly gear up for what I imagined to be a quick stalk. After thinking about how I should proceed with the stalk, I decided I would have to make a loop to get the wind in my favor and sneak up directly behind the buck. While I was getting closer and closer to the buck, I made sure that each step I took was as quiet as possible because I knew I might only have one chance at this buck. As I was easing up
towards the patch of willows I saw him bedded in, I continued to glass to see if I could catch a glimmer of his tines. After scouring every part of the willows, I finally could make out his horns. I was still 60 yards away from the bedded buck, and I still had enough cover to close the gap between us. As I snuck in 20 yards closer to the buck, I ranged one of the willow bushes to be 42 yards. I thought to myself, “perfect, right in my comfort range.” After sitting for over 30 minutes, I sent a text message to my dad giving him an update. As soon as I hit ‘send’, I looked up and watched the buck’s horns move around. This was it. This was the moment I’d been waiting for. I admired him as he got up and stretched. I repeatedly told myself to “stay low” so the buck couldn’t make me out from behind the little bit of cover I was hiding in. As the buck walked out of the bush, everything seemed to go in slow motion. Each second seemed to take forever, but as soon as he started to walk away, I drew my Athens Accomplice 34, and slowly moved up on my knees. The buck snapped his head back towards me and gave me a perfect quartering away shot. I put my 40 yard pin right in front of his left hind quarter and released the arrow perfectly, sending the 100 grain Muzzy mx4 on its way. I heard the distinctive smack and watched the buck take off on a dead run. I quickly ran up a little hill to see if I could watch the buck bed down, but lost sight of him as he went into another thick patch of willows. I watched that thicket for over 15 minutes and never saw him come out, so I had a good feeling that he was down for the count. After regaining my composure, I called my dad and delivered him the good news. He told me he was on his way over. Within twenty minutes, I met up with my dad and gave him a quick re-cap of what happened. After walking up to where I shot, my dad and I instantly found blood and we started on our trek to find the buck. After tracking for 80 yards, my dad caught glimpse of a white belly and tines sticking out of the tall grass. We both picked up the pace and hurried towards the downed buck. I can still remember the moment when I lifted the antlers out of the tall grass. Then it hit me, finally after four long and challenging years of bow hunting, I finally succeed on my main goal; arrowing a mature mule deer buck on his home turf! Since light was fading rapidly, my dad and I decided we would clean up the buck and take him home, and then come back in the morning to take some good quality daylight photos of my buck. Looking
I still feel so fortunate to have had the ability to harvest the two target bucks I had my heart set on. Still to this day, I think about these two hunts constantly because these two bucks made me realize how FUN, EXCITING, and CHALLENGING the sport of hunting is.” Big Game Illustrated
back now, it is amazing to think of how it played out. Throughout this four year journey, I’ve learned alot about the sport of hunting and the outdoors I don’t believe I would have wanted it any other way. Being able to spend all those days in the field has allowed me to become a better sportsmen and hunter. After connecting with our mule deer early on in the season, our attention turned very quickly onto the non-typical whitetail. One night in late September, I was sitting in my makeshift blind. Just after legal light, the big, smart whitetail came walking down the trail 50 yards away from me. Fortunately for the deer, it was just too dark for me to make an ethical shot, but finally I was able to have a closer look at the buck, and he was even BIGGER than I thought! As October rolled around, my dad and I were still on the hot pursuit of the wise whitetail with our archery equipment. With my hunting spot so close to our house, my dad and I were waiting for the buck every chance we could get. Throughout October, both my dad and I had chances at the buck but couldn’t connect. Later in the month, my dad finally had the chance to release an arrow at the deer. I actually had the opportunity to watch the scenario unfold through my binoculars, only a couple hundred yards away. At first I thought my dad connected because the buck did a complete 180 and crashed into the thick cov-
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er of red willows. After searching for any blood, we came up empty-handed and decided to head home. After my dad missed the big buck, we lost track of him for two weeks. It was now mid-November, the rut was getting closer and closer, and now there were more hunters out on adjacent properties. I was starting to become worried because “non-typ” stopped showing himself. Thoughts started to run through my mind, “Was another hunter lucky enough to harvest the unique buck? Had I ran out of opportunities?” Nonetheless, I was still determined to try and cut my tag on my dream buck. On the night of November 19th, my dad and I were talking to see if we were going to go hunting the next day before school. I had to say no because I had a unit exam first thing in the morning, but I told my dad to head out to the hunting spot in the morning to see if there was any deer or elk activity. After falling asleep quickly, in the morning I was awakened by a phone call from my dad. I answered and he instantly told me to get up and grab my gear because a herd of 250 elk were in our area. Well let me tell you, I don’t think I’ve ever hustled as quickly as I did that morning. With a quick ten-minute drive to the spot. I parked my truck and met up with my dad. We started to glass all the animals in the field. There were well over a dozen legal bulls to choose from. We finally found the herd bull and quickly made a plan to get into position. We had to sneak across the open oat field for a hundred yards and then we crept into a frozen creek with thickets of red willows. Once we accomplished that part of the stalk, we crept over a little ridge, and low and behold, the biggest bull and 50 or so other elk were 350 yards downwind of us. With so many eyes and ears searching for trouble, a few cows caught our movement, and instantly the rest of the elk started to head for cover. In all the commotion, and with so many animals making a noisy escape, the big bull eluded us. The disappointment sunk in, I knew the elk were long gone. Then suddenly I heard some crashing of branches right below us in the red willows and out came bursting the big whitetail buck! We were caught off guard because our focus was still on the elk, but with a glimpse of the buck’s rack, I instantly found the buck in my scope and fired off a round. As soon as the gun barked, the buck collapsed into
the snow 50 yards away, I couldn’t believe it! What were the chances of that happening? My dad and I were ecstatic. We ran up to the downed buck and realized that it was my target buck, my dream buck! I was so pumped I still couldn’t believe what just unfolded. When I lifted his heavy rack out of the snow, my dad and I were in complete awe of the bucks rack. With heavy mass, stickers, split G2’s and G3’s, he was even bigger then I had thought. I still feel so fortunate to have had the ability to harvest the two target bucks I had my heart set on. Still to this day, I think about these two hunts constantly because these two bucks made me realize how fun, exciting, and challenging the sport of hunting is. What also made this season so great was having my dad there with me to share these memories. My dad got me into hunting, and I am so thankful for that because hunting has become a big part of my life. The 2012 hunting season is one I will never forget, and may never beat. Harvesting the two target bucks and enjoying so much time in the field has taught me so much and made me a better hunter now and going into next season.
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RIGHT MOVE BY: JAMIE LEGG
Jamie Legg with the ‘Alberta dream buck’ he harvested in 2012. Jamie moved from Nova Scotia in 2012 and had no idea of the incredible hunting opportunities that awaited him in Alberta. The perfectly typical 5x5 whitetail will look great on Jamie’s wall for years to come and is only the beginning of his hunting adventures in his new home.
running north to south, and contained a swampy area which made it a perfect bedding area for deer during the day. I hoped that a big old buck would decide he wanted to come check the bedding area for a hot doe. We arrived in the woods early that morning, and I got comfortable behind my tree stump, bundling up for the long, nerve racking wait. A few hours passed and I hadn’t seen or heard anything; the woods and bush were so very still. As I sat there, I kept imagining the buck of a lifetime coming down through the valley and into my sights. Ten o’clock came around and I was just about to get up and go on a foot tour around to get the blood flowing and warm up a bit. I knew if I moved that that the chances of seeing anything would drop, so in the end I decided to try and fight the cold a little longer. Twenty minutes passed and still nothing but the tranquility of the woods, along with the sharp bit of bitter cold on my toes, fingers and nose. Then, from the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of something moving 100 yards downward to my left. As I slowly turned my head, trying not to make a sound, I was able to make Matrix Video is complete source for Hunting Video Needs. out a buck’s rack! As I focused my gaze on the perfectWe understand what is important in selecting the right gear for the outdoorsman ly sculpted antlers, I remembered a friend of mine in and our years of experience can guide any need or budget. Nova Scotia told me to never count the points, or you may SASKATOON - 306.652.5033 catch buck fever. He told me Contact: Bill Redekop to simply make sure the buck firstname.lastname@example.org was the size I wanted. After thinking about those words Oﬃces in Regina, Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton of wisdom, my decision was
moved from Nova Scotia in the summer of 2012, and I could have never imagined the incredible hunting opportunities that were available to me as a new resident of Alberta. The first part of the season began slowly; I was doing my research and spending a lot of time in the evenings scoping out spots and seeing what the local whitetail population looked like. I needed to get an idea of the key areas and the local deer herd before heading into the areas. I saw a few respectable bucks, but did not have any opportunities for a shot. In the third week of hunting season, my father-in-law and his uncle Brian invited me to a piece of land that he had been hunting for years. The second day of the hunt on this land was November 24th, 2012. I remember that morning perfectly, waking up to about six inches of snow, sunny, and a cool calm breeze. It was a perfect day to be hunting whitetails and I was excited to get out again. Even though I had already been hunting a few weeks, I had a feeling that it was only the beginning. Not knowing the area very well, my father-in-law showed me a few spots where I could sit and see if I could have some good luck. With the rut in full swing and conditions perfect to catch a cruising buck, I was eager to get going and chose my spot quickly, crouching behind a broken tree which left a perfect blind to the valley below. The area I was in had multiple valleys
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made. Without hesitation, I calmly raised my 30-06 Savage from my waist, and placed the barrel on the tree stump in front of me. I lined my cross hairs up on the buck, took a deep breath and pulled the trigger. Immediately, I looked up to see if I had made contact, and sure enough he went down! The excitement I felt inside was overwhelming; I gathered up my belongings and ran down the hill to see my kill. As I approached my buck, my eyes opened wide and my jaw dropped. I could not believe I had just shot this magnificent animal lying in front of me. He was the buck of my dreams! He had a beautiful typical rack. He was truly an Alberta dream buck, a huge bodied 5x5. I couldn’t get over it; I never thought I would have a chance to shoot such an amazing buck. After the three of us took the time to field dress my buck and worked our backs dragging him up out of the valley, we cooked up a hot lunch to tell hunting stories and admire the deer I had just taken. After returning home and calming down that evening following the hunt, I began my search for the right taxidermist, someone who was passionate about recreating the beauty in the creature’s life I took. A few calls later, I found Marco Pilon at Sugar Creek Taxidermy Studio here in Red Deer. He was undoubtedly the guy for my buck. A very big thanks goes out to Marco for my mount, his meticulous attention to detail will allow me to admire my buck of a lifetime for the years to come. After that experience, I am hooked. I purchased a new rifle and compound bow for this season, and I’m just itching to get out and see what I can find.
Laura Lawrence with the giant south Saskatchewan bull she took in 2012. Laura did not grow up around hunters and only began hunting in 2010, but has already enjoyed an incredible amount of success and is now hooked for life! Her big bull is a massive specimen and carries great mass up throughout the long tines. The giant bull ended up with a net score of 345 2/8â€?.
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BY: LAURA LAWRENCE
was never a hunter, and it doesn't run in my family. I sort of grew up as a city kid. When I started hunting some people thought it was just a phase, but 4 years after my first kill I still love hunting. If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would hunt one day, I wouldn't have believed you. That all changed in 2010 when I shot my first deer, just a small whitetail as part of a bet about my shooting skills. I made the shot, hit him good and was totally hooked! I put in for the draw for everything in 2011 and didn't get drawn, but that meant that I was Super A for 2012. When the draw results arrived, I was very excited to learn that I was drawn for either sex elk & either sex mule deer! I am so thankful for the people I have learned from and places that I get to hunt today. Growing up, my family moved around a lot. By the time I was 11 we had lived in Saskatchewan, Ontario, Manitoba, Saudi Arabia, New Brunswick, Saudi Arabia again, and then finally back to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. My dad is a pilot and my mom a hard working stay at home mom. My dad’s love of aviation has been passed down to me and I now work for an Aerial Application & Aircraft Mainte-
nance business in Moose Jaw, managing the booking of acres and the office. I also hold a private pilot’s license with hopes of a commercial soon! Our family has a cabin in Nova Scotia that we have lived at every summer and that's where I learned to love the outdoors. Boating, fishing, catching turtles, skiing, and dirt biking were everyday occurrences. We were always a very active outdoor family, but still nobody ever hunted. Through hockey I met my best friend Chelsea from Mossbank, Saskatchewan. Her family ranched and grain farmed. Every weekend I could, I was down there hanging out on the farm. In grade 8, I met another one of my great friends, Hilary, who would also influence my love of the country. I was lucky enough to spend a lot of my free time riding horses and learning about ranching with her and her family. It's quite fitting that I would end up taking my very first elk just two miles behind the hills where I became a little more countrified. I was introduced to hunting by a previous boyfriend. After two years of spending my time with someone who lived and breathed hunting, it really rubbed off on me and I am thankful for that! Big Game Illustrated
2012 was my second year entering the big game draw, I had drawn either sex elk in a southern Saskatchewan zone where I knew that some people had been waiting 20 years to be drawn. I was shocked! One night, a few weeks before opening day, I had done some scouting with my friend Cody, but it became apparent that that area would be very congested. That night was the first time I had ever heard an elk bugle live. I had heard it online, but it was absolutely bone chilling and crazy to hear it in real life. I was addicted to this animal now! Despite the bugle, there were many hunters scouting around for the season so I knew I had to get away from the crowds. The change of location and a new hunting partner lead to one day of scouting, only two nights before the big day. What we saw in that one day I will never forget. The bull was amazing; I had never seen anything like him. They were coming out of the hills to eat on the hay land below. In the morning they would disappear back into the hills. Although I had been in the area a lot growing up, I had never seen the herd, it was like seeing ghosts. We watched him keep his cows in line, they wanted to go down to eat but he wasn’t ready yet. He kept them on top of the hill until just before dark. Someone else was watching him that night too, they never saw us perched on the side of the hill watching, something that definitely gave us an advantage on opening day. September 1st came and we headed out as early as possible, an hour long drive of anticipation and nerves. The wind was from the southeast making it perfect to sneak in from the east and head northwest as we figured they would be southwest of us. We parked and walked a mile northwest to the hillside to
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scan. We heard him bugle, the herd was southwest of us like we had thought. The sound of a bugle at first light was much more intense than the two times I had heard it at night, it was so much more quiet and eerie as the first light drew near. That sound is the reason I fell in love with elk and I cannot wait to hear it again someday. We snuck through hundreds of yards of bush down the hillside, I can still remember thinking the sound of my heart beating would surely be audible to the herd and I would be busted. I have never tried to be quieter! As we got closer some cow calls produced return calls and we knew we were almost there. We belly crawled up the last hill, and peeked over. He was 100 yards away from us. I took aim and concentrated for what seemed like forever before taking the shot, it felt like an eternity but I wanted to get it right. In these moments he bugled one last time, his breath visible in the early morning temperature and then he put his head down one last time and returned to eating. The first shot of the morning rang out through the hills and I had dropped what was and may possibly remain the most impressive game animal of my life! Walking up and realizing the true size and beauty of him brought a mix of emotions. I was sad, I was proud, but mostly I was thankful. “Heart Breaker”, as I have affectionately named him for multiple reasons, had given me right to call myself a hunter. After we had taken pictures and began to field dress some local men showed up who had been watching him for years. They were aching to be drawn and it was finally their year to hunt the bulls they had been watching for so long. They knew every move that herd had made for two years. Because we
came in from the east and hadn’t extensively scouted the area, they had no idea we were there and it worked out better than we could have ever imagined. I don’t think I will ever have a more perfect hunt. As fate would have it, that day I had shot his second choice and someone else had shot his first choice. Just another challenge of the sport. Once butchered, we figured the bullet went through the lungs and may have even nicked the heart. Heart Breaker ended up measuring to 345 2/8”. He is perfect the way he is! It is safe to say that hunting was definitely not a phase and is something that I will do forever. I love the challenge, the effort, the unpredictability, and the miles travelled that go into
hunting. I hope that someday I can be a role model for women hunters and I will continue to prove myself in this lifestyle! I want to do it right, I want to do it fair, and I want to disassociate the negative stigma that some hunters have these days – especially women. 2014 brings a moose tag in my home zone. I have never hunted moose before and am so eager to further my hunting knowledge. I hope to combine hunting with another passion of mine, riding horses, and making miles on horseback! I couldn't be more excited and I hope you will be hearing from me again soon!
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Zach Stonehocker is already an established bowhunter. With a few big whitetails, elk and bear under his belt, all that was missing was a big mature mule deer. In 2013, he got it done and took a beautiful full velvet central Alberta, non-typical mule deer. The big right antler has 18 5/8” of abnormal points including two long flyers. The buck has good mass with bases of 6” and 5 3/8” and a greatest spread that is also very good at 30 1/8”. It all adds up to a gross score of 184 3/8”.
SECOND DECISIONS BY: ZACH STONEHOCKER
started bow hunting with my Dad, Jeff Stonehocker, Uncle, Jon Hamilton, and my Papa, Brian Hamilton, when I was 12 years old. They had all been bow hunters for many years and I learned many lessons from watching them. Watching them take many beautiful mature deer, I fully expected harvest bucks similar in size to theirs right away, and I was ready to put in the time and effort to get it done. I have been lucky enough to harvest some very nice whitetail bucks, a nice bull elk, and a cinnamon black bear, but despite all my efforts and years of hunting, I have not been able to close the deal on a big mule deer buck, until last year when I finally fulfilled my dream. It all started the night before the season opener, September 1st. My parents and younger siblings had headed out of town so it was just my 15 year old brother, Tyson and me. With our parents gone, on a Saturday night with a tank full of gas, you can probably tell what most teenagers would do in that situation but all Tyson and I had on our minds was hunting! We had to come up with a plan for the morning hunt. We headed out to the garage to check some maps and freshen up on all the land we have permission on. I've had some pretty good success on all this land, harvesting a few memorable deer in my five years of hunting. I have taken bucks with a rifle but never with my bow! So I helped Tyson pick his spot in order to try for his first bow kill. Someone must have been watching me over the past couple years because Tyson pointed on the map exactly where I had planned to go. As I stood and pondered over the map, I thought back to earlier in the summer when I was driving home from a fishing trip. It was mid-July, 4 o'clock in the afternoon, on a scorching hot day. I came around the corner on to a road I hadn't driven in a couple months and something in the shadows had just caught the corner of my eye. I pulled into the approach and jumped out of my truck running up to the fence to check it out. About 60 yards away was a mule deer buck. He looked decent size; then he turned his head! This was my first encounter with this buck. A monster deer already for July and his drop tines were very distinct coming off his right side. I snapped a few pictures but the shadows and distance
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made good shots impossible. After about a minute of watching him he got up and slowly sauntered off into the bush. Standing in the shop, staring at the map thinking of that monster deer, I knew exactly where I wanted to go. Tyson and I headed back in to finish all the prepping for the morning. Luckily, I was able to get a hold of the landowner right before they had gone to bed and was allowed permission for walk-in only, bow only, and only for a specific time span. It was tough getting permission but I understood why as it is an amazing chunk of land. I didn't know this but the quarter had never been hunted other than by the owner once every couple years. This was definitely a honey hole. Now that I had permission, bow was tuned, truck was packed, and we were ready to rock and roll, it was bedtime! The next morning Tyson and I awoke just before sunrise and headed out. I dropped Tyson off at his tree stand and got him all set up before I headed out to my spot. I parked on that same approach from the summer encounter. I had picked the quarter to hunt but I had really had no idea on where to setup? I could see that half of the quarter was thick bush and the other half was a baled alfalfa field outlined by a thin strip of bush. So, I figured the deer would be moving back into the bush from the field and that's where I headed, hoping to cut them off. Slowly zigzagging my way through the bush, I was hoping to find a game trail where I could set up. As I slowly and careful made my way through it, I realized that the area was not holding any deer! There was no sign, no trails, nothing. “Time to come up with a plan B”, I thought to myself. I made my way out to the alfalfa to take a look around and saw nothing. Not a single critter anywhere. “So much for my honey hole,” I muttered. Kind of disappointed, I decided to head out and scout the area around the field anyway. I climbed up on top of a bale and scanned the area. It was only 20 minutes into the hunt and I was second guessing my spot and wanting to be somewhere else but I had most likely missed the morning rush anyway so I just hung out. I took out my phone and tried texting my brother but apparently his phone was dead, so I could not get an update from him either. As I looked up from my phone, on the opposite side of the field two deer came out. I thought to myself, “Oh boy, here we go!” I jumped off the bale and hid behind it, watching the deer come out into the alfalfa and start feeding. I could tell they were mulies and one had a decent 4x4 frame but he wasn’t a monster, the other was a spiker. They weren’t quite what I was after and I was unsure of stalking for a shot on opening day but I had hunted 50 of the 61 days in bow season for mule deer for the past 5 years and never connected. I had a seriously bad reputation within the family for a lot of stalks and no shots. So this was my chance! The buck came down a cattle trail in to 80 yards but then turned away and headed back to the strip of trees. That’s a little outside my range to shoot but I decided to back out and go around. The wind would be in my face and I’d have cover to attempt to get in close. I hid behind bales until the two bucks would look
away and then I’d sprint to the next bale to try and close the distance. During this time of running and waiting, the deer had made it back to the bush and bedded down. I got across the field and made it into the bush, 90 yards from the deer. Slowly making my way along the trees, trying to get closer, the 4x4 stood up and began eating. “This is my chance to close the gap and try to get a shot off,” I thought as I ranged him at 74 yards. There was 15 yards of shrubby bush, 5 yards across a cleared trail, a fence, and then 50 some yards across a large hilltop clearing with small trees on it. All I had to do was get to the edge of the brush and there I could take my shot. The next 11 yards took me 25 minutes. I made it to the edge and took cover behind a single willow clump. The buck was now 63 yards, perfectly broadside. I was ready to draw back and shoot but then buck fever kicked in and I knew that I had to take my time and take a minute to settle down. A couple deep breaths later I was ready to go. I ranged the deer once again at 63 yards and drew back my Hoyt. I found my anchor point, counted down my pins to 60, lined everything up on his chest and then.... something else caught my eye. I stayed drawn but pulled my eyes away from the nice four point I had been focused on. As I slowly turned I saw him, a true monster Mulie, in full velvet with two drop tines! He stood up right behind the first buck. My jaw dropped as the adrenaline kicked in again, and I lined up my pin on his shoulder, judging that he was also at 63 yards, I let the arrow fly. He took the arrow hard in the ribs and hunched up. The buck was slowly moving forward and I noticed the arrow had hit just a little far back. So I took another arrow out of my quiver and nocked it. Ranging him again at 54, I drew back and this arrow flew perfectly, smacking him right in the shoulder going double lung. He jumped in the air and started to run away but then did a 180 degree turn and came running straight back at me. I stepped back behind the tree hoping he would run past me but as he came to the fence, he went to jump but collapsed, dead by the time he hit the ground! He skidded into the fence. I couldn’t believe it, this monster mule deer that I had seen two months before had just died eight yards from my feet on opening day. I was beyond excited! My first thought was call my parents. I called my mom and as she answered, I was speechless. I tried talking but nothing came out, I was so ecstatic, so I just hung up. I called back a couple minutes later once I settled down and was able to share the story
with her. I took one single picture of the deer lying in the fence and sent it to my mom, and that picture spread like wildfire. Within the minute I had texts and phone calls coming from all friends and family with congratulations on my deer. I was able to pull him under the barbed wire and into the opening for a couple pictures and then placed him in the shade until I could get help gutting and hauling him out. Still full of adrenaline, I ran the full mile back to the truck and went to pick up Tyson. He was just as pumped about the deer as I was! For this 16-year-old kid, it is an amazing first mule deer buck, especially with a bow. This deer was my most memorable hunt yet and it was the start to an amazing 2013 hunting season. I was able to down a big 5x5 bull elk with my bow and then a really nice 5x5 whitetail in rifle season. I also was with my Dad and helped out with his bull elk in Rifle season. Thanks again to the best neighbours and friends in our country, and my family for all the support I could ask for.
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Brit Corbin with a monster mule shed
SHEDS Cody Forsberg Photo
85” 5 point. Blake Shmyr Photo
Kristi Rafuse with an arm full
Brock Baier shed scoring 84 7/8”
Shelby Henderson glassing a cut cornfield
Lindsay Wilkinson Photo
Matt Serwa with the big Midwest buck he took in Wisconsin. The big non-typical showed up in his trail camera very early in the summer and teased him with pictures until he was able to down him when the season finally began. The gnarly buck had a gross score of 203 7/8â€?, definitely a deer of a lifetime and a season to remember.
SEASON REMEMBER A
BY: MATT SERWA
ometimes, when the anticipation of getting a big whitetail buck is what we live for, actually harvesting one is nothing short of surreal. My father Ron, my brother Mike, and I manage several hundred acres of land for the sole purpose of hunting quality whitetail deer, otherwise known as “Quality Deer Management.” This is our hobby, but if you asked any of our friends they would likely say it is our obsession. In July, we viewed a nice buck on camera but at the early stage of his antler growth, we could not tell what his true potential would be; we could only hope that he was going to be a “good one”. My story starts the Friday before the opening day of bow season in Wisconsin. I went out to our property to pull the camera cards to see if there were any pictures of decent sized bucks visiting our food plots. I was particularly excited to see the pictures from a new food plot, but of course, that card was corrupt and had no viewable pictures! Disappointed but determined, I continued to review the other camera cards and came across a buck hanging around the alfalfa plot during the daylight hours. This was no average buck and I had to look twice and couldn’t flip passed the picture I was looking at. I immediately emailed the picture to my father and brother, knowing that it was the largest buck we have ever had on our property. My brother replied, “I guess we should go hunting this weekend.” I replied, “Yep--going to have to sit in a stand I guess.” Understatements to say the least, but we tried not to get too excited until one of us had the buck on the ground. I got home Friday evening and showed the picture to my wife, Loralee, and told her that I was probably going to hunt this weekend. Being the ever supportive wife and avid hunter herself, she stated, “You better go hunting, that thing is a monster!” Typically, I do not hunt a lot in the early part of the season. I prefer to hunt the rut in late October and early November. I am also a father of two young children, so I would rather use my time away from them when it is prime hunting conditions. In this case, I was willing to make an exception for a chance at this particular buck. I knew it was a rare opportunity that I could not miss. I met my brother out at our property about 5:00 pm for the evening hunt. We had already placed two tree stands strategically close to where the latest trail camera picture was captured 10 days earlier. We strategized and then headed to the stands for the evening. Approximately 45 minutes after climbing into my stand, a small herd of deer started to arrive. I recognized several bucks from the camera card and anticipated the big buck would arrive soon. I started getting excited thinking, “Any minute he is going to show himself.” Minutes turned into hours, and still he had not appeared. I remember thinking, “Every other buck he hangs out with is here! Where is he? Did he get poached? There is no reason for him to not be with the rest of his buddies!” Finally, at about 7:00 pm, like a couple ghosts, my target buck and another large buck emerged onto the food plot. He was standing 20 yards away with his head down eating turnip greens. I slowly raised my bow into position and drew back my arrow. When I went to settle my pin on his vitals, all I could
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see was a black blob! After a few repositions of my anchor point, it became obvious that my peep sight was twisted! This had never, ever happened to me before and I could not believe my luck. I have shot thousands and thousands of arrows through this bow and never once did I have my peep sight get twisted to the point where I could not see through it. My only option at this point was to center my sight on the black blob and hope it would hit where I intended. Of course, it did not. The first shot sailed clean over the top of his back, and sent him into a panicked rush to the other side of the food plot. Luckily, he was not spooked badly, and stopped, looking around trying to figure out what happened. Now he was standing 40 yards away looking around, trying to find out what all the commotion was. Thankful for another chance at this monstrosity, I wasted no time in getting another arrow nocked. I was shocked when again my peep twisted and I could not see through it. I focused and placed it where I thought it should line up. I let the arrow go in hopes it would find its target. And again, it missed its mark and sailed right underneath his chest! At this point I was very upset that I had messed up not one chance, but two, for a buck of a lifetime! Luckily, the deer Gods stayed with me and gave me yet another chance! Unbelievably, he was still standing there, broadside at 45 yards, so I took out another arrow. This time before I shot, I violently pulled and twisted my peep sight and string loop in an attempt to get it lined back up. I drew back my arrow, looked through the peep sight, and could now see my sight picture perfect! I let the arrow fly and heard it impact the deer. At first glance, the shot appeared to be fatal. However, when the buck spun around I realized the exit wound was farther back than I would have liked to see. Although an exit wound that is a bit far back is not the worst thing in the world, it takes a certain amount of time for the animal to expire and I knew I had to leave the deer overnight rather than risk pushing him and losing him forever. I also knew that rain was predicted in the forecast, which would make blood trailing the deer virtually impossible. Deflated, I walked to my brother’s stand and explained what had transpired. Mike, not cheering me up at all, exclaimed, “Well, it’s going to rain for sure now, you can bet on that!” We decided to back out and wait until morning to track the deer. I have never needed to use a tracking dog before, but I knew this was the only chance I had of finding this buck. The first person I called was a friend of mine, Kasey Morgan, who runs a local company call Bloodhound Deer Tracking Service. He calmly asked, “Did you try and track the deer at all?” I said, “No! I just got out of my stand and walked the other way.” He said “Good! If we have a fresh undisturbed trail, we will have the best chance to find your deer.” 40
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We agreed to meet the following morning at 9:00 am to pursue the deer. I got home and hugged the kids. My wife asked, “Well, did you see any deer?” I said to her, we need to say a prayer to the deer gods. Her mouth dropped open. “No way, you shot him?!” I continued to tell her about what had happened and how the odds were completely stacked against me finding this deer. After a long sleepless night, I met Kasey and his bloodhound named Boomer and we proceeded to put Boomer on the trail. Boomer worked the blood trail for over an hour and amazingly, he found the deer! He was dead in a small creek in the middle of our swamp. Kasey and I exchanged high fives and the celebration was on. We snapped some great photos and were in complete awe over the sight that lay before us, a true monarch of a whitetail. Now the real work began. We had to drag the 195 pound deer out of the swamp, load him in my truck and transport him to the local registration spot, also known as, the local tavern. This, of course was the beginning of a long day of celebrating and storytelling that I will never forget. With the buck coming in with a gross green score of 203-7/8, this is definitely a September hunt I will remember for years to come.
OO S H K BY:BEN FUNK
t is not often that a day comes along like August 1, 2012. For me and a few good friends, it was truly one of those days that we will continue to think about for many years to come, and will constantly try to replicate. Mega monster mule deer overload is the best way to describe the events of that fateful day. Our efforts were focused on finding a particular buck we called “Hooks”. He was an amazing deer, and one that we had a lot of history with, and one that had managed to evade us for years. That evening, we spotted three world class, jumbo mule deer bucks. One of those deer was a big non-typical that we figured must be “The Old Legend”. He had big hook-like fliers off both sides and nearly every detail of the rack was the same as we remembered from the year before. The typical frame portion had changed slightly, but we were both sure that must be him. After savoring every moment watching ‘The Old Legend”, we finally headed home, extremely happy with the outcome of the evening and with light fading. Then it happened, within 100 yards of where it happened the previous year. It was him! Without a doubt, we knew for sure it was Hooks and his three point buddy. They jumped the fence and were sauntering out into the lentil field. We stopped and stared, not really believing what we were seeing. It was a picture perfect portrait as the big racks were sky lined against the setting sun. We had found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! Over the course of the summer we kept pretty close tabs on our old friend and he was right at the top of
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S Jesse Maxemniuk with one of the prettiest mule deer bucks you will ever see. The incredible deer has absolutely everything that hard core mule deer hunters dream of. Jesse and his good friend Ben Funk spent two years chasing the old monster until they were able to seal the deal. The final tally of the tape is a gross score of 237 1/8â€? and a net non-typical score of 223 3/8â€?. Big Game Illustrated
our hit list. Regular sightings had us more excited for the season than ever before. Although we knew it would be tough to get close enough to slip an arrow into the old buck, we knew that we had a chance, and as hunters, that is really all you can ask for. Looking back, over the course of the two seasons when we were on the trail of Hooks, we were very fortunate to have many encounters with the old boy. For us, those are the days we live for. Those are the moments that drive us to get up early, spend countless hours glassing empty fields for any sign of an antler or an ear or a tail, and keep us motivated to get out into the field and enjoy every second. We had created two years of history with a special friend. Memories and images that will forever be engrained in our minds. On September 5, 2012 we were the two luckiest hunters on the earth. We had finally closed the chapter on the buck we called Hooks. It was a bittersweet moment, but one that we had worked incredibly hard for. Jesse was able to walk up to our old friend and although it was a moment of pure joy, it was also with heavy hearts we were humbled to be standing over such an amazing animal. The pinnacle of every hunterâ€™s career is often thought to be taking that magnificent buck, but really it is all of the other events and moments leading to that moment that we cherish 44
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the most. The kill, especially of an animal that you know so well, is such a powerful combination of emotions, not the least of which is genuine sadness, knowing that you will not ever get to hunt him again. However, it is also a true sense of accomplishment and a goal that is necessary in order to truly create a hunt. It is the journey, the failures and the odd success that drives us every year. It is evenings like those two that make us look forward to those warm summer nights cruising the back trails in pursuit of that next monster buck. Itâ€™s a tradition that brings us together for a few weeks and provides us with endless memories that will last a lifetime.
SHAW T By: Derek Shaw
A day of shed hunting is rarely as successful as it was for the Shawâ€™s. Left to right is Brad, Jessica, Derek and Wendell. Shed hunting seems to be an activity that can become addicting and that moment when you first spot the shed is like nothing else. Needless to say, the Shawâ€™s are hooked on shed hunting!
hey say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different outcome. If that’s the case, then we could be labeled insane when it comes to shed hunting, especially for elk sheds! If hiking mile after mile, day after day, in some of the most beautiful country in the world, expecting to find any kind of bone at the end of the trail is the definition of insanity, then count us in! Like every outdoor passion we all have, we can trace what we love to do back to a certain time and place when we first became “hooked” and that experience turned what we do into a lifelong passion. For some it was their first trip to the mountains on a sheep hunt, while others it was the first stalk in on a giant mule deer with a bow. For us there were a few of those special events that got us hooked on shed hunting! Shed hunting has always been a passion of ours in the Shaw family. From the time Brad and I were old enough to walk I remember spending a few days a year in the spring with our dad looking for the tips of whitetail antlers lying in the grass at our favorite hunting spots. Finding those sheds was like finding a piece of treasure that could tell a story and fill our heads with “what ifs” for the upcoming hunting season. While we gave it a good effort chasing those “ghosts” during the following hunting seasons, we could never quite catch up to them, but no matter the results of our hunting season, we always looked forward to finding sheds in the spring. While we enjoyed the occasional shed hunt as youth we never really got hooked on sheds until one day in the spring of 2004. I had just returned home from a 2-year mission with the LDS church and was anxious to get out into the hunting areas that I loved so much. Dad, Brad and I decided to spend the weekend with the quads up at our cabin; we hadn’t done much spring scouting and decided we would go for a quad ride through our hunting grounds to see what had made it through the winter. Well, two minutes into our ride dad picked up the first whitetail shed of the weekend and from then on it was nothing but antler for two days
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straight! Racking up 20 or so sheds was an amazing weekend by our standards! From then on each spring would find us in the same spot, on the same weekend, picking up bone! We have managed to find sheds of all sizes, from small bucks to 180 inch deer and everything in between. Like all Outdoorsmen, we are always seeking new challenges and new game to pursue. Eventually elk came into the discussion and both Brad and I harvested bulls in the fall of 2004 and 2006 after being drawn for tags in our zone. Being that we harvested them so close to our whitetail grounds, we decided to expand our shed hunting expeditions for the next spring and look for elk sheds a couple times. Like any activity, there is a learning curve and sometimes it’s dumb luck that helps you out. I had decided to take Brad’s quad for a short ride one evening only to discover a nice 300 inch set of elk sheds on a well-known flat we ride quite often. I was excited to say the least and couldn’t wait to show Brad! That set of sheds laid the groundwork for what was to come in a few years. Brad had drawn a great elk tag that winter and with both of us being in school we hadn’t done much scouting, but like any good brother and friend does, when one of us was tied down with school the other was out looking and scouting. During a good cold spell, I had gone into a new area where we had acquired permission for the first time to do some scouting. Well, the bulls were definitely there and with one text to Brad he was on his way home for the morning hunt. We had some close calls, but the bulls managed to elude us that morning, as well as the rest of the season. We decided to keep scouting the area through the winter to see where the elk winter in preparation for the coming seasons. We discovered that the elk frequent this area quite often during the winter months because of the grass which is not grazed all year and the shelter offered by the area from the harsh Alberta winters. Knowing this, we decided to focus our scouting efforts for the upcoming shed season on elk. We began watching the area as much as we could, even sneaking in and placing trail cams up in hopes of capturing their movement. Being rookies to finding elk sheds, Brad and I didn’t really know for sure when the elk in our area drop their antlers. We spent as many hours as we could in the
area, hiking and glassing the elk in different areas, but we found them hard to pattern. As elk do, they were always on the move. Spring came and Brad and I decided one evening we would head into one of the areas we had been watching closely to see if the elk were still packing their antlers. It was foggy that evening so we decided we would hike in to get a better look and see if we could locate any elk sign. Fifteen minutes into our hike, I looked to our right and there, on a small flat, were tines sticking up out of the grass! I was so excited that when I pointed it out to Brad he initially thought I was seeing elk and decided he better hit the dirt to get out of sight! Well, after some high fives and another five minute walk Brad picked up another six point shed! We hauled both sheds to a vantage point we had been planning on spotting from and had a good laugh and talk. Five minutes into the glassing, I picked out another nice
six point about 200 yards below us on a small clearing in the bottom of the valley! We couldn’t believe the luck we were having and decided that we would be back in the morning to spend the day hiking the area. I think it was safe to say both of us didn’t sleep that night and we were definitely hooked on elk sheds from that day on. The next morning found us picking up sheds like we had always pictured it would happen! Had we stayed glassing the evening before we could have easily seen another few sheds lying on different flats, but after a few miles on the old boots we eventually found them. We found sheds and sign of wintering elk all over the place. Well-worn trails were easy to follow from flat to flat and we picked up a couple real good sheds as we moved through the area. After the day was done we managed nine sheds ranging from 300 inches up to 370 inches and everything in between, some being singles and others matched sets. From then on every year we have scouted and worked a little harder to prepare for shed season and each year we have found sheds, learned something new about the elk in our area and had a great time doing it! We don’t get an elk tag every year, but every spring we get our fix of elk antlers by hiking miles at a time for a few weeks. What could be better than unlimited elk antlers? No field dressing? And no meat to spoil?! But most importantly, there is nothing better than spending time in the field with family doing what we love. The connection we have with the outdoors and the unknown of what’s out there is what keeps us going back. There is no better feeling than knowing all of our hard work has paid off when the packs are heavy with antlers! For us it’s who we are and what we do! It’s a Shaw thing!
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BY: SCOTT TRADEWELL
he 2012 deer hunting season was quickly coming upon me as I glanced through trail pictures from a camera in one of my favorite spots. This was the first time checking my cameras since last year when I had a neat looking buck that I had nicknamed “Stickers”. As I flipped through the pictures something caught my eye and there was no mistaking; it was him and he’d added some major bone from the previous year! He was with a good looking 5x5, and was coming in most of August. With a few daylight pictures of Stickers, I figured maybe I’d get lucky with my bow come August 25th but I knew that it was going to take a lot of time, time that I didn’t have. With a few failed attempts, I vowed to continue my search when the November rut kicked in. With a few random pictures of Stickers, I had high hopes he would show himself in daylight hours come November. It was November 1st and I was out doing some scouting and checking some cameras. I walked into the camera that had the majority of pictures of Stickers. I was stopped in my tracks as a big body deer was moving quickly down a cutline towards me. I grabbed my binos and watched the deer scrape a poplar tree on the edge of the cutline, it didn’t take me long to figure out it was the big 5x5 that I had numerous pictures of, with Stickers. I sat and waited, hoping that Stickers was near, but in the back of my mind I knew that although the two bucks were once best friends and almost inseparable buddies, they were likely arch enemies now! With nine days of vacation at the end of November, I knew I would have to put my time in kill this big deer. As my vacation approached, I had my buddy Tyson lined up to come on his annual whitetail trip. With my Dad having the same vacation days booked off, we had a plan that either one of us would wait for Stickers every chance we had. My dad spent the first six days sitting waiting for Stickers while I played guide for Tyson and my Uncle. Tyson was able to connect on a great 5x5 that scored 158” as the deer walked by my blind and
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towards Tyson who was in my tree stand not far away. It wasn’t long before the silence was shattered by his 270WSM. I was pumped to see Tyson down such a good deer, but in the back of my mind, I was also questioning passing him up. Fast forward to the last day of my nine day hunt and I find myself waiting for Stickers to show up. Dad put in a lot of time,
Scott Tradewell with the back to back ‘bush bucks’ he harvested in the forests of Northern Alberta. The buck on the right is a massive, old specimen that sports a 7x7 frame with a gross score of 175 3/8”, while the buck on the left carries a 9x6 rack that grossed 169 7/8”. Marco from Sugar Creek Taxidermy did an outstanding job on both of Scott’s bucks. Big Game Illustrated
but was not rewarded so my confidence wasn’t very high but I pushed on, knowing it was my last chance. I had just finished a sandwich when a tall 4x4 crossed the line. Dad had told me he’d seen this deer several times and he’d be a good one next year. The 4x4 walked off the line and my mind started to wonder what he’d look like next year. Just then, another deer showed up on the line! He looked good so I lined up my 270WSM, trying to figure out if he was Stickers. It didn’t take long to figure out it wasn’t Stickers but another very interesting looking buck. He was looking at the ground blind from about 200 yards out and I couldn’t get a good read on exactly what he was packing for bone, he finally turned broadside and revealed a picket fence of tines. His head whipped back around and I could see his front profile again, he was not very tall but looked like he had a lot of mass and he was outside of his ears. The deer turned again and I remember thinking to myself, “It’s your last day and you have three hours left, you better not pass this opportunity up!” With the click off of the safety, BOOM, and he took off into the thick willows. I started to question myself after the shot, “Were there really that many points?” I didn’t know what to expect as I walked up to the downed buck which was only 30 yards off the trail. I grabbed his antler and instantly noticed the split points that I had seen from the ground blind, seven points on his left antler! I pulled the other side out of the snow to reveal the exact same thing, a 7x7 dark antlered old dinosaur of a buck. After the celebration dance, which I am extremely thankful no-one was around to witness, I somehow managed to drag the big bodied deer over 500 yards back to the road. Somehow, I was able to load him up by myself. This deer was a ghost, with three different trail cams in the area we didn’t have a single picture of him. Although I had been on a quest for Stickers, I was more than happy to put my tag on this deer!
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Part 2 December, 2012 had me feeling pretty proud of my accomplishments and the hard work I had put in for the last four months of scouting and waiting for a big old bush buck. However, I knew if I wanted a repeat in 2013 I need to start early. On December 6, 2012 I witnessed one of the biggest bucks I have ever laid eyes on when he crossed the road in front of me. I told myself I would put in whatever it took to harvest this monster deer. Although we had a tough winter in early 2013 and our area experienced a large amount of winter kill I still had high hopes he made the winter. With about 40 hours of shed hunting on my boots and a few sheds in the bag, I had yet to find the sheds I was looking for. The good news was I learned a lot about the area he lived in and found the perfect place for a tree stand. Fast forward to July and I headed into that “perfect” spot with a drill, a few old 2x6’s and a good buddy that was nice enough to help me build a new stand. I already had a small army of trail cams up in the area and as we walked out from building the stand. I pulled a few memory cards and hit the road home. When I got home I quickly grabbed the laptop and started flipping through pictures when I saw him standing on my computer screen in all his glory! Once again I think I did a little dance, unfortunately my wife was there to witness it this time. Her thoughts about my craziness for hunting were now confirmed beyond a doubt. With photos of the deer at the start of August, I was always excited to check my cams in hopes of learning some sort of routine but was almost always disappointed when I checked my cams. He only showed up once more on Sept 3 at 2AM, and pretty much vanished after that, never to have his picture taken again by one of my trail cameras. This year I had the last two weeks of November off which
Scott has also had alot of success hunting moose, wolves and elk in his area.
meant 15 days to hunt the wily bush buck! Once again Tyson made his annual trip up for a few days of hunting, he was able to connect with an old bruiser 5x5, after which he stuck around for a few days to help me search for my deer to no avail. I sat in the tree stand on and off for the majority of my days off, but the fact that I didn’t have a single picture of the deer since September 3rd weighed heavy on me. November 28, day 12 of my 15 day hunt was one I’d rather forget, as I sat all day without seeing a single deer. I was a little discouraged, but I found the ambition to brave the chilly temperatures by
reminding myself why I was out there with a quick glance at the background on my phone. Day 13 I tried something different in the morning and did some walking and sitting with no success, so at 1pm back to the stand I went. I climbed into the creaky, not so comfortable ugly tree stand and settled in. Merely 20 minutes later it started raining. -15 and raining, the worst hunting conditions anyone could ask for! Three hours into my afternoon I started questioning my sanity, frozen like a popsicle 15’ up in the air. I began to think to myself, “I now think I understand why my wife says I’m crazy!” Then I caught movement out of the corner of my eye, 70 yards away a doe was coming parallel to the stand, then a second, third and fourth doe. Following the small herd was my buck! He was tough to judge at first as he was moving quickly but I was able to see the unmistakable non-typical points. The only problem was he was moving away quickly. As I shouldered my rifle he stopped right behind a 4” poplar tree at 150 yards out. I quickly found the sweet spot on a quartering away shot and let the 270WSM bark. As I walked up to where the deer was standing I was left dumbfounded as there was a 4” poplar tree nearly cut down as the bullet past right through it. My heart dropped and I thought all that effort had been wasted, but then I looked up to see less than a foot behind the tree was a good blood trail! Following the blood trail about 40 yards led me to my deer under a large spruce tree. As I grabbed him, I honestly couldn’t believe it was him, it took about 30 seconds for my mind to comprehend that this was actually the deer that had consumed the last four months of my life. A quick call to my dad who was hunting not too far away and he was quickly on route. Tyson showed up to give me a hand and helped pull him over a kilometer back to the truck with the fading sunlight. I would like to thank Tyson for all the help, as well as my Dad who instilled my passion for the outdoors from the time I was two years old strapped in a car seat on the back of a Honda 300! Big Game Illustrated
Matt Lauinger and the big split G2 buck he took in Saskatchewan in 2012 after nicknaming the buck “Simpson”. A unique feature of the rack is that it is very narrow, but still scores up nicely with a gross score of 158 4/8”, helped by long tines including a longest tine of 11”.
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impson BY: MATT LAUINGER
y 2012 hunting season started off just like any other season. Looking back now, I am glad that I did not know that I would end up harvesting my largest whitetail to date! As is always the case, I was already consumed by the thoughts of giant whitetails. Whether it is during the rut with their noses to the ground, on the trail of a hot doe or maybe catching a glimpse of one standing in a slough bottom or out in an open field paired up with a doe, the November hunting season is always the highlight of the year for me. I just couldn’t get these thoughts out of my head as hunting season was about to begin. I had the thoughts of one specific buck consuming my thoughts; and the buck I had put on my ‘hit list’ for the year. Hopefully he was still running around. The only way I knew he even existed was night time trail cam pictures from the year before that my hunting partner Raye Manson and I captured. I had thought about him all summer, wondering if he had survived the harsh winter or was shot by another hunter. I had to keep telling myself that the trail cameras would tell the story. Although we were not able to get a single daytime trail camera of the buck, I was determined to change that during the upcoming season. Once the cameras were out and set, I could hardly wait to check them again to see what was roaming around the area. Not wanting to take the chance of missing the buck that we had seen on camera, Raye and I decided the best plan would be to sit in the blind all day and wait for him to show. Whether he was on the camera or not, I had it in my head that I was going to sit there until he showed up! The first thing we did when we got to the blind that morning was pull the card on the camera and the first sight we saw was him! The excitement I felt in that moment was inexplicable! He had been there the night before and he was even bigger this year! The only problem was that he appeared to be up to his old tricks again and only showing up in the dark. I knew exactly what I had to do if I wanted to get him and that was to be prepared to sit there all day, every day until hunting season was over. I knew that this was my
only hope of seeing him during the daylight hours. I knew it was not going to be easy, and I would need both my wife and my employer to be understanding during the season, but it was what I had to do! The first day had us fairly excited from the trail cam pictures and we sat in the blind all day long. We did not see a lot of deer activity. It was a slow start, especially considering the cold temperatures which we hoped would have the deer interested in moving during the daylight hours. The trail cameras showed us that the deer had been busy all night long chasing
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and rutting, so perhaps they were sleeping their busy night off during the day. Even though we didn’t see a single deer, we were kept entertained by the odd bird and squirrel and, of course, a few hunting stories as that helped to pass the time and the laughter kept the chill out. Later that night back at camp, Raye and I were discussing some of the bucks we had pictures of and giving them nicknames based on their appearance. We had some good laughs and every time we looked at the buck I was after, Raye would say, “Look, there’s Bart Simpson.” The name fit perfectly to his high and narrow rack. I guess you could say he went straight up just like Bart Simpson’s hair. The next morning had us up before the sun, getting ready to try again. Off we went to the same blind, checking the trail camera and preparing ourselves for another day of sitting. We knew the deer were rutting, so just kept telling ourselves that we could see anything, anytime, including our target buck.
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The camera was slow, and it was cold, so I was happy that my friend Raye was willing to sit with me. We made a deal that if Simpson came in then I would take the shot; but if a different shooter buck came in then Raye would get to take the shot. Looking back, I am sure that if he hadn’t been there, I may have packed it in after sitting all day again and not seeing anything to keep my hopes up. I’m definitely not known for having much patience and after sitting from sun up to sun down, even for a couple of days, I was already getting antsy. Once again, I had to remind myself that I had an opportunity here to harvest a buck of a lifetime and all I had to do was tough it out…It’s really all I needed to do! The third day came and went with similar results. There was a little four point buck that entertained us for a while part of that afternoon, but that was it for that day. Getting up on Day Four did not come easy. I knew that my time was running out and it was coming down to the wire to make something happen. We got to the blind that morning and checked the camera again. He was a ‘no show’. My heart sank. I thought, “No way, that’s it, I am not going to see him.” Despite my thoughts, I knew I didn’t have anything to lose so once again we settled in for another long day. The morning started just like the rest; cold, quiet and no deer in sight. It was around 1:00 in the afternoon when I thought I heard a twig snap. I looked out the blind, but saw nothing. A few minutes passed when I started to see a deer coming through the trees. I could tell it wasn’t a buck but I still grabbed for my .300 Weatherby mag, just in case. Soon the deer was in full sight. There were another two deer coming in behind and I could make out antlers on the last deer! I knew it was a buck but not knowing how big it was I decided to ready my gun in hopes of it being a respectable one. The buck was following right behind the second doe with his nose to the ground and when the doe stopped to look at our
blind, he almost ran right into the back of her. When they both stopped at that moment, he lifted his head up. I put my scope on him and whispered to Raye, “Its Simpson!” BOOM! The shot rang out and I saw him kick and then take off running. My first thought was, “How did I miss him?” We sat for a few minutes to gather our thoughts and then crawled out of the blind and walked a short distance to where he was standing and there about 80 yards over you could see with every jump he took he was spewing blood so I knew it was a good hit! He only made it about another 60 yards and there he was! Walking up to him was one of the most rewarding moments of my hunting career. Once I actually put my hands on him I knew I just did what I set out to do and. He was the biggest whitetail I have ever harvested to date. I couldn’t be happier and more grateful to have had this opportunity, espcially after putting in so much time and effort. It is very rewarding when it pays off! I would like to thank my Dad for introducing me to hunting and teaching me everything I know about it. I want to thank my wife for putting up with my whitetail obsession and understanding how much it means to me to be able to hunt every year. Many thanks to my hunting partner Raye, without you none of this would have been possible. I appreciate your hard work and thanks for the laughs and the best company a guy could ask for.
Jeanette Hall at The Game Preserve Taxidermy did a great job on Matt’s buck.
A Hunt Worth the Wait BY: DORIN GULBRANSON
Dorin Gulbranson (center), with his sister, Tyler, brothers Chandler and Ryan and their father. The family went on an early season elk and moose hunt in the mountains of northern British Columbia and had some incredible success. They took a couple great bull elk and the trip was highlighted by the giant moose taken by Dorin. The huge bull is 54â€? wide and has intact velvet covered antlers.
t finally happened; I was going hunting with my family in Northern British Columbia! I had been looking forward to this for years. It is tradition that the year us kids turned 12 we got to go on the fall hunting trip in the mountains with Dad. Summer was an adventure in itself, getting ready to go, training some new pack horses and going over camp gear. The hours I spent raking hay this last summer seemed to go by faster because of the excitement I had. This year Dad, my sister Tyla (18) and older brothers, Chandler (28), Ryan (25), Arlan (22) and myself (11) got to go. After a 12 hour drive we arrived at our destination, parked by the side of the highway and slept in our sleeping bags in the horse trailer; the adventure had begun! The ride in was spectacular. The many stream and river crossings were exciting and mountains were beautiful. After a long day of riding we arrived in a large grassy meadow, set up camp and cooked supper. The next day it rained most of the day, so we didn’t see much game. The day after that was an excellent start to the hunt. Ryan, Arlan and Tyla headed up a mountain to look for sheep and Dad, Chandler and I went to look for elk. On the mountain that we climbed, the only thing we found was a porcupine. I had fun chasing him and taking pictures. As we sat and glassed the valleys below us, we began to see game here and there. We also spotted Ryan, Arlan and Tyla on the next mountain over, who seemed to have their eyes on something. Shortly after, we lost sight of them as they had gone over to the other side of the mountain. With our binoculars, we eventually found four big bull moose lying down in the willows below in the valley! That must have been what they were looking at. My heartbeat sped up when I realized how big the moose were. We noticed one had only one antler and another was a bit larger than the rest. We hiked around for a few more hours looking for elk. We then made our way back down to the horses on the trail and met up with Tyla, Ryan and Arlan, who were riding back out. Arlan then told us of the adventures they had that day. “We tied up the horses and started up the mountain, pausing to glass around here and there. For the next 30 minutes we watched as the mountains came alive! We
were glassing and on a bench across the ravine about 550 yards away we spotted a big bull moose bedded down in some brush. Then we spotted three more bulls right beside him. Four huge monsters! We sat and watched them for a while, trying to decide what to do. We had the biggest one picked out and man the adrenaline was pumping! It was still early in the day though, we figured they’d probably stay in the area and we could come back later if we didn’t see any sheep or elk. We started backing off and after we had moved about twenty yards we looked down the opposite side of the mountain and Ryan whispered intensely, ‘Two bull elk!’ They were both down a really steep slope, almost directly below us probably about six or seven hundred yards. It was only moments after seeing the four bull moose and our level of excitement from extremely high. We weren’t a hundred percent sure if we would be able to get the horses to the elk if we took them, but we took our chances and would carry the meat out on our backs if we had to. ‘Let’s go after them’ I said. We started to make our stalk. As we started getting closer to them it was getting harder and harder to find cover. We lost sight of one bull, but we could see the other in the open. They started to move around a bit more and we spotted a few cows with him. The slope was pretty steep and they were still below us, so I slid down to a tree to use as a rest for my 7mm. The bull was looking directly in my direction as I stood right behind the tree, waiting for him to look away. ‘Okay, he turned,’ Ryan whispered. I rested my gun and squeezed the trigger. A direct hit and at the same moment Tyla’s bull ran into view and she made a beautiful shot on him as well. With both bulls down, we could not have been happier! We made some fast high fives and Whoopees and made our way down to them. It was pretty amazing, my bull was a nice 6x6 and Tyla had dropped a nice 5x5! After lots of smiles and taking pictures we quickly dressed them and made our way back to the horses and got back on the trail to meet back up with you”.
We were pretty happy for them and couldn’t wait to see their bulls. We told them we saw the bull moose as well. I was the next one in line to shoot, after talking it over we decided to go after the moose. We all knew it would take a lot of work, but we all eagerly agreed to help and make it happen! It took us about a half hour to ride up the valley to where we tied the horses. We had to climb a small ridge to where they were. After locating them and choosing the biggest one, we tried to get in position for a clear shot. Unfortunately they saw us and ran down the draw and up the other side and it was really steep! As they climbed up the other side they were in clear view. At about 350 yards, I took aim and hit the biggest one with a lung shot. My brothers were so excited; they could see clearly that he was hit well! The bull took a few steps forward and then dropped. As we made our way to him I couldn’t believe how big he was! I was so excited to have such a big bull! My heart was pumping 100 miles per minute and it was like nothing I have ever experienced. It was such a perfect day. When we got back to camp late that night the day finished off with the traditional elk tenderloin fajitas! Needless to say, it was a pretty special day for all of us. Tyla also expressed some feelings about this unique opportunity to go on this trip with her brothers. “It was a great trip! I grew up
in a house full of boys, all of which are avid hunters. I’ve been hunting locally with them since day one and I’ve held my own. All of those previous hunts don’t even compare to this trip in northern British Columbia. Because of my experience with horses, the assignment to get them ready and in shape fell mostly on me. So there I was in full swing; working on the family ranch, harvesting hay and riding and packing all of the horses. Hunting season couldn’t come soon enough, I could hardly wait and it was the most incredible experience I could ever imagine.” I cannot tell you enough about the beauty of the Northern
Rockies. It would have been a great trip even if we didn’t see any game. Our base camp was in a small valley with mountains towering over us to the east and west. I’m very fond of star gazing and I thought the view of the stars was good from my small town, but up there in the mountains they were phenomenal. One of the highlights though was the actual stalk on our elk. It was all so real from the beauty of the land to the intensity of our whispers. I took in every minute of it. After my brother Arlan took his elk I quickly rested on a branch of a dead tree and shot with my newly purchased 270 short mag Browning rifle. I was
so amped up. We all yelled with excitement. After taking pictures with our bulls we made our way back to the horses. I have never been so drained physically. It wasn’t all that easy keeping up to my gym-active brothers, but I did, and it was worth it. I am truly blessed to have my brothers and my Dad that helped me the whole trip. I would definately go again in the future.” The trip was a success. The day after the hunt we spent all day hauling all the meat back to camp. It was an all-day endeavor but we were happy to do it. It was truly the trip of a life time. I can’t wait to go with my family again up into the mountains sharing the incredible hunting experience with them.
ATT • 3D •A • Le • Pr
Photo by Brad Cunningham
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Sheldon Harvey with the 198 3/8” mule deer he arrowed in the badlands of Alberta. With an inside spread that reaches way out to 25 2/8” and matching main beams of 25 4/8”, it is truly a giant typical mule deer.
n order to find that trophy buck of a lifetime one must be willing to put countless hours into the search. As the 2014 hunting season was quickly approaching, I was bound and determined to put in the time and effort to find the buck of a lifetime. After almost two weeks of hard hunting in country that I knew sustained a healthy mule deer population, I finally spotted a giant typical feeding in a standing wheat field. With great excitement I watched him browse throughout the lush crop. I studied every inch of the amazing buck and confirmed that he was the deer I was looking for. A great big frame accompanied by deep forks. It was all I needed to see, so I quickly made a plan on how I was going to make the stalk on the big deer. A quick check of the wind and I had a plan. Instead of belly crawling through the wheat, I was fortunate to come across a grass prairie trail where I was able to run and close the distance while occasionally popping my head up to make sure he was still in the field. I got to a point where I could see the tips of his antlers down in a low spot. The pressure began to build as I ranged him at 75 yards. A long shot, but it was one that I was fairly comfortable with. I drew back my bow, slowly stood up while the giant turned. His
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stare was burning a hole through me as I focused and steadied myself for a shot. I took aim on his vitals and released. He quickly spun the other direction to run. I could see the location of the hit and it was slightly
BY: SHELDON HARVEY
lower than I had hoped. By the time he reached the edge of the field, he had come to a slow trot and then walked out of sight. In hopes that I had hit him well enough, I chose to let him bed down and wait for a couple hours for him to expire. When I returned, I fully expected to find him dead within 100 yards of where I had last seen him. My friend Kyle and I promptly located the blood trail where he had exited the field last. After following a weak blood trail for what seemed like a couple miles it began to get tougher and tougher, with only a drop of blood every three to five feet. After a few hours we finally found the impressive buck bedded down approximately 100 yards from a ravine that funnelled down to the river. In order to close the distance, I tried making a stalk on a bald pasture as the buck was facing away. I cautiously approached him and once I got to 130 yards, the buck suddenly stood up and began to head for the river. He eventually dropped out of sight so I frantically rushed to the edge of the ravine. He was still fairly close, but walking away, I ranged him at 65 yards and pulled an arrow out of my quiver. I came to a full draw and placed my sights in the kill zone, released my arrow and made a direct hit! He toppled over and ended up rolling 100 feet down into the coulee bottom which
made for an exhaustive recovery. After an action-packed adventure I was finally able to put my hands on my biggest hard horn mulie to date. The monarch ended up grossing an impressive 198 3/8â€? and netting 187â€?
Sheldon also arrowed a big bull moose just three days before he anchored the giant typical mule deer.
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even. It was by far the hardest I have ever had to work and track to get a buck but in the end I wouldn't change a thing. It was very rewarding because of the effort we put in, and the fact that we refused to give up on the big deer. The memories my friend Kyle and I shared will last a lifetime and I couldn't be more humbled to have harvested such a gorgeous animal. â€œA hunt of a lifetimeâ€? Kyle said. I am very lucky because Kyle had the video camera rolling the entire time. We will be able to relive the hunt over and over again, enjoying the hunt and events of that fateful day. To top off an incredible year, three days prior I arrowed a bull moose that was 50" wide and in full velvet!
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POINTS By: Kaare Gunderson
nly then will I know if I am rolling the dice.” Those were the words I had penned in my latest article. “Could I pass him up and hope he would evade other hunters, predators or winter in hopes to have an even larger and older buck to pursue?” Or would I be cutting my tag and admiring another northern Saskatchewan gift? Truth be told, much prior to November 1, I was more than rolling the dice, I was gambling almost blindly, and aspiring for the cards to come up “Lucky Opportunity.” Well, prior to that Saturday morning when I pessimistically left my house well before dark, the decision had been made. I was indeed hunting this buck and I was surely not betting big money on myself. Six weeks earlier, while the leaves were still changing and the skies were filled with southward bound birds, I was unsure. I knew he was around but he had proven to be a ghost those first couple weeks of archery season. It had been August when he had last stood in front of a trail camera while in full velvet and it was near driving me insane to not know just how he looked in hard antler. Despite having numerous cameras scattered overlooking scrapes in the area, he remained M.I.A. It was only a short 70
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matter of time before he walked in front of one I decided, so I searched elsewhere, for another deer that may just consume my efforts. It did not work. The best buck I could find was an old 4x4 that was truthfully nothing special in the antler department. I knew winter had been bad but WOW, things were indeed appearing bleak. With very little to be optimistic about in that area and with “Devil Points” seemingly having fallen from the face of the earth I expanded my search, thinking maybe I would get lucky elsewhere. I’d keep moving cameras around on scrapes in hopes to find his whereabouts, but I would abandon that search if I got a glimpse of a better deer. I didn’t, and by October 1st I was feeling like I had lost half my stack of chips. I had played every card I knew to play. I sat on the edge of food sources. I had sat overlooking water in hopes a thirsty buck may stroll out in front of my location. But it was the same everywhere I looked. There were very few deer and even less upper age class bucks. Though only a month of hunting had passed, I had done everything I knew to do and had no indication that “Devil Points” was anywhere near, nor had I found any other decent deer to pursue. So, on the first weekend of October I planned to go fishing.
Of course, on the way home on Friday after work I grabbed a card from a camera I had hung a week earlier on the opposite side of the river from where I had the last proof of his existence and whammo, there he was, strolling right past a scrape on the very corner of an alfalfa field. He looked great, but, “How great could he look next year?” I asked myself. To say fishing was great would be a gross understatement and when I returned home I was feeling lucky. I was somewhat back on to a very good buck, at least I knew which side of the river he was using and I had a southern moose tag to use that coming weekend. I did not even bother hunting that week for I had much to prepare for my moose hunt. I knew where “Devil Points” was now and my camera overlooking that scrape would keep tabs on him, or so I thought. That would not end up happening any more than one of my cameras in another location would find another buck worth hunting. I was charmed in finding a good mature bull on the very first morning of my moose hunt. I owe huge thanks to my uncles for assisting me in my pursuit. It was a throwback to my teens when they would take me deer hunting. Having extra hands and experience with a downed bull, as well as connections to a loader was invaluable. I cannot thank them enough. I’ve killed my share of big whitetails but never a moose and let me say that my utmost respect goes out to those that regularly deal with those giants year after year. He is a creature indeed and inspiring once on the ground. Harvesting a moose is much, much more impressive than going to the store and buying beef, that is for sure. By the time I was done butchering my moose a week later, I was fully committed to finding and killing “Devil Points”, if I could find him. For almost two weeks, I got more aggressive in my search yet came up empty. I lightly rattled from the edge of the best alfalfa I could find in the area. I watched a river crossing from a naturally steep river bank that would force movement to a cut canola field. I hid inside the timber in what seemed like a perfect staging area full of edge habitat and small ridges. I even sat myself on top of a big beaver damn crossing in the area, wind and sleet peppering my face one evening. Each time I swung, I missed and many times I never even saw a single deer. Then one day while going to move some cameras I got a lucky deal. I spotted two bucks and three does, a full house so to speak. They were just standing there, in broad daylight on some oat stubble. I had not hunted that area since late September, almost a month ago. It had then been cut and baled as green feed and it appeared as though there was no reason for deer to be using it. I decided to get a couple cameras and toss them up on that field to see if I could find a scrape or two. It was within a
half mile of the location so many velvet pictures of him had been taken in the summer, so it was worth a shot. What I found opened my eyes. Scrapes and rubs now littered the field that I had written off as a dead zone. Fresh droppings were everywhere and so was the reason for it, oats. A close look at the ground and instantly I knew why the deer were back. Obviously during the baling process they had been knocked from the plant where they had gradually hardened into grain. The deer were no dummies; they had found the buffet, about 60 acres worth of it. I could picture them out there, tonguing up individual oats, like antlered anteaters. Was the buck giving me a lesson in hunting out there? It was five days before Halloween, would I find him? The first sit on that field edge gave me hope though he wasn’t with them. There were about 25 deer, including 7 or 8 bucks, scattered all over the field, feeding exactly as I had pictured them. The next time I was able to get out was the 30th but like many evenings for me this time of year, I got there too late. I could not get into the position I had hoped but I was able to find a spot to safely observe from. Sometimes it is worth just giving up on a hunt and simply watching. One can learn much to use later by doing so. What I noticed first was that there were a lot of deer out there and the bucks showed no interest in the does despite it being late October. I then noticed a large bodied deer right against some small poplars and willows about 500 yards away. With one look through my binoculars I knew it was the buck I had spent 60 unsuccessful days trying to locate. Almost like he was smearing salt into my own wounds, he wandered over to a spruce tree and worked a scrape right in front of a camera I had hung. Three times I watched as he rooted up soil as my camera flashed pictures of him. 10 minutes later, he was lying down by himself right where I would have been able to send a sabot through him had I arrived earlier that evening.
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BLEED TRIM SAFE
I snuck out of the area and went home. At least this night I would be able to positively answer the question I had heard so many times this fall from my son Tait. “Did you see Devil?”. Each response had been the same, “NO” but what I had felt like saying for about a month had been, “Sorry son, I don’t think your dad is smart enough to find that cagey buck.” Yet roughly 36 hours later I would turn my head to my left, drop to knee and squeeze the trigger. Devil Points would crumple to the ground right on the narrow cutline he was attempting to cross. It was the second time I had seen him in three days. Prior to those three days it had been almost a year since I had last spotted him. When I awoke that morning I knew I did not have much time to hunt. Like many Saskatchewan fathers, I was expected at the rink by 1pm. I had been dealt a lucky card a couple nights prior and I now knew where he was feeding at night. But how could I capitalize? ‘The more that you familiarize yourself with your hunting area the better off you are’, is something that I have learned over the years and through making many mistakes. With deer, outside of their need to breed, they move in calculated ways in areas that are best suited for their safe movement. Deer that live more than a few years quickly learn this. I highly doubted that he would still be on that field at first light and even if he was I didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of getting there undetected but I did know where I may just have a chance. If I were to come in on foot from about a mile to the east I would be able to get to a spot that he just may walk across. That spot was a cutline running east/west about 300 yards from the field edge. There was another cutline coming off it at 90 degrees and running to the field itself. If I could just get to that T without blowing my cover, I’d at least be in the game for about an hour. I was not sure he would even have reason to travel that deep back into cover, but if there was a spot to bet on, this was the one. I made it to my chosen ambush without the heartbreak of being detected by any deer I was sure were now well off of the open field. I settled in behind a spruce tree where I could easily view the cutline in front of me, as well as left and right down the one I had walked in on. It was not long before a buck appeared on the line running to the field, then another buck. They both jumped the same fence and made their way to a scrape
line where they worked separate scrapes and rubbed their facial glands all over the overhanging licking branches. This great show Mother Nature was putting on almost caused me to miss the window of opportunity I had come to this spot for. I turned my head to my left and there he stood. How long he had been there I was unsure. I turned on a video camera, swung it on him, dropped to one knee and shot. He fell in his tracks and in that moment I knew that never again would he lay his ears back and sidestep towards a lesser, subordinate buck. Never again would he demolish a field edge sapling with his ebony antlers. His tiny fraction of life’s cycle was over, only to live on in the memories of my own. It had all happened very quickly and I was extremely glad he had made the decision to stop and look at something further down the line. If he hadn’t, I may have had only a glimpse of his hind end as he melted into the conifers and that would have been a tragic error on my part. I had known something was going to cross that line right there, I was positive. The sounds of the woods, just previous, had told me so. When you spend enough time in the woods, part of you becomes at one with them and I knew from the sounds other creatures were making in there, deer, were moving. Though the show the two other bucks were putting on was splendid, it was not worth falling asleep at the wheel and forgetting about why I was there, another near mistake to tuck away into my toolbox. But in that moment, a near miss did not matter. He was down and truthfully, I felt like a hero. The buck that my kids had hoped I would get a tag on was lying dead in that very spot I had gambled on that morning and I would soon be on my way home to get an atv as well as them, to share in our glorious moment. As a hunter, I have never felt anything quite like it. They had lived vicariously through my many hunts, had viewed countless trail cam pictures, had asked numerous questions, even scooped up a shed from him that was strategically placed by a selfless landowner. I hope he and his wife understand how much their generosity mean to me, as not only does it allow me to chase my dreams, but it allows me to raise my children in a way that I believe is second to none. I believe Devil Points was a 5 ½ year old deer. He had put on more antler than I had thought and realistically, he could indeed have been much better next year if he had been able to escape other factors working against him besides myself. In the past I have said that a buck of that age should maybe be passed up but really, who am I to decide what should or should not be shot? I can only control myself and he was the buck that I wanted. He was the best mature deer that I could find and if I had to do it over again, you can bet I would do it the same. But I won’t do it again. I know he wasn’t allowed to reach his full potential, I know he could have been bigger in 2015. Tait and I had that discussion too one day, about a week after I brought him home. We were in the shed admiring the buck when we discussed that scenario too. He knows we had our moment and now we are striving for an even better one. For myself, that theory will only play out next year, because after that I will have another legal hunter in the house, and yet another the following one. By then, I’m bound to playing guide and living out a new kind of dream. SAFE
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Dwindling Deer & Doing Our Part
ardly a day goes by that I don’t have a conversation with someone about our dismal deer population. Most of us didn’t want to admit it and, at least to some extent, we were hoping deer numbers would bounce back last year. Unfortunately, not only haven’t they recovered, but it has become painfully obvious that our deer are in trouble. It doesn’t much matter where you live or hunt, whitetail deer and even mule deer are facing insurmountable challenges these days. Whether it is Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD), Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), bad winters, rising predator numbers, or a combination of these and more … the story is the same across most of Canada and the northern United States. The question is what can we do about it?
from anti-hunting groups, ongoing agricultural development, linear corridors being punched in to accommodate industry in northern forests, severely restricted harvest quotas for mountain lion, and plummeting fur prices, less of us are hunting predators these days … and this is bad. Irrational regulations, outdated laws, cultural influences, and apathy have created the growing predator problem and it is now time for intervention. Predators kill; it’s what they do. Predominantly carnivorous, predators stay alive by killing deer and other animals. Statistically, an adult female cougar with kittens will take one deer a week all year long. That’s an average of over 50 dead deer a year to sustain that threesome. Consider the growing predator populations and it doesn’t take a math genius to calculate the outcome. Before a recent sheep hunt in the Rockies, I spoke with a retired outfitter/guide. He warned me that I would be disappointed with what I see in the backcountry. He said the sheep numbers are a mere fraction of what they used to be. Sadly, he was spot on. For every sheep or deer track we found, we saw at least three predator tracks. We had wolves come through our base camp, we had a very bad grizzly encounter, we saw an unbelievable amount of fresh black bear and grizzly bear scat and tracks, and there was evidence of mountain lions in the area as well.
Depending on where you hunt, different conditions are affecting your deer, and indeed some other ungulate herds as well. If you are reading this column, chances are you’re hard core about your hunting and that means you spend a lot of time in the woods. To be clear, you already know more than most government policy-makers. More importantly, you know that our rapidly growing predator populations are spiraling out of control. Wolf numbers are off the charts, coyote populations are out of control, where cougars exist they are thriving, and in Alberta and B.C. grizzly bear Yes, coyotes kill a lot of deer, espepopulations are skyrocketing. cially when conditions allow them Unfortunately the liberals often have the ear to travel efficiently when deer can't. of mainstream media. Newspapers, television, radio, and Internet sites send mass messages declaring that grizzly bears are “endangered” or “at risk”. They say, “leave the wolves alone”, and “why would you want to kill it, if you aren’t going to eat it?” Now, let’s face it - most conservationist hunters would happily forego their hunting opportunity if a species is truly at risk. Conservationist hunters care about biodiversity and work toward sustaining healthy balances. The problem is that each and every one of the aforementioned predator species is not only surviving, but they are thriving; so much in fact that there is now a significant imbalance. With mounting pressure 74
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Bad Winters Wildlife managers continue to declare that our recent bad winters have caused record die-offs. Certainly many of us have found scores of carcasses on the land we hunt. Higher than average snow accumulations, abnormal warming and freezing trends have created challenging conditions for the deer, and horrendous spring storms have imposed harsh conditions that have claimed a lot of our deer in recent years. Add the fact that predators travel more efficiently on crusted snow while deer don’t, and you have the makings of a perfect storm; one that decimates deer while allowing predators to thrive. So what can we do about this? Many of us are inclined to feed deer throughout the winter. Academic papers have been written on this subject and, surprisingly, many authorities suggest that feeding during the winter months is not really the answer. It is important to remember that deer and other ungulates are designed to survive our winters regardless of snow depth. As deeper snow arrives, they switch their diet to browse and generally live well enough through each winter with that diet. Biologists universally suggest that if you are going to feed deer at all, do it when they need it most and that is near the end of winter when we get the early spring storms. It is at this time that deer and other ungulates are most worn down and susceptible to harsh environmental conditions. Furthermore, consider what you feed them and how much. Some suggest that oats for instance may not be the best option given that they expand in their stomachs. Alternatively, if you choose to feed your deer herds to help them through those last few harsh weeks of winter, alfalfa bales may be one of the better options. Minimize the portions and give them just enough to provide the strength and nourishment necessary to get them through. Giving them too much can actually be bad for them at that time of the year.
Manage the Harvest So we know that deer populations are down … now what can we do to bring them back? Thankfully, deer can bounce back, but conditions must be right. In the interim, think about the implications of our own actions in the field. On a year like we’ve just had, many of us chose not to fill our tags. I know a lot of hunters who continued to take does this year and, while I wouldn’t dare to judge someone for harvesting an animal if they have the legal right to do so, one has to ask if this is a wise decision given the current conditions? Just because regulations allow it, is it really the right thing to do? I love hunting for big gnarly antlers. As a trophy hunter, nothing gets me more cranked up than drawing on a giant whitetail or a majestic bighorn ram. Sadly, over
the last few falls, I’ve seen less of them than usual. This past fall, neither Heather nor I filled a whitetail tag. While filming for No Limits TV, I rattled in a solid 180 whitetail to 26 metres, but I was unfortunately unable to get a proper camera angle. One of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make, I had to let him walk. Unfortunately that was the only Boone & Crockett contender I saw all fall! The biggest deer Heather had close to her stand was a mid-150 class buck, and the rest is history. Likewise, we actually both had a couple whitetail doe tags and a couple mule deer doe tags in our possession. It didn’t take more than a couple days in the field to realize that our deer numbers were so low that, in our opinion, it would have been counterproductive to kill a doe. When it comes to managing populations for recovery, one has to acknowledge the need to close all doe seasons and potentially even close, or at least restrict, some buck seasons to facilitate this recovery. Remember, every dead doe potentially equates to at least eight or more fawns during her lifetime. Eliminate that doe and you effectively eliminate that many deer over a five-to-seven year period. Disease Concerns I’m not a wildlife disease expert, but suffice it to say that there are many of them attacking our herds today. From EHD, to CWD, Blue tongue, and more, deer in North America are running the gauntlet. As we face the perfect storm with high predator numbers and bad winters, disease is just the icing on the cake. In the end, nature will take its course, but as concerned hunters, it’s up to us to do our part. We must make sound management decisions, lobby government to make policy decisions in the best interest of our wildlife, and we must take responsibility for our actions in the field. Poaching must be stopped, and we need to acknowledge what must be done to help re-establish our healthy deer herds.
Black bears do kill deer. Pictured here is a deer hoof in this pile of fresh bear scat. Big Game Illustrated
Future of Hunting Matthew Ratzlaff
Brodie & Katie Sharp
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Lily Gilbey Leah Gilbey
Morgan Lange Damon Russell
idt Deacon Cook
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Shawn Evangelista has taken a number of monster whitetails, but it will be difficult to top the non-typical giant he arrowed in 2013. After a few years of history, the buck blew up and Shawn concentrated all his effort on getting close to the beast. The antlers have 24 points and total and end up with a gross non-typical score of 225â€?.
s a child, hunting and the outdoors is simply a fun thing to do. For most of us as we grow older, it becomes a passion of love, triumph, defeat and tribulations. However, when you hunt land as a kid, and continue to hunt it into adulthood, those memories feed that passion. And for Shawn Evangelista, when he was able to purchase the land that he hunted on as a child, all of those old memories resurfaced, and helped motivate him to create new ones now that he had the maturity and knowledge of years of deer hunting in the Ohio woods he calls home. Shawn is not only a passionate hunter, but avid outdoorsman following deer year round, controlling coyote populations, and sharing information with friends and fellow hunters on deer he’s encountered, things he’s learned along the way and everything in between. His good friend Dave Allen shares these joys, and the two have been “hunting buddies” for years. Lending a hand for each other when they have success, as well as lending an ear or a thought when they experience failure. To be Dave Allen though, means lending a hand with monster deer that Shawn continually is able to harvest! Three years in a row now, dating back to the fall of 2011, Shawn has had to call on friends here and there to either help him load a deer, celebrate a successful hunt, or just meet up and hear the story of the harvest of that season. A 16 point buck had all of Shawn’s attention in 2011 and he had a rare pic of him in the fog on a trail cam. That’s it. Shawn knew he was a monster and looked young, but could not find
Below and opposite, top: A few of Shawn’s other whitetails he has taken over the years.
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him that year. Not all was lost though, as he was able to still harvest a great double drop tine whitetail buck that he’d seen all year on cams and knew was a mature deer. In 2012, knowing the possibility of a giant being out there somewhere, he extended his range and coverage with more trail cams, trying to locate this multipoint giant. Once again though, the dream whitetail buck was proving impossible to locate pre-season or during the season. Shawn was able to arrow a very nice buck that year on Thanksgiving Day and had heard of one sighting of the mysterious buck that he was still hoping to see, and that one sighting was of it crossing a back road one day during muzzleloader season. Upon being able to harvest his great buck in November of 2012, he set out to spend all of his available time tracking down the beast that had been eluding him for so long. Cams got placed everywhere including creeks, dense forests and field edges. This time he had success capturing nearly 100 photos of the buck in a crop field near a stand he had previously set up. This year though, the buck had blown up to an 18 point stud! The calendar rolled over to 2013 and Shawn managed to secure a new property, close to an existing property he had. This provided him additional opportunities to locate the buck he knew was still out there. He and four friends had been working together, planning out travel patterns, feed areas, and setting up cams where they thought this buck would be. It took until October 20th to finally get a single photo of him. And when Shawn saw the picture, he was speechless! What once was a 16pt buck that grew to an 18pt buck, had now exploded into a mind blowing 24 point buck! There were not 100 photos as before though. A dozen photos of him over a few days and then he was gone and out of sight once again. Shawn and Dave made a plan to try to get a few trail cameras deeper into the hornets nest of a thicket he was sure the deer was using for a bedding area. It was risky, but at this point, it was a calculated risk they felt was worthwhile. Into November, they still hadn’t been able to get any pictures of the buck. In the middle of the month, on the 15th, Shawn was sitting along a swamp and a beautiful 145” typical whitetail walked out from the thicket he’d been obsessing about for weeks. The buck walked out of the thicket and right below the stand out to the corn
field, just like he thought the deer would do. “Would this be the day the giant peeks out too and gives him a real life glimpse in person?” he thought as the young deer passed by. The fact that he had to be convinced by friends to go back out the next day to sit tells the tale. His luck wasn’t there and he’d let a gorgeous 145” beauty walk away from him unchallenged the night before. However, a trespassing hunter on the property threw a wrench into his plans and after dealing with the man, he’d been late getting to the stand. Realizing the wind had changed, he decided to head off to a different stand, one downwind of where the thicket was. A calm and mild day in Ohio, hitting 55 degrees Fahrenheit, clear and sunny, he wasn’t sure if the deer would be moving, but it was worth a shot. And with that he climbed up the large knotty tree and was sitting, enjoying the mid-afternoon hunt, texting and joking with a few hunting buddies around 2:45pm. He had checked the forecast and legal light ended at 5:30pm so he figured he had at least an hour or two before any action started up with any deer movement. Familiarity with the property and fellow hunters in the area though, gave him the advantage of knowing another hunter was set up 500 yards upwind from where he was. Between him and the unknowing hunter, was the thicket. And Shawn was sitting on the backdoor, just waiting for his chance. Caught off guard, earlier in the day then he ever could have imagined, he was struck with the sight of a monster! A monster that had broken a twig at 4pm and given his location away and didn’t even know it, as he moved through the brush ever so slowly. Shawn had limited shooting lanes in this stand, but they
reached out to 50 yards where it was clear. At 75 yards, the deer continued on a slow and steady pace. He wasn’t giving Shawn a chance to get himself together, get his bow drawn or even into his hands off of the tree. He had to strategically time each rushed movement with the deer turning its head, or looking down to sniff a leaf or twig. Finally, with the deer already at 50 yards, he was set and had checked his broadhead, his rest, his release, and then the deer turned. Not broadside, like every hunter out there imagines in a perfect hunt, but away, heading south at an angle through more brush toward a swamp. Shawn knew that at 25 yards, the deer would need to turn to avoid the muck and mess of the swamp. There was a small
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five yard window that would be his last chance at this range so Shawn grunted as the deer approached its first step into the shooting lane, but it didn’t stop. It continued to walk its steady methodical pace through the twigs and timber and it was walking away from him. On to 30 yards, then 35 yards, and finally at 40 yards, feeling nervous but trying to focus on lacing his anxious arrow through the small shooting lane that was opening up, he set his sights on the buck. Quartering away slightly, Shawn bleated, but again, the buck continued on right into the lane. With that, a steady hold on the deer and his nock soared through the calm warm air, and disappeared into the brush, right at the deer. The buck calmly took two hops and kept walking. Shawn went through every hunter’s nightmare. “Did he miss; did he hold over him, was he shaking more than he thought at that pivotal time the arrow slides from his release?” He was awestruck as the deer slowly continued on to 65 yards, never wavering or giving another chance at a shot. Feeling the deer was surely going to leave and he’d miss his opportunity of a lifetime, he called Dave and as he held the phone to his ear with one hand, he held his binoculars to his face, shaking madly. He couldn’t get a clear image of the deer in the binos. That is until it fell over and he heard a low groan! Shawn waited 15 minutes, binoculars in hand trying to see if the deer had moved, or snuck out, or did anything other than lay there. He climbed down from the tree, after nearly getting rope burn from letting his bow down so quickly, he nocked another arrow. He couldn’t believe the deer could have been
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shot and walked away as calmly as it did. In stealth mode, he approached the deer doing his best impression of a predator stalking its prey. At 25 yards he came to full draw and shuffled towards the buck, but it was laid over and there was blood everywhere. And at 4:25pm, he had the amazing 225” buck down in the woods he’d hunted so many times before. Deep in the woods, he knew he was going to have a tough time getting it out before dark. And with Dave still in his stand thinking the buck had got away after a miss by Shawn, he got the call to come help with the deer. The shortest way out was across the neighbour’s land, so he gained permission to access the deer from there and by that night, and they had the deer out and were able to take photos the next morning. Shawn’s taxidermist came out to see the deer and field dress it in order to do a full mount on the amazing buck that would soon have visitors coming from all over to see the rack after word travelled of the giant Ohio buck being harvested. Memories from that night echo with Shawn, and all of us in a way. Dreams of giant bucks from childhood creep into our thoughts. Being able to fulfill a dream like this, on land that was so familiar and already held so many great memories, is a cherished and passionate way to enjoy the outdoors. We all strive to hunt huge deer, and some of us succeed in harvesting that once in a lifetime animal. However, we all succeed in reliving old memories, and creating new ones, and that’s what hunting and the outdoors is all about. Taking a 225” 24 point monster makes it pretty easy to create a memory that will last forever in the deer woods.
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