Friends tag monster bucks during annual reunion hunt in Canada.
I look forward to my annual hunting vacation to get away from the constant phone calls and headaches of my job in Williamsport, Pa. For a number of years, I made solo trips to Saskatchewan, but now I have friends who go with me. It’s a reunion every year, and it’s always hard to leave the big country after my hunt is done.
The 2005 hunt was all planned by February of ’04. I was slated to meet six friends on Nov. 12, 2005, and I couldn’t wait. As usual, several months before it was time to go, I began to wish I was up a tree with my rifle in my hand. The only things that bark or give orders up there are wolves and coyotes. Finally, Saturday, Nov. 12 arrived and we all made it to Saskatoon, cleared customs and headed to the motel.
Sunday morning, we headed north for the 2 1/2-hour drive to camp. Taking note of the scattered dusting of snow, I commented that it would be great if we got a couple inches of fresh snow and a few 10-degree days to go with it.
My group hunted with Ron Schumlick in his new camp. Most of the guys had several years under their belts and knew the drill. We got our speech explaining the ins and outs, shooting times and regulations, and then we wished everyone a good and successful hunt and went to bed.
I got up at about 5 a.m. and saw that Mother Nature had heard my request and dropped 2 inches of fresh snow on the ground. She turned down the thermostat to a good-for-hunting 8 degrees. Although my day turned out to be uneventful, our group saw 12 different bucks, so our expectations were high.
Tuesday morning came and I wasn’t as thrilled about the 8-degree air. I put Hot Hands in the felt liners of my boots and donned the Raven Wear outfit that has proven its worth many times over the years.
Not long after settling in my stand, I saw a big, mature doe. Some small bucks, including a young 10-pointer with broken tines, followed.
I stayed alert with my gun in my lap at all times. You never know when a shooter buck will show up or how much time you will have to shoot. I don’t even take binoculars to the stand, figuring that I will know a shooter when I see it.
At about 11 a.m., I saw movement across the slough on the far ridge; it was a big-bodied deer. I brought my gun to my shoulder, but all I could see was bits and pieces of a buck’s rack. Twenty minutes later, a doe came in with the young 10-pointer right behind her.
A short time later, the doe and her tag-a-long came up the ridge to within 40 yards. Just as they broke the ridge top, a buck broke out of the brush on a dead run, nose to the ground.
I quickly counted 6 tines on one side and noticed the big, heavy, chocolate mass. I pulled up and grunted with my mouth to stop the buck as it ran through the brush. As it hit the ridge top, I grunted as loudly as I could.
The buck slowed and looked my way.
I anchored my crosshairs and took the shot. The buck kept going, but I knew I had broken both shoulders. I considered a follow-up shot but held off in fear of shooting his antlers, or some other catastrophe. Then, as the buck made it down through the slough and up the next ridge, I decided I’d better not take a chance on letting it get away.
I worked the action frantically and realized my gun was jammed, thanks to a cough drop wrapper that was tangled in my clip. Never again will I put my clip in my coat pocket!
Helpless, I watched the buck bed down with a 3-pointer standing beside him. He looked directly away from me and didn’t move. I didn’t know what to think. Did I judge the rack correctly? Would I be satisfied or disappointed? How long should I wait before going to look?
I waited as long as I could before I gathered my gear, climbed down and started the 150-yard walk to the buck. Every 25 yards or so, I pulled up my gun and looked at the buck. When I got to within 50 yards, I saw its head move.
Immediately, I put down my pack, put a shell in the chamber and began a careful approach.
When I got to within 30 yards, it jumped up and ran directly away. As I brought up the rifle, all I could think was, “Man, that is a fantastic buck!”
We played the same cat-and-mouse game several times before I thought to approach from a different angle. The change in tactics worked, and I was able to put another shot in his boiler room that put him down for good.
When I walked up and picked up his head by the antlers, I was reminded why I love the great north woods. I knew immediately that the buck’s chocolate tines and beams carried more mass than any other deer I had ever taken. The rack has character, too, with a double brow tine on one side, 6-inch circumferences, and stickers.
The next day, my friend Heister Linn, also from Williamsport, put down a monster. Heister’s buck was a mainframe 8-pointer with a cluster of 4 points on the end of its left main beam, probably resulting from a blowfly sting while the buck was in velvet. It scored 196 1/2.
This article was published in the October 2007 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.