By Jill J. Easton
Trophy bucks aren't easy to come by, even in some of the best deer country.
Dean Arrington found that out the hard way. By passing up a borderline buck, however, he got a much bigger reward. He drove home from Saskatchewan in 2008 with a rack that eclipsed any deer antlers he'd ever seen in Alabama.
The hunter made the long trip with his brother and dad. The trek took more than three days, but good company, deer talk and the excitement and daydreams of huge Canadian bucks made the travel bearable.
Dean was convinced he was going to have a monster whitetail in his sights after hearing stories about Canadian hunting and Spyglass Outfitters from his friend, Sam Almaroad. It didn't take long for him to realize that such bucks aren't hiding behind every tree up there.
His first day out, he saw only four deer, and none were real prizes. The biggest was a wide 10-pointer.
"I was tempted to shoot it," Dean admitted, "but its tines weren't very long."
A good-enough buck just wasn't what he was seeking.
"I thought I'd wait to see what the next day brought," he said. "It just wasn't a buck that would make people go, 'Wow!' And that's what I wanted."
On the second outing in the same field-corner stand, Dean spent the day watching the never-ending snow. He saw only one doe.
That evening, he asked Travis Spyglass, the outfitter, if he could hunt in a different spot, and Travis obliged. On Wednesday, Dean found himself in another shooting house, but he didn't see a single deer all day.
"I was starting to get frustrated because I wasn't seeing anything," he said. "But I knew at any point in time the right deer could appear."
The next day, Dean moved to a stand from which his dad had hunted the previous year.
"The guide told me a record book deer had been taken from that place," Dean said. "But the way my luck was going, I didn't get too excited."
Thursday was more of the same. Around noon, an 8-pointer stepped into the clearing, but, like the wide 5x5 earlier that week, it just wasn't good enough.
Dean was wondering what kind of excuses he could make to his hunting buddies, friends and especially his wife about coming home without the awesome antlers he'd dreamed about.
"Around 5 p.m., only minutes before dark, I looked behind me in the woods. When I turned back around, there was a deer standing on a logging road to my left," Dean said. "I could see only how big its body was and the rack's right side. I wanted to shoot it right then."
But there were questions.
"I didn't know if it had anything on the left side," he said. "But, at that point, I couldn't stand the thought of going home empty-handed."
The buck moved across the road into a small triangle of woods.
"I knew that if it kept walking, it would come right out between me and the alfalfa about 75 yards away," he continued. "I watched as it continued toward an opening. All it had to do was continue walking."
Finally, the buck was within range.
"My heart was beating so fast, I thought it would explode," Dean said.
"When the deer stopped in front of me to look back toward the alfalfa, that was my chance to what I'd been waiting for the whole time, for my whole life."
Dean aimed for the shoulder, but when he shot, the buck ran off as if nothing had happened.
"As soon as I shot, I got down from the shooting house and walked to where it had been standing to see if I could find any blood," he said.
"After strolling about 20 yards into the woods, I saw it lying on the ground."
When Dean reached the buck, he was shocked at how big it was. The left side of the rack was almost as good as the right.
"I couldn't believe I'd shot such a buck," he said.
"Moments later, the guides arrived. It took all of us to load the deer in the truck for the ride back to camp."
Dean's brother and dad both took good deer the same evening.
"The trip was really memorable, and I can't wait to go back," Dean said. Who wouldn't?
If Dean returns to Saskatchewan, it's a safe bet he'll be patient. After all, it was a liberal dose of patience that turned a good-enough buck into the prize of a lifetime.
Hunter: Dean Arrington
Official Score: 161 3/8
Composite: 175 6/8
– Photo courtesy of Dean Arrington
This article was published in the July 2010 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.