Perhaps it’s a good thing that Ed Huff’s second arrow was never found. Somehow damaged, it might’ve been the reason the 55-year-old contractor from Lake Wales, Fla., didn’t hit the 4-inch bull’s-eye.
Or it might’ve been the pressure of shooting in front of an audience, to which few bowhunters are accustomed. Never mind that he was in a strange land, on his first "paid" deer hunt, shooting at someone else’s target, with a less-than-steady hand.
His first attempt wasn’t bad. The arrow actually clipped the edge.
But when his second sailed into oblivion, a slightly red-faced Ed decided it was somebody else’s turn to shoot. That was the first evening before a six-day, late-August bowhunt in Alberta.
"I just quit shooting. I didn’t need anything to mess with my confidence," he said. "I told them, ‘This is NOT helping me at all … I was shooting fine when I left.’"
Ed didn’t launch a third arrow until a couple of warm days and numerous bug bites later.
He thought he’d screwed that one up, too, at first. The sound of the impact seemed way too loud — like a broadhead meeting solid wood instead of flesh and bone. And the deer had run off, apparently unscathed.
Unbeknownst to Ed, however, the buck was plenty scathed!
That afternoon would prove to be the shortest, yet most memorable of Ed’s hunting career. Not only did he find the arrow, but he also recovered the buck.
A friend, Robert Hedges, had lobbied hard for Ed to make the trip with him. Promises of whitetails that eclipse those in Florida helped cement the deal.
Ed wasn’t terribly impressed following his first day afield. He saw nothing that morning and only a doe and fawn in the afternoon. The second morning also was a bust.
Ready for a change of scenery, one that would hopefully include something with antlers, Ed’s destination on the second afternoon was a 12-foot ladder stand — not terribly far from where Robert would be keeping vigil. They got off to a somewhat late start, but the unseasonably warm weather made anything more than the last three hours of daylight a waste of time.
"The bugs were bad, and it was hot," Ed said. "I was dressed in the lightest possible scent-blocking clothing, but I was still sweating."
Once aloft, Ed screwed his bow-hanger into the tree and began "his preparations" with the sun in his eyes. He would have to accept that. He’d learned the previous day that the Alberta sun didn’t simply drop over the horizon; it crept parallel to it, descending almost imperceptibly.
Ed would simply be forced to shield his eyes, but not for long.
Before he’d even pulled on his face mask, Ed saw the glint of antler. He hadn’t been in the stand five minutes. A buck was slipping through the woods, and the only sound the hunter heard was his own pulse.
When the animal was within 25 yards, Ed realized it was a shooter, and he stood and reached for his bow. A second after he attached his release, the small platform squeaked, and the buck glared in his direction.
"That’s when I realized just how big the deer was," said Ed. "I froze, but I still could see the arrow shaking in its rest."
Amazingly, the buck didn’t flee. It did a 180, walked a few yards, and then stomped its foot and snorted. Perhaps confused since it could not smell Ed, the deer turned again and resumed its original path.
Ed drew before the buck ever passed through the trimmed shooting lane. When the buck stepped into the clear inside of 30 yards, the arrow sailed.
Robert, who was hunting only 40 yards away, describes the impact as a sledgehammer smacking a 1x12 piece of lumber. It was so loud that, afterward, Ed wondered if the sound had been the arrow striking a log.
The buck took off toward Robert after the shot. It actually passed within 15 yards of the other Floridian before veering out of range.
Both men heard the crash and the buck’s final gasp moments later. It had fallen within 50 yards of them.
Not wishing to hurt Robert’s chances, since he was the reason Ed was in Alberta, Ed remained in his stand for more than two hours, until his friend joined him. When the guide arrived to pick them up, he listened to the tale and found the blood-drenched arrow, confirming what Ed and Robert already knew.
Upon arriving in Alberta, Ed was thrilled to learn that one of the guides was none other than Wayne Zaft, who arrowed the current BTR world record Typical back in 2001. He also got to see the full body mount of Wayne’s exceptional buck.
Three weeks after returning to the States, Ed learned that his own buck also is a world record — as a Semi-irregular in the BTR’s velvet category. In addition, he learned in March that his velvet-clad trophy – like the Zaft buck a few years earlier — would be the recipient of the prestigious Golden Laurel Citation, awarded annually to the most significant entry into the Buckmasters record book.
Editor’s Note: Ed Huff’s outfitter was Grand Slam Hunting Adventures Ltd. To book a hunt there, call Clayton Royer at (780) 417-4110.