By Al Guskind
I have been hunting in Saskatchewan since 1989 and have been lucky to harvest some really great deer. But I was still looking for the one that takes your breath away.
I couldn't wait to return in 2008. I had just finished a muzzleloader hunt in North Carolina with my son, Scott. We had a lot of fun and put some meat in the freezer; but in Saskatchewan, you never know what might walk out of the bush. There, it's all about the antlers.
I couldn't resist calling my outfitter, Ron Schumlick of Northern Whitetail outfitters, to see how they were doing and to check the weather. "It's slow, but it looks like they just started chasing,' he said. I also knew we would have a new moon -- it was going to be GREAT!
I had hunted that same property for the past six years. The original owner passed on, and the camp was closed. When I heard it had reopened, I got in touch with Ron, the new owner, and immediately booked a hunt. Some really big bucks have been harvested there over the years, and I didn't want to miss out.
I got to Saskatoon on Nov. 15. All of the guys coming back from different camps said the deer had just started to chase, and I was really excited. I guess when you lose the excitement, you stop hunting. I have been deer hunting since I was 14; at 70, I still love to be in the woods.
The first day out, I saw 14 different bucks, but nothing I wanted to shoot. It was only the first day, and they were chasing like crazy. I had five bucks chasing does just 40 yards from the stand for an hour. As I enjoyed the show, I wished I had a video camera.
The next day was anticlimactic, and I saw just four deer. I figured the hot doe, and the action, had moved somewhere else.
Wednesday found me in a new stand, and I saw nine deer. At 5 p.m., a 155-ish 10-pointer walked in, but I never even reached for my rifle. I watched it for about five minutes and said to myself, "You have several mounts like that, and with the rut going on, this is your chance for something really big.'
When I went back to camp and told them I had passed a 155-inch buck, they thought I was crazy. I realized, though, that I had made a big step as a hunter in that I was perfectly at peace with passing that buck, even if it meant I went home without one.
I returned to that stand again on Thursday and saw four small bucks. It was very quiet.
On the way back to camp, a meteor fell from the sky, lighting up the woods all around us. It was something you might see once in a lifetime.
Back at camp, I asked Ron's wife, Joyce, if she could put my Scent-Lok hood in the dryer to reactivate it. The guys laughed at me. They said they wear Scent-Lok at home, but not in Saskatchewan. I think that's a mistake. Not only does it absorb scent, it also hides your face so deer don't see the motion. As this story will show, you just never know.
I was in a new stand Friday morning shortly before daylight. I could just make out three does and a buck with a big rack and thought it might be the one. I just had to hope it stuck around until it got light enough to shoot.
I'm glad I took my time and waited. As it got brighter, I saw the buck was a large 8-pointer that wouldn't have scored as high as the buck I had already passed up.
At about 9:30, seven does, some with yearlings, came in. The 8-pointer returned five or six times to harrass them, so I figured there probably weren't any big bucks in the area.
I was wrong!
At 4:05, I heard "Crunch, crunch' from my left and slightly behind the tent. When the giant buck came into view, it was only 25 yards away at eye level. There was no need to debate with this buck; it was the one I wanted.
As it made its way toward where the does had been, I reached for my rifle. As I brought it up to my shoulder, the barrel hit the tent window.
I froze as the buck stopped to look back. I never look a deer in the eye at that distance, so I was watching from the corner of my eye for what seemed like minutes. Finally, it turned and started to walk again.
I swung on him and squeezed the trigger, automatically jacking another shell into the chamber. But the buck's back legs had already started to go. It went about 35 yards before it dropped, and I realized I had finally done it.
I whooped and hollered and just about ran to the fallen giant. I don't run very well anymore, but when I got to him I whooped and hollered all over again.
When my guide, Todd Schumlick, arrived, he asked if I got anything. I told him I didn't, and he said, "Al, you have a weird look on your face, and your eyes are glazed.'
I told him I didn't get just anything; I had just shot a DANDY!
Todd ran down there, and then he started whooping it up. Then he came back and gave me a hug. I was the camp hero and received lots of congratulations -- not too bad for an old man.
When I got home, my wife said, "Well, you got your big one. Are you going back?'
"Are you kidding?' I said. "I'm already booked for next year!'
--By Al Guskind