By John Bradley
Photo: Tim Bradley of Linden, Mich., harvested this 10-point buck with Dahl Creek Outfitters in Saskatchewan, Canada.
-- The excitement of the trip reached fever pitch as we loaded my son's bags in the truck. Finally, we were leaving in the morning for our trip to Hudson Bay located in Saskatchewan, Canada, with Dahl Creek Outfitters. I was going to be joined by Tim, my son, son-in-law Scott, who planned the trip, and my stepson Ken and grandson Ben, driving separately with another father and son team, Gary and Michael.
At my age, the excitement of the trip is still there, which I'm thankful for, and the fact I'm included with the younger generations is also gratifying. After 28 hours on the road, we arrived in Hudson Bay at the motel we would be staying in before heading to camp in the morning. We met one of the guides, a rather stout fellow named Andy, as we pulled into the motel. He had just dropped off the group of hunters who had been in camp the previous week.
My son-in-law knows some of the hunters who had just come out of the bush, and we all listened carefully to what they saw and how they harvested their deer. They all bragged about the service of Dahl Creek Outfitters and warned us of the 10 extra pounds we would be bringing back with us because Helen, the camp cook, prepares wonderful meals. Most importantly, they told us that we were timing the weather just right and that the bucks were just starting to chase does. This was music to our ears and visions of wallhangers danced through my head.
Sunday morning arrived and we were ready to go, just waiting for the owner of Dahl Creek Outfitters, Arnold, to show up and get the show on the road. The trip to camp was very different from anything I'd experienced. We loaded all of our gear into a vehicle called a Nodwell. It looked like a half-track I rode in when I was in the service. The bright yellow beast took off into the bush moving like a snail, but for good reason, the terrain was rough, and according to Arnold, we were lucky it wasn't wet.
The Nodwell took us halfway there, and then we loaded up the wagons, pulled by Jeeps, and hauled all of our equipment to the camp we would call home for the next seven days. We all got situated in camp and the first thing we did was eat. I should have heeded the warnings of the other hunters who just came out of the bush. We were doomed!
After lunch, Arnold provided us with the rules and safety precautions then answered any and all questions. We then went to the rifle range to check out our rifles for the start of the hunt Monday morning.
When Monday morning arrived, we were awakened by the sound of a generator signaling the start of the day. After a great breakfast, we prepared for our first hunt. Helen sent everyone off with a couple of sandwiches, cookies and coffee, tea or hot chocolate for lunch in the bush. Everyone was taken to their stand by the guides who made sure we were situated before heading to the next stand. Around noon, we heard the first shot, and Ben got the first deer in camp, a nice 8-pointer, weighing around 200 pounds.
The deer have larger bodies than our Michigan deer, and I was glad I only saw a 6-pointer the first day. It gave me a better perspective of what to look for. The following day, Gary shot a nice 8-point buck a little after noon for our second buck in camp. My son was the last one back to camp that night. He told us of a big buck he shot. However, when Arnold was tracking it, the buck was jumped from its bed. The talk at dinner was how much would be left of the deer after the wolves found it the next day. My son didn't eat much, fearing the worse.
Just last season, he arrowed a nice 10-point Kansas buck but was unable to find it. He was a little worried that this would be the same situation. Around 8 p.m., Arnold told my son to get dressed and that they were going to find his buck. At 10:30 p.m., my son came into the bunkhouse yelling get dressed for some pictures. They found the buck, and it was a great 10-pointer. The deer weighed close to 300 pounds and scored over 160. I thanked Arnold and Cecil, another of the guides, for taking the extra effort to find my son's deer that night. This is the type of service we came to know with Dahl Creek Outfitters during the week.
Wednesday would be the first day a deer wasn't taken in our camp. However, everyone saw deer, mostly bucks. Thursday I was in my stand reflecting on our hunt and thinking that even if I did not harvest a deer the experience has been great. Then I realized something. Should I be fortunate enough to come back to this place, I wouldn't set my goals so high, but instead I'd look for my personal best. You know someone must have been listening because just then an opportunity presented itself. I saw a nice 10-point buck in the bush. It wasn't the deer my son shot or the one I had dreamed about, but it was my personal best, and I was very pleased.
Later that day, Michael shot another nice 10-point buck, and we all celebrated our success so far at dinner. Friday left two hunters in camp who hadn't taken a deer - Ken and Scott. Now you have to realize that Scott had seen more bucks than the rest of us on this trip, but he also saw a monster buck Thursday. Scott was after this particular buck for the duration of the trip. We played cards and were spoiled by Helen's cooking as we waited all day to get a call on the radio from either of the hunters saying they had a deer down. Around 5 p.m., we got a call from Ken, and he said he had a nice 8-point buck down. Scott had seen seven different bucks, some in the 140-class, but he was holding out for Mr. Big. He would only have Saturday morning to bag his buck while we packed for the trip out of the bush.
As seen in so many hunting shows where the hunter gets his deer on the last day, the last hour or last minutes of daylight, Scott didn't. Instead, he took home with him the memories of the time in the woods, the 20-plus bucks he saw, and the fact that he would be back.
Dahl Creek Outfitters was my first big game hunt with a firearm for whitetails, and I can tell you I was spoiled by the service. Our accommodations were comfortable and clean, and we all kidded about bringing Helen home to cook for us. We developed a real friendship with Arnold, Andy and Cecil. If you want an opportunity to get your personal best or a buck of a lifetime this is the place to be. Plus, you'll head home with 10 extra pounds, and it won't be in your gear.
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