Would you believe these brothers took time to discuss who would take the shot?
By Gita M. Smith
That’s not precisely what Jim Fulks said when he walked up on the drop-tined monster lying on its side in the snow. But it’s close enough.
Like so many Canadians who love hunting, Jim had often dreamed of being in a snowy place where trees stitch together crop fields when a giant buck emerges from the seam. In that wintry dreamscape, the silence is shattered by a rifle blast, and the mighty buck falls. Jim had seen it play out in his mind’s eye, but he never really believed it would happen.
Jim is no stranger to large-bodied, four-footed animals. In fact, he’s surrounded by them on a daily basis. Still, the cattle rancher from Waskatenau, Alberta, was not prepared for the beefy hoofer he encountered on Nov. 28, 2003.
This bull of the woods turned out to be the largest irregular-antlered whitetail taken in Canada that year.
The 32-year-old cattleman works hard alongside his brother, Stanley, to carry on the family business. They work five “quarters,” one quarter being 160 acres. They grow silage barley and, in fall, combine some of the grain for feed.
When the deer season opens, Jim turns his attention to the other red meat ... and antlers. He often leaves behind the small town of Waskatenau (population about 400) and drives 20 miles to Zone 504, a piece of land an hour northeast of Edmonton.
“Our own land is too open. You see the odd deer here and there, but they are small. So we always go to areas with a lot of trees because that’s where the big deer hang out,” says Jim, who began hunting whitetails at age 17, under the wing of his father. In subsequent years, he also hunted with friends, pursuing game birds and smaller whitetails. His best buck until 2003 was an Irregular that scored 180 (with the spread).
On Nov. 28, Jim and his pal Brendan left home in the early afternoon and set out for Zone 504, near Newbrook. It was a mild day with temperatures around -10, Celsius. The sky was clear, and about a foot of fresh snow blanketed the frozen ground.
Their destination was a sloped cutline where the hay meadows on both sides of a strip of trees rolled gently away. There were trees on both sides of a bowling lane-like alley that stretched away from their position for several hundred yards. The two hunters set up on one side of a brush pile, using the top of the debris as a rest for their rifles.
“Someone had piled up small dead trees with a Cat in the middle of that lane. It was a perfect place to hide and prop ourselves and our guns against,” Jim recalls. “We got there probably around 2 p.m., and we agreed that we would take turns at shootable bucks we saw. That’s the way we always do when we hunt together.”
The pair hunkered down behind the brush pile, watching the lane ahead of them for deer movement. An hour into their vigil, Jim saw a gray shape step into the snow-covered alley, about 300 yards distant. A peek through his scope revealed that it was a doe.
As she moved farther into the clearing, a second, much larger deer stepped into view. It obviously was following the doe closely. Jim checked his scope again, to be sure. This one carried a very impressive rack.
“It was broadside, following the doe. In my scope, I could tell it was a good one,” says Jim. “I asked Brendan if he wanted the shot. He wasn’t too anxious to shoot as we had seen a lot of small ones. So he told me to take it. Since the buck was at full broadside to me, I didn’t waste any time.”
Jim steadied his .270 and aimed for the vitals. One rifle bark later, the buck took several steps and crumpled in the snow.
“We didn’t wait to approach the buck. We walked up on him right away. I really couldn’t believe how big he was ’til I got up to him. Brendan couldn’t believe it, either. We both said ‘Holy... (deer)!’” laughs Jim.
The first thing that caught Jim’s attention was a drop tine that more resembled a Louisville Slugger. It was long, dark and massive against the contrasting blanket of snow. When he lifted the buck’s head, he noticed that the massive drop tine had a mate sprouting from the opposite beam. Lifting that second dropper from the snow was like Arthur pulling Excalibur out of rock!
The drop tines were capped in dried and blackened velvet, testament to the difficulty the buck had in stripping the protective coating when its antlers began hardening. The enormous and unique rack left the buddies speechless.
Jim knew that the first order of business was to transport the buck back to civilization very carefully. Big bucks fall hard in Alberta, and it isn’t uncommon for antlers to break upon impact with the frozen ground or when they’re thrown unceremoniously into a truck bed.
“I was worried about breaking the tines. I wanted to take that buck out without damaging the rack in any way,” Jim said.
After tagging the awesome buck, the duo hiked back out to get their ATV.
“We didn’t field-dress the deer in the woods because it was not very far to my house. We just tied him up properly onto the quad, got him loaded carefully on the truck and drove home,” he said.
This article was published in the October 2006 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Join today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.