By Steve Bartylla
When hunters go to Alberta to chase whitetails, they expect to be in for a good hunt. Tom Nitterour was no exception. Though he’d hunted with a rifle for 16 years, this was only his second year of bowhunting. Having yet to unleash an arrow at a deer, he hoped this trip would change that. However, in Nitterour’s wildest dreams, he never expected to have a hunt like this.
Though Tom wouldn’t get there until mid-October, the hunt for this bruiser really began during the first week of September. Northern Wilderness Outfitters guide Shawn Rempel spotted the buck while driving the back roads, looking for deer. From that point forward, Shawn and outfitter Larry Jolliffe made taking this double-beamed, drop-tined monster their mission.
“We filmed the buck twice, along with two other great bucks, before we started putting up stands,” Larry explained. “I don’t have access to the crop field we kept seeing him on, but we do use some land to the east. If we were going to put one of our hunters on him, we needed to figure out where he was bedding and hope it was in that area.”
“After scouting, it seemed pretty obvious where the buck was coming from,” Jolliffe remembered. “There’s a road on the north side of the field we’d seen him in and a huge open field on the south side. The west side is wide open land, and we have access to the east. There was a chance that he was coming across the road, but we were pretty sure he was coming in from the east.
Not bad for your first bow buck, eh?
“Shawn and I found a really good spot. There was a slight rise with a low spot in a good fence where five different trails converged. The way the land laid, it was the best cover connecting the big timber to the field. We put a stand there, but we weren’t completely convinced it was where we needed to be. When we filmed him a third time, we knew we needed another stand.”
The other stand they found just didn’t make any sense. For it to work, rather than travel in the safety of the woods, the buck would have to cross a 300-yard-long grazing field. Luckily, the big set of tracks and intuition was enough for them to make a leap of faith.
The Hunt Begins
A month later, Tom Nitterour was fortunate enough to get the first crack at the stand. Just as the sun rose, he began realizing how lucky he was. “I could see a deer on the field from my stand,” recalled Tom. “I got out my binoculars, and, even at over 300 yards, I could see he was huge and that he had something screwed up with one side. As much as I wanted him, I didn’t believe he’d come close enough. He worked his way out of the crops and into the grazing field, toward my stand. At 200 yards, I could see he was a great buck and that I’d shoot him if I had the chance, but I didn’t believe I’d get the shot.
“At 100 yards, I started getting ready,” Nitterour remembered. “At 50 yards, he put his nose up and started sniffing. I thought it was over, but he put his head back down and started eating. I’m still okay, I thought. Every 10 steps, he tested the wind and looked toward my stand. Luckily, he kept looking under me.”
With the monster entering bow range, Tom drew up a plan for getting off the shot. A tree close to his stand would hide his movement when the buck reached 20 yards. As the buck stepped behind the tree, Nitterour came to full draw and waited for him to step out. He waited, and waited, and waited.
“I was at full draw for over two minutes,” Tom revealed. “I was shaking bad and was even starting to sweat. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore and peeked around the tree. He was just standing and staring! It got to the point that I had to let down my draw as quietly as I could.”
But the buck’s sixth sense had detected something. Tom had to think fast. At 40 yards, a “V” in the trees would give him enough of an opening to slip an arrow through for a quartering-away shot. He let the arrow fly.
“He tore off back toward the crop field,” said Nitterour. “The whole way I was begging him to drop. Finally, he stopped at the other side. I thought I could see my arrow in him, so I figured he’d go lay down and die. I got the shot off, I knew I hit him and I kept telling myself that’s all I can do for now. I played the waiting game.”
The waiting game was made much easier by watching deer. Before long, an 8-pointer and two yearlings crossed over to Tom, just as the big boy had done. As they fed in front of his stand, two huge bucks entered the field and began fighting. “It sounded like baseball bats smashing together,” Tom remembered. “Then, after they went back into the woods, a shooter 8-pointer came out and joined the bucks in front of my stand. I couldn’t believe the morning I was having!
No Easy Retrieval
Finally, Tom got down and looked for his arrow, although he believed it was still in the buck. Shawn Rempel joined him and they crisscrossed the area in front of the stand, checked the field and the wood line the buck entered. Not finding a drop of blood brought on the anxiety that every hunter who’s been through that situation knows far too well.
Having seen Shawn at work myself, I can attest to his tracking skills. Still, he knew that it was time to call for extra eyes. The new arrivals, led by Larry Jolliffe, fanned out in search for blood.
Hours after the initial search began, more than 800 yards from the shot location, Larry stood by a fence, scanning the area ahead for any sign of the deer. Looking down, he saw the first blood!
I’m constantly amused at how two people recall a situation differently. This is the point where the story temporarily splits. According to Jolliffe, very little blood was found and following tracks was the key to covering the next 400 yards that the group painstakingly followed.
Interestingly, Tom’s recollection was that there was blood shooting out of both sides of the deer, making for an extremely easy trail. Because of what follows, as well as the track going more than 1,200 yards, I’m guessing that the understandable excitement of the moment may have altered Tom’s perception a little!
Where the stories agree is what happened when the blood was lost. Standing there, the group was planning their next step when the monster exploded from a thicket. Tearing off through the dense cover, Tom raced after the buck, trying to see where he was headed. As anyone that has done that before already realizes, he lost the race.
Temporarily abandoning the search, the group returned several hours later, only to find the buck less than 100 yards from where he’d been last spotted.
“That moment was everything,” Tom told me, still giddy to this day. “We were high-fiving each other in absolute euphoria! Then, it took us forever to get him out of the woods. It was totally unbelievable. I will probably never top that hunting experience.”
After taking one look at the bruiser, one can understand why. It is one of those rare bucks whose score simply doesn’t do it justice. Then again, Alberta is known for delivering hunts of a lifetime.
Note: To book a trophy whitetail, bear, moose or elk hunt, contact Northern Wilderness Outfitters at http://www.huntingalberta.com
-- Reprinted from the September 2006 issue of Buckmasters Magazine