By Mike Handley
Dean's buck is fabulous, not for any particular measurement, but for the sum of its parts.
Dean Partridge didn't have much time. It was nearing 4 p.m. already, and he had to make a decision. When the Saskatoon bowhunter left work at 3:00, the wind was wrong for where he wanted to spend the evening. But halfway to his alternate spot, he realized that the breeze was shifting.
Dean pulled off the road and stopped, desire tugging at his insides. Like a hungry man whipping into the fast-food lane, he succumbed. He just hoped the wind would continue to cooperate, because he REALLY wanted to go to his favorite treestand.
It was Oct. 4, and Saskatchewan's muzzleloader season was underway, which he'd been dreading. With every passing day, his chances of seeing the enormous buck grew slimmer. With the smell of blackpowder in the air, combined with lots more human scent, the savvy whitetail with which Dean had become obsessed would surely change its habits, if it stayed around at all.
It wouldn't be the first time the giant went underground. It had pulled the disappearing act in 2004 and 2005 - the first time after seeing a wide-eyed Dean peering at it from a treestand, the second after being videoed by a friend of Dean's.
Seems the buck had a severe case of stage fright.
Just in case the wind shifted again, Dean dispensed a generous amount of scent-eliminating spray before heading to the stand he hoped would give him a shot at the bruiser 8x8. It had been a perfect 12-pointer in '04 and a clean 7x7 in '05.
Dean Partridge, of Saskatoon, nearly quit chasing this phenomenal buck after it busted him twice. Now he's glad he returned for a third try.
Two points a year.
Four more pickets in its fence since the day Dean met it.
When 4:00 arrived, he was 25 feet aloft, just in time to see a few deer parading in and out of the brush on each side of his funnel stand.
If his brain hadn't locked up when he spotted the 16-pointer at only 30 yards, Dean might've had the presence of mind to start looking for the "candid camera," because surely this wasn't happening. It couldn't be this easy.
Alan Funt, where are you?
Not since a chilly afternoon in November 2004 had he stared at this regal animal so close. On that day, the unbelievable buck was shadowing a tall-tined 9-pointer. Dean had plenty of time to count the six points on each of the long beams.
"That's about all that went right that afternoon," Dean said. "Twenty minutes later, I had successfully educated it to treestand hunters."
He saw the 12-pointer twice more during the '04 season, but it always gave the treestand a too-wide berth. Dean wound up harvesting the brute's smaller traveling companion. All he could do was hope that the 6x6 survived. He figured he'd hear if someone else shot it.
He'd almost given up on seeing the buck the following year, until he ran into a friend, Steve Czsimar, in November. Steve told him that his brother had videotaped a big 7x7 in the area that had to have been the deer Dean had described.
But the season passed without anyone else seeing the bull of the woods.
About a month before the '06 bow season opened, Dean and Steve were out scouting and glassing terrain when they spotted the buck. Its rack had sprouted at least two more points.
Based on that encounter, Dean set up his stand at the narrowest gap between rows of bush. On opening day, Sept. 1, he was sitting in it. Steve was there, too, with a video camera.
They kept up the vigil for three days, until a change of wind direction forced them to choose a different location. A week later, Dean was back in his favorite saddle. The huge buck made an appearance right at dusk, but it remained glued in place - at 50 yards - until after sunset, when Dean had to sneak away under the shroud of darkness.
"I had to wonder if I'd been busted again," Dean said. "But the very same thing happened the next night. That was just its routine."
Dean eventually set out a trail camera near his stand and retrieved several photographs of the mostly nocturnal buck.
September passed quickly. Now here it was, Oct. 4, and Dean was certain that the buck sightings were about to cease. That's why he was so eager to return to his best stand.
"Soon after I set up shop, the deer started moving," he said. "I had already seen a few does and fawns and a couple of small bucks when I caught a glimpse of movement to my left. And there, at the edge of the bush only 30 yards away, was the big 8x8. Behind it were two other respectable bucks."
As the antlered trio started following the trail, the sound of a doe snorting almost made Dean jump out of his skin. He had no idea she was even in the vicinity. Her nasal alarm caused the bucks to slam on the brakes.
"My heart sank when the two in the back cautiously retreated to the cover of the brush, followed by the 8x8," Dean said. "I figured it was all over, and I had seen that deer for the last time."
Dean almost called it quits. He had to fight the urge to get down and trod back to his vehicle.
About 45 minutes later, Dean's enjoyment of a beautiful sunset was cut short. He was amazed to see the 8x8 and one of the other bucks re-emerge from the brush. This time, they were cautiously coming down the edge of the timber toward his tree.
"I tried to calm my nerves and got in position to shoot. As the 8x8 stepped into my shooting lane, I eased back my bow - nervous of being heard in the near silent and windless evening," he said. "Once I was at full draw, the deer was entirely in my shooting lane and had stopped at 18 yards, completely unaware of my presence.
"Heart pounding, I settled my 20-yard pin on the buck's vitals and let the string slip from my fingers," he continued. "The arrow found its mark."
Usually more alert to the paths taken by fleeing deer, Dean somehow lost sight of the buck he'd shot. A half-hour later, after he'd almost managed to stop shaking, he got down from his tree and retrieved the arrow, which had passed through the deer. Instead of looking for a blood trail, he walked back to his truck and tried calling Steve, but there was no answer.
"He was out hunting, too," Dean said. "So I decided to wait on the road where I knew he would eventually pass."
Shortly after dark, Steve arrived and stopped his truck. He knew right away by the smile on Dean's face that his friend has stuck the monster.
"As soon as I showed him the blood-covered arrow, he said, 'Let's go get 'im,' and jumped in my truck," Dean laughed.
The tracking job was short. The buck had never left the main trail, and it had fallen within 40 yards of Dean's stand.
"After being busted by the deer twice, I guess the third time really was the charm," Dean said.
Hunter: Dean Partridge
Official Score: 167
Composite Score: 185 6/8"
-- Reprinted from the September 2007 issue of Buckmasters RACK Magazine