Buckmasters Magazine

Heartbreak to Redemption

Heartbreak to Redemption

By Mark Oliver

A bad day at the office takes an unlikely turn for the better for this Buckmasters cameraman.

The mighty cottonwoods of Alberta had turned a golden yellow, a hint that winter was just around the corner. Most of the crops had been harvested, and the deer were plentiful.

I had been trapped in the office for just over seven months, and when I finally arrived in Canada, I was more than ready to be there. I didn’t even mind the hassle associated with going through customs — much more difficult for a working visit than a vacation hunt. While I would be hunting, my weapon would be a high-definition camera. And even though I might enjoy myself during the hunt, make no mistake that filming is work.

I got my bags and hit the road for the three-hour trip to the hunting camp. The beautiful scenery made the drive go by quickly. The initial plan was to arrive at the ranch a few days prior to Jackie Bushman’s arrival so I could check the stands, make sure all was safe and to pattern deer movement. About an hour from the ranch, however, I got a call from the Buckmasters home office telling me that Jackie would be coming in on a flight that night!

I had the afternoon to check the stands — safety comes first — and no time to glass for deer. After a big meal, I left the ranch around 10 p.m., hoping that Jackie’s flight would be on time. It was late, of course, and we didn’t get back to the lodge until 2 a.m. A daybreak hunt was out of the question.

Late the next morning, we got up and took care of some preliminary filming and got ready for the afternoon hunt. I couldn’t wait to get back into a treestand again and forget about the office. It was time to concentrate on nothing but big bucks and getting one into bow range. As Jackie and I got ready to go, the ranch owner announced that we should try our first hunt at the ol’ High Stand.

Jackie has taken about 85 percent of his Alberta bucks from the High Stand, and with a favorable wind, there’s nowhere on the property that holds better odds of seeing a big buck. As I climbed up and hoisted my gear, I got the strange feeling that I had just been there a few days earlier. It was like the seven months of editing video tape had never happened. It’s strange how the wait to go hunting can feel so long, but once you get there it’s like it was only yesterday.

The hours slowly passed until about 5:30, when we saw our first deer. Jackie and I heard the crunching of dry cottonwood leaves get louder and louder, and it wasn’t long before a few does appeared. They came right under the stand, and I thought, “Well, here we go. Let’s find out how good our ScentLok is working.” We just smiled as they moved on 20 minutes later, never knowing they were probably going to be on TV the next fall. It was shaping up to be a good afternoon.

As the light began to fade, I looked around and guessed we had about five minutes of video time left. I looked over at a heavy deer trail, and there was a really big 8-pointer. I quietly whispered to Jackie to look at the trail. He saw the buck, grabbed his bow and asked, “What do you think?”

Jackie’s a veteran hunter and knows a big buck when he sees it, but the cameraman has the last word on TV hunts. There’s no way for the hunter to tell if the camera is getting enough light or even if the angle is right for filming. Well, it was pretty dark as I watched the buck through the viewfinder. From what I could tell, it was just a good 8-pointer. It was the first day, so I told Jackie, “Let’s let him go. I think we can do better.”

After we got out of the stand, Jackie told me that he thought he had seen something extra going on with the buck’s brow tines. I told him we could take a look when we got back to the house, so after another stomach-bulging meal, I went to my room and brought up the footage. As I brightened the screen and gazed at the buck, my heart sank into my gut. I said to myself, “Uh oh! You just messed up.”

Jackie was right, and it looked like the buck had about five different brow tines. Already about 140 inches with its mainframe 8 points, the extra tines would boost the buck into a whole new class. When I called Jackie in to look at the footage, he said, “And you told me to pass this buck? Are you crazy?”

A little mad at myself and feeling defensive, I replied, “Since when do you listen to your cameraman?” I had to spread a little of the blame.

I didn’t sleep much that night, and 4 a.m. seemed to come earlier than usual. The winds were east-northeast, and the temperature was about 42 degrees. We had a good 20-minute walk to the stand, so we headed out as soon as we were ready. Our destination was a stand called No Peep.

You know how stands often get their names from the memorable (and sometimes infamous) events that happen there? Well, a few years ago, we had moved this stand closer to a better deer trail. The very first time Jackie and I sat there, we had a pretty big 10-pointer walk by at 28 yards. I was on the deer with the camera as Jackie grabbed his bow and drew it back. I said, “Shoot now before it gets behind the tree.”

Then I heard a panicked whisper, “I can’t shoot! I can’t shoot!”

To which I replied, “Shoot him! Shoot him!” while the buck walked away and faded into the cottonwoods. I shook my head, wondering what happened when Jackie stood up and said, “My peep sight is gone. It’s not on my string.” We didn’t get the buck, but the stand got a name. That’s how it goes sometimes.

Anyway, we were set up in No Peep well before daylight. I took in the magic sight of the world coming alive that few people other than hunters ever see. The mournful honkings of geese were loud in my ears, and the coyotes were cranking up in about every direction. That was the soundtrack as a lone doe once again walked right beneath our treestand.

About an hour later, several deer came bolting in. It was obvious they had been spooked by a coyote, and there was a pretty decent buck in the group. While it stayed just out of bow range, I got some pretty good footage. While I was filming the buck, Jackie turned and looked back to our right and told me two more bucks were approaching.

I panned the camera in that direction and immediately zoomed in on a small 8-pointer. It did everything you could want, walking on a trail 32 yards from the stand and presenting a perfect a shot. About that time, Jackie said, “Here comes a shooter!” When I looked back to the right, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

I panned the camera and zoomed in, smiling as this big buck did exactly what its younger brother had done. It took the same trail, walking calmly until Jackie grunted and stopped it. He then sent an Easton arrow right through the buck’s boiler room. Not 8 seconds later, the buck was down.

I always get a rush of joy and excitement during a successful hunt, but I had a special gleam in my eye as I smiled over the camera at Jackie. I whispered, “I think you just shot the Brow Tine Buck!” Despite the impossible odds, I was sure we had just taken the buck that had haunted my dreams the previous night.

Whatever the odds, we had beaten them as we looked down on the buck, now more than 300 yards from the High Stand and wearing Jackie’s tag. Even better, it was one of those rare bucks that gets even bigger as you walk up to it.

Deer hunting traditions are hard to change, and I guess it’s not proper to rename a stand. But if I could, I think I’d rename No Peep as The Redemption Stand. Jackie erased the bad memory of his No Peep 10-pointer, and I got to write off telling Jackie to pass up the second-biggest bow buck of his career. Now that’s my idea of a good day at the office!

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This article was published in the September 2009 edition of Buckmasters Whitetail Magazine. Subscribe today to have Buckmasters delivered to your home.

Copyright 2018 by Buckmasters, Ltd.

Copyright 2017 by Buckmasters, Ltd