Rack Magazine

Making Do

Making Do

By John E. Phillips

When one door closes, another one opens.

William Hedges’ hastily arranged trip north of the border in 2016 got off to a rocky start, but sitting on his heels for an hour inside a chair-less box blind was a small price to pay for the biggest whitetail he’d ever seen.

The hunter from Pine Plains, New York, hadn’t planned to go to Saskatchewan. Convinced he was going to draw a coveted Iowa bow tag, he turned down a buddy’s invitation to cross the border.

“I had three preference points to draw a tag to hunt in Iowa in 2016,” he said. “I’m primarily a bowhunter, and in past years, an archery hunter with three preference points was almost guaranteed a deer tag.

“That year, however, I was one of the few archery hunters who didn’t draw one,” he continued. “I wouldn’t get to hunt my Iowa lease after dreaming of that hunt.”

After hearing the disappointing news, William called his longtime friend, Tom Boniello, who had invited him to tag along for a hunt in Saskatchewan. William had turned down the invitation because he thought he’d draw an Iowa archery tag.

“I called Tom and said, ‘I know it’s late to try and get a whitetail hunt in Canada, but if you can, I’ll go with you,’” he said.

Although William wasn’t too hopeful, he knew he would have a good time with Tom, regardless of the hunting situation.

Much to William’s surprise and delight, Tom secured two hunting spots with Battle River Cree Outfitters.

“On Nov. 6, one of the guides, Malcolm Moccasin, picked us up at our motel and took us to the reservation to hunt,” William said. “We dropped Tom off in a mule deer region. Then Malcolm took me about a mile away to some brush on the edge of an agricultural field.”

William was to hunt from an elevated, particle board box stand.

When they looked inside, they noticed there was no chair. But rather than try another spot, since the sun was quickly rising, William opted to play the cards fate had dealt him.

“If you come back after daylight to check on me, just bring a chair with you,” he told Malcolm.

The stand was extremely uncomfortable. William tried squatting, kneeling and sitting on the floor. He began questioning his decision to book the last-minute deer hunt.

“I’d been in the stand for about an hour when I looked out and saw this monstrous buck standing right in front of me, feeding on oats that had been put out to attract deer,” William said.

Aware of his inclination to shoot the first deer he sees, William vowed before the hunt that he wouldn’t. Seeing this whitetail through binoculars changed his mind.

“I decided to abandon the idea of not shooting the first deer when I realized this was the biggest I’d ever seen,” he said.

Although the huge buck stood feeding with a doe 75 yards away, William had a difficult time getting comfortable enough to shoot it.

“With no chair to sit in, I tried to get my rifle up and the barrel out the window of the blind without making noise and spooking the deer. Time went by slowly, and I was doing a lot of moving around, always in an awkward position. Finally, I got my rifle barrel through the window,” he said.

William had to crouch in order to see through the scope. He was well aware his stance wasn’t solid.

“The buck was quartering to me slightly when I took the shot,” William said. “The bullet hit the deer a little high behind the shoulder, but the animal went only 25 feet before falling.

“That surprised me, since I knew I hadn’t made as good a shot as I was capable of making,” he continued. “I bolted my rifle quickly and continued to watch the big buck through the scope, waiting to see if it would try to get back on its feet.”

The adrenaline rush overpowered William after 10 minutes of staring at the unmoving lump on the ground. Eager to see it up close, he got out of the box and approached his deer, rifle poised.

The closer he got to the buck, the bigger it looked.

“I wish I could have weighed the deer, but there were no scales,” he said. “The buck had the biggest body AND the biggest antlers of any I’d ever taken.”

Malcolm returned an hour and a half later to check on William. The first thing he asked was, “Did you shoot the 8- or the 10-pointer?”

He had collected trail camera photographs of the two.

When William told him the buck he shot wore at least 12 points, his guide said they’d never seen it.

This article was published in the October 2017 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home.

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