As mention in my last article, where does the time go??? Here it was 6:00 am and I was just parking my packed truck in front of Jimmy’s house for the start of our Alberta Whitetail Deer hunt. Soon, his gear was aboard and we started out on our 1400 km drive to the Farm. We always stop a little over half way through the journey, get a good night’s sleep and the next day have time to stop and shop[ at Cabelas Canada located on the southern outskirts of Edmonton. We also pick up our hunting licenses during this time. Alberta has an excellent program, where both of us are registered in the computer program as well as our Hunter Host. Soon we were back on the road for the final couple of hours of the drive. We arrived at the Farm around 2:30 pm and unpacked our gear and had time for a quick tour of the country-side. Upon returning to the Farm, we enjoyed a wonderful home-cooked meal and then had a visit to catch up on all the news.
We were up well before dawn, had a bite and since the doctor had told me to walk lots, I decided to start the hunt on foot and give Jimmy the truck to drive to another area for his morning hunt. We had decided to meet on top of the Hill. The weather was hovering around the freezing mark, maybe a bit below - smile. I left the house well before first light as I like to take my time, drinking-in all that surrounds me while in the bush. I reached the gate to the area I was very familiar with and was met by 50+ curious cows. I got through the gate and started walking down the lower trail, as it took me along a bush-line. I always find the whitetails depart the grain fields well before first light and make their way back to the bush where their bedding-area is. Some will always feed just a tad too long and will get caught making their way back, although they are usually moving at quite a clip (running). As the darkness of the night turned into the greyness of the impending dawn, my focus turned in the direction of the fields to see if I could pick up any movement. That would not be the case this morning, as with the warmer temperatures, the animals did not require the extra feed in order to produce the needed warmth.
While I was not seeing any actual deer movement, the numerous tracks leading into the bush told me there were lots of deer in the immediate area. It had snowed a couple of days prior to our arrival, which is always a blessing, at least to me while looking for deer patterns. I decided to drop off the track I was on and venture through a field between the bush-line I was following and the next one. Still my walk was uneventful?? Usually, one will see the odd Mule Deer as they stay out well after the Whitetail are in their beds. Nothing!! I decided to make my way to the Hill, although dreading the steep climb to the top, but once there I knew I would be able to observe the surrounding land and see any animals moving. I passed along the edge of the field and back on to another trail, always reminiscing hunts gone-by. I was nearing a place where I had come upon a large whitetail buck and his doe walking along this same track in the middle of the afternoon, years before. I had taken that buck and always remembered the thrill of that hunt. As I neared the place where he fell, I almost jumped out of my skin as there was a doe standing just inside the bush and she gave a loud bark as I neared her position. She just ran several yards further into the bush and I could just make out her outline. When that scare had first hit me, I was not sure if it was a buck or a doe?? Now I was faced with the inevitable, was she alone or did she have a buck with her? I had my Lecia Binos on her and clearly could see it was a doe through their pristine glass. She was just staring at me and never took her eyes off of me. Then, she just sauntered off down another trail, without ever looking back. This satisfied me that she was alone, so I continued my hike and was soon at the base of the Hill. What a formidable climb faced me - smile. Well, years in the Army had prepared me for this type of obstacle and it was “to put the mind in neutral and the behind in gear”, which allowed me to finally reach the pinnacle of the Hill.
Once on top and my breathing had returned to normal, I once again realized the importance of this point in relation to the surrounding fields, buck-brush and bush patches. Soon, I was seeing several Mule Deer does meandering in the buck-brush, getting a few final morsels of food, before heading to the trees for the day. There were also two young Mule Deer bucks sparring in the distance. No whitetail could be seen and after about one hour, I caught movement and it was Jimmy and my truck, making their way to my present location. I followed the truck’s movement, as often it sound can spook deer into leaving the relative safety of their beds and moving to a new area. Not the case this time though. Well, it had really been a slow morning as far as deer were concerned and I relayed this to Jimmy when he exited the truck. He had an entirely different story as he had been in the presence of deer from first light!! He had parked the truck near a dug-out and had walked down a fence-line until he passed through a gate and entered an area we call “Victor’s”. Once there he has encountered a whitetail doe and shortly after that a decent buck had appeared and joined her. Jimmy thought about taking this buck, but it was still very early in the hunt. Soon another buck appeared and tried to get close to the doe also. This new arrival only had one antler? Jimmy watched them for a time and then moved on. I reminded him of the previous year, when we did not see any big whitetail bucks and maybe he should have taking it.
We started glassing the area, as the Hill commanded miles of land in all directions. Soon, I heard Jimmy say, “There he is again.” I focused my binos on a gently sloping grassy field approximately ¾ of a mile to our west and sure enough there was a whitetail buck feeding as he was making his way to the trees about 600 yards to his north. He certainly was large bodied and I had made a deal with myself. Since I was still not sure of the exact condition of my health since my minor stroke suffered while moose hunting a month before, I would take the first decent whitetail buck I saw. Well, I looked over at Jimmy and said, “I will take a hike down there and see if he is good enough.” I got out of the truck and made my way to a group of trees, which would prevent my movement from being seen by him. Once I was in the buck-brush, I would have ample cover in order to make my way to a point where I figured he was heading to bed. I emerged from the trees and saw that he was still feeding on the original course, a course which would take him to a tree-line which I knew well. I also knew that if I kept a good pace, I would arrive well before him and that would provide me with the opportunity to get set up and able to ambush him. The great thing about the gentle slope he was feeding on was it was almost a ½ mile long and absolutely no cover whatsoever. He was just ambling along, at a snail’s pace and chomping on the succulent grasses on the hillside. There is one dip in the ground on the very top of that hillside and when I saw him disappear from my sight into it, I was able to cross some open ground to the next buck-brush patch. Once there I wanted to check on his location and progress, so I stopped in the first patch of buck-brush and raised my binos to locate him. I could just see his top-line and it looked like he was still feeding. I picked my next leg of my journey and was about to step off when I noticed him come into full view at the top of the hill and he was now looking like an individual with a definite purpose. We all know what that means - he had come across the trail of a “hot” doe and now with his nose glued to the ground he was now heading at right angles to his original path.
I knew his focus would not be on his immediate surroundings and I was definitely not that close to him, so I changed directions and headed towards a high piece of ground in the buck-brush field. This ground was undulating so I kept to the lower portions of it and soon he disappeared from my view. I knew once I reached the high ground, I would be able to see him, no matter where he was in this field, as long as he was still in this field. I had just started to ascend the slight rise to the top of the high ground when I noticed movement slightly to my left. A large bodied deer soon materialized in the buck-brush. I saw his antlers and he was not a really large trophy sized, but his physical size was good. He did not realize there was danger that close and still had his nose glued to the ground. I slowly raised my Browning X-Bolt rifle chambered in 338 Win Mag and sent the 265 grain Nosler Long Range Accubond bullet over the 15’ separating us. Down he went for the count and I had more meat for the freezer.
Ian’s Whitetail Buck
One of the most enjoyable aspects of hunting in this area of Alberta, is that once the animal is down, you can get the truck close - in this case the tailgate ended up being just under his shin - smile. Once he was loaded we headed to the Farm and hung him in the machine shed to cool out.
The next couple of days were uneventful, although we were seeing smaller whitetail bucks, nothing tickled Jimmy’s fancy to take. On Day 4 we decided to head out north of the Farm to see what, if anything had been feeding in the fields. We got to the farthest end of the property when Jimmy saw a couple of deer enter a very small woodlot. I stopped the truck immediately and we both started glassing. As mentioned in an earlier article, I had suffered a mild stroke a couple of months prior to this hunt and it had affected my vision somewhat. Having said this, Jimmy’s eyes were always much better at a distance than mine and when he was able to pick out these two deer, he determined they were Mule Deer bucks. Soon they came outside the confines of the tree and started feeding. It was obvious from this point on that we were in the presence of two trophy Mule Deer. One was wide and high, while the other was narrow, but higher than the first. The larger one was undeniably, in a class of his own. We watched them for a while until we were positive the one was a shooter. We only had whitetail tags, but Darryl had a Mule Deer tag, so we contacted him and gave him our location. Now these two boys were not aware of our presence, but certainly seemed to want to be somewhere else and were feeding in a direction which would soon put them in the dense bush of what we call the Lease. No, they were not running, but meandering as a decent pace which ate up the mileage. Soon they fed over the hill and I had to backtrack and come a long ways around the fields, due to fences with no gates - smile. Soon, Jimmy spotted them once again and because the sun was at our backs, they never saw us approach. We were now sitting about 350 yards from them and above them on a hill top, while they now were feeding lazily in the draw. Time was passing and they had now cut the distance from when we first saw them, to half the distance to the Lease. They fed out of the draw and sight. We decided to leave this area and see if we could find Darryl. We were no farther than a few yards from his house when we spotted his truck. We headed to the nearest road and then picked up a rough track heading north. We all knew this land well and could pretty well determine where these guys would be and the way they would head, if spooked. Darryl parked his vehicle in some bushes and started down the track. Soon we heard a shot, then another one and he had the bigger one on the ground. I didn’t have my camera in my truck, so missed pictures of the animal in the field and only got ones of it hanging in the machine shed. It green scored 181”.
Darryl’s Mule Deer
The next couple of days were spent spotting from the Hill, as we were looking for a good whitetail buck for Jimmy and also a couple of good Mule Deer bucks for Quentin and his son Layne. It seemed the deer were certainly present and although we did not always see whitetail bucks, there was no shortage of Mule Deer bucks wandering around the buck-brush searching for any receptive does. Four days after Darryl has taken his buck we were positioned on top of the Hill, as usual when I noticed movement in my side mirror. I was certainly surprised when I looked in it and saw a nice mature whitetail buck jumping the fence approximately 20 yards behind the truck. What was he doing so close?? I told Jimmy and he was out the door in a flash and off down the fence-line. We knew the buck had to cross 400 yards of open ground before he would reach the safety of the bush-line. Much to our surprise when we arrived at the point where he had jumped the fence and we looked down the hill, there was absolutely no sign of the buck, Had I been imagining it?? Jimmy was resting his rifle on a fence-post and soon out walked the buck at around 100 yards and he definitely did not seem to know of our presence? Jimmy took his time as the buck was walking and angling slightly away from us. At the shot from his 28 Nosler, the buck was off. Jimmy quickly racked another round into the chamber and waited for the buck to break out at the bottom of the Hill and start across the flats to the bush-line. Well, the buck never appeared, so the second shot wasn’t necessary. Jimmy headed off to claim his buck, while I jumped in the truck to head over to load the deer. Unfortunately, the gate I wanted to go through was no longer a gate?? I had to drive back up to the top of the Hill and down the other side and another ½ mile to another gate. I am sure Jimmy probably thought I had gotten lost, but let me assure you I know this land like the back of my hand and within 15 minutes was parked beside Jimmy and his buck. Soon we had the buck field dressed and headed for the machine shed over at the Farm to hang it for cooling.
Jimmy’s Whitetail Buck
It was still relatively early in the hunt and we decided to stay to help the others get their bucks. We did see a couple of really nice Whitetail bucks and then wished we had not tagged out so early - smile. My health was holding together well and I enjoyed the time walking the hills and fields. A few days after Jimmy took his buck, the youngest member of the hunting group was successful in taking a nice Whitetail buck. This was his first whitetail, but he had three nice Mule Deer bucks already to his credit.
Layne and his first Whitetail Buck
Layne and I were out on the Saturday afternoon and found a huge Mule Deer meandering through the buck-brush looking for lonely does. We watched him for a while and then decided to head him off to have a better look at his head-gear. We hiked about a mile through the ankle-deep snow and finally reached a low spot, where we re-grouped and decided he should be just over the next hill. As we crawled over the high ground, we were stunned to just see miles of open ground in front of us?? Where had he gone? We decided to hunker down in the buck-brush for a while to see if he would show up. After about a 15 minute wait, we decided he had given us the ‘slip’, so we headed back to the truck and called it a day. We did see him a few days later, putting the run to another big buck and that was the last time he was seen. Outside of Darryl, the Mule Deer were safe from us this year - smile.
Jimmy and I departed a couple of days later as we still had a couple of weeks of deer hunting in our home territory. So this ended another great hunt and time with great friends and until next year we parted.