Well, here it was 0500 hours on 16 November and we had just finished packing Jimmy’s hunting gear in the truck. The weather was nice for this time of the year and we expected it to get much colder as we drove east toward the Alberta border. We were both pleasantly surprised the highway was bare and we did not hit snow until we entered Jasper national park, but still the roads were bare. We drove as far as Edson, Alberta an pulled over for the night. We departed early the next morning as we always looked forward to our visit to Cabela’s in Edmonton, Alberta. This was such a treat until we now have a Cabela’s in British Columbia. We did some shopping, purchased our Hunting Licenses and Whitetail Deer tags and then proceeded to the Farm.
We always like to arrive around lunch-time, get our gear stowed away and still have time for a bit of a familiarization hunt before dark. We were agreeably amazed to find a couple of inches of snow laying on the ground. This always made the hunting easier, as the animals stood out better against the pure white background. Also a wounded animal could be better tracked. We arrived at the Farm just after lunch-time and quickly got our gear stored away. We set out about 2:30 PM and drove to our primary observation point, which was a hill providing a view of the surrounding area for about two miles in all directions. It certainly was great being back amongst friends and great deer hunting country – makes up for the long drive.
We arrived on top of the Hill just as the sun was ducking behind the horizon. We could detect several deer moving about in the buck-brush (silver-willow). Most were does, although we did see a couple of young Mule Deer bucks. All of a sudden our attention was diverted from the feeding deer to movement much closer. Upon shifting my binos from the deer to this new target, I was pleasantly surprised to see a herd of about twenty Elk come running out of the bush below us. We must have spooked them when making our way to the Hill. There were four bulls with the herd and the largest was a 4 x 4, no monsters for sure. They milled around for a short time and then settled down and just stood there watching us. After several minutes, they moved off to another huge bush-lot. It is always nice to see the Elk, but this year I did not hold an Elk tag and for that matter I had not been drawn for the Mule Deer buck tag either. My sole purpose this year was for a decent Whitetail buck. As darkness closed in, we headed back to the Farm for a wonderful supper and a chance to share memories with our friends.
A 360 degree View from the Hill
Up early the next morning and off to the Hill to see if we could find any Whitetails making their way back from the grain fields to the huge bush-lots where they liked to bed. There were lots of Mule Deer out feeding this morning and soon we spotted several Whitetail does running straight back to the bush-line. No bucks with them though?? We stayed on the Hill for the whole morning and saw several decent Mule Deer bucks traversing the buck-brush, but no Whitetail bucks. Well, it was still early in the Season and the rut had not fully kicked in. The next couple of days was much the same, although we started seeing several young whitetail bucks moving around the area. Some showed signs of rutting, as they were moving with their noses “glued” to the ground, on the trail of a “hot” doe.
Day #5 was almost the same as the previous ones and we were heading back to the Farm for a short break and as we came to the junction of four fence-lines, a Whitetail doe broke out of the alder stand located near the junction. I am always suspect when I see a Whitetail doe by herself. As many of the “Experts” will tell you, “Whitetail bucks are really stupid during the rut.” Some may be, but the really big boys certainly are not. I have witnessed bucks actually ‘horn’ a doe in the flank in order to get her out of the cover and across a field. Once she has reached the next piece of cover safely, he will then make his move. Well, that was the case here, she bolted across the opening and up a slight rise and was going at Mac 2. Soon out came the buck, but I was half-way expecting a buck to be with her. As I said, a lone Whitetail doe is not a really common sight as she will usually have her fawns with her or be in the company of other does. We got to the top of the rise which they had flown over to see the doe’s backside heading straight away from us. Suddenly and for no apparent reason, she reversed her direction and started running back in our direction, with the buck hot after her. I told jimmy to take him if he wanted to, as it was a decent buck. He agreed and the next thing I knew he had a bead on the buck and fired. I was sure he had hit it, as the buck came to a screeching halt. Jimmy was not in a position to see the buck from his position, so I told him I would finish the buck for him. I was shooting my Browning X-Bolt in 270 WSM, topped with a Leupold Ultralight scope with 140 grain Nosler Accubond Bullets. I heard the bullet strike the buck and watched him drop his front end, before making a dash for the cover. I figured with two bullets in him, he wouldn’t go far. I was able to pick up his track from amongst the others in the area as his was marked by blood from the wounds. I had only covered about 50 yards when I saw him lying in the buck-brush. As I approached I saw movement and as I drew closer, I could determine he was trying to get back to his feet. I closed the distance and administered a final shot. Jimmy retrieved the truck and we soon had him loaded. That is when we determined that in fact Jimmy’s shot had just grazed his neck as the hair was clipped, as by a pair of scissors, without breaking the skin. I put my tag on him and we returned to the Farm to field dress him. It was obvious that Jimmy had just led the buck a fraction of an inch too far. But just how many times have we missed a good deer by either over or under leading it?? Many times we are lucky enough to get a bullet into an animal while it is on the run. I have had luck with Moose as they are bigger and a tad slower, but Whitetail run like “scared rabbits” and seem to “lay flat-out” when running, using cover to conceal them from the danger at hand.
Day #6 turned out to be a totally fogged-in day, with visibility only being about 150 yards at best. We stayed in the field, hoping the fog would lift, but that was not to be the case. Next day was almost the same, except the fog lifted around noon. We did not see many deer moving once the fog had lifted, so a second day Mother Nature chose to take away from us passed.
Day #8 was a clear bright day. My friend (our Hunter Host)and his young 13 year old son decided to head down into the buck brush field and see if they could spot a decent Mule Deer buck as they both had the draw. I watched them walk down the Hill’s steep slope towards the gap in the woodlots and soon they were out of sight. Jimmy had placed himself further down the Hill in hopes a good Whitetail buck might pass on his way to the bedding area. I was watching a far field when I noticed a large bull Moose come out of the tree-line. He came into the middle of the field and started feeding. Unfortunately, none of us had a Moose tag, but isn’t that always the way – smile.
Canadian Moose (he had 13 points on one side)
Soon he departed the field in somewhat of a hurry and I soon saw the reason. My friend and his son were passing through that field to an area where we had seen a couple of good Mule Deer bucks previously. They entered the tree-line in the top right of the above picture. I lost sight of them, but soon noticed several Mule Deer does approaching that bush from the left. Next I saw a decent buck with them and then one of the does charged toward the bush where my friend and his son were located. She knew danger lurked near and soon the herd ran into another field. I went down to pick Jimmy up and he had not seen anything and I did not want to leave him as he had not witnessed the scenario as I had. I went down to pick my friend and his son up to drive them to the top of the Hill where their vehicle was parked. They wanted to walk, so I said I would drive around the tree-line to see if I could find the buck. I drove past the tree-line and around another on and all of a sudden there were deer running beside the vehicle (well, within 50 yards). There were five in total and four were bucks and they were chasing a doe. I watched where they were headed and since I knew the lay of the land after hunting it for 30+ years, turned around and headed back to the Hill. Their truck was still there and I explained what had happened and where I thought the deer were heading. They decided to head over to that area and take a look. We stayed on top of the Hill to see if those deer stayed where I thought they would be or were trying to move. About 15 minutes later we saw four deer running across the field below us. Jimmy said, “those are the deer, but the big buck is not with them?” Soon I saw my friend’s truck out in another field and he was flashing his headlights in our direction. Jimmy & I looked at each other and both had the same thought – they must have gotten him. We drove to their location and I picked up their tire tracks and followed them until I saw their vehicle. Well, to say the least, there was one extremely happy young hunter who was all smiles. He had a hard time holding the buck’s head up for pictures. When asked about the hunt, he told me he had just walked through the gate in the fence and saw the buck standing about 300 yards away. He found a rest and took his time and shot his .243 Winchester and the buck only took a couple of steps before piling up on the ground. Certainly a nice Mule Deer for a young hunter.
Layne’s large-bodied Mule Deer
Day #9 started out foggy, but not as dense as the previous foggy days. Jimmy & I went to the Hill, parked the truck and started down the far side to wait to see if a Whitetail buck might come past. We had no sooner gotten into position when I saw a lone Whitetail doe come trotting out of the bush-line directly below us and heading to the big bush-lot. I told Jimmy to get ready as there just might be a buck with her. He was looking at her through the binos and another doe came out following the first one and still another one. He was looking them over as they crossed the opening below us and did not see the decent buck come out and close the gap between him & the does. I said, “Jimmy, don’t you see him?” He was too busy watching the does and by the time he had lowered his binos and got into a shooting position the buck had covered 250 – 300 yards and was on the move. He took his time and fired. I didn’t hear the whack of a bullet hitting flesh and the buck soon disappeared into the big timber. I went to the area where he had been trotting across the opening when Jimmy shot, but could find no sign of a hit. I spent about 20 minutes looking into the fringes of the bush-lot, but to no avail. We remained in that area for the rest of the day, in hopes that buck would come out towards the end of the day, but were left empty-handed. Day # 10 was much the same with no spottings of any whitetail bucks.
Day #11 was a beautiful day with the sun shining and the temperature hovering just below freezing with absolutely no wind. We went to the Hill, but only saw Mule Deer as they were prevalent in this area. We were seeing lots of decent Mule Deer bucks and a couple of really good one also. Well, I thought Jimmy was concentrating too much time on one small area, so decided to move for the afternoon hunt. We ate lunch in the truck and then headed to another good location about 30 minutes away. We were making our way through one of the many grain fields which had a huge corn field (still standing as the cattle were allowed to feed in it later in the winter months) next to it. The brush along the edge of the cornfield was fairly thick with lots of cover for deer as well as the huge corn patch would definitely provide not only excellent food, but an impenetrable bedding area. Suddenly Jimmy shouted, “Stop!!” I did and he slid out the passenger door of the truck. He soon had his 325 WSM loaded and moved towards the rear of the truck. I could just barely make out the outline of a large-bodied deer standing on the other side of the dense brush. It would have to be a whitetail, as the Mule Deer did not frequent the corn. I was startled by the shot, yet was able to maintain a steady hold on my Leica 10x42 Geovid-R Laser Rangefinder Binoculars and they provided an ultra-clear picture of the events following the shot. The buck’s back end dropped immediately upon the shot and he rolled into the thick brush. Jimmy returned to the truck and asked, “Did he go down?” and I replied, “Yes, but he is still alive and thrashing in the brush.” Jimmy wanted to walk over to where the massive-bodied animal was lying, but I told him the deer was not going anywhere as it seemed spine-shot. We could drive around to the area where he was. So, I retraced our path and at the gate we turned and followed the edge of the corn field. It was rough, but a bit of “stick-handling” and we were near where the buck had fallen. Jimmy jumped out of the truck just as I saw the brush moving to our front. I let him know where the buck lay and a quick follow-up shot “sealed the deal”. I was able to back the truck into a position where we were able to drag the buck onto more level ground. He definitely had the bone mass in his antlers which Alberta id famous for and Jimmy finally had the buck he wanted for his wall.
Jimmy’s huge-bodied Alberta Whitetail
I spent the next day with Jimmy parked on top of the Hill looking for another good Mule Deer buck as out gracious Hunter Host had still not taken his Mule Deer. We started down the back side of the steep hill and soon saw two young Mule Deer bucks standing in the buck-brush. I stopped the truck to watch them and soon they were joined by a buck with a broken antler. There was also a doe with them and as they moved toward the treeline directly below us, a two point made a quick move toward the bush. Jimmy said, “Geez, look at that guy.” The only thing visible was his front shoulders and rack, but it was partially hidden by the branches of the trees. We were able to watch him for 15 minutes or so and I still could not determine if he was three or four points on his right antler. If he was four, then he was one of the largest typical Mule Deer I had ever seen. He had it all, good mass, huge front end and deep forks on top. Oh well, I should be getting the draw for the Mule Deer buck tag next year and will definitely make time to seek that boy out. We never saw him again. I jumped in with our Hunter Host and tried to find him again, but to no avail. We did see a couple of really nice Whitetail bucks those last couple of days, but isn’t that always the way once you are tagged out??
Well, the trip back was uneventful and it was indeed a pleasure to spend time hunting with such great friends, so until next year, I will just keep pestering them to find out if they have seen that big Mule Deer.