Sunday, November 27, 2011
The Hunt Continues in Alberta
This is one of the stands that I spent the day in, looking and waiting
Thursday dawned ominously - it had rained throughout the night, and the roads were coated in ice. Those of you in the northern climates are familiar with, and undoubtedly fearful of, black ice. The paved roads were impassable - solid ice. And my hunting area was a good 15 miles down a paved road before turning off onto a dirt road. So, we had to resort to Plan B. It should be noted that most of the hunters were hunting areas that were accessed by dirt roads, and these were passable if somewhat icy. We opted to drive the myriad of roads a long the woods / fields, hoping to glass deer still in the fields in the early AM.
Our plan looked goods on paper, but the total sightings for us on Thursday morning was a group of 4 does, and one gigantic coyote. I could have shot at he coyote, but had decided not to mess with them until after I filled my deer tag. Had it been a wolf, I would have unloaded my gun as he ran across a field about 200 yards away. Finally, around 10 AM, the paved roads either warmed up or the trucks came trough with sand. Either way, the road was passable and we went to our area in the forest.
I wasn't really too hopeful. The deer seemed to be moving the most between 8 - 11 AM, and I would miss that today. Still, in this area, you never knew. The guides and other hunters were all talking about the fact that the bucks seemed to be chasing does yesterday - a GREAT sign!
After our paved road / dirt road / canoe / Quad ride to the blind, I finally got set up around 11. Quiet set in as the quad left with my guide. I didn't really feel good about the afternoon. I always reach this critical point on a fishing or hunting trip. It is usually after the halfway point of the trip. I get a feeling of depression or melancholy - I know the trip's end is imminent, and I feel like nothing good will happen the rest of the trip. This is absolutely the WRONG way to approach a deer hunt from a stand - you have to feel like you can see the buck of a lifetime until the very last minute of daylight on the last day. But, it is what it is, and my late trip gloomy feeling set in.
Finally, at 2 PM, I spied 2 does and 2 fawns, directly in front of the blind, across the cutting. These were the first deer I had seen in front of the blind all week, and they took me by surprise. And, they were acting skittish. Remember - there is NO hunting pressure, so the only things that would make them skittish would be a wolf, or a buck in rut. They kept looking behind them, in the direction they had come from, and I started feeling like "MY" buck was on the way. I had my gun on them, watching the nervous does, and looking back toward the pines they had emerged from. I just KNEW this was my buck! (It's really amazing that you can go from zero (being bored by inactivity) to full throttle (Imagining that there is a buck ready to emerge, and it is YOUR deer)in a matter seconds) Their tails went up, they started on a run, and the buck busted out of the pine trees. Just like I hoped it would. I immediately saw antlers, but this happened quick. I yelled as he raced toward the does and, he stopped about 50 yards in front of the blind. I never really made a conscious decision to shoot - just put the crosshairs behind the shoulder, and squeezed the trigger. He didn't go down but took off toward the treeline. I jacked in another round and shot as he entered the woods, and lost sight of him.
I had complete confidence that the deer was dead. I assumed he was dead right at the treeline. If not there, then he would be down inside of 100 yards inside the treeline. I really had no idea how big the buck was. I knew it had decent antlers (from my perspective) but that was it. Against the instructions from the camp, I decided to go down and see what I could see. The spot where I first shot at the deer was high grass, and I found only a little blood and some light colored hair. Since I knew exactly where I saw him last, I opted to go there and continue my search rather than look for blood in the grass. As I approached the spot, I saw the body in front of me. I got my deer. Now - how big?
The answer - not as big as I had hoped. But still the biggest I had ever shot. I thought it was a 10 point when I was processing "buck" "stop him" "shoot" but, as I said, I never really got a good look.
Now, the conflicting feelings started. I was elated that I had just shot my biggest buck, but a little disappointed that I hadn't held out for a really nice, mature deer. This buck, even with a big body and decent set of antlers, was only a 2-1/2 year old deer. I had no preconceived notion about antler score - don't care at all - but I wanted to take a mature buck. It has never been about competing with other hunters for me, just as it isn't about competing with other fishermen. The buck in front of me was a great reminder of a great trip with friends so, by definition, it was a legitimate trophy. Not because of the size of the antlers, but by what it represents to me. A smile crossed my face, and didn't leave until well after I left the lodge.
Thursday ended up being the day that everything broke loose. Deer came into the lodge pretty constantly all day. And some of them were monsters by any standard. Including one of the guys in our party. He ended up shooting his buck first thing in the AM. As soon as he got in his blind - a little late due to the ice - he spotted a doe and a small buck chasing her around. While watching the two of them through his scope, he suddenly caught a glimpse of the deer he shot. One well placed shot from about 200 yards and the deer was his. Randy has shot a lot of game in his life, but this whitetail was special. It green scored 187 and will probably go a little higher due to a few 1" plus stickers near the base of the antlers. the G2 is split and perfectly symmetrical, and the buck has double brow tines on one side. The deer has a huge body - over 300 lbs dressed - and great mass. A trophy anywhere, anytime. These deer are why you come to Alberta.
Randy's buck in the foreground, with my buck in the background
By the end of the day, 10 out of the 16 hunters in camp had tagged bucks.
Next installment - the TROPHY Bucks from the trip. LOTS of photos!!