Well, I got done with my Nebraska whitetail hunt, came home, did laundry, repacked, stayed with the family for a day and then headed up north to Savage Encounters outfitting which is roughly an hour west of Innisfail Alberta.
The Nebraska hunt has been pretty hard going trying to round up mature animals so I had high expectations for this Canadian hunt as there were several 180 to 230" whitetails that had been seen in this area as well as a monster Mule deer we were going to be hunting. I had been up archery hunting for moose earlier in the fall and passed on a couple good bulls because we had seen several 50-55" class bulls which is what I wanted anyway.
First morning of the hunt, we loaded into the guides truck and headed out with high hopes. 5 minutes down the road we came over a small hill and I just noticed a small white dot turn our direction and then it instantly dawned on me what it was, a black horse!!! The guide saw him about the same time I did and we were only 30 yards from him. THe road was packed snow/ice. We were only traveling around 35-40 mph on this straight farm road but it was slick enough that when the tires locked up, we did not slow down at all.
We could not have dead centered that horse broadside any better if we had tried to. One split second, we are looking at a horse coming toward us, the next, the white hood buckled back to the windshield and we could not see a thing but white and steam from the radiator coming apart. We slid to a stop and tried to get out. Both doors were pretty hard to open telling us just how solidly we had hit the horse.
We went to see where the horse was. It was mangled up pretty bad, all legs broken and there was severe damage to the body of the horse, will leave it at that. I took some pics but will not post them just to keep things respectful. He was still alive, kind of so we quickly put him out of his pain.
After calling some of the other guides we started looking at the damage. The truck, a newer Dodge 2500 4x4 was totalled. There were two indentions in the dash from my kness and I was now starting to feel it trying to walk around. At first there was no problem but now things were settling down and you could feel everything.
We were pretty lucky the only one that got really hurt was the horse.
Another guide came by and picked up me and another hunter while the other guide took care of his truck and got everything taken care of legally with the accident.
The guide dropped me off at the base of a large bald mountain and told me that was were the big mule deer lived. I was pumped up. He told me to hike to the top and then walk the ridgeline glassing off both sides until I found him and then give him hell. He said he would be back around 11:00 to help get him out. Sounded like a done deal. That would not be the case.
By the time I got to the top of the mountain with my 20 lb pack of equipment and my 16 lb 300 AX Raptor rifle, I was one whooped fella. I set down to take a break and started glassing. I found 6 mule deer, all does but one young buck. This was a very young 4x4 but he did have a drop tine off each main beam. I had never seen a drop tine deer in the wild so that was pretty neat to see that and gave me high hopes for the rest of the day.
When I had recovered from the hick up the mountain I started along the crest glassing every 1/4 mile or so. I walked easily 3 miles down the ridge and never saw another deer. About 2:00 in the afternoon I headed back along the crest and never saw a deer on that trip either. Got back to the pick up point around dark and the only mule deer I had seen were during the first 30 minutes of the day. Unfortunately, this would not be uncommon for the next 10 days....
We hunted hard for 5-6 days for deer, whitetail mainly and never saw a deer older then a 2 year old. wolf tracks everywhere but no mature deer. In fact, there were three days straight that I never saw a deer. This may sound bad but in this bush country, that is not terribly unusual to see a low number of deer but this time of year, the rut should be full on but there were just no deer moving.
On thanksgiving morning, it was cold compared to the other days of the hunt. IT was roughly 12 below zero so we decided this would be the best morning to go after moose as no moose had been seen during the week as it was far to cold and you need cold temps to find moose this time of year.
We saw a total of 6 moose that morning, 3 cows, two calves and a young bull. We found the bull bedded down in a timbered draw just off a clear cut area. We looked him over. He was not big as far as rack size goes, probably around 35" spread. Chad, my guide and owner of Savage Encounters said he was just a 3 year old but about as good as it gets for an eating bull and still a big animal. He said he would circle around and drive the bull up to me into the clear cut where it would be easier to get a shot off at him if I wanted to take him.
I asked him if I should shoot him or wait. He asked me how many bulls has I seen up to that point and the weather was going to warm up again that afternoon. He said its my call but it will likely be the last bull you see on the trip. We decided to try for him.
Chad took a long walk around the bulls location and I set up above him with my lightweight 7mm AM and got ready for the ambush. IF things worked out, it would not be a long shot but he would come up to an area where he would be much easier to get packed out.
After around 30 minutes, the bull stood up but did not run. I could hear Chad bull calling to him but could not see Chad yet as he was still around 100 yards from the bull in the timber and a good 250 yards from my location. I watched the bull and he began to brissle up on his hump. He was noticably annoyed with the intruder but would not run.
Then I saw Chad clear the timberline and just stand there, not wanting to push the bull hard but just wanting to get him moving up into the cut lot.
Finally the bull took off in a trot but instead of coming up my direction, he split the difference between me and Chad and ran to my right. I had to reposition around a big slash pile to get a shot at the bull. He ran up onto a flat spot and I put the reticle on the point of his shoulder and tripped the trigger. At the shot, the onside shoulder buckled and the bull hunched up but kept running. Finally after around 100 yards of running after the first shot, he stopped, I lined up on him again off hand as I had with the first shot (Not used to that I tell ya!!!), this shot hit a bit high in the hump and the bull dropped to the shot.
I ranked in another round, dropped the HS mag and reloaded it from the ammo sleeve on the side of the stock with three fresh rounds of 7mm AM ammo and reinserted the mag into the rifle, this proved to be a smart thing.
Chad started walking toward the bull sooner then I did. I was watching to make sure he was down for good and after a couple minutes I headed over to him. Chad was nearly there already.
Chad got within 20 yards of the bull and suddenly the young bullet spun his head around in Chads direction and jumped up driving towards Chad as he rose. His ears were pinned back and I could clearly hear the grunts of a pissed off bull moose as he tore after Chad.
I rose the rifle to find the bull. Chad was unarmed!!! He was also in a clear cut so there was no place to hide let alone trying to run through that crap is nearly impossible. Had he tripped, it would have been a really bad thing.
I found the bull in the scope but Chad was so close I could see him as well in the view. Luckily, Chad knew what he was doing. Instead of running away from the bull, he ran to the left and back toward me. This cleared him from my line of sight as well as turn the bull so he was broadside to me for the shot. The reticle found the crook just ahead of the shoulder in the neck and I pulled the trigger. The 160 gr Accubond luckily landed center on the spine and the bull fell on his nose again.
Chad was hootin and haulering after the shot. I was shaking!!!!
I walked up to Chad and we watched the bull for several minutes and then walked closer to him. THe bull again rose his head but that was about all he had to work with with the spine impact from the last shot. I put a final round behind the ear of the young bull and the fight was finally over.
He was not a big bull horn wise but he was big bodied. Chad figured 1000 lbs on the hoof. Pretty damn big for me. Chad made a comment that it was a good hunt because, "The bull decided how he wanted to die, fighting to the end and bringing the fight to us!!!" Personally, it was a bit more excitement then this whitetail hunter was used to you I assure you it will be a hunt I will never forget. I am sure Chad will remember it for a time as well.
He had 4 points on one side, 5 on the other. I was hoping for a larger bull then this as I had passed on larger bulls during my archery hunt but thats hunting. Pass on a big bull and you run the risk of eating a tag, at least I have plenty of very tasty moose meat to last me over the year.
After that, we hit the last four days hard for whitetails spending alot of hours on stand and glassing swamps for those big mature bucks. Unfortunately, none were found. On the second to last day, another hunter and guide ran into a herd of mule deer with what they said were several good bucks. They killed a decent buck but said there were others at least that big so that afternoon we headed out to the same area to find them. We did but when we did we found that again they were only young deer with the biggest we saw being only a 3 year old 4x4. I did not need to kill a mule deer to bad that I would shoot one of these young deer.
I had taken a young deer in Nebraska but that was mainly to fill that tag so I could head north and get my Canadian hunt going. Plus we had seen alot of deer in Nebraska and no mature ones so the one I took was the best one I had seen.
Still, I had a moose at camp so meat was not an issue. I had taken a big 4x4 whitetail at home and my nebraska whitetail as well so meat was certainly not an option. There as no need to shoot one of these deer.
The last day came. They put me in a good blind overlooking a cutline with a swamp on one end. The day before, they had seen a 180 class whitetail go into this bush. At 8:50 am a nice 4x5 crossed 350 yards to my right in the swamp. Another good young deer, probably around 130-135" but young so I let him walk.
At 10:00, to my right, only 150 yards walked out a nice 5x5 whitetail with a drop on his left angler. I did everything but shoot at him to get him to stop and he just stopped on the treeline giving me a good look. He was again a young deer but already a solid 5x5 and it looked like he had a split browtine on the left side as well as the 3" drop tine. This time, this buck would be given a pass to grow up and turn into something special. Again, I have killed enough good whitetails in my relatively short hunting carreer that there is no need to take something like this. I will probably feel bad for taking my Nebraska buck for some time as its out of character for me to take a deer of this young age but again it was either take him and get up to Canada or take another two days away from my Canada hunt to finish the nebraska hunt. In the end, that would have been the better choice. Hind sight is a bugger!!!
That last night, we drove to several spots and tried some rattling. Saw some young deer and at last light we found a herd of mule deer does. IT was right at legal shooting time but my guide wanted to hike over the hill to see if there were any bucks there. By the time we would have gotten over there it would have been well past legal shooting time.
I appreciated his efforts but pulled the mag out of my rifle and said, they have earned the right to live another year without me pestering them. I said it had been a long hard hunted week and on this hunt, the chips fell with the deer and I was happy with that. I was happy with my moose, first moose and a good one to start with so I can improve on him down the road and still have lots of good eating meat.
Chad puts on a great hunt, all the guides worked hard to get me onto good animals, it just did not work out that way. Alot of younger deer hit the ground after thanksgiving day. Some of the hunters were from back east and 110-115" whitetails were damn near the biggest deer they had every killed. You can not be anything but happy for those hunters as its all prespective on where you live and what animals your able to harvest on a regular basis.
I was happy for them, I just wanted something larger and was not going to take a younger buck just to punch a tag. Again, I have killed enough that punching a tag is not all that important to me anymore unless its a quality animal that is mature.
I certainly never lost any weight except for maybe that first days hiking!!! Food was great, comfortable lodge, long time away from my wife, little girl and the shop. 22 days of solid hunting from sun up to sunset is a long hunting season for me. I can honestly say, getting back to work has been a good thing!!! Time to reset and get ready for next year I guess.