170 or Bust

I once thought that if you hunted long and hard in the right spots, using all of the skills that you have learned from your peers over the years, you would some day shoot a Boone and Crockett Buck. Well, I was never more wrong! As any avid hunter knows, there is one major factor that I have left out, and that would be luck. While I have had my share of good luck, I have never killed a book buck.

As I prepared for my annual Alberta Whitetail hunt, I made the decision that this year would be different. There would be no 160's taken. It would be book buck or no buck! This is something that only a few whitetail hunters will understand. I would be the first to tell anyone hunting Western Canada that they should expect to shoot a 150 class buck, and if he turns out to be a 160 then you have your buck of a lifetime. However, if you ever hope to shoot a book buck, you must pass up those 160's. For those who ask,"How do you know if he is a 170?" I say, "If you have a doubt, he isn't!"

After arriving in Alberta and meeting with good friend and outfitter, Bill Machura, I was once again hunting the vast fields and woods of this great province. The first evening of my hunt saw my crosshairs on a buck that may have been a 170. I had a slight doubt, and it was the first day so I didn't shoot. Unlike the previous year, the weather was unseasonable mild. The days were warm and windy, while the nights were clear with a full moon. Deer were active all night and they laid up in the thick brush all day. The kill was off in our area. I did spot several good bucks and while a couple of these would have pushed the 160 mark, none would have come close to 170, except maybe, possibly, probably, that first evening buck!

Several good bucks were taken by other hunters in our camp but I wasn't one of them. I went home without closing my tag, but felt good to have stuck to my word, "book buck or no buck".

Now that I have had time to explain to my friends with that puzzled "What, are you crazy?" look on their faces when I share my deer stories, I wonder if I will ever pass up a 160 class buck again. I sure missed that annual trip to my taxidermist!

I only recently spoke with Bill and we speculated that next year would be a great year! With the deer harvest low last year, the winter mild, and the spring rains timely, many of those 160's I passed up would be book bucks.

Before I knew it, I was once again hunting in Alberta. The weather was great, and I saw several good bucks during the first 3 days, four of which I am sure would score 160 B.& C. Mid day on thursday we found a cut line with several good crossings. The deer were travelling from a large piece of thick woods towards a long high bluff. There was a lot of breeding activity in this area. After examining the tracks, it was evident that several good bucks were present. They were criss-crossing the runways looking for hot does. We decided to hunt this hot spot the next day. On friday morning we set up on a hill where we could cover two good runways. For three hours nothing moved. Then a doe entered the cut line from the thick bush. She paused for about thirty seconds as she watched her backtrack. She wasn't out of sight for more than a minute when a 150 class 5X5 appeared with his nose to the ground. He crossed the cut line in about five seconds. Then another smaller 5X5 followed. They were definitely after the doe. The set up was perfect for a big buck to appear, except for one thing: these deer were not using the runways. We had set up for a 200 yard shot, and all of this activity was taking place three hundred yards further away. Now I know a 300 Winchester mag. 180 grain bullet is capable of killing a big whitetail at 500 yards with 1550 foot pounds of energy, however, I wasn't sure if I was up to it. I was sighted in at 2" high at 100 yards which would put me 42" low at 500 yards. We whispered back and forth as to what I would do if a shooter buck should present me with a good broad side standing shot at this great distance. We decided that Bill would size him up with his 10 X 50 Swarovski binoculars and make the call. As I settled into a solid rest, we waited in silence. After what seemed like much longer than thirty minutes, he appeared. Just his head and front shoulders were in view. He stood still as a stump staring across the twenty yards of open cut line that he normally would not cross during the day light hours. Bill whispered that the buck had plenty of mass and a long drop tine. I slid the safety off and waited. Finally, the scent of the doe in estrus, mixed with the scent of the two smaller rival bucks, got the best of him and he let his guard down. As he eased out into the open, I settled the cross hairs over his back into the blue Alberta sky and fired. The old buck dropped in his tracks!

When we reached him, I was amazed at his antler mass, the heavy ten inch drop tine, and the size of his body. He was a real "Alberta Monster"! When we lifted him out of the pickup that evening with the John Deere tractor, he pulled the scales down to 350 lbs. His unofficial non-typical score was 172 5/8 B. & C. and he had thirteen points. The rest of the camp did well also with 5 of the 6 hunters taking good bucks.

Once again I had taken a giant Alberta buck and once again there were equal amounts of skill and luck involved. Our skill put us where the big buck lived and luck was with me when I made the 500 yard shot on that memorable November afternoon...