by Jim Hammett

It was still a couple of hours before dawn as we headed toward the reddish glow on the horizon. You could see the lights of Edmonton fifty miles away.

As we drove south on the gravel road, the two of us were not speaking, each deep in his own thoughts. Mine were of the white-tail hunt that had just ended the day before. I couldn't believe it, I had passed up ten 5X5 bucks in six days, finally shooting a big 5X4 160 class buck on the last day!

It was a great hunt. There isn't any better feeling than that of a successful hunt with good friends. This was my second hunt with Bill Machura. The year before I shot a big 5X5 that netted 167 B & C. Two 160s in two years, that's amazing!

Bill broke the silence. "How would you like to hunt on horseback next year, Jim?" I hadn't said that I was going back to Alberta the next year yet, but, after spending as much time together hunting as Bill and I have, he seems to be able to read my mind. "Sure, Bill, we ought to be able to get close to a big one on horseback, after all, these bucks are used to cattle and moose walking around in the bush all year with them."

We parted at the airport in Edmonton and as we shook hands I said, "Bill, the pressure is on for next year, we HAVE to go three for three with 160 class bucks!" He just smiled and nodded as if to say, "No problem". However, we both know how hard it is to take one 160 buck, much less three in three years. Before I met Bill, I had hunted three years in Alberta, and although I never went home skunked, I never had a chance at anything bigger than 140 class bucks.

We kept in touch all summer and Bill said that he had picked up a couple of horses and maybe I should practice my riding skills.

Finally, November arrived and I once again headed west for Alberta. Bill picked me up at the airport and by noon we were at the Machura's homestead. It is always good to see Bill's wife Karen and the family again. They sure know how to make you feel at home, and to top it off, the food is great!

Monday morning Bill and I were on stand at dawn. We saw a few deer but no shooters. We headed back to the homestead about 10 A.M. and saddled the horses. We had to trailer them about ten miles. We rode all afternoon and covered about fifteen miles. There were deer everywhere and the rut was really getting started. We would stop every couple of miles and Bill would rattle for half an hour, then we would move on. On one of these stops, a small 130 class 4X4 walked past me at about fifteen yards. He was so intent on sneaking up on the two bucks that he thought were fighting that he never knew I was there! He approached the small patch of willows where Bill had been rattling and in plain view of him, made a scrape! It wasn't until the buck had completely circled down wind of Bill that he reluctantly ran off. We had a great first day, but, we didn't see any big bucks.

The next day we were both a bit sore, but, we were back on horseback. It was harder than we thought. The footing was poor in the snow and at one steep spot, Bill's horse fell and they both slid about ten feet down the hill. They were lucky, however, neither the horse nor the rider were hurt. Later as we were riding through the bush on one of the cut lines, we spotted a nice buck laying down on a slight knoll with two does, but, before I could dismount and get off a shot, he had put too many trees between himself and me. We looked the area over and decided that with all of the deer sign that was there, we would return later on foot.

The following day found us still hunting into the same area, and as we crested the knoll we saw two bucks fighting. One was a yearling and the other about a 130. We watched the two bucks for ten minutes. Bill was about thirty yards behind me and as I turned toward him, he motioned that there was a good buck laying down that I hadn't seen. Finally, I spotted the big buck laying in the willows about one hundred yards away. The way he was laying prevented a shot and I could only see one side of his rack. I liked what I saw. He had five tines on the left side and two of them were close to a foot long. The next five minutes seemed like an hour, but, finally he stood up and gave me a quartering away shot. I could see long tines on the right side now, so the decision was an easy one. With the crack of the 270 he dropped. As Bill and I approached the downed buck the 130 class buck that was sparing with the yearling earlier came running past us chasing the doe that had been laying with the big buck. Now that the big guy was out of the picture, he was going to make the most of it! The two deer passed within ten yards of Bill and I. We yelled and waved our arms but they acted as if we weren't even there. The rut was obviously at its very peak in that area.

We looked my buck over and found that he was a 4X5 that had 75 inches of antler on the left side and sixty-eight inches on the right. He grossed 161 B & C. We had done it!! We had taken three 160 class bucks in three years!

What about next year? Well, who knows? Just maybe we can hit that magic number 170...