By Neil Amondson
We began our hunt leaving Dawson Creek, BC in the early morning to cross the Alberta border before sunrise. Just across the line, my guide Byron Stewart caught the frames of two large Mule Deer crossing a recently harvested wheat stubble field. We slowed to a halt on the muddy road after a full night of hard rain to see the bucks accompanied by a couple of does, linger across the field. Could this be possible, less than five minutes into my first day of hunting in NW Alberta to find one of the largest bucks I had ever seen?
Reminding me of a commitment to not shoot the first day and even considered not loading my gun, I could not believe the size of this symmetrical 4x4 in late September. The smaller, 160 class buck, was still in partial velvet making his antlers larger than life. We watched the deer for nearly ten minutes as they headed towards the small patch of timber on the edge of the field. Turning the truck around, we traveled to the far side of the timber patch to meet the bucks as they came through. Chambering a round into my favorite .30-06, I was eager to watch these bucks mosey through the timber into our laps. We waited another half-hour after being pestered by a doe and a fawn, a cow and calf moose, not to be disappointed by the bucks grazing through the timber. There he was a 185-190 class beautiful 4x4 with brow tines less than 200 yards away. I watched thinking this is just what my hunting partner Rob Fuller of Chehalis wanted back home. After nearly one-hour of great enjoyment, I watched this 4-5 year old buck lay down 115 yards away and we left to see what the day would bring, wondering why I just walked away?
For the next 5-6 hours, we saw only 7 bucks and about 20 does and fawns. The heavy rain the night before definitely had slowed their movement. Our second hunter Rick Phillips joined us in mid-afternoon and the sun and deer began to brighten our day. In the next three hours, we saw over 75 does and fawns and 50 bucks, more than half of these respectable 4x4's. Knowing Rick was anxious to get his buck and head back to Alabama, our guide Byron asked us to flip a coin in case we saw the big one. Pulling out a Canadian coined dollar, Rick picked the lady (Queen) and I choose the duck (loon) and by a flip of a coin my afternoon was about to get even more exciting. We traveled the muddy roads like a NASCAR driver on steroids, glassing fields and movin' on to the next cluster of deer. Stopping only to see a black bear, more moose, huge flocks of Canadian geese and Sandhill cranes fly over, we continued to race across the prairies of Alberta watching the edge of fields and the coulees below.
The next field Byron showed me why I came to Canada. Over a dozen deer milled on the edge of a timber patch, three nice mature bucks and one that caught our eyes. He stood to the rear, turning back to test our nerve. With high forks showing a symmetrical 4 points on his right side, I pressed our guide Byron what was on the other side. He's got stickers and he's a shooter, Neil what you gonna do? I paused hearing only heavy breathing from Rick who had lost the coin toss and said, That's my deer. Ignoring my pledge to not shoot on the first day, my 150 grain Nosler Partition did its job at 288 yards with a single shot at 5:15 PM. After high fives and quick congratulations', we loaded my 4x8 buck and returned to the mud track to view many more fine bucks for Rick. In the first day, we saw over 225 deer and over 100 bucks. Byron guided Rick to a great wide old buck with double drop tines by midday of the second day of our hunt. This is why everything in Alberta is big and Grande.
Photos by Byron Stewart of Tracks N Trails Outfitting Co. of Alberta Canada