Alberta Hunting for Whitetail, Mule Deer, Black Bear, Moose and Timber Wolf

PHOTO: Dr. Tom Kovacs with his long-tined Alberta whitetail. He was hunting with Bucks 'N Bears Outfitters out of Sherwood Park. Good whitetails like thisdon't come by everyday. Wendell Mann photo.

I had often heard about the monster bucksthat roam north of the border. Numerous articles are written about them, so when the opportunity arose to hunt the trophy whitetails of Alberta, my brother Matt and I booked the hunt. We would be the guests of Wendell and Normi Mann, owners of Bucks N' Bears Outfitters. We chose Wendell because of his hard-hunting reputation and the excellent trophy potential in the Battle River area. Our hunt would take place in mid-November; the bucks at the time would be actively chasing does. Our hunting unit consisted of large expanses of planted fields, primarily wheat, broken by thick stands of conifers, hardwoods and willows. All in all, the excellent habitat provided good food and security to allow these bucks to grow to legendary proportions.

We arrived in camp the afternoon before the hunt, so we decided to drive the backroads at dusk to get a feel for the country. After a few miles, we rounded a corner to see a magnificent whitetail buck only fifty yards away. His rack was thick and dark with long symmetrical tines. Although preoccupied with does, he was still wary. he immediately whirled and vanished into the brush, leaving us to wonder if he existed at all. WE WERE EXCITED!

Our hunt started cold and clear, with about a foot of snow on the ground. The day was spent either in stands or still-hunting in the thick stand of trees. During the first couple of days, we saw plenty of deer. At first light the deer would be out in the open, gorging on the wasted grain. We passed up several smaller bucks, but the big bucks appeared to be in the timber well before light.

I firmly believe the only way to consistently score a trophy animal is to be patient and persistent. My guide, Wendell, agreed with this philosophy so we hunted every hour of every day. The third day found me in a tree stand. The weather had turned cold, making sitting still in the stand very difficult. A group of does passed within 50 yards of my set up. I just knew a huge buck would be slipping along, following the does, totally oblivious to my presence. He never showed up. Later in the day found me easing through the underbrush. Suddenly a glimpse of movement appeared to my left. It was a lone coyote, accompanied by a trio of magpies, gorging themselves on some of nature's bounty.

It was the second last day of the hunt. We had seen alot of bucks but not the trophy buck I had been dreaming about for so long. The snow cover had become rather crusted, making still-hunting difficult. We agreed my time would be better spent sitting quietly, watching the large cuts. We chose what appeared to be a large trail intersected by anold fence-line. Both sides of the trail were covered with heavy brush, thick willows and large trees. This particular area was several square miles wide, surrounded by grain and alfalfa fields. I just knew it held monster bucks, and I had it all to myself!

Soon after I settled in, a small buck crossed my trail.I could see about 500 yards down this trail. This spot offered good visibility in the thick bush, yet it was only about ten yards wide, so I thought the animals would cross it without hesitation. Hours passed. Suddenly, I noticed a deer coming towards me, walking parallel to but not on the trail. I caught a glimpse of an antler. I thought he would step across the opening, but big whitetails get big because, well, you know how the rest of that line goes! Later that day I watched a magnificent 200-class mule deer chasing some does. He had no idea I was there. Unfortunately, I didn't have a mule deer tag!

The next day found me in the same spot. Several days of hard hunting had taken its toll. I was cold, tired and struggling with the mind games the deer gods play with you. At about 10 a.m. I thought about moving to a new spot. They had almost convinced me, but suddenly it happened! The morning stillness was shattered with the thunderous clashing of two deer fighting. the two bucks appeared to be within 200 yards, yet they were impossible to see in the thick brush. I slowly turned to face the sound, rifle ready. Moments passed since the violent exchange. I turned 180 degrees to check the trail and there he was. Even at 400 yards his huge rack was impressive. his main beams were massive with long, heavy tines. Apparently, he had heard his comrades and was slipping in, looking for a fight. This was the moment of moments. I tried desperately to settle my cross-hairs of my 300 Winchester Magnum on top of his back. As thegun roared, he lunged forward, disappearing into the brush.

The heavy blood trail was easy to follow in the snow-covered landscape. The buck travelled one-quater of a mile before I caughtup with him, where the final shot put him down for good. As I admired this beautiful animal, I could not help but think that this is the kindof buck which Alberta is famous for: a huge, swollen-neck buck with aheavy 6x5 symmetrical rack. I felt privileged and pleasured knowing that persistence, patience and lady luck had placed me between my trophyand his two fighting rivals. Before leaving camp, I made sure the next season would find us back with Bucks N' Bears Outfitters in pursuitof yet another monarch of the north.

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