DOWN TO THE WIRE
In reviewing the morning’s video footage, we could see that Jana’s arrow was headed straight for the kill zone, but was pulled down by the deep barley. The big, old, mainframe 4×4 did indeed have a drop tine that formed a club at the bottom. Deflated and full of emotions, we headed back to the vehicle to tell Melissa and Tim of our fate.
“Awesome job guys, that was so close!” Melissa said as we approached.
Tim chimed in, “That’s only your first stalk, and what a deer he was!” I too was in awe of the sheer size of that buck’s rack.
By late afternoon, Melissa and Jana had made several ill-fated stalks on two groups of bedded bucks. After a quick bite to eat, we decided to change areas. We glassed from several high points hoping to spy Mr. Big, but only small bucks showed themselves. With a half hour of shooting light, left we called it a day.
The next morning, we counted 19 bucks before 10 a.m. In one group, several bucks were in the 180-class but presented no chance for a stalk. Jana and Melissa just gazed at the sea of antlers cast against the waving barley. As the sun disappeared behind the Rockies, we headed back to town. Time was of the essence, since we were down to one more day of hunting.
The final day began with a sunrise right out of National Geographic. We were back in the same area where Jana almost nabbed the biggest drop-tine buck I’d ever laid eyes on. “I see antlers,” Tim said, looking over to Melissa for verification. Jana’s last day meant every chance she had might be her last. There in the distance stood a decent 4×4 mule deer, barely visible as he stood feeding in the barley field 800 yards away. Crawling down the same path we used on the drop-tine buck would put us within bow range for sure. “What do you say we go for broke Jana?” I asked.
“Let’s go get him!” Jana said. And from the look on her face, I could tell she meant business!
The prevailing west wind muffled the sounds of our stalk, giving us a little added advantage in closing the distance. One hour later, we rose up slowly like two Navy Seals and began to range our subject. The prevailing wind continued to blow hard from the west as Jana made her move down the fence line. Deer beds littered this end of the field as we moved through the yellow-green barley.
“I see his antlers,” Jana whispered to me.
“I see him!” I whispered back. “He’s 150 yards now. Let’s take our time and move with each wind gust.”
Jana’s heart rate soared with every yard we gained on the bedded buck. The buck’s tall points stood out against the amber grain waving in the wind. Bent over, but still walking upright, I led the way towards the buck. His antlers rotated like a periscope while his ears probed for any sign of danger.
Twenty minutes later, we were standing 23 yards from the buck, which was bedded facing away from us.
“I am going to get his attention with a yell,” I told Jana. “You draw back when I tell you.”
Coming to full draw on my command, the huntress locked on to her target as I shouted, “Hey!” The buck shot to its feet in a nanosecond. Jana released her arrow, striking the buck and quartering directly into his vitals. The buck whirled and began to bounce away, still unsure of what had just transpired.
“It looked good to me,” Jana said, turning to me in disbelief to what we had just pulled off.
“He’s hit good,” I said, watching the buck through my binoculars. “A far cry from the Wisconsin woods, eh?”
I was elated that Jana had stuck with it and made a good shot on her maiden mule deer voyage. We watched together as the buck bedded down for good, and as we walked up to this deer, we both realized he was much bigger than we had originally thought. Sporting a 4×4 main frame, this buck was just beautiful. His rack supported matching sticker points on both bases.
“I can’t believe it,” Jana said. “My first mule deer ever; he’s going on the wall.”
We had done it!
Spotting and stalking Alberta mule deer is by far one of the most challenging archery hunts you can do. Jana hunted with Melissa Simpson through the Alberta government’s Hunter Host program (www.mywildalberta.com), which allows resident hunters to host a non-resident alien hunter every three years. Tim Ewing is also an avid bowhunter and owner of Back Country Butchering in nearby Cowley (403-628-2686).