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My dad and I packed our family hunting truck for our annual northern boreal adventure. It was a time once again for visiting family and spending quality time hunting.

On the first day, it was surprisingly warm while the winter breeze was crisp. The continuous honks of seasonal fowl and popping sounds of mysterious ravens filled the air. It was absolutely beautiful. After several hours of gazing into the unknown forest, two curious, regal looking does graced the cutline. Realizing I was only there for four days, and with my heart pounding, it was decision time and I knew what I had to do. Should I take a shot at the bigger doe and spend the next three days relaxing, or wait for the possibility of a monster buck? In that split second, I decided that I may not get this chance again and the thought of a freezer full of beautiful doe meat warmed my heart.

Peering through the scope while placing the crosshairs on the vital area, I calmed my breathing and squeezed off what I knew would be a well-placed shot. The 300 Weatherby echoed across the landscape joining in unison with many other blasts from across the snow swept fields, as it was one minute after morning legal light. The doe raised her head, stared confusingly, and then began a light jog into the trees, seemingly not aware of the surrounding danger and the resounding gunshot. The doe showed no signs of being hit; nevertheless, I spent the next four hours looking for blood while leaving my own sweat scented trail in prized deer habitat. No blood, no reaction, no hit... I missed.

My uncle Keith and I moved to the farm field and secured a number of practice shots. My attempts did not show on paper. Somehow during my last elk hunting trip, my scope was bumped and came out of sight. A tough lesson learned.

Over the next few days, we encountered many small deer but none worthy of the taking. While settled in the middle of two cutlines on the morning of Day 4—the last day—I joined the chorus of cawing crows with three light buck grunts. Seeing movement out of the corner of my left eye, I brought my binos up to view my dream, majestic, thick 5x5 buck. Estimating about 350 yards and with my heart pounding, my breathing heavy, my adrenaline pumping, and my eyesight narrowing, I drew up my rifle and in the haste of excitement, I pulled the trigger. Stubbornly, the buck continued to stand there, looking at me broadsided, appearing like a trophy, archery target. As if laughing at me, he snorted and then disappeared into the woods. He again reappeared down the next cutline at about 70 yards. I put the crosshairs on him and thought, ‘did I hit the last buck? Was he down in the woods? Is this a different buck?’ With another puff and snort, he vanished once again. A second chance and yet another missed opportunity.

With my head hanging low, I put in another several hours looking for blood just to be sure. I have always target shot in the off-season with bow and rifle just to make sure this would not happen. Before this time, I‘ve taken great pride in never missing an animal with my rifle. Buck fever had the best of me. At this point, I felt like packing my bags and heading home. Yet, I placed myself back on the cutline for another wait.

While feeling devastated, I detected movement 300 yards in front of me. Observing the size, I knew it was going to be my personal best and a freezer full of delicious organic meat to feed my family. I brought my face up to my cheek rest, controlled my breathing, and positioned the crosshairs. Feeling calm and relaxed, I talked myself through the coming steps and squeezed the trigger. The discharge was echoed by a clean hit and the impressive buck quietly succumbed.

Creighton with his whitetail and his mule deer, both last daylight bucks!
As I approached the downed buck, its antlers and body appeared to become larger. Filled with excitement and gratitude towards the animal, I rendered my prayers of thanks. With my numerous lessons learned accompanying me home, I contributed special thanks to Shannon, Sarah, Steve, Keith, Laurier and their families for their companionship and support!

My next hunting adventure brought me to the final day of hunting season, November 30. Hiking numerous kilometres on foot in the rugged mountain regions in search of an Alberta mule deer buck, I encountered many other hunters in their search and had many valuable discussions. Incidentally, by accident, I also came within 30 yards of two moose that were concealed behind some tangled bushes. After forging long hours on an empty cutline, I packed my bags and began my retreat to home base. As I navigated out, off in the distance I noticed on top of a hill several white spots. I hiked up the ridge and glassed the rim. I just wasn’t close enough. Heading further down the road, I stopped and scrambled for the ridge that was directly across from them. Lying on top of the ridge and putting my bag down to use as a rest, I held in a steady prone position. To my surprise, I spotted a heavy rutting buck in pursuit of some does. My rangefinder read 375 yards. As the sun was going down and leaving me only five minutes of legal light hunting time, my confidence was strong.

As the deer advanced along the hill, I continued to slide my bag and heavy gun along the side of the ridge in an attempt to keep in a straight line of sight through the trees. After edging along the top of the ridge for about 10 yards, finally a shot presented itself through several small trees. Putting the 300-yard mark on the buck’s spine, I squeezed off a shot. It seemed like an eternity before the bullet hit but it did with a smack. The downed deer began rolling down the slope. He will make a great sausage deer I thought!

Under a roof of stars and with my headlamp burning, it took me two hours to find the deer. Luckily, my father was in the area and I was able to contact him to assist me to drag the buck out. After a two-hour, strenuous haul, we had our trophy in the back of the truck. My personal best mule deer taken in the last five minutes of legal light. What a season! ■

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