Bowhunting World October 2003
Alberta Double Header – By Bob Robb

Eye-popping whitetail racks and massive mulies in the Canadian Rockies foothills

Shivering silently in my treestand, I watched as the sun went down on the final day of my hunt, while grasping onto my last ray of hope that enough time might remain for a shot opportunity to present itself.
After all, a hunt is never over until it’s over—right?

At this point, the fact that I had not even drawn the bow was really immaterial to me. In six days I had seen a herd of nine mule deer bucks on four different occasions, and the largest four would have scored
in the 150 – to l75-inch Pope and young range.

One day they were as close as 90 yards to me. On three different afternoons I had seen “shooter” whitetail bucks, two different 8-pointers 1 estimated to score between 140 and 150, and one absolute hog of an 8-point buck that I am sure wou1d have pushed the 160 mark. That monster came within 65 yards of my stand, but it was too dark to see
sight pins when he approached.

Combine all this with the fact that we’d shot the coyotes to bits (see accompanying sidebar), and you understand why I was a1ready eager to return here to hunt the fie1ds and woods north of Ca1gaiy A1berta.

Just then, I turned my head to the right. Standing between the trunks of two thick pines, silhouetted against the green alfalfa, was a staggering whitetail buck. The deer had tall, thick-webbed beams, large eye guards,
and a total of 10 well-defined points. He was at least a 160, and I wanted him.

There were problems, however. Like the fact that he was 100 yards away, the sun was already below the horizon, and he would never feed along the field edge close enough to come within bow range before my light Was gone.

Realizing this was not the time to be timid, I lowered my bow on the pull rope, I unsnapped my safety harness, and scrambled down the tree. I unhooked the bow, nocked an arrow, and headed in his direction with the
wind in my face — trying to be as quiet as possible, yet not going so slow that I would completely lose my light before I got there.

Despite my good intentions, my light did run out before I got there. When I spooked the deer, he was feeding in the thick brush only 35 yards from me. He bounded off into the dark timber, stopping maybe 60 yards distant. I could see him plainly using my binoculars, but couldn’t
without the aid of the light-enhancing glasses. So close, and yet so far.

Now, looking back, this was one of those bowhunting experiences I remind myself that if a guy feels he just has to kill something, he should be toting a rifle. The big buck and I stared at each other for 30 seconds, then he whirled and bounded off into the thick, black timber, taking with him the final, fleeting memory of one of the coolest and most fulfilling deer bowhunts I have had in a long time.

Deer Hunter’s Mecca

Alberta needs no introduction to serious whitetail hunters. Though it has been somewhat overshadowed in recent years by the upper Midwestern
states, this prairie province continues to produce many whitetail bucks each year with eye popping racks. It has also become one of the best places around to find large mule deer bucks. One of the great things about Alberta, is that you can hunt both mulies and whtetails on the same hunt picking up tags for each.

For the traveling bowhunter, the key is finding an outfitter
who has access to excellent land, works hard for his clients, and
also understands the unique needs of bowhunters. On my previous
Alberta hunts, I have been with fine outfitters—but only if
you`re a gun hunter. When it came to bowhunting, they didn’t
have a real clue how to set up close-range shots.

Chad Lenz of Savage Encounters is my kind of outfitter. Young
and aggressive, Lenz earned the nickname “Savage,” first through
his take-no-prisoners personal bowhunting style, and later as a
guide for mountain game in the Northwest Territories. The man is
locked and loaded when it comes to bowhunting, totally focused on producing quality shot opportunities for all his clients.

Lenz hunts about 150 miles northwest of Calgary, an area at the base of the eastern foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. This is sparsely-populated country that combines hilly and swampy terrain with the good cover of large pines and aspen that help guarantee its ungulate inhabitants can reach maturity. The area is also farmed heavily
covered with large alfalfa and wheat fields,sliced with timber stringers, and dotted with large sections of both mature and cut-over
woods. Can you say “ideal deer habitat ?”

Lenz has lived and hunted here for more than 30 years, giving him the
advantage of local experience when it comes to understanding
the habits and haunts of local game. He also has excellent relationships with many of the areas large landowners and is able to obtain permission to hunt lots of land that is off limits to others.

“We offer standard hunt packages for a wide variety of big game,
but we can and will customize any hunt and combine any species
to fit a persons individual needs and style,” Lenz said. “We also
limit the number of clients to keep both the quality of the hunt and
the amount of personal service we provide to the maximum.

Whitetails, Mulies – Or Both?

Alberta is renowned for its large whitetail deer, with many
mature bucks tipping the scales at well over 3OO pounds, and
Lenz’s area is no exception.

“We have Whitetail bucks in the 130- to 200-inch class, and our clients
usually see a couple of these giants each week, along with several smaller bucks and lots of does,” Lenz said. “All of our Whitetail hunts are conducted from tree-stands or ground blinds, hunting crop or
timber country.

“Most people are aware that Alberta is a real sleeper for great
mule deer, and our area has some bombers” Lenz continued.
“Most of Alberta is on draw for mule deer, and with limited pres»
sure and great habitat, the result is a good number of older age»
class bucks. We have mule deer in the 140 – to 200 – inch class, and
our clients usually see large herds of deer. Most of our mulie hunts
are conducted by stalking or stand hunting near cropland or large
blocks of timber.”

On my mid-October hunt I saw a fair number of mulies and
lots of whitetails. One bachelor herd of nine mulie bucks contained
five animals that would easily have exceeded the Pope
and Young minimum of 145 inches, and the top three would
have pushed the 170 mark. And each day I sat in a treestand
near an alfalfa field, I saw at last one “shooter” whitetail that
would have made the record book with lots of room to spare.

A Great Week

As you probably remember, the fall of 2002 was marked throughout North America by unusually warm weather, and central Alberta was no exception. I encountered a couple of days of sleet and hard rain, but generally the days were quite mild. Deer were moving primarily at dawn and dusk, spending the days bedded in thick stands of timber or large cut-over blocks.

Guide Kris Brophy placed me in a stand along the field, then
later in the hunt we moved one additional stand to try to intercept
deer on a different approach to the field. Brophy, in his early 20s, has already stacked ’em up as a bowhunter, and his skill and enthusiasm
helped make him a superior guide.

Each afternoon I saw at least one exceptional buck. One day it was a l40-
class, 8 – pointer, the next day a young 10 – point that would have bumped l50. One day it was a pair of good bucks, one the aforementioned l60-class, 8-point, the other a l45ish 8-pointer, traveling with
four smaller bucks. They came within 65 yards of my stand but it was just too dark to even think about a shot.

On three different days I saw the herd of mulies in the field Brophy and Lenz had told me about. I could have taken shots at a couple of the smaller bucks, but was hoping one of those bruisers would venture close enough. Naturally, that never worked to my favor, but it was still quite a thrill to see them at less than 100 yards.

In addition to the deer, from this stand I saw a herd of elk (and heard two different bulls bugle), a small moose, and many, many coyotes. On two different days I watched as coyotes came into the field mid-morning and lay down, catching some warming rays while I watched, undetected, 200 yards away.

My friend Jake Kuntz, who works with his father, Al at their Minnesota·based hunt booking agency, Al’s Worldwide Adventures (6l2-433-5366, www.alsadventures.com) showed us all how to get it done the final day of his hunt. Jake had been chasing a small herd of mulie bucks around for days, sitting a treestand or trying to sneak up on them. He hadn’t had a a good break until the last morning, when he able to sneak within 25 yards of a 4 x 4 and make the perfect shot. It was
Jakes first-ever mule deer buck, an accomplishment to be proud of.

I’ll Be Back

The one thing I told myself when this hunt was over, was, “Man, you could have just as easily punched both your whitetail and mule deer tags on really good bucks. The cards just didn’t play out right. Next year, though, my luck has got to change!”

I have always believed that if you are hunting bigger than-average game, the first thing you have to do is locate the place where there are some above average, mature animals. This is one such place. Before I left
to return to the states, Lenz I discussed a
2003 deer hunt. I’m already packed.

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