300 Inches of Antler in 10 Minutes!

300inchesofantlerdeer1I prefer to hunt in untouched country as far from the crowds in iridescent orange as possible. The area doesn’t have to be an outpost at the edge of the world either. Just a place with as few roads as possible, which means you can probably have it all to yourself. That’s where the loneliness of wild and silent woods is full of splendor.
It was that desire that beckoned me for a whitetail hunt in northern British Columbia in November 2009. Sure, I knew that a wilderness hunt doesn’t produce deer in great numbers and that typically deer aren’t concentrated in the woods during the rut. But the one thing for certain when you’re in lonely country is that you hunt the way you want to.
“These whitetails have either lived high on the slopes of the B.C. Rockies since the beginning of time, or they migrated west off the Alberta prairie,” Tim said as we pulled up into camp. “And, given the conditions and the terrain, northern B.C. may be the last frontier for trophy whitetails.”
Tim Millward, owner and operator of Wolverine Valley Outfitters  and SCI member, has studied his concession for years, but this was the first time he outfitted whitetail hunts there. His territory is huge and rich with elk, black bears, moose and grizzlies. Those were the animals he hunted and knew best, however, he admitted to having expanses of whitetail country yet to be examined.
Tim continued, “Whitetails aren’t hunted much here. Locals, and there aren’t many, prefer to put moose in the freezer, so they ignore the mountain whitetails and few mule deer around.”
On the first morning of the hunt, Kyle Reis, my guide, and I hiked up a long incline to an area he was keen on. “We’re in between two good areas,” he said. “Animals love to cross this pass.”
For the rest of the day we sat in a tree stand, alternating rattling, doe bleating and glassing. We might have examined the area around us hundreds of times, but nothing showed up. On the way out at the end of the day, we saw enough sign to tell us deer frequented the area. It all added to my motivation, and sure helped warm my cold, stiff body.
Over the course of the next two days, Kyle and I covered plenty of new country and spent some additional cold hours in tree stands. Still, we didn’t locate the buck that consumed my thoughts. Sure, we saw some deer—does, spikes and a couple of young 10-points, but not the buck I was looking for.
On the fourth day, we started out where we had been on day one. The sun was brilliant between whiteout conditions, and the ever-present wind continued to bear down on us. A half-day of that without even a glimpse of a deer got me thinking. “Any chance of getting a look at the other side of that ridge ahead of us?” I asked Kyle. “Could be,” was his cryptic reply. “Why? What are you thinking?” What I was thinking was that my fingers and feet were freezing, and curiosity was getting the best of me. Deer hunting is always a battle with the elements, but I don’t possess infinite 300inchesofantlerhikepatience, or the ability to face the bitter cold like I used to. If we moved, we’d warm up and get some first-hand knowledge of the area. “Want to go for a long walk?” Kyle added almost immediately. He was a good guide and backwoodsman, and at that moment I also realized he could be a mind reader, so we headed across the timber.
The area was canopied by mature spruce, and smothered in places by thick underbrush. We followed a mile-long ridge, stopping every 100 yards or so to glass and rattle. There was plenty of deer sign, and we found some huge heart-shaped tracks. The area definitely held some bucks, but had we found the favorite haunt of a great one? Eventually we reached a cutover where we set up and rattled some more. I remember the brisk breeze in my face as Kyle imitated two mature bucks locked in battle. But still, nothing showed-up.
Daylight slipped away as Kyle said he wanted to cross the cut to check for sign. It was a good thing, too, because we found plenty of tracks, and even some well-used paths. Tim was waiting for us when we reached the road at dark. “What did you boys see?” he asked. “Plenty,” Kyle quickly answered. “I know just where we want to be early tomorrow.” Those words filled my head as I zipped into my sleeping bag that night.
We headed directly to a large brush pile in the center of the cut as if it had been pre-planned. The fringe of the timber was about two miles in expanse, so Kyle and I sat and faced it about 10 feet apart. He could easily see half, while I assumed responsibility for the rest. The wind was slight, but in our favor. As we got settled, the stars faded fast, shadows lifted, and the rising sun promised to be brilliant.
Kyle forcefully ground his antlers and they made a significant commotion in the cold morning air. We alternated rattling, grunting and studying the horizon. Then, about an hour later, we heard a shot off to the east. “Do you think that came from Frank,” I asked. “Not sure; could be,” Kyle answered. Well, I thought, it’s a good sign, and I hoped for the best.
Within two or three minutes, Kyle, with an unusual burst of 300inchesofantlerdeer2enthusiasm, blurted, “Joe, there he is!” I looked in Kyle’s direction and immediately spotted the beast on the edge of the woods. At first glance the buck looked good, but I couldn’t be sure since he was more than 300 yards away. Kyle proceeded to smash the antlers a little louder, and the buck headed right to us.
The buck’s path was as direct as the semi-open terrain would permit, and that allowed me time to turn in his direction and slip a round into the chamber. The buck wasn’t cautious, but paused now and then, raising his head to survey the area or to listen for strange noises. It took almost five minutes before he was close enough for a shot. “He’s really good,” Kyle whispered. “What do you think, is he what you came for?” I saw excellent antler mass, tall tines, some kickers, and an enormous, mature body. He looked good, and he didn’t have a clue where we were.
When the buck finally got within 80 yards, he stopped and faced us head-on. I aimed, slid the safety off, and touched the trigger. My 139-grain handload hit right where I wanted it to—low in the center of his chest. The muzzle blast blocked my view for an instant, but then I could see the buck on the snow-covered ground. He never regained his feet or moved. Unfortunately, Kyle didn’t see the shot, but he popped up almost immediately for a look. We sat there for a moment to be sure the deer didn’t regain his feet and take off. It was then that Kyle said, “Joe, that’s the biggest buck I’v eever seen.” “Me too,” I answered.“Let’s get a closer look.”
He was a beautiful, imposing buck with long, thick beams. My goal of a trophy “mountain” whitetail was realized, and Kyle and I congratulated each other. We sat in the snow beside the buck quite a while, recounting the details.
It was a long wait for Tim and Frank.  Frank’s deer had a huge body, sported a six-inch drop tine, and scored 146 points. My deer grossed 161, and had excellent mass through-out. In a span of less than 10 minutes, Frank and I had each shot an excellent northern British Columbia “mountain” whitetail with our combined antlers measuring more than 300 inches.
There was a gorgeous clarity to the sky when we reached camp. Sure, the hunting accomplishments were great, but I came away with something more than just tangible success. I also experienced the silence, the loneliness, and even the serenity of that majestic territory—something infinite and thrilling, something special that’s hidden from the crowd, and something that felt so good.—Joseph Vorro

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