Photos by Larry Weishuhn Outdoors
“Things would not get done around here were it not for the last minute!” Heard that statement before?
Over the years I have prided myself on getting things done early, allowing time to go back and make certain things were done properly and right. But getting it done early does not often happen when hunting mature whitetail bucks. Often indeed, it comes down that last minute of the hunt.
I remember hunts too, where I stayed until the last possible moment, and, it simply did not happen. But on many others it did, with mere seconds remaining! Approaching many of my hunts, I made a decision to take a mature buck or go home empty-handed. To accomplish this, I hunt from legal shooting time in the morning, often getting there well before, staying out all day and not getting back to camp until well after dark. During my hunts I frequently see and pass several legal bucks. Passing those deer, I knew I had other hunting opportunities to later shoot does to fill my freezer, or possibly mature bucks on other hunts.
I love hunting mature whitetail bucks! But I also love eating venison… and so does my wife and the rest of my family!
Are my “unfilled tag hunts” unsuccessful? Heavens no! They are great fun and successful in many ways. Often I learn more from those hunts than where I shot a monstrous antlered buck early in the hunt. To me, hunting is a continual learning process, one of the many things I truly enjoy and appreciate about hunting!
Another reason I don’t take the last few minutes for granted comes from my bear hunting experience. During my hunting career I have taken three grizzly bears and two Alaskan brown bears. The three grizzlies were all taken with less than 30-minutes remaining in the hunt. The two Alaska brown bears I shot the last day of my scheduled hunt, then had to extend my stay to take care of the hide and required follow-up tagging and paperwork. Those bear hunting experiences are a contributing factor to my willingness to take it down literally to the last moment.
During the past three hunting seasons I shot a couple of great bucks, literally moments remaining in my hunt or the season. I wrote about one of those bucks in several articles, columns and blogs. It was however a hunt not filmed for television as most of mine are!
That buck’s antlers score high enough to make the all-time Boone & Crockett record book in the non-typical category. Had I been hunting for the camera I would not have been able to take him. By the time he arrived we were out of camera light.
I was hunting in Alberta, Canada with Ron and Maria Nemetchek, North River Outfitting. During much of the hunt, Ron and I hunted together. Doing so, I passed two bucks that would have grossed over 170 B&C points. One was a great, though young 10-point. The other was an older, extremely long-tined, massive 9-point. He would have been near 170 as an 8-point. That one was tempting!
Ron and I covered “a lot of country”, but were not seeing what he thought we should. He suggested I sit in a blind overlooking a huge harvested grain field just off of the Athabasca River. I had hunted the blind a couple of times and seen numerous deer; yearling bucks, but also two- and three-year-olds. One buck I saw several times. He was a long-tined 10-point with good mass and a long flyer coming off one of his back-tines. He was really “nice” but looked a bit young. He was very close to 170, gross.
Last afternoon of the hunt, last day for the season sitting in the blind just off the Athabasca River. Ten-minutes of legal shooting time remained when a tremendous buck stepped into the field.
As a wildlife biologist, lifelong hunter, occasional guide, and someone who has scored many whitetail racks, I knew the buck’s antlers would score over 200 B&C points, based simply on tine length and mass. He strode toward five does.
I tracked the buck through my Trijicon AccuPoint scope. Heavy overcast skies diminshed the rapidly fading light. I was thankful for the little green “dot” in the center of my scope. I pushed .300 Win Mag’s safety to fire. The AccuPoint’s green tridium dot was solidly on the deer’s shoulder. I waited for him to walk farther into the field. If he did not go down from my first shot, I would have time for a second shot before he got into the brush.
Eight minutes of legal shooting remained. Two-hundred yards into the field, the buck stopped, just 150 yards distant. I gently pulled the trigger. The buck shuddered and ran farther into the field.
A heart beat later I had bolted in a fresh 200-grain ELD-X Hornady Precision Hunter. I was about to squeeze the trigger on the running buck…when he fell. I kept the .300 Win Mag on the downed deer. He did not move. Had he so much as wiggled an ear, I would have shot him again.
I knew my buck had tall, massive antlers. I knew he had at least ten typical points, possibly more. I too, had seen an extra tine near the base. What had impressed me most when he stepped out, his rack appeared almost solid meaning numerous primary typical tines, which when profiled I could not see through. I did not however, know if his rack was wide or narrow.
Each step I took, his antlers grew. At his side I reached for the antlers. I knew I had made the right decision in passing earlier bucks and pulling the trigger on this one. I was so enthralled with the mass of his antlers and tine length, I scarcely noticed he was only about fifteen-inches wide inside.
I was thrilled beyond verbal description! Hanging in there till the last moment had paid off once again.
During November 2020, I hunted with IMB Outfitters in northern Missouri, an area known for whitetails. I hoped to take a large-antlered, mature buck, while being filmed for a “Trijicon’s World of Sports Afield” episode. Darrin Bradley, who owns the highly successful hunting operation, and I spent a fair amount of time on the phone prior to the hunt visiting about the area and the deer that lived there. “We have a good number of mature bucks on the properties we hunt. We suggest our hunters hold out for a mature buck, and, passing younger bucks.” He continued, “Our program is working nicely. You should see some really nice bucks and hopefully before hunt’s end you’ll see one of the bucks our area is famous for.” I hoped the same.
Jeremiah Bennett, cameraman for Safari Classics who produces the series, and I arrived in IMB’s camp the day before the hunt. Camp was extremely comfortable. The food? I went back for seconds and considered going back for thirds.
We scheduled my hunt during the rut. Because it was, we hunted all day. During our hunt we dealt with extreme weather conditions, particularly winds of velocities that prevented hunting from treestands. That was fine with me. Frankly I dearly love hunting on the ground. Too, I knew Jeremiah and I having sprayed our clothing and ourselves with TRHP Outdoors’ “Scent Guardian” we were not going to be winded.
I passed several bucks. One day we saw 27 bucks, including an extremely big 8-point and a really nice 10-point. Had I been hunting elsewhere I might have taken either, both were mature bucks. Same day we watched three bucks breed does. It was one of my best days ever hunting whitetails!
Actually, I hunted one particular buck, something I dearly love doing. I saw him two different evenings, after legal shooting time, and, where even if I had seen him earlier, it would have been nearly impossible to get a shot.
Jeremiah and I were certain the buck spent his days at the head of a “hollow,” venturing out only during the last moments of light. Only tomorrow morning’s hunt remained. That night I called Darrin and asked about moving toward the head of the hollow the next morning. He agreed.
Under the cover of darkness Jeremiah and I set up against an ancient oak, which allowed reasonable, though not a perfect view of the hollow’s opposite side and bottom. First light we saw a couple of does, including one that nearly walked right into us. Because of TRHP Outdoors’ Scent Guardian, she paid us no attention, even when she got directly down wind.
Not seeing as much of the hollow as I wanted, we moved closer to the bottom where we had a commanding view. Two minutes after our move I spotted a deer directly below us, a massive long-tined buck. He disappeared into the creek bottom.
Two minutes later he re-appeared on the opposite slope, then again disappeared into the creek bottom. He was the buck we were looking for, no doubt.
Five minutes later he reappeared in the bottom of the hollow, on our side. Jeremiah immediately got him “on camera”. The buck took a few steps forward. “I’m on him. Take him when you can!” Whispered Jeremiah.
My Trijicon TenMile scope’s crosshairs were solidly on him. He stopped. I squeezed my Remington Model 700 Mountain Rifle, .280 Remington’s trigger on Hornady’s 150-grain ELD-X Precision Hunter. I lost the deer during recoil.
Soon as I shot a buck burst out of the bottom just below where my buck had been. He ran toward the head of the hollow, behind underbrush and was gone. Was he the buck I had shot at? His antlers had appeared to be similar.
I walked to where I had last seen the escaping buck. Tracks, but no blood! Jeremiah walked to where the buck had been standing. “You might want to come and see what I found!” said he pointing into the creek bottom. Moments later I stood beside him. My buck lay below in the bottom of the narrow creek. Apparently there had been a second, similar looking buck in the bottom when I shot. Reading “sign” after admiring my buck, I could see where the second buck had been standing, and from where he ran when my buck nearly fell on top of him.
My buck indeed was the one we had been hunting. Once again my opportunity came down during the last moments of the hunt. Good things sometimes indeed do come to those who wait!
Regardless of what is going on in the world, there are always small things, of beauty and splendor, for us to enjoy, admire and appreciate!
If you haven’t heard any of the “Campfires with Larry Weishuhn” podcasts, head to www.waypointtv.com/dscs-campfires to listen to all the episodes.