We had been hunting for about 8 days on the same 3” of snow we had when we arrived in Ontario. Kevin had been hunting on his own and I had been hunting with my buddy Steve and teaching him to track. He was getting plenty of experience as there were plenty of tracks to sort through. The morning began with a little dusting of snow while we were eating breakfast. We were hoping for something substantial but it never materialized. We figured it was better than nothing after tracking on the same snow that had fallen ten days earlier. We decided to try a spot that we had gone to the first day the first day of the trip. We knew there were some good bucks hanging around there and figured this would be a good chance to try and find one of them.
The area we were going to hunt consisted of some old clear cuts, swale bogs and soft wood ridges. These are the type of areas that Ontario deer love to call home. Kevin and I split up with the intension of finding a good track for me to follow so he could film the hunt. We were both skirting the old clear cuts trying to find a buck track coming or going into them. I spent most of the morning putting on the miles and finding very few tracks. Kevin on the other was having a good morning and saw several deer including two small bucks, but hadn’t found any track worth following. With that news, I decided to cross over to Kevin’s side of the drainage that separated us. When I crossed over, I met up with Kevin on a softwood knoll covered with deer tracks. Kevin wanted to show me the spot where Chris had shot at a big buck on the edge of the cut when they were hunting there in November. Chris had unfortunately clipped a fir limb off near the end of his barrel and the bullet didn’t connect. After checking Chris’ spot out, we split up again in search of a toe dragging buck track. I didn’t have to go far before finding what I was looking for. A wide square toed track heading from the cut into a ravine filled with brush and cedar. Since the snow came just before daylight, I knew this track was about 7 hours old as it was now noontime. Now I was going to have to pay attention as the only difference in this track and many others was a quarter inch of snow in it.
Kevin was on the other side of the ravine so I called him on the radio and he came over to film me on the track. The buck fed through the ravine and out into a cut where he fed a while on a downed cedar. He then went down off a knoll in the cut into the ravine. At that point I saw a big running track coming off the same knoll. I knew the odds were that it was this big boy but I followed the running track back and found that it was indeed the same buck and he had been up and feeding again. It was December 8th and at that time of year bucks are worn down from the rut and spend most of their time feeding and resting.
I decided this was a good time to build a warm up fire and toast a sandwich. I have been teaching hunters for years this tactic of waiting a half an hour to let a buck settle down and forget about you. It was pushing zero degrees and the wind was blowing so the fire was welcome break from the action. After the warm up and sandwich Kev and I heading out on the track once again. The buck ran only about a hundred yards across the ravine and then began walking again. He walked about two hundred more yards where he stopped on the edge of the cut. His tracks told me that he had stood around for quite awhile. I think he could probably here us breaking sticks to build the fire! At that point I had the feeling I would get a shot in the cut soon. The buck took a few bounds across an opening and then walked down off from a knoll of spruce and fir. He then turned left around the base of the knoll for a little ways and then headed back up. He was taking short steps now so I knew he was moving slow. I eased slowly up the knoll and when I crested the top, I spotted the buck walking in the head high poplar brush fifty yards away. I motioned to Kev to roll the camera, waited a few seconds before touching of the old 7600 carbine. At the roar of the -06, the buck jumped into the air with his feet trying to get some traction. I knew he was hit good but fired again as he disappeared over the next knoll.
We walked over to find a beautiful buck laying forty yards away from where he was standing. He was an old buck that had lost a lot of weight and his teeth were worn almost to the gum line. I doubt this buck could have made another harsh Ontario winter, so I did the old boy a favor. He doesn’t have a huge rack by Ontario standards but is unique in his own way. I picked up his track at noontime and the buck was laying there in front of me at 1:00 p.m. Kevin told me that he had checked his watch when we left the fire and then when I shot and it was exactly ten minutes! A 1mile drag lay ahead of us but somehow it didn’t seem to matter to me.