Nontypical Deer - Muzzleloader Record

1. Doug Warden 212-6/8 2010

It was Thursday, November 4th, and our 4th day of hunting. We were in our stands a half hour before daylight. It was the last day of our hunt, as we had decided we would not be able to hunt the rest of the week. Standing in my treestand, I was looking forward to the warmth that came with sunup.

I have hunted almost 40 years with Jim. As his son, Jamie, grew up, he joined the hunt. Jamie and I had decided years ago that we would only hunt bucks. We could always count on Jamie to get deer, as he has a special knack. Jamie's wife, Sandra, has been hunting with us for three years and was still after her first deer. Jim, Jamie, and I shoot muzzleloader and Sandra shoots a 12 gauge, Remington 870, with a slug barrel.

I have hunted with a muzzleloader for 35 years and with a flintlock that you could not use in rainy or damp weather. I have hunted with many different muzzleloaders over the years and all were good guns. When I got into American Civil War re-enacting, I needed a Civil War musket. I bought a .58 calibre, Parker Hale rifle. These guns were used by both the Federal and Confederate armies during the Civil War and used by the Canadian troops up until the early 1870's. The weapon has a fixed front sight and a rear sight that only has elevation. It shoots a 560-grain lead bullet, of which I melt down the lead and make my own bullets. The gun shoots within 2-inches at 50-yards and 5-inches at a hundred. I have learned to shoot it well over the years and have taken deer at over a hundred yards with it.

Monday, opening day, we all picked a spot in the bush and sat until about 9:30am. We met up after, but no one had seen a deer. That evening, I decided to use Jim's old treestand. It seemed to be a promising spot, with open bush behind and a trail in front, weaving its way right under the treestand. On the left were a thicket and a small swamp. There were scrapes all along the trail, so I knew there was a buck in the area. I sat there until dark and still there was no deer to be seen.

I was back in the stand Tuesday morning. A raccoon had moved into the crotch of the tree beside me. He slept there all day and was still there when I left the treestand that evening. Just after daylight, 2 nice does walked from behind and wandered down to the center of the bush. A half hour later, 3 more does moved from behind and passed me on the left. While watching the does, a buck moving through the thicket, caught me off guard. I could just make him out and decided to take the shot. I raised the muzzleloader and tried to find him in my sights. When I thought I had a shot, I fired. The deer jumped and ran 40-yards, stopped, looked back at me, and walked away. I had missed. I was mad at myself. Had I flinched? Could I not make out the buck in the thickets? Was it buck fever? What excuse was I going to use when the rest of the group asked, "Where's your deer." The raccoon never moved.

During the day, we were walking the high ground in an open field when Jamie spotted, what he thought was, a deer sunning itself on a bank of a creek about five hundred yards away. I immediately got out my binoculars and saw a buck laying next to the high grass, with the breeze at his back and watching in the opposite direction. We watched him for almost a half an hour, wondering how we could get close enough for a shot. We finally decided we could not get close enough without being seen. That evening Jamie said “I’m going to get that deer,” and he took Sandra and went to try for the buck.

Jamie shoots a Thompson Center .50 calibre, with a scope sighted in for 200-yards, and can hit a target within 5-inches at that range. Just before dusk, I heard the crack of a muzzleloader and I knew Jamie had shot. He had approached the area from a different angle, along a fenceline, to where he thought the deer was and got within range. He could not see the deer, so he had Sandra go back along the fenceline and walk out into the field, towards where we had first spotted him earlier in the day. The plan worked. The buck immediately got up and started watching Sandra walk across the field. Jamie got a nice broadside shot about 150-yards. We had our first deer, a 6-point buck. He was quite proud that the plan had worked and that he got his deer, as he had to work Wednesday and Thursday.

Wednesday saw me back in the treestand. The raccoon was still in the crotch of the tree, as if he had not moved all night. The others had picked their favourite stands for the morning hunt. About 9am, I had does running in complete disorder around me; someone must have got cold and decided to push the woods towards me. I then heard the crack of a muzzleloader. I waited 10-minutes and went to investigate. Jim had shot a nice doe. We gutted and hung the deer and then went back to the woods, to push an area that we knew held deer. Jim pushed, while Sandra and I waited. We were the only ones without deer. It only took about 5-minutes and I saw the buck running towards Sandra. She fired once and knocked the deer down, but it got up and again. She fired and it stayed down this time. Sandra had her first deer, a spike-horned buck. She was ecstatic. “I've waited 3years for this day," she kept saying. Jim told her “Sandra, now you get to do the fun part and gut it."

We had decided Thursday morning that we would only take a nice buck, if we saw one. We had lots of meat for the winter, but it would be nice to fill our quota. I went back to the treestand just before daylight. It had been a cool, clear night and now there was a slight breeze coming from the direction of the swamp. My neighbour, the raccoon, was gone. I guessed two days with me was enough. Around 8pm, a coyote came from behind me and disappeared into the thickets; then 3 does did the same thing 10-minutes later. A half hour later, a squirrel started chattering from the direction of the swamp and soon a robin joined in. There was something in the swamp. Was it the coyote or a deer? This went on for 20-minutes and then all went quiet again. I stood with my gun resting at my side and waited. All of a sudden, a large buck was moving towards me on the trail about 70-yards away. All I could see was antlers. He was huge!

I could not raise my rifle without giving away my position. My heart and mind were racing. Do I raise the rifle and give away my position or do I wait? I decided to wait. He was within 50-yards now. All of a sudden, he stopped. He lowered his head and fed on something on the ground. I had my chance. I raised the rifle and waited; he lifted his head and started moving off to the right. I had a broadside shot. I took careful aim and squeezed the trigger. I did not want another miss or a badly placed shot. As the smoke cleared, I saw the buck running. Had I missed again? At 70-yards on the side of a hill, he stopped. I saw his back leg wobble. Then he dropped. I got out my binoculars and looked. He was down, but his head seemed to be still up; and what a head it was! Had I gut-shot him? I waited, for what seemed to be, an eternity. Still no movement, but the head was still up. Finally, I could not take it any longer. I climbed out of the stand and reloaded. I slowly walked over. He was dead. The size of his antlers and the slight grade of the hill had held his head up. I could not believe my eyes. He was huge. I started counting points: 18, 19, and 20. I walked away amazed. I counted again: 18, 19, and 20. I walked away again and sat down. What a magnificent animal! My heart was still pounding.

I saw Jim coming down the trail. I whistled and waved. He hollered, "What did ya get?” "A small buck," I answered. After spotting the deer, "A small buck," he cried. “That’s a monster!” He started counting, "...18, 19, 20.” He shook my hand and congratulated me and we both sat and waited for Sandra. She came soon enough and yelled, "Oh my! That’s a monster!”

She later complained, more than once, that, "No one will ever remember the year that I shot my first deer; only the year that Doug got the huge buck.”

We gutted and hung the buck and, on Friday, Jamie and I took all the deer to the local butcher. I told the butcher, all I wanted was the antlers. He told me that I should have it mounted. He was not the first person to tell me that, but, because I did not have the room at home to hang a full mount, all I wanted was the antlers. He refused to butcher it until I at least had it scored.

We had heard that someone could score it around the Simcoe area, so off we headed. We found Greg Simon, a taxidermist of Simons Taxidermy, and called him. He said he could get someone to score it. He gave us directions to his place near St. Williams. After I met him, I knew right away he was a down-to-earth and honest person, as well as an excellent taxidermist. He told me that I may have a record or near record and that the deer should be mounted. Greg said it would be an honour and a privilege to mount it. After some discussion with him and a few other people, I was persuaded to have it mounted. He did a very fine mount and had Devin Homick, a representative from the Foundation for the Recognition of Ontario Wildlife, score it. He said it was a new record, but it had to go in front of a panel of judges from FROW to be verified.

On August 13th, 2011, FROW and the editors from Ontario Monster Whitetails were at the Bass Pro Shop, in Vaughn, where the buck was verified as a new record non-typical deer, shot with a muzzleloader.

Thanks to all the people who made this possible. My hunting partners, Jim, Jamie and Sandra. Thanks to Greg Simon, for talking me into having the deer mounted and taking the time to do a fantastic job. Thanks to Devin Homick, for taking the time to score the buck; it was much appreciated, and to the panel of judges from FROW, for re-scoring the deer.

Oh, one more thing...

“Sandra we will remember the year you got your first deer. Congratulations!”

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