By Kevin Orton
The stories in the states are nothing short of legendary when it comes to the whitetails that a few of the Canadian Provinces produce. I had heard these stories for many many years, but this would be my first chance to actually experience it for myself. On this trip, Kent Danjanovich, Senior Editor of Sportsman’s News Magazine and myself would be traveling to Alberta, Canada to visit Rob Reynolds, owner of Ranchland Outfitters in pursuit of one of these giant whitetails. To make things even more exciting for me was the fact that Kent already had a commitment to hunt in Alberta this season and so I would be the lucky tag holder and Kent would capture all of the action on film in hopes to add to our future DVD line up for Sportsman’s News Television.
The flight to Edmonton was uneventful, the way I like flights and before we knew it we were loading our luggage into Rob’s truck. His lodge is located about 2 ½ hours east of Alberta, not far from the Saskatchewan border. We spent the drive playing the usual game, quizzing your new guide with a thousand questions, picking Rob’s brain about everything there is to know about his hunting operation. I was especially excited to hear that Rob and his family have a large amount of private land tied up in five different hunting zones for deer. They have a great management plan in place and having spent their whole lives ranching on the land, they know a lot about the routes the deer travel during any time of the year. Because of that, Rob has been able to strategically locate all of his hunting stands where they will get the most activity, giving his hunters the best chance at one of the great whitetails roaming the woods on his properties. Rob also uses a lot of trail cameras, so when his hunters arrive he knows which stands will be most productive during their stay. I got really excited looking at the pictures of the bucks that he had on trail cameras. I could tell that my biggest problem was going to be not shooting a big whitetail, so that I could get an opportunity at a giant.
The drive time seemed to go by quickly and we arrived at the lodge and unloaded our gear. Rob uses a home he owns for his lodge and it of course has everything that the comforts of your own home has. The lodge has three levels and could house up to eight hunters, but typically there are only four rifle hunters in at once or six bow hunters. We unpacked and checked our gear as quick as possible before heading to bed to get some much needed rest from the long day of travel. Plus, we knew that we would be getting an early start over the next few days and all the sleep we could get would be useful.
Our first day in the field found us in tower blinds overlooking a fairly large opening in the woods that gave us shot opportunities out to about 200 yards. The weather in Alberta had been unusually warm for November and if you have hunted whitetail before in Canada in November you know you want it to be as cold as possible. Now don’t get me wrong, being from southern Utah where it does not snow, Kent and I thought it was plenty cold, but apparently the deer like it even colder. I did realize quickly that my “Mr. Buddy” propane heater was my new best friend and it kept my blind nice and cozy. While there wasn’t much activity this first day, we did see several mule deer that traveled through our location. Rob picked us up at dark, made a quick stop back at the lodge so we could change our clothes and then took us to the family owned steakhouse where his wife, Lori, prepared a fabulous meal for us. A definite highlight of each day would be ordering every evening from the great menu at their Outback 646 Ranch House Restaurant.
The next morning Rob decided to move us to a new location where he had several shooter whitetail bucks on camera. There was one in particular that Rob thought was a 7-year-old plus buck that was sporting a very large 8-point rack. As soon as we stepped out of the truck to get into the blinds, we could tell the temperature was much colder than the day before. We settled into our blinds, turned on our heaters and immediately started seeing deer. The furthest shot at this stand was to my extreme left, out to about 130 yards. There were several does that wandered in and out of our sight picture over the next few hours. Of course during the rut, that gets us hunters excited as we all know that where the does are, the bucks will be. About noon, we had our first buck come in. He was a smaller deer, but now the ice was broken and we knew it was just a matter of time. The rest of the day we had several more deer come by our blind and five of them were bucks of various sizes. No shooters, but we could see that with the weather cooling off the activity was definitely heating up. Kent and I used four bottles of propane and with the weather for the next day forecasted to be the coldest of any day so far in November, we knew it was time to put on another layer of clothing. Dinner at the restaurant that night was again nothing short of amazing.
With the activity we had seen the day before, it made sense to go back to the same blinds so that is what we did. When we got out of the truck the air was very noticeably the coldest by far we had experienced. After a few minutes we were both situated in the blinds, warming our hands on the heaters knowing that the cold spell could be just what we needed.
At about 11am we saw our first shooter type buck. He came from the trees at our left, only about 75 yards away. Before we knew it he was right out in the middle of the clearing directly in front of us. The buck wasn’t necessarily a shooter because of score, but he was super unique. His right side was a fairly normal 5-point frame, but his left side bowed way out past his ear and then swooped back up and in. He also sported a very cool 5” drop tine right at the base of this same antler. Kent and I debated for a while about taking this buck as we were filming and knew it would have made some awesome footage. However in the end, we decided to pass on this buck.
As I sat there in my blind I of course wondered if I had done the right thing, when all of a sudden more deer started appearing from out of the tree line. A couple of does and two smaller bucks were feeding along the edge of the trees. After about 20 minutes there was just one of the small bucks left when all of a sudden his head snapped up and he stood at full attention, facing back into the trees. We all know that usually means something is coming. Well, that is exactly what it meant and out popped the second shooter type buck for the day. This buck was only an 8-point, but noticeably larger than the last buck. His body looked huge standing next to the smaller buck and I remembered how much bigger that buck looked next to the does when they were standing there together earlier. The buck had solid mass and long times, but his most impressive feature was his gargantuan eye guards. They appeared to be 8-10” long and gnarly.
Again Kent and I were contemplating whether I should take this buck or not. I raised my gun and put the crosshairs on him several times, each time lowering the gun and then looking at Kent hoping he would make the decision for me. Well as sometimes happens and for no reason at all, the deer suddenly picked up his head from the shrubs he was feeding on, spun around and vanished back into the trees where he came from. Now I was really questioning myself. I just didn’t know if I was doing the right thing or not. Both of the previous bucks would have been the biggest whitetail I had ever harvested. I sat there in the cold with my heater, questioning myself the rest of the day.
With about 10 minutes of light left, I made the decision to start packing my stuff up and putting it back into my backpack. While I was doing that I decided to look one last time at the tree line through my binos. On the exact opposite end of the clearing where we had seen all of the previous deer I picked up a doe by herself coming into our field of view. I just had a feeling there had to be a buck following her, so I strained and leaned as far as I could so I could look back to where she came from. Just coming into my view I picked up a very nice 10-pointer hot on her tracks. I told Kent the deer looked like a shooter and I was not going to pass on this one. He quickly got the camera on him. I needed the deer to move quickly to our left in order to have a clean shot at him and still have enough shooting light to film. Well the doe must have read the script because she started running in the exact direction I needed the buck to move.
“Mr. Big” was right on her trail and was now only about 100 yards away from me. He was behind some trees, but if he would just keep moving a few more yards I would have a clean shooting window. I told Kent to be ready if the buck stopped in one of the two clearings. In the second clearing the buck stopped and presented a perfect broadside shot. Kent said he was on him with the camera and I had a solid dead rest with the crosshairs just behind his front shoulder. I squeezed the trigger and the buck jumped and started running full tilt to my left. Luckily, he actually came towards me about 10 yards first, which made it so he was running right out in the wide open. I could see he was dragging his front leg on the opposite side. I figured he would not go far, but if I could, I wanted to get a second bullet in him. I racked another bullet in as fast as I could as I knew I had a very short window on this running deer from my blind. I swung my rifle just in front of his front shoulder and shot again. This second shot hit him in the chest again and he did a few cartwheels, throwing snow and debris everywhere like an automobile going end over end. I could tell Kent was surprised as he let out a “goooood shot”, but to tell you the truth, so was I. I would never have attempted that shot if I had not already hit the deer with the first bullet. Now I realized that my heart is pounding and I am having some kind of a deer seizure as I am shaking terribly. But I couldn’t have been more excited having just harvested my first Canadian whitetail.
My deer turned out to be a solid 10-point with dark chocolate horns. I was very happy with my trophy, however Rob informed me that while my deer was respectable and he was happy that I was happy, this was the smallest of the shooter deer he had been seeing on camera. In response, I told him I was saving the giants for my readers! He did inform me that we had set the world record for most propane bottles used and as I always say, any world record is something to be proud of.
If you are thinking about hunting whitetails in Canada, Rob Reynolds and Ranchland Outfitters is just the place you have heard all the rumors about. Not only does he hunt whitetails in the rut in November with a rifle, but in the month of September they have opportunity to hunt them with a bow. Along with the deer hunting, Ranchland is actually world famous for their waterfowl hunting. They are in the middle of one of the most famous flyway zones on earth and the limits are extremely generous. Ranchland also has one of the most unique combo hunting opportunities for waterfowl and whitetail as well. During the month of September you can book a hunt where you get to hunt waterfowl in the morning, both ducks and geese and then sitting in tree stands in the evening where Rob says everyone will get an opportunity at a 145 inch or bigger whitetail. I can tell you that is what I will be doing with my next trip back to see Rob! We are excited to have Rob and Ranchland Outfitters as our newest platinum approved outfitter. We are excited to have Ranchland Outfitters participating in our writers contest for the next 6 months. Check out his ad in this edition of the Sportsman’s News and get your stories in to have a chance to win one of the most exciting waterfowl trips of your life. Give him a call for your next adventure to Canada at 877-924-8440. Or you can visit them on the web at www.ranchlandoutfitters.com or even on our website under Platinum Approved Outfitters.