ScoutLook Success Story: An Alberta Bruiser Buck

In my book few things are worse than being swamped with work during hunting season, and I was sulking that I wasn’t out whitetail hunting. After all, it was the peak of rut, and I had been  working as many hours as possible

by Mark Melotik

HuntStand Pro Contributor MORE FROM Mark

Need another reason to download the free HuntStand app? Here’s more proof this powerful tool can help maximize your success, even when hunting time is tight.

FensonStudy8 600In my book few things are worse than being swamped with work during hunting season, and I was sulking that I wasn’t out whitetail hunting. After all, it was the peak of rut, and I had been  working as many hours as possible, to be able to free myself from my desk for the short period of the season I wait for all year. A great plan, but it wasn’t working.

The only positive part about being stuck in my office was the view out the bay windows that I face. Living in the country we are fortunate to have access to a half mile of rolling hills covered in aspen, alder, white spruce and berry-producing shrubs, a stretch that is home to white-tailed deer, moose, elk and a multitude of other wildlife.

FensonStudy7 600It isn’t uncommon to have white-tailed deer, moose and ruffed grouse in the yard, and we’ve even had a few neighborhood “fights” wake us in the morning. One day two bull moose, sparring right under our bedroom window, woke us with their loud grunting as they pushed and shoved each other around, an impressive display of testosterone-charged attitude. The moose rut was long over, but I guess the boys were hoping the fun and games of the breeding season were still part of their daily excitement. We watched them for over an hour before they finally split and ambled off to separate ends of the property.

M2E67L131-131R440B405As you can imagine, one of the reasons I wanted the property was to be able to hunt out my back door any time I wanted. Shortly after moving in we cut and cleared new trails, erected treestands and took a careful “on-the-ground” inventory of every nook and cranny on the place. We also hung several trail cameras, and I was hopeful we’d have some home-grown venison to fill our freezer during our first year on the property.

FensonStudy3 600My confidence was high; I had every stand and scrape logged into my HuntStand app, making it easy to choose the right treestand, the spots with the perfect wind conditions. A quick check of each stand’s ScentCone, clearly displayed on the app, tells me how I need to approach any site, the best routes for remaining undetected while hiking in. I can also monitor wind changes during my sit on stand, and stored in my handy app are trail camera images logged for each location, so I can track the local bucks and bulls using the surrounding habitat.

FensonStudy4 600The extensive legwork we had done on the property should have seen me sitting in one of my stands in late November, but I just couldn’t break free from my deadlines. However, I always have open on my home computer screen (see above), and monitor it regularly for peak game activity times, moon phase, and current weather. To make matters worse, I had deer passing through the yard regularly, distracting me from getting my work done.

Instead of grabbing gear and running out the door, I watched from my desk as does and small bucks wandered up and down the trails. Every time I saw one I’d go to and compare what I saw to the site’s peak game activity times. To my surprise, every deer I saw in a three-day stretch was within 10 minutes of the “peak activity time” listed under “current conditions.” My HuntStand app was not only handy, I could visually verify that it was, indeed, deadly accurate.

FensonStudy13 600Now, I don’t need much of an excuse to go hunting and be delinquent in my duties, so it took little to convince myself to head out the following day and sit the far end of a trail the does had been traveling for the past several days. With a full moon, deer activity was set to peak right around noon, and my HuntStand app told me the pattern would hold. The local deer had shown up like clockwork the previous three days, just as had predicted, so my plan was set.

I ate an early lunch, dressed in warm Sitka gear, and headed out to watch an active trail where I had previously recorded several active scrapes. With the local does using the trails daily, I knew it was as good a spot as any. Where you have does the third week of November, the bucks are sure to follow. Before leaving home I double-checked my HuntStand app ScentCone information to ensure I would be downwind of where the does had been traveling, and still be able to watch several trails where I expected to find a rutty buck.

FensonStudyADD 600With unseasonably warm weather deer activity was not what I normally experience this time of year; my jacket wasn’t even fully zipped when I sat down to watch the crossing trails located just upwind of my stand. It was a beautiful bluebird day with hardly a breath of wind. The mild temperatures made it pleasant to be outdoors, and I had to question if it really was late deer season in Alberta.

I was about 30 minutes ahead of the peak game activity times listed for the day, and had barely sat down to watch the rolling hills and thick slough bottoms when movement caught my eye. It was brown. It was a deer. It had antlers. I could feel my heartbeat quicken as the whitetail ambled down the trail with his nose to the ground. I had a feeling the bucks would be running the trails just one ridge over from the house; the does don’t seem to mind the unnatural features associated with our yard, but bucks are a completely different story.

FensonStudy12 600As the buck neared, I could see it was a mature animal with a big body. The antlers were also mature, and as I watched it pass through a small opening I knew it was one of the bucks I’d caught several times on my trail camera. In fact, I had seen the deer the previous year and passed him. I had pictures of him stored in my HuntStand app, in the “mapping” and “log” features designed to help hunters plan their days afield. It wasn’t the biggest buck I’d ever seen, but it was the best buck that had ever offered an opportunity on my property to date; my heart was racing.

FensonStudy10 600The excitement grew quickly, as I knew I wanted to harvest the old whitetail if given the opportunity. I steadied my Traditions Vortek Strikerfire muzzleloader on my knee and tracked the bulky brown frame as it approached through the trees. At 50 yards the buck stopped and looked directly at me. I squeezed the trigger, and the cloud of gray smoke momentarily obscured my vision, but I knew by the distinct sound of a bullet finding its target, I had shot true. The buck whirled and ran back into the slough bottom from which he had emerged, and I could see he held his head held low with his tail down. He ran only 20 yards before starting to falter, then piled up at the base of an old alder.

FensonStudy9 600I had successfully taken my first big game animal on my home turf, and it felt great. I hadn’t even finished the retrieval, pulling the buck on a sleigh back to our garage, when I started to plan a special meal. Everything on our plate would be harvested from within 400 yards of our front door. Baked squash, canned beans, dill and beet pickles, homemade apple chokecherry wine. The special guest at our table? That would be the backstrap steaks from the white-tailed buck who given up the most to be part of such a special moment. I don’t think I’ve ever partaken in a better meal anywhere.

FensonStudy2 600In today’s day and age we often forget where our food comes from, and living off the land in modern times takes work and commitment. It would be far easier to run to the grocery store to buy produce and a thick-cut steak, but it simply isn’t the same. Being a hunter and gatherer is in my nature, and I take pride in developing our next meal, in what some consider the “old-fashioned” way. Still, I regularly utilize the most modern, cutting-edge tools at my disposal, and I not only learn lots from watching the current conditions on, I have come to trust it on all my hunts. In my experience this incredible app can focus your efforts and help you taste more success with its bevy of helpful tools and features, right at your fingertips.

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I use the HuntStand app on my smartphone regularly when mobile in the field, to monitor weather forecasts, moon phase, animal activity times and other conditions that affect deer movement. With a full moon, on this hunt, the app told me the most-productive part of the day was around noon, so I opted to start my hunt late morning to increase my odds of an encounter. With the previous knowledge of the habitat and game cam photos of the deer, the resulting hunt may have been short, but also, thanks to HuntStand, incredibly sweet.



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