Battle River Giant
By Mike White
Pennsylvania hunter Dennis Steffy took this huge non-typical while hunting in Alberta, Canada, in 1994. The hunter had always hoped he could put his tag on a true trophy. His dreams were realized with this brute, which ended up with a net score of 206 1/8 non-typical points.
Nobody said hunting Alberta trophy whitetails was easy, but all that hard work paid off with a big reward when Dennis Steffy and I came upon a buck of a lifetime.
When Dennis booked his hunt with Bear Paw Outfitters, he hoped he would be returning to Pennsylvania with a magnum Alberta whitetail buck.
Upon greeting Dennis and close friend/hunting partner Larry Yerger at the airport, I answered their many questions and discussed hunting strategies. It was now my job as guide to put those numerous hours of scouting afield to formulate a strategy.
The area of concentration I chose bordered the Battle River. Intuition told me a buck in this area could grow to a very old age due to the lack of human activity. The scenery would be described as rolling farmland hills bordering huge untouched prairie woodlots.
Holding a large concentration of does and immature bucks, these deer situated themselves near very large fields of wheat, clover, and alfalfa. With the security of a vast amount of brush and seclusion from any farm road, these deer felt safe in their surroundings.
Scouting several square miles of this prime whitetail real estate, I discovered large, field edge scrapes and numerous rubs, including some fence posts rubbed down like toothpicks. This lead me to believe that there was a bigger deer than the 130-140 class bucks we had been passing up.
With no trees big enough to support a tree stand, we had to slip into a ground blind in the dark and wait patiently for the sun to rise. After hours of glassing the large fields and watching the last of the deer return to the brush, we scouted for more sign. Thoroughly scouting the area, we found his scrapes revisited, with more and more trees rubbed, and bushes thrashed. However, as yet no actual sighting of this elusive buck had occurred.
He had to be working at night," I said, because I did not believe those smaller bucks were responsible for all that damage. Every night we would leave the field in pitch darkness so as not to disturb the 30 or more deer, which were feeding. We just figured the big buck was visiting some time during the night and leaving before sunrise. Every morning while entering the field, we paid close attention to the noise we made and the direction of the wind. Trying not to spook any of the deer, we would normally see a good dozen of them slowly returning to the big timber.
After seven days of this we still had no visual contact of the big buck, which was leaving his calling card everywhere.
Eight days later, with the whitetail tag not yet filled, we returned to the whitetail fields of heaven. Early that afternoon Dennis warmed up his .270 Weatherby Magnum on a running coyote, which he dropped at 250 yards.
That evening we separated to cover more ground. I positioned Dennis in a place where we felt the buck was crossing. I continued further to an area where I could glass from an elevated position on a small hill; this gave me the advantage of viewing 90% of the field.
After almost two hours of continuous glassing, I spotted several does casually feeding. However, there were three deer so far away they looked like mice, and these deer were acting peculiar. Moments later I realized why, they were running in circles. It was then that I saw another deer twice their size chasing them around. Concentrating hard in the diminishing light, I jumped up and screamed, "It's him!" Instantly sprinting the quarter mile back to Dennis, and without any air in my lungs, I said, "Our buck," (gasp, gasp) "I saw him way out there. Let's go!"
Talk about a stalk; that deer was so far away that I lost the directions. Running back to the highest point, I could see the alfalfa field he was in, but no buck. Knowing he couldn't have gone far, we crept the last quarter mile almost on our bellies. Night was approaching fast; with only minutes of legal shooting light remaining, we stopped 75 yards from the alfalfa field. With both of us glassing intensely, we could not see the deer until I spotted what looked like a deer's back. There he was, 75 yards in front of us, but very hard to see. The buck was standing behind a thick poplar tree with his back end on the right side of the tree. At this point, I could see the buck, but Dennis could not. Trying to point out the deer, I said, "His antlers look like a huge mess of tree branches."
Dennis instantly said, "I see him."
Asking him if he could make the shot, he raised his rifle just when the big buck had enough and bolted into the sunset. What a sight, watching the silhouette of a huge bodied, non-typical deer bound away. We decided not to go after him in fear of spooking him too much.
That evening, neither of us could sleep, but it was going to be a long day for us. We planned to arrive early in the morning and packed a lunch in order to sit there all day.
Day nine we awoke to temperatures of -15 degrees C. Dressed warmly, we crept to our field half an hour before light. Upon arriving, we noticed three does in the alfalfa field, but no buck. The waiting game was on. We situated ourselves along a fence row, approximately 40 yards from a small clump of poplars and tall grass.
Almost half an hour after sunrise we heard a grunt that broke the silence, making the hair on the back of our necks stand straight up. Nervously I whispered, "He's right there in the bush." The buck had bedded himself down in that very small clump of poplars and grass. After giving us a couple more grunts, the deer jumped over the fence into broad daylight, 40 yards in front of us. I could remember hearing my own heartbeat as I told Dennis to take him.
Displaying a sense of calmness, Dennis raised his .270 and fired at the deer, which was standing broadside. The buck jumped three feet in the air and trotted 10 yards forward. Still standing broadside, I whispered, "Shoot him again." This shot sent the deer running 20 yards, where he fell over and died.
Running over to the downed deer, Dennis poked it with his gun, and realized it wasn't going anywhere. Two perfect shots, just one inch apart, did extensive damage to the vital zone.
While standing in the middle of the field with a huge non-typical at our feet, we excitedly congratulated each other on a hunt well done. The buck later grossed 218 Boone and Crockett, and netted 206 1/8 non-typical points with a 184 Boone and Crockett typical frame.