Alberta: The Land of Giants

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Alberta: The Land of Giants

As a primer to monster buck hunting journals for 2005, let’s take a look at a late entry from last season on a Canadian adventure. -- By Pro Staffer Gerry Rightmyer

Webster’s New World Dictionary describes the word “giant” as “a person or thing of great size.” No single word characterizes the whitetails that inhabit Alberta, Canada any better. Giant bodies with equally proportionate racks are the norm in this part of North America.

From the advertisement and some phone calls to previous clients, the author just knew that Diamond Willow was the place for him to hunt.

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Over the years, I have hunted some of the finest hunting areas that the “lower forty-eight” have to offer. States such as Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Montana to name a few, but Alberta has somehow eluded me, until this recent hunt.

Eye-Catching Ad

One day, I happened to be thumbing through the Alberta’s Professional Outfitter Magazine. One particular whitetail ad piqued my interest. It was an advertisement for Diamond Willow Trophy Hunts, owned and operated by Bill Machura. Machura specializes in trophy whitetail hunts, and his property lies between Alberta’s famed parkland and the vast boreal forest to the north. The ad caught my attention because the trophy deer harvested in 2003 were second to none. There was something about this place that required further investigation.

If you have ever checked references for a specific outfitter, you already know that sometimes you get mixed reviews. I spoke to quite a few hunters, and discovered that Bill’s camp was everything that I believed it to be. Professionalism, reliability, and consistency are Bill’s trademarks. Immediately I decided to book a hunt.

My hunt fell during the second week of November, specifically November 8th-13th, 2004. We arrived in Edmonton on schedule. I was eager to begin our hunt, as was my hunting partner, Charlie Deacon. We shot our rifles one last time, and made sure our gear was in order. Each group was assigned a guide—our guide was a great fellow named Oscar.

The anticipation for the first morning of hunting was at full bore in camp during the first night. The author couldn't stop imagining what he'd see on stand in the bush country of Alberta.

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Oscar, who had worked with Diamond Willow for a few years, knows the area well. I learned that he’d done a fair amount of Moose guiding in his day, so I knew that I was dealing with a seasoned veteran who knows what hard work is all about.

First Day Anxiety

The first morning we ate a good breakfast, gathered our lunch, and headed toward our designated hunting area. It’s always exciting to imagine where you will be hunting, and what bucks inhabit your area.

We traveled 45 minutes in Oscar’s truck, followed by a 10-minute quad ride. I quickly climbed into a ladder stand. The stand overlooked a small clearing, which Oscar said had five different intersecting trails. Daylight was quickly breaking, and I prepared for a long day. The morning was fairly uneventful. I did observe a Bald Eagle flying overhead, and watched a pair of snow-white weasels playing together.

The afternoon provided some deer sightings as I heard some movement behind me. A single doe walked by at approximately 30 yards, followed by a small fork-horn, and a slightly larger buck. The two bucks were immature, so I watched intently how they interacted with the does. I hoped that their behavior would give me some insight, as I was trying to gauge the rut. Both bucks seemed interested in the doe, but it was not the classic chasing and grunting that I was hoping for. I spotted a third buck a short time later, but after careful examination, I opted to pass on the young 8-pointer.

Coyotes and wolves are known to push deer out of certain hunting areas in most Canadian provinces. That wasn't the case during the post shown here.

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I hunted the same stand location the next day. Unfortunately, no deer were sighted. I saw the eagle again, and caught a brief glimpse of a bull moose. It is nice to see wildlife when the deer are not moving. It definitely keeps the day interesting!

On the third day, Oscar decided to move me to a new location. I would be hunting out of a tripod stand. The stand was situated in the middle of a cut-line, with a 250-yard shot to either side. As soon as the sun crested the horizon, packs of coyotes began to howl. There must have been four to five different packs. As I listened to them howl, chills ran down my spine. I soon realized that wild places still exist on this earth, even in this era of modernization.

During the middle of the day, a lone spike-horned buck sauntered down the cut-line to my left. The buck walked by me at 20 yards. The small buck continued as if I was part of the landscape. My Advantage Timber camouflage worked perfectly, as I was completely in the open, with no skirting whatsoever around the tripod.

Time for a Change

The fourth day I was again hunting a different location. The stand had produced two tremendous bucks in recent years. Oscar had a hunch that maybe this stand would change my luck. Unfortunately the deer had other ideas, and once again the deer were uncooperative. I had only seen one spike-horned buck in the last three days. My luck had to change, I figured!

On the fifth day, Oscar moved me to yet another location. The morning was clear and cool, but the sun was shining directly in my face. Around 9:00 a.m. I heard something behind me. I turned around in time to see three does walking through the bush. I hoped that one of these doe was in estrus, and that maybe a possible suitor would be close behind. A mere 45 minutes had elapsed when I again heard movement behind me. This time it was a buck! The buck was in the same area where the does were, and he was a mature 10-point! The moment of truth had arrived. The giant was slipping through the extremely dense underbrush. I quickly realized that threading a 165-grain Hornady through any opening was going to be difficult.

The author's Alberta giant tipped the scales at almost 300 pounds on the hoof. To say he was happy with his trophy would be an absolute understatement.

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After what seemed like an eternity, the buck crossed a small opening, and stepped over a deadfall. In one fluid motion, I placed the crosshairs on the buck’s vitals, and gently squeezed the trigger. The buck bolted from the point of impact like a thoroughbred breaking from the gates at Churchill Downs. Within an instant all was quiet. I replayed the events in my mind, and was confident that the shot placement was good. I climbed out of the stand, and with the help of Charlie, Oscar, and two others, we found my buck leaning against a small birch tree.

To say that I was happy would be an understatement. My giant 10-point tipped the scales at nearly 300 pounds. To date, this buck is my best ever. If you are interested in a top-notch trophy whitetail hunt in Alberta, give Bill Machura a call at 780-365-2020 or visit his website @ www.diamondwillowhunts.com.

Oh Boy, Alberta! What Potential!

When hunting Alberta, there is the potential to harvest a monster buck within the first few minutes. There is also a chance that you may have to spend countless hours on stand. Be advised: sometimes you have to “put your time in.” Be alert at all times. Dress appropriately for the weather conditions that exists (phoning your guide to come in and warm up is not an option). Be scent-conscious. Limit your movement. Practice with your weapon of choice. Wear full camouflage. Note: blaze-orange is not required in Alberta. Hunting the great province of Canada requires extreme patience, physical and mental stamina, and the ability to make a good clean shot at any moment. Remember that old Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared!

The author put his time--five days worth--in on stand before closing the deal.

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Another challenge of a wilderness hunt is low deer densities. Deer sightings will be much lower than what you’re accustomed to, but the buck that you do see can be a wall-hanger that dreams are made of.