This is Don Broughton's story about the 209 7/8 buck that he took with Makwa River Outfitters Ltd December, 2008. This story was published in the Big Buck Magazine Spring, 2009 edition.
I turned 60 last December and my wife and my son Tim decided that they would give me a hunting trip for my present for this December. It really would not have been my choice as I am a conservative man and I really thought that this was a bit too extravagant. After all, I have always been happy just to fill the freezer … the horns just came along with the package!
My son and I have some nice spots that we hunt close to home in Michigan and we always get our share of deer so the prospect of traveling far really didn’t impress me much. I was content seeing our usual 6—8 pointers and occasionally we would see a 10 pointer which is a fantastic deer back home.
Tim spent a lot of time researching different places and outfitters on the internet. The more he talked about it, the more I started to pay attention. He had gone on a few trips with friends and he always enjoyed the experience and he knew what excitement and fun awaited me! He finally picked Makwa River Outfitters in Saskatchewan, Canada and said “Dad this is where the big white tail are!”. By this time I was enthusiastic to go.
Starting November 3, every day and up to and including the day that we departed for Canada we excitedly watched the website, www.MakwaRiverOutfitters.com. Each day, Kathy, the owner, updated the site with pictures of the day’s results. There were some pretty nice bucks being taken and by the time we carried our suitcases out of our homes we were pumped! We knew that we were in for the hunt of a lifetime!
On the way there, I have to admit that I still felt somewhat reserved about this trip. I know that Tim has excellent judgment but I was still anxious and nervous about the whole thing … I still wasn’t wholly convinced that this was going to be the exciting experience that Tim thought it would be.
As soon as we drove into camp at Makwa River Outfitters, I knew that this was a well run set up. Everything was well organized, well maintained and clean. Kathy greeted us as soon as we arrived and showed us all of the facilities which, I must say, were very impressive. It was quite evident that she had an excellent handle on the business.
That night we enjoyed the first of a week full of delicious home cooked meals. We sat around the kitchen table in Kathy’s lovely home and were joined by Kathy’s two sons Walker and Connor. I thoroughly enjoyed the friendly, down home atmosphere that this family run business provided. There were a total of eight of us hunters and there was in immediate sense of comraderie. The guides arrived at exactly the right time and explained to us all the things that we needed to know for the week to come. They were very informative and I immediately knew that these men were top notch guides.
On Monday morning we got out to the field by 7:30 am. It was still dark when the guide got me up into my tree stand. In the dark I set up my equipment all the time straining my eyeballs into the dark looking for something that wasn’t there. My ears were constantly alert for any sound that might tell me that a deer was near. The sound of feet crunching in the snow would have been nice but all I could hear was the sound of trees branches cracking in the wind. As I got settled in, I started thinking about the conditions that morning … it was unseasonably warm .. probably about 40 degrees and very windy. I thought to myself that neither the wind nor the warm weather were condusive to me seeing any decent bucks. I hoped for at least an occasional straggler to visit the bait site to entertain me until another day when the weather would be more co-operative.
I had liked the way that Makwa River Outfitters handled their hunting area. Each week the hunt was in a different location and everyone got a fresh tree stand. The treestands were comfortable which surprised me because I am a big man. The enclosure and the heater kept me warm. The location of the treestands were well thought out and I could see that all of this would give me the best opportunity to get a nice trophy.
Legal shooting time was 8:45. At that time I started thinking about a conversation that I had with the outfitter’s son, Connor who had sat beside me at the supper table the night before. He was only 13 years old but he had confidently told everyone that the does come in between 8 am and 10 am and the bucks start coming in right behind them. Then it happened … you know how you just sense a movement and you know even before you see it that a deer is near .. well, there they were, 7 or 8 does came in right at 9:00. They all went to the bait pile and were calmly eating as I sat and contentedly watched.
Suddenly, I was amazed … there were bucks coming in from all over the place. It was about 9:30 and I almost laughed out loud thinking about just how accurate that 13 year old Connor was! Then I started getting busy looking at the bucks with my field glasses and counting the points. “One, two, three, four … nope too small! One, two, three, four, five, six … nice but still too small. One, two three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten … now that’s not bad but still too small. Hey what's this? One, two three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten, eleven … now this one is tempting …”. He had walked up from behind me and had passed only about 15 yards away from my stand. “Nice” I thought to myself “But its only 9:30 in the morning of the first day ... how could I shoot? I calmly put my gun down.
The bucks just kept coming in and my adrenaline level was high. I was getting pretty warm from the excitement of seeing all of those deer and had to take off my gloves and unzip my jacket. At that moment another buck went running through the site, but that boy was on a mission, and he didn’t stop at all. I could see that he was probably about a 12 pointer with a real high set of antlers and I quickly brought my gun back up but it was a moving shot and I didn’t want to take the chance. I hoped that he would come back because he was definitely a “shooter” but he never looked back and I never saw him again. I was almost starting to sweat with anticipation by now! I looked again at that 11 pointer … he was really tempting me, but again I reminded myself that it was only 10:00 am on the first morning! Between 9:00 and 10:15 that morning, I had seen 15 bucks and I lost count of the does after 25. I have been hunting since I was 15 or 16 years old and I had never seen such activity! The bucks were nice including a 4 point, a 6 point, an eight point and a couple 10 pointers all milling around plus of course the speeding 12 pointer and then there was still that tempting 11 pointer who had gone and laid down under a pine tree. I kept watching him because, like I said, I was tempted. He kept looking in one direction and I hoped that it would be yet another buck that he was watching for … maybe even a bigger buck! All morning I had been observing that some of the pine trees that were 6—8 inches in diameter had huge rub marks … a sign of a pretty big buck, or was it that nice 11 pointer … my fingers started to inch towards the trigger and I had to remind myself again that it was still only 10: 15 now on the first morning … he was getting mighty hard to resist!
My attention was diverted by 4 does coming in right under my stand. The 11 pointer got up and approached the oncoming does sniffing around and then calmly went to the bait pile with the gals. It was quite evident all morning that the rut was virtually over.
At 10:25, I looked to the edge of the bait sight and watched a nice big doe quietly grazing there. My eyes detected movement in the trees and I caught a glimpse of something that made my pulse race. A buck was approaching and even though he was still virtually hidden in the trees I could see that his rack was huge! That quiet doe froze, then abruptly turned her head in the direction of the approaching buck and in one fast movement, she leaped 15 feet in the opposite direction and ran off into the woods as fast as she could. There was no mistaking that she didn’t want to have anything to do with the brute that was approaching her. I never saw her again but by this time I wasn’t thinking of that doe anymore! I could see a little more of that buck … he was huge … looking through my field glasses I started counting the points on his gigantic dark brown rack … I thought that there may have been 10 on just one side but the buck was shaking his head fiercely! He had a nasty attitude! He was sporting a lot of battle scars and he was looking for another fight … this was his territory ….there was definitely a “guy thing” going on here! The does at the bait site scattered! I was shaking like a leaf as I put my gun barrel out the window of my blind. He turned my way and looked at me from 115 yards. My mind was shouting “shoot … this is a monster!” No way in Heck was I going to let that deer go! He was still shaking his head aggressively telling the world that he was “The Man” around here and looking for a challenger or a poor doe to force … I wasn’t sure which! My heart was beating so hard I could hear it! This was a once in a life time buck and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to drop this one! I put the sight on his chest … I shot! I thought that I hit him well and the buck reared up on its hind legs, spun around and shot back into the woods the same direction that he just came from. I lost sight of him. I listened for sounds to tell me where he had gone but I couldn't hear anything and I couldn’t see anything. I could hardly breathe I was so excited! I waited for a moment to regain my composure and then I radioed my guide Barry to tell him that I had made a shot. “Is he down?” asked Barry. “I don’t know” I replied. Suddenly the radio was crackling with the other hunters wanting to know what I had taken. I told them “a big beautiful buck with many, many points and a drop tine”. My son, Tim radioed me “How big is it Dad?” he asked. “The biggest deer that I have ever seen in my life! He had so many points that I couldn’t count them!” I said. “Happy Birthday Dad!!!!” was Tim’s reply.
My guide Barry told me to stay sitting in the stand and let the buck lie down. It was very hard for me to just sit there and wait. Every minute seemed like an eternity. Then the doubts started to flood my mind. Did I miss him? Did I just wound him? A big Saskatchewan buck that size has to get hit hard to bring him down because he would be so strong that he could likely run a long way on adrenaline alone!!. I really doubted that I missed him … I have always shot exactly what I aimed at and I have never had a deer go more 25 yards! I thought about the evening before as we sighted in our guns … I had shot 3 shells and they were in a 3 to 4” grouping on the target from 100 yards away! I am very competent with my firearms … I was a firearms trainer in my last years with the police department and I am very confident of my abilities but just where was that buck?
Finally I could hear the sound of the ATV off in the distance and a little while later, my guide Barry was there. Together we walked to where I last saw the buck. There he lay just a few yards from where I shot him. He wasn’t hard to see with his head 3 feet off of the ground because of his big antlers. It turned out, I had shot him through the lungs and part of the heart … he wasn’t going anywhere! The closer we got to him, the more evident it became that this was a truly tremendous animal. Barry congratulated me … I think he was just as excited as I was. When we turned the deer over I had another wonderful surprise … I thought that it had one drop tine but when we looked closer, it had two drop tines ! We were high-fiving, jumping up and down and hugging with joy!
Barry started to dismantle the tree stand to take back to camp. At Makwa River Outfitters, they take down the stand if a deer is taken or if the hunter vacates it so that everyone gets a fresh tree-stand… that still impresses me! But that 11 pointer was still haunting me … I knew that he was also a “keeper” so I asked Barry if he would do me a favor and allow Tim to sit in there the next day. He granted me my wish. Tim did take that deer the next day and it ended up being a 13 pointer! Can life get any better!
When Tim got his deer back to camp we started seeing a lot of resemblances between his buck and mine. There are obviously shared genetics and we are very pleased about that. As a matter of fact there was nothing that we were not pleased with during our hunt with Makwa River Outfitters … they are all that they advertise plus more ….. The cooking is incredible, the guides are the best and the area that we hunted has a lot of opportunities, there is no doubt. Kathy had told us before we came that we came as clients and leave as friends and she is absolutely right. Not only have we come to be friends with Kathy, her family and the guides but all of us at camp bonded! We talked and laughed and enjoyed the whole experience. Yes, shooting that buck was an incredible experience but having the fun that I did all the time at this camp is what really makes this hunt the best it possibly could be. It was a great week for everyone. The camp ran 9 for 9 this week. All 8 of the hunters took home a deer plus that 13 year old Connor also took a very nice drop tine buck this week too. My son and I both took home wonderful deer and we also took home wonderful, lifetime memories … you just can’t beat that!
I may have had reservations on going on a guided hunt but I am completely cured of that now and I can hardly wait until I return to Makwa River Outfitters in Saskatchewan next year!! Tim’s deer scored just under 152 and mine scored a rough 209 2/8. I am so thrilled … this is a “Magazine Buck” and he’s mine!!