WILD HARVEST: Quest For A Three-Province Whitetail Slam Part 1

On three separate deer hunts, in three different Canadian provinces, in the same season, I was rewarded with exciting encounters with whitetail bucks across our beautiful country! Like many Canadian hunters, I wait for deer season all year long. I have become so passionate about pursuing whitetails across Canada that I simply can’t let a season end with a single tag. I decided to find a way to keep hunting, and on a budget. With careful planning and research, I managed to weave hunting opportunities for myself across three provinces for the following year. This is my 2012 quest for a three-province whitetail slam.

 

A slam is born

Whitetails exist virtually nationwide. Eight adjacent Canadian provinces – British Columbia to Nova Scotia – offer whitetail hunting seasons. Provided you hunt with archery, rifle and muzzleloader gear, open seasons across Canada can be stitched together from Labour Day to New Years Eve. Stringing together two or three neighbouring provinces makes for a realistic goal, with a good chance of success and best value. This is especially true if you have avid hunting buddies or experience and relationships from previous seasons.

Having recently moved to Manitoba, my plan was to hunt the early muzzleloader season there until November. Next, I was guiding whitetail hunters for an outfitter in the Meadow Lake area of Saskatchewan until early December. Once the guiding season ends in Saskatchewan, I had decided to head home to Ontario for Christmas – returning to my old stomping grounds where I learned to whitetail hunt, and where the late archery season extends to New Years Eve! Needless to say, harvesting a mature buck in each of those three provinces became my goal that year.

 

Manitoba: my new backyard

Compared to the more developed eastern Canada that I was used to, my first couple of years in Manitoba took some adjustment to the expansiveness of western deer hunting terrain. There was so much land. It was intimidating at first, but I knew big bucks were out there and was determined to find one for myself.

The question then became how. Over the years, choosing the right areas to focus my hunting efforts made or broke my seasons. Upon moving, I took what I knew about deer and studied Google Earth, which proved helpful. Exploring the best-looking areas the previous winter, by vehicle, allowed me to both ground truth what I saw on the computer and determine the density of tracks in the snow. This gave rise to shed hunting ventures in the spring, which was hit and miss until, finally, some dandy sheds and intense rut sign assured me that I had found a likely spot.

Using trail cameras throughout summer and fall helped me key in on some of the biggest and most consistent bucks I knew of, both on private and public land. Fertile agriculture offered a hearty food source for whitetails, while the vast forests provides endless possibilities for bedding and sanctuary. The property I had been granted permission to hunt connected these two habitat types with a wooded stream. It looked perfect and I hunted the farm, and several other properties, as intelligently as I knew how.

Manitoba’s 2012 muzzleloader season couldn’t come soon enough and I was itching for another opportunity to hunt my favourite private farm. Trail camera photos looked promising and, as a result, my good friend Tyson, from Ontario, came out to join me. We put in a good effort around Halloween and spotted decent numbers of deer, including some nice bucks. Darkness, branches or range kept us from connecting. Tyson left and I only had a few days remaining in Manitoba before I needed to head off to Saskatchewan.

The next day found me situated in a dense alder and poplar thicket. My ground blind was positioned over only a small clearing, where two heavy trails intersected. Before long, I spotted a young buck walking through the gap. He indicated something was behind him, so I readied my muzzleloader. Seconds later, a good sized buck trotted through the opening, giving me only a quick moment to judge, aim and fire. The .44-calibre sabot found its mark and the buck piled up only yards away. He was a handsome, wide, nine-pointer, a buck I had spotted on my trail camera for the last two years. It was a great end to a quick season in Manitoba, but there was no way I was ready to say goodbye to deer season altogether, and the slam further west beckoned.

 

WILD HARVEST: Quest For A Three-Province Whitetail Slam Part 2 will run on Dec. 1, 2014.

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