Sitka Mountain Gear

Saskatchewan Live

October 17-22

Day 6

Rob and I discussed my very last day of the hunt. I had a slow start at my first stand followed by a flurry of activity at the farm stand - but no shooters. The photo of that absolute monster (200" class buck?) was all I could think about - but there was a problem. This deer was well known to Rob. He is a phantom. Nobody has ever laid eyes on. Even the trail cam photos are incredibly sporadic. They are lucky to get one picture a week in the middle of the night and in three years he has only been captured on cam one time in daylight. He is a ghost.

To make things more complicated - he lives on public hunting ground which in Canada is called 'Provincial Forest.'

After the last three days, I'd come to the conclusion that I was not going to shoot anything at that farm. They were nice deer, but I was looking for something in an older age class. I resigned myself that I was more than likely going home empty handed. I told Rob that if I'm going to hunt an area where I was not going to shoot anything - I might as well hunt a stand where the buck of a lifetime may walk in. Even if that chance was incredibly remote.

Rob liked the plan. This buck was special to him. He has three years of trail cam photos but he dissapered last year and never returned - until just this week. Rob thought he'd been killed by wolves. There was no chance a buck this big would be killed by a hunter without him hearing about it. That news would spread all over Saskatchewan. I grabbed two sandwiches, a bottle of water along with my hunting gear and loaded up the ARGO for the 30 minute noisy ride deep into the Provincial Forest. I had never hunted so far into a jungle before but it made sense. This was what Rob describes as a Saskatchewan forest deer.

Nick got a Great buck today. His very first deer with a bow will make the book! We were ecstatic for him!

The ARGO is a beast. It is smelly, noisy, and the tracks make is sound like an M1 Tank coming through the woods. A lof of the forest is underwater this year after the wettest summer on record so there was no other alternative. I arrived at the stand and knew there wasn't going to be a deer within a mile of me for a while. I settled in for my last Sun-up to Sun-down sit. And my back was really feeling it. When Rob picks me up after sundown, I will have spent 75 straight hours sitting in a stand over the last 6 days. All day sits are the norm up here since deer move any time of the day and logistically, it's just not practical to come out for lunch.

As the sound of Rob's ARGO faded in the distance I mentally prepared for my long last day. In all honesty, it was going to be tough. The stand was not as comfortable as the first stand I sat in since it leaned a little bit forward. Definately not as comfortable as the blind where I could stand up and even take a nap if I wanted to. I needed to tough it out one last time.

My first doe showed up an hour after sunup. She had two fawns in tow. Within another hour I had no less than 30 does and fawns come into the bait - which was quickly vanishing. At 9:30AM I heard a deer approaching from the North through the thickets. I sensed it was a buck. The frozen leaves amplified every step and this deer walked as if he was in charge. When I heard the unmistakable sound of him making a scrape - there was no doubt. I could not see him, but I would catch small glimpses of movement.

At this moment I had 10 does under me and they were on high alert looking in the buck's direction. I knew he would come in. He did not. He moved off to the Northwest and vanished. But for a split second I got a glimpse - and I saw a wall of tines. Could it have been the Phantom buck? It was now 10AM, I still had 8 hours to sit in that treestand. I had no way of knowing if that buck bedded within earshot or walked five miles deeper into the Provincial forest. One thing was for certain - I was never getting out of this stand.

For the next several hours I watched does and fawns come and go virtually nonstop. The only break I got was between 1-2:30 when I had a break. I ate my two sandwiches and drank my one bottle of water. Thankfully I never needed a nature call that required me to leave the stand. When I needed to pee, I do what I always do. I whip it out and pee right off the stand. I know this is going to freak some of you guys out - but I've been doing it for years. The only downside is that I failed to notice that my expensive Sitka Gear gloves that I had placed on a pine branch had fallen out of the tree and it was so well camouflaged on the ground that I peed on it. Yuck. I may need to wash that glove but I may leave it as is just so I can bring it to my Kansas deer camp where I catch a alot of crap from Mad Trapper - who is obsessed with being scent free. Tom considers me a scent-control anti-christ.

As the sun dipped to the horizon the day turned out exactly as I expected - uneventful. What arrogance thinking that a deer nobody had ever seen would somehow drop by and give me a shot. By now my back was all knotted up and to make matters worse there was zero wind. With all the does under me I couldn't so much as shift my butt on the seat for fear they would hear it and start blowing. So I sat like a statue - in pain.

The sound of yet another deer coming out of the swamp was nothing to get excited about, until I heard him freshen a scrape. Then I heard him making a rub. It got closer. I knew it was the same buck. What I didn't know - just yet - was it was the Phantom of the forest. As he stepped out of the jungle just 50 yards to my right. My heart started pounding. Before me was the 2nd biggest buck I have ever seen in my life. A once in a lifetime deer. I felt privileged being the only person who ever laid eyes on him. And he was walking straight to my treestand.

The buck had two trails to choose. One of them brought him out in front of my stand at 10 yards out. Perfect. The other brought him right under my stand where I had been peeing all day. Far from perfect. Can you guess which trail he chose?

With zero wind the buck caught me drawing on him - but it was too late

As he walked under my stand I cringed. Not only had I been peeing there all day, but I also walked through it after stepping out off the ARGO and laid my pack at the base of the tree. It made zero difference. He stopped for a second and then continued toward the bait. But he then turned and went downwind and out of sight. That was bad. There was no wind other than a faint breeze so he didn't need to go very far downwind to catch my scent. By some miracle, he turned and walked back under my stand. I have not moved yet other than to switch on my video camera. There was no wind, and any sound or movement was going to blow this incredible opportunity. As the buck walked a bit in front of me I quietly lifted my Mathews Halon off the hook and drew my bow. The buck swung that massive set of antlers up at me. As he watched me I fought off the shakes and fell into a weird calm. I stepped myself through the process of settling in my pin, leveling the site, and double checking his back leg position. He was 12 yards and I've blown more easy shots than I care to admit. I was NOT going to do that on this buck. My arrow disappeared right where I had aimed. I knew I had accomplished something I never dreamed. I had killed a buck that was easily 200" - and a true giant Saskatchewan forest deer.

The deer took off into the jungle but I knew he was finished. I started shaking uncontrollably at that moment. I texted Rob who didn't believe me at first - and told him I loved him as a joke. In all honesty Rob has been a terrific friend and is just a wonderful guide. He has a fantastic track record on these big Saskatchewan giants but this buck is special anywhere.

putting my fingers around my saskatchewan buck's rack for the first time was an experience I will never forget.

I waited until Rob showed up with Tom, one of his assistant guides and within 20 minutes I was laying my hands on my buck. It's hard to describe the feelings so I won't try. I didn't cry or anything like that. But I did feel a sense of accomplishment after 35 years of deer hunting and now I know how guys like Gene Wensel, Matt Rehor and other guys feel who've shot a true giant buck. It will probably never happen again in my lifetime but I do feel blessed to have had this opportunity.

Pat's gear: 70lb Mathews Halon, Carbon Express Pile Driver Arrows, Slick-Trick Standard Broadheads, and Sitka's Fanatic Series Clothing.

It was at this time that I learned that Gregg's stepson Nick shot his first buck with a bow. A super 8-pt that will easily make the book. The only thing that could make this hunt any better would be for my friend Chris Johnson to also tag out on a beauty. It did not happen to him but he had a great hunt and is already making plans to come back.

Thank you for following this hunt and allowing me to share this moment with all of you.

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