Where Hunting Happens, Conservation Happens™

Deer Diary – A B&C Audio Adventure

By Don McGarvey
21st Big Game Awards Program | From Legendary Hunts

As a lifelong resident of Edmonton, Alberta, I was aware of the trophy whitetail potential of the area surrounding my hometown, even prior to September 20, 1991. On that day, that trophy whitetail potential became trophy whitetail reality.

The area surrounding Edmonton, a city of 600,000 people, is a bowhunting-only zone and is comprised of farmland and woodlots. As a bowhunter for the past seven years, I was familiar with the area and had secured exclusive permission to hunt a certain parcel of land that I knew harbored a monster whitetail.

I had seen him twice during the 1990 season: once, in September, at 75 yards in a standing barley field; and another time in November, when I rattled him to within 12 yards. Unfortunately, the wily buck worked his way in behind the rattle to a position which afforded no shot. A brief change in wind direction allowed him to catch my scent, and he voiced his displeasure with my presence with an aggressive snort as he bolted away at top speed.

I have always bowhunted whitetails from treestands, usually placed at the edge of woodlots and along well-used transition routes between the bedding and feeding areas. My missed opportunity at 12 yards was the source of depression and frustration until the 1991 season began in September. Nothing was going to spoil another chance at the deer, or one of his brothers or cousins, which were undoubtedly in the area. I had seen many impressive whitetails in this area, but knew that I would have to play my cards right and be extremely lucky to harvest one of these tremendous bucks.

From the opening of the 1991 season, I had watched the whitetails intensely and used my detailed deer diary to determine which stand locations would afford the best opportunity of harvesting a nice trophy.

Quite frankly, I had never expected to see the big buck again. No one deserves three sightings of such a magnificent animal, and I thought I had my last chance in November 1990.

With the use of the deer diary, I realized that the deer were favoring a route across a barley field and into an alfalfa field to feed. This forced the deer to cross through a narrow 15-yard opening in a treeline separating the two fields. The conditions would have to be perfect to avoid being detected, since I intended my treestand to face north, the direction from which the deer would be coming.

I waited for a steady northwest wind, and as I sat in my office on September 20, 1991, I realized that this could be the day. I was anxious at work and could not concentrate, so I left the office in the early afternoon, showered and went to speak with the landowner and solidify our relationship. After chatting briefly with the landowner, I made my way on foot to the stand location with small portable stand under my arm and a series of tree steps. I found a favorable tree, hastily put up the treestand, and left the area to allow the area to settle.

The north wind had a bone-chilling effect, and I silently cursed myself for not bringing my gloves. I had been in my stand for about 20 minutes when I had my first sighting — an impressive whitetail buck, approximately 100 yards to the north. The deer was almost directly in front of my stand. I had positioned it in the southeast corner of the barley field, along the opening in the tree line that ran from east to west. The buck was not the one I had seen the year before, but it was nevertheless an impressive buck. I hoped for an opportunity.

After two agonizing minutes, the deer came at a trot along the edge, toward my stand. He stopped only when he was within 15 yards of the stand. Unfortunately, the angle was all wrong. His vital organs were not properly exposed, and it would have been a risky shot. I decided to wait, especially due to the fact that the foliage was heavy, and I would have had to shoot through some leaves. I expected the deer to come directly in front of my stand through a patch of thistles and then through the tree line, but he had other ideas. He went into the brush to my right, through the tree line, and into the alfalfa field without offering me a shot.

Dejected, I turned to face northward, and the sight that awaited me was something I will never forget. A massive whitetail was working his way along the opposite edge of the barley field at approximately 200 yards. I entirely lost my composure. It is a wonder I did not drop my bow out of the tree, but somehow I managed to hang on. And thank God for safety belts! The time passed at an agonizing pace. As the buck worked eastward along the opposite edge, he came to the northeast corner of the barley field and then turned southward. He was on course to come along the same path as the previous deer.

Over the 15 minutes it took the deer to carefully and cautiously work his way toward my stand, I slowly gained a measure of control over myself. Concentration began to take over as the deer approached the corner of the field, coming within 15 yards of my stand. He stopped. He was looking intensely down the tree line toward the west, but I could not risk turning and looking to see what was attracting its attention. He must have stood there for a good three to four minutes before deciding to move. I silently prayed that he would come toward my stand and not evade me as the previous buck had done.

You need to register on B&C’s website to view score charts. It's FREE and takes less than a minute to complete. If you already have an account, simply log in to gain access.

Register for FREE 

The measure of luck I had been dealt in seeing this deer three times was greater than I deserved. The deer began to walk slowly through the thistle patch. As he did so, the buck reached a point where I lost sight of him momentarily due to a heavily leaved, overhanging limb. I used that opportunity to carefully draw my bow. As the deer cleared the overhanging limb, my 10-yard pin sought its vital area. I released my arrow as the deer was 10 yards directly in front of me.

I cannot remember being excited at the time. Another opportunity at this deer had forced me to concentrate. Luckily, the last thing I saw, before the deer bolted northward into the barley field, was the yellow and green fletching of my arrow as it entered the deer behind the shoulder. The deer turned to the north and ran only 60 yards into the barley field before it stopped, turned, and went down.

Again, I was thankful for my safety belt; otherwise, I am sure I would have fallen out of the tree. As I had seen the deer expire, I couldn’t wait the standard 20 to 30 minutes before going after the deer. I scrambled out of my treestand, raced out into the field, and admired my trophy.

I knew from the first time I saw the deer that it was an impressive animal. The magnitude of it all did not hit home until the next day, when I took it to Boone and Crockett and Pope and Young Official Measurer, Ryk Visscher. After green-scoring the buck, Ryk felt that it was quite possibly the Number 2 typical whitetail ever taken with a bow and in the top ten for Boone and Crockett.

The phrase “deer of a lifetime” is perhaps a cliché, but it is certainly an accurate description of this deer. I will continue hunting whitetails as long as I physically can, but having taken this deer, I can only look forward to the thrill and excitement of being outdoors in pursuit of one of the world’s most beautiful animals. If I do not shoot another deer for the rest of my life, I will not be surprised. However, I will always have this deer to remind me of how lucky the average hunter can be in the great outdoors. 

Support Conservation

Support Hunting

Support Conservation

Support Education

"The wildlife and its habitat cannot speak. So we must and we will."

-Theodore Roosevelt