What can I say it is one of those places that fills my head with pictures of absolutely monster bucks! I get excited just thinking about heading north. I know about these bucks because I have seen them. I have studied picture after picture of dark horns, tons of mass and seen every size from 115 to 190 plus. I know Manitoba holds big bucks that die of old age up there and that leads to some of the finest opportunities in the world for big whitetails.
What an amazing trip it was. Getting to spend quality hunting time with my hunting buddy Dennis Brauchle, getting to spend time with Harry, Jim, Ryan and Angie in camp and getting to meet and hang out with 5 other hunters who live and breath the same passions as I do about conservation and great hunting.
On to the story….
I met Harry Walker from Sandy River Outfitters over 5 years ago on the outdoor trade show circuit and we frequently had our booths right next to each other. I was selling elk and mule deer hunts and he was selling bear and whitetail hunts. I got in and out of the business in less then 2 years and Harry is celebrating his 15 plus years in the business. I hunted this spring with Harry for black bear and I knew what his camp was going to be like. I was certainly going to enjoy this trip!!!
Dennis Brauchle and I took off on an early flight out of Dulles on Saturday morning. We had both been working overtime for the last several weeks and the plan is always to get into Winnipeg a day early incase your luggage should fail to arrive you have a day to track it down. Since we were both up really early to make our flight arrival at the Winnipeg Hilton meant naptime. We got up around 6pm and had a drink and took a cab out to Ray and Jerry’s for a couple of T-bones and some drinks before heading back to the hotel for one last beer and a shot of Tequila. Poor Dennis had never had a shot of Tequila before and he handled it pretty well but I am pretty sure he prefers his beer.
We were picked up at 11am in the lobby by Angie who would be cooking for us all week and I knew Angie from bear camp and I knew we were in for a great week of wonderful meals. Angie gravitates to cooking, like I gravitate to hunting. It is an absolute passion for her and you can taste it in each and every bite. We had a 3 hour drive up to Lake Manitoba and Harry’s Deer Camp. We had our luggage and all the food for the week in the van so we were ready to head out. I took the first hour in the front and then upon gas up, headed to the back for another nap.
Deer Camp is a very nice comfortable house with several bedrooms fitted with bunk beds, warm blankets, a large kitchen and a comfortable living room with great wood stove to heat the whole house. There is a skinning garage and steel building to hold all of the stands.
Jim(Elvis) took us out to sight in our rifles and Dennis’s rifle was dead on. Mine shot a bit high so after a couple of quick readjustments, I was dialed in at an inch high. This week I was shooting is very important rifle to me. The rifle is a Weatherby 7mm Magnum Mark V. My Grandfather Bud rebuilt the stock on this rifle in the 1960’s for AB Johnston and the rifle was passed down to me when my father passed. This was the first trip that I have taken this rifle out after getting it scoped and I was looking forward to the chance to see how it would handle a big whitetail.
Dinner was amazing as I expected and Deer camp was living up to the expectations that I had set in Dennis’s head. I knew he would really enjoy this camp and especially the wonderful cooking.
I hunted bear with Sandy River Outfitters this spring and Ryan guided me and I was excited to know that this stellar young man would be guiding me again. Dennis and I were slated for a couple of stands within a mile of each other. Ryan had us in the stands by 6:15am and at 7:05am I saw my first deer. He was a young 3 point with a fork on one side and a spike on the other. He spent the next 45 minutes sauntering through the field towards my stand and right on by. I had a clear bow shot at this young buck but it was not what I came to Manitoba for. Over that first day and over the next four days in that stand, I had over 25 different deer sightings and I renamed the stand the Nursery Stand. In 2011-12, I am coming back to that stand because I saw at least 9 different bucks all with forks and spikes and that area is going to be hot. I never did see the daddy of all of those bucks but he must have been around somewhere because the scrapes and rubs along edge of the field were amazing with some trees as big as 8 inches that had been shredded.
By the end of the fourth night, I had lost my patience for the stand and I needed a change of venue.
I moved over to a new stand and on that first day, I had a few second thoughts but I really enjoyed the change in scenery. That first day in stand number 2 was absolutely the windiest day of the week. Over the 6 days we hunted the wind was there for four of the 6 days and day five was the worst. At 8am a doe and two fawns woke up in front of me and walked underneath my stand and off into the bush and another doe stepped up at about 200 yards and proceeded in the same direction. The rest of the day was filled with 10 good hours of glassing on a minute by minute basis.
One the completion of day five I was treated to the sighting of a bald eagle and one of the best sunsets I have seen. I shot a couple of 100 pictures and I knew that the next day would be a great one.
Upon waking up on Saturday, I stepped outside and it was colder then it had been all week and the moon was out and that howling wind had stopped. I was in the stand by 6:30 and as it got light, I began to scan the fields and willows for any sign of movement. Over the next hour and 40 minutes I scanned every willow looking for one of those does bedded up under the willow or that big buck walking between the trees.
At 8:40 he popped out from 35 yards to my right and he was in the bush behind me traveling back from one of the oat fields on the prowl for hot does. He stopped at the fence and I slid out the window and pulled out my rifle flipping open the scope caps and looking at his rack. He was tall but not wide and he was the one good buck that I had in my sights. I eased off the safety and placed the crosshairs right behind his shoulder as he began to pivot to his right and I pulled the first shot through both of his lungs. He jumped and stood 10 yards away and stepped back as the second shot ripped through his gut and he dropped in his tracks. At 70 yards he was lying in the hedgerow. I hit my SPOT messenger help button that sent a message out to my friends that I had a big buck down.
I took off the binoculars opened up the thermos filled with hot chocolate, poured a cup and relaxed for five minutes before grabbing the camera and heading down to see my Manitoba Trophy.
That evening I rode out with Harry to pick up Dennis and his week ended without a trophy to take home but we have both have learned after many years of hunting that the memories are priceless whether game is down on the ground or not. Dennis spent 6 days in the stand in 5 different stands over 6 days and whether it was in stands that had been strongly scouted or where there were strong sightings of good bucks, the animals were just not cooperating while Dennis was in each of those stands.
Over the week Dennis and I had the pleasure to test out several pieces of equipment including Pro-Ears, Wolverine Boots, Sitka Gear Ascent Pack, Sitka Gear Celsius Gear and a new rain set developed by Sitka Gear and W.L. Gore. I also tested out a camera system by Tachyonic. Reviews will be posted in the next couple of weeks. I and my family also want to thank SPOT messenger because they were able to see that I was ok each and every day and see exactly what field I was on and where I was hunting. When I got my buck down, I was able to send them and my whole PROSTAFF a message letting them share in the hunt. How cool is that.
There is no question that I will be back next year and I am planning on hunting the second week so I can be assured that I am in the deep cold and some deeper snow. I am looking forward to it. If you are interested in going on this great hunt with our team for next year, give Harry Walker a call and book it early because he only has a few tags as the majority of his clients for whitetails book each and every year. Of the 7 of us in camp, 5 have been with Harry for the last several years and at least 6 of us will be back in 2009.