While my last story about deer hunting with Dave and his Dad was memorable because of the excitement from my inexperience and lessons learned, this next one is just as unforgettable. Actually if truth be known, I think it may be number two of on my list of all time favourite hunts.
It was 2010 and work had brought me back to my home province of Saskatchewan and pretty close to Saskatoon where my sister and brother-in-law lived. My sister Angela and I had fought and tormented each other like ferrel cats invading one another’s turf when we were younger but had grown to be much closer after we moved away from the family farm. She married a wonderful man, Adam, who grew up not far from where we did and was in the same class as Angela. As much as I pretended to be the protective mean big brother I liked Adam from the start. He was smart, goofy and very good to Angela which was all I cared about.
Adam also happened to be into hunting as much as our family was. We spent lots of afternoons walking through pastures shooting gophers and went on several goose hunts together. Some of those goose hunts were the coldest and most fruitless expeditions I’d ever been on while others were some of the most incredibly funny. Actually, If you don’t mind a quick segue before getting back to my deer story I’d like to give you an idea how fun hunting with Adam can be.
On one of our migratory bird hunts we showed Adam how to quickly and efficiently wring the neck of wounded goose. Basically the technique is to hold the head, swing the body in circle quickly while keeping the head stationary which severs the spinal cord resulting in a quick death. Generally one or possibly two spins is all thats required. Adam felt confident after his instruction and decided on the next wounded bird he’d give it a try and It didn’t take long until he got his chance.We all watched in abject amusement as he chased the downed bird, grabbed it by its head and spun it once, twice…three times. We started giving each other funny looks as he kept spinning it when all of a sudden the body detached from just below where he was holding it and it went sailing through the air as if alive once again. Adam stood, as we all did, watching the goose arc into the sky and then slam unceremoniously into the ground several feet away. I’ll never forget watching Adam slowly turn towards us with a sheepish, bemused look on his face and then break out into his big smile while shrugging his shoulders impishly and trudging off to get the other half of his goose. We all died laughing at his first attempt and from then on any time one of us had to wring the neck of the bird we would remind each other not use what was forever immortalized that day as “The Hammerlindl Twist.”
Now, back to the story.
So that November, since I happened to be living nearby, Adam and I decided we would go out for deer together. Adam had never been deer hunting before and I was happy to have his company and help him in whatever way I could. I was excited because it had been a long time since I had bagged a deer and I was really looking forward to getting one. We met early at his place and headed south towards Dundurn, Sk where we would start our search.
It was an unseasonably cold day for mid November, even by Saskatchewan standards. The temperature was right around minus thirty-two Celsius with a wind chill factor bringing it closer to minus forty. At that temperature neither of us was really up for walking or being outside for any prolonged period despite being dressed for it so we mostly drove around hoping to catch a glimpse of deer or deer sign. When we did we would get out of the truck and still hunt an area if it looked promising.
Each time we got out the truck we would come back with bright red cheeks and eyebrows and scarves stiff and covered with frost, thankfully the truck had a good heater and unthawed quickly each time.
After several hours of exploring the area and making a few hasty retreats from areas where there were hunters that were more concerned about the number of shots they got off than where they aimed, we decided it was time for lunch. We had agreed before going out that we wouldn’t pack a lunch but instead would roll into whatever town we were nearby and find a place to eat. In this case the town was Hanley and we pulled up to the front of the Hanley Hotel.
For those not familiar with rural Saskatchewan (or any prairie town for that matter) you’re almost always guaranteed to find a great little mom and pop hotel/restaurant/bar/convenience store combo or a Chinese restaurant in every town. The latter of the two will also serve not just Chinese food but a huge variety of items , from pierogi’s to lemon chicken and everything in between. Trust me it will be delicious.
When we walked in the Hanley Hotel it was a real beauty and encompassed everything a small town bar/restaurant should be. Brown carpeted floors, old beer advertisements and bottles on the wall and above the bar, round wood veneer topped tables with pleather upholstered chairs tucked under them, a pool table off to one side, a mangy looking dart board and to top it off a well worn juke box. It was incredibly homey, inviting, warm, and, well staffed with prompt polite service which was exactly what Adam and I were hoping for. We pulled up a table and ordered two beers and two rye and gingers to go with our loaded burgers and fries with gravy on the side. It was delicious, restorative and a blast to just visit and strategize what we would do after lunch to get our deer. A few tables over was another hunting duo, they told us they had seen some deer to the east of Hanley and we decided to head out that way after we finished up.
Back in the truck after lunch we were heading East towards the area where the gentleman in the bar had given us the tip when we saw two whitetail does bound out of the ditch in front of us and cross into a pasture just to our right. I was driving and sped off down the road to see if I couldn’t get us in front of them somewhere on the next grid road and hopefully surprise them. Adam kept watch as I drove and told me that he had lost them in a grove of trees not to far into the pasture. Stopping well short of the trees I let Adam out and told him to head out towards the deer while I would go to the far side and head towards him hopefully pushing the deer out on one side or the other for us to get a chance.
Adam stepped off while I drove another kilometre down the road and pulled into the approach of the adjacent pasture. I got out and crossed the fence into the pasture and started making my way to the poplar stand. The snow in the pasture was surprisingly high and I had to really lift my legs every step I took. About two-hundred metres in and really working up a sweat I noticed some movement on my left. When I looked over I was surprised to see about 5 fully grown bulls come snorting and bellowing up out some dead ground that had been masked by the uniformity of the snow. Caring less about the deer now and more about my own hide I turned around and made my way back towards the fence with a renewed sense of energy.
When I got to the fence the bulls had closed the gap considerably and were only a football field length away from me by the time I climbed it. As I sat puffing out big clouds of steam from my heavy breathing I heard a not so distant gun shot in the direction I had left Adam. “Good for him!” I said out loud and then cocked my head like a curious dog when I heard another rifle report. Must have wounded it and needed to finish it off I remember thinking. Either way it was time to go and see what had happened so I drove back and into the pasture I had let him off at.
I saw Adam standing by his deer and I stopped the truck a little ways from him and got out to congratulate him. “Nice deer Adam, well done!” I said. Adam looked at me and replied straight faced, “Thanks but we’ve got a problem!”
I felt a big pit open up in my stomach. Oh god, I thought, he ran into a bull as well and had to shoot it. I started looking around to see if I could spot it. “What’s the problem?” I asked.
Adam grinned that sheepish grin and said, “I shot your deer too!”
I didn’t know what to say. I think I stood there for a minute confused by his comment then started to laugh, it was such a perfect tongue in cheek comment I couldn’t be upset. It was also somehow so perfectly like Adam.
As it turned out Adam saw one of the two does near the trees and took his shot dropping it. What he didn’t know was that the second one was lying down where the first dropped and when it stood up Adam thought it was the deer he shot and fired again to put it down. So the guy who had never been deer hunting dropped two on his first hunt.
The does were a very nice pair, probably two or three years old. I field dressed them in the poplar grove taking time to show Adam how to do it but not spending much time on it because it was so damn cold my hands felt like they were being stabbed by a thousand needles. When I finished we loaded up the truck and headed into town to drop them off at Boryski’s Butcher Block which is on Millar Ave in Saskatoon. They did an excellent job processing our deer and made us some of the best venison jerky I’ve ever had.
*I checked online today and they still offer processing of wild game. If you’re looking for quality I highly recommend them.
I think, on the drive back to Adam’s place, I promised him that if we ever went deer hunting together again I was going to try my damnedest to drop his deer as well as mine. Unfortunately that opportunity hasn’t presented itself as I ended up moving away for work the following year and haven’t been home for a deer hunt since. I’m sure someday I’ll get my revenge but for now I’ll have to settle for the fact it was a great bonding experience and a terrific hunt that filled both our freezers and has made for a great story and many cherished memories.
All the best,