Alberta Deer Hunt: Chills And Thrills

I turned it into a regular routine. About every 20 minutes, I’d do a bunch of deep-knee bends. Then I’d open and close my fists, trying to get some feeling back into my fingers.

I’d follow those two exercises with side twists. Then I’d go up and down on my toes, trying to convince myself that my feet hadn’t actually turned into two blocks of ice.

Then I’d remove one glove, and use my fingernails to scrape the snow off the length of my arrow. Best I could, I’d brush the snow from the cams of my bow and my arrow rest. Then, just to see if I still could, and if it would still work, I’d draw my bow.

I was hunting for deer from a ground blind with Northern Wilderness Outfitters in Alberta, Canada. It was windy, and snowing sideways with enough force that granules of it were getting through the netting on the blind’s windows.

A Biting Cold
I hunkered down in my green, plastic lawn chair. The legs of the chair had been cut to about half their size, making it the perfect height for peeking out the windows. The blind was tucked in against one of the large, round hay bales in the field.

About 20 yards in front of me, a decoy of a buck stood mutely, its back and head coated with inches of snow. I’d been in the blind about two hours, and dark was about two hours away.

Suddenly, I heard hooves pounding the ground from my right, where my vision was blocked by the hay bale. I fell to my knees and grabbed my bow.

Sean Coary, King of Prussia, Pa., with his Alberta monster. Coary was in camp at the same time as the author.

It was an Appaloosa horse, so fat that in order to ride it, you’d have to be able to do the splits. It snorted in challenge as it ran up to the decoy; then planted its hooves to skid to a stop, confused, I think, because the decoy didn’t move.

Well, I thought, add that to the list of farm animals I’ve seen while hunting this fall. I’d had a herd of young dairy cows under my treestand in Pennsylvania, and in Colorado, horses had followed me companionably as I hissed threats at them. In the dark in Mississippi, walking down a grassy road on my way to a treestand, I’d had a stand-off with a mule, which the mule had won.

Horsing Around
Finished with the decoy investigation, the horse focused on the blind. It tried to peer in the windows and I punched it lightly on the nose. It spooked a little, then settled in and began eating my hay bale.

But, the area deer were obviously used to the horse because they soon began arriving in the hayfield. Several bucks, including a nice 10-pointer and a huge 170-class book buck, approached from the woods to the left and jumped a broken section of fence to get into the hayfield.

However, to my disappointment, the huge buck only gave a short glance, a “hey punk” kind of look at the decoy, and kept going. I used my grunt tube to try to bring him back, but I had to use it sparingly. I’d learned during the previous days that with the extreme cold, the grunt tube would only work about eight times before it froze up inside and began to make squawking noises.

Then a doe noticed the decoy and walked boldly to its side. A mature Alberta doe, she towered over the decoy. She sniffed it thoroughly from head to tail; then stood face to face with it, tilting her head curiously.

A Tough Draw
It was too much for one of the bucks in the field. As he crossed in front of my ground blind on the way to the decoy, I got a good look at his rack, but noticed his body size more — especially his thick neck.

As I drew my bow, I got stuck right at the point where the cam breaks over and it gets easy. For several seconds I didn’t think I’d be able to get drawn; I was just too cold and stiff. I’d taken my gloves off to shoot, and finally got the bow back, with a knuckle jammed behind my right ear.

The author and her fine Alberta buck.

I stayed in the blind until dark, and then slipped out as quietly as I could and left the field. Guide Larry Joliffe came to pick me up and together, we worked out the blood trail to my deer. Suddenly I didn’t mind the cold at all!

For more information on hunting in Alberta, check out, or call U.S. booking agents at 215-257-3233.

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