Saskatchewan - Observations from six days in a deer blind
We are currently driving back from a whitetail hunting trip in Saskatchewan. Five out of six from our group are bringing home buck. I passed up the 3.5 year old nine point in the photo all six days. I also passed on a couple of smaller eight points and two ten points, all of which were probably 2.5 year old buck on their way to becoming stellar trophies in the next couple of years. Although I did not harvest a buck it was the best hunting trip I have ever experienced. Six days, over 10 hours per day in the ground blind provides a unique opportunity to observe deer behavior. There is certainly a difference between watching deer passing through trails in Pennsylvania and watching deer interact in a baited area in the Saskatchewan bush. This was actually my fifth trip to Saskatchewan but I have to say it was the first time that it has ever been done right. Our outfitter Smoky Burn Outfitting started baiting 18 locations one month before we arrived so deer were getting quite used to the bait and blinds.
What I found so fascinating was the social interactions of the deer. In some ways they mirrored human behavior. If a doe and her fawn were eating and another yearling walked in the doe would allow it to eat. But if that yearling's mother or another doe came in, the established doe would pin her ears back and tilt her head down. That was often all the more warning that was required. If that wasn’t enough she would charge the other doe and run her off. Sometimes a doe on her own would allow another doe, sometimes she wouldn’t. I would almost always know when a buck was approaching based upon the body language of the doe. It was pre-rut so there was some chasing but nothing serious. The does weren’t having it. One small eight point reminded me of a goofy teenager. A doe was on the bait and he was only 10 yards from my blind when he popped out of the bush. He saw her and instead of walking or running to her he kind of side trotted, where he was just kind of goofy approaching her with his body angled looking off to the right and not making eye contact. I imagined him casually whistling looking off to the right as if pretending he didn’t see her and wouldn’t make eye contact. Then at the last moment he would swing his head and body towards her and lunge after her. I watched him try this unsuccessful tactic multiple times. I’m thinking to myself “this goofy bastard isn’t ever going to get laid”.
I had a four point bed down ten yards from me on the shooting lane and I watched him snooze. He then bedded down twice more on the bait pile throughout the day. I had a yearling button buck bed down on the bait pile and lay it’s head to the side to grab a mouthful of peas or barley and then chew for a bit. Momma must have been irritated with his laziness and whacked him with a hoof to get up. Once he stood up she whacked him one more time on the shoulder as If to say don’t do that again.
I saw 13 different buck and was holding out for something that was wider than his ears. I considered taking the nine point on the last day but we had become familiar friends so to speak. He was there all six days, sometimes for just ten minutes, sometimes in both the morning and evening and on the last day of the hunt he was there for 45 minutes feeding and walking around the other does. At one point he was at the bait with a four point and smaller six point. A sure tell sign that the rut hasn’t started yet. I may not be coming home with a buck and I am ok with that. I still have plenty of meat in the freezer and another nine point from Saskatchewan already on the wall. I have absolutely no regrets about my decision to hold out and not take the nine. My six days in that blind gave me the best hunt I have ever had. My thanks to the outfitter Mike, his guide Ryan, and my hunting family and friends for a tremendous week. We actually reserved our week for next year before we left camp. Next year we are going one week later to hopefully hit the rut a little better.
Fair warning to the nine point. You will be 4.5 years old and a beast next year I am sure. We may have parted as friends on Friday, but that will not carry over to next year!
Best wishes and good luck to everyone out there building memories this hunting season.