When it comes to deer season, every hunter has their favourite story or most memorable hunt. It may not necessarily be the largest deer you ever harvested that stands out. Perhaps it was your first-ever hunting season or maybe that year it snowed 6″ on opening morning. Whatever the case, everyone has a least one particular hunt which reins supreme above all the rest.
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I look forward to reading your deer stories, in the meantime here is my most memorable hunt from 1996, the story of Ol’ Toothless.
Our hunt camp is nestled in the woods two hours north of Montreal in Argenteuil County, Quebec. It has been a hunting and fishing camp in my family for close to 50 years and the saying, “knowing the woods like the back of your hand” would be an apt expression for our hunting gang.
Even though it is situated on public land and host to many other southern Quebec deer hunters each fall, we are still quite successful in our deer hunting endeavors. Our strategy of finding “quiet corners” to pursue whitetails has really paid off for us, as we have been rewarded with some nice bucks over the years. It seems Quebec’s increase in deer herd since the early 1990s also have helped our success. Most mature bucks harvested, albeit very few, are usually found on private land with the private landowner getting first dibs. This is why the story of “Ol’ Toothless” is even more surprising.
Alarm number 1 shatters the silence at 5 a.m. on that fateful morning. Since I was assigned the job as catalyst for the gang, I dragged myself from my bunk and began preparing my “last breakfast” for the boys, while pondering our morning destination. It being my last morning to hunt for the 1996 season and last chance at a buck, I was eager to get to the bush.
I thought maybe starting with a small chase closer to camp would be wise. This drive formed a natural funnel between two lakes, flanked by a stream on the east side. We also have taken deer on this drive, but have not pushed it recently due to the amount of hunters frequenting the area.
As the drive began, I made my way along the creek bottom and back up on the ridge, slowly moving through the funnel. Approaching the middle with a lake on either side of me, shots started sounding off across the lake. Bang! Bang! Bang! They echoed off the lake. Then two more shots followed. Sounds like the old man’s .30-.06, I thought to myself. Something told me to run to the lake’s edge to cut off any escaping deer.
Making my way to the lakeshore I ran full out, clearing spruce and balsam branches from my face. That last shot seemed a lot closer for some reason, I thought, just as I broke into the open lake edge. Wondering if my father got one, I could not believe my eyes when I arrived!
At the lake shore I watched in disbelief as the largest racked deer I had ever seen was swimming across the end of the lake, at about 80 yards. Staring for a moment in disbelief, I saw a shot hit the water about 30 feet behind the deer. I thought I had better nail him or he will be up on the other side and gone in a second. A well-placed shot in the back of his neck and the big boy was down instantly.
I sprinted my way around the end of the lake and across an old beaver dam, like a mink jumping from log to log. The buck was lying in a few inches of water when I yanked him up on the bank, just as my father arrived. Neither of us could believe the size and beauty of this buck’s crown. He was a heavy 13-pointer with long tines and sweeping beams. As we hugged and shook hands all we could say was, “I can’t believe it!”
The rest of the guys finally made their way to where we were with the buck. None of them could believe a deer this size existed up here. After we field dressed the deer, I examined him more closely. Having recently finished the Fish & Wildlife Biology program at SSFC, I was interested in determining the big fellow’s age. To my great surprise, I found that he had no front teeth whatsoever, and his molars and pre-molars were extremely worn. “An Ol’ Toothless One!” we thought and chuckled.
I estimated the old boy with his sunken face to be approx. 8.5 – 9.5 years old, based on dental condition. We measured the main beams at just fewer than 26 inches each, the outside spread of 23.5 inches and both G2s between 11-12 inches.
I subsequently had the head caped out and mounted, but it was not until I scored it myself that I knew it could be a new provincial record for the Buckmasters Trophy Records. Under the BTR system, the inside spread measurement is not included as it is deemed to be a measure of air not antler. The Late Great Rick ‘Whitetail Guru’ Poulin of Barrhaven scored Ol’ Toothless officially at 141 4/8 inches BTR in the typical category and discovered that it was the new Typical Provincial Record whitetail for the Province of Quebec.
It was a day I wouldn’t soon forget and I was thankful to have shared it with my Dad.