“Three years may sound like a long time to wait for a hunting trip. Three years was the amount of time I had to wait after a friend, Craig Huff told me about his first trip to Thunder Hills Outfitters in Saskatchewan, Canada. He saw quite a few deer, but did not harvest a buck the first time around and was going back! That was all I needed to know to decide whether I would like to go with him on his second trip to Saskatchewan. Fortunately Al & Val Henderson, the owners of the Thunder Hills Outfitters, were able to accommodate us during the week of Thanksgiving in the year 2009.
Upon arrival in camp we met the rest of the Henderson family, sons Barry & Mark, who along with Al were the three guides for the week. Mother Val took care of the Lodge and did the cooking. I doubt very strongly you could stay at their lodge for a week without gaining some weight, at least I know I couldn’t.
Sunday afternoon we were in the shop, the barn located a little ways from the house, where the equipment is stored and maintained. We were looking at some deer horns mounted on the wall. There horns are to give clients like myself, having never hunted in Saskatchewan before, an idea of what type of whitetail bucks may be seen while in Saskatchewan. Needless to say, being from the foothills of the mountains of Pennsylvania, where we have a lot of deer, but not many large bucks, I was very impressed with the horns I was looking at. Craig’s brother Brian and I both mentioned that even the smaller horns on the shop wall would probably be a shooter by our standard. I was reasonably sure Mark & Barry, being good sons, were thinking “lets give Dad a short week” and put the hunters with him that were not looking for a real monster and would be happy with a mediocre sized buck by Canadian standards. Boy was I in for a pleasant surprise!
Monday morning dawned cold & clear with a good blanket of snow on the ground, just a beautiful day to spend in a deer stand. Jokingly on the way to my stand, Al told me I was going to have a boring day & probably would not even see a deer. Then of course he gave me an idea of what to really expect. He had no sooner left after getting me to my stand than I was watching whitetails, I did not even have the chance to get settled in my stand before I had deer feeding at the bait. In Saskatchewan you do hunt whitetails over bait, the Henderson’s use a mixture of alfalfa & oats, because of so many deer showing up at the bait I was unable to get a snack or cup of coffee until lunchtime. What a great way for a whitetail hunter to spend a day—little did I know it was going to get better!
By mid afternoon I had seen at least 30 different deer, 5 of which were small bucks, anything from a 6-point that was out past his ears. I then saw a deer behind the bait & I noticed that he was knocking snow from a spruce tree quite a ways to his left. He never did get the whole way out to the bait so that I could get a good look at his horns before he took off chasing a doe. I had a good look at his chest and the base of his horns, which were well out past his ears, but because of a spruce branch I could not see the top of his rack. I was reasonably sure he was a good buck and was mumbling to myself when he left before I got a good enough look to decide whether to shoot or not.
Fortunately, fifteen minutes later the buck of my dreams walked out from behind the bait. As soon as I saw him there was no doubt he was a shooter by most people’s standards & he certainly was by mine! I did not even have to count points; I just knew he was huge. My sudden surge of excitement was over just as quick as it began when he too off chasing after a doe.
Ten minutes later he was back and feeding at the bait. I managed to keep my cool a lot better than I thought I would be able to with a buck of his size only 80 yards away. Thunder Hills Lodge has the ass of a buck deer mounted & under it hangs the following sign “If you miss you must kiss the ass of shame.” This is while being videoed by Mark & of course they will show the video to anyone who wants to watch it. While waiting for the buck of a lifetime to give me the shot I wanted I was thinking of the ass of shame & the fact that I did not want to have to kiss it! The buck finally turned enough to give me the shot I wanted. I took the shot he offered and when the gun cracked he was lying on the ground. At this point I lost the cool I had kept for what seemed like such a long time & I was shaking so badly I had to sit down before I fell out of my tree stand. Talk about excitement! This is by far the highlight of my hunting lifetime.
I spent the rest of the week hunting coyotes and baiting with the guides.
I certainly recommend this way of spending a week to anyone who enjoys hunting whitetail.
Now that the trip is over, three years did not seem like a long time at all! Now I wait for my next trip back to Thunder Hills, yes, it probably will be a few years until the next time but it will be worth the wait!”