top of page

The Success of Failing

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

This is a reprint of an article that I wrote last winter after my season of failing. It appeared on the online presence of the Traditional Bowhunter Magazine. The From The Wild episode that depicts this season is due up next and should be published by December 4th, 2021.

Late October, on a cold and shivery afternoon, I was in my treestand at a good location with a perfect wind. Our family farmland, where I have hunted for 30 years has produced many nice bucks and has filled freezers consistently over the decades. I was set up near “Buck Corner”, a spot on our property where, for a reason that only the whitetails know, the bucks tend to hang out in the pre-rut days. It is a proven niche on the property that, if hunted properly, with reservation, always gave me a good chance at something interesting occurring. I had hunted out of this tree on two other occasions since the beginning of September and both times I was in the game as far as whitetail bucks were concerned.

Looking down at the exact spot where I missed the huge buck a few sits after this picture was taken. Still bugs me.

The first sit in this particular poplar tree, the leaves were amber and pale green, fluttering gently in the warm fall breeze. This tree grew along the edge of an abandoned farm field that our family have always called “The Ten Acres”. To the north, and where my attention was now focused, was thick parkland forest, typical of the agricultural area of north-central Alberta near Edmonton. This was the bedding area. Exactly where I had expected to hear deer movement begin as they meandered their way to the south, into the harvested oat field where the feeding activity was heavy. I still couldn’t see any movement, but the sound of a large animal moving in the undergrowth was growing louder. Then, there he was, a beautiful mature whitetail buck, headed right to me. My heart pounding, he walked to within 18 yards of my stand but on the other side of That Damned Spruce Tree. A shot was never offered.

On the second sit in this special tree, the leaves were almost completely gone, large and heavy snow flakes coated me and my bow within moments of brushing them off. This was the first significant snowfall of the season and it was mid October. I quickly turned into the best camouflage ever, melting into my grey surroundings with accumulating snow, my beard and clothing layered in snow and frozen breath. Once again, after settling into the tree, it didn’t take long to see a buck. This time however, he had entered The Ten Acres from a trail more to the east. He worked across the small field to the south, well out of bow range. He was eagerly on the trail of a doe that had, earlier in the afternoon, crossed to the feed. No amount of grunting would coax him towards me. That was a beautiful hunt.

The 'Special Tree' during an October blizzard.

The third hunt in the aspen brings me to the wintery afternoon mentioned early in the story. It was cold. Colder than usual; and the rut had yet to begin in earnest. From the beginning, this afternoon hunt was full of activity. I had barely pulled my bow from the frozen white ground, when, at full alert, the unmistakable sound of a branch breaking reached my ears. It was a big animal and I rushedly organized myself to be ready for a shot. Soon I saw something dark, and big, slowly moving deeper in the woods. It was a Moose. I had no tag for Moose. My deep exhale quickly froze onto my face and joined the growing icicles on my beard while I settled down to focus. I was doing some calling by this time in the season and had just finished a series of buck and doe grunts when movement and cracking brush grabbed my focus to the west. I saw movement of deer, brown and heavy, crossing the abandoned gas lease road 60 yards away. There was more than one deer here, a group of three, and then I saw antlers moving through the bare undergrowth. I gasped internally. The lead buck was simply huge! Already I knew this was the buck of a lifetime and t