Alberta Whitetail Hunt
By Neil Wilson
Former New York State resident, now Floridian, Neil
Wilson hunts with Albertas Venture North Outfitting
for the bow hunt of a lifetime. Here is a first-hand
account of his October 2006 archery whitetail hunt.
Ive been an avid whitetail bow hunter for over
two decades. During that time, Ive spent countless
hours on stand in upstate New York. Ive been fortunate
enough to enjoy many successful deer seasons but like
a lot of bowhunters I was becoming frustrated with the
growing density of hunters and urban sprawl. Likewise,
the trophy quality of deer in NY is poor. So my thoughts
turned North. Id heard about the great whitetails
in Alberta Canada and wanted more than anything to hunt
It all started last January when I mentioned to my wife
Courtney, that I wanted to hunt somewhere different.
A place where I would have a good opportunity to take
a trophy-class buck. She knows how passionate I am about
hunting, and much to my surprise, she secretly researched
outfitters on the Internet.
Shed heard me talk about the monster whitetails
in Alberta, so she began there. Not knowing anything
about hunting (or Canada for that matter) she started
contacting outfitters. Courtneys plan was to surprise
me by booking the bow hunt of my dreams! After many
hours of research and phone calls, she narrowed her
choices, but because of the expense, she figured it
would be best to disclose her plan ahead of time. Needless
to say I was ecstatic!
We ended up booking with Venture North Outfitting in
Edmonton, Alberta for two reasons: First, because the
outfitter (Kevin Wilson) was very responsive to our
questions and second; he seemed to take his business
very seriously and professionally. The trip included
pick-up and drop-off at the Edmonton airport and everything
in between. Kevins philosophy is that hes
in the adventure tourism business and hospitality is
part of the game. He and his staff know bow hunting
and he is very good at what he does. Courtney planned
to accompany me on my bow hunt for the rest and relaxation.
Wed booked out trip for the last week in October.
Kevin suggested that this was one of his favorite pre-rut
weeks and that they often rattled in multiple bucks
at that time. Now, all that was left was the waiting.
On October 22nd we arrived at the Edmonton International
Airport. The first thing I noticed in the baggage claim
area were two enormous bronze whitetail statues. This
was symbolic of what this trip meant to me. As quickly
as euphoria set in, it was quashed! As I reached out
to retrieve my bow case my worst nightmare became a
reality. It was damaged. I feared the worst. We had
traveled 3,000 miles for the bow hunt of my dreams,
and didnt need any complications. Thankfully,
when I opened the case, everything appeared to be intact.
Shortly after exiting Customs, Courtney and I met Kevin
and Max Berger from Massachusetts. Max was a repeat
client now on his fourth trip with Venture North
a positive endorsement. It was as though Id known
Kevin my entire life. With Courtney on her own for the
week, we rented a car and followed Kevin to the lodge.
It was sinking in. This was the place that we would
call home for the next six days. The lodge was incredible.
It overlooks the North Saskatchewan River and a breathtaking
view. Huge 150-170" deer heads were hanging in
the gathering room and further fueled my anticipation.
It was late afternoon, not time to hunt but enough daylight
for us to check our bows. I assembled my equipment,
set up for a 30-yard shot and launched an arrow. A near
perfect heart shot on the 3D deer target. Good karma.
I took several more practice shots from a deck 15 feet
off the ground before heading inside for a home-cooked
meal and retiring for the night. Sleeping was tough.
I was too excited. Anticipation kept me up like a kid
on Christmas Eve. The alarm rang at 4:00am; time to
get ready for my first big day in the Alberta woods.
Bloodtrail was heavy and indicated lung blood
The weather was rough for our first day. We loaded all
of our gear into Kevins truck and headed to the
stands. They had been hung days before our arrival and
Kevin gave both Max and I an explanation of what to
expect at each of the stand sites. Kevin knows each
of the properties intimately and has a very good understanding
of the deer that inhabit those lands. Through scouting
he understands how to hunt each of them. A highly accomplished
bow hunter himself, Kevin believes in setting stands
within 20 yards or less of major trail intersections.
With no bow hunting pressure from resident hunters,
we each had several hundred acres of land to ourselves.
This was a bowhunter's dream! Max was dropped off first
and now it was my turn. I really got excited when Kevin
told me that a hunter from Pennsylvania had killed a
180-inch non-typical and watched an even bigger buck
from my stand the year before.
To keep from disturbing the deer, Kevin believes in
parking his truck some distance from the actual tree
stand location and walking for what seemed a half mile.
Kevin made sure I was tucked into my tree, gave me a
handheld radio with instructions to check in at a designated
time, and then left me to hunt.
The first day was challenging. I sat in the tree all
day. Thinking about the opportunity to arrow the biggest
buck of my life kept me going. As the first couple days
came and went, I saw several deer, but no big bucks.
Before Wednesdays hunt, Kevin and I discussed
options and decided to change stands. I sat in a tree
about 18 feet high with trails heavily beaten down by
deer traffic. Just after sunrise, I saw a large 10-pointer
walking 35 yards away. I attempted a shot but the arrow
sailed harmlessly over his back. It was a clean miss.
I saw between 10 and 15 other deer that day, but none
Then it happened. On Friday morning around 8:15 am,
I saw the same buck that I missed on Wednesday; however,
this time he walked right under my stand. Unable to
shoot, I stood up and attempted to reposition myself.
As I stood the buck spooked and ran 15 yards. He stopped
in heavy cover. I pulled out my doe bleat and tried
to coerce the buck back to me. My doe bleat malfunctioned.
It would only emit a low pitched moan! I was thinking
to myself, this cant be happening!
All I could do was watch the buck walk slowly through
Disappointed, I sat back down. It was then that I spotted
an even bigger buck. He was sneaking in to inspect my
low pitched bleat moan. He was curious and walked right
to me offering a quartering away shot at 13-yards! I
was now at full draw. Using 380 weight ACC arrows armed
with a 100 grain Muzzy broadhead, I released. The arrow
flew like a bullet until I heard a loud thud. The arrow
hit hard and the buck took off like lightning! I watched
until my buck disappeared from view a hundred yards
away. My heart was racing uncontrollably. I waited 40
minutes before calling Kevin on the radio.
By the time Kevin reached my stand over an hour had
elapsed. I immediately relayed the story and showed
him where I arrowed the deer. We were both happy to
see a lot of blood. The blood trail was so easy to follow
that we could walk at a reasonable pace. Kevin felt
confident that we would find the buck dead right around
the corner. The amount and color of blood appeared to
indicate a lung shot.
Then, after 100 yards, the unthinkable happened
the blood trail just stopped. Completely puzzled, Kevin
and I stood there for a few minutes considering our
options. Resuming our search, Kevin asked me to scour
the last area that wed seen blood and he proceeded
to move along a game trail that he felt was the most
likely direction of travel. Within minutes, I located
my arrow and we picked up the trail. It wasnt
looking good. Blood was inconsistent, stopping and starting
as we continued our search. After another fifty yards,
Kevin suddenly motioned to me. He had spotted my buck
in the middle of a clearing and it appeared to be in
rough shape. As we watched my buck lay down, we again
contemplated options. For about 10 minutes we watched
the deer. Kevin told me I would have to put one more
arrow into the deer. Easing in, we took our time to
get 20 yards away. The buck was bedded behind a fallen
tree and all that could be seen was his head and antlers
sticking up from the tall grass. Kevin instructed me
to move into position for a shot and reminded me that
this might well be the most important shot I would ever
I gained another five yards. When the buck finally
realized I was there, I had no more time and had to
take the shot. I hit a branch on the fallen tree! At
that point the buck jumped to its feet and attempted
to escape. He was only able to run another 30 yards
before collapsing. I shot a final arrow through his
chest. It was absolutely the most intense bow hunting
experience Ive ever had. Kevin congratulated me
and we spent some time photographing my first Alberta
whitetail. The deer weighed approximately 260 pounds
dressed and was a perfectly symmetrical 10 pointer.
There are much bigger whitetails in that area and Im
already planning my next trip with Kevin to see if I
can anchor an even larger trophy whitetail.
Neil poses with his first Alberta Whitetail - it won't
be his last!
The entire experience, from the accommodations to the
hunt itself, is one that I will always remember. Kevin
has a passion for bowhunting and is truly a professional
that loves his job. I would recommend this outfitter
to any bow or gun hunter. It truly was a hunt of a life-time.