The pursuit of white-tailed deer, for me, has always been a family affair; as I hail from a long line of accomplished Morrison deer hunters. My grandfather Alfred, I am told, was one of the best in the business. He would regularly guide hunters from Montreal and the United States on his homestead in Quebec, Canada, and at his hunt camp nestled at the foot of (appropriately named) ‘Buck Mountain’ where I still hunt today.
Although I never got the opportunity to know granddad, my Dad has shared enough of his deer hunting tales and prowess; I feel like I know him well and perhaps even take after the man in ways.
My first buck
My father Rathwell certainly took after his old man, I’m happy to say, and began sharing his ‘inherited’ love of deer hunting with me at the age of 13. The year was 1980 when I was first immersed in the deer hunt lifestyle- much like a Border collie pup surrounded by a camp full of experienced old dogs. It was intimidating, but I paid close attention and observed how my father and uncles pursued these wily old mountain deer.
Whitetails often described as too difficult to hunt. But I learned quickly and even managed to bag a buck on the very first season. It was a fine 8-pointer which I harvested with a single shot from granddad’s trusty old Winchester 30-30 Model 94. (author photo: 3rd from left) The same gun Dad had taken his very first buck with many years earlier. Perhaps it was destiny, but the father-son magic was born!
As year’s passed, I continued to study the inner-workings of Quebec’s trophy mountain deer, while hunting out of my grandfather’s buck mountain camp. In 1983, however, I faced my first beginner’s mistake, when an enormous 240 pound 12-pointer strolled out to me at a scant 70 feet. The buck was so huge and dark in colour I mistook it for a moose, and never even raised my rifle. Fortunately my uncle -Alfred junior -was there to show me how it’s done.
I learned a good lesson from that missed opportunity, and came back the following year to capitalize on a wide 11-point buck that dressed 213-pounds. With my confidence building, my family continued to take trophy-sized whitetail bucks at granddad’s camp.
By 1996, 16 years of hunting with my father culminated in my ultimate moment of family mountain magic, when a one-of-a-kind 8.5 year-old whitetail made the mistake of getting too close. The beautiful 13-point animal I harvested that year called ‘old toothless’ became a BTR Provincial record at 141 4/8”, and remains Quebec’s number 1 in the Typical category.
The Hotel Buck
Old toothless, by the way, was not my father’s first brush with record book history; as the province’s All-time Number 1 whitetail – known as the Hotel Buck – was chased out by Dad and taken by his friend Arthur Dobie in 1959. My father actually owned the head and displayed it for many years at his hotel in Arundel, Quebec. That magnificent animal netted a whopping 207 5/8” Boone & Crockett – a record which still stands today; nearly 65 years later!
The family deer hunting tradition continued for my Dad and I through the new millennium and who would have thought his personal best deer would come after nearly 60 years of climbing the hills. In 2003, he bagged a beautiful 218 pound 11-pointer with an impressive 22” spread – a magnificent animal we are all extremely proud of.
Dad’s retirement from hunting
After 40 years of hunting together, my father finally decided to hang up his rifle and pass along the torch. It has been 5 years since Dad was able to deer hunt with me. At his current age of 91, his mind and body are no longer up for the task so the tradition falls on me to uphold.
I look back on the memory of our hunts with great fondness. Each year I do my best to recreate the magic we had at our mountain hunt camp, and have done well in that regard. Although we’re not always successful as far as a trophy bucks go, my father is proud to see the deer hunt tradition continues.
If you enjoy deer hunting and eating venison, please read my feature on cooking venerable venison.