Southern Saskatchewan Deer

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Saskatchewan deer
Glassing the southern Saskatchewan prairie for big whitetails. Hunter shown wearing Lost Camo.

Coyotes celebrated the arrival of nightfall across the southern Saskatchewan prairie all around this deer hunter. Their eerie howls, yips and barks on this starlit, mid-November evening made him appreciate the four-foot-square, plywood shooting shack he was seated in. Despite this deer hunter's protective shelter, however, he was eager for his hunting guide to call him on the radio and tell me he was ready to pick him up.

As the deer hunter waited for that call, he scanned the area around his position with binoculars. Although it was dark, the 50mm objective lenses allowed him to make out the black outlines of trees and shrubs – and deer.

Two black forms – one small and the other quite large – emerged from a small thicket and entered the clearing in front of the deer hunters ground blind about 120 yards away. Instantly, he knew he was looking at a buck pushing a doe. And when the buck stood in front of a copse of young aspens that provided a light background, he could see the dark silhouette of a tall, heavy crown of antlers on his head.

Saskatchewan giant
A southern Saskatchewan giant. Hunter shown wearing Lost Camo.

Because of the darkness, there was no chance for him to shoot. But it was exciting nonetheless just to know there was a shooter whitetail lurking in the vicinity of his ground blind with four days left in his five-day hunt.

Ever since Milo Hanson shot the current world record typical whitetail here back in 1993, Saskatchewan has been a hot destination for traveling deer hunters. But what many Saskatchewan hunters who don’t live in Canada don’t realize is that the area they hunt is nowhere near where Hanson shot his giant, 213-inch bruiser.

Nonresidents of Canada historically have been restricted by law to hunting the northern half of Saskatchewan, where the prairie farmland of the south gives way to huge tracts of forest. True, there are giant bucks prowling these dense forests, called “bush” by the locals. A deer hunter might sit on tree stand for a week and see five deer. But three of those deer are likely to be monster trophy bucks.

Still, the northern zone is nothing compared to the south, where the landscape is primarily used for agriculture. Vast fields of peas, barley, alfalfa and other crops provide an endless dinner table for the resident deer living in the relatively small stands of bush that pockmark the prairie. The deer here are plentiful and huge, thanks, in no small part, to the fact that alien hunters generally aren’t allowed to hunt this half of the province. This is where Hanson shot his record trophy buck near Biggar, just west of Saskatoon.

In the late 1990s, the Saskatchewan government began allowing First Nations bands to take non-Canadian residents deer hunting on their reserves. The First Nations people are Indians, who consider themselves to be the first residents of Canada. There are First Nations reserves scattered all over Saskatchewan’s south zone, but only within the past two or three years have the bands that own these reserves seriously begun getting organized to run commercial hunting operations. And if you’re not a resident of Canada, First Nations lands are your only option for southern Saskatchewan whitetail hunts.

There are only two hunting outfitters allowed since 2005 to operate on the Cowessess band of First Nation Indians’ 180,000 acres. Most of the band’s land sits outside West End — a small settlement located about two hours east of Regina in southeast Saskatchewan.

One deer hunter was beside himself as he headed with a hunting guide across the Canadian prairie east from the airport in Regina toward Yellow Wing’s base of operations at Bird’s Point Resort in the Qu’Appelle Valley. The countryside that scrolled across the passenger’s seat window was a mix of rolling farmland, dense creek bottoms and small island pockets of Canadian bush. No region of Saskatchewan accounted for more typical whitetail bucks being entered in the Boone & Crockett record book since 2000 than the Qu’Appelle.

The deer hunter's quarters for the six-day deer hunt were in the hotel portion of Chili's Bar & Grill, owned by former National Hockey Leaguer Brian Hill and his wife, Heather, at Bird’s Point. The Hills shut down their establishment to cater exclusively to Young’s deer hunters during the month of November. Every morning they were up at 4:30 a.m. cooking breakfast and making lunches for the deer hunters, and every evening they were back in the kitchen preparing gourmet dinners.

The first stop the deer hunter and his hunting guide made upon their arrival to Bird’s Point late in the afternoon was at Yellow Wing’s skinning shed. There, he stared wide-eyed at a 160-class 11-point trophy buckand four 10-pointers that all scored around 140. Those trophy bucks had been taken over the preceding three days by other deer hunters, who were already in camp.

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