By Kayla Pickett
The journey for this buck I named, Fairweather, starts about 1.5 years ago. While out checking our Browning Trail Cameras last year, we had this whitetail show up. As soon as I saw him on camera I knew he was my target buck. We had a 200-inch whitetail as well (my husband, Kyle, harvested him last year) but I wanted this one. Kyle told me I should let him grow another year because he has potential to hit his peak, as he was not an old buck. Over winter I wanted so badly to see him again the following season.
We put our Browning Trail Camera out in August and instantly this buck was coming around again. I couldn’t wait, as archery season was right around the corner. I practiced in my backyard with my compound bow but I wasn’t happy with how it was shooting and thought maybe I could use an upgrade. I ended up with an APA Mamba and I was feeling more ready than ever! I practiced everyday until it was too dark to shoot after my kids were in bed. After lots of trail camera checks and bait runs between my husband and I, we had this buck coming in consistently at prime time.
September 1st finally arrived. I waited for my husband to get home from work to watch the kids and I drove about 30 miles from home to go walk into our blind and sit for this buck for the evening. Soon it was dark and I had to make my way back out of the pasture led by the moonlight making out the silhouettes of the trees so I could find my way to the truck. This continued every evening with a few small whitetail bucks, does, rabbits and coyotes walking by, but no target buck in sight. Every evening I’d go home disappointed but every morning I’d wake up recharged and just as excited to go out!
September 6th rolled around; it was a beautiful evening. I had a really good feeling. It was about 7:30pm and from my right I could see Fairweather, along with a 4x4 buck walking down a hill along the trail to the bait pile. I’ve had buck fever before, but there’s something about your target buck you’ve put countless hours and effort into standing 30 yards away that amplifies it.
I had played this scenario out in my head countless times, but never once did I put into account I was going to have to make that perfect shot while shaking like a leaf in the wind. He got to the bait pile and was standing perfectly broadside to me. I heard my Dad, Dion, and Kyle’s voice in the back of my mind “Don’t shoot if he’s looking at you. Take your time. Be sure”. I drew my bow while he was eating, placed my pin on him, and released my arrow. I watched it fly through the air and then the two bucks took off up and over a hill. I couldn’t believe it! The moment I had dreamt about and waited hours for had finally happened, and it all happened so quick!
I phoned my husband but I couldn’t even talk. I was shaking so much and breathing so heavily that I barely got out what I wanted to say, but he knew. Before I could get many words out he said “You got him!! Way to go, Hunny! Stay put, give him time. I am going to pack up the kids and we will be on our way. Stay in the blind and give him time”. It’s like he knows how impatient I am, or something? Haha. I phoned him back about 25 minutes later saying I just had to go look at my arrow. I could see my Lumenok sticking out of the ground about 10 feet behind where Fairweather was, and I needed to see if there was blood.
Long story short, there was blood but it did not look promising when we could not find a trail of blood. I had a feeling I had shot high on his body. We decided to leave him over night and I would go out the next day alone, as Kyle had to work again. Talk about a sleepless night! I went out the next day and spent all day walking that entire pasture in hopes I could find a blood trail, or better yet, Fairweather. No luck.
We decided to give that area a break. In the meantime, we set another bait up half a mile from that spot. After about two weeks, we were looking at our Browning Trail Camera pictures on the media card and guess who was back? Fairweather! I was so excited and relieved to see he was still alive after I could not find him. In the pictures I could see where I had hit him and I knew why there was hardly any blood. It was more like a haircut. I started sitting in the blind everyday with my muzzleloader, mostly evenings, as that’s when he showed up the most. After a few days we checked our trail cameras in both spots. Fairweather had switched to our other spot, and quit coming to this place entirely. So, off to the other spot I went to sit every single evening.
October 17th, 2021. It was an extremely hot day for the weather we typically get in October here in Saskatchewan. It was +25°C (77°F). We dropped the kids off at their grandparents and Kyle was finally able to join me for an evening sit! He made a comment about how the evening sit would probably be a bust as it was so warm. I laughed and told him “That’s okay! After all, his name is Fairweather.”
We did something a little different that night. Our wind wasn’t 100% in our favour so we brought out some doe estrous to hopefully mask any scent and draw their attention elsewhere if they did come in. After an hour or so of sitting, a few does and fawns showed up. They kept looking behind them in the bush but that was nothing new as every other night they were always on high alert. We watched them for a while and then I saw antlers coming out of the bush right behind where the does were standing. I saw the antlers and instantly slowly turned to Kyle and mouthed “that’s him!”.
I saw him for half of a second but that’s all I needed. Following shortly behind him was the same 4x4 that was with him September 6th. My heart was racing. The feeling I remembered all too well. He walked to the bait pile and stood there facing us for five minutes. That five minutes felt more like five hours as I watched him through my scope waiting for him to move. Finally, he turned broadside and started walking away. Just before my husband was about to make a noise to get him to hopefully stop and look, I pulled the trigger. WOW! Through the smoke I watched as he ran into a thick bush and disappear. I could not contain my excitement. I wanted to run out there instantly and start the search, although I knew giving him a little bit of time was the smart thing to do.
The 4x4 buck that was with him did not go far and kept coming back to look in the bush. That is when I just knew he was lying in that bush. After a little while we unzipped the blind and started walking. I could not see him where I thought he would be and instantly I had flash backs and doubt. We walked a little farther and spotted him lying there. He was down for good and not going anywhere. I could not believe I finally got to get my hands on this buck I had lost so much sleep over! It was an amazing feeling. After hunting the majority of the year solo, it was great my husband got to be there with me the night my deer went down! What a rewarding hunt!