Hunter: Mike Moran
Score: 180 inches
Gear: Remington 7400 .30-06, Nikon Monarch scope, Winchester Supreme Accubond 180-grain bullets, Cabelas outerwear, Cabelas Saskatchewan PAC Boots, Little Hotties Warmers chemical packs
Can lightning strike twice?
That thought passed through the mind of Michigan native Mike Moran as he passed on what he’d deemed a shootable eight-pointer during a Thanksgiving hunt in the Saskatchewan wilderness.
With history on his side—he had previously taken a 138-inch 12-pointer, a 159-inch 12-pointer and a 167-inch 16-pointer on past hunts—Moran headed back up to “the Land of the Giants” to try his luck again with Grant Kuypers of Buck Paradise Outfitters.
His guide, Ty Selk, mentioned two big bucks in the area: “Splits,” named for his two large, V-shaped split brows, and another elusive buck nicknamed “Kickers,” a chocolate-colored monarch that had been scouted for three years without a determinable pattern.
Starting four weeks into the season, Moran headed out at 4 a.m. the first day and was welcomed by a 140-145-class eight-pointer; he was definitely a shooter, but Moran decided to pass with bigger goals on his mind.
The second day, he said, was uneventful, with one six-point, a spike and plenty of does, but no trophies.
On the third day—Thanksgiving Day—Moran headed out to the stand in the bitter cold, with temperatures dropping to -15 degrees Celsius, determined to bring back a trophy.
“The sacrifice of missing the holiday with my family was also part of the equation in my obsession,” Moran said.
After passing on yet another good-looking eight-pointer—and wondering again whether it was a mistake—Moran said a nice, wide buck soon limped into his field of vision around noon. “Splits,” he thought.
“I raised my weapon, focused on my scope, and I thought, it’s time for business,” he said. “No time to videotape, no time for pictures, no time for a profile shot; what would I do when faced with the biggest buck of my life?”
After letting the buck take about four steps, Moran fired a bullet from his Remington 7400 .30-06 right into the buck’s brisket. The buck didn’t take another step before dropping flat.
With his adrenaline pumping, Moran rushed in to inspect, but was surprised to discover while this buck indeed had a split brow, he didn’t have two, and he was much bigger than “Splits”; it was that ghost of a buck, “Kickers.”
“Only in a dream I could write a better tale, but this time it was reality,” Moran said. “Nothing worthwhile or of tremendous value has ever come easy in my life. This is no exception, but the dream did come true and I am forever satisfied after hunting since age 14 and 27 years in the field. The time was now,” he said.
“This buck has it all just like the drawing of the school kid characture buck and it was mine.”
- Knowing I couldn’t even come to my knees without breaking the little concealment we had, I decided to lie on my left side, using my left elbow for as solid a rest as could be achieved within the slight incline of the old fencerow. But when I shouldered the rifle, the sight of the crosshairs oriented at a 10-4 o’clock angle was definitely a different look from the normal 12-6 position we all practice from. Even so, I didn’t figure that would matter if I aimed at the right spot and squeezed off a clean shot. I settled the crosshairs where I needed to place the bullet and steadied the rifle. Whispering “fire in the hole” while floating the crosshairs on the spot, I gently squeezed the trigger until the recoil removed the buck from my view. Read the full story.