Dean Partridge Buck: 231-Inch Canadian Giant
August 05, 2013
For as long as I can remember, hunting whitetails has been more than a pastime. It's simply been my life.
Chasing mature bucks was not just something we did, but something that defined who we were. The whitetail woods is where I've always felt at home, and my heroes have always been deer hunters.
My father was a man who just understood whitetails. He could walk onto a property, survey the lay of the land and walk over to a tree and say, "This one, Deaner. Get the stands. This is the tree to set up in." It seemed effortless for him. Year after year, I watched my dad take fantastic bucks. By the age of 55, he had some 35 Pope & Young whitetails to his credit, but Number 36 was the most special of all of his P&Y bucks to me.
By that time, I was filming our own hunts, or at least trying to film them. That year, on a cold November afternoon, everything was perfect. It was just one of "those days." That evening, I filmed my father take a tremendous, old 160-class 4x4 with his bow. My father never set foot in the whitetail woods again. Shortly after sharing that hunt with me, at far too young an age, my hero passed away. My father spent his life in the deer woods and was one of the most successful whitetail bowhunters I have ever known, but in all his years, he had never had an opportunity at a truly "once-in-a-lifetime" whitetail.
The following deer season without dad was difficult, but that just drove me to spend more time in the woods hunting, continuing to live our passion. I was hunting with my dad's old friend, Steve Csizmar. Like my father, Steve's passion was the deer themselves — not just the size of the rack or the score, but a love and appreciation for this incredible animal.
That same appreciation led me back to filming, so that I could share with others what we loved so much. I was fortunate enough to have a good friend, Jason Peterson, who produces a television show called "Hunting Canada and Beyond." As my passion for filming grew, Steve and I decided we wanted to film a whitetail bowhunting DVD, and Jason had the knowledge to guide us through the process. Two years later, we produced a video called "Full Draw Whitetails."
The more we filmed, the more I loved it, so Jason began airing our deer hunts on his TV show, but I was filming more hunts that he had room for. Before long, we all teamed up to build a dedicated whitetail hunting show that was to not be based on seeing how many outfitters we could hunt with in a season, but rather to showcase our hunts, from start to finish, sometimes spanning years.
The concept was to capture the entire process — knocking on doors for permission to hunt land, scouting, setting up, passing up bucks year after year and sharing all our successes (and failures), while trying to capture the biggest whitetails ever hunted on film.
Nearly a year later to the day, the first season of "Canadian Whitetail Television" aired in Canada, featuring two deer over 200 inches and multiple other great, old bucks. Since that rookie year, the show has continued to grow in leaps and bounds, with its roots still based in hunting big, old, mature whitetails and telling the stories that go with them.
In 2009, we had started having encounters and getting trail camera photos of a small 4x4 whose back tines were a little bladed. The buck was likely a 3-year-old but nothing overly special. He was just like dozens of different young bucks we would see every year. We carried on filming that fall and finished off the season. The next summer, we were back in the woods, checking to see which bucks had made it through the harsh winter.
One evening, while I was sitting on the edge of an alfalfa field, a great buck stepped out. Looking closer, I noted a nice drop-tine hanging off his main beam. I looked again and, sure enough, the back G2s had bladed a bit more and split. It was the small 4x4 buck from the previous season, but he had added some serious antler. That night, we started calling him "Droppy."
For the rest of the summer and through the fall hunting season, we were able to capture some great footage of him. He looked like a young deer, and we all knew the potential he could have if left alone. We went through all of our old trail camera pictures and confirmed we had pictures of him back a couple of years. We were certain he was now only 4 years old, immediately putting him on the "pass list."
Another year later, during the summer of 2011, after several nights out looking, we had not yet caught a glimpse of Droppy, and we were starting to worry that the winter — or predators — had gotten him. We slipped into the stretch of timber that Droppy had been using for the past few years to pull the card from our Spypoint camera, and there he was. "Wow," was the only thing I said.
He had grown drastically again. It was immediately apparent that we needed to take a better look at deer this year. He was 5 years old now and surely had another year or two of growth in him, but we wanted to get an up-close look at him before we decided to take him or leave him alone for another year.
October and part of November passed without another encounter with Droppy, and then it happened. I checked two trail cameras in the area, and for the first time in four years, there were no pictures of Droppy. It was nearing the rut, and I told myself that he was just off searching for does. Three days later, a local landowner informed us of a nice drop-tine buck that another hunter in the area had shown him '¦ in the back of his truck. A couple more questions removed all doubt. In our minds, Droppy was dead.
A few days later, I took a great buck that we had a lot of history with and that had often traveled with Droppy, a 180-class buck we called "Sticker Sam." But what happened that day, well, I wouldn't believe it if we hadn't filmed it.
We were filming the recovery of Sticker Sam when a fleeting deer caught my eye. I looked over suddenly, and right there, 100 yards away, just cresting a hill on his retreat, was Droppy! I couldn't believe it. I simply tipped my hat to Droppy as, one way or another, he had beaten me this year.
At the end of the season, again, we heard of a big drop-tine deer being shot in the general area. But we weren't going to be fooled so easy this time. It wasn't until late December turned to January, then February, with no sightings or pictures of Droppy, that we began to worry. In February, Steve went in to pull the trail cameras for the rest of the winter. My phoned buzzed, and it was a text from Steve, that simply read, "Droppy lives." There was only one picture of him, but that's all we needed.
In the early spring of 2012, I started looking for Droppy again. This time, we found him in May, in the same patch of timber he had frequented in the past. By the end of June, we were starting to realize what a deer he was turning into. His typical frame was huge, and he carried big, split brows and matching flyers on both sides but his droptine was gone this year. We decided that this deer would consume my season until we were able to get an encounter with him.
The summer wore on, and it was soon time to set up so we could get a look at Droppy in person once the season arrived. The old spot where we were currently getting pictures of him had not worked well the year before. This year, by the time he was hitting the field we were on the edge of, it was often late or after dark on the trail camera.
Steve suggested we move to the south side of the string of woods. We had contemplated doing that last year as well but were afraid of bumping the buck when trying to get to the blind. The only potential set-up spot there was about 200 yards from where we believed Droppy was bedding.
We decided to try it and went in to set up our ground blind and trail camera. A couple of weeks later, we returned to check the camera, and he was right there, every single day. To top it off, he was coming by in good light. When I got home that day, I sat and looked at the pictures of Droppy on my computer in complete amazement.
He was everything a dream buck could be, and more. He was 6 years old now, and we knew there was a good chance he had one more year of growth left in him, but my mind was completely consumed. I knew that this would be the most incredible deer I would ever have the opportunity to hunt and that this year I was going to put everything into just that, hunting Droppy.
Everything looked good — almost too good. Nearly every evening, he would pass by the trail camera within a 15-minute window, but 10 days before season opened, Droppy's little piece of paradise was invaded by a few hundred head of cattle. Droppy was gone.
The cattle were gone too by opening day, but Droppy was still missing. We looked in a few likely spots for him, but nothing we did produced any information on where he was.
A week later, we were trying to decide whether to pull the blind from the spot where we had so frequently caught pictures of Droppy before the cattle had pushed him out. I snuck into the spot and pulled the memory card on my camera. Sure enough, there he was, back to his regular routine almost to the minute. I couldn't believe it.
For the next couple weeks, we only had a few nights where the wind was right to get in and hunt the blind, but we were not having any encounters. Knowing we had a whole season of TV shows to produce and other deer that we wanted to hunt, I made a grave mistake. The next night, I sent one of our cameramen, Ritchy, with a friend to hunt a spot that we felt they had a great chance of connecting with another good buck we had been watching for the last four years as well, and I headed into the "Droppy blind" alone, intending to film myself.
Right at last light, as I was getting packed up for the night, Droppy made an appearance. The light was too low to shoot or get good quality footage, but I wanted to get any footage of him possible. I balanced my bow on my knee and got the camera rolling on him.
Droppy walked right by where I had the camera positioned on the tripod, and then, when attempting to pan the camera to follow him, I let my bow slip off my knee. The bow struck the tripod and spooked Droppy. My whole world crumbled in an instant. I had just scared the buck of my dreams, and I knew there was a good chance I had just severely reduced our odds of getting an opportunity at him.
Later that night, I reviewed the grainy footage that I had gotten and realized that when the bow hit the tripod, Droppy had only made two leaps and looked back. Fortunately, when he turned to see what had made the noise, he wasn't looking at the blind. He then simply walked away, allowing me to retain some small amount of hope.
One week later, I slipped in to check the Spypoint camera again, and I had gotten about as lucky as any hunter could get. The "mishap" hadn't phased Droppy one bit, and he had been by several times since. The winds were right, so that afternoon, we headed back in to sit the blind.
On that evening, October 6, we headed into the blind and, like so many times before, got things set up for the afternoon. Ritchy got his camera equipment ready, I set up my Ozonics unit in its usual place, and we sat back in anticipation of what might happen in the hunt ahead.
Early in the evening, a couple of small bucks made an appearance and were milling around in front of us. While it was still early, one shot his head up to look up the channel to the east. I instantly had an odd feeling that Droppy was there. I leaned forward to look to the east, and, sure enough, there he was, 200 yards away and coming towards us. Ritchy couldn't see him yet, but I tapped his knee and whispered to get ready.
As Droppy closed the distance, Ritchy leaned forward with the camera, and I heard him mumble, "Oh, my Lord," as Droppy walked into frame at 100 yards. It was our first up-close look at him in broad daylight. Weaving between the big timber with the sunlight glinting off his antlers, Droppy was a breathtaking sight. He would walk 10 yards, then stop and survey the area, then come another 15.
Before long, he was at only 18 yards and approaching our shooting lane. Ritchy knew I would be shooting the second I had the opportunity, and I drew my bow when he was mere steps from where I could shoot. I came to full draw, anchored, and waited for Droppy to take four more steps. I settled my pin on him and released.
Droppy jumped and took three bounds away, quite slowly and calmly. Ritchy was still filming as Droppy looked back at the blind. Droppy took one more step and fell to the ground. The deer that I had dreamed about, that my dad had dreamed about, was down, only 35 yards away. I had expected a wall of excitement to hit me, but it did not, and it quickly became clear to me why.
I had ended the hunt. I had often wondered that if we actually got Droppy, what we would say or do after the shot, but when Droppy went down and Ritchy panned the camera back to me, I just asked him to please shut it down for a moment. It wasn't a moment for high fives, yelling or jumping up and down. It was simply a moment for which I had waited a lifetime and a moment in which I was flooded with appreciation. We were fortunate enough to have been able to watch and hunt a deer like Droppy.
Ritchy, being the dedicated cameraman he is, of course, refused to shut the camera down. We packed up in a hurry and walked to the deer. I was in disbelief as we stood just feet from Droppy. I knelt down, picking the old fella's head up, and was in awe of what a beautiful animal he was.
It was only October 6, but already I couldn't have gotten my arms around his neck. His face was grey and scarred, and he still carried a proud look. It was an incredibly bittersweet feeling. I was excited that I had accomplished something I had wanted so badly, yet there was also a feeling of sadness, that after years of watching and filming Droppy, we would never again check a trail camera and see his picture.
Shortly after, our hunting partners, Steve and Jason, showed up, and we all discussed how he looked in person compared to the trail camera pictures. We had been pretty close on our estimates, but we didn't really realize how massive his typical frame was. Now that he was on the ground in front of us, it was obvious that the typical frame was in the 200-inch category as a 5x5, and with the split browtines, matching flyers and other abnormals, he would gross over 230 inches.
Even though my father wasn't there to enjoy watching and hunting Droppy, he is with me always in my passion and appreciation for the greatest big game animal ever to walk, and for that, I am forever grateful.
Editor's Note: Grossing over 231 inches as a non-typical, Droppy is the largest known whitetail to have been taken on film. You can watch this hunt and many others on Dean Partridge's television show, "Canadian Whitetail Television," which airs in the U.S. on Sportsman Channel and in Canada on WildTV.