July 25, 2023
Saskatchewan, Canada, is most likely a bucket-list destination for those serious about hunting mature whitetails. The province has been a trophy whitetail destination since the 1950s. For over 70 years, non-resident hunters have crossed our northern border with the dream of tagging a giant buck. And for a good reason, “the land of living skies” has all but dominated the upper end of the record books over the decades, culminating with the World Record Typical Whitetail, the Milo Hanson buck taken in 1993.
Few places in North America can match the nostalgic and historical impact that Saskatchewan has brought to the whitetail world. The province is different than other popular, top-end trophy destinations, such as Kansas or Iowa. Non-residents cannot hunt without booking through an Outfitter. That added cost deters many hunters from venturing north. Most non-resident hunting is restricted to the forest fringe and areas north. The whitetail range in Saskatchewan is like the size of the state of Texas. But that doesn’t mean the two places are similar. For example, Texas sells one million deer hunting licenses yearly, whereas Saskatchewan sells approximately 40,000 deer hunting licenses. Texas holds approximately 5.3 million whitetails, while Saskatchewan estimates as many as 375,000 whitetails roam the province. In other words, in Texas, there are 5.3 whitetails per hunter. In Saskatchewan, there are approximately 9.3 whitetails per hunter.
Considering the low hunting pressure on Saskatchewan deer and the sheer size of the area they inhabit within the province, combined with the number of world-class typicals entered in the record books, it’s easy to understand the intense interest there is from trophy whitetail hunters. No matter where you hunt, there are very few places where the next deer you see could be the biggest in the world.
Going into the 2021 season, Kipling, Saskatchewan resident Mike Currie wasn’t thinking of a world-class typical; instead, he focused on the three good bucks he and his hunting partners had been watching through the summer and fall. “Our group had three target bucks in mind. But unfortunately, they were all living within the same area. We all agreed that only one guy could hunt each night when the wind was right. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for me to sit; either someone else was sitting, or the wind was wrong the nights I could sit,” Mike says.
On Sept. 3, one of the guys arrowed one of the three bucks the group had watched over the summer. Unfortunately, even though the shot looked perfect, they never found the deer despite hours of tracking and searching. Even running several trail cameras for months within the area, they never saw the buck again. Currie also had a mule deer tag, and through his fall scouting, he had located an impressive mature buck that he could put some time into when not hunting whitetails. Hunting whenever he could, and after a couple of close encounters, he finally arrowed the mule deer he was after on Sept. 23. With this out of the way, it was time to focus on his daughter’s drawn mule deer tag.
Once October arrived, the Currie’s got busy. Mike and his daughter Jen hunted every chance they could. Jen was after a mule deer with her muzzleloader, and Mike was still looking for a whitetail. Finally, on Oct. 16, Jen got her mule deer. Now it was Mike’s turn to focus his attention on whitetails. Mike explains: “Our main target buck was still coming in, but always after dark. We still sat, hoping he would slip up once, but that never happened. Now midway through October, the farmer moved his cattle into the spot we were hunting. As soon as the cattle showed up, the bucks disappeared. The cattle stayed in there until the end of the muzzleloader season. Once the cattle were gone, the buck showed up again, but he had broken off several of his points. So, he was given a free pass for the season, hoping he would make it until next year.”
Meanwhile, the other pastures they wanted to hunt also had the cattle removed. So now the group could get in and set up cameras and blinds in new areas. It didn’t take long for Saskatchewan to deliver: “I put the cameras up on Nov. 3. On Nov. 6, I got the first picture of a giant typical buck. I had no idea this buck even existed!” Mike exclaims.
According to the timestamps on the photos, the giant 5x5 was coming by consistently. So naturally, Mike had reason to be excited. He had taken some decent bucks during past seasons but never had a chance to hunt a buck like this. Fortunately for him, he was ahead of the game. However, despite having everything set, it was still nine long days before the season re-opened. After what had to seem like an eternity, Nov. 15 finally arrived. “We decided that my son Jay would sit in the blind opening morning, and I would watch over a couple of small openings in a different but nearby bush,” Mike says. With little movement in the early morning, Mike decided to move around and try antler rattling.
But despite his best efforts, he recounts: “Neither of us had any luck, and things were quiet. So we decided to pull out as we both had to get to work.” When Jay left his blind, he noticed behind him a calf elk that had been “torn to shreds.” The remains were fresh, only 50 yards behind the blind, and unnoticeable in the morning darkness. “About the time Jay was getting out of his blind, I saw a wolf coming right at me,” says Mike. “So I took the opportunity to fill my wolf tag. Jay was soon texting me to see if I had Currie only saw a couple of does and small bucks.
“On Nov. 16, I was supposed to be off work for the morning,” Mike explains. “But unfortunately, there were problems at work, so I abandoned the blind just before legal hunting time and headed off to work. I had the next five days off, so I would have lots of time to sit after my shift.” Shortly after noon, Mike found he could get away from work in time to salvage a hunt for the afternoon.
As he picked his way to his blind, he grabbed the card from a nearby trail camera. “When I was all set up, I started checking pics, and wouldn’t you know it, while I was at work, the buck had walked through at 10:00 a.m.,” the hunter laughs. Mike now had mixed feelings about the photo; the good news was the buck was still in the area. However, had he missed his opportunity? Sitting until dark, Mike once again went home without seeing the buck. He planned to be in the blind early the following day.
On the morning of Nov. 18, Mike arrived at his blind 45 minutes before legal light and hunkered down for what most likely would be a miserable sit. It was storming with hard-blowing snow and a frigid temperature. It was typical November weather in Saskatchewan. Nevertheless, from daylight on, the hunter had steady activity, with deer coming and going all day. “That helps the day pass along and helps you to forget how cold you truly are,” Mike states.
“At 4:45 p.m., I caught a glimpse of a buck through a small opening. It didn’t take long to know that it was the deer we were after,” Mike recounts. “So I got the camera rolling and grabbed my rifle. As the deer came in to view out of the window of the blind, I set the crosshairs just behind the shoulder and squeezed the trigger. The bullet hit its mark, and the buck did a little kick in the air and took off. I could hear him crash hard into the trees only seconds later, and then all was silent.
“I sent a text to the group letting them know I had just taken a shot, and then I unzipped the blind and went to look for blood,” Mike continues. “There was a good blood trail right where the deer stood when I took the shot and it was an easy trail to follow. I only took a few steps, and there he was! I could see him stuck between a couple of trees. He only made it about 30 yards after the shot.”
Mike was too cold to do much celebrating. “I grabbed a few photos as best as I could by myself. Then I put my tags on him as quickly as possible. With that finished, I went straight for the truck. By then, I was pretty cold and could only think about warming up and getting him out of there.”
What a buck it turned out to be! Its 23-inch outside spread is the first thing about the antlers that grabs your attention. One can only imagine how majestic this buck must have appeared as he approached Mike’s hunting blind. Wide, tall and symmetrical, the clean 10-point gross scores 183 5/8 inches and has a Henry Kelsey record book score of 179 4/8 inches. (The Henry Kelsey Club keeps Saskatchewan’s big game records. They measure with the Boone & Crockett system but do not require a 60-day drying period before measuring).
Despite low deer numbers, Saskatchewan continues cranking out more than a fair share of giant antlered whitetails. Looking at typical antlered bucks entered into the Henry Kelsey records indicates they have recorded nearly one thousand typical whitetails with a green net score of 170 inches or more. A number like that seems even more incredible once you realize it came from having only 40,000 hunters yearly. And that is what makes this province so unique to whitetail hunters.
Saskatchewan is a location that should be on the top of every trophy hunter’s to-do list. After all, the province sits atop the whitetail throne. That alone should pique one’s attention. However, the odds of taking a true giant may be higher in Saskatchewan than in any other location in North America. Just ask Mike Currie; up here, a world-class whitetail could show up at any given time.