September 22, 2010
Dr. Jeff Rittenhouse knew he'd be facing extreme cold on his first ever hunt in Canada. The cold was worse than expected, but he persevered, and he was rewarded with a true North Country giant!
Saskatchewan can be brutally cold in late November, but the rewards can be unbelievable. Jeff was hunting from a pop-up blind in bitter cold and heavy snow when this 16-point brute made an appearance.
Prior to the 2006 season, Jeff Rittenhouse of Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, had spent 32 years chasing whitetails in southeastern Pennsylvania. He'd always dreamed of having an opportunity to shoot a true trophy buck, but as a family practitioner, his discretionary time was limited. Then, in November of the '06 season, he thought he might have blown his one big chance when he missed a shot at a P&Y buck in Delaware. Little did he know that three short weeks later he would kill one of the biggest non-typicals taken in 2006 by a non-resident in Saskatchewan!
Jeff was hunting on Indian reservation land near Jackfish Lake during the last week of November. This was his first guided whitetail hunt. The thought of shooting a massive Canadian whitetail was very exciting, but he knew the hunt would require great patience and great tolerance to extreme cold. Jeff set a realistic goal of killing a 140-class buck.
His Indian guide, Willard Swiftwolf, suggested that he hunt in a pop-up blind in the farmland where previously the guide had seen a 160-class buck.
BRUTAL COLD, HEAVY SNOW
Monday morning greeted Jeff with a minus-20-degree temperature reading and a wind chill of minus 35 degrees. Driving to the blind was difficult enough because of fresh, deep snow. But after getting his gear organized in the predawn darkness, Jeff wondered if he was wearing enough warm clothing to survive 10 grueling hours in the frozen landscape. As daylight approached, he surveyed his surroundings and mentally prepared for any potential shot scenario.
The stand faced south, where Jeff could see out across a deep coulee. A bait pile (legal in Saskatchewan) had been placed approximately 120 yards away. Snowfall affected his visibility, but in the dim morning light Jeff could see a deer at the bait. However, he could not determine its sex before it disappeared just at daylight.
Magpies kept Jeff entertained, but the weather was ruthless even though the pop-up blind offered some protection from the wind and snow. The lens of his binoculars and scope continually fogged up and iced over. By 2 p.m., the weather was so bad that Willard came back to get him. Although disappointed, Jeff had seen three small bucks and he felt victorious in enduring the cold. To add to his disappointment, that night he learned there would be no hunting on Tuesday because of worsening snowdrifts.
Wednesday morning found Jeff back in the same blind. Even though the temperature was still minus 20, he elected not to use any propane heat because of the noise and scent factor. At 9 a.m. Jeff saw a spike buck. At noon he saw a small 8-point. Trying to stay focused, he hoped for the best.
MR. BIG SUDDENLY APPEARS
At 4:45 Jeff detected movement to his right. It was a deer walking through the open at about 75 yards away. A quick appraisal revealed that it was a buck. What's more, it was a shooter. The buck had a huge body, and Jeff wondered if the deer could be the 160-class buck that Willard had mentioned. Jeff tried to get his gun into shooting position as quickly as possible, but the buck dropped down into the coulee and disappeared. Now Jeff could only hope that the buck would emerge from the other side of the coulee south of him.
Jeff had prepared for the hunt by practicing during the summer with his Remington Model 700. He felt very confident in his shooting ability, but a thin screen of brush on his side of the coulee and his elevated level of excitement did cause some concern. As he waited, he finally saw movement in the brush at the south end of the coulee.
Then, as if it were meant to be, the buck walked out into the open. With thick beams and long tines, the buck of a lifetime stopped and turned broadside. Jeff aimed behind the buck's shoulder, and his .300 Winchester magnum roared. The buck disappeared into the coulee as Jeff frantically tried to chamber another round, but the bullet jammed momentarily. With the buck gone and with much nervous anticipation about his shot, Jeff decided to sit tight and wait for Willard before starting the search.
DREAM BUCK IN THE SNOW
Willard arrived with another guide just after dark, and the three men immediately began tracking the buck by flashlight. They had gone only a short distance when Willard's companion found Jeff's buck with its head buried in the snow.
When Jeff lifted the massive rack out of the snow, he could hardly believe his eyes. The giant 16-pointer had a long, abnormal point on its left burr and several split tines. The initial disbelief slowly gave way to the realization that Jeff had just shot the buck of a lifetime. A major celebration followed!
Jeff's 180-grain bullet had passed through both lungs and exited the opposite shoulder.
The buck also had a 4-inch laceration on his left rear leg that could have come from a hunter's bullet or the tine of a competitor. Being an official B&C measurer, I scored Jeff's rack on Jan. 30, 2007. Having a main-frame 5x5 rack, the Canadian brute also carried 3 abnormal points on each antler. Although the rack only had a 16'‚6/8 inside spread, it possessed great mass and tine length. The buck's typical frame grossed 179'‚6/8. With 44'‚3/8 inches in abnormal points, the rack ended up with a net non-typical score of 213 7/8 after deductions.
It's interesting to note that a 173-inch-net typical buck was killed from the same stand during the same week two years earlier in 2004. Jeff is very thankful to have received the opportunity to shoot a world-class buck, and he feels very blessed. He firmly believes that God brought this deer to him on that memorable but cold day, and he would like to give Him all the glory!