September 22, 2010
Conditions were anything but favorable on the morning of Nov. 29, 2007, when avid whitetail hunter Helgie Eymundson of Edmonton, Alberta, went out in search of a world-class non-typical. But Helgie persevered, and he ended up shooting one of the world's greatest bucks of all time!
"After I saw him raise his head, only one thought went through my mind: I had to get that big guy on the ground."
Helgie's Alberta mammoth boasts 38 points, a 36-inch outside spread and a 21-inch inside spread. With a 158-inch typical 4x4 frame and 130 inches in abnormal points, the Canadian giant grosses 288 inches.
Thus began the final few dramatic moments of a hunt that took place last Nov. 29 for a Canadian megabuck. The hunt had actually begun the year before. Helgie Eymundson of Edmonton, Alberta, is an avid whitetail hunter. Bowhunting is his passion, but late in the season, when the temperature in Alberta drops to below zero, he often substitutes a rifle for his bow out of necessity. Helgie serves as sales manager for Wild TV, a popular outdoor cable network that airs across Canada.
In 2006, during a bitter cold afternoon in mid-November, Helgie and his wife Gail found themselves braving the elements and watching a remote hayfield some 100 miles north of Edmonton. They were hunting along an old fence line near the field in frigid weather: The temperature was at a bone-chilling minus 22 degrees Fahrenheit. Suddenly a massive non-typical buck appeared with some does several hundred yards out in the field.
"We were both very cold and very excited," Helgie said. "We each took a shot at the buck and we both missed. I kept an eye on that field all winter long, but I never saw him again that winter or spring. Later, I even put out some trail cameras, but I never got a single picture. By the time the '07 season started, I thought that maybe something had happened to him."
During the early part of the 2007 season, Helgie did a lot of bowhunting in other areas. As the season started winding down, he planned to take off the last week in November to hunt with his cousin Sheldon Bolduc. One afternoon during that last week in November, Sheldon happened by the remote hay field where Helgie had seen the giant buck the year before.
"He called me and said he had seen a wide-racked buck in that field at about 500 yards," Helgie said. "I told him that I would definitely check it out."
Helgie found some excellent sign in the area. On the bitter cold afternoon of Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2007, he tried to put some tree steps in a tree (for a stand) near a rock pile that overlooked the field. But at minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit, the steps would not go in the tree. Helgie then sat in the rock pile and watched 16 does and several small bucks until dark.
The next morning, Helgie parked his truck a half-mile away and sneaked up to the edge of the hayfield in the predawn darkness. He could make out the bodies of several deer across the field some 550 yards away. They were only 20 or 30 yards from the very rock pile where he had taken a stand the day before. As the light grew stronger, he could see several deer with their heads down. Suddenly one of the heads lifted up. Even at that distance, the massive rack that loomed into view was undeniable.
"It was him!" Helgie said. "The buck from last year. The wind was blowing toward the rock pile, and I knew that might be a problem. 'You've got to get him,' I told myself. Here I was standing some 550 yards from about 10 does and one mammoth buck. I knew the deer had to travel some 400 yards up the tree line to get back into the thick timber where they bedded. And it was just a matter of time before they started heading back in that direction. So I decided to make a big loop around the field and try to intercept them as they were heading back.
"I quickly walked back some 400 yards and started cutting across the open field. It was wide open, and I knew they could see me if they looked in my direction. About 10 inches of snow covered the ground. Fortunately, I was wearing snow camo, and that helped. Also, I was wearing Danner rubber-soled boots that were very quiet in that squeaky snow.
"I could see that the buck was very preoccupied with one of the does. She was definitely in heat. When I had closed the distance to about 500 yards, one of the other does looked in my direction and saw something she didn't like. After that, they all started getting very edgy, and they began walking rapidly toward the timber. I told myself, 'The jig is up.' They were headed due north, and I was headed east in my attempt to arch around them. Fortunately for me, the buck was oblivious to what was going on.
"I knew I had to close the distance as quickly as possible, so I started walking faster. When I got within about 200 yards of the group, the lead doe seemed to wind me. She started to run up the tree line toward the thicker timber, and the others followed. I had to cut them off, so I ran toward the fencerow they were following. A few trees separated us, and the deer were just on the other side. As I got 20 to 30 yards from the tree line, the hot doe veered away from the others, and the buck followed. I could hear him grunting.
"I literally vaulted a barbed wire fence and crashed through the trees to the opposite side of the tree line. I could see the hot doe across the field some 300 yards away. Then I saw the buck. He was out in the field hyperventilating and grunting -- only 150 yards from the tree line! You've got to kill him now! I thought.
"I quickly propped my rifle against a poplar tree and got him in the scope. He was still grunting, and he stopped just as I got the cross hairs on his shoulder. But just as I squeezed the trigger, he swung around and put his head down to sniff the ground where the doe had been. He was almost quartering toward me as the rifle roared. He dropped in his tracks. The way he'd been grunting, and the way everything happened there at the last, I'm positive he thought I was another buck coming through those trees."
As Helgie approached the fallen giant, the rising sun cast an unbelievable pink and orange glow over the frost-and-snow-covered hay field.
"Seeing that huge rack sticking up in that light was an incredible sight," he said. "I was in shock as I picked up the huge rack. I put my hand on him, said a little prayer of thanks. Then I saw the bullet hole in his horn. While he'd been spinning around, that back kicker had gotten in the way, and my bullet went right through it before going into his chest."
The rack was later green-scored by official measurer Ryk Visscher. Here are the stats: main-frame 4x4, 38 points, 36-inch outside spread, 21-inch inside spread, 158-inch typical frame with only 6 inches i
n deductions. Add to that a whopping 130 inches in non-typical growth and you have one of Alberta's all-time-best racks that grosses 288 inches and nets about 282 inches. And that doesn't include several broken tines! The buck was thought to be either 5 1/2 or 6 1/2 years old, and it had a fairly small 250-pound frame.
Amazingly, Helgie shot his incredible buck with a 1933 U.S. Armory .30-06 bolt-action sniper rifle. His dad, Thorel, who is also an avid whitetail hunter, made the stock for this classic rifle several years ago. A friend hand-loaded the bullet that made a perfect hole through the antler without shattering it.
"After shooting my deer, I called my dad, and he immediately drove out to the field," Helgie said. "He was pretty excited, to say the least. Shooting that buck will always be special, but sharing it with my dad was one of the proudest moments of my life!"