Whitetail Buck By Shelly Kruger
As a kid, hunting wasn’t a part of my life. It wasn’t something my family did as sport. I grew up on a small Charolais ranch in Northern Alberta, Canada,and hunting was something my father did every couple of years, just to fill the freezer. He would set out at first light onto the back forty, and return within an hour or so with a doe strictly for meat. Being a farm kid, butchering was something I had always loved helping with. The sight of skinning and cleaning an animal, never bothered me. Hunting, however, was an ongoing curiosity.
Fast forward to my teenage years when I met my high school boyfriend and now husband, Chris. Here was this amazing outdoor guy who loved to hunt. I too was an outdoor fanatic so it should have been a match made in heaven right? Wrong! At about age 13, I developed a rare fear of all firearms. For absolutely no reason, I was so scared of guns that I had a hard time being in the same room as a gun cabinet! Where did this come from? To this day, I have no idea.
In our relationship, hunting was something Chris did on his own. He would return with incredible stories of his adventures, experiences, close calls with nature at first hand. I always felt an underlying passion, and curiosity but always had a fear stopping me from exploring the unknown. One fall day, a week before rifle season opened here in Northern Alberta, Chris came home with a surprise for me, my first rifle. A gun of my very own! Aside from my fear, I secretly took pride in owning my very own firearm. He said, “I can see your interest. You need to overcome this fear of yours. I am going to teach you how to shoot.” Thankful and scared I thought, “What have I got to lose?”
I went along to the shooting range, and that is where I took the first shot to the rest of my life. I sat breathing until I stopped shaking. In my scope, I could see the target moving with ever shiver. I went to take my first shot, with Chris’ close instruction and I shut my eyes and flinched. Laughing, Chris told me to take a few breaths and calm down. I actually felt ready! Slow breath in, long breath out, sight is steady … BOOM. The first shot into my future. Not only did I overcome by biggest fear, I hit the target!
“Sniper!” was what he called me. Continuing to shoot my gun at the range gave me the confidence to explore a whole new side of me. The fear was gone and I felt overcome with passion. A year later, after hours of practice, my Firearms course, and my Hunter Trainer Safety Course were complete, I finally felt ready to try for my first animal. Success as I tagged my first ever animal, a 5×5 white tail buck with Chris encouraging me at my side. “You can do this!” was the last thing I heard him whisper to me before I shot my first buck. Leave it to this amazing man to continuously talk me through any doubts I had. I knew we were not only husband and wife, we were a lifetime team!
Here we are, residing in Northern Alberta, living our dream with our two amazing kids, our 9 year old son Aiden, and our 6 year old daughter Alyssa, two up and coming hunters I might add. Only thirteen years ago, hunting wasn’t more than a fear of mine, a fear that I could not do it; too afraid of failure and too afraid of firearms. Who knew this would be my life-long passion? I am living proof that as a woman, you can accomplish anything you put your mind to, regardless of your age.
Currently, Chris and I hunt professionally as a team here in Northern Alberta on our private land. We hunt strictly Alberta big game. We are blessed to sit on Pro- Staff for Element Outdoors, Trophy Chick Apparel, StandCam.com, X-Stream Outfitters, and Weapon Vision. Inspiring others, especially women and girls, to get into the outdoors and explore their passions is the reason I share my hunts publicly. To show others who may doubt themselves that they can do it! I want every woman and girl to experience the outdoors and to see what can be a true balance in life.
November 10th, 2014 and I still have three tags in my pocket … No luck so far this season. The Whitetail rut has begun and Chris and I have seen smaller bucks everywhere. Years of studying the Whitetail species, I can say first hand that I manage the deer herds in and around our area. I let the little ones grow and to breed and spread their amazing genetics to the next generation of deer. I hunt hard for the big old boys, who generally will not make it through our harsh winters. This allows
the younger deer potential to grow and less suffering for the older deer I tag, who usually have lost their teeth. Herd management is everything to me.
This season I was feeling pretty unlucky as I still carried every single tag I bought in my pockets. It’s the Remembrance Day long weekend, November 11, 2014 and I knew this would be one of my only chances to hunt hard during the Whitetail rut. Having two young children, one very competitive in hockey, the other busy with our horses, a full time day job as a school Wellness Coach, a husband coaching minor hockey, being able to team hunt has been difficult but we finally had a scheduled “hunting date” for November 11th.
Brand new camo had arrived just the day before from Element Outdoors. We could not wait to try out our new Covert patterned camo with the freshly fallen Alberta snow. I wasn’t able to go out in the morning of November 11th, but Chris went out and came back with bad news, no potential bucks spotted. I’m not going to lie, my heart sank. Would this be the season that I would not tag a Whitetail?
I have been known to bring good luck according to Chris, so I kept my hopes up all day. The temperature in Northern Alberta took a massive drop and hit a very cold 25C plus the wind chill. Battling this kind of weather, we knew we had to prepare for the cold. We layered camo over camo and finally our new Covert patter on top to match the snow and brush colors perfectly.
Finally, the hunt was on!
Spotting doe after doe in almost every hunting spot we had yet to see any horn. Could there be a chance that ALL the bucks were either killed from last year’s harsh winter, or shot by hunters? NO, that was me over reacting and panicking. Get real Shelly, focus and watch for bucks.
“There’s a nice one!” was a phrase I waited all season for. A phrase that could skip your heart two or three beats. Glancing into the field through my binoculars, I frantically searched for horns. Doe, doe, doe, fawn, doe, doe and finally, a buck. A nice buck! He stood so proud in the center of the field, acting as if he was their king. He would stick his chest out proudly, to show his dominance and chase from doe to doe. The rut was clearly in full swing. Chris and I looked at each other and said at the very same time, “Let’s go get him.”
Moving in on him to get a better view of his horns was going to be tricky. We had to battle weather, distance, and a lot of scattered deer. We stalked in through snow, and cold wind conditions for about 28 minutes before we came to the edge of our cover. There were Whitetails across the field! All does, and he that stood so proud, walking two steps, and looking towards the does, chasing a new doe, and distracted by another. Clearly this boy had it made! I felt disheartened as we tested the wind direction and it blew directly at the buck we were
spotting. We were across a field away, how would we get closer? I ranged him, 502 yards! A moment of panic came over me, that is a far shot to make! My farthest kill shot to date was 422 yards. What if I miss? We had to get in closer, but how? We are standing in cover on the edge of a massive field. Any move we make can blow the entire hunt. Any move and he could easily pick up our human scent and be gone forever. There were does to the left and right of us that could also bust our move. The only way to save this hunt, was to attempt a long range clean shot.
Here we go again with my doubts, could I do it? Could I hit a target that far away? What if I missed or worse, wounded him? These questions raced through my head like a roller coaster and finally I decided YES, I can do this. Pulling off a shot like this, I knew I needed top notch equipment to assist with this long range shot. I ranged the buck again, still 502 yards. I opted to use Chris’ 300 ultra and his amazing Schmidt & Bender “Police Marksmen 2 ̋ scope to successfully end this hunt. I set up on a tree, for better stability. We used the “I SNIPE” app on the iPhone to detect where I needed to aim in the scope to hit the deer perfectly. This modern technology is new to me, but I have seen Chris shoot up to 1000 yards before with this scope and successfully hit his target. After all, this is the same scope the snipers use, and somehow I gained my confidence back. My heart pounded so hard I felt like I might throw my sight off the deer completely. But as I inhaled my last breath before I shot, I had a sense of still, calming, relaxation fall over my body. BOOM! The buck walked forward. Did I miss? I knew and have always been taught that if the animal walks, put another shot in him to avoid injury or a miss. BOOM, second shot and I see his body sway, and down he went, nose first. Success!
A few jumps into the air, and 5 or 6 high-fives later, I realized I just made a shot of a lifetime, 502 yards! That is unheard of for so many hunters. Tears filled my eyes as I accomplished another life-long goal, a long range clean kill. I felt like a sniper. I was so happy with myself. I chose to shoot with the scope and attempt this new challenge of mine. I did it, and didn’t allow the fear or doubt to take over as it had for so many years of my life.
Holding his horns in my hands, I felt like I ran a marathon and won first place. I successfully hunted a beautiful Whitetail buck, at 502 yards. Wow, now anything is possible! Where will my next challenge take me? Better yet, how much farther can I successfully shoot? With each challenge we take, a new door opens of endless opportunities. I love my 2014 buck, he has character. He is an unforgettable experience and a fear I overcame once again, that continues to allow me to grow as a huntress. I could not be more proud to call him mine. This was truly a hunt I will never forget.