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Eastern Tactics, Western Pursuit: Hunting a Mature Canadian Blacktail

Posted by Ford Van Fossan on


We have all seen the hunting videos of the east coast hunters pursuing whitetails on private land. They meticulously set stands and grow food plots all summer and flick through trail camera photos to find that special buck. My brother and I received the exclusive bow hunting rights to a rural blueberry farm in the Lower Mainland and we were thrilled to have the opportunity to pursue blacktail deer using these east coast tactics.

It all started in 2010 when we first hunted this property. We set up one trail camera and spent time scouting and watching deer as they moved from the bedding areas in the nearby forest to the blueberry fields to graze on the plentiful bounty. That year I was able to help my brother harvest the biggest buck we knew existed on the property. He was an old gnarly buck with one eye missing, likely from a sparing battle the previous year. He was named One Eye Jack and is euro mounted in my father’s garage.

After the success in 2010 my brother and I were addicted to this new private land game management style of hunting. We finally understood why those east coast whitetail hunters were so excited when they harvested the specific deer they had been after for many months, sometimes even years. I invested in a few more trail cameras and spent more time scouting and patterning the blacktails on the property.


In late May of 2011 the deer started growing their velvet antlers and my camera picked up a deer with thick 2 by 2 nubs, I knew this deer was going to have some mass when he was done growing. A few weeks passed before I had the opportunity to go back and check my cameras. By June he was a 3 by 3 with incredible mass. Though the velvet always makes the antlers look thicker I could tell he would grow and impressive rack. By July he was thick and tall and was sporting a 4 by 4 spread. I was preparing for the upcoming archery season and I knew this was the buck I would spend all my time chasing. It was this buck or no buck, he was The One.

The archery season started on September 1st and I was out looking for The One. There were always a few deer in the blueberry fields and opportunities to harvest smaller bucks were numerous but I wasn’t going to settle for anything less than the big buck I had studied in trail camera photos for the last few months. Moving east and west was simple and quick as the gap between rows had short grass. The problems arose when you needed to travel north or south because crossing through a row of blueberry bushes was noise and often alerted deer of our presence.

Big deer aren’t stupid. You don’t grow that large being reckless. This buck was cagy, attentive and smart. He would only show himself at dawn and dusk. I managed to play cat and mouse with him a handful of times in September, he was a formidable foe and bested me numerous times. No two encounters were the same, one day he would be too close to draw my bow unnoticed, the next he would bust me before I closed the distance. I tried an assortment of tactics; I stalked in, waited in ambush, I even tried a ground blind but nothing had worked. I was persistent and patient, I knew he would slip up if I stayed smart and dedicated.


October 3rd started like every other hunt, I parked my truck, threw on my camo, laced up my boots, checked my bow and sprayed down with some scent killer. I game-planned with my brother who had been busted by this deer a few days prior. We walked in and split up, he took the west side along the fence line and I took the east side. The blueberry rows were 200 meters long, I was on one end and my brother the other. We walked at the same pace, sneaking along and looking down each row. If there were deer in the rows they would be between us, and one of us would have an opportunity to set up an ambush. We progressed through the rows, glassing up any deer between us, checking to see if it was The One, and moving along. We were nearing the end, then we spotted him and he was heading my way. I knelt down 5 rows back from the row he was traveling on and waited patiently. I had been here before, I was focused, I was ready. After what felt like an eternity, he stepped out from the row and I let him take a few steps before I drew my bow. As I found my anchor point on my cheek, he looked in my direction, I focused on his vitals, settled my 20 yard pin and squeezed the trigger. The silence of the dawning day was interrupted by a thud. The arrow found its mark, the buck kicked out his hind legs, turned, and ran as fast as he could back the way he came. My broadhead had sliced through his vital organs and I heard him pile up 40 yards from where I hit him.

I was honored to harvest this deer, a deer I had watched for so long, a deer I had had close encounters with so many times before. It was over. I had achieved my goal of harvesting this mature blacktail buck. I could have harvested a lesser deer with a lot less effort, but it was the challenge that made this deer so special. This deer resides on the wall in my home as a memory of a great pursuit, as a reminder that accomplishments are only as great as the trials and tribulations you overcome to achieve them.


I knew this was a special deer to me but I didn’t know truly how big he was until I decided to bring the antlers down to the annual BC Hunting Show hosted by Abbotsford in March of 2012. My wife named him Bert because she felt he resembled the Sesame Street character due to his tall and narrow stature. Bert will always be a special deer to me, and now he will be remembered in the record book for the truly incredible deer he was.

First Lite Research & Development Team member, Lorne Trousdell, lives and hunts in BC.

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