From Alabama to British Columbia is a long way to go to hug someone who doesn’t want to be hugged.
Brett Winford doesn’t make a habit of wrapping his arms around men he barely knows, but he admits he did it — once — in 2007.
That was the third and last year the Shelby County, Ala., homebuilder traveled to British Columbia to hunt deer with outfitter Gary Drinkhall. Brett was one of five guys, all from the Birmingham area, who’d booked because one in their midst had highly recommended the operation.
Alabama might have one of the largest deer herds in North America, but hunters are more apt to find a hundred dollar bill on the sidewalk than a truly world-class buck in their sights. Thus, western Canada attracts lots of people who say y’all.
On the second day of his ’07 trip, when the outfitter was assigning hunters to guides (chauffeurs), Brett thought — and was relieved that —he was riding with Gary. The other driver was an old ranch hand named Harvey, a super nice guy who didn’t know squat about deer hunting.
“That’s not a put-down,” Brett said. “Harvey just wasn’t a hunter.”
Before the trucks headed out, however, he was told he was sitting in the wrong vehicle; he was supposed to go with Harvey.
The drive from camp to the shooting house he was supposed to occupy took 45 minutes, which meant they arrived about 30 minutes after daybreak. Brett didn’t say anything, but his confidence took a serious nosedive.
It didn’t help his frame of mind when Harvey explained that they’d have to walk 150 yards to the stand and use some strips of carpet to plug the 3-inch gaps between the house’s floor and the canvas walls. But at least it wasn’t too cold.
The temperature was in the low 20s, balmy for a place that sometimes sees the mercury plummet far below zero.
The box stand was about 8 feet off the ground, atop masonry scaffolding. The frame was covered in canvas (except for the gap), and there was a chair.
After he was inside, Brett began arranging the carpet strips to cover the gaps, more to keep his scent inside than to keep out the wind. But when he glanced out the window, he saw an enormous buck about 100 yards distant and wasted no time in throwing lead at it.
Harvey heard the shot before he reached the truck, and he turned around and headed back, fearful that Brett’s rifle had accidentally discharged. He arrived to find Brett shaking like a rattlesnake’s tail.
The deer, bigger than anything he’d ever seen while hunting, had disappeared so quickly after he fired, Brett had no idea if he’d even hit it.
When the men walked to where the estimated 300-pound buck had been standing, Brett’s uncertainty vanished. It was lying a mere 30 yards from there.
Brett, overcome with joy, hugged Harvey, who wasn’t so sure he wanted to be hugged.
“What’s the deal?” Harvey asked, both puzzled and a little taken aback.
“I just wanted to thank him. That was my best deer ever,” Brett said. “But he couldn’t understand how anyone could get so fired up over killing a deer.”
Back at camp, Brett kidded his buddies, particularly those who were University of Alabama fans, that he owed his success to his lucky Auburn University cap. He even offered to loan it to one guy, who absolutely refused to touch it.
When Brett and one of the guides were on their way to the airport, save for a stop to collect something at a farmhouse, they spotted a black wolf still on land they could hunt. The driver stopped the flatbed, and Brett got out, unpacked and loaded his rifle.
He managed to roll the running animal with his second shot.
Later, when they returned to camp with the lumpy rug, Brett’s UA friend grabbed the Auburn cap. He wound up shooting a very nice 12- or 13-pointer. In fact, four of the five filled their tags.
“In all seriousness, I was just in the right place at the right time,” Brett said. “If we’d arrived at my stand earlier or later, I probably wouldn’t have even seen this deer.
“The hunt couldn’t have lasted more than 10 minutes,” he added.
That was the last year Brett went to east-central British Columbia. After 2007, the bottom fell out of the housing market, forcing him to hunt closer to home.
He’s done pretty well, too, but that’s a story for another time.
Editor’s Note: To learn more about hunting opportunities in one of Canada’s most overlooked provinces, check out Tracks BC and High Prairie Outfitters at www.hpoutfitters.com, or email them: email@example.com.
Hunter: Brett Winford
BTR Score: 193 1/8
– Photos by Steve Lucas
This article was published in the July 2014 edition of Rack Magazine. Subscribe today to have Rack Magazine delivered to your home. Read Recent RACK Articles:
• Listen to the Locals: The man told them all the big deer were shot during rainy-nasty weather . . .
• Four Shots, One Buck and a Very Dead Phone: Typically speaking, Jeff Sims’ Franklin County, Ind., buck is but an average mature 5x5. Add the nine irregular points worth nearly 40 inches, however, and average becomes world-class.
• Footlongs for Four: Half of this Kentucky Stud’s Uprights are At Least 12 Inches Long!