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The Rut and Rifle

Collin Helsdon occupies a ground blind across the field from his stepfather Jeff in Southwestern Ontario’s Bruce County. • Credit: Jess Helsdon

It’s opening morning of the November gun hunt near Walkerton. In the pre-dawn darkness, I have a feeling last night's predictions by Luke Schreders of Wingfeather Outfitters are accurate. Schreders told me this is would be the first time in several years the peak of the rut lines up with the gun season opener and the deer would be active.

From my deer stand, I see something moving slowly. I’m unsure if it’s a deer until it bolts at the sound of an ATV approaching on a neighbouring property.

Bruce County is one of the more southerly areas with a rifle season for deer in Ontario. It’s my first time on a guided deer hunt and I am hopeful that my 16-year-old stepson Collin and I will succeed. This morning Collin is in a ground blind across the field from me and I’m in a tree stand overlooking the field.

An hour after the first deer was frightened off, I see movement on the far side of the field. I lift my rifle, preparing for a shot on the buck. Then, at about 200 yards, it stops and stares in my direction. I don’t want to take a chance on this deer being scared off and I gently squeeze the trigger. The deer hightails it across the field.

I watch a flock of turkeys while I wait for Schreders' guides to arrive. We head to the field to look for signs of blood and hair. We find none and conclude that I missed.

A New Day

Schreders does extensive scouting and uses food plots and nutrients to keep deer in the area of his stands. As the sky brightens on the second morning, I see two deer in the field at about 250 yards. I watch them feed for ten minutes before they bolt at the distant approach of an ATV. The rest of the morning is quiet with the exception of a coyote and the return of turkeys. Collin’s morning is similar except he had turkeys within yards of his blind.

As the greyness of the afternoon turns darker, I’m again hopeful the deer will return to the field to feed at dusk. With about ten minutes of legal shooting time left I see movement in the fencerow to my left. I make out the faint outline of a deer.

I figure it will either come my way or head towards Collin. It slowly trots my way. I raise the gun, follow it and see the outline of antlers. I am thankful for the brightness of the scope on the Savage package gun I’m shooting. I squeeze the trigger at about 60 yards. It drops on the spot.

ontario white tail deer
Jeff Helsdon took this a bucket deer on the last evening of his southwestern Ontario rifle hunt in Bruce County. (Photo credit: Jeff Helsdon)

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