Thank you for reading The Whitetail Shooters Big Buck Blog and the story of the Harold Smith buck.
British Columbia has long been considered a hunters paradise. And rightfully so as every big game animal in North America can be found within the borders of the Province. The area just north of the Washington and Idaho borders is also known as a sleeper area for trophy quality whitetails. It’s this area where the Harold Smith buck was taken in the 1950’s.
No witnesses can be found that may have seen the buck, and no photos have ever been produced of the deer either. Both could have been deciding factors in what has become one of the whitetail worlds greatest debates.
The Harold Smith Buck and its Controversy
The Harold Smith buck has become a significant piece of hunting history, whether you believe it to be a Mule deer or a Whitetail is where the controversy lies. Many antler experts and collectors, the very people that actually study such things, have long believed it to be a Mule deer. For many years the Boone & Crockett club, North America’s most recognized big game record keeping organization, would not allow the buck to be entered in either the Mule deer or Whitetail categories. The club’s reason being there was no proof of the deer being of either species.
The buck is seen here mounted with a whitetail cape, which shouldn’t be used to determine what type of deer it is.
The Significance of Getting it Right
What makes the controversy so significant is this fact, at 279 3/8 inches of antler the Harold Smith buck will become a Provincial record in either of the two categories it may enter. Also of significance is the fact that it would also become Canada’s number two non typical whitetail, falling just 3/8 of an inch short of Neil Morin’s great non typical, which is Canada’s top whitetail.
The great deer has qualities of both species. The wide sweep and deer forks of a Mule deer and the upturned beams, brows points, and boxy frame of a Whitetail. These features are what jump out to the discerning eye. However, there’s another characteristic that could seal the deal, but most will never have a chance to see it.
Could it be a Hybrid?
The antler characteristic of beading is usually quite different between Mule deer and Whitetails. Most often a Whitetail will have beading that runs up the points, or in lines. Mule deer usually bead in a circular pattern. Most people will not see this on the Harold Smith buck because they will never be close enough to the antlers to see the beading pattern. However, I found this short video produced by North American Whitetail television and it shows a close up of the beading. Click here then scroll down the page to the Harold Smith video.
As you can see in the video the beading shows no distinct pattern of either Mule deer or Whitetail. It’s this lack of dominate feature that leads many to consider the buck to be a hybrid cross between a Mule deer and Whitetail.
This is significant because hybrids cannot be entered into record books because records are distinctively species specific.
After decades of debate and controversy, the B&C club has decided to accept the buck as a whitetail and has panel scored the buck at 279 3/8 inches. The antlers will now be recognized as being from a whitetail.
I’d like to hear your opinion on whether you think this is a Mule deer, a Whitetail, or an ineligible hybrid? Please post your comments and opinions at the bottom of this page in the comments section.
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I hope you enjoyed the story of the Harold Smith buck? Thank you for reading The Whitetail Shooters Big Buck Blog!
Two Year Quest for a Giant Saskatchewan Drop Tine Buck
Thank you for reading The Whitetail Shooters Big Buck Blog and this story about a giant Saskatchewan Drop Tine buck.
When you spend two years after one particular buck the hunt takes on an element of personal challenge. As many of you know from similar accounts, the story doesn’t always end in the hunters favor. However, when the pursuit of a particular buck reaches the level of obsession, the hunter seldom quits before the very last minute of legal hunting season.
It doesn’t take long, or much pressure, before a mature whitetail realizes he’s being hunted, and once they make that realization they become almost impossible to harvest by legal means. In most cases the deer will relocate to a quieter area with little or no pressure. Or they may become nocturnal, which is a natural occurrence among mature bucks; the cover of darkness becomes their greatest ally. However, when a buck uses both tactics, relocating and becoming completely nocturnal, it suddenly becomes all but impossible to even find them within the limited allotted time of a fall hunting season. These are two of the toughest obstacles a deer hunter can overcome, and each of these tactics within itself has been the reason for many mature bucks to survive another season. It takes a seasoned and savvy hunter to pick up on these bucks and more times than not they are only setting themselves up for failure.
John Moore is just the type of hunter that will take up that type of challenge. John grew up on Cape Breton Island where he punched many of his whitetail tags while chasing bucks through the hardwood ridges, swamps and thick Spruce forests of the island. John now lives in northwest Saskatchewan and hunting here is a little different than what he was used to on Cape Breton.
John knows the importance of being within the game 365. He spends countless hours glassing fields, looking for sheds, and running trail cameras. This dedication has paid off with a wall full of above average deer, both whitetail and mule deer. Not being real keen on road hunting, John enjoys spending time glassing an area. Knowing full well that in Saskatchewan a hunter usually doesn’t have to go far before finding a shooter buck.
In 2014 he had permission to hunt a particular area for Elk and while spending time watching the fields for a good bull he kept seeing a decent number of whitetails. A couple of these bucks were of pretty good size and his attention was soon focused on a large Saskatchewan drop tine buck. After the Elk hunt was over he placed a bait and camera within the area in hopes of capturing daylight photos of one of the bigger bucks that were in the area. However, after a couple card pulls it became obvious the bucks were almost completely nocturnal. Not one to give up, John looked closer at the area and after studying a topographical map he found an area a couple kilometers away that seemed like it should be quieter for the deer. He relocated his bait and reset his camera.
Three days later he checked the camera for the first time and was shocked by what he saw. There, in all his glory, was the kind of Saskatchewan drop tine buck that fills most hunters’ dreams. He had it all; tall, chocolate antlers, good mass, long points and great character including a nice drop tine. It took John all of one second to know this was the buck he was going to focus on during the 2014 season. But there was one minor problem; he had to wait three weeks for the season to open!
A Saskatchewan Drop Tine Buck Appears
John kept the buck fed very well, adding more peas every five to six days as well as checking the camera. The buck was like clockwork, showing up regularly every night, but therein was another problem; the buck was only showing up at night. In typical big buck fashion, the wise veteran made one daylight appearance at 11am on November 14th, but 2kms away at the original bait site! Then, once again being true to mature whitetails, the big Saskatchewan drop tine buck completely vanished!
John hunted that first bait site for several days but the big buck never showed and the camera indicated he wasn’t around after dark either. He decided it was time to move back to his second site. Bingo, the buck was using the second bait site! Despite the camera showing only night time appearances John still put in his time hoping the big buck would make one mistake. But it wasn’t meant to be; despite sitting several days straight from daylight until dark, the season ended without a daylight sighting of the buck.
John decided to keep the bait active in the hopes of keeping the buck in the area for shed hunting. On the days of December 9, 10 and 11, the great buck was making two daylight visits to the bait, undoubtedly driven by post rut hunger. December 11th would be the last picture John would get of the buck that winter and he was worried the monarch had been lost to winter stress or possibly pulled down by wolves or coyotes. John covered the entire area during spring shed hunting hoping he’s at least find the buck dead. But there was nothing, not a single trace the great buck had ever been in the area.
A New Year and a New Plan
The thought of the buck was haunting John, he couldn’t accept the idea that the big deer was dead. As most vertebral trophy whitetail hunters know, mature bucks don’t die easy. Just because they disappear doesn’t mean they are dead. John was well aware of this fact and it’s what kept his hopes alive.
It took until October first for the big buck to finally make an appearance. He was now bigger, with even more character and he also added a huge drop tine to his left antler! To say John was excited and relieved would be an understatement. He was now more determined as ever before to add the great buck to his wall of honor.
John kept baiting within the bucks home range but due to work commitments was only able to hunt three days in October. It didn’t really matter anyway as the buck was living up to its reputation and living life under the cover of darkness. But John had a different game plan this year. After an entire year of thinking about the deer and its patterns, he decided to abandon the ground blind and instead he built a 14 foot tall elevated stand. He hoped this would help keep his scent away from the deer and also allow him better visibility of the entire area.
The Saskatchewan weather was warm during November of 2015 and warm weather at this time of year usually means nocturnal deer. Sure enough, the buck was almost completely nocturnal. But the key word is almost; the deer had made two daylight visits in November, once on the 9th and again on the 14th. Two daylight photos of the buck in two months was all the hope John Moore needed.
The Hunt for the Saskatchewan Drop Tine Buck Begins
On November 22nd, John left the house telling his wife, “Today’s the day he’s gonna die”. He was in the stand and comfortable by 8:30 am. At 4:00pm a small buck walked into the bait. Normally a little buck would be of no interest to John but this one was often seen with the big drop tine buck, so his appearance immediately put the hunter on high alert.
Suddenly John heard the leaves rustle but thought it was just a doe walking through the high grass. He decided to look below him anyway and when he did he almost had a heart attack, standing directly below him was the drop tine buck! Having forgotten to turn the magnification down on his rifle scope, when he first pulled his gun to his shoulder all he could see in the scope was hair. John reminded himself not to panic, and with trembling hands he managed to adjust the power ring down to six. By now the buck had taken a few steps away from the stand, he was a mere 14 feet away when the 300 Weatherby barked; the buck died instantly.
After he calmed down a little and realized the buck would never move again, he sent a text message to his wife, “He’s down!” is all he sent. Then he sent a text to his Son telling him to bring the pickup. He then climbed down from the stand and finally, after two long seasons and hundreds of hours invested, he was able to put his hands on the monarch. “What a rush!” John told me. To hunt exclusively for two years after one particular deer, not once seeing the animal in the daylight, after the constant roller coaster of highs and lows, the disappearing acts, and to finally be successful on that particular buck, is something very few hunters will ever experience. It takes a special hunter with a specific mind set to pull it off.
When John’s wife and son finally arrived the first thing he said to them was, “Now what am I going to do? I have to find another one for next year!” John Moore has a Whitetail Obsession!
Some deer are built for scoring well and some deer, while being bigger, just don’t do well under a tape. But score isn’t everything. Johns buck taped out at a very respectable 164 inches. However, that number is no indication of just how big this deer really is. Great mass, width, height, and great character topped by a huge drop tine, make this deer an envy of any trophy hunter.
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