Hunting whitetail deer has been a genuine passion of mine since taking a yearling doe at the tender age of 12 with an old Stevens 30-30 on my very first hunt back in the fall of 1961. The annual activity of chasing these wily critters has gone through a lot of changes for me over the 55 years I have endulged; but one thing that has remained constant is the fervor and obsession that overcomes me each year as the leaves begin to turn color, then flutter to the ground. I can’t help but get caught up in the anticipation of grand successes and making new memories as the annual rut draws near at Buffalo Point.
Four years ago, when I experienced my first hunt at Buffalo Point, which is just over the Canadian border on the shores of legendary Lake of the Woods, my deer hunting experience reached a new and wonderful plateau. I had never experienced whitetail hunting like that served up by the magical forests and unique wilderness of the Buffalo Point First Nation. This past November a half dozen ACF members once again crossed the U.S.-Canadian border in search of adventures and whitetail hunting extraordinaire, and we were not to be disappointed.
Joining us on the 2016 Buffalo Point Combo Hunt for the very first time was Fred Ode from Ohio and Claude Davenport from Alabama. This was Fred’s first ever HBM hunt and he proved to be an excellent addition to our crew both in the field and also in the arena of B.S., which is usually where most of the fun at our get-togethers occurs. Claude Davenport is a seasoned veteran of our HBM Hunt Club and has hunted with us in Texas and Canada for nigh onto fifteen years now.
Gene Strie from Minnesota is also a veteran of this hunt with four years under his belt and nearly twenty years of hunting with the club. Karl Anderson, also of Minnesota, was there for his second consecutive whitetail hunt at the Point. Karl is also the only wheelchair hunter we have ever had at this hunt, but under the keen leadership and ingenuity of Drew Thunder, our guide and Buffalo Point’s Gamekeeper, Karl has managed to score a nice buck on each trip.
Claude, Fred and I arrived the day before the hunt was to officially begin and got settled into our cabins located along the north shoreline of Buffalo Point. It seems that unpacking at the Point always takes much longer than it should, simply because it is so very necessary and unavoidable to stop what you are doing… countless times… to stare out the window or walk out onto deck or the lawn just to take in the natural beauty that surrounds you in every direction; or to excitedly point out a deer or some other wild wonder flaunting its handsome uniqueness unashamedly.
Drew arrived shortly after we reached our cabins to meet and greet us and to begin to discuss his plan of action for the following day. Once introductions had been made and the group began to warmly gel, we broke out our crossbows and a target to make sure that they were geared for glory and dialed in to perfection. Once that task was done, there was nothing left to do but kick back and visit until it was time to head up to the Center for supper.
The Center is the social headquarters of Buffalo Point, which includes, but is not limited to the clubhouse for the Lake of the Sandhills Golf Course, the Convention Center, the Casino (which proudly boasts of being a dozen slot machines strong), and our favorite hangout, the Fire and Water Bistro where we would spend many hours over the next week taking our meals. The Bistro is also the central location of the Arena of B.S. I wrote about earlier. Many fine hours would be spent there in the company of good men, each dedicated to telling even better stories to while away the hours when we were not in the woods.
Karl Anderson was coming in from out west where he had been hunting mule deer and wouldn’t be arriving until a day or two after the hunt began. Gene had to work the Presidential election in his home township and wouldn’t be arriving in camp until late Wednesday. It was kind of a ragged hunt this year as far as arrival and departure times, but we were sure that everyone would be successful…that had never failed to be the case on the whitetail hunt at Buffalo Point.
The next morning Claude, Fred and I headed into the field under Drew’s expert leadership and as the day broke, we were all situated and ready to kill deer. That first morning, Fred took a nice 9-pointer. As for Claude and me, we saw deer that first day, but due to a lack of size, arrows did not fly and deer did not die.
The second morning, as Drew and I were driving into Claude’s stand to retrieve him for breakfast, we came upon a dying buck before we even got into the clearing that the man from Alabama had been guarding. He had just shot it a few minutes before we arrived. We knew, before he did, that his shot had been true and that he had bagged his first Buffalo Point Buck…and also, the very first deer he had ever taken with a crossbow. It was an exciting moment in the life of that 80 year old hunter, that in spite of numerous physical limitations and old war injuries that cause the man great pain and suffering, he still marches forward looking for new adventures and opportunities to expand his hunting knowledge.
That afternoon, as I watched smaller bucks pass along the trails that crisscrossed the swampy wilderness in front of my stand, a stout 10-pointer came marching into my amphitheater of adventure. I didn’t even pick up my camera; the instant I saw the whitetail, I recognized it as a shooter. Slowly bring my crossbow to my shoulder, I quickly found the animal in my scope, place the 20 yard reticule on its lower chest, squeezed the trigger of the Scorpyd, slamming the broadhead through the surprised whitetail’s heart and breaking its front leg on the opposite side of its body. The doomed stag stumbled away for a mere 20 yards before doing a complete somersault and then collapsing into a pile, stone cold dead. It was only two days into the hunt and already, each of us had taken a buck.
On the third day, Fred decided to head back to Grand Forks to catch a plane back to Ohio. The firearm opener in Ohio was taking place in a couple of days and Fred wanted to be there to participate. He was however, replaced in the field by Karl, who had arrived the evening before, shortly after dark. We all drew a blank on days three & four. We were seeing a lot of whitetails every time we were on the stand; in fact we were amazed by the number of yearling bucks we were seeing from every stand. Dozens of spikes, three and four pointers, but nothing that we deemed large enough to dirty an arrow with. Claude broke the drought by taking another buck out of the gene-pool on the fifth morning of the hunt. Gene arrived late that morning, just in time to help us retrieve Claude’s second buck.
I deciding to stay an extra day to spend some time with Geno (who I deem as my brother from another mother) and Karl since they had both arrived late. I also wanted to be there when their deer went down to take the photos. So when Claude left to return to Alabama on what should have been the normal departure day, I stayed behind with Gene and Karl to serve as their mascot, I guess. On Thursday, no deer were brought to the meat pole, but the smaller bucks were once again everywhere.
On Friday I was headed for home, I had stuff to do the next day, back in Minnesota. Drew and I agreed that I would sit in the blind until 10:00 a.m. and then return to the cabin to pack my truck and, very sadly, depart for home. However, at ten, as I began to pack my gear, a doe wandered out of the woods and began to graze. Nothing better than a live decoy, I thought, so I sat back and waited. She suddenly came to full attention gazing beyond the blind where I sat concealed.
Long story short I brought down a big 8-pointer.
Drew, who was waiting outside my blind when I opened the door joined me in retrieving the deer, then took over getting it skinned out and quartered so that I could head for home by mid-afternoon. To make things even more interesting, both Karl and Geno shot last minute bucks also, giving our group a ‘seven deer for five hunters’ finish by Saturday evening. And once again, it had been an outstanding Buffalo Point whitetail hunt!
Heartfelt thanks go out to Drew Thunder and his family for the warm hospitality that they showed our team on this hunt. They are very special people that greatly enhance the experience far more than they probably know and we are all very grateful to them for what they do. We would also like to thank the Buffalo Point staff members and the colorful locals that always add so much enjoyment to our treks into their magical and enchanting community. You are all great and should be very proud of the fine job that you do in hosting and welcoming visitors to Buffalo Point.
If you would like to join us for the 2017 Buffalo Point Combo Hunt or the 2017 Spring Bear Hunt at Buffalo Point, I would suggest you get your reservations in early. There are only six spots on each hunt and they will be filled quickly.