Recent New Brunswick Trophy Bucks
Since we began Wilderness Obsession, we've often made a point of driving home the catastrophic situation in which the New Brunswick whitetail deer herd finds itself in. We've elaborated, at length, some of the many issues which currently face the herd and some potential solutions we think are necessary if we ever want things to recover. Also, we’re well known to be meat eaters, and ensure every piece of the game we harvest is utilized. It’s something we are proud to pass on to our children, and anyone else who will listen for that matter!
With all of that in mind, this article is something completely different, and today we're going to try to shine a bright light on some of the positives of living and hunting in New Brunswick with regards to sheer immense size. Make no mistake, the deer herd is struggling mightily, but we're still blessed to live in a province containing some real trophy bucks, no matter how you measure. Today we’re going to travel around every corner of this beautiful province and talk to hunters who’ve had success many of us can only dream about.
We begin at the most southerly point of New Brunswick, the island of Grand Manan. The year was 2012, and the Wilderness Obsession crew was making our first venture to the island for archery whitetail season. We were hosted by Ian and Greg Clinch, two family friends, and two of the very best whitetail hunters we've been lucky enough to meet. There are no other hunters more influential to the way we now set up and practice our bow hunting deer setups than Ian and Greg. This first story focuses on Greg, and the true behemoth he managed to harvest with his bow during the fall of 2012. This story has a special place in our hearts and minds, because we were there and really revel in the beauty and accomplishment of the buck.
When we first arrived on the island, Greg and Ian showed us trail camera photos of this buck they were chasing, and we were shocked. For many years, we've heard a common description from Grand Manan; loads of deer, but they're small. In the several years we've been going there since, this has proven to be very true, one of the largest does we've harvested weighed 80 pounds. 60 would be a more apt average for us. However, that being said, this buck certainly didn't fit the criteria! We thought they were pulling the wool over our eyes, this buck looked massive, with 5 long equal points on each side and a wide spread. "They don't get much bigger than this on the island" said Greg. What amazed us more than the photos, was that only a couple of days into our week, Greg texted me to say "Just shot the buck!" Only a couple of hours later, I had my hands on this rack, and the memory of Greg literally standing inside of the spread of this buck will be in my memory forever.
It takes a very skilled hunter to be able to pinpoint, track, and execute on a buck of this calibre with a bow. The Clinches certainly fit this description, and we're fortunate to have learned and hunted with two of the best New Brunswick has to offer. They show all of us that even on the smallest island, if you know where to look, you just might find your biggest buck.
For our next adventure in monster NB deer, we travel almost as far away from Grand Manan as we can get while staying in New Brunswick; all the way to Riley Brook, located in northwest NB. Mathieu Diotte’s uncle and long-time hunting partner and mentor, Rolland Diotte, called a member of the big game record club asking if they could score a deer for them. This buck however, was still walking around at the time! Somehow, whether it be luck, or dedication or both, Mathieu harvested the buck of a lifetime (arguably several lifetimes) only a few days later. This non-typical whitetail is perhaps the biggest non-typical buck taken in New Brunswick in the last decade or more! When anyone looks at the photograph of this buck, it's hard to say anything, except "Wow!” This buck, harvested in 2015, proves that sometimes, confidence pays off.
Transitioning from pure confidence to sheer persistence, the next hunter, this time from central New Brunswick, made his last opportunity count in 2012. The last day of rifle season, Leigh Buckley remembers feeling relaxed "like the outcome didn't matter", but the outcome this time would be so much different than he was used to! Leigh grabbed his grandfather's rifle and headed out the door to his stand like he had done so many other times. This day, however, he wouldn't even get there before a monarch of the forest would catch his eye. As he was casually looking for the next rock to step on, a glint of yellow from the massive 171-5/8" antlers caught his eye. The buck was making his way past Leigh's stand and was about to step out of his life forever when, for some reason, he turned to look back. Leigh made no mistake and dropped this buck in its tracks.
Continuing further southwest in New Brunswick, this time to Newbridge, where we meet up with Stephen McKinley, for a buck that was truly a family affair. During the fall of 2008, the four McKinley brothers had seen trail camera photos of a special buck on their farm. This buck, nicknamed "Dagger" because of the knife-like G2 tine he carried, had been teasing them all with repeated appearances on the camera. Like most brothers, the McKinleys enjoyed themselves bragging about which one would finally "put the tag on Dagger". It turned out, Stephen would be the one to succeed where many others had failed during the life of this old whitetail.
A lot of hunting stories begin with "on the last morning of the season", and this is no exception. The last day of whitetail season 2008 was one, literally, for the record books. "[Snow] flakes so big you could feel them landing on your hat" remembers Sheldon. At about 9:30AM, the call came in on the radio, Stephen had done it! The buck of a lifetime, whose nearly perfect 10 points grossed 147-6/8" was on the ground, and the entire clan of brothers were all there to take part in the celebrations.
Next up on this whirlwind tour of New Brunswick, we bounce back up top and to the Northeast, our next tale of success comes from Sunny Corner, located on the banks of the beautiful Miramichi River. Sometimes it takes confidence, sometimes persistence, and other times it just takes luck. Albert Richard was just in the right place at the right time. Coming home late from work and a doctor’s appointment on November 20, 2013, Albert knew he didn’t have enough time to get set up on his favourite stand but wasn’t going to let that stop him! A short walk down a bike trail at the back of his property later and Albert locked eyes with what can only be described as a monarch of the northern woods. Just as the brutish whitetail turned to run, Albert fired his rifle and ended the pursuit. A great tracking job followed amongst hunting friends and it wasn’t long before Albert had his hands on the 156” grossing buck.
The last stop on this adventure takes us to Wildlife Management Zone 24, nearly as far South East as you can get in the province. Allain Bourque, of Cap Pele, has a story of last chances, technology, luck, and one-upmanship all rolled up into one. On November 11, 2012, Allain was sitting for a last chance hunt in his favourite tree stand when he found that he needed to quell the boredom and the stiff legs by climbing down and stretching for a few minutes. While on the ground, he took the opportunity to blow on his grunt tube a couple of times, and went back up to his seat.
Allain says that he was actually sitting there texting his brother congratulations about his nephew’s first buck when he heard a telltale snap in the trees in front of him. Slowly, he lowered his cell phone and picked up his rifle and walking directly toward him through the thick brush was a massive non-typical buck that was later measured at over 189”! As fate would have it, the course the buck was on meant that Allain would only get a single shot opportunity and the window was small if it happened. Luckily, the buck took a few more steps, stopped and presented Allain with exactly what he needed: “I knew it was the only chance I would get, so I had to make it count.” The mortally wounded buck continued his course even after taking the shot and ended up falling only 20 feet from the stand when Allain was sitting; there would be no tracking job that day! The only thing left for him to do was make sure that his brother, nephew, and all the boys at camp never forget this buck!
As mentioned at the outset of our journey, the whitetail herd in New Brunswick is in dire straits, and we need to do all we can to promote the recovery through ethical pursuit and proper conservation. In the meantime, we believe that we should celebrate the successes of those among us who, even well past the “Good Old Days” for New Brunswick deer hunting still manage to show us that throughout it all, NB has and still does provide some of the biggest deer in the whole world. All we need to do is get out there and get after it! While often it seems there are no big bucks left in the woods, to steal a phrase you might have heard before; “The truth is out there”.
Wilderness Obsession would like to thank the team from New Brunswick Big Game “Club” for putting us in touch with most of these fortunate hunters and sharing the details and photographs with us for all of you to enjoy. If you enjoyed this collection of short tales, you’re sure to enjoy their 5th Edition of New Brunswick’s Official Big Game Record Book, which contains some of these stories and many, many more, including Moose and Bears! They invite you to seek them out if you have a story, or even a trophy you’d like to have measured and recorded in the annals of history. The 5th Edition is now available in our Obsession Shop and makes a great coffee table book and conversation piece. Try to keep your jaw off the floor when leafing through it, we dare you!
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