I have been very fortunate to take a few good whitetails bucks in my hunting career over the past years. Prior to hunting in Alberta in November 2005, I had taken two mule deer. One was a small 4x4 taken in Colorado with a muzzle-loader in September of 1999. The second one was also taken in Colorado with a rifle in 2003. It was a much larger 4x4. Both hunts I remember in great detail, not only because of whom I was hunting with, (several good friends) but also because of the scenery.

But I have that urge that most of us have, shooting a monster deer. In this case a monster mule deer. Most of the western states you need to draw for a tag. Some areas in the west hold some very big deer, while others donít. You can go to Mexico and hunt for some very large mule deer, but those hunts are very pricy.

I have read several articles and have seen many hunting videos about mule deer hunting in Alberta. They grow them very big there. They also manage their mule deer in Alberta. In most areas of Alberta if you are a resident it takes a few years to draw a tag. Most outfitters in Alberta get between 10-12 tags per year for their clients to use.

I decided that if I was going to have a better chance at a monster mule deer I might need to try hunting in Alberta. I spent months of research trying to decide whom to hunt with. While attending a Safari Club International Fundraiser I saw a mule deer hunt that was being auctioned off. I talked to a couple of hunters that were at the fundraiser who knew the outfitter and highly recommended the hunt. So I bought the rifle mule deer hunt that had been donated to SCI. The name of the outfitter was Mark Cooper.

I wasnít able to go the following year because of an injury, so the hunt was pushed back to 2005. My hunt was scheduled as a 1x1, 6-day trophy mule deer hunt. I was to arrive in Calgary, Alberta on Sunday November 12th. Yes that is the same week as the deer opener in Michigan. But it is also the peak of the rut for mule deer in Alberta. Besides I usually donít have much success in Michigan anymore and would rather be somewhere were I would at least have a chance of seeing some bucks!

Mark picked me up at the airport with Mike Beecher from New York. It took about three hours to get to the cabin that we would be calling our home for the next several days. We arrived about an hour before dark, so we were able to drive around and do some scouting. Mark called this area the plains. It was mostly rolling hills, made up of fields. There were some small mountains. The base of the mountains there were pockets of trees from the bottom to the top of these small mountains. The reason I called them small mountains is because you could see the Rocky Mountains off in the distance. We were about 100 miles north of Montana and about 100 miles east of British Columbia.

During that hour that we spent driving around looking for deer we saw several bucks that I would have been very happy with taking home with me. Mark said they were too small and we would see a lot more and some a lot bigger. You could tell the rut was in full swing, the bucks were following the does everywhere. In that time period we must have seen over 100 deer and about 15 bucks.

I had expected the weather to be very cold with a lot of snow on the ground. But it wasnít, it was very mild and there wasnít any snow on the ground. We went back to the cabin and started to get our hunting gear together for the next day. After seeing what we had just seen, our expectations and excitement was running very high. Needless to say I didnít get much sleep that night. Another reason why I didnít get much sleep is because Mike is used to getting up at 4am every morning for work. Which didnít change much while he was on this trip.

One thing that you can usually depend on happening in Alberta is the wind blowing. It blows just about all of the time in Alberta. But, it usually doesnít effect the deer movement. With it being windy there most of the time, the deer are used to it. I was very happy that we had mild temps to go along with the wind.

Our first morning of hunting came very quickly. Before I knew it I was dressed, had the vehicle loaded up and I was ready to go. This was a 1X1, which means one guide per hunter. I was going to hunt with Mark. Mark had another guide that was going to be guiding Mike Beecher for the week.

It was a very beautiful sight watching the sunrise over the Rockies. As soon as the sun rose enough to see, I started seeing deer everywhere. Both Mark and I were driving the countryside glassing the fields for bucks. Mark had grown up in this area of Alberta. He knew most of the ranchers and had permission to hunt just about every ranch we drove by. I really had a great feeling about my first day of hunting.

The first couple of hours we had seen several bucks that were in the 160 to 170-class range. I had told Mark that I was looking for a real monster mule deer buck to harvest on this trip. Something in the 180 class or bigger. In the two previous weeks of hunting Mark had 100% success with his hunters. They took some very nice bucks.

As we drove by this one ranch house, Mark pulled in the driveway while we glassed the small mountain located several hundred yards away. Mark said to me, ďthere is a pretty good buck there on the side of the mountain; we need to take a closer look at itĒ. Just about the time we started getting out of the truck, the rancher came out of the house. He and Mark were very good friends. You could tell that he liked to talk and I thought to myself the longer we stay here the more likely the buck will be gone once we get back there.

Mark told him we would stop by for coffee after we took a closer look at the buck we had seen. After walking a few hundred yards we stopped to take another look at the buck. Mark said there is no doubt that this is a shooter. The buck had been chasing a doe around the side of the mountain. I was hoping that the doe didnít take off in the other direction with the buck on her heels.

As we got closer we ran into another buck one that I also thought was a shooter. This buck had several does that he was following around and we had not seen him before. The buck was more concerned with the does than he was with us. We sneaked up to a wire fence. We couldnít take a chance trying to climb over the fence and couldnít go through it. I used my range finder. The first buck was about 200 yards away; the monster was about 400 yards away and following the doe away from us.

I was beginning to think the closer buck was starting to look a lot better then it did before. Then all of a sudden the doe that the big buck was following turned around and was heading back in our direction. When the big buck was about 250 yards away I tried to get a good solid rest on the fence post. But I couldnít, the post was too shaky. I had some shooting sticks with me. I pulled them out and laid my Browning A-Bolt, 270 cal rifle on the sticks. It gave me a lot steadier rest then the fence post. After finding the buck in my cross hairs, I held my breath and squeezed the trigger. I thought I heard the bullet hit the deer. But, for some reason I wasnít sure I had hit the deer and I didnít see it run off or go down. But that sick feeling in the bottom of my stomach didnít last long, because Mark was slapping me on my back and congratulating me on our success.

We both started walking up the side of the mountain toward the last spot that we thought we saw the deer. After getting to where I thought the deer should be laying, it wasnít. I was starting to get that sick feeling in my stomach again. After several minutes of searching, Mark located my deer. The closer I got to it the bigger it got; there was not ground swinkage on this deer. I couldnít believe how big it was, it was the biggest mule deer that I had ever seen.

It was a 5x5, with high tine length and great mass. It took Mark and I several minutes to drag it down the side of the mountain. Mark then walked back to the rancherís house and came back riding his ATV. We loaded the buck onto the ATV and drove it over to the open field. Mark then drove the ATV back to the rancherís house, picked up the rancher and returned in his truck. We then took several pictures and loaded the buck into the back of Markís truck.

The rancher had a very good sense of humor. He started to get on me about shooting his monster buck that he was going to shoot. He later said that it was the biggest buck that he had seen.

As we headed into town to the butcherís shop I couldnít believe that my hunt was over. By 9:00am on the first morning I had shot the biggest buck that I have ever taken. I normally never shoot anything the first day, but this buck was too big to pass up. As we drove into town we must have seen 90 to 100 mule deer in different fields.

You know you have a good buck when the butcher comes out takes a look at your deer, then walks over and shakes your hand. He then went back inside and brought out several other employees and showed them the deer. It was the second biggest buck he had seen so far this year.

We spent the rest of the afternoon caping and cutting up the buck. After returning to camp Mike and his guide arrived, they didnít have the same success that we were lucky enough to have. They saw several bucks, but none were shooters. Needless to say we spent the rest of the evening talking about my hunt and may have had a beer or two that evening with some very fresh mule deer back straps.

The next morning arrived very early for us, it was decided that Mark would start guiding Mike and I would ride along. We spent the entire day hunting, we must have seen over 300 deer, several coyotes and a herd of elk. Many of the deer we saw were bucks, several of them were very good bucks. But Mike was holding out for something big, especially after seeing the buck that I took.

Day three was a lot like day one and two, lots of deer movement. As we drove by one ranch we saw several bucks, each of them focusing on a different doe in heat. As we started to leave that ranch we noticed two really good bucks right on the heel of a doe. They were chasing the doe in the front yard of an old ranch house. There were several large cedar trees planted in the yard and you would lose sight of them for a minute or two then they would reappear. The bucks then chased the doe out into the field. The whole time we were sitting in Markís truck 50 yards away watching.

The one buck had enough and crossed the road and we loss sight of him. The second and bigger buck continued to pursue the doe. Mike had decided that this was the buck he wanted, but that buck had enough of us and decided to leave the area. The buck ran into a ditch that was about 40 feet deep and 20 yards across. Mark knew that this was his escape route and said he would follow it for about 1 mile until he reach a wooded area. We drove the truck down the road for about one ľ of a mile. Mike and Mark jumped out and were going to sit above the ditch and wait for the buck to come through. I then continued down the road in the truck for a distance and parked it out of sight. I sat there and waited to hear the shot to ring out. After about 5 minutes I started to doubt that the buck was still going to use this ditch as an escape route. Just then I heard a shot ring out, then a few seconds later another shot.

I got back into the truck and drove it back to where I had dropped them off. I walked over to the top of the ditch and looked down. I saw one very happy hunter and one very happy guide with one very large mule deer buck lying on the ground.
As I walked down into the ditch Mikeís buck was a lot like my buck, the closer I got to it the bigger it appeared.

The buck had done just what Mark had predicted it would, he continued down the ditch and tried to use it as an escape route. Mikeís shot was over 200 yards, the first shot was a good hit but these deer are so big it didnít put him down. He took a few more steps before Mike hit him again. That shot but him down for good. We were able to drive down into the ditch to load the buck up, but not until we took several pictures of Mikeís trophy.

Mark rough scored Mikeís buck in camp that night and it scored in the low 170ís. My buck was also scored and it scored 186. In the three days we hunted I figured we must have seen over 300 deer per day. We did see one buck larger than the one that I shot. Mark figured it would score around 200 B.C. We saw it after legal shooting hours heading across a big field.

While sitting in camp that night both Mike and I decided we would go home early the next day, even with three days left in our hunt. I though I would get home and try my luck in Michigan and Mike wanted to get home and do some hunting in New York.

Beside the fact that I shot the biggest buck of my hunting career, this was one of the most enjoyable hunts that I have been on. Besides seeing 300 deer a day and the great scenery that you enjoyed everyday, hunting with Mark was a lot of fun. I have hunted with guides who have no personality, but that isnít the case with Mark. He is a lot of fun to be around, works very hard to get you a real trophy buck and isnít a bad cook either.

This isnít a cheap hunt, but itís a real trophy mule deer hunt. If you are interested in hunting with Mark and taking a TROPHY MULE DEER or if you are interested in any of the other hunts I have to offer contact me at or at 989-344-9038 or visit my web site at

Jeff Pendergraff

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