Whitetail Deer Hunting Tips & Techniques For Ontario's Bush:

The Ontario Way - Patience and Persistence Pay off when hunting the Canadian Bush

By Bob Barteck
As printed in December 2011 Mid-West Outdoors Magazine

As the sun broke the distant horizon in a colorful display the Ontario bush begins a new morning. This remote wilderness is full of activity; the rat-a-tat-tat of Wood Pecker, a flutter of a Chick a Dee's wings and one timid Snow Shoe Hare doing his best to hide his incoming white coat from the owl hooting somewhere in the distance.

Thoughts of projects at home and stresses of work begin to fade from memory. Hours of day dreams about this adventure are finally met with stark reality of being in this beautiful and mysterious place. The bow dangling a few inches from my left hand reminds me I am not just a passive spectator but, rather I am an active participant in this eco system. While my senses seem lulled into a haze by the wild symphony before me I am quick to notice the slightest movement in the nearby spruce thicket. A flicker of an ear gives way to long-faced doe nervously fidgeting. Upon closer examination a glimmer of antler takes shape trough the screen of spruce and alders. Immediately all of the other sights and sounds are muted and the entirety of my focus is at the the dark antlered bruiser.

"Patience is the key to success hunting here" said Hank Smoke of Indian Point Camp. "You must be willing to sit all day long every day you are here to give yourselves the best chance at a good buck" Hank went on to explain as I inquired about booking a hunt at his camp.

"Plan to endure bad weather too" he continued. Weather fluctuation in North West Ontario can vary greatly during the hunting seasons. The Ontario way typically relies on bait to pull the deer out of the miles and miles of thick bush. It also relies on putting in many hours sitting quietly and patiently over that bait to await one of the heavy-weight bucks Ontario is known for.

"Hunting here is very different from hunting in the Mid-West" Hank told us. "The deer numbers are much lower here. Without the use of bait you might not even see a single deer in a week of hunting" he continued.

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources confirms what Hank knows. The area near Dryden that we were hunting has an estimated deer population of 9 to 10 deer per square mile, which is significantly less than what I am used to when compared to my home hunting area in farmlands of Wisconsin.

Hank's blatantly honest depiction of tough hunting conditions and rewards coming to those who hunt hard was music to my heart. Feeling confident that his operation was perfect for what I was looking for I reserved four spots for the last week of October. I was planning the hunt for my father. As a retired teacher he now had the time to go on some well-deserved hunting adventures. Joining us would be two great friends, Matt Feder and Jason Joling.

We would be hunting during the last week of muzzleloader season. Archery season was still open also. This would give us the option to switch from his bow to a muzzleloader if the hunting got tough. We would require us to wear blaze orange regardless of which weapon we would be hunting with. We would bunk in one of Indian Point's comfortable wood heated cabins and do our own cooking for the week.

The Whitetail rut in Ontario is generally peaks in mid-November depending on the moon phase any given year. Our combo muzzleloader/archery hunt would fall during the pre-rut. The pre-rut can be an excellent time to catch the mature bucks on their feet during daylight starting to search for that first doe coming into estrus. Cold weather could help our hunting plan by increasing day time deer movement.

Arriving in camp we were warmly greeted by Cindy Smoke and after soon we were settling into our warm and cozy cabin. Our first evening Hank and his manager/ guide, Tyler Johnson, went through a nice presentation of what they had prepared for us and to expect over the next week. They had aerial photos examples of the potential for antler size and a great deal of solid advice. Their attention to detail was quite apparent and we all knew we had made a good choice in booking a hunt with them.

The next morning found us following Hank down a winding two-track to the property we would all be hunting. After a through tour of the property and the baits he and Tyler had started for us we were mostly on our own for the rest of the hunt. Of Course Hank and Tyler always available if needed.

Matt, Jason and I hung tree stands while my father chose a pop-up blind. While hanging stands we were surprised to have two does approach seemingly fearless of our presence. That afternoon we all saw several deer. The highlight that day was an encounter Jason had at last light. He had a large ten point within 30 yards but, with fading light was not confident in making an ethical bow shot. That evening he lamented in not making the shot but, we all reassured him he made the right choice and had proved his worth as a hunter for it.

This brings us back to where we started on only our second day of hunting. The wind was in my favor and the doe and buck were clueless to my existence. I watched his large antlers swing back and forth with every movement the doe made. She quickly ate a few mouthfuls of bait and quickly ran off with the buck in tow. I desperately grunted but, to no avail he was gone. The next hours passed easily with a parade of does and small bucks. All the deer acted calmly as if not to have a care. Early in the afternoon that fidgety doe was back and she still had that big buck following her. Then as quick as she appeared she ran off again. His head swung back and forth between an easy meal and the direction his reluctant girlfriend left. His dilemma was obvious, food or love. Choosing his stomach over his heart proved to be a fatal mistake. As I drew my bow a whiskey-jack landed right in front of him. He was focused on the bird a few inches from his face when the arrow zipped through his lungs. Soon Dad and I were admiring how stunningly beautiful and absolutely huge he was. It was a fantastic father and son moment.

The remainder of our week the weather took a nasty turn. A cold wet mix of rain and snow fell throughout the next days. While Matt and Jason fought hypothermia in their tree stands on all day sits Dad was warm and comfortable with a small heater in his well concealed blind. The deer movement was unaffected by the weather and lots of does and small bucks were frequenting the baits. On the third day of the hunt a little after Noon the steady downpour was disturbed by a single shot from Dad's muzzleloader. A beautiful white racked ten pointer was on his was home to Wisconsin too.

Matt and Jason continued to endure the foul weather. Matt's chance finally came on Wednesday but, something went wrong with the shot and the tall eight point will haunt his dreams for years to come. In all Matt and Jason logged 70 hours of hard hunting that week through the foulest of weather but, as often is the case in hunting they returned home with only memories of their time in the wild remote place. I greatly admire their positive/never give up attitudes. In the end all of us had shot opportunities and had taken two great bucks. This hunt had exceeded our expectations and will be returning to hunt the Ontario way in 2012.

Hunting in Ontario is easy, affordable and a short drive from the Mid-West. Crossing the border with a bow doesn't require any special paperwork but, any firearm does require some simple paperwork be filled out in advance and presented upon arrival at the border.

Ontario is quite large and offers a diverse variety of hunting. We hunted near Dryden in the North West portion of the province. Non-residents can hunt whitetails without the use of an outfitter on the thousands of acres of public land commonly referred to as the "Queen's Land". However, outfitters like Indian Point Camp are reasonably priced and provide private property with little hunting pressure. These camps will also pre-bait stand locations and offer a vast amount of local hunting knowledge. Either way hunting in Ontario is a rich and rewarding experience.

For more information: Indian Point Camp at 800-699-9390