Bonny Bay Bucks

Hunting in Northwestern Ontario

My killer instincts probably need a little tweaking. I’m in an elevated blind, looking out over a clearing where corn and oats have been spread on the newly fallen snow. Early in the afternoon, two does step gingerly through the poplar and conifer forest to feed within 60 yards. Although I have a doe licence and an additional doe seal, I decide not to shoot, instead hoping a buck will come in after the does. When the does runoff in alarm, I wait for the buck…and wait.

Dryden Bucks

“What’s the matter, don’t you guys like to eat venison?” says hunting partner Gord Ellis, with the swagger of a man who has just hung an eight-point buck on a pole. Our partner, Tom McClelland, also passed on a doe today. It’s our first day of hunting out of Bonny Bay Resort, along the shore of Wabigoon Lake, just east of Dryden. Although does are fair game here, the focus is squarely on big bucks. In fact, there is an official policy at Bonny Bay of taking only bucks with racks that have eight points beyond the ear.

hunters with harvested deer
Bonny Bay’s Len Davis helps to retrieve, field dress, and hang the deer harvested by his clients. (Photo credit: James Smedley)

Deer Watching

The next afternoon, I set up in a blind along a power line clearing just west of Dryden. Within five minutes, a buck steps out at 200 yards and walks towards me, stopping at about 100 yards. I put the glasses on the handsome creature; its points extend well outside the ears, but I only count six. Ten minutes later, a big doe walks out. I’d decided to take a doe at the next opportunity, and although this is an easy broadside shot, there is only a selection of Bonny Bay’s 15 blinds where shooting does is allowed. This isn’t one of them.

It’s not all observation for our party, however. Earlier in the evening, a heavyset nine-pointer appeared unannounced from behind the "Homestead" stand and into the crosshairs of the cagey Tom McClelland.

hunter with harvested deer
Gord Ellis with a nice 10-point buck at Northwestern Ontario’s Bonny Bay Resort. (Photo credit: James Smedley)

Winnipeg Cold Front

The temperature drops to -32°C for the last two days of our hunt, and even with portable propane heaters in enclosed blinds, the cold is a factor. With a buck under his belt, Tom levels his crossbow at a corpulent doe, only to have it jam in the cold. Gord, on the other hand, is watching a six-point through his scope when a 10-point buck appears on the crest of a hill at 70 yards. He swivels and drops the animal in its tracks.

While recent tough winters have impacted the deer herd, there is still a lot of deer around Dryden. Even though the barrel of my rifle remains cold for the entire trip, there were a total of five big bucks taken by our party and another Bonny Bay party of two. And thanks to the generosity of my hunting partners, I have some of that tasty Northwestern Ontario venison in my freezer.

About James Smedley

Professional photographer and writer James Smedley’s contributions—more than 400 pieces and close to 1,000 images—to U.S. and Canadian books, magazines, and newspapers have earned him over 40 national and international awards. In addition to teaching photography workshops, James is the travel editor at Ontario OUT of DOORS magazine. James has fly-fished for brook trout and arctic grayling in far northern rivers and continues to cast for trout, bass, and steelhead near his home in the northern Ontario town of Wawa where he lives with his wife Francine and daughters Islay and Lillian.


Visit James at

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