Lady Luck’s Smile

How one hunter scored a huge Ontario buck—just as he was about to call it a day and head home!

Hunting has always been a part of my life to varying degrees. I was born and raised as one of a set of quadruplets in Judique, Cape Breton; my father used wild game to fill our freezer whenever possible. He would hunt deer for the meat with the goal of feeding his family as the trophy. 

Dad would take both my brother and me along with him hunting. He would get us all dressed up, and we would be as excited as young boys could get! I can remember the two of us following along in his footsteps, talking and horsing around. Dad must have known there wouldn’t be the slightest chance of seeing a deer! Looking back, I can now see that in those days, that wasn’t the point.

That’s where my hunting life started… at home with Dad and my family. Later in life, my dreams of becoming a firefighter brought me here to Ontario, where this amazing story takes place. Hopefully, every hunter reading this will sometime in their hunting life get to witness the beauty of Lady Luck’s smile! This is a brief recounting of how she smiled on me.


She smiled on me twice in 2013. The first smile was on my marriage to the beautiful, and very understanding, Julie Doucette. Everyone who has been married knows that planning a wedding is time-consuming. We had our wedding at our home, so the workload was more than double. With that much work needed to pull off the wedding of our dreams, something had to give! And guess what suffered? You guessed it: hunting.

So, needless to say, there was no real pre-season lead-up to my 2013 season. I was only able to get out a few mineral deposits and cameras. Little did I know that a battery issue would affect the cameras, and without time to check them, I wouldn’t discover this problem until the hunting season was about to open. I was also able to do a little research and obtain some good info from a reputable source. I was told, “If you want to shoot monster bucks, stay out of their home range territory until Halloween." 

Armed with that info, and a solid case of OCHD (Obsessive Compulsive Hunting Disorder) I, along with good friend and property owner Bob, planned to do just that. We decided to hang an early season stand in an area with lots of deer traffic, well away from the hardwood ridges the local big boys traveled. On October 1, we hung the now infamous "killing stand."

Between my work schedule and being newly married, not a lot of time was available for me to get out and hunt. So whenever time was available, it was spent sitting in the stand. Every time I headed to the stand, I followed the same meticulous regimen. My hunting gear was stored in scent-free containers with added carbon scent/moisture control. I would shower with scent-free soap, and dress in minimal clothing outside. Drive to my hunting location, and finish dressing. Load up my Bowtech Allegiance, 350-grain Carbon Express Maximas tipped with 100-grain G5 Montecs and slowly make my way into the bush—but not before adding one last covering of de-scenting spray, being sure to pay attention to my boots and soles. This is the ritual I followed for the evening hunt on October 20.


Once securely harnessed into my stand, I sat waiting for any unsuspecting deer to walk by while enjoying the beautiful fall weather. A few hours before "prime time" was spent enjoying passing birds, getting the occasional adrenaline spike caused by the always noisy squirrel, and having all the inner monologs that hunters do. Like clockwork, a decent six-pointer arrived in “prime time;” slowly and cautiously, he worked his way towards my stand. When the moment was right, I gripped my bow and stood. Everything was happening as I had visualized. The buck came within seven yards of my stand, still unaware of my presence and the fact that I’d come to full draw.

Two factors would affect the outcome of this meeting. The first was that the buck was slightly quartering to me; second, his close proximity to the stand would require me to shoot almost straight down. The quartering shot is not my favourite, but I practice daily, so I was very confident I could hit the mark. Hindsight being 20/20, I now know that forgetting to bend at the waist caused my arrow to sail the mere inch high that it did. The bitter sting of missing is never pleasant, but it seems things always happen for a reason! I left disappointed but not defeated; I had the next few days clear, so I would be back the following day to try again!

The evening hunt of the 21st started the same as the day before. Safely secured in the tree, I sat thinking about the previous day’s events. I was so deep in thought that I didn’t notice the drastic change in the sky. The sky darkened and rain of biblical proportions dropped on me with such speed and intensity that I decided it was safer to sit than to try to climb down to the ground.

The rain soaked me to the bone in moments! I literally had to remove my face mask because breathing became difficult! The mask held so much rain that my mouth would fill up, or water would travel up my nose when I breathed. I suppose it was my punishment for my rookie mistake the previous night. The storm came and went quickly. Completely soaked and uncomfortable, I knew I wouldn’t be able to sit for the remaining time before darkness. Once warm and dry at home, my drive was renewed and I knew I would be sitting again the next night.

October 22 started like all the other hunts before it. I followed my routine. I moved painstakingly to the stand, eight to 10 steps at a time, paused for a few moments, then another series of steps, etc. I climbed into the stand and secured the safety harness before carefully hoisting my bow and gear. I sat as still and silent as I possibly could. I projected positive thoughts and played out as many scenarios as possible.

As the sun worked its way toward the horizon, the weather started to change for the worse. The wind began to pick up, and didn’t seem like it would stop; it became so rough that it felt as if the tree behind me would snap! I had to physically hold my bow on my lap, as leaving it hanging on the bow hook would surely cause it to fall to the ground.

The howling winds began to eat away at my determination, so much so that I actually pulled out my cell phone and sent a text message to my wife saying I was coming home. That’s when Lady Luck flashed her beautiful smile at me for the second time in 2013.

The wind dropped and the forest grew silent. After minutes of straining my ears to hear any sound at all, my mind began to play tricks on me; from a completely unexpected direction, slightly off to my left, came the oddest sound. It sounded like two adults were slopping through the swamp sword fighting with broomsticks! The sound grew closer and closer until the moment a buck of epic proportions stepped out of the thicket, branches catching his antlers, and producing the sound that had my heart pounding before I even laid eyes on him. It took all my strength and control to avoid staring at the crown on his head, switching my focus to his thick body!

As he cleared the bush line I readied myself, gripping my bow, and set my release to the loop. He continued directly at me, almost on a rope directly to the exact stop where the six-pointer had stood two nights before! Lesson learned! I closed my eyes, steadied myself, and forced my nerves aside. The giant in front of me was unaware of how close he was to the predator above him, and he slowly took his time investigating the area in front of the stand. He turned away long enough for me to slowly stand and anchor myself for the upcoming shot.

Then he made his fatal mistake! He turned in a broadside direction and ever so slowly walked out to 10 yards while investigating his path of travel. I came to full draw, found my mark, and released the arrow. The arrow found the sweet spot, and the buck was dead before he knew what hit him. He dropped where he stood! Unable to believe what had just happened, I sat down in the stand and let it sink in. All the adrenaline, the emotion, and all the feelings that swept over me in that instant are indescribable! 6:45 pm on October 22, 2013, the call went out to the person I needed to share this with the most, my best friend and wife! "Bubbie, you’d better put dinner on hold and get up here… I just shot a monster!!"



The tracking was an easy job, but the sheer size of this beast made field dressing and removal back to hang very difficult. He was hung overnight for his morning photoshoot. Once pictures were taken, he was caped out and driven to Advanced Taxidermy for immediate care.

About Bradley Van de Ven

Bradley can trace his passion for hunting back to the time when he and his brother went out with their dad as boys. He moved east and found a new passion and married Julie just before the 2013 hunting season. Due to his marriage he had very little time to prepare and entered the season not knowing what to expect. This giant was making a very unusual noise to announce his approach allowing Bradley to be ready.

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