In a manner of speaking, it was a shot that rang-out for 22 years.
Made at a distance of just 10 yards, Paul T. Deuling’s kill was one for the record books … eventually.
More than two decades after shooting a massive mountain caribou in the Pelly Mountains east of Ross River, the Whitehorse hunter has been awarded the Sagamore Hill Award, the Boone and Crockett Club’s highest honour.
The prestigious award is the result of the club’s acceptance of Deuling’s 1988 kill into its record books for the largest mountain caribou ever bagged. Scoring a 459-3/8, Deuling’s antlers were seven inches larger than the previous record holder.
His solo hunt on August 28, 1988, ranks as one of his most memorable hunting experiences ever.
“It’s probably my stupidest too, in terms of having to work so damn hard,” said Deuling. “That’s when the real work began because it was six miles in, six miles out, and I made three trips.
“I really had my work cut out for me.”
Breaking from routine, Deuling, who would usually hunt with his kids, was alone when he made the kill and was actually hunting stone sheep.
“I normally hunt with my kids, but they were gone to soccer or hockey or back to school, so I thought I’d try to get one hunt in by myself,” said the retired high school history teacher.
“I was watching a caribou and a wolverine down below me – they were interacting, running back and forth chasing one another.
“I had a big sleep and I was walking up on this hill in the evening – it’s best to hunt animals in the late afternoon or early morning. So I looked back to see if I could find the silly cow and I couldn’t – she wasn’t in the basin, but up on the hill. But right beside her was a huge caribou with great, big black antlers.
“The more I looked at him, the more I thought, ‘Oh my god, this guy is so big.’ I could always use the meat, so I thought, ‘Sheep hunting can wait.’”
With opportunity knocking, Deuling scrambled down to his tent to retrieve his rifle, and with the topography of the land allowing for a stealthy advance, Deuling got to about 10 yards from the beast.
“When I put the scope up all I could see was black hair, so I had to keep checking that I was going hit it in the right place,” said Deuling. “I did, and he just ran a bit and collapsed.”
For years after the kill, the caribou’s massive antlers were hanging on a wall instead of setting a record. In fact, a fracture in the antlers following a fall from the wall convinced Deuling they were ineligible for record consideration. It was only a couple years ago when an official with the Boone and Crockett Club was in the Yukon conducting a course that he found out the club had altered its rules and was accepting mended antlers.
“That’s what happened to mine, so I didn’t bother sending them in,” said Deuling. “They were trying to get away from cheaters who split their antlers and tried to get them wider, and built up bases, and all this goofy stuff just to get their name in a book.”
Looking like he had a world record on his hands, Deuling shipped his antlers to the club’s judging panel at the Club’s triennial 27th Big Game Awards celebration in Reno, Nevada, where they were verified as a record.
The Sagamore Hill Award, which Deuling is just the 17th recipient of in its 62-year history, is named after the New York home of former US president Theodore Roosevelt, a legendary big game hunting enthusiast who founded the Boone and Crockett Club in 1887.
Deuling, who is opposed to using motorized vehicles in hunting, especially likes that the Sagamore award is meant to extol such sport hunting values as fair chase, self-reliance, perseverance, selective hunting, and mastery of challenges.
“My only hope is that young people, men or women, will take up the challenge of walking, rather than driving,” said Deuling. “I’m one of these people that totally opposed to see machines running around in our beautiful alpine.
“If I can do it, all those other guys can do it too. It just takes a bit of work.”
As an added bonus, Deuling was presented the award by hunting royalty, Simon Roosevelt, the great, great grandchild of Theodore Roosevelt.
“He said, ‘I understand your son (Jarrett Deuling) is an outfitter, well, I really want a stone sheep,’” said Deuling. “He eventually contacted Jarrett, and him and, I think, his brother-in-law want to come up in 2012, so they’ve made arrangements to come and hunt with us.
“I’m just reading a biography on Teddy Roosevelt right now, so it’s kind of neat catch up on that sort of thing and know something by the time Simon and his brother-in-law show up.”
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