John's Journal...

Manitoba's Extreme Whitetails with Whitetail Outfitters

Christopher Muise's Rite of Passage

Click to enlargeEditor's Note: I've hunted with Doug Grantham and John Nixon of Whitetail Outfitters, headquartered in Stonewall, Manitoba, Canada several different times. Each time I've enjoyed being with them and having some of the most-exciting adventures of my life, while visiting their outpost camps, hearing the hunters' stories and seeing the deer that the hunters have taken. Life doesn't get any better than hunting virgin bucks that never have seen or smelled a hunter during the rut. To make the hunt even more tantalizing, many of these bucks will be in the 150+ class range and never have heard a grunt call or rattling antlers. There's a rite of passage that occurs when a boy goes on his first man hunt. Ever since the first man crawled out from under a rock and allowed a youngster to be a part of his hunt, the event always has been special - not only for the boy but also for all the men on the hunt. By having a boy in camp, each man has the opportunity to remember his first hunt and the accompanying thrill and excitement he's felt when he's taken his first deer. Therefore, although the hunt appears to be primarily for the boy, it's as much for the men who take the boy with them. This week you'll see why the first hunt is not only special for the boy taking part in it but also for the men who go with him.

Thirteen-year-old Christopher Messina of  Wallkill, New York, kept an 80 averagClick to enlargee in school this past year, so that he could make his first deer hunt with Whitetail Outfitters with his dad, Anthony.

Question: Christopher, what did you think about the ride into camp? Messina: It was insane. It was a great adventure. We started going out through a field that was very bumpy. Then we flew down a road on the ATV and finally reached the trails, which were very wet and muddy. But we had the most fun on those trails. The ATVs would go down into the holes and pull right back up out of them. In some holes we went through, the headlights of the ATV were under the water. We all thought we probably would fall off the ATVs, but we didn't. The ride to the camp from the dirt road took about 2 or 2-1/2 hours, and that ride was a great part of the hunting experience. When I saw that we only had a tarp roof over our camp, I didn't hardly sleep at all the first night. However, by the second night, I was so worn out I had no trouble sleeping. At night, I could hear the timber wolves howling, and I was wondering what other animals might be out in the woods.

Question: Tell me about your hunt, Christopher. Messina: On the first morning of the hunt, our guide, Lennie, dropped us off at the stand. My dad helped me climb into my tree stand and get settled. Then he got into his tree stand close to me. Snow was falling when we reached our stands. Once we climbed into our stands, the snow really picked up. We'd only been in our stands for a short while when we heard a big crack. My dad started blowing his grunt call. The snow fell even harder. We didn't see anything. My daClick to enlarged suggested we go ahead and eat our lunches because he thought the deer would be bedded-down in that heavy snow.

After we finished our lunches, the snow let up. I looked to my right and spotted a buck with 6- to 7-inch-long big spikes. Then the snow started coming down hard again. After we heard another crack, my dad called with his grunt call once more. I was kinda napping, but when I looked up, I looked over to the spot where my dad was looking. A big buck was moving through the area, with his head down and hitting the trees with his antlers. I was pointing at the buck like crazy because my dad hadn't spotted him. Finally my dad saw the buck and gave me a thumbs-up, which meant it was o.k. for me to take him. I lifted the gun, aimed for behind the deer's shoulder and wham, I fired. I hit the deer in his lungs, and the buck ran about 75 yards and fell over. When the bullet hit him, I saw the buck buckle. Once he fell, I was thinking, "Oh, my gosh!" My dad told me, "I saw him buckle, but his tail went up instead of coming down. So, you may have hit him,  or, you may have missed him. I'm going to look for blood where you've shot at the buck. You stay in your stand."

I was watching the spot where I'd shot the deer as my dad climbed out of the tree. I yelled, "I see blood. I see blood." Dad went over to where the blood was and discovered a bloody place in the snow about 1-foot long by 1-foot wide. My dad tracked down the deer and yelled back to me that I'd gotten a nice 10-pointer. I thought he was joking, but when he helped me get down out of the tree, he took me over to the first blood spot we'd seen. He made me blood-track the deer. As I tracked, the blood trail picked up really heavy. I could see on the sides of the trees where the buck had brushed against the trees and left blood on them.  Once we reached the deer, Dad said, "You count the points, if you think I'm lying about your buck being a 10 point."

I counted the points. When I knew for sure it was a 10-point buck, I started shaking and said, "Oh, my gosh!" I was so excited and shaking so badly because that was the first buck I'd ever taken, and it was a 10 pointer. We hung my orange hat on the spot where the deer was laying, went back to our tree stands and gathered-up all our gear. We walked to camp. When Lennie returned, he asked why we'd come back to camp so early. My dad told him, "Christopher started getting cold, and so, we returned to camp." Next my dad added, "Christopher got cold after he shot his 10-pointer because he Click to enlargedidn't have anything else to do." Well, Lennie got very happy. We gutted the deer, loaded it up on the ATV and headed back to camp. That was the first time I'd ever really watched a deer being field dressed. When I went with my dad and saw other people field dressing a deer, I'd often would get weak in the knees. However, it was very different when it was my buck people were field dressing. When I took that deer, my dad was so happy that we high-fived each other and hugged. This hunt was my first time to go out of the U.S., the place where I took my first deer ever, this first time I'd ever been this far out in the woods in a wilderness-type setting, and I'd been on a man hunt. In the past, when my dad went hunting in the Adirondacks, my sister, my mother and my grandmother all would be there. My dad and my mother would go out hunting. But, on this hunt, there were only guys. All the men here at camp treated me really good, and they were all excited about my taking my first deer - and such a massive one at that.

Initially I'd thought the hunt would be much colder and maybe even boring. But this hunt with Whitetail Outfitters wasn't at all. We saw all kinds of animals, including squirrels. I got to hear the timber wolves howling and the coyotes yipping.

Question: Christopher, what you will remember most about the hunt? Messina: I know for sure it will be bringing that blackpowder rifle up, looking through the scope, seeing the buck and squeezing the trigger. I'm been dreaming about that over and over again.

For more information about hunting with Manitoba's Whitetail Outfitters, write Box 70,  Stonewall, Manitoba, R0C 2Z0, call (888) 398-3459, visit, or email

Tomorrow: Through the Eyes of a Dad

Check back each day this week for more about "Manitoba's Extreme Whitetails with Whitetail Outfitters"

Day 1: What a Whitetail Outfitters' Hunt Is Like
Day 2: He Hunts Monster Whitetails
Day 3: Christopher Muise's Rite of Passage
Day 4: Through the Eyes of a Dad
Day 5: The Dad Takes a Fine Buck Too


Entry 433, Day 3