It’s no secret that Saskatchewan is home to giant bucks. The famous “Hanson Buck,” the world record typical whitetail, hailed from Biggar, SK. The Pope and Young world record nontypical mule deer came from near Arm River. The combination of incredible habitat, lower hunting pressure, and great deer genetics give our neighbors to the North the opportunity to stack up some big racks.
Paul Martens is no exception. The Maple Creek resident gave his 2022 mule deer hunt everything he had, landing himself in a green-faced bout of heat exhaustion by the end of the packout. But when it was all over, Martens got an 11-point velvet buck with antlers so thick that they resembled moose paddles—earning the buck the nickname “Massey.” The name is a nod to both the deer’s massive rack and to the tractor brand that dominates ag fields of the area.
Martens was hunting the same mile-by-mile section southeast of Maple Creek that he harvested a big mule deer buck from a few years prior. He knew the area well and went there for opening day this year, hoping for similar luck.
“I couldn’t find a mature deer anywhere this year when I scouted around, so I went to the same field I’d shot a good velvet buck in three years ago,” Martens tells Outdoor Life. “I went in there on opening morning and saw a buck by himself, so I decided to sneak over and see if there were any other bucks with him. I got busted on the way over there by some whitetails, so I thought it was over. I assumed all the bucks had stood up and that was the end of that.”
Slightly defeated, Martens meandered up over a hill to reposition, completely unprepared for what he would find 30 yards away from him.
“I actually walked in on this buck and his sidekick. I got 30 yards from them without even trying. They busted me then, but I’d seen him up close at that point and knew that was the one I wanted. Fast forward a few days, I tried a few more times and got busted again.”
Finally on Sept. 4, four days into the season, Martens spotted the distinct antlers from afar at about 7:00 a.m. The buck was bedded down in the wheat field. Martens took a final sip of water and left his pack behind for a super slow stalk through the wheat, which was ready for harvest and deafeningly loud as the dry wheat rattled in the wind.
After creeping along and circling around to play the wind, Martens popped up and discovered to his excitement that he was only about 100 yards from the buck.
“He lifted his head and I just crouched down in the dirt, and he ended up walking about 25 or 30 yards to the bottom of a little draw,” Martens says. “I don’t think I would’ve gotten him otherwise. He initially was perched up higher looking straight back at me and I don’t think I could have gotten closer than the 100 yards I was at. But then he stood up on his own and walked down there.”
Martens paused for about 15 minutes before creeping along after him.
“I had just assumed he’d wandered off and gone grazing, so I snuck toward the ridge where I saw him go over, and I could see antler tips. He was bedded down right there,” he says. “At that point, I was about 55 yards out and I was worried that I didn’t have a clean shot because of the ridge between us. So it took me about an hour and a half to do that last 10 or 12 yards. It was so crunchy and the wind was not consistent.”
Eventually Martens got within 40 yards of Massey, but once he was there, he needed the buck to stand up so he could get a clean shot. Martens just stood there, exposed with his arrow nocked, for about three and a half hours. Then the buck finally stood up and looked right at Martens.
“I practiced taking rushed shots all summer, more instinctive shooting, just pull, aim, shoot,” Martens says. “It totally paid off because I didn’t have time to draw back slow and get all relaxed. I drew back, put the pin on his heart and fired it right in.”
It took Martens about an hour to find the buck, which dashed off for over 100 yards before tipping over. The monotony of the field had him walking in circles. It was well over 90 degrees Fahrenheit and he hadn’t taken a sip of water since 7 a.m. After walking over a mile back to where he dropped his pack, he was already exhausted, and he hadn’t even started the packout yet.
“By the time I got to the buck my mouth was so dry, and I had a bit of heat [exhaustion]. I didn’t actually puke but every time I bent over I thought I was going to,” Martens recalls. He has since recovered in full.
Despite his condition at the time, Martens was beyond excited when he approached the buck. He threaded the needle on the buck’s ribcage and shot straight through the heart. The velvet on the rack, which would end up rough-scoring around 194 inches, was still fully intact. After making multiple calls, only one person could come help with the packout.
“I tried calling some friends for help, but everyone was either at the rodeo or working or away, so my wife saved the day. She came and helped me debone him and we backpacked him out. She saved my butt,” Martens says. “I told her it was quality bonding time. It was a fun day, I’ll never forget it.”