Archive for December, 2020

Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020

Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

Well, today was the last day of late muzzleloader. Dad and I got an early start again today. On our way up the road, Dad scared me a few times when he almost went off the road. I was holding on for dear life. The fog was so brutal, that you couldn’t tell if you were on the road at all. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it that foggy.

The morning was mixed with a bunch of crappy weather. The fog blew in and out until around 10, and the rain came in spurts, sometimes a good healthy downpour found its way out of the sky.

We sat until about 1:30. Dad saw five deer, and I didn’t see anything. I decided to do a few pushes to Dad before we called it a season. On the first push, I put a doe and fawn past him. They kept looking behind them, but nothing followed. On the second push, nothing came off the hill.

We packed it in and called it a year. My body is weary and now needs rest. It will get it in the coming days as I reflect on my 2020 deer hunting season — and life. I will give the yearly recap in the coming weeks. I hope you all enjoyed the journal this year. Although I debated doing it again this year, I’m glad I chose to do it. I received a lot of positive feedback and enjoyed interacting with each and every one of you who contacted me.

Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020

Tuesday, December 15th, 2020

I picked my dad up at 5:00 a.m., and the headed to a place I’ve hunted since I was a kid. This place runs deep in my soul, and I will be forever grateful for having it to hunt when I was growing up. Now that times have changed, I never would have been able to do that if I were growing up now. Unfortunately, too many things have changed.

Anyhow, as the truck rolled to a stop, I still hadn’t decided where I wanted to go. I had a few ideas rolling around in my head, but neither of the really struck a chord. When I have that type of feeling, I know I have to go to the place that whispers to me and motions me to come forward. Whether it’s the wind whistling through the trees or a few crunchy leaves I have just stepped on, something tells me to go certain places when I’m uncertain about which path to follow. I guess it’s an inherited trait — or maybe it’s a sense that I’m lucky enough to have that others can’t relate to. I’ll never know for sure, but this trait has allowed me to kill many good bucks over the years.

Walking across slippery rocks, over blowdowns and around a few pockets of water, I didn’t feel overly optimistic about my morning. Just as I got to the spot I wanted to sit, I heard a deer crash through the timber. It was at the same elevation as me, and it ran up the hill. Being in big woods, I knew that was probably the end of my dad. After all, there are only so many deer in certain areas, especially areas the have received a tremendous amount of pressure for the previous six weeks of rifle season.

The morning passed quickly, and before I knew it, I was meeting Dad at the truck. When we met, we talked to Rob Miner, his son Chris, Steve Sawn and Doug Coons. Looking at everyone standing around, I found it amazing how fast life has passed us by. It seems that it was only a few short years ago when Chris and I were boys, not even teens yet, following our dads around on that same mountain. As we all got older, we went in our own directions. Nothing ever seems to stay the same in life, and you have to be able to roll with the changes. Chris and I both got married about the same time in our lives, and we both got divorced at about the same time. Relationships aren’t what they used to be. Now, it seems that people like to run from problems instead of staying through the fight and coming out on top. It’s sad that life in the United States has come to this, but their are many things that have led to it becoming this way. Unfortunately, Chris and I had to suffer through the Grass is Greener thought process from other individuals. In the end, I guess the grass was actually greener for both of us, even though neither one of us was seeking the green grass when things went down.

Hunting is the same way. People sometimes get led down a path where they believe the grass is greener in another place. Instead of taking a step back and analyzing the big picture, they just move here and there and think the new spots will solve their problems of not seeing any deer or not having any luck.

It’s kind of like a Colorado native once told me when I was hunting out there. He said, “Well, the damn Texans move up here to get away from their problems. Then we have a whole damn community full of Texans who are bitching because they have she same problems that they came to Colorado to escape.”

What’s the moral of the story? The Texans didn’t realize that they brought all the problems with them that were causing there discontent in Texas. Instead, they blame it on other people and things. Well, the same holds true in deer hunting. Sometimes, you just have to stick it out and figure things out when everything starts going south. If you choose to move to “better” places, those better places might just become what the other places turned into. The definition of insanity: to repeat the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.

I had a good day today. Dad saw a few deer, but I didn’t see anything. I probably caused that myself. I just didn’t have that optimistic attitude today. Instead, I approached it like I wasn’t going to see anything.

It’s supposed to warm up and rain tomorrow. Hopefully, it’s not too miserable. Dad and I will be at it again to finish off our season.

Friday, Dec. 11, 2020

Sunday, December 13th, 2020

Dad wanted to move a stand today, so I offered to help him. Although he has been doing better, I don’t want him trying to do things he shouldn’t be doing alone. I decided to give up my afternoon to help him. If we finished in time, then I would do some scouting for tomorrow.

Amazingly, we made quick work of the job, and Dad was happy with the result. Actually, I was satisfied with our work, too. I felt good about it when we were done.

As I wandered toward the bottom of the mountain, I paused in a place where Rob used to always sit when the three of us hunted the area as much as we could. We all had our spots to sit, and Rob’s spot was in between where Dad and I usually sat. As I stood there, I couldn’t believe that with all of the changes over the years, the two runways that used to go past his hemlock tree were still there, and the deer were using them regularly. It was awesome to see and warmed me to the bottom of my soul.

Smiling, I continued toward the ridge where I killed my first buck. When I got there, I was disappointed to see that there wasn’t too much sign there this year. I’m not sure why because good acorn years usually bring a lot of deer to the spot.

I didn’t stay too long, but I did take a deep breath while thinking of the many things I’ve experienced on that part of the mountain. I’ve dragged many deer out of that gully, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. It’s hard to believe that no 4-wheelers existed back then. We dragged deer all the way from the bottom of that mountain up and over it and back to the road. I’m not sure I ever appreciated it as much back then as I did today. Today, I realized how hard it must’ve been. We still do our share of dragging, but there’s something about that time period that resonates with me. I watched Dad and Rob Miner drag more deer out of there than I could count. Every time we went there, we never saw less than 10 deer between us, and somebody always killed a deer, even if it was a neighbor, cousin, uncle, or friend. Those time were some of the greatest times I’ve ever experienced while hunting. Those days gave me the mental attitude to succeed no matter where I hunted. They physical and mental strength needed to hunt there was second to none. There were no cut out roads or easy-to-follow paths. Instead, there were overgrown logging roads that were nothing more than faded places in the leaves where tires had once created ruts in the mud while skidding logs.

My father and his father logged the area long before I was ever a thought in my father’s eye. He has known this land like the back of his hand since he was in his teens, just like he brought me in there when I was in my teens. It’s a place that we have both seen change in numerous ways. Just as I learned how to hunt there — so did Dad.

As I walked out along the base of a huge ledge that towers over an old logging road, I looked at the top of the ledge and remembered the time I was waiting there for Dad and could see deer up on the top of it. Then I remember when Dad drove it off for his brother Claude, who died with his family in a house fire in Hudson Falls, N.Y., and Lloyd Burch, who has since passed away. Lloyed shot a hug 6-pointer on the drive, probably one of the most memorable deer my father was ever a part of on that mountain. I still remember them bringing the buck home on the back of Dad’s white car, and it there was blood all over the car. It’s definitely not something you see in current times. Most deer are hidden from people’s sight. Claude had carried his .35, the gun I used to kill my first deer, that day. Unfortunately, my cousin or uncle has that gun now. I would love to have it, but Dad tried getting it back a time or two without much luck. I’m highly disappointed that I don’t own that gun. I know what it meant to Dad, and I know what it means to me. Dad and his brother bought that gun and a shotgun so they could use the guns together, but that story is for another time.

Glancing to the top of the ridge, I felt tears well up in my eyes as I waited for my father. His struggle this year has been unbelievable to watch. It’s only fitting that we are ending the season together in the place that taught us how to be hunting partners, father and son and best friends. It showed us that we could expand our horizons and search for what every deer hunter dreams about. I’ll feel indebted to that mountain for giving me the skills I needed to succeed while deer hunting across the region and across the country. It all allowed me to want more for myself and realize I could help my own situation, which is why I let a nice, small 8-pointer walk past me earlier in the season just a short distance from where I stood tonight while waiting for Dad. If I can shoot deer with big antlers, I will do anything I can to make that happen. Then again, sometimes smaller deer excite me, too. Every situation is different, so I enjoy every one of them, whether I kill a deer or decide to let it keep walking.

We will see what the weekend brings. I’m looking forward to being with Dad this weekend. At the beginning of the season, I didn’t think he would be able to hunt at all this year. I”m thankful he was able to get out there quite a bit this year, even if he wasn’t able to go too far at times.

I’ve attached a picture of the Rock. The other picture is of me when I was the age I started sitting at the Rock with my father and learning about life, hunting, fishing, and who I would become as I got older. I never imagined I would still be returning to that hallowed ground 45 years later. I still go there to find myself and maybe strike up some of the magic we sued to experience there. This is another one of my quiet places, a place I can still go and enjoy the peace. Today, there were no ribbons all through the woods around it, and no sign of rocks or logs stacked up where people had been sitting. Instead, other than the logged off area around it, the rock still resembled a place I’ve always known — for now. They say no good things last forever. I can only hope they’re wrong with this particular spot.

Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020

Sunday, December 13th, 2020

After being in the woods on Tuesday, I decided I would set aside some time at the end of the week to get in the woods with Dad. Since we always hunt in this area for the last weekend of muzzleloader season, I wanted to check another spot to weigh my options for the weekend.

As I neared the place I wanted to check out, I saw the woods littered with orange ribbon. The trail went down the mountain and paralleled a tack trail I’ve had there since I turned 14 years old. Yup, the tack trail is basically 40 years old. I feel like giving the people some advice to take the ribbons down and just follow the tacks, but I’m assuming they must not be going in before daylight, otherwise they wouldn’t need the ribbons to guide them to their stands.

As I meandered down the hill, I found a few spots where people had stacked logs and rocks to sit, too. I can’t begin to explain how disheartening this is to me. It’s an area I’ve hunted my entire life, and it’s on state land that is basically all but impossible to get to from any other location than the two local leases that border it on the back side. I’m a member of one lease. I joined it many years ago so I could access the state land that I was brought up on before all of the local lands went up for leasing and became posted. Many people know I hunt the area, too, but it doesn’t seem to matter. I understand the fact that I’m not around too much and that it’s state land. I guess it probably bothers me because I’ve always tried to avoid the places I know other people spend a lot of time in. While it’s impossible to do all the time, I’ve done a pretty good job with it over a 20-year period. I just like to avoid people and where they set up. It just makes life easier.

After I swallowed the cup of bad tasting whatever it was, I continued hunting. I couldn’t concentrate, and my mind wandered from one place to the next. I thought about conversations I’ve had, moments I’ve shared, and moments I’ve spent alone on that mountain. All of these things I saw tonight were hard pills to swallow. I know I have to swallow them and move on. Nothing good lasts forever. I’m hoping it just drives me to find better places in the area, although I know the area like the back of my hand. There are probably better places, but these places are my favorites and have been since I was 14 years old.

Time moves on and doesn’t wait for anyone to catch up. Here are a few moments I’ve shared along the way in these spots that seem to be all but gone from the way I’ve always seen them. Now, a parade of people has found my quiet place: the place I still go to just because I know I will be alone.

Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020

Sunday, December 13th, 2020

I rearranged my schedule so I could get out early enough to hunt today. I knew exactly where I wanted to go, and good things usually result from that type of feeling. There was snow on the ground from yesterday, so I knew I’d get to see what the deer had done in the past 24 hours.

As I made my way around the mountain and down toward a big creek, the sound of the running water was deafening. With all of the rain we’ve had recently, the creeks are bursting at the seams. The noise reminded me of the times I used to cross the same creek when I was in my early 20s. Many things have changed since then, but my love for hunting remains the same. I try to make the most out of every minute of the season — every season.

I cut more tracks in my few miles of walking than I had cut in the last few weeks in the areas I had been hunting with my rifle. This area is always good at the end of the season, especially when the acorns are plentiful.

I enjoyed my time in the woods today, even though I didn’t see anything. It was refreshing to be back in the piece of woods where I learned so much about hunting, using hunting pressure to my advantage an animal behavior. If I hadn’t grew up in this piece of woods, I never would have had the success I’ve had over the years. I was able to see piles of deer every time in the woods, and I was able to watch them and what they did. I learned how deer interacted with each other, and I learned how bucks traveled with and without does. I was able to do all of that because it was before 4-wheelers began inundating the forests. There were also no leases stacked up across the region with 10-15 guys crammed into 400 acres, and another 15 guys crammed into the neighboring 400 acres. Although no land was posted back then and you could basically go anywhere you wanted to go, there was much less pressure. There was still a lot of pressure but nothing like it is today. The deer don’t stand much of a chance these days as compared to 30 years ago. The deer herd in this area has had its share of challenges, but it still sustains itself. The giant bucks don’t get killed like they used to, but a few average to nice deer get killed every few years. The area has phenomenal potential to create huge bucks. If they could get to maturity, the giant bucks what were killed in the mid-to-late ’80s and early ’90s would be plentiful again.

I’m hoping to get out another day this week before our late muzzleloader season ends on Sunday. We will have to see how it goes. Here are a few of those good bucks from back in the day.

Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020

Thursday, December 10th, 2020

Nobody stirred this morning when the alarms sang except me and Dad. The wind howled all night, keeping everyone awake. At times, it sounded like the trees where going to uproot and blow across the yard like tumbleweed on the Kansas prairie. It definitely wasn’t the best conditions for deer to move, but like I’ve said many times before, I believe the big bucks move in bad weather conditions because they feel safe.

Dad and I both sat until about 10 before heading out of the woods. Neither of us cut a track or saw an animal. The snow came down pretty good for a while, and the wind howled like it wanted to be heard far and near.

When we got back to camp, we gathered up Kyle, Ben, Brian and Josh and did a few small pushes. We did four pushes and put deer past people on two of them. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any bucks and a few guys were left with unfilled tags.

The change of pace was nice, and it was fun trying to put a deer past someone. I would have felt some pride in accomplishing the task if one of the guys had gotten a crack at a buck.

We have a week of muzzleloader season left, then I will have to call it quits until next year. I’m not sure if I will get out. I’ve been out of work for almost a month, so I’m sure I will be backlogged with work when I sign on the computer on Monday morning. I’m not looking forward to that. Retirement seems to sound better and better every year, but I would never wish my life away. I enjoy every minute of it too much, especially hunting season.

Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020

Thursday, December 10th, 2020

Dad wanted to hunt in the same place he hunted yesterday, so I joined him for the day. We sat for half the day and still-hunted the other half of the day. I tried getting a deer in front of him, but that’s hard to do when deer aren’t moving too much.

I can’t begin to tell you how good it felt to see Dad actually be able to cover some serious ground today. While he’s not even back to 60%, his determination is hard to look past. I hope I have that trait deep within my soul if I ever encounter anything like he has been through this year.

Rob Miner also came up to hunt this weekend with my cousin Kyle. He had his hip replaced at the beginning of the season and is having a hard time getting around. I love the fact that these guys still enjoy hunting. It drives me to keep going and try to live up to the expectations I have of myself to be like them. I always wanted to shoot big bucks like they always shot. Somewhere along the way, I never realized that I had started doing the same thing as them year after year. I guess we sometimes get lost in our own journey.

Tomorrow will be the last day of Northern Zone rifle season. My body is ready for the closure of the season. It needs rest. I also know my dad needs a break. He has overdone it the entire year for the condition he is in. I don’t want to see him make himself any weaker. He will need all the strength he can find if he happens to get sick.

Friday, Dec. 4, 2020

Thursday, December 10th, 2020

Dad wanted to see if he could make it back into a place where we normally hunt, so I decided to be his shadow today. Although he seems to be doing a lot better since his infusion a few weeks ago, it still makes me nervous when he attempts to do things that were all but impossible less than two weeks ago. 

  When we headed out, there was a heavy frost, which gave me a sense that Dad might get a crack at something. Wanting to be relatively close to him for the day, I decided to check out another place we usually hunt but haven’t had the time to go to. Every year, bears tend to go through there the last weekend of the season. We always see tracks and when I ran cameras in there a few years back, they would show up on camera. I’m assuming there must be a den in the area.

  As I made my way through the darkness, a deer started blowing at me when I was close to the area I wanted to be at when it got light out. 

  A few steps later, I could see where a buck had walked through the snow in the direction where the deer was blowing.  I figured it was probably him. He let out a few puffs before disappearing into thin air. 

  Not knowing what to do for the day, I chose to hang out and let my weary body rest. When Dad called me on the radio, I would base my day on what he wanted to do.

  When he called me, he told me he was going to sit until 2. He thought he would have enough time to get out before dark if he left at that time, so I packed up and headed out with him.

  We had a good day in the woods today. At the beginning of the season, I never imagined we would be able to do what we did together today. I’m thankful for today more than one can possibly imagine. Today reminds me of the day that is on the cover of my first book. We both celebrated that day for reasons unknown to both of us, and that day led us to where we are today and what we have become to each other while hunting. I was 21 at the time of the photo and Dad was 43.

Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020

Thursday, December 10th, 2020

It was 27 degrees when I woke up. I wanted to go exploring today to see what I could find. I knew it was going to warm up to 45 degrees, so I figured I would try to figure some things out on the snow if I could. 

  By the time it was noon, I had discovered one thing: deer and bears are not moving too terribly much in the areas I’ve been hunting. Actually, neither have squirrels, chipmunks or birds. However, coyote tracks can be found around every corner. I’m sure that doesn’t help matters when it comes to the movement of the other animals. Recently, someone sent me a trail-cam video they got of a pack of four coyotes going by their camera. It takes a lot of food to feed four or more coyotes. 

  Dad wanted to go check out a new place this afternoon, so I came out of the woods when he was ready and brought him to a new area. We saw some tracks here and there while we were looking things over. 

  My friend Adam missed a really good buck this morning. It was lying down when he shot at it. He followed its tracks up a hill and into a hardwood bowl. Then, he spotted the buck lying down on the other side of the bowl. It was about a 250- yard shot. When he shot the first time, the buck stood up and didn’t react. After the second shot, the buck just strolled away. Adam thinks he shot under it both times. He thinks the bullet was dropping too much and the deer was farther away than he had originally thought.

  Adam’s a great hunter. He can get the job done in a hurry when he’s around deer. His ability to track deer and get opportunities at them amazes me. He never seems to come up shorthanded. Unfortunately, he missed today, but it wasn’t from lack of trying. Sometimes, I wish I had people like Adam’s ability. I would love to be able to be that good at deer hunting. It must be pretty awesome to be him. Here’s the track he was following.

Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020

Thursday, December 10th, 2020

I got out of work early today so I could meet Dad for an afternoon hunt. Since there was snow on the ground, I wanted to cover as much ground as possible to get some good scouting in. Although after-season and spring scouting can outweigh most other times of the year, there’s nothing better than scouting during the season.  That’s why I wanted to take advantage of today with the freshly fallen snow on the ground. 

  I went to an area that holds a lot of bears this time of year. They tend to go to this area to get ready for hibernation. They usually stock up for the winter before finding their way to their dens. Usually, there are bear runways instead of deer runways in the snow.

  Well, I covered a lot of ground this afternoon, and the blinding snow made it miserable. At times, it was snowing so hard I couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of me. With the wind adding to the misery, I had about all I could take, but I pushed on. I held on to a tiny bit of hope that I might come across the sign I was looking for. 

  When I turned around and began heading back toward the truck, my headlamp light glistened off the snow. My tracks from a few hours earlier had been covered, and there was no sign that I had intruded the area just a short time ago.

  I was disappointed that I didn’t see any animal tracks. Usually, there is a variety of tracks to examine, but on this day, the animals must not have moved too far. 

  When I met Dad after dark, he gave a similar report. He never cut a track and didn’t see any animals. I’m not sure what’s going on this year, but things definitely seem a little out of whack. I’m no scientist, but I’m sure that something is probably causing the lack of movement across the board. I’ve spoken to people in many different places in the Adirondacks and across the Northeast, and I’ve been getting similar reports from everyone.