Friday, December 2, 2016

December 17th, 2016

I had today off. As I marched through the darkness this morning, I was really undecided about where I wanted to go. Since I got going really early, I knew I would have more than enough time to get set up wherever I wanted to be well before daylight. Although I haven’t always followed my gut instinct, I’ve tried to weigh my options and make an educated guess about where I think my chances of seeing something will be the greatest.

About 40 minutes into my hike, something just clicked inside my head. Instantly, I changed my course and headed into an area that I think the depths of hell might resemble. Although I’ve never seen a deer in the area, something was gnawing at my insides to go there. It’s an area that never has very much sign, but something about it makes me understand that big bucks use it, while other deer probably avoid it. Far too many people hunt where all of the sign is blatantly obvious, which works out more often than not, but people who achieve higher levels of success tend to take chances from time to time. That’s why I decided to take a chance. I figured I had nothing to lose.

When it got light, I didn’t like the place I was sitting, so I looked around and found a more suitable location. I planted myself on a knob with a small beech tree acting as my backrest. I could see down into a bowl that I’m pretty sure big bucks skirt around the low side of it.

It spit snow on and off all day. It was just enough of a nuisance to make me somewhat uncomfortable, but something made me remain seated under the beech tree until the woods became too gray to see well enough to identify animals.

When this happened, I packed my gear and began my long journey back to the truck. I planned on meeting my father at a place where we could follow each other back to the road. By the time I got there, he was patiently waiting with his headlamp secured around his hat.

After a brief discussion about the day, I learned that he had seen a few deer but no bucks. It was about 5:30 p.m. by the time we got to the truck. Neither one of us could believe that we didn’t see a buck. It seemed like a good day to catch up to one. When we both have those feelings, we usually end up on the good end of the stick. We’ll see what tomorrow brings. Brian, Josh and my Uncle Lee will be at camp sometime tonight. It’s the annual weekend that we all enjoy the meals that Lee cooks for us. It’s one of those unforgettable things that people talk about all year. Although it’s the end of the season, we always look forward to the camaraderie on this weekend. We killed this buck in an area where there wasn’t much sign at all. It just looked like big bucks would use an area like the one he was in. If you take chances like this from time to time, you can be rewarded with a good buck. This one was 22 inches wide.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

December 17th, 2016

The meteorologists missed the forecast once again. There was a zero percent chance of rain today, and it poured all day. Dad headed north early. He couldn’t sit still today, and the urge to wander got the best of him. He covered a lot of ground. The woods were quiet because of the rain, which made it ideal to still-hunt. By the time he returned to the truck at dark, he had seen eight deer but no bucks in the bunch. He wasn’t impressed with the sign that he found. The snow is gone, which will hopefully turn away the people who suddenly become fearless when it is present.

I got out of work around 2:00 p.m. and hustled to get into the woods, so I could sit for an hour and a half before it got dark. I nestled into a good place right near camp and waited it out. I wanted to go back to the notch where I wounded the deer a few weeks ago, but I didn’t have enough time to get there. Although I can’t stand hunting in the snow, I kind of missed it when I was sitting against a big yellow birch tree. Snow sure does allow you to slack off a little. It makes it much easier to see what’s going on and spot deer much quicker than normal.

I didn’t see anything in the few minutes I got to spend in the woods. I didn’t mind. I just enjoyed sitting amongst nature and taking it all in. I’ve come to realize that the forest is my home. The Adirondacks breathe life into me. When it comes right down to it, there’s no place I’d rather be. I like carrying my gun, the gun named Widow-Maker. It rides on my shoulder like a well-worn mitten. It has become part of me for the last 26 hunting seasons in northern New York. It gives me comfort just by looking at it. If the gun could talk, I would love to sit down next to it and listen to the stories. Would our stories be similar or would they twist and turn in different directions? As I’m sitting here typing this in front of the wood stove, my gun is resting against my backpack behind me. It’s resting before going on another journey in the morning.

I love the excitement of what the next day will bring. I might not see a thing and that’s fine, but I might just put the biggest buck of my life on the ground. I might even shoot a lesser buck because it excites me when I see it. I can’t predict what will happen, but I do know that there’s no place I would rather be. I will be spending the day with my dad in a small piece of timber somewhere in the Adirondacks. It really doesn’t get much better than that. I’m doing what I love with the man who taught me how to do it. This is my 33rd year of sharing the woods with him. Sometimes we go in our own directions and other times we stay close to one another for some creature comfort. Tomorrow we will be hunting in the same general area. We haven’t done too much of that this year. Hopefully, it will bring us a little bit of luck. We might try to cut an area off and see if something wanders by one of us. I’d like to see dad knock one over. That would make my day.

The Adirondacks. There is no place like it in the country. If you can regularly take bucks in these mountains, you can do it anywhere in the country. Here are some pictures of the Adirondacks. We’ve used every method imaginable to get deer out of the woods. We used a kayak to get this one out.

 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

December 17th, 2016

My dad was back at it again this morning. He got into the woods an hour before daylight. Last night he mapped a plan out to get a buck out of the woods if he got lucky enough to get one. He said he felt extremely confident that he was going to get one today.

When he got to his stand, the plan didn’t unfold as he would have liked. The fog made it almost impossible to see more than 40-50 yards, and the rain made it uncomfortable to sit.

After he got up, he still-hunted up the hill toward the swamp above him. Although he didn’t see a deer the rest of the day, he found some impressive sign. He couldn’t believe that nothing wandered past him earlier in the day.

My buddy Doug is chasing a big buck, and his brother spotted one that was bedded on their farm with four does. Doug gave it his best effort but came up short. It’s amazing how bucks can be so easy to see when we aren’t hunting but disappear once we put a weapon in our hands and head into the woods.

Dad is headed north first thing in the morning. Since my mother wants me to keep an eye on him, I’m going to head up after I get out of work. Hopefully, I’ll get a few minutes to sit in the woods next to camp somewhere. Sometimes it only takes a minute to get lucky. Maybe that will be the case for me tomorrow. I’m looking forward to the piece and quiet of the woods. I’m hoping that piles of people aren’t tramping through the woods like last weekend. Unlike the old days in the tent, I never know what to expect in this place. We’ll see what the weekend brings. My confidence level is much lower than it has been in previous weeks.

Here’s a buck I killed when I only had a few minutes to sit. It’s one I will never forget.

 

 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

December 17th, 2016

I had too much work to do at my job today to make it into the woods. It’s probably okay because the weather was horrendous for the entire day. It didn’t stop my dad from heading out into it this morning.

At 70 years old, he still has the drive to get out there in some incredibly bad weather. The temperature was in the high 30s this morning and it was raw. The rain came down in buckets for most of the day, and the fog was so thick that you couldn’t see more than 50 yards.

He’s a trooper. I respect him in every way imaginable. He taught me that I needed patience and persistence to consistently kill big deer. Perseverance usually leads to better opportunities. I’ve always tried to give it my best shot, whether the weather is great or piss poor.

We’ve been hunting one deer in the area he went to this morning. We haven’t been able to get in there that much because of how much we’ve been on the road. It’s an area we’ve killed a lot of deer over the years, and it’s close to home. I’d like to see one of us get a crack at the buck. He’s not a monster by any stretch of the imagination, but he is a very respectable Adirondack deer. It’s in the same general area where I hunted last night.

When dad came out of the woods around noon, he was sopped to the bone. He gave it his best, but the deer didn’t appear to be moving today in the horrendous weather. He didn’t even see anything when he still-hunted after sitting for most of the morning. It’s unusual when he doesn’t see deer while still-hunting. I think he’s the best still-hunter I know. I never picked that trait up. I’ve had some success doing it, but it’s definitely not one of my strong points.

I killed this deer on one ridge over from where dad sat this morning.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

Monday, November 28, 2016

December 17th, 2016

I didn’t have much time to do much after work today, but I did make it into the woods for two hours to hunt. When I got to the parking area, I noticed a familiar vehicle already parked in the spot. Since I was familiar with the person driving it, I chose to change my plans and go in a different direction than I had originally planned. The guy usually hunted on the same ridge that I wanted to go sit on, so I didn’t want to interfere with his hunt.

I decided to head to a place where I had some cameras set up. I hadn’t been there since I returned from the Midwest, and this would give me a good opportunity to see if anything had been moving in front of the cameras.

I was disappointed with the lack of sign in the snow. There weren’t many tracks and most of them seemed to be at least a few days old. When I got near the cameras, I came across more tracks, which gave me a little hope.

Instead of pulling the cards, I found a place to sit and nestled in behind a big tree. It would be dark in less than two hours, and I wanted to make the most of my time in the woods. I hoped that I might catch a buck sneaking around the knobs while it searched for a doe in the last few minutes of daylight.

As the sun set behind the mountain, the temperature dropped and the woods became eerily quiet. I could have heard a mouse making its way through the leaves from 100 yards away. Unfortunately, no deer seemed to be moving.

Getting up and slinging my backpack across my shoulders, I quickly moved toward my cameras to see if anything had moved past them in the last few days. When I pulled the card on the first one, I was pleasantly surprised to see that a nice buck had followed a few does past it in the last few days. The does came through right before dark, and he followed them a few minutes later when it was completely dark. At least I know he’s in the area because I have pictures of the same deer in the same general area from earlier in the year.

When I got to the second camera on my way out, it was all but dark. There weren’t too many pictures on the camera, but the few on there were of bucks. One was just a little spike in the daylight, and the other was a good buck with a high rack. He was in there a little bit before daylight in the last week. It could be the same buck that was on the other camera. With the different angle, it’s hard to tell.

I feel good about my adventure tonight, even though it’s one of the first times I’ve been in that piece of woods this year without seeing a deer. I’m running out of time. This season has treated me well, and I’ve learned quite a bit about different areas.

Here is what I found on my cameras.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

December 17th, 2016

Today felt kind of weird. I walked so fast to get to where I wanted to go that my legs burned like hell during my walk. I left two hours before daylight to get to my destination before daylight.

The place I chose to hunt this morning is a place that I feel like I need to be at before the sun even begins to show any type of presence in the skyline. I made it without any problems. I actually arrived in the area around 6:20 a.m.

The woods quickly settled around me as I waited for the dark sky to begin turning gray. The hours passed quickly, and the woods seemed eerily quiet ….. and dead. Nothing moved, not even a bird.

I figured the deer would be on the move today since I saw a lot of fresh tracks yesterday. I was very wrong. My dad and I didn’t see a deer between us. I covered a lot of ground before coming out of the woods around 2:00 p.m. and never cut a fresh track. Dad covered the same amount of ground in another direction and never cut a fresh track either. It appears that the deer just weren’t moving in the piece of woods where we were hunting. I guess that’s the way it goes.

Overall, the weekend was pretty good. It felt good to be in the woods, but the days weren’t without incident. The downfall about hunting public land is that other people can hunt there, too. Nobody owns the land.

Unfortunately, a person who knows where Brian hunts sent someone in the same exact area. The person even followed Brian’s tracks — as in track for track in the snow. The person shot a nice buck and then bragged about shooting another buck earlier in the year but not hunting there now because he hasn’t seen any deer there since shooting the other one.

I’ve never enjoyed hunting on the snow, but I enjoy it even less now that I’m hunting around more people. It amazes me how disrespectful some people really are. It’s one thing to follow someone’s tracks, but it’s an entirely different thing to follow them step for step and hunt the same exact area.

Common sense would tell most people to find an area where no one is parked or hunting. If there are miles upon miles of public access road frontage, there’s no reason to be up someone else’s butt who is already hunting a place. It’s different in smaller areas, but in a 6-million acre park, there really isn’t an excuse for it.

I’m done ranting for now, but sometimes things get under my skin and this didn’t even affect me. I’ve also noticed that snow makes many average hunters turn into much better hunters. It also makes people a lot braver. People think they can’t get lost when there’s snow on the ground because they can see their tracks. I definitely prefer to hunt on bare ground for a number of reasons. The only think I like about the snow is that it’s easier to see deer from longer distances.

I’ll stick at it this week. The season has passed quickly. There are only seven days left of rifle season in northern New York. I’ll be sad to see it go. I’ve hunted much harder this year than in the last 10 years.

I’ve given out three or four free passes to younger bucks this year. Twenty years ago, I used to do it before anyone even talked about it. Now, many people claim they’re passing up bucks. I bought a video camera to capture some of them on video, so I could show people instead of tell them because so many people didn’t believe it. Who passes up ANY buck in the Adirondacks?

Recently, I began to think about it. I don’t think very many people do pass up Adirondack bucks, but a lot of people claim they do. It doesn’t take much to carry small camera in your pocket to record a few of the events. I challenge all of you to capture some of your passes and show them to others. Try to make all of us believers. Video do not lie. While it’s hard to get video footage at times, there are other times that it’s pretty easy, especially if you’re sitting and are able to watch the deer for a while. I don’t capture all of them, but I’ve been able to get a few here and there.

Snow………some people love it, some people hate it. I just put up with it. I guess it creates some nice opportunities for good pictures.

Here are a few signposts I found that have been hit this year.

 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

December 17th, 2016

I sweat like crazy on my walk into the woods this morning. I wore some of my old long underwear, and it seemed like I had a heater body suit on. The sweat poured down my forehead and along my cheekbone. It reminded me of exerting myself in the summer heat.

When I arrived to where I wanted to sit, I saw a few people tracks from the previous day. It was a little miserable, too. The sky spewed a combination of snow and rain, which didn’t take long to accumulate on my clothes, drenching me to the bone.

I toughed it out and waited for it to let up. Finally, in the mid-morning, it let up and turned into a much better day. I decided to spend the rest of the day still-hunting. Right before I packed up and began my journey, a doe and fawn came past me. Knowing bucks have been searching for any last does that are left to be bred, I decided to stay put for another 45 minutes. When nothing followed, I headed in another direction.

After an hour of sneaking and peeking over knobs and along ridges, I stopped to rest next to a familiar tree. It was a tree that I have become accustomed to over the years. It’s just a place I visit when I’m in the area.

Standing motionless and taking in the sights, I spotted a deer’s body. I could see antlers sticking out from behind the tree, but I couldn’t tell if it was a shooter buck. I leveled the gun on the tree and put the crosshairs behind the front shoulder. I could have easily squeezed the shot off, but I decided to wait to identify the buck.

When his entire head became visible, I could see that it was a nice 6-pointer. It wasn’t nearly as large as the buck that Brian had killed, but it was still a nice deer. I grabbed my video camera in my pocket and filmed for few minutes. It was nice to know that I could have easily taken this buck if I chose to do so.

Fortunately, I no longer feel the need to shoot a deer to feel good about my season. I’d rather pass up some of them to see what I can learn in the process. It’s never too late to continue learning.

I’ll never be able to figure out why so many people in New York feel the need to shoot as many deer as they can in a season and not obey the game laws. It seems to be all about numbers. People like to brag about how many bucks they shoot in a year. When I squeeze the trigger or release an arrow, I make sure it’s a deer that excites me. It’s a deer that makes me want to end my season. It’s really too bad that other people don’t feel the same.

When I was younger, I probably did a lot of things I probably shouldn’t have done, but I quickly learned and redirected the ship into the right harbor. That’s one reason I like hunting in the Midwest. Most of the hunters I’ve met out there target one deer and won’t settle for anything less (or more) than that one particular buck.

I could feel that I was getting close again. I’m just hoping that the buck I could have killed wasn’t the one that was bringing the feeling. I’d like to get a look at a good one. I’ve put my time in this year and a lot of work, too.

Heres’ the video I took when the 6-pointer walked right to me.

 

Friday, November 25, 2016

December 17th, 2016

Unfortunately, I had to work this morning while Brian and dad hunted. As I sat inside and punched the keys on my keyboard, I wished I could be in the woods. I knew the deer would be moving this morning.

One of my friends texted me in the morning and said he heard two shots that sounded like they came from the area where Brian was supposed to be hunting. I couldn’t wait to get out of work so I could go find out if it was him that shot.

After working my four hours for a half a day, I left to head north at 9:45 a.m. The roads were a mess when I got near my destination in the central Adirondacks. It was white-knuckle driving until I parked to go to the tent. I was glad to finally pull my truck off the road since my 4-wheel drive low wasn’t working.

I decided to still-hunt for the rest of the day. The woods were quiet with the wet snow on the ground, and I figured I could easily sneak up on any unsuspecting deer. After walking for about an hour, I needed to get a drink of water out of my backpack. I took it off and leaned it against a tree to retrieve the bottle from the side pocket. As I brought the bottle to my lips and tilted my head backward, I heard a strange thumping noise behind me that didn’t really register.

Startled, I quickly turned around. My heart jumped into my throat when I stared into the eyes of a deer that was standing less than 10 feet from me. After bolting away, the doe, her fawn and another doe became curious and walked right back to me when they calmed down. Eventually, they wandered away. It was an incredible experience to be in their world, and they didn’t mind sharing it with me. I was thankful for the few minutes that I was nothing more than a tree to them. They fed as if I they were there by themselves.

Since I had seen a lot of running tracks where bucks had been chasing does, I decided to park it right where I saw these does and wait until dark to see if a buck might pick up their tracks and come by me.

The rest of the day passed quickly, and I didn’t lay eyes on another deer before packing up and heading back to the tent. When I got to the tent, I learned that Brian had shot a nice deer in the morning. He had used two shots to get the job done. The first one didn’t hit a thing and the deer never moved. He guessed that the first bullet hit some brush on its way to the deer. The second shot found its mark.

Taking my advice about not losing an opportunity when it presents itself, he fired when he saw antlers. Knowing he might not get another look, he took the shot. Sometimes you can end up with a buck of a lifetime, but other times you can end up a little disappointed, which is what happened in this case.

The buck was a beautiful Adirondack 6-pointer. Adirondack bucks don’t come easy, and Brian had never killed one in this particular area. Now that he broke the ice, hopefully better things will happen in the future. He got his first kill in this area in the same exact place I killed my first buck in this area many years ago. That is cool stuff. If I recall, I might even have been about the same age he is now when I shot the deer during a late-season walk in the woods. I recall that it was below zero that day, and my hands were so cold when I shot the deer that they didn’t work well enough to gut the deer. I made a heck of a shot on that deer. I had originally passed it up as my dad and I walked together to check some places out. When I saw the deer standing next to a tree about 10 yards from me, my father didn’t see it. He asked what I was doing,  and I slowly pointed at the deer and mouthed, “Too small.” A few seconds later the deer took off running and dad yelled, “Shoot him,” so I pulled up and took him on the run at about 70 yards. I guess I’ve always been able to handle a gun well. I’m not sure where I got that ability. It could just be because of all of the time I spent in the woods. Confidence with your abilities is extremely important. I’ll take shots that most others will not attempt because I’ve been successful so often. I wouldn’t recommend it to most people, but if you practice a lot and you can pull off the shots in practice, then there’s no reason to feel that you won’t do the same on live game.

Tomorrow should be a good day. There were a lot of people in the woods today. Hopefully, the deer will be moving.

Here’s a picture of the deer that I killed in there many years ago. Unfortunately, I wasn’t with Brian when he killed the deer. He fell down and broke the knobs off from his camera, so he couldn’t take any pictures. It was a really high rack. I can see why he thought it might have had a big rack on it. It’s a really nice buck, just not a monster. The other pictures are a few of the deer that came rushing in behind me today.

   

Thursday, November 24, 2016

December 17th, 2016

It’s Thanksgiving today. We have had some incredible experiences on Thanksgiving over the years. We have also killed some of our biggest Adirondack deer on the holiday. It always reminds me of the first day of school when I was a kid. I go to sleep with anticipation of what the next day will bring.

The bad weather just won’t let up. It seems that it’s following us around this year. The night was relatively quiet, but morning greeted us with snow. The snow fell fast and furious and soaked my clothes.

Around 8:15 a.m., I heard a deer grunting behind me. Turning around, I could see it making its way through the swamp. Straining to get a better look, I spotted another deer behind it. Amazingly, the grunting was coming from a fawn. It didn’t appear to be a button buck, but I couldn’t tell for sure. I guess it goes to show you that when you hear a deer grunting, it’s not always a buck.

After they made their way past me, I sat back and waited, hoping that a buck would follow them,  but I knew my time was limited. I had to be home for Thanksgiving dinner by noon. Sometimes it only takes an hour or two to get the job done, and that’s what I hoped for on this day. I decided to take the chance instead of hunting close to home.

At 8:45 a.m., I could see some more deer coming from the same direction as the first two. After a closer look, I could see that there were two fawns and a doe. They didn’t waste any time getting past me. Shortly after they disappeared, I made my way out of the woods. I didn’t want to leave, but family commitments come before hunting. I had a pretty good feeling that deer would move well the rest of the day. The snow stopped when I headed out of the woods, and I had already seen five deer before 9:00. I wish I didn’t have to leave. Today could have been the day. I have to work tomorrow morning for a few hours, but I should be able to get out in time to get in the woods for an afternoon sit.

Today was the 25th anniversary of the killing of the Freezing Rain buck. I shot him on 11/24/1991. It was an unforgettable day. I never imagined that the pictures taken that day would make it onto the cover of a book.

If any of you young guys are reading this, you should always take good pictures to remember your hunting adventures. Pictures are the best things we have to return to some incredible days. As time passes, these memories might be the only thing you have to look back on.

Something tells me that one of us might get a look at a buck over the next few days. I’d like for Brian or my dad to get a good one. They both deserve it. I’ve had plenty of opportunities this year. I’ve passed quite a few smaller bucks, and I blew an opportunity at a good one.

Here are a few pictures of past success on this day. I was pretty young in the last picture, but it seems like it was yesterday.

  

 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

December 17th, 2016

I rushed to get out of work so I could get into the woods for the last few hours of daylight. The snow had melted a little bit, and the temperature had dropped. This combination made the leaves extremely crunchy. There was no chance of sneaking up on anything today.

I rested my back against a tree around 3:00 p.m. and waited for some action. The woods seemed pretty dead until the last half hour of daylight arrived. A few squirrels scurried through the snow and jumped from limb to limb in the trees above me. Blue jays cawed, and ravens made their presence known.

As daylight began to fade, I could hear a deer walking. I couldn’t sense where the noise was coming from, so I rotated my head to find the deer. When I saw it, I quickly identified it as a doe. It made its way past me and continued down the hill. Nothing followed it, so I gathered my stuff and headed out of the woods.

I packed my gear when I got home and made the trek up north to the tent, so I can sit for a few hours in the morning before returning home for Thanksgiving dinner. You all read that correctly. We are staying in a tent for the next four days. It will be good to go back in time, if only for a few days. There’s something about hunting in a tent that makes me feel confident. It’s probably because of all of the great memories I have of bucks hanging in the tree outside of our tent camp.

Here’s a picture of one from the past. I killed the buck on the right during a massive snowstorm, and it took us two days to get it back to the tent. My dad killed the smaller buck at the end of an extremely frustrating day, in which he missed a few good ones beforehand.