Thursday, December 29, 2016

Wait! It's not over yet

"All I saw was blue smoke" dad said smiling.

One week after I shot my deer and rifle season ended, Dad was still hard at it trying to get one of those big bucks we still had pictures of. But, instead, he squeezed the trigger and got his first deer with a muzzleloader.

According to Dad: two doe came crossed three different shooting lanes before starting to talk at him. When he decided to fire at the biggest doe, he lined up the sites and just saw the blue smoke and no deer. 

"I got down and walked to where I saw her last.  The second doe was still standing nearby, so I knew she was down.  When that second doe ran off by itself, I knew the deer was somewhere near by"  Dad picked up the blood trail and tracked his doe... right into a nice puddle of cold water,"She was completely in the water and dead." 

Dad pulled her out and got her back onto higher ground, then got his skidder to pull her out the rest of the way.  When you lose two fellow hunters who have tagged out and don't muzzle hunt, you are left with no help to haul a deer out of the woods and need to be resourceful.

Dad's doe weighed 134lbs dressed.  Which, ironically was exactly in the middle of Hub's deer (124lbs) and mine (144lbs).



Dad and I have never shot deer in the same season.  The fact that all three of us ended the season with successful hunts is incredible.  Mom is pretty sure that we won't see a deer again for five years, but hey, we had an incredible season and will be eating well all winter... and probably into next fall.

Monday, December 26, 2016

In less than a minute

The snow was melting and dropping off the branches and leaves.  I had been in the stand for only a few minutes when I heard a deer walking off to my right.  It was one deer and too dark to know if it was a doe or buck.  Maybe it was the crotch horn.  I closed my eyes and listened to the deer walking away from me.  At least it didn't seem spooked; maybe it didn't know that I was there.

The sky began to get brighter, indicating that the rain predicted was not coming.  I dug into my pocket for handwarmers. I tried to keep the crinkling plastic as quiet as I could as I ripped the first side open.  I waited before I opened the second warmer to keep my noise at a minimum. When I made the second tear, just the corner came off exposing a hole just big enough to get my pinky into. The second warmer was heating up, but I couldn't get to it.  I wiggled my pinky inside the hole and tried stretching it out. I kept watch from the Sky Condo as I pulled to get the plastic to give.

A brown body emerged and was headed right at me.  I put my gloves and handwarmers on the floor in front of me.  It was a deer but was it a doe or buck - and how big of a buck.  It was on a mission and not out just to nibble on the grass.  When I noticed that his right antler swung out beyond his ears, I knew that I needed to shoot him.

In a split second, he lowered his head and I swung the gun onto the railing and got into position for him to turn (hopefully) broadside.  He was not stopping and I knew I needed to get a good shot off if I was going to shoot.  He started to head towards the woods and the second that I saw him quarter away, I placed my crosshairs and fired.

His back legs kicked out like a bucking bronco and he started running. I had an instant feeling of dread as I watched him run, staggering, between two shooting lanes and then disappearing.  I listened but didn't hear any crashing.

Dad heard my shot and dug his cell phone out to answer my call. I told him that I saw the buck run off but I was pretty sure that I was a good shot.  Dad left T3 and headed my way.  I climbed down from the Sky Condo and headed over to where I had last seen the buck. I didn't want to go through the same thing Dad and Hubs had on opening day.


There was blood.  A lot of blood.  Bright red drops speckled the fresh dirt where he had kicked his legs when I shot. That was a good sign.  I was tempted to keep following the blood but wanted to wait for Dad to make sure I didn't jump a wounded deer.

We decided that I would head away from the Sky Condo and walk up an old skidder trail that would loop me back into the shooting lanes where I had last seen the deer.  Dad would track the blood.  I got to the top of the little knoll and saw the brown body laying down.  His back leg was bend in a position that told me that he was dead. I called over to Dad that I had found my deer; he had dropped exactly where I had last seen him.

I think I got the big crotch horn! I said to Dad and walked over to my buck. I could see the two tines sticking up from his right side.  Dad picked up the deer's head, You got a 6!  The brow tines were not big, but they were big enough. I had gotten a 6 pointer - my first one.



He looked as though I had caught him during or right after he checked his rub/scrape line.  His antlers were covered with fresh shavings. He was beautiful.


I was thrilled! It seemed like in less than a minute, I went from trying to open my handwarmer to making a great shot on a fantastic 6 pointer.  You just never know what's going to happen when you are in the woods.

Hubs and I both shot 6 pointers, from the same stand, during the same season. We would have plenty of venison in the freezer now.  We loaded the deer up, tagged it and brought it home to butcher.  He weighed in, dressed, at 144lbs.


It was a great way to end the deer season and I got one deer closer to having even sets of antlers from 2-10 points.  Dad still had two more weeks of muzzleloading, if he wanted to hunt, but we had very full freezers now!



Thursday, December 22, 2016

It doesn't get better than hunting on snow

There was a storm coming in on Thanksgiving night, so Dad and I started and ended our day in the woods.  It was silent when we walked into our stands in a turkey induced semi-stupor. The silence didn't last long.  For almost two hours, we listened to someone target practicing or just shooting different guns.  It was ridiculous and I still can not understand why, during hunting season, someone would do this when they could have waited until Sunday (when we can't hunt.)

When we went to bed Thanksgiving night, the cold rain had turned to snow and on Friday morning, there was enough on the ground to track. Snow turns me into a kid! It could be an early snow in Oct, a Christmas show or the type that you dread in March but for me, I get giddy.  I was the first one up and dressed on Friday morning.


The woods were totally silent. The animals had not woken up yet and I loved how bright the world seemed under a coating of white. The silence was broken by steps. It was still too dark to shoot but there was action.  I had to lean forward from the Sky Condo to watch a spike horn cross in front of me (from the bottom right, the deer crossed between the second and third tree.) He was headed back to his bed or to eat and was not stopping.  I watched him cross the roadway and head into the woods until he disappeared into the grey darkness.

I knew that I couldn't get down immediately and follow him, so I wanted until it was legal hours and then headed into the woods in hopes of seeing more deer moving and maybe crossing paths with a larger buck.


The bows of the tree kept me from being snow/rain/sleeted on and my wool clothes kept me dry and warm.  I was relaxed and happy in the tree, just watching and listening.

I saw Dad's blaze orange before I heard him.  Not surprising, he had jumped a group of six does on his walk to get me. We stood talking next to my stand, when he suddenly crouched and reached for his gun. A deer was trying to sneak past us!!! Maybe 50 feet from us, a deer was slowly walking past us, fully aware that we were there but hoping that we would not notice.  Before Dad could get his gun up, the deer had taken one bound and disappeared into the trees.

I headed into the woods and Dad headed down the past that I walk in on, to see if one of us could get a better shot (and for me to see if it was a buck.)  The only snap I heard after that was Dad walking back out.  The deer had crossed back down by the Sky Condo.  I would have see it if I had been sitting there... maybe it was that spike again?!

During our afternoon hunt, the snow started to melt in the rain. About 30 minutes before the end of hunting hours, I heard a shot. Dad! I pulled out my phone and waited.  It was 4pm.  Then, it was 4:10 and my phone had not rang. At 4:20, another shot rang out.  I went through the scenarios in my head: Dad shot the buck and it ran so he had to track it and then one more shot to finish it off or maybe he had missed the first time and then tracked the deer and got a good shot.  I kept waiting for my phone to buzz but it never came.  The shot was close though.

I walked out of the woods and within minutes, Dad was behind me.  He had thought the same thing - that the shot was me and he couldn't understand why I wouldnt have called him, unless I had shot a coyote or something.  We still are not sure who was so close to us and shooting.

As much fun as it was to hunt in the snow, we knew our hours were numbered. I had one more day in the woods.  Dad, with his muzzleloader, had two more weeks but one more day hunting with me. Rifle season was almost over!


Monday, December 19, 2016

United, we win.



United, we win.

The more involved you get with something, the more frustrated you can become when priorities shift, you see behind that iron curtain and you lose sight of what’s important and made you get involved in the first place. It’s hard to get reenergized and motivated sometimes, especially when there are so many divides.

I have been partly amused and partly disheartened to read articles that my fellow outdoor writers have written about how they miss the ‘good ole days’ of hunting when women were home with the kids and not out in the woods.  I hate to break it to you, but women are the only way that the next generation of hunters are going to take to the woods.  WE are teaching our children why it is so important to hunt, know where your meat comes from and respect the entire field-to-table process.  I don’t remember the ‘good ole days’ because I am too young, but I can guarantee you that I will do everything I can to make sure that my children are comfortable seeing a dead bear, deer or turkey and know exactly how it was killed and how to cook it.  I already have a three year old who says he is going to use his bow and arrow to take a bear (followed by a moose and deer) because he loves the meat. It is unfortunate that instead of embracing the growth we are seeing with girls and women taking up hunting, trapping and shooting sports, there are some who miss the days when we were in the house instead of in the woods.

For the past 18 months or so, I have been helping the Maine Wildlife Conservation Council to raise funds to build a war chest to prepare us for the next referendum.  In 2014, it took all sportsmen and women in and out of Maine, outdoor organizations across Maine and a chunk of support from national organizations like the Sportsmen’s Alliance, in order for us to win a second time.  If you get the MWCC newsletter or follow the Facebook group, then you know that we are looking at another fight on trapping and hunting with hounds very soon.  If you have read my blog or my past articles, you know that I am a registered Maine trapper AND had a successful bear hunt with hounds.  Even if you don’t participate, you should know how important both are to the outdoor industry and that we cannot afford to lose them in another ballot battle.

And speaking of those anti-hunting groups, for the past year or so, I have been helping to write the black bear species management plan with a handful of representatives from outdoor organizations across Maine and our incredible bear biologists.  We have also had HSUS at the table with us.  None of us came to the meetings thinking that we were going to change anyone’s opinion but that was not the point; our focus was only to come up with ways to keep our black bears healthy.  We had some intense discussions and all of us brought some strong thoughts and opinions with us, but we were able to work together to create the plan and feel good about sending it to the Steering Committee.

All three of these examples prove that the only way sportsmen and women will continue to win and protect our outdoor heritage is by uniting.  We can sometimes be our own worst enemies and we forget that we need everyone in this fight; bow hunter, rifle hunter, trapper, hound hunter, woman, man, meat hunter and trophy hunter… we all have something to lose if we don’t stay united and support one another.

As we prepare for 2017, let’s work on that; thanking and respecting every outdoors person because at the end of the day, we all love and care about the Maine woods and the animals here. We all want to keep doing what we have been fortunate enough to enjoy and we need one another to make that happen.





Thursday, December 15, 2016

Just shoot a doe


There were signs of deer everywhere! Tracks, rubs and fresh scrapes but for some reason, I was not seeing them.  Dad, on the other hand, was seeing deer everywhere he looked. One morning, he watched a spike horn chase a doe and fawn through the woods.  He walked out of the woods behind a doe and fawn another night.  He was seeing multiple does every time he sat or walked through the woods but instead of using that doe tag, he wanted that big, illusive buck that we knew was still hanging around.


I hung out in my stands and watched a lot of squirrels.  How could we be spending so much time in the woods and not come across a deer yet? It helped that Hubs had filled the freezer but we knew that there were deer all around us. Still, being in the woods was fantastic.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Sitting is safer

On Veteran's Day, the wind was so bad that I climbed down from the Sky Condo to sit in the ground blind that we had not removed since turkey season.  I am usually all for rocking in the trees but there was just enough extra creeks happening that I felt better on the ground.


It sleeted, the wind blew and nothing moved.

Saturday was different.  I started off the same way as the weekend before; Sky Condo to tree seat.  I left the Sky Condo a little earlier than I had the week before hoping to see more deer than just the two does.  There were fresh rubs that were a little bigger than the ones the week before, but it wasn't from a large buck.


The leaves were somewhat crunchy and I took my time getting to the stand.  I was almost there when I saw two white flags flickering in the woods.  The does!  They were at my stand, eating. I was in the middle of the trail and totally exposed.  I slowly crept backward until I was up against a tree.  I couldn't see any antlers.  The first doe spotted me, turned and bounced into the woods with her tail up but she never blew.  I had lost sight of the second deer. I peered to my right to see if I could see her around the tree that had my stand in it.  That was enough for her, she blew at me and was gone.  That tell tale sign of danger left me in the woods alone for hours until Dad came.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Back into the woods

We had to revamp our hunting plan since we were now one hunter down, but Dad and I stuck with what he knew would work and where we thought the deer were.

I started the morning in the Sky Condo and when it was clear that nothing was moving through, I headed to a tree seat not far away.  There were fresh rubs along the path that I used and although they were made by small deer, it gave me hope that the deer would be moving through.


I left my pack at the bottom of the tree and climbed the 16 feet up to the seat.  I think I am more comfortable in treeseats than the bigger stands.  I can't move when I am up there because every part of me is exposed to unseen deer but there is something about being so much more present with nature than when you are hidden in a big box.  I rested my gun on the arm rests and kept watch for movement or footsteps.


I hadn't been there long when two brown bodies emerged from the thick hardwoods.  I twisted slightly and got my gun ready in case either of them had decent antlers.  I watched as one doe and then a second passed through my crosshairs and disappeared into the thick woods.  I turned back but left my gun in position in case there was a buck following them.

There was a squirrel rummaging through the leaves off to my right and it made me think back to when I was bear hunting and made a similar assumption. I glanced to my right and saw a deer pawing at the leaves and eating the acorns underneath. Soon, a second deer appeared. It had to have been the same two does.  They had circled in front of me and were making there way towards me.  They had no idea that I was there. I watched as they ate and could hear them crunching acorns.  The lead doe didn't seemed worried or cautious at all. The second one was on guard; pausing to look around, licking her tongue but she was the one who came the closest to me and they ended up walking within 20 feet of my stand, completely unaware that I was sitting there watching them.

Non-hunters don't fully understand what this sort of experience is like. If I had a doe permit, I would have easily shot either of them but it is such an amazing experience to watch these animals in their natural world, totally oblivious that they are being watched.  It is one of my favorite things about hunting!

Monday, December 5, 2016

It's finally deer season!

We've waited all year for this!  Deer season was back.  Hubs, Dad and I had a rough idea of where we were going to sit to start the morning, when and where we would move to next and the basic game plan for the morning hunt. But then, I looked at the trail camera pictures.

The 10 pointer that we had had on the camera last year had shown himself for the first time two days before at T3. Up until that point, we had only smaller bucks on the cameras.  But this one... we've been watching him for at least 4 years and he was beautiful.  I declared that I would start the season sitting in T3. Hubs was bumped to the Sky Condo and Dad would still hunt.

It was a perfect morning - quiet and calm.  I got into T3 and settled in.  I had a set of rattling antlers, a grunt call and a bleat.  The season officially started at 6:40am.  I was ready.  From my seat, I could watch 7 different shooting lanes. I picked up the antlers and as I prepared to rattle, a single gun shot rang out. It was close. I put the antlers down and dug my phone out of my pocket.  I sent a text to Hubs: You?
Yes. I think its the big crotch horn.
YEAH! I'm coming up. Is he down in the field?
No, he ran into the woods. 

I sat in the stand and waited. He had shot a deer at 6:54 - minutes into the rifle season. This was his second deer ever. I was so excited.  But as I sat in T3, Hubs and Dad were having their own adventure.  After hearing the gun shot, Dad made his way to the Sky Condo.  He and Hubs looked for blood where the deer had been standing and didn't see any. Dad, being the stealth hunter that he is, planned to walk parallel in the woods from where Hubs last saw the deer run in.  He jumped the deer after only a few steps and watched as the deer wobbled as he half ran over a small knoll.  Hubs stood at the Sky Condo and waited, in case the deer turned and ran back out in that direction. Dad circled further into the woods and planned to walk up the knoll that the deer had just disappeared behind.  He didn't have to walk far when the brown body came into view.  The deer was dead.

I couldn't take it any longer and after an hour of waiting, I packed my things up and headed to the Sky Condo.  I found the guys in the woods, dragging the deer out.  It was not the big crotch horn, but the new 6-pointer that had just started showing up on the trail camera.  His points were blunt from either fighting or rubbing when he was still in velvet.  Definitely not a bad deer to kick the season off with!




Thursday, December 1, 2016

Do they call it partidge hunting?

I don't bird hunt so I can never really be totally sure when people say that they are going bird hunting.  Does that mean partridge? grouse? aren't they the same thing? In this case, I wanted partridge.

Staci and I decided to try out luck partridge hunting this fall.  We loaded the shotguns up, our outdoor gear and drove into the empty dirt roads of the Maine woods.  The fog had not lifted from the valley but the sun was making the foliage glow on the sides of the mountains.


It could not have been a more perfect October morning. The colors were radiant and there was just a small breeze.  We left the main dirt roads and headed down skidder trails to look for birds that might be hanging out close to the road.


Moose season was starting the following week so we kept our eyes and ears out for moose while we drove and walked down the paths.  After not hearing or seeing any birds down one stretch, I backed my car back on to the main dirt road.  I didn't even have time to put the car in park or drive before a partridge flew in front of the windshield.  Staci and I looked at each other and re-parked the car and started walking to see if we could find the bird.  No luck.



We drove and stopped and listened. Drove more and kept an eye out for birds along the roadway. It was an almost perfect fall day and the colors and scenery and company made up for the lack of birds that we were seeing.


Finally, we turned a corner and saw a partridge in the road, strutting his stuff.  I came to a stop as quickly and slowly as I could while Staci got out and in position to take a shot.  The bird was nervous and jumped a few times as he crossed the road, angling away from us.  Before Staci could get a good shot off, the bird flew.

There were a few expletives and laughs before we headed back down the road.  We stopped to eat lunch in a small clearing and enjoyed the warm sun and cool breeze.  We went home empty handed but the experience and fun of trying a new hunt is always worth the time and effort.