Thursday, December 31, 2009

First deer

It was Christmas eve 2009 primitive firearms season and the first chance I've had to get out and hunt. I used a Thompson Center Renegade that has a Green Mountain .50caliber rifled barrel. Ammo was T/C 372gr. maxiball with 90 gr. of Pyrodex Select fired by CCI #11 caps.
There was a small group of us and I was unfamiliar with the area I was directed up a steep slope to the top of a ridge. I found an intersecting North South/East West trail with fresh scat on one corner. I set up in the crook of two trees some 15 yards away and settled into a padded seat after clearing away leaves and twigs (noisemakers).
The plan was to sit until around 11:30am and then slowly work our way back to a meeting point. After about two hours into it the constant mild breeze and frigid temperatures had me standing and wiggling my toes to get wam. The long climb to the ridge had made me sweat a little and I was paying the price for that. I was just noting how I had seen nothing. Usually I see squirrels, birds other critters when still hunting and I had seen nothing at all. Just as that thought crossed my mind I caught a slight movement on my peripheral vision.
I slowly turned my head and was startled by two deer 12 to 15 yards away. They had appeared like ghosts despite the crunchy ice layer on the snow, OK I admit I am hard of hearing also. The lead deer had a compact six point rack and the other deer had two oddball spikes, both were the same body size. One spike, on the second deer, was about 12" and the other about 8". I later learned the name he was given from the trail cam pictures was "Crazy Horn". I cocked the hammer back on the renegade. The six pointer lowered his head and stared hard at me. I do not believe he actually heard it, the wind was too brisk and it was moving from him toward me. I believe the movement caught his eye and he was trying to interpret it.
The six pointer turned and walked away slowly with the spike following behind. They picked up speed as they neared a drop off that ended in a flat landing about five feet down. By this time I had the rifle shouldered and the front sight firmly fixed just behind the left rib cage of the rear deer (the spike). I shoot with both eyes open and saw the lead deer drop to it's belly and slide over the edge, the second deer lept forward off the ground. I assume he did not want to land on his buddy but I am not sure how deer think. I kept the front sight behind his ribcage as he quartered away and even as he lept but as I pulled the trigger I saw a round white target. I was a little confused as to wether it was the cloud of smoke from the rifle or the deers white hindquarters. I felt pretty confident about the shot only because I do a fair amount of waterfowl and trap shooting so I walked a short distance toward where they went over the ledge in order to see if I could spot in what direction they headed. I know that waiting a few minutes is best but the drop off is so steep I could get a really wide view of the area and thought it would help.
As I approached the drop off point I observed the back of a deer rise and wobble back and forth a bit, right where I saw him leap. He had landed on the small flat below the drop off. I immediately stopped, took a breath and reloaded. I took my time deliberately to slow things up. A short time later, ? two minutes, I could see the deer in a clearing below about 75-80 yards away in some thin laurels. He lay down, then almost immediately got up, sat down and then stood weaving from side to side. He walked around the laurels and dissapeared. I knew he had fallen as the laurels were pretty open.
I had kept my sights on him after I reloaded until he disappeared using a tree as a rest but a second shot was not neccesary. I walked back to my sitting spot, strapped on my small pack and walked slowly down the hill after the deer and after calling my companions to assist me. I found the deer about 10-15 feet from where he disappeared, he had fallen and slid down a slight decline to his final resting spot. On examination I found the bullet entered the left side of the belly between the penis and belly button and went upward and destroyed the left lung and must have severed several arteries as bright red blood came out in large amounts when he was field dressed.
My first deer and on Christmas Eve. Wow what a gift. I have to thank my companions who assited me in the field dressing and dragging part of the hunt.

Friday, December 18, 2009


This morning i went out, it was by far the coldest morning I've been out this year. It was very noisy, and crunchy snow. I Sat in the spot i sat in during bow season just 30 yards lower from where i got my 10 pointer. At about 8:15 I heard this loud noise to my left and it was coming closer and closer. I Heard the noise from a long ways away. Crunch, Crunch, i looked to my left and there's one deer...two deer...three deer... four deer...five deer...six deer...eight deer, i lost track, there were between 8- 12 deer all together they sounded like a heard of elephants coming. They were forty yards from me, but not a single horn, all baldies. They had no clue i was there. I think they ended up bedding on a side hill near me. Then at about 8:40 I heard another noise to my left, and it was one single deer all by itself. She came near me and started stomping her feet, then she takes off blowing at me. It was another baldy by the way, no horns. NO DOE PERMIT. So I sat there wondering, did these deer already start losing there horns. I really think the second deer that came to me (the one by itself) was a buck but with no horns. In this spot I have seen so many deer this year. A honey hole and a natural travel corridor. Guess where I'll be tomorrow, this same spot. But let me tell it was one cold sit I was chattering like a chipmunk. But it was worth it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Simpler Days

Do you remember the simpler days and alot of you won't because you were just pups. The ones I’m thinking about were in the late 70’s and early 80’s. They were the days when the only thing you carried into the woods for an afternoon hunt were the clothes you drove to your hunting spot in and the bow you grabbed off the backseat just before heading into the woods. You might stick a bottle of soda or water in your pocket along with a handful of candy bars but that was about it.

There were no modern treestands to pack in and many afternoons I would construct some type of ground blind or sit next to some stone wall or up against a large tree near some well worn deer trail. Of course this was all last minute and there was no such thing as scent blocker to keep your odor under control. You broke branches with your bare hands and scratched the leaves where you would sit away with your leather boots. About the only thing you were worried about was the wind direction.

I remember one such hunt in southern Vermont in the 1982 when I was in college. It was Columbus Day weekend and it was a beautiful early October day. The leaves were changing color, the afternoon was mild and I knew you would feel the temperature drop as the sun dipped behind the mountain in the evening. It was about 3:00 PM and I decided I would finish studying in the woods. I dressed, grabbed my bow and my backpack with some boring economic book and drove to Vermont.

Deer were plentiful then and it was common to see 10-15 deer in a field just before dark. I decided to try an area I had recently found that bordered the edge of a small swamp. A large stone wall that stood at least four feet tall ran along the edge of the swamp and a cluster of huge oak trees were scattered along the stone wall. An old wood road ran along one side of the wall and the deer traveled this section feasting on the acorns that littered the area. The oak trees were enormous and I could spread my arms as wide as possible and still not even get half way around the tree. It was this particular spot that I decided I would wait in ambush for a whitetail deer.

I cleared the leaves away between two large oak trees that were tucked right up against the stone wall and sat down. I moved a couple of small stones so I could peak out and see if there was any activity in the grown up road. The trees were so big I figured if I saw a deer I could easily stand and draw my bow undetected.

I threw my backpack on the ground, grabbed my economic book and proceeded to bore myself to death. As the afternoon wore on my eyes grew heavy and I closed them for a few minutes. I was quickly jarred back to reality when I heard the unmistakable crunching of acorns. I didn’t dare move as the sound was coming from the other side of the stone wall and it sounded like it was right next to me. I remained motionless and listened. The crunching continued uninterrupted so I leaned forward and glanced through one of my peak holes in the stone wall. As I glanced out into the grown up road way a deer on the other side of the wall caught my movement through the peak hole and ran back a short distance.

I knew it couldn’t see me as I was hidden behind the huge oak tree. I waited to see if I could hear where the deer was. A few seconds passed and I could hear the deer stomping its front hoof into the ground. From the sound of it I knew it was only a few yards away on the other side of the stone wall. I felt the deer had no idea I was a human or it would be in the next county by now.

I decided I would stand up behind the enormous oak tree and draw my bow as quietly as possible. I slowly stood up and drew. I didn’t hear the deer run off so I assumed it must still be there. The stomping had stopped and I wasn’t sure if the deer had walked away or if it was back to feeding. I decided I would lean out from behind the big oak while I was at full draw to see if I could locate the whitetail.

As I leaned out with the nock of the arrow tucked in to the corner of my mouth I saw her. A fat doe stood less than ten yards away stareing at this foreign object that appeared to be sticking out of the side of the tree. Before she could react I picked a spot behind her front shoulder and left the aluminum arrow fly at about 190 feet per second. The arrow struck right where I was aiming and as the doe bolted out of sight I could see close to half of my arrow protruding from her rib cage. She ran into the swamp and I heard her crash about 75 yards away.

Today, looking back I wonder how that was even possible. I hadn’t washed my clothes and left them hanging on the clothes line for days to rid them of human scent. I hadn’t stored them in an air tight container to keep them scent free nor had I backpacked my clothes in and dressed when I was close to my hunting spot. I wasn’t wearing knee high rubber boots. I didn’t have everything but the kitchen sink in my backpack. I wasn’t perched over a deer trail 20 feet up in the air in a modern tree stand. I hadn’t hung a stand weeks before I hunted the spot. Were the deer just stupid back then, I don’t think so. So how did any of us ever manage to be successful back then? It’s simple really; the only thing that matters is being in the right place at the right time.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Coming up empty

The MA bow season started with such promise as I had taken a 3 PT before the rut had even started and I was going to be off for the first three weeks in November. November is my favorite time to bow hunt because of the chance to see a monster buck that you normally won't lay eyes on the entire year.

It was the first week in November and I had located an oak grove that had a dozen rubbings in it and the ground was covered with acorns. There was sign everywhere and I knew it would only be a matter of time before I would see a buck if I hunted this spot long enough. I located a tree and threw a stand up on Thursday Nov. 5. On Friday morning I was in it well before day light. About an hour after day light I saw a large 4 PT with at least 6 inch forks work his way across the far edge of the oak grove and out of sight. The wind changed directions later that morning and I moved to another location but I knew I would be back on Saturday morning November 7 th.

I was and shortly after 7:30 another 3 PT came crashing down through the oak grove passing just out of range. Things were looking good, 2 bucks in 2 sittings in this new stand. That afternoon as that magic hour approached I heard the unmistakable sound of a deer walking behind me. I glanced back and saw a deer coming up the ravine behind my stand. It was a doe and she stopped and looked up at me. I didn't move and I couldn't believe she was looking up as I had to be 30 feet above her. She stomped her foot once and I stayed motionless. Content I was nothing more than a squirrel she put her head down and began feasting on acorns.

As she fed she worked her way right under my stand. I heard another deer walking and looked back. I could see a large body coming through the hemlocks and I knew this had to be a buck. As the deer came into the opening I could see it was an absolute monster. The rack was heavy and wide with G2's close to 12 inches long and G3's at about 10 inches. I would have guessed him at close to 20 inches wide. I immediately knew he was Pope & Young material and he was over 200 lbs easily.

He approached the spot where the doe had stomped her foot and stopped. I don't know why. I'm not sure if she gave off some type of scent or what when she did that but he stopped and remained there motionless.

My heart was pounding and my knees started to shake. I didn't move and looked away so I could get control of myself. It was 3:50 PM and I had over an hour till dark. The doe continued to feed around my tree stand. I had made two mock scrapes and they were about 12 yards in front of my tree stand. The doe worked her way around the tree I was in and walked into the scrapes. I had placed some tinks gel #69 in them and she sniffed around and walked through them. I knew she must be ready to breed or she would not have gone near the scrapes.

The buck remained motionless behind me. He raised his head and licked his noses every few minutes but he didn't move. The doe finally fed up the ravine in front of me and continued to feast on the acorns. She was now about 50 yards in front of him and he must have decided she was getting too far out in front.

He made his move. He started up the ravine but at his pace. He would take a couple of steps, stop, test the air, lick his nose and look around. Everything he did was in slow motion and at his pace. His chest was huge and his gut sagged and I knew he was at least 5-6 years old.

On Nov. 7, 1994 at 3:50 PM I had shot my biggest buck a 229 LB 10 PT less than 400 yards from this tree stand. He was coming and I knew I was going to get a shot, could history repeat itself 15 years later? He was less than 20 yards and the direction he was heading he would pass by my stand broadside at no more than 14-15 yards.

Two, three steps stop look around lick his nose. It was painful. When he paused it was for 2-3 minutes at a time. He was in control even though his dick was trying to think for him. He knew she was going no where and he would not be chased off by any other buck in the area. Finally he was right beside me just to me left. The top of a large oak tree had broke off years ago and he was working his way around it. When he cleared it I would have the shot. He stopped and paused just before the fallen top. I told myself when he starts to walk I'll draw, he'll have cleared the tree top and be broadside at 14 yards.

I had watched this deer for over 45 minutes and I had regained control, no shaking, heart was pounding but that's something we as bowhunters live for. He started, draw I told myself. I came to full draw and he stopped, SHIT.. he didn't clear the top completely. His body looked huge as I looked down my site pin. I could see branches from the tree top sticking up and blocking parts of his vitals.

You CAN get an arrow by that I told myself, DON'T be an idiot my other half screamed, he doesn't know you're here, let down he'll take another step in a couple of minutes. He's right there shoot, you can DO it, DON'T take the shoot he'll step out, SHOOT, DON'T be an idiot, DO it, DON'T and it was off. I watched in horror as the arrow sailed just over his back and slammed into the ground. The buck bounded toward the doe that was now bounding up the ravine and out of the oak grove. What the hell just happened. How could I have blown such an easy shot, why didn't I let down and draw when he cleared the tree top. I don't have the answer. I think subconsciously I was in another zone and I didn't even realize I had touched off the trigger on my release until it was too late. I looked at my watch it was 4:45. I felt drained and I wanted to throw up. In 36 years of deer hunting I have seen 4 deer that I knew without a doubt were Pope & Young material and over 200 lbs. Those opportunities are far and few between and to actually get one that close and blow it was devastating. I was beyond pissed off at myself for screwing up such a chance.

In years past I would have lost sleep, been sick to my stomach for days, allowed doubt to creep in and really questioned whether I could every hit another deer with a bow and arrow again. I didn't do that this time. I sat for 11 hours on Monday Nov. 9 and analyzed that situation over and over. I had to learn from it, what had I done that caused that miss. I sat in the same stand and stared at the spot he was standing. I could clearly see how my tunnel vision had blocked my thinking clearly. The deer was not in the clear, his size had greatly mislead me in to thinking there was an opening large enough. I had drawn and been at full draw at least 2-3 minutes prior to releasing the shot. I never practice holding this long. I should have let down, better yet I should not have drawn until he was in the clear. I should have know this because he wasn't in a rush to go anywhere, he did not know I was there. If I had drawn when he was in the clear everything would have been automatic, draw, locate, aim, release, dead deer running. Some of life's lesson's in the bowhunting world are the most painful. There isn't a day that goes by that I can't see that buck standing there broadside at 14 yards and I'm telling myself to wait and some nights I have nightmares about it. I'm trying to take the shot back and just wait but it's not happening. I don't think I'll every make that mistake again but it may have been most painful lesson I have ever learned in my deer hunting career.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

NH Bow Season

I've been bow hunting NH since 2006. I hunted all state land in the town of Winchester, NH. The park is called Pisgah and it is 21 square miles all big woods. I like hunting NH bow because the season lasts from Sept. 15 - Dec. 15. The hunting pressure is so light that rarely do I see a hunter anytime of the year that I go up.

The season started out promising as I actually saw part of a deer the first day. It passed behind me about an hour before dark but all I saw was the front shoulders back so I don't know what it was. I would spend the next 3 months trying to see another one and as of right now I haven't. I walked miles and miles scouting, had trail cameras out and sat over 200 hours in my stands.

I found very little sign and when I scouted during the rut I found only two scrapes. I think the area got hit really hard last winter and the herd took a heavy loss. I've hunted that state for 3 years and have gotten a deer every year and have always seen at least one buck during the bow season, not this year. I do have several bucks on camera one 8 and a nice 6. The 8 was taken the next morning and afternoon just after I hung a stand. I hunted that area for two weeks after that on and off morning and night and never saw a deer or got another picture. The six was a regular during the week of Thanksgiving and then he disappeared. But he returned on Dec. 4 so I know he is still alive. With this snow I'm sure the gate to the park is closed and my chance of getting back up there is about zero.

MA Bow Season

My MA bow season was certainly an interesting one. It started very slow due to the thousands of acorns in the woods. I can't remember a year where there were so many. After the first week of the season I had seen two black bear and no deer.

I checked one of my trail cameras on Sunday Oct 18 and had a picture of a 3 Pt. I decided I would hunt that stand on Monday morning Oct. 19. It was mild and no wind. The area is just north of a beaver pond/swamp that was logged off two years ago. Its a ravine that runs north from the pond and gradually becomes flat with scattered oaks still remaining.

At 9:15 I caught movement to my right and noticed the 3 pt working his way across the top of the ridge. He was browsing on these huge ass yellow leaves. He was only about 40 yards away. He started to head in my direction when he stopped and bedded down. I ranged him at 32 yards. He was on the bank just to my right but just slightly behind my stand. I was in a double pine tree and luckily I was on the left side of the tree and I used the right side section as cover to block him from seeing me.

I watched him as he licked his ass, chewed on his sides like a dog does and then fall asleep. He lowered his head and placed it on top of his crossed front legs, just like a dog and slept. Since the rut was only a couple of weeks away I know he was dreaming about his first taste of doe ass. His eyes fluttered and his ears twitched. He slept off and on until 11:25. He then stood up and stretched and slowly starting walking south down the ridge away from me. He jumped a stone wall and was about 60 yards away when I turned my bleat can over twice. He snapped his head around, remembering his recent dream of doe ass and jumped back over the wall. He didn't run or walk fast he just slowly started in my direction.

He continued to browse but he was coming. After about 5 minutes he was directly under my tree stand and he stopped to once again lick his ass. I was looking straight down on him but I hate that kind of shot. He had no idea I was around so I waited for him to walk out. He walked out quartering away. At about 5 yards I drew and settled the pin at the rear of his ribs and sent the arrow on its way. I saw the arrow sink in deep near the last ribs angling forward. I knew immediately that deer was dead on his feet. He kicked his high legs and bolted running a 100 mph. I waited about 30 minutes even though I knew he was dead. My father and son came up and we followed the blood about 150 yards and found him piled up. The thunderhead went right through the middle of his heart and came out between his front legs. The deer weighed 120 lbs.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

First Week of Shotgun/European Mount

The first week of shotgun season is over. I have not seen a single deer in (4) half day hunts (mornings). There are still a few scrapes being made but activity is much slower and there were quite a few hunters in the woods through the opening days. Its going to take a lot of luck to run into a good deer after a full week of hard pressure.
On a different note I have pretty much finished the European mount of my deer, and have added the pictures. The how-to portion goes like this:
1. I skinned the entire skull and cut off any meat that I could with a sharp knife, be careful to not cut any of the bone. Remove the eyes (not easy) and with a coat hanger remove as much brain tissue you can. I also carefully separated the lower jaw at this time.
2. I then brought a pot full of water (not the wifes cooking pot), and small amount of dish detergant (2 tblsp as a degreaser) to a simmer(not a full boil). Place the skull in the water for 15 or 20 minutes, remove/pull/cut off any loose meat. Repeat this several times until the skull is clean. It will take a lot of work, there are a lot of tendons and muscles that do not come off easily.
3. I then let the skull sit in a large bucket of water for a couple weeks to loosen up and remaining bits of meat. I then used an exacto knife to cut the small pieces off. Once this is complete scrape and wash any little pieces that remain and allow the skull to dry.
4. To whiten the skull I used 40% peroxide (not the stuff used for cleaning scrapes) this stuff I order from a taxidermy website (it was $8 for a quart). I mixed the peroxide with powdered bleach to make a paste. I brushed the paste onto the skull and let it sit overnight. Be careful not to get the paste on the horns or they will turn white ( I did read that you can use wood stain to color them if you do get bleach on them by accident). I only did it once and it came out pretty white, but the process can be repeated.
It probably took a total of 24 hours of work. I think it looks good and is cheaper than a full mount ($8 for peroxide + $10 for a pot+ $3 for powdered bleach). I think its a better option for a good deer that doesn't quite reach the mark of getting full mount, but yet is too big to just cut the horns off of. If anyone wants to give it try and needs any help, let me know.