Here we are, in August already.
I just turned my calendar — an outdoor calendar, of course, courtesy of Sned’s Taxidermy in Wallingford — and there’s a picture of a nice looking buck deer staring at me.
It’s a real beauty and it brought back a flood of memories of bucks that I have met in the hunting woods. A few I was able to put a tag on, but most went away unscathed by me. It made me think about, “What not to do when hunting deer.”
But, like I said, I did manage to tag a few. The first two bucks I tagged were both taken in Maine.
The first was an eight-pointer and was taken while I was hunting an old logging road. I was wearing hip boots because I knew that I would be crossing a stream. In fact, I was in the middle of the stream, looking down at where I was stepping, when I paused to look up the trail and almost dropped my rifle. There was a buck standing in the trail staring at me, probably wondering what in the heck I was and what was I doing there.
That was the first buck deer I would take while hunting.
The biggest buck I ever tagged (over 200 pounds) was also taken in Maine. I was hunting with Bill Schafrick and Al DeNicola that year.
This particular morning Bill shot a real nice 10-point buck about three miles down in the woods and it took us all morning to drag it back to camp. I was exhausted and kiddingly told Bill, “If I ever shoot one that big, I will do it in the blueberry lot and you can drive the truck out there and load it up.”
That afternoon, I settled down in a small island of brush in the middle of a blueberry field owned by the same folks who owned the camp we were at. I wasn’t in that spot more than 15 minutes when the head of a buck came up over a small rise in the field.
And then the rest of it showed and I could not believe my eyes at the size of the critter. Luck was with me and I was able to tag it.
And, YES, Bill drove the truck out into the field so we could load it up and, YES, it too was a 10-pointer!
A couple of years later I took our son George up to the great woods of Maine to hunt and this time I also had a doe (antlerless) permit. I was down in the deep woods in back of came a couple of miles and was waiting for a deer to come along.
One did. It was antlerless, yet rubbed its head against a sapling just like a buck would with its antlers.
The deer seemed to be exceptionally large for a doe, even in Maine, but since I had an antlerless tag and I loved venison, I put my tag on it.
After it was down and I went over to field dress it, I got the surprise of my life when I rolled the critter over. It had a penis and a set of “boys” that would have made any buck proud. I then checked its head. At one time it had antlers, but they were both snapped off just above the base of the skull.
I have no idea how that happened. The antlers were snapped off. They had not fallen off like they usually do in the coming of late winter before they start to regrow during the spring of the year. When later put on a scale, it weighed in at 168 pounds.
So now you know I tagged a couple of bucks. Do you want to hear about the ones that got away? Believe me, they outnumber the ones that I got, especially in 19 years of hunting in Maine.
Our cabin was situated so that we could hunt right from the cabin without having to drive anywhere. Behind us was a tremendous hunk of forest. In my time there, I knew just about every foot of it and saw (not tagged) around a good dozen or more bucks with antlers that would have made any hunter proud.
My memory bank is so crammed full of critters I have seen in the wild I could write a book about them. And this is the best part about being a hunter: While I do enjoy wild game meat, I enjoy even more the encounters I have had with these wild creatures when they get away. Memories last forever.
I have a few big bucks that got away in Maine.
The first one took place in the blueberry field where I shot my 10-point buck. I was again sitting in the small bush island in the middle of the field. There was also a stunted crabapple tree off to my right and it had a few crabapples in it. I was sort of day dreaming (of big bucks of course) when a slight movement off to my right side caught my eye.
A huge buck came silently to the crabapple tree looking for a snack. The head gear had me in awe. The antlers were non-typical, with so many points I could not count them.
The huge critter did not know I was that close to him, so it should have been a piece of cake putting a tag on him, right?
Wrong! I am a right-handed shooter, so the rifle was in my lap facing to my left. This meant I had to swing the rifle all the way over to the right without the big boy seeing the movement.
Now, I know I should have waited until he was looking way from me, but being a young hunter I started to bring my rifle around and that big buck was off into the woods in two leaps. There was no chance of a shot.
Big Buck 1, Mike the Hunter 0!
The next year, I targeted a huge buck that was using a swampy area down in the hardwoods for its playground. I left the cabin an hour early to make sure I was on my special spot in case the big buck came through. He did and, again, I was facing in the wrong direction for a shot.
Deer 2, Mike the Hunter 0!
This was not the only time “Murphy’s Law” (anything that can go wrong will) came into my deer hunting adventures. Another time, I was down in the same hardwood forest at about nine in the morning when I came upon a huge stump that must have been cut in an earlier logging operation. I climbed up on the stump to take a break.
I was munching a snack when I heard the sound of crunching brush coming up from down below. I figured that no deer could make that much noise in the woods, so I figured it had to be a hunter.
Imagine my surprise when an enormous buck suddenly appeared out of the undergrowth! I grabbed for my rifle.
The critter caught the movement and froze with a tree between us. I could see antlers on both sides of the tree trunk, but the buck’s main body was protected by the tree trunk.
It seemed like an eternity before the buck wheeled around and disappeared back into the underbrush.
Deer 3, Mike the Hunter 0!
Hey, maybe I could write a book on the ones that got away. Or maybe in a later column.
The tournament billed as “The Greatest Bluefish Tournament On Earth” will run the weekend of August 25-26. Top prize is $25,000. For more information, contact The Fishin’ Factory in Milldale at 860-621-8145.
See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be serving.