Apr 18

Last week we buried our nephew Steve, Brother Fran’s boy.  He lost his battle with cancer, at the young age of 53.  His dad, our eldest brother, died the same way, but made it a few years longer.

Steve was always a quiet, polite, hard-working sort, just a pleasure to be around.  Whatever was going on: hunting deer, cutting wood, constructing, whatever, he was always there.  Kinda kept in the background, didn’t have much to say, but he did his share with no complaints.  When you did get him in a conversation, he was knowledgeable, polite, with a quiet dry humor and a shy smile.  Just a good guy.  If he didn’t quite know what was going on, he would pitch in anyway, and quickly figure out how and where.

Steve worked hard and played hard and enjoyed life.  He spent his free time white-water kayaking, hunting, fishing, and reading.  He was devoted to his Mother, especially after his Father’s death, and spent as much time with her as he could.  He was one of the good ones.

We will all miss Steve.

Nov 1

Now that another deer season is in full swing, I have been searching the internet for a website called “tughillhunting.com”, but it seems to have disappeared.  Maybe you know about it?

Anyway, I have some experience with Tug Hill and deer hunting, so if you would like to use this site to share your whitetail deer stories, photos, questions, ideas, and such, please feel free.  I am mostly familiar with the Montague/Sears Pond area, and the Windfarm lands of Harrisburg and Martinsburg, but would like to hear from hunters from any parts of the Tug.

Let us know how your hunt has been this year, what’s new around camp, and your experience with how the deer population is faring.  Have any good recipes you would like to share?

Rector's Corners, NY

Rector

And if you are successful in taking a Tug Hill trophy, I am familiar with a couple of NYS Big Buck Club expert scorers, so we can get you in contact and see how your trophy rates.

I found this in my web surfing.  You may enjoy it.  Years ago I had a cassette tape that we listened to the night before the season opener.

DEER CAMP

Oct 29
Another Pitcher Hill buck 2008

Another Pitcher Hill buck 2008

I would like to be able to tell you that our club had this ol’ buck all photographed, patterned, predicted, and tagged with a cute name like “Crabby” or “The Craw” and already the stuff of legend around our Pitcher Hill Camp.  I would like to tell you that. But no, up to the second day of the deer season, no one had even seen him, unless maybe a couple years back when he was a little cowhorn spike.  He had even eluded, obviously, the nighthunting road hunters that regularly patrol our land.  Although he had apparently been injured some time the year before, causing that unusual lobster claw antler.

As whitetail bucks go, this one was not a monster, especially for a Tug Hill buck.  Certainly not Boone & Crockett class, or even NY Big Buck Club.  He weighed about 200 pounds alive, not a real monster in an area where 250 pounders are not uncommon.  His typical antler carried 4 long even points with good mass, and he probably would have had a spread of 20 or 22 inches if the right antler had matched.  A good wallhanger trophy, especially on The Tug.  The other antler, however, grew straight forward, with a lobster claw fork at the end.  An unusual trophy.

Our usual hunting style is to post a few of our hunters on known deer trails and escape routes, then have 1 or 2 hunters walk quietly thru an area and try to move the deer.  It is best to know the area, and after 50 years or so of hunting these woods, we pretty much know where the deer like to bed and which way they will go.  Usually. Obviously our bud Brucie got too close to this buck, and he decided to leave the area.

One of the fun parts of deer hunting is getting together and making a plan, revising and honing that plan, then trying to carry it out successfully. A lot depends on the wind, weather, and the experience of the hunters in your group. The hard part is getting the deer to co-operate. This time it worked to perfection, and the deer exited the Pitcher Swamp headed right to Jim, antlers gleaming proudly in the sunlight. It would be hard to say who was more surprised when they met, but Jim recovered first, and another hunt ended successfully. It is so great when a plan comes together.

Oct 24

My brothers Lee and Jim with two Tug Hill bucks
My brothers Lee and Jim with two Tug Hill bucks

Once again this year I was fortunate enough to make the opener of the deer season on Tug Hill.  I don’t believe I have missed Opening Day in over 50 years now, except for a couple of years fighting the Cold War in Europe.  Too far to commute.

This year we had one of those rare opening weekends when the weather was perfect: sunny but cool, still some leaves on the trees for color.  It is always great to get together with family and old friends, even a few new ones, and enjoy some stories, good food, lots of laughs.  The deer hunting is just an excuse for being there, and if you harvest a few deer, as we usually do, it is a bonus.  I’ll post a few photos later.  Our bud John even had an encounter with a trio of bears, as rare on The Tug as a DEC Officer.

Of course, as I get older, my circles keep getting smaller.  I used to enjoy stalking the ridges and slipping thru the swamps, meeting the whitetail on his own grounds.  Now I mostly sit in a treestand for a few hours, hoping someone will chase a deer by me, but not really upset if it doesn’t happen.

I know that I am going to hear from some folk who are anti-hunting, anti-meateaters, anti-nature, and all that.  Been there and done that.  Just don’t criticize me and I will do the same for you.  I’m sure I could convert you with an afternoon in the woods on a sunny autumn day, and afterward a hearty dinner of venison steaks with mushrooms, onions, mashed potatoes, and gravy.  It just doesn’t get any better, and I hope I can be there for 50 more years, or at least a few.

What really irritates us is the growing number of “hunters” who patrol the rural roads at night and shoot the deer from their trucks.  Even that unsportsmanlike activity could be tolerated if they had starving children at home, and they took the venison home and used it.  There are too many deer, and not enough hunters any more.  But more and more of these night stalkers just leave the deer lie, or sometimes they cut out some choice steaks.  The rest remains in the field.  Some day we will catch them.  It just doesn’t make sense.

Perhaps the idea is to shoot every deer they see and hope that one is a buck that they can hang in the front yard.  Antlers are even harder to see in the dark, so there are a lot of mistakes.

Oct 14

It was one of those perfect October days, not too hot, not too cold, sunny and bright. I decided to go in early to my deer stand, located at the edge of one of our Tug Hill farm fields. I took along a Louis L’Amour book, got my rifle and camera ready, and laid back for a few hours. This is the part of deer hunting I really enjoy. After awhile, a big doe and twin fawns joined me, and I watched them cavorting on the field for an hour or so, hoping that the buck I knew was in the neighborhood would join them. Just before dark, a pack of hunting coyotes started to make music in the nearby woods, and my deer eased off the field. Although I knew there would be no more deer today, I stayed until the light was gone, then unloaded my rifle, packed my gear, and climbed down from the stand. As I started the half-mile trek across the fields to camp, I could suddenly hear the hunting calls of the coyotes in the trees to my right, and also on my left. Were they hunting me? Even with a rifle in hand,it makes one feel very alone out there. As an instinctive shiver went down my back and the hairs stood up on my neck, I stuffed a clip back in my deer rifle and played my light around the field, looking for shining eyes. But no, as I stood alone in the darkened field for a while, the melodious calls of the hunters faded in another direction. Some unlucky hare was probably the target this night. A welcome full Hunter moon arose, shedding some light on the field. However, I walked just a bit faster as I headed for the distant lights of the farmhouse.

Jul 27
The good ol' days on the tug

The good ol' days on the tug

I have always felt a strong tie to The Tug that keeps calling me back.  My Dad and Mom were both born there, operated a dairy farm for 50 years or so, and raised a large family.  Eleven of us grew up there; working on the farm, rambling the forests, fields, and backroads; fishing, hunting, exploring, picking berries. Not a bad life.

Now that I am retired and have the time, I don’t get back much; it’s dangerous to be out there alone where the cell phone doesn’t work-a few trips in Summer and a couple of hunting trips with my bros in the Fall.  I just spent a few days in Montague, doing some painting and fixin’ on the camp, and wandering around.  I love to travel the old roads with my camera, remembering the farms and homes and stores and people that once were-all gone now.  All those hardy immigrants who took their turn in trying to tame The Tug: Irish, Polish, Hungarians.  Most of the farmland has gone back to forest, and it is hard to tell where the homes were unless you know what to look for.  Most everyone had a few huge maple trees in the yard, and they are still there.  There is probably the remains of a cellar nearby.  Now there are more and more summer homes and hunting camps, with some great new neighbors, most of whom know little about the history of the region and people.  People like Charlie Kempa, who was attacked by a lynx and killed it with his ax.  Or Amby Williams, who almost hosted a Woodstock concert on the Tug.  Or George “The Runner” Jacunski.  And the snowmobilers and ATVers ride the roads at high speeds, unaware that here where a sports bar now sits was once a thriving village of over 300 people-even a broom factory- and former home of “Running George”.  Just to the south was the beginning of the Glenfield & Western Railroad, over its icy tracks moved thousands of Tug Hill logs to the mills in the valley below.  This little creek, nearly every little creek, powered a cheese factory or sawmill or both.  And nearly every intersection boasted a church, schoolhouse, grange, or general store to serve the many farms.  All gone now, but for some of the cemeteries.  Nothing but memories.  Here at Mud Creek we fished for trout.  Near the former Pat Vaugh farm we chased a nice buck out for my dad on Thanksgiving morning.  Here on Pitcher Road the whole family went picking huckleberries on summer sundays.  There lived Mrs Nefsey, who had the only phone in the neighborhood, and gladly shared it, in exchange for some local gossip.  It was a harder but friendlier time then.  Memories.

For those who may be interested in history of Tug Hill, Harold E. Samson wrote 2 very good books.  “Tug Hill Country” Tales from the Big Woods, and “The Other Side of the Hill”, which covered our east and north side.  I believe both have been reprinted recently in paperback.  I knew many of the people he tells about, and some of the stories were local legend.  John Golden’s “Northern Drift” has some good stories on Tug Hill people, and Louis Mihalyi of Glenfield did a couple of “Nature, Nurture, and Nostalgia” books with the best from his Black River Journal in the Watertown Times.  And last year, I found on ebay a copy of the “History of the Town of Harrisburg”.  Great reading.  Maybe someday I will do one.  There aren’t a million stories out there, but quite a few.  Some good ones.

For those not familiar with Montague, here is some interesting reading:

Montague History

Jan 18

Now that I am retired and have some free time on my hands, I have been thinking of putting together some stories into a Tug Hill book.  I have 25 years of our camp logs, lots of photos, and lots of memories, and it would be fun to put them on paper.  Someone might enjoy them.  It is easy to get published these days.  Now I just have to come up with some motivation.

Dec 14

I have a few of my photos shared on a site called “flickr”, and they have a new thing where I can maybe put them on my own website. We’ll give it a try:

www.flickr.com

This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from pitcherhill39. Make your own badge here.


Nov 10

jumping buck

The woods was still and quiet, not a breeze stirred or a branch moved. Even the few birds that passed by were near soundless. I had sat my tree stand since early afternoon, sometimes reading from a paperback novel, pausing every few minutes to scan the area. The sun was setting, down to the treetops now, and deer should be moving. There! In the dark beneath the hemlocks at the edge of the swamp, a movement. As I stared at the spot, the rounded form of a deer took shape. I carefully raised my rifle to scope the form, but it was gone that quickly. Nothing moved, as I studied the darkness of the swamp for long moments.

I had come into camp early on a Friday afternoon, and no one else was around. It was a beautiful November day, the rut was in full swing, so I had a bite of lunch and headed for my favorite tree stand on the west side of the Black Swamp. A small finger of ridge led from the hardwoods into the edge of the swamp, and it was a popular trail for the deer when the wind was right. It was right today, but there was no activity until nearly sundown.

Half an hour passed after I saw that one deer, and light was fading fast. I continued to scan the area, but I knew I must climb down soon and take the trail back to camp in the darkness. Maybe some of my hunting partners would be there, with a warm fire going and a hot meal on the stove.

Finally, I eased to my feet on the stand, prepared to lower my rifle and pack to the ground and climb down. Suddenly, not 25 yards to my left, how he got so close I will never know, a beautiful rack buck spooked and bounded for the swamp. Three jumps and he was out of sight, but he remains etched in my memory forever, in slow motion. As I made my way back to camp in the gathering dark, I reflected on the lost opportunity. Yes, I could have gotten off a few shots, and I might have had a lucky one. Or I might have wounded him and lost him in the swamp. That is not my way. Hopefully, we would meet again, and the advantage would be mine. The chill in the air brought out the sharp odor of the evergreens along the trail and the decaying leaves on the ground. What a successful day of hunting it was…one I will never forget.

Nov 3

A large part of the enjoyment of deer camp is planning a hunt, carrying out the plan, and having it end successfully. We usually hunt with from 2 to 6 people, making short quiet drives with 1 or 2 walkers and the rest posting in tree stands or on likely deer runways.

We spend many long evenings in camp consulting with Dr McGillicudy and Uncle Bud while putting together strategies for the next day’s hunt that would make any army general envious.

We consider a hunt successful if everyone makes it back to camp without getting lost or hurt, and someone at least sees a deer. Taking a buck on Tug Hill is a bonus.

This particular plan involved brother Lee and John G. taking a long walk in the dark around to the North side of the bedding area where we knew a big buck was hanging out. The rest of us would post on the West, South, and East sides, while those two walked zigzag thru the area. There were a couple of inches of snow in the woods, the day would be bright and clear, and success would be ours.

Of course, I couldn’t know, as I eased my way to a new treestand that brother Kenn and I had built, that the big buck we were after was not in the vicinity, but a smaller one was bedded in the evergreens not 50 yards down the ridge from my stand. As I carefully stepped onto the platform, with my empty rifle hanging from a rope 15 feet below, the buck leaped from his cover and bounded away to the North. Gone, sez I. Not part of the plan at all.

Of course, the deer couldn’t know, as he made his escape, that half a mile to the North, Johnny G. sat on a log on a ridge alongside a swamp, chewing on a cigar and waiting to start his walkabout. The buck chose to avoid the swamp, and sneak up the nearby ridge on a trail that ran right by John’s log. Big mistake. It’s so great when a plan comes together! The buck was only a 5-point, but John had not taken one in a while, so he was happy and we were happy.

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