Aug 30

view from a treestand

The Hunter

As he sat in his hard wooden tree stand overlooking a deserted farm field and watched the sun finally come up over the Adirondack peaks many miles to the East, Denny G. mused that, if nothing else, deer hunters certainly had a lot of time to think about things. He had done a lot of thinking this morning.
After getting up in the middle of the night and downing a quick coffee and donut, Denny had been delivered to this spot in the dark and advised that someone would pick him up for breakfast. That had been hours ago. He had climbed carefully into his stand and managed to load his rifle. He wondered if he would get a chance to use it. John had told him that a big buck had been seen in the area, but he wondered if that was just talk, if they put him here because no one had ever seen a deer here, and he would be safe. He wondered what the club members thought of him as a hunter. He wondered if he would be able to shoot a big buck if he had the chance. He wondered if anyone would remember to come back for him. He had his son Scott’s new semi-automatic rifle with the fancy scope; he wondered if he would be able to fire it. There had been no time to test it the day before, just a few hurried instructions from Scott, who wouldn’t be able to come to camp until today. He would miss opening morning.
Denny was not really an avid deer hunter. Although he had grown up in Maine, where everyone was a deer hunter, work and other obligations kept him from hunting more than a couple of weekends a year. He enjoyed coming to camp: the joking, the meals, the card games, and camaraderie of visiting with all the gang. He didn’t even mind being teased about his Maine accent, even after all these years. And now Scotty was into guns and deer hunting, and it gave them something to do together. But he would like to at least see a deer today.
The October sun was just beginning to melt the frost from the hayfield when he noticed a movement at the edge of the hardwoods, as a small deer eased onto the field. A doe? Were does legal this year? The rules changed from season to season. Or was that just for black-powder season? Should he shoot? No, better not. He would have to check the rule book when he got back to camp. As the deer raised its head from feeding, he imagined he could see a small antler. He studied the animal with his telescope, and decided it did have spike antlers. Those were legal, but not very long. Should he wait for a bigger buck? He estimated the deer was over 100 yards across the field, and he had never shot that far.
Just as he settled the rifle to his shoulder, a twig snapped, almost under his stand, and he looked around. There stood a larger buck, at least a 6-point, studying the field. He carefully swung his rifle around, and when the sight covered the deer’s front shoulder, squeezed the trigger. There was a dull click, but enough to make the deer jump forward a few steps. When he had loaded this morning, the locking bolt must not have closed tightly…he remembered now that Scott had warned him about that. He had to pull the bolt back and slam it forward tightly, then the gun would be ready to fire. At the noise, and before he could aim again, the deer ran across the field and joined the other buck. Both deer stood looking down the field, but not toward him.
At the far end of the field stood a monster buck, antlers gleaming in the sunlight. Geezamighty! He had never dreamed that they ever grew that big! He would be the envy of the whole club if he harvested this one. Surely none of the members had ever killed one this big. Maybe none of them had ever seen one as big. But it was nearly 200 yards away, should he shoot? Should he wait for it to come closer? The smaller bucks were closer, but they were forgotten now.
As Dennis tried in vain to control the shaking rifle barrel, the huge deer started across the field toward the others. It fed slowly behind a small rise, out of sight. The other deer! Now they were looking in the other direction, back toward the camp. Now another hunter came into sight, coming toward him across the field. He recognized Scotty by his walk…he had arrived in time for the morning hunt after all. Just at the wrong time, and in the wrong place. Geezamighty! Of course, he had no way of knowing that anyone was in the stand, he didn’t even know that the stand was there.
Suddenly Scott spotted the two deer. He crouched and began carefully stalking across the field toward the bucks. With a flash of white in the sunlight, before Dennis could raise his gun, they were gone. The big buck merely disappeared, neither hunter saw him run. Dennis never saw it again, except often in his dreams.

Aug 21

Night Visitors

I was jolted awake, sometime during the wee hours of the night, by a weight on the side of my bunk, like someone, or something, had sat down beside me. My first thought was that someone in the cabin needed to visit the outdoor toilet, and had stopped there to put on shoes or boots. But there was no light, there should be a flashlight or candle or something. It was dark in the cabin. The canopy of trees overhead shaded outside the one small window in the bunk area, and even if there was some moon or starlight, it could not reach us. The fire in our woodstove had burned down, and even the glow from that was gone. No one would be moving about without a light.

My oldest brother Fran and I, together with his wife Margaret and my wife Arlene, had hiked in to the cabin on Friday to spend a weekend. It was our first visit since we had bought the property, and we wanted to see what we had. The weather was nice; late spring after the snows had melted and before the black flies showed up. We planned to do a little fishing, clean up the camp, cut some firewood, and relax a bit. We needed that.

It had been just a few short weeks since our brother Dick had passed away at the young age of 48. Fran and Dick were the oldest, just a year apart in age, and had been very close growing up. Dick had taken me under his wing at an early age and helped me to develop a love of the outdoors. We had hiked and hunted deer on the Tug Hill, and roasted a few trout from remote Adirondack ponds. “Uncle Dick”, as the family knew him, would be missed. Uncle Dick’s determination had brought us all to purchase this Pitcher Hill property, but he had not lived to enjoy it. We would have to do it for him.

Our first night’s peace was interrupted by a weird, echoing, grinding noise, and seeming to come from the wall outside our bunkroom, waking all of us. Flashlights in hand, we tracked down the source of the noise, and found a porcupine in the adjoining woodshed. The shed was sided with steel roofing, and the porcupine was atop the woodpile, chewing on a rafter, setting up the eerie sound that had awakened us. After some effort, we persuaded the cute little fellow to leave the shed. There was a little excitement as it followed Arlene around the yard and tried to walk into the camp, but it finally wandered off into the dark woods.

Now, on the second night, another visitor, sitting on my bunk. Still partly asleep and not thinking that our “porky” might be back, I reached out my hand and felt, nothing. A sudden chill made the hairs rise on the back of my neck. As I groped for my flashlight beside the bunk, my elbow struck the wall with a thump. Soundlessly, the weight disappeared from my bed, as if an animal had jumped to the floor. I turned on the light and searched the room with the beam, looking for eyes or a movement of some kind. Nothing. I could feel a presence in the room, not hostile or threatening, but it was there.

My activities awoke the others, and we turned on lights and searched the camp, but found nothing. Doors and windows were all closed securely. But I know there had been something there. I took a lot of kidding after about ghosts and dreams and nightmares and all. But I know only what I know, and there was something there. I can’t explain it. Perhaps Uncle Dick, wherever he was, was allowed to return for a visit to this place he loved so much, and spend some time with us. Perhaps this was his version of heaven, and he was here. Maybe some day I will know.

Only a couple of weeks later, Fran and Margaret returned to camp to do some woodcutting. They brought along their son Steve and his friend Diane. Diane was assigned the same bunk I had been sleeping in, but was not told about my experience. During the night, she awoke to see “a woman wearing glasses” kneeling by the bunk and watching her. When Diane moved, the woman turned and disappeared. After that, others in the family slept in that bunk trying for a ghostly experience, but I never heard of another one. For some reason, no one would stay overnight alone in the camp after that.

Aug 19

The Mayor of Montague

The Mayor of Montague

Ol’ Son brings one home.

Memories from our Tug Hill hunting camp.

The Boiled Dinner

October 25, 1984

Day I The four bro’s in camp for opening week of buck. Ol’ Son stopped in for brek and invited us to his camp for boiled dinner tonite.

* * * * *

Ol’ son is our nickname for Jim B., the retiree who lives in an old camp down the road, as he calls everyone “Son”. He has adopted us and usually joins us for meals when we are at camp, after checking on what’s cooking at other camps on the road. He keeps us up on local gossip and watches over all the camps on the road. Jim calls him the mayor of the Pitch Road. Son tends to abbreviate words, like brek for breakfast, din for dinner, huck for huckleberries, so naturally that has become part of our camp jargon. Son also knows the schedule for every chik bar-b-q and smorgasbord within a 50 mile radius, and he makes the rounds.

Son’s boiled dinner was not too bad. Ham, potatoes, carrots, onions, turnips…a little heavy on the turnips and light on the ham, but not bad. Kenn found a few hairs of the dog in his, so that turned him off. Son had some neat dinner plates, pewter I think, which he warmed in the oven before serving dinner. He entertained us with stories from the old days; hunts with his father and the Pitcher boys. His camp is a huge old cabin that sleeps about 20 people, once owned by the local county sheriff. He used to bring prisoners up from Lowville to cut wood as a work project. It also housed German prisoners during World War II, they were kept busy planting pine trees in the area, which are tall pine forests now.

* * *

Day II Today we made our traditional annual hunt back to the South 3 miles or so, the country where we all learned to hunt with Pa. Barnes Swamp, Dike Lake, Lookout Mountain. Saw a few deer, no buck.

* * *

When we got back from hunting on day 2, there was ol’ son with his boiled dinner in tow. It seemed to have grown from the night before. Of course, we had to warm it up for dinner. It tasted a little better than the first time, but there sure were a lot of turnips.

Day III On Sunday, while we were doing some work on the camp, the mayor turned up with the infamous boiled dinner again. He was off to a chik barb, but offered to let us finish off the din for him. We told him that we had just filled up on hot dogs and beans, but we would save the ham for later. After he left, we had a hot dog and beer, and discussed what to do. There seemed to be more boiled dinner than before, and we could only look forward to dining on it every day for the rest of the week. It sat there on the table glaring at us as only a bunch of turnips can do. It was us or them. The boiled dinner had to go.

Jim and Kenn drew the short straws. They carried the pot ‘way

back into the Black Swamp, back in deep in the bogs where the sun hardly ever shines, and the snow sometimes stays ‘til July. They buried the dinner in one of those big ol’ holes where the grass never grows. Legend has it that entire teams of horses were lost in those holes back during the logging days. Surely a pot of turnips and carrots could disappear there. They even dragged a couple of logs over the hole, so Son’s dog Trixie would not be digging up the dinner and bringing it home, as she had done with deer parts a few times. Now we could get back to hunting.

Son never mentioned the boiled dinner again, nor did he offer to make us another one. We speculated that someone, maybe his ex-wife, had cursed him with the boiled dinner, and the only way he could remove it was to pass it on to some unsuspecting soul. Or maybe ol’ Trix found the dinner after all, and retrieved it for her master. At any rate, the turnips never turned up again, so the curse must have been broken. Whenever I wandered into that part of the swamp after that, I half expected to see huge turnips growing from the bogs, but they were gone forever. Thus ended the saga of the boiled din.

Aug 16

I grew up on the Tug, in Upstate New York, and have been associated with it for over 60 years, though I no longer live there. These are some musings from our family hunting camp in Montague, Tug Hill, and excerpts from our camp log, over the past 25 years or so. I hope you enjoy.

Aug 14

Tug Hill Windmills and wildlife

We keep hearing more and more noise about the windmills on Tug Hill and how they are driving the deer and turkeys away and destroying the geese and other flying birds. In my opinion, it is all a lot of wind, and I don’t mean from the windfarm. My own very unscientific observations show that the deer and turkeys are totally unaffected, except that the grass planted under those towers is very tasty.
As I see it, they treat the windmill the same as a tree or any other object in their neighborhood. Same with the geese. They graze around the windmills, but they are no more likely to fly into one than into a tree or a power pole. They may be silly geese, but not stupid. I have photos of deer grazing under the towers, but I also have photos of the towers with no deer grazing ‘neath them. The latter might be proof that the deer have all been driven out. But no, we are seeing more deer , turkeys, and geese around than most years. Draw your own conclusions.
I say that the windfarms do not really have a large impact on the environment, wildlife, or the energy supply, and the antis need to find someone else to attack. The choices are numerous: Big Oil, The Government, The War(s), Big Business, Taxes, The National Debt (wait til your grandkids see that bill). I think if the windmills had any large impact, the Oil Barons, that monster known as ExxonMobilBPValeroShell, would have toppled them long ago. (And what is up with the Alaska oil fields? They are run by British Petroleum and the oil is shipped to Japan?)
The deer and turkeys? Well, they are undecided, but they are certainly not leaving the neighborhood.