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.