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:
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.
Here is a look at our farm on Tug Hill from outer space. Big Brother is keeping a close eye on us. Comforting, no? As you can see, the windmills stand out clearly. We are looking into using these maps for deer hunting. The deer don’t show up (that would be helpful), but it gives a good look at the terrain. http://maps.google.com/maps/mm?hl=en&ie=UTF8&t=h&layer=t&ll=43.786246,-75.609455&spn=0.018248,0.036349&z=15
If this blog sounds familiar to you, I was formerly on WordPress as “Wandering the Tug”. I have some of my files still there, so if you wish you can visit me at http://winteridge.wordpress.com. Still a work in progress.
Also visit the York State blog for some interesting stuff.
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.
Well, as always happens, the days are getting short, the nights are getting cool, and the leaves are coming down. In no time, the hunting moon will be here, then comes Winter. Great, if you are a snowmobiler…I gave all that up.
But if you are looking for some fantastic snowmobiling with miles and miles of great trails, usually snow-covered, and you need a place to stay on Tug Hill, check out http://winteridgefarm.com. See my winteridge farm link below on the right.
You will love it.
My friend Pitcherhill sent me this bit of poetry, and I thought I would share it with the new generation of snowmobilers. Reminds me of my own childhood on The Tug. The Reverend had obviously experienced a Tug Hill blizzard.
A BLACK RIVER THAW
A story is told of a traveler bold
In the days of the Hartford coach
In a big blanket rolled, for the weather was cold
Here he went just as snug as a roach
But the snow gathers deep as Northward they creep
And the snow rising higher he saw
And the driver, he cried to the man by his side,
“We shall soon get a Black River Thaw.”
Then the man in the coach, lying snug as a roach,
Gently smiled, like an infant at sleep;
But the horses’ slow gait never told him his fate,
In the snow drifts so wide and so deep,
At last came a shout and they tumbled him out,
And a sleigh was his fate then he saw;
But a man with a sigh, pointed up to the sky,
Saying, “Here comes a Black River Thaw.”
“Let it come,” said our man, “just as quick as it can,
“For I never was fond of the snow;
“Let it melt from the hills, let it run down the rills,
“Then back to our coach we may go.”
But the wind raised its song, and the snow sailed along,
And the cold it was piercing and raw,
And the man in the rug, from his covering snug,
Wished and prayed for the Black River Thaw.
When the sleigh, with its load, reached the old Boonville road,
Where the drifts reared themselves mountain high,
Alder Creek on the right, buried deep out of sight,
Left a white desert plain ‘neath the sky.
Not a fence or a tree could the traveler see,
As he cowered close down in the straw,
And the driver, he sighed, as the prospects he eyed,
“By George! Here’s a Black River Thaw.”
While he spoke, lo! The team disappeared with a scream,
And the drift quickly closed overhead;
While they wildly look back, lo! The snow hides the track, And is drifting high over the sled,
Then the traveler bold, though decrepit and old,
Hurled that driver down in the straw,
Crying out, “Driver speak, ere my vengeance I wreak,
“What d’ye mean by a Black River Thaw?”
Then, the old gossips say, he arose in the sleigh,
And extended his hand o’er the scene,
And he laughed and he shrieked, and the sleigh groaned and creaked,
And he said, “I will tell what I mean;
When the North wind doth blow, and there’s five feet of snow, And the ice devils nibble and gnaw,
When snow fills your eyes and the drifts quickly rise,
This is known as a Black River Thaw.”
Then the trav’ler arose, and he smote him with blows,
And they sank in a deadly embrace;
And none knew the spot, till the June sun was hot,
And a hunter, by chance, found the place.
Here they made them a grave, where the storms loudly rave, And this epitaph lately I saw,
“Two men lie beneath and they come to their death,
Frozen stiff in a Black River Thaw.”
By Rev. A.T. Worden, Waterville, Oneida County 1860.
(or Flat Rock Wind Farm, or even Tug Hill Windmill Farm, if you will.)
The Windmills of Lewis County:
Took a ride up to the Tug yesterday to the Eagle Factory Road for the official dedication of the great Maple Ridge Wind Farm, finally nearing completion. It was a beautiful sunny fall day, but a bit breezy. Those windmill folks did it up right, as they do everything, with a great program, excellent lunch, thanks to all who were involved for a job well done, and souvenirs for everyone.
It really was an amazing project to see built, and once all the red tape was out of the way, those huge windmills were popping up overnite, it seemed. Awesome. One of the largest such projects in the world, so they say, and just a sign of things to come.
I was somewhat surprised that some of our politicians were not there to take credit, being an election year and all. Well, not so surprising, I guess. George W. and his crowd are seriously tied up in fossil fuels. Hilly and George P. are busy with more lofty goals somewhere in the Midwest. And I am sure Spitzer and Faso have not located Tug Hill on their GPS maps yet.
The folks who did speak were heavily into pointing out the long-term benefits of clean, renewable energy, and the long-term cash benefits of the windmills to an area that pretty much had nothing before. True, I guess. And one can put up with a few inconveniences, like the tourists, for the extra income, improved roads, and such. We got a chuckle out of one speaker going on about how the local dairy farmers would now find it easier to keep the family farms going with the extra income. Many of the Tug Hill farmers we know who are still in operation have been selling their herds as soon as the wind checks actually started coming in, and have gone on to other projects, or retired to watch the blades turn. But I guess the government’s agenda for years has been to put the small dairy farmer out of business, even to buying out their herds, so I guess it all works out.
One thing that does puzzle me is that now the project is completed, they are paving many of the roads in the area. That in itself is worth the hassle, as it seems those roads are paved maybe once every 40-50 years. But, we are only paving those roads that were paved before this all began, none of the gravel roads. Now it seems that if the windmill maintenance folks are going to be driving those roads, every day for the next 25 years, they would want to travel on paved roads. It would be nice for the residents too. Maybe when the towns start getting all that extra annual income, they will see to that.
Anyway, it appears to be a win-win project for everyone involved, and we are glad to see it finally completed. Great job, Maple Ridge, Flat Rock, Horizon, and all you other folks.
The Tug Hill Windmills:
You were right. I was wrong. What was I thinking? Those windmills are huge, they are noisy, they are ugly, and they need to be removed. All of them. Now. We want everything back the way it was, and for all the tourists to go away, and for the towns and counties and state to give back all the money. How do we do that?
Not serious, of course. I do not live close to the windmills, but many people I know who have them on their land are very happy with them. Especially the extra income when the tax bills come! From my own observations, the windmill noise is not much more than the sound of wind in the trees, and is really kind of soothing. Strobe lights? Flicker? After the first few minutes, you don’t notice them-like cell towers and power lines and all the other modern inconveniences. Welcome to the future.
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.