Sunday, November 27, 2011

Favorite Hunting Memory

 –This is my submission for the Sportsman Channel Writing Contest for Hunters hosted by the Outdoor Blogger Network.

In the last few months I have learned something about hunting that I didn't discover by studying tracks, scouting deer scrapes, or hanging trail cameras.  I learned it by losing something very dear to me.  I lost my two hunting partners, my gramp and uncle.  I enjoy hunting with lots of people, but the man who spent the most time with me in the woods and on the water was my grandfather.  His brother, my great uncle, lived far away, but his yearly visits always coincided with hunting season, so we were often the hunting trio.  On occasion, we would be joined by my father or my brother, but the three of us spent the majority of our hunting time together.  What I have learned in the last few months is that the memories created while hunting are more valuable than the trophies that you hang on the wall.

Gramp and I with our deer in 2005

In the spring of 2010, my grandfather was drawn for his moose license, and my great uncle was the sub-permittee.   Plans were drawn up for the three of us to hunt.  Later in the summer, my gramp was diagnosed with lung cancer, and I was forced to face the fact that I would not have him around forever.  Despite his sickness, he wanted to carry on with our hunting plans, so my great uncle came up, and we began our quest to tag our trophy bull.

The alarm clock rang out loudly, signaling that it was time to get out of bed.  This was no chore, since I had hardly slept between dreams of monster bull moose, and nightmares of trying to retrieve them out of a bog or swamp.  The coffee went down well, and the anticipation was high as the headlights on the pickup cut through the blackness of the early morning in route to our hunting spot.  We arrived at the location I had decided on while scouting, and shut the truck off to wait until it was legal shooting time to proceed into the cuts that we hoped would hold a big bull.  As the sky lightened, we advanced into the series of cuts, and were at the first vantage point rewarded with a large cow staring intently at us.  We quickly scanned the tree line behind her for the monster bull we knew was around.  Seeing nothing, we continued, and as we approached the next vantage point, the rack appeared above all else.  This was the bull we were looking for, and he was an outstanding animal.  Uncle Dick and Gramp prepared to shoot, but Dick tripped and lost his balance and fell.  After we had recovered, the bull had decided to move on, and with neither Dick or Gramp in any health condition to pursue him, we decided to wait for our next opportunity.  We didn't have to wait long until we got to our next location and were rewarded with another nice bull.  He was much smaller than the first, but his antlers were still sporting an almost 50" spread.  As they got situated to shoot, Gramp didn't have a shot through the trees, but Dick was lined up.  He decided to fire and as he did, I noticed a lot of small hardwood trees in between him and the bull.  He fired, and the bull took off running and disappeared into the treeline 200 yards away.  Next, came two and half hours of searching and tracking, only to discover he had a direct hit on a couple of small maple whips, that most likely deflected his bullet.  The week progressed with several other bulls being seen, but when quitting time came on Saturday we still had the tag in our hand.

One we opted not to take

At first, I was discouraged by our lack of "success", but after sitting down in the living room with coffee in hand, reliving the entire week, I discovered the hunt was a true success.  I had a great time and all kinds of memories of this precious time spent with Gramp and Uncle Dick.  Despite the obstacles they were both facing, both known and unknown, their determination and the joy they felt just being out in the wilderness together had truly inspired me.  The echo of my Gramp's advice will forever remain in my mind.  I had a tendency to get overly concerned about harvesting an animal and he would calmly remind me, "just relax and have fun."  This is the true trophy.

Unfortunately, that was the last hunting trip I was able to take with gramp, as he passed away this summer after a hard fought battle with cancer, but the memories I have from that trip will stay with me for the rest of my life.  This year, I was lucky enough to be drawn for an antlerless moose permit of my own, and my Uncle Dick planned his trip to come up with me.  It would be a tough year, as it would be the first one we would hunt without Gramp.  The hunt went well, with us harvesting a nice 500 lb. cow moose.  Little did I know that this would be the last hunt I would have with Dick too.  He had only been home for three days after the hunt when he suffered a heart attack, and passed away at the hospital.  I have lost both of my hunting partners, but I will never lose the memories, the heritage, and the experiences that we shared. The moose hunt of 2010 will forever stand out in my mind as quality time spent with two irreplaceable hunting partners.  It will now be up to me to create new traditions, pass the heritage on to my own kids some day, and to share and relive the hunting experiences that have helped shape me into the man I am today. 

2011 Cow Moose

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Moose Hunt 2011

This year I was lucky enough to be drawn for a moose permit.  We have some very high moose densities, and getting an opportunity to pursue one is always a treat.  My permit was for an antlerless moose, in the November week.  This is only the second time the state has offered a November hunt in the Wildlife Management Districts around me, and my first opportunity to hunt that week.  I had been out scouting several times, and spent a lot of time talking to everyone I know that spends a lot of time in the woods, to try and get a pin point on where I would have the best opportunity.  I was hunting in WMD 2, which essentially encompasses everything west of Rt.11 and East of the Allagash River.  South of the  St. John River, and North of the Realty road, which runs west out of Ashland.  It is a large piece of real estate, and I wanted to refine my strategy as much as possible.  I had decided on hunting a region in the western portion of the town of Wallagrass into the eastern part of the town of St. John.  There has been some substantial harvesting activity in the last few years, offering lots of browsing opportunities, as well as visibility for us to see the moose.  I had three volunteers to come with me on my expedition, my uncle Dick drove up from Texas, and two of my friends Blake and George drove up from the Washburn area.  We all left the house bright and early at 4:00 a.m. to get ourselves in position.  We arrived, and didn't have to wait too long until we found out that we definitely were not alone, with pickups everywhere.  As the day progressed, we headed deeper into the WMD trying to get away from the crowds.  We managed to get away from them, but it didn't help us see any moose.  We were seeing sign everywhere, but just weren't seeing the animals.  As we headed out at dark, a large cow stood on the side of the road to tempt us, but is was 7 minutes past legal shooting, so it was back to making plans for Tuesday.  Dick had to head out back to Texas, and George had some trapping commitments to return to, so Blake and I were on the drawing board for what Tuesday's plan was.  We decided to try to ditch the crowds early and head deep into the WMD before daylight.  Leaving the house at 3:30 a.m. put us 40 miles into the woods by daybreak.  We covered lots of beautiful country, and managed to see 4 bulls, but the cows were evading us.  We made our way back to the Wallagrass area as the day progressed, and we were in a prime spot for the last precious hour of daylight.  We met a truck hauling wood chips, so we pulled over to let him pass, but he came to a stop, and rolled his window down.  "There's a pair of cows in the clearcut by the crooked bridge", he hollered, and I thanked him, as I took off.  I knew the location well, from previous trips in the area, but I also knew it was a mile and a half away, so we covered the ground fast.  As we neared the location, I slowed and could see the two cows through some hardwood poles.  I stopped the truck, grabbed the rifle and loaded it as I walked forward to get a clear shot.  As soon as I got past the hardwood poles, I dropped to my knee and pulled the rifle to rest on her shoulder.  I squeezed the trigger, and I could tell it was a solid hit, but I put in another for insurance, and down she went. Blake and I exchanged high fives and a cheer, but now the work began.  It was getting dark fast, and we had a lot of work to do.  I pulled the trigger at 4:15, and we headed out at 8:15, dead tired, but extremely happy!  The moose weighed in at 500 pounds, which is perfect for me.  Check out some of the pictures below:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


The impossible happened today, I managed to shoot a deer!  I never dreamed that it would happen this year, but it did, and I couldn't be happier.  Here's the story:

I had been running a line of fox and coyote traps for a week or so, and I always check them first thing in the morning.  On this particular day, I had two traps left on my line, that I was not able to get to until lunch time.  These traps were directly behind my office, so it would make for a quick lunch time check.  There is a garage surrounded by fields that are intertwined with roads.  I drove past the garage, and up a field road, that connects to another field road that I have a trap on.  As I neared the intersection, I couldn't resist the urge to look over my shoulder to see if I had caught something.  I didn't see anything where my trap was, but I did see a dark spot that looked just like a pair of deer ears.  I was sure enough that it was a pair of ears, I stopped the pickup and grabbed the rifle as I slid out of the seat.  I brought the cross hairs to focus on the ears, and I could see the rack that protruded above them.  Quickly I slid a cartridge into the chamber and closed the bolt.  The only part of the deer that I could see was his neck and head protruding from the grass.  He was facing me, so the only shot I had was the neck.  I held right where his neck came out of the grass, took a deep breath, and gently squeezed the trigger.  The recoil from the .270 made me lose my focus through the scope, and as soon as I recovered, I could no longer see the deer.  I ran to where I had last seen the buck and started pushing through the almost shoulder high grass.  After a couple minutes of frantic searching, I caught a glimpse of the buck.  I approached cautiously, but I needed not worry, because he had dropped in his tracks.  I grabbed the deer's antlers and let out a loud "Yeaaaaaaaaa!"  It had been six years since I was able to harvest a whitetail, and it is hard to describe how good it felt.