By Hal Blood
As I write this column, we just wrapped up the first week of deer season. Like many years we had some tracking snow up here in the Jackman area. Most of it came in the form of heavy squalls on Wednesday that weren’t predicted in any forecast, quite common here as the mountains on the border create snow as the air comes up the western slopes from Canada. There were more squalls Thursday and Friday and it accumulated to 5 or 6 inches in some of the higher elevations. It was my first week of guiding a deer hunter in quite a few years and my first year back in the Outfitting business. It was also the debut of Big Woods Outfitters teaming up with Lake Parlin Lodge to provide the hunters with great accommodations and food. We had three guided 1X1 hunters and put a buck on the pole when my client Roger Bellerose from New Hampshire shot his first buck while tracking on Thursday. Roger was the first one to book a hunt with me when I kicked off the business in January and he also came to one of my deer clinics in May.
The first three days of the hunt we still hunted around and found plenty of nice signpost rubs. The snow was in the forecast and we couldn’t wait to get on a track. At daylight on Thursday morning, as a light snow was still coming down, we made our way up a mountain in search of a big buck track. We walked over a mile without seeing a deer track which is not unusual on the first snow of the year. The deer seem to stay hunkered down for a day or so on the first snow of the year. Finally, we found where a few does were feeding in a cut and that we had spooked them. After seeing a few more doe tracks, we found the buck track that we were looking for. Roger was now going to get to experience what he had learned in deer clinic. A nice 3×4 track with dewclaws a half inch wider than his hooves. It had been flurrying in the night and was still coming down. The track had about a half inch of snow in it so we had some catching up to do.
The buck was just wandering and feeding, which is normal the first week of the season, so we went along slowly on the track. He laid down a few scrapes on the way and we finally came to his bed with just a dusting of snow in it. We had gained a little on him but still needed to gain some more. He fed and scraped as he worked his way higher up the mountain. When he got where several deer had walked down a trail, he followed behind them. It wasn’t long before we were headed over the back side of the mountain. There were quite a few doe tracks and beds and the buck checked every one of them. When he stopped to rub an old scrubby elderberry bush, we could see where his antlers had thrashed the snow a foot behind it. Not long after, we came to a spot where there were tracks packed down in the leaves in a twenty-foot circle. He had run into another buck and they had been squaring off. The second buck track was smaller but now there were two bucks around.
I circled to pick up the big track out of the track mess and we continued on slowly. Soon, we came to the smaller buck track with no snow in it. I told Roger we could probably get a look at this buck fairly soon if he wanted to switch tracks. He agreed and we put it into sneak mode as we followed it. The track intersected a moose track that was trotting down the mountain and I hoped it had not spooked the buck. Fifty yards later we discovered that it was exactly what happen. We followed the running track for about a hundred yards before he slowed down and began to feed again. We took one step at a time downhill and soon I spotted the buck standing in an opening down below at about 90 yards. The antlers didn’t look very big with my naked eye, so I got my binoculars out to get a better look. I told Roger that they still didn’t look very big, but it was up to him. Just then, I saw his gun barrel coming up to my left and when he touched of the shot, the buck dropped in his tracks. I congratulated him and we walked down to take a look at his buck. When we got down there, I could see why his antlers didn’t look very big. He was a 6-point, but the ends of both beams were broken off as well as one point.
Roger was tickled with his first buck while tracking. Although it wasn’t the monster buck dreams are made of, it was a trophy in his eyes as well as mine. When we got to the tagging station he tipped the scales at 178 pounds. Roger is coming back to hunt with me next season and I’m sure he has his sights set a little higher!