Survival: Deer Hunt Gone Bad

BY Mark Cote

When we arrived at our Anticosti deer camp it rained a lot overnight. My plan for the first day was to hunt the coastline on the East side of the territory, which meant crossing the Martin River by ATV. Nobody has been able to hunt there for weeks so I knew it would be prime.

The next morning the rain stopped at 10 am and I was on my way. I shot a decent 8 point within 90 minutes and saw a monster 800 yards away in a huge wide-open swamp. I played cat and mouse with him for a while, thinking if I could get within 400 yards, I would shoot it. That never happened. He eluded me, went into the woods, and I never saw him again.

At the other end of the territory is another river, the Ferree River. I saw several deer around there but what I mostly noticed was the height and speed of the water with icebergs floating by. I decided I better head back to camp before the water in the Martin River got too high.

High Water

When I got back to where the big guy was, I saw a big bodied deer with a wide bright yellow rack gleaming in the sunshine. He was 440 yards away, so I made my way towards him. At 330 yards he busted me. I knew if I didn’t take the shot he would bolt, and I would lose my chance. I found a dry patch of ground and laid in a prone position, folded my attached bipods down and took aim. He stood quartering away looking over his right shoulder at me. I aimed at the base of his neck and squeezed one off. The recoil made one leg of the bipod fall off whatever it was resting on so I wasn’t able to see the impact, but I heard it hit him. He dropped right there. It wasn’t the big guy I thought he was in fact it was only a 4 point, but he was super wide. At that long of a distance it’s hard to count points, nevertheless, he turned out to be the heaviest deer in the meat house.

I dragged him back to the ATV and continued my way back…. But then I got stuck in the mud. No big deal, I had a walkie talkie. The signal wouldn’t quite reach camp from there, so I walked until it would to tell the guide where I was stuck.


This is where the story makes a change for the worse.

The guide radio’d me back to say the river was now too high to cross and he was going to wait for my daughter Katie’s boyfriend Yves, who was hunting with us to make a plan. Yves used to be a guide at this very camp years before.

When Yves got to the river with his ATV, he knew it was dangerously high but tried it anyhow. He stood on the back rack and started across. The water was so deep it rushed over the seat and touched the handle grips. He shouldn’t have attempted it but he did. It’s a miracle it didn’t take water in the carburetor. The current pushed him sideways, but he made it across.

When he got to me, I saw the urgency in his eyes. He told me we needed to hurry because we may not be able to cross the river again if we didn’t. We got the ATV unstuck and hurried back to the river….it was too late. It had risen another 4 to 6 inches. Icebergs and logs were floating by at a high rate of speed. Attempting to cross would have been suicide.

No Crossing

The water temperature couldn’t have been much above freezing. Hypothermia would be instantaneous, and all our heavy hunting clothing would make us sink like a stone. We needed a boat. The guide called headquarters but there was no boat to be found. It was imminent, we were going to have to spend the night in the woods.

The winds started blowing 25mph and snow was predicted. We began gathering firewood…but my energy level was dangerously low. This diabetes thing is real, I had just been diagnosed about six months ago. Although I didn’t show it, I was a little scared.

I had a couple sandwiches but no more water. As Yves continued getting wood, I got a sandwich out and gave him half. I felt bad that he was doing most the work, but I had nothing left in me. After a bit, the sandwich began to kick in at least enough so I could gather wood and grass as tinder.

Outlook Grim

Everything was so wet…the fire wouldn’t start. The tissues I had were gone, things were looking grim.

Yves took my empty water bottle and went to the ATV to try to get some gas from it, but he needed tools to get through the plastic body panels. Instead, he grabbed the owner’s manual. That ought to be enough to get the fire going.

He kneeled beside the fire pit, looked at me with a devious smile and said, “The first thing we’ll burn is the registration!” It was good for a chuckle.

We still couldn’t get it going…without a fire we were in serious trouble. He stood up and asked, “Well, do you want to be the big spoon or the little spoon?”

“Give me the flipping lighter I’m not doing either!” It definitely lightened the mood.

I had a green garbage bag on my ATV I put my backpack in when I left camp to keep it dry. Plastic is petroleum based. I balled it up and stuck it deep in our pile of wet kindling. Yves tore pages out of the manual and crumbled them up as I lit the bottom of them and kept feeding the pages to it until it finally caught.

The rest of the night was spent gathering wood and talking to rescue personnel on the radio.

We took the seats off the ATVs so we wouldn’t have to sit on the cold wet ground beside the fire. The wind blew smoke and ambers on us all night long, but we couldn’t leave the fire. The temperature was now in the low 20s and there was a gale warning in effect.

Dead Batteries

In the meantime, my energy level was tanking again, and our radio batteries were dying. The guide had an idea to try to get us some food. He took granny smith apples and oranges to the other edge of the river and threw them to us. It was quite a distance. He was able to get about 60% of them to us.

We asked him for batteries. I had two brand new packages in camp. He went back and got them, but he wasn’t able to throw them far enough and they fell short by 15 feet in the raging current. He went back to camp and came up with the idea to tape batteries to apples. It was a great idea. Even the ones that didn’t make it all the way to our shoreline floated and we were able to retrieve them with sticks. Now we were able to resume communication.

Halfway through the night we got word that a pickup truck with a boat was on its way from Port Menier. It was going to be a long wait, but at least it was progress.

Normally the drive from Port Menier takes a little more than 2 hours. What we didn’t know was, the road was not passable due to more fresh snow. They had to dispatch a plow to lead the way in front of the pickup truck that carried the boat.

They finally got to us as the sun was rising. We were exhausted, cold, hungry, and extremely dehydrated, but we were safely across.

It was a miserable night, but we made the best of it. I never thought I’d be “that guy” that had to spend the night in the woods and I was thankful I didn’t have to do it alone. I tell you what… I will never complain about the weight of the survival gear in my backpack again. Luckily we were prepared.

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