By John Floyd
It was a cold and crisp November morning, late in the firearms season when I mounted my stand. The ladder steps were frosted over and the metal slick as I ascended the fifteen feet to my perch. A hard frost had come in overnight and as I looked up through the tree canopy, the stars were afire against the black backdrop of sky. The wind was nonexistent and the woods all around me eerily quiet, dawn’s approach a half hour away. It was a perfect morning for deer hunting and not just any deer, but the buck I had been after for a few seasons. I had countless hours logged scouting the ridge he called home and a pile of used trail camera batteries served as evidence of his uncanny ability to evade me every step of the way. This year, however, I finally caught him on camera; he was everything I had hoped for and better. My anticipation was high as the sun broke over the ridge and I prepared to start a rattling sequence.
I heard him coming from 200 yards away, snapping branches and breaking through icy puddles below my spot on the hill. My heart was pumping hard and felt like it was lodged in my throat. The big buck stepped up over the edge into a thick concentration of bramble and dead fall. All I could see was his head, neck and a short section of his back. I eased my rifle up and put the cross hairs on the neck and waited. He appeared to be looking for the young bucks he heard fighting. Not seeing them, he hung up and wouldn’t come any closer. Decision time; risk the heavy cover fouling the shot or hope for another opportunity. I fired…and missed. The buck turned slowly and made his way back down the ridge before I could cycle the bolt for a follow up.
Two days later, my hunting partner Harley was feeling under the weather and stayed in camp. His stand was roughly 600 yards north of mine. I hunted my stand until around ten, then got down and still hunted around the bottom of the ridge and back up to Harley’s stand, planning on spending the afternoon there. I popped the trail camera card on my way through to check when I got back to camp that evening. Sure enough, that buck walked right by Harley’s stand that morning, striking a pose for the camera. To this day, it was a taunt I’m sure. It was the day he earned the nickname ‘Sneaky Pete’.
Changing Ambush Spots
Over the course of the next two seasons, I changed positions trying my best to find the best ambush spot. No matter what I did, Sneaky Pete was always one step ahead. I would hear him go by before first light and move to the other side of the trail the next day. He would switch to the opposite of the trail and elude me again. That buck found a way every day to thread the needle between multiple stands and blinds. We could hear him, but he was like a ghost. We told the story of Sneaky Pete every deer camp and I challenged my hunters to match wits with him. Many a hunter tried, but all failed. Pete would skirt on by, grunt at a hunter and be gone like the wind. One client, after not seeing a buck for three days, decided to bring his shotgun in one day and take advantage of the abundance of partridge in the area. When he reached the overgrown apple orchard he had been flushing grouse out of, who do you think was standing there, fifty yards away? Sneaky Pete – high, wide and handsome and hanging out with a few does.
After three seasons, the legend of Sneaky Pete was firmly cemented in deer hunting lore at Tucker Ridge. Even though I haven’t seen him on camera the past two years, we still talk about him to this day. Based on his size and maturity, I am sure he is gone and that saddens me. Not because I didn’t capitalize on the one and only opportunity any hunter ever had at taking him, but because I know I’ll never have the chance to dance with him again.
John is a Registered Maine Guide, an NRA Certified Instructor and is the owner of Tucker Ridge Outdoors in Webster Plantation, Maine. He also works as an outdoors writer and can be reached at [email protected] or on Facebook @writerjohnfloyd
For more articles about hunting, fishing, and the great outdoors, be sure to subscribe to the Northwoods Sporting Journal.
For free access to past digital editions of the Northwoods Sporting Journal, click here.