By V. Paul Reynolds
There are deer hunters and, then, there are buck hunters.
Which are you? Of course, you say, we are all buck hunters, one way or another. Any Maine deer hunter who does not have a doe tag is a buck hunter, right? True, but there are a few stalwart deer hunters in Maine who –like the famous Benoit brothers in Vermont – are “the fast guns of the deer woods,” when it comes to putting record deer on the game pole.
Hal Blood of Jackman is a buck hunter worthy of the name. How does he do it? How is he different from run-of-the-mill deer hunters like you and me? If you put in your time, hunt hard and read all the how-to books by the experts, why haven’t you ever taken that 200 pound bog bruiser? In more than 50 years of serious deer hunting, I have taken plenty of deer but never one over 200. Looking back, there was a missed opportunity that shall live forever in my memory. Bursting from the alders along Scutaze Stream came a big doe. So focused was I on trying to get the crosshairs on the escaping doe, I missed a far more important critical moment in the making: a behemoth buck bringing up the rear. I still see him. He is as big as a draft horse with a neck like the Hulk. A real jaw dropper! No, I never got off a shot.
“Hal,” I asked,” what’s your secret? Give me a couple of tips on how to bag that buck of a lifetime.” The Jackman buck hunter does not have any magic elixirs or silver bullets. “First,” he says, matter of factly,” you have to hunt where the big bucks are.( In the North Woods).” Hal believes that the deer in southern and central Maine are, indeed, a different sub-species from the big fir forest deer. “Our big woods bucks are just bigger animals,” contends Blood. He says that if you compare tagging station data you will find that the ratio of 200 pound bucks registered is much higher at North Woods’ tagging stations.
Hal also is a guy who prays for snow. Tracking is his thing. He finds a track. If it appears to be less than a day old and of sufficient size ( three -inches wide with deep dew claws) he gets on it.
Dick Bernier, another fabled Maine buck hunter, writes,” Pursuing whitetail bucks on early November snow brings among other things great pleasure in my being. I find no other activity that can stir my soul to the extent a freshly made, oversized track can extol.”
Surely, there is another attribute that is a common thread among all big buck hunters: perseverance. Maine buck hunter David Libby calls it “unyielding, teeth-gritting stubbornness.” The Hal Bloods of this world are Blue Tick hounds on two legs. When on the track they don’t, like me, give up when the object of their passion takes them farther and farther from the truck late in the afternoon, or through Godforsaken fir thickets and knee-deep swale and water.
So, if you’re more than a meat hunter and you dream about a bragging size whitetail, say a Hinckley buck that broke the scales at 355 pounds, or Fred Goodwin’s famous Silver Ridge Buck from Benedicta, a 20-pointer that scored 239 4/8, here’s what you do, say the buck hunters. Hunt the Big Woods. Wait for snow. Find a fresh track.
Oh, yes. No matter how tough it gets, stay on that track!