With another storm bearing down on us signaling winter still here for a while, it can feel like we’ll never get to another fall. This time of year one of the things that get’s me through it is to reminisce on some of the best days I’ve had in the north woods.
The lunch time buck is one of my favorite memories. It’s a favorite for a lot of reasons. It was 2014, the first fall at Camp Ernest Living. I was finally in Maine for good with friends and family. Most of all it was because I was hunting with my brother Billy.
Billy is 4 years younger than me. We share the same passions, family, deer, beer, and fishing; not always in that order. We both served our country in Iraq. At one point we were both there at the same time, him in Tikrit, and me in Fallujah, both in combat arms… we’ve seen our fair share. We have an intrinsic bond that’s sometimes scary. I don’t know how many times we’ve laid out a plan in the morning and struck off in opposite directions planning to cover miles and meet in a general area for lunch to compare notes. It almost never fails that we run into each other at lunch without coordinating on the radio or GPS, we just know where the other will be. This was one of those days.
I had shot a nice buck the week before and was doing some coyote hunting/scouting. Billy was going to work along the river and swing west. We’d meet on the side of the ridge around the 800 foot elevation mark. Wouldn’t you know as I dropped down from the ridge top I could see my brother standing at the end of a large chopping. The first thing I noticed was the crazy amount of deer tracks going into the chopping. It was probably 10 acres of regrowth spruce about 7 feet tall, and thick. Just the spot for does to hold up with their boyfriend. And a place for other boys to do some cruising. The deer’s version of Old Orchard Beach circa 1991.
We ate our required ham and cheese sandwiches, we always have ham and cheese, I always wonder why? Then we hatched a plan. Billy would skirt the south edge of the chomping headed west. I would go into the chopping headed north and then swing west. We were both pretty confident that this would work. I had probably crashed through about 200 yards of thick spruce when I heard a deer blow at me so close that it damn near took my hat off. I scrambled up onto a nearby rock just in time to see a nice buck bounding south away from me, and away from Billy, damn it. Just as he was about to get out of sight he turned left and headed west. I thought I saw him turn left again and head south right towards Billy. I couldn’t be sure but it made sense that he would try to get down wind of me, the wind was straight out of the north. I hustled to the western edge of the chopping and waited. I was having a mental debate on whether I should give Billy a call to let him know a deer may be coming when I heard a shot close by, I just knew. I made my way up to my brother who was standing over some good blood. He said the buck was trotting along and every once in a while it would stop and look back in my direction. We followed the blood for a few hundred yards back into another spruce chopping to find his buck laying there.
He was a big 9 pointer that had lost a lot of weight chasing the ladies. After all the high fives, and dirty work of field dressing, not Billy’s strong suit, we teamed up to drag the deer to the truck about a mile away. Luckily it was all down hill, and Billy is a dragging machine. The deer weighed 188 lbs and was the camp record until recently. His antlers are on the wall at camp. Billy and I can look at them and always remember the day that two guys who love each other, and love the Maine outdoors were able to not think about the things they had seen or done, but just hunt, it was a special day that I cherish.