Bucks and Beechnuts

Bucks and Beechnuts

Thankfully, there have been a few memorable and rewarding scouting expeditions in my life, and these few hours this morning will be added to that list.

I decided to go to a place I haven’t been to in years because, while looking through my notes for beechnut groves, I came across Gigi’s.

It’s named after the owner of the property that graciously gave us permission to hunt there many, probably 15 or more, years ago.

I remembered that there was a large beechnut grove almost surrounding her property. So I was optimistic that what I have seen near here might translate into a good crop there. I was not expecting to find what I did. As the photo inadequately shows, there are trees loaded with beechnuts. The likes of which I have NEVER seen in 55 years of hunting in the North Country.

Bountiful Beechnuts

Bountiful Beechnuts

As you look at the picture of the field, both tree lines, but especially the left side, are mostly beeches.

Gigi's Field

Gigi’s Field

They are literally hanging branches full of nuts right over the field.

Low-Hanging Fruit

Low-Hanging Fruit

What a once-in-a-lifetime chance to bowhunt beeches. Most of the time, when trying to hunt a mast crop, especially beeches, the food is spread out over a large, fairly open area, and the deer will move from one spot to another as they consume all of the nuts under certain trees. Thus, where they are today, is not necessarily where they will be tomorrow, at least as far as bow range is concerned.

The ground under those low-hanging branches was covered in turkey sign, including several dusting bowls. It’s interesting that unlike here, the trees are not yet dropping their nuts. I can only speculate in that this might be elevation related. I checked the pods and every one was full with a large healthy nut.

The field has ample grasses and even red clover. To top things off there is the apple tree at the far end that I have never seen that many apples in.

Gigi's Apple Tree

Gigi’s Apple Tree

As I headed to the truck, I was very pleased with what I saw and with myself for making those notes way back when.

At the truck, after having a snack, I thought that I should drive very slowly going out because of another big find.

As I drove in on the tote road this morning, I was surprised to see almost the whole mile of road on the left side had been logged, right up to Gigi’s property line. This of course makes her property even more important, as it now offers cover along with food. The only thing that I did wrong at this point was not to have my camera ready.

I had not gone very far, still this side of the big brook, when I saw the rump of a deer up in the cutover, 25 yards off the road. I knew that it was a buck just by its size, and I was even more convinced of that when I noticed another slightly smaller rump to its right.

My first thought was that it was a buck and a doe. Wrong! As they lifted their heads to look at me, it was two bucks.

The first was at least a long-tined six-pointer and maybe an eight, but I could not see well enough to make out brow points. The other buck was at least a four—a six if he had brow points. They were both completely in velvet still. Then a doe appeared, and the three of them bounded up the cutover. They stopped and turned broadside to me as I scrambled for the camera, which was in my backpack in the back seat…of course!

All in all, a very rewarding few hours that might result in some success later in the year.



Opening Day 1965

As many of you know, my almost lifelong friend, Paul called this morning. He suggested that I tell the story of opening day of the Vermont bow season in 1965–October 9th.

I drove up to Vermont that Friday night by myself in my Falcon that Paul had sold me, for very short money, as he was off to the Sea Bees.

1964 Ford Falcon

1964 Ford Falcon

I woke Mrs. Wickberg, the town clerk, in Athens at her home about 10:00 that night. Not only was she not upset with me that I had disturbed her, but rather she offered to put me up for the night as I had no idea where I was or where I was going to sleep.

When I declined to stay, I asked if there was a place nearby where I could set up my tent. She told me to go right across the road along the pasture and cross the brook and I could set up my tent there as she owned that land. It was one of the luckiest breaks I ever got.

Too tired to set up the tent, I simply curled up in the front seat and went to sleep.

I awoke at daybreak, grabbed my bow, and climbed the steep hill in front of me, not knowing what lie ahead. A few hundred yards and 20 minutes later I thought I died and went to heaven. There on my left was a beautiful field and right in front of me was an old apple tree full of apples. Even an inexperienced hunter like me knew I was in a perfect spot.

Vermont Field

Vermont Field

With my mind still comprehending my surroundings, I was startled out of my shorts by the snorting of a deer just a few yards in front of me. I had never heard that sound before, but I knew instantly what it was. I got only a glimpse of this big old doe as she bounded off. As it turned out she and I would have several encounters over the next two years. She taught me more about deer than all the other deer I would come across the rest of my life. But that’s another story.

I then worked my way down the tote road that paralleled the field inside the wood line. I came across a group of six or so apple trees, most with apples and so much deer sign even this novice could not help but notice.

I looked about and picked an apple tree to climb–one that had two trails intersecting under it. I climbed, carrying my bow with the exposed broadheads in my hand. I wasn’t smart enough yet to have a rope with me. Of course I had enough rope in the car to string up a 10 deer, but it was in the car.

There was a slight drizzle–perfect for bowhunting, but not for climbing.

As I reached a large fork in the tree I thought, “If I step out there on that branch I’ll have a better shot.”

I also thought to myself, “Be careful!” as I looked down at my Converse sneakers.

I no more than had that thought when I found myself falling! I had the presence of mind to throw the bow and the loose arrow as I fell. I hit the ground with my left elbow jamming into my ribs. However my first thought was about the bow and the loose arrow.

It seemed like an eternity, but the bow came down just above my head and what seemed like minutes later the arrow stuck less than a foot from my nose.

I now assessed the damage. I knew nothing was broken, but I couldn’t breathe. I was literally crawling on all fours making the most god awful sounds in an effort to breathe. I looked up and saw a bowhunter still-hunting down the tote road. I tried calling to him, but I could not make a recognizable sound and watched him pass by.

After an agonizing hour or so, I managed to get myself back to the car. A couple of hours later, while I was eating, the other hunter came down to his car that was parked near mine.

We exchanged hellos, and I asked him if he saw anything. He responded, “No, but I have to tell you something. I have hunted all over this country and Canada, but I heard a sound today that I’ve never heard before. It was weird…like something dying!”

I then told him it was me.

I assumed that I would see him again, and other hunters, in my new found heaven on earth, but I was wrong. I never, in many years of hunting there, ever saw another bowhunter and only a couple of gun hunters, and two of them were very pretty young ladies.

I did my best to recover and made my way back up the hill, known as a mountain to flatlanders, that afternoon. There was no way that I could climb a tree as I had all I could do to stand erect. So I sat myself down under a hemlock just feet from where I had fallen, in an effort to save the day.

I was sitting for a couple of hours when suddenly I heard what had to be deer hoofs walking straight towards me. I grew concerned because the sounds were close but I knew I should be able to see a deer above the grass in front of me, but there was none to be seen.

Suddenly, right at my feet was a young raccoon, a kit. He walked right up my right leg, stepped on my right shoulder and up the tree. He was followed by another and then another. All stepping right on me. Now I know I’m in trouble because here comes Mama!

What to do? If I move, I know she’ll attack to protect her young. So I freeze even more than before. I even hold my breath. Thank God they were all moving very briskly because they were not at all aware of what was immediately in front or under them.

Sure enough Mama trots right up my leg and onto my shoulder, but as she climbs the tree she keeps her last foot on my shoulder and taps me with it, as if she realized that she wasn’t walking on wood. I’m still trying to decide what to do if she attacks, when she lifts her foot and crawls out on the branch immediately over my head and hangs her head down to see what I am.



I looked up and scooted several feet away, paying no mind to my aching ribs and back. Thankfully she ushered the little ones up the tree and stared at me until I left…almost crawling.

That was my first real day of bowhunting. It could have discouraged me or even killed me, but I was thrilled, and full of anticipation of what tomorrow would bring.

I would spend countless hours and days and nights there and share it with family and friends, over the next 20 years. Almost 50 years later, it still is one of my favorite places on earth.

A Deer Story



Although I got that buck in 1967, the story started a year earlier.

In October 1966 in Athens, Vermont, I was starting my second year of bow hunting in that state and my initiation to a thrilling and humbling experience that would last a lifetime.

My hunting equipment consisted of a Wing 42# 62” wood and fiberglass laminate bow, a dozen arrows made of Port Orford cedar with turkey quills for fletchings and a Kwikee quiver, which clamped to the limbs of the bow and left the Bear Razorheads exposed.

A simple military camo, today it would be close to Woodland camo, cotton poncho.

That was it. No tree stands; they were a decade away, and fiberglass arrows were a couple of years away, and aluminum a few years after that.

I had been hunting a few days, and had managed a shot at a doe when I awoke from a nap at the base of a hemlock tree the previous day.

I was working my way down a tote road with all the stealth I could muster when a snowshoe hare hopped across the trail in front of me. I remember thinking what a good cacciatore he would make. So I drew and fired and watched the arrow sail just over his back.

Snowshoe Hare

Snowshoe Hare

As I searched for the arrow, I came across another arrow. It was white with a Pearson Magnum broadhead. That head weighed much more than my Bears, but I decided to keep it on the rest in case I saw the hare again. No sense in using one of my own arrows on such an animal and chance losing or breaking it.

Back down the tote road another few yards and suddenly this beautiful six pointer jumps the road in front of me, from left to right. It was at that time the biggest deer I had ever seen in the woods.

I knew instantly where he was headed. I ran down the tote road past where he had crossed. I knew the road would cut hard right shortly after that. I made the corner and took another hard right into the field where I knew he would cross.

He did. I was 2 seconds away from getting into my comfort zone of 30 yards for a shot. He stepped into the field, head up and alert, at about 40 yards. I could make that shot. I practiced at that range often enough to feel that way.

He turned his head to the left, and I drew. My heart sank! There was the stupid Pearson broadhead!
I knew I was in trouble. I knew it weighed much more than my broadheads, so I adjusted my shot to hopefully compensate and let fly. I watched for what seemed forever as the arrow passed behind the left front leg and under the chest. What a helpless feeling as he turned back towards the tote road.

I cursed the fate of finding that stupid arrow. I looked forever for it and blood, but in the tall grass it was gone….I thought.

Two weeks later I took a neighbor, Everett Durand, there for opening day of gun season. I put him on a stump overlooking the tote road and threatened him with life and limb if he moved. Ten minutes later, I was sitting under a white pine overlooking the field when there he was, the buck, standing a few feet from where I had missed him two weeks earlier. The first shot of opening day was yet to be heard anywhere.

I brought my 7.7 Japanese rifle with the peep sight to my shoulder. Again I was snake bit. As plainly as I could see the deer with my naked eye, there wasn’t enough daylight yet to see him through the sight.

I waited patiently for the sky to brighten, but before it did he started back into the woods. I decided to take a
Kentucky windage
shot, thinking that the worst that would happen is if I missed, he would run right into Everett.

I did, and he did. I missed, and I tracked him to the stump where Everett was supposed to be. He jumped right over it! Needless to say, Everett never was invited to hunt with me again.

The next March my best friend, Paul was home on leave from Vietnam. I took him to the spot to reenact everything that transpired that fall. I stood where I had taken the shot with the bow and guided him to the spot where the buck had stood. When I positioned him I said, “The arrow should be under your feet.” He looked down, parted the now matted grass, and sure enough, there it was!

The next year, I had to work on opening day of archery season, so my season started on that Sunday. I went to one of the many apple trees that were tucked along this small, wet area along a brook. I saw what I knew were that buck’s track in the mud.

I stopped almost immediately and went back to my car to plan my strategy for the evening. I started by leaving my Marlboros in the car, along with my camo poncho—too noisy. My clothing consisted of a Woolrich Buffalo red and black check shirt, a cotton camo Jones style hat, and a pair of jeans. I went back up the hill at about 2:00 PM and climbed a small apple tree. I was only off the ground about 5’. I had one leg on one limb and the other on another limb—almost wish-boned. It was uncomfortable, but it was my only option.

A couple of hours later, I got glimpses of does meandering through the swamp. A couple of hours after that, a snowshoe hare came out under the tree and starting feeding on the fallen apples.

I amused myself watching him to pass the time.

Suddenly I had more company as a Ruffed Grouse landed in the tree with me on my left side. I dared not move my head as she picked leaves off the tree.

Ruffed Grouse

Ruffed Grouse

Just as suddenly, I heard something across the brook. I looked up only to see bright white antlers headed right for me.

My heart started beating so fast I could hear it and the leaves in the tree, as my left leg started to shake. I was sure that the grouse would feel it and fly off and spook the deer.

As the buck got closer, I decided I had to do something about my leg. When he put his head down to take an apple, I grabbed the right limb of the tree and lifted my leg to take the pressure off; all the while keeping an eye on the hare and the grouse.

It worked. The shaking stopped, and I very, very slowly picked up my bow.

The deer was 20’ away as I put an arrow on the string. I could count his whiskers, hear him breath, and even hear him swallow. As his body turned towards me, he turned to his right and looked away.

I drew, keeping each of my three eyes on the hare, the grouse, and him.

I released and immediately noticed that he took a step forward at that instant. It took no time for the arrow to fly the 15’ to his chest. He whirled and was gone in four bounds in about 1 second.

I never did see or hear what happened to the hare or the grouse when I shot. I was too focused on the buck.

The blood trail was awful to say the least. The arrow didn’t pass through. Most of the drops were no bigger than a freckle.

We (me, Leslie Boardman, Jeff, and Weasel) tracked him until midnight, and all of our flashlights died.

He was headed straight downhill to a brook. I stripped off pieces of clothing to mark blood spots. When we got back to the tent I was shirtless.

Next morning at daybreak, we were back on the trail. We had good blood on a rocky spot on the edge of the brook. I sent the other guys across to look for blood on that side. When they got there they yelled, “There he is!”

“Right in front of you!”

The glare on the water was such from my side that I couldn’t see him. There he was, submerged with his antlers tangled in some overhanging brush.

When I dressed him out, I found the broadhead in his stomach and actually cut myself on it. The arrowhead deflected off a rib, through the liver, and never punctured the other side rib cage.

A decision we had to make was where to drag him out. The easiest way would be across the only posted land in the area. I decided to take the chance and drag him across the man’s field.

When we reached the barn, I went inside and spoke to the farmer and apologized for trespassing.

He said, “You shot that buck with that thing?” pointing at my bow as he looked at the deer.
“Yes sir,” I replied. “You can hunt on my land anytime you want, son.”

The deer was 155# dressed, 8 points, and probably 3-1/2 years old. It was the only bow-killed deer in Athens that year and the biggest bow-killed buck in that district that year.

The buck’s stomach was full of apples, and the meat was very tender and tasty. The best eating buck of that size I ever had.

It was the greatest hunting experience of my life, and that is saying a bunch!