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.

WLAGS

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WLAGS Guides Tony to His First Buck, Part 3

WLAGS Guides Tony to His First Buck, Part 3

As the days start to shorten, and our thoughts turn to the upcoming fall hunting season, our minds turn to successful seasons past. Below is part 3 of my son Tony’s write-up of shooting his first buck on November 13, 2011.

WLAGS

——————

Opening day in New Hampshire is always on a Wednesday. Dad’s brother-in-law, Dana always comes up from New York for that week. For reasons I can’t remember now, we decided to hunt other places, like J.E. and our other usual haunts. We hunted hard Wednesday through Friday, and none of us so much as saw a deer. We were frustrated. At one point, Dana and I were admiring one of Dad’s neighbor’s shed antler collection.

Dad’s Neighbor’s Shed Antler Collection

Dad’s Neighbor’s Shed Antler Collection

As I started a three-point turn to leave, we noticed a nice buck hanging in a tree at the end of his driveway. “So that’s what they look like,” Dana said wryly. “Some hunters we are,” he added. “We didn’t even notice one 10 feet from us hanging in a tree!” Defeated, Dana and I headed home for lunch. Dad was still out scouting, earning the G in WLAGS.

The Elusive Plain-Sight Buck

The Elusive Plain-Sight Buck

Just as Dana and I finished our lunches, Dad came home furious. “Someone screwed with our new ladder stand,” he yelled. “And the camera! The camera was on the ground, facing the tree stand, and the rope we tied to the stand was on the ground. The strap for the camera was on the ground, but it was still locked to the tree. But they screwed up! They left the SD card in the camera! I’ve got them now! Let’s go see if we can recognize them.”

Dana, my dad, and I headed to my dad’s computer in the basement. As my dad popped the SD card into his computer, we anxiously awaited what the videos would reveal. Dad hadn’t checked the camera in a long time. Thus, there were many videos on the card, including videos of the following:

Dana (6'3") Showing How Tall That Bull Moose in the Video Is

Dana (6’3″) Showing How Tall That Bull Moose in the Video Is

We were still anticipating seeing the would-be thieves. “OK, we should be getting to the most recent videos now,” Dad said.

The next video was of a young black bear walking from right to left in front of the camera. Just as it’s about to walk by, it stops and walks towards and eventually behind the camera.

In the second video, the bear is sniffing and pawing at the camera. With each successive 30-second clip, the bear became more aggressive with the camera, biting at it continually. At one point, you can hear the strap coming out of the camera as the bear pulls it with his teeth. The camera ends up on the ground, facing the stand, which serendipitously allows you to see the bear and its sibling climb the tree stand. The very next video is of Dad showing up on the scene four days later. He is visibly confused and upset. That’s the final video on the card.

Two Young Bears Messing With Our Stand

Two Young Bears Messing With Our Stand

We nearly fell off of our chairs laughing. Dad’s would-be thieves were two yearling black bears, who had it in for Dad’s camera and tree stand. We watched the videos over and over, and they never ceased to send us into knee-slapping, howling laughter. “Are…you…kidding…me?” was all Dad could manage between guffaws.

Despite all the laughs, we learned something important. This tree stand had a lot of activity—a lot more activity than all of our other stands—and that couldn’t have been a coincidence. Clearly something was drawing all these animals to this area. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that it was the beechnuts.

On Saturday, Dana left very early to get home for opening day of gun season in New York. My dad and I continued to hunt, and we weren’t having any more luck. I was pessimistic.

A Deer Story

8-Pointer

8-Pointer

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!”
“Where?”

“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!

WLAGS

Good Morning

How can a man spend his morning getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, getting wet to his waist, and falling off a rock have a good morning?

Here’s how: I carried in two pieces of the tree stand that is going on Buck Knob.

In the process, the mosquitoes took advantage of the fact that I didn’t have a free hand, and I was rushing to beat the oncoming rain.

When I got there, I couldn’t make out the exact tree that I want to use, so I looked for a place to hide the ladder parts.

I saw this large log that would do the job. I walked over to it, started to put the parts down, and there looking at me was a moose shed!

A Shed Moose Antler

A Shed Moose Antler

It was heavy, but the tip and brow tine were chewed off.

I set the camera up in a slightly different spot in hopes of not spooking the buck.

I then headed for Tony’s lot to check the camera I put out there on the 9th.

There was a ton of fresh track, and the eight apples I put out were all gone.

Two big surprises.

First, I got several videos of an opossum.

Opossum

Opossum

I have never seen a possum in Washington.

The closest was a road kill in Antrim.

Second, and far more important, was a huge 8-pointer that was the reincarnation of my Kingsbury buck.

His antlers were still in velvet, but were perfectly shaped and balanced.

Because of the apples, I got a tremendous look at him. He was there three times in four days, BUT always at night between 10 and 1.

This is another wall-hanger.

8-Pointer on Tony's Lot

8-Pointer on Tony’s Lot

I can’t wait to start scouting him further and look for a stand site there.

WLAGS

Lucky

Sometimes it is more important to be lucky than good! The problem with the camera has been on my mind since I set it up on 7/25. I got there and the light was on. So I knew I had battery power. Now the question was, “Is it working?”

So I pulled the whole thing (rather than just the SD card) in case I needed to deal with a problem.

The first video was taken yesterday. It was a nice doe at 6:30 AM looking very nervous. The next one was her spotted fawn stepping out directly in front of the camera. Both were very nervous focusing their stare towards Stand #1. The next video they are gone! There was all kinds of room and area to see them if they walked off, so I guessed they bolted.

Doe and Spotted Fawn

Doe and Spotted Fawn

An hour and a half later, out steps our big buck! His rack covered in velvet, VERY WIDE, he trots off towards Stand #3–where I guessed the other two went.

The next video, 5 minutes later, he is standing in the scrape sight. He starts thrashing his antlers in the overhanging evergreen that last year’s buck, and every other buck, uses as a licking branch.

Buck at Buck Knob Licking Branch

Buck at Buck Knob Licking Branch

He moved so much and so fast that I’m going to have to look closely to determine the number of points. He is at least an 8 and probably more. I guess this proves the need for a stand on Buck Knob.

Wow! Now that will get your juices flowing.

The rest of the trip observations were:

  • Lots of water, not even considering it was August, which gives us a bumper crop of mosquitos.
  • The biggest, if not the most, low bush blueberries I ever saw.
Low Bush Blueberries

Low Bush Blueberries

  • Consequently two steaming fresh piles of bear droppings.
  • Saw red efts, the juvenile eastern red-spotted newts, for the first time this year.
Red Eft Stage of Red-Spotted Newt

Red Eft Stage of Red-Spotted Newt

 

  • Blackberry crop looks good.
  • Still too early to get a good indication on the acorn and beechnut crop.

WLAGS