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Getting a big one, hunting for the bigger one

Every year Bruce and Steve take off to hunt deer in the remote northern Maine woods. The camp they stay at is 60 miles from the nearest convenience store. In this part of Maine, deer numbers are low, but when you get one, it is usually a big one. More often than not, the crew hunting out of the camp will not get a deer. As luck would have it, Bruce on his birthday shot a dandy buck. With deference to this senior, I won’t divulge which birthday is was but it was a milestone.

The buck had a 10-point rack and hit the scales at a field-dressed weight of 200 pounds. An impressive trophy! But there was more to this buck. Many of the tines on the rack had been broken off fighting other bucks. For the rest of the hunt, the remaining hunters were intent on finding the bigger buck that had inflicted the damage on the 10-pointer.

Being a detail kind of guy, I had to find out what was used and other aspects of the hunt. Bruce was in a tree stand and had to make a significant adjustment to his normal shooting alignment. Bruce is a right-hand shooter. An inappropriate tree placement required him to shoot left handed and it worked. He was using a .260 Remington with a 140-grain bullet. The shot was about 50 yards, which is totally typical for New Hampshire and Maine. It was a one-shot shooting, which is also typical. The buck did not travel far from where it was shot. Fortunately for Bruce, he eventually had three other hunters to help him get the deer out of the woods. Way to go Bruce.

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On Nutmeg’s early-morning walk Wednesday; I could hear shotgun discharges from the Merrimack River. This marked the opening of the second half of the waterfowl season. This can be a tricky season. Depending upon temperatures, the small ponds will freeze over, forcing ducks to go to larger ponds, lakes and rivers. As all of the ponds and lakes freeze over, the rivers become the duck destination. But that is the in-land zone story. As winter advances, the Great Bay area becomes a major duck and goose destination. Cut-over corn fields near the Great Bay offer excellent choices for those who choose not to hunt on the water.

Hunting on Thanksgiving morning is a long held Washburn family tradition. I always give Robb the choice; will it be deer or ducks? More often than not, Robb opts for ducks. I can’t say it’s a bad choice, as I have several duck recipes that are nothing short of mouth watering.

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From Nov. 13-19, we experienced cloudless nights. What this means is deer have been actively and aggressively feeding at night. This means your best opportunity to see a deer is at sunrise and sunset. During the day, the deer are most likely bedded down, and unless you kick them out of bedding areas, you won’t be seeing them. The daily deer movement charts have deer movements in the dawn period. As the season winds down, the early afternoon becomes more attractive for deer movement. The influence of the moon is key to deer movement. With the moon currently in a waxing mode, this will accelerate deer nocturnal movement.

When I checked in with my volumes of deer excuses, I went to the “W” chapter and went to the weather section. This is why I and many other hunters have not been seeing that many deer. The other factor has been location. When I was up, the deer were down low. When I was down low, they were up on the ridge lines.

I also checked in with the “N” chapter and went to the nuisance chapter. The leaves are dry, crisp and very noisy. Many a time I have been on a ground stand and heard what had to be a much larger animal, only to find out that it was a gray squirrel making a disproportional noise considering its body weight. The sounds they make are similar to a deer pawing for acorns. Needless to say, when you hear what you think is a deer pawing for acorns, your attention level is heightened.

Thanksgiving marks the time when many deer hunters take to the woods in search of filling up their freezers with venison. The hunting conditions are optimum. The only missing element is snow.

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Vermont Fish and Wildlife put out a post Thanksgiving release giving an interesting perspective on the importance of the native wild turkeys and how they have contributed to our national celebration. The broad-breasted white Holland, bourbon red, and a host of other breeds all have descended from our native wild turkey.

Wild turkeys disappeared from Vermont in the mid- to late-1800’s due to habitat destruction and unregulated shooting. Land was cleared for farming and only 25 percent of the state was covered by forest. A similar experience happened in New Hampshire.

Wild turkeys in Vermont today originated from just 31 wild turkeys stocked in Rutland County by Vermont Fish and Wildlife in 1969 and 1970. Vermont’s rejuvenated forest habitat was once again capable of supporting turkeys. As the flocks expanded, the turkeys were netted and transported northward. The Vermont turkey population is estimated to be 50,000 today. The restoration was financed by hunting license fees and Pitman Robinson taxes on hunting equipment.

(Bob Washburn can be reached at

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