Sealing my addiction for hunting Big Woods Bucks By BWB Pro-Staff Logan Rackcliff
I have been going up north with my dad since I was 5 years old. Whether it was spring time to do a little brook fishing, fall time to help him see a partridge in the woods on the side of the road, or the winter to go snowmobiling once I could ride. When I turned 10 (legal age to hunt in Maine) it was exciting for me because now I could shoot some of these ruffed grouse I was seeing in the woods and I could help dad scout for deer. He always left me home when it came to deer hunting season when he would go up to deer camp with “the crew.” I had begged him for years to let me go deer hunting up north with the crew once I turned 10. He decided it was best that I get a year of bird hunting in October up north and deer hunting down home under my belt before I went hunting in the cold, harsh, and vast environment of the big woods.
It finally comes, after what seemed like forever to me, the hunting season I get to become part of the hunting crew up north. I end up making it up to the big woods for a day or two early in the season, but not as much as I had hoped. My dad is an affective stand hunter so that’s what we did. We didn’t see much those first couple days and as an 11 year kid I was a little discouraged but didn’t care all that much, all I knew is I wanted to be up there more. After bugging my dad as much as possible one day he tells me we’re going up for the whole thanksgiving week. I could not have been more excited about spending a whole week up there, not to mention that was the week the crew always seems to have the best luck hunting.
On the long ride up on Sunday dad is telling about the spot where we’re going to sit. It’s a spot he’s been sitting hard for a week or two that has a lot of good sign around. He tells me he can almost set his watch to 3 or 4 does that come out around 3 o’clock every afternoon and that late one afternoon he saw what looked like a big buck chasing one of them around but he couldn’t get a good shot at it. We’re on our way up, the whole week ahead of us and we have a “hot spot” to hunt, I’m pumped. We get up in the big woods on Sunday and it’s cold, cloudy and spitting snow, perfect hunting conditions. Early Monday morning we strike out into a place we call “the shithole,” we call it that because that’s what it is. Where we’re sitting is in on a high point that is a big growth of thick softwood that is 10’ to 30’ high, at the end of it is a big nasty beaver bog that wraps around and down over the point is super thick, nasty tangled up mess of small growth all along the river. They had cut a few swaths down through this piece of woods and where I was sitting was in a place I could kind of see down through some of the skidder trails.
I get to my stand and go up 10’ where my dad and I were comfortable, but also it was so thick that any higher than that and you couldn’t see anything. It’s a perfect day for hunting, just as the weather called for cold and spitting snow. Dad makes sure I’m safe and tells me to turn on my radio every hour and he’ll turn his on every half hour if I need anything. I told him I wanted to sit on my own so he had another stand just down over the banking a little where you could still yell to each other. There I was in the stand, super excited with so many clothes on I could barely move, waiting for the big boy to come out. Each hour goes by and we talk on the radio, seeing nothing but squirrels and already getting discouraged. Somehow I make it sitting until 11am, nothing the first morning but that’s okay because he’s been seeing the deer in the afternoon. We go back in to sit around 2 o’clock and I’m ready this is it. Before I know it’s dark and the first day is over. We walk out together in the dark and I’m hanging my head already discouraged, but hopeful for the next day. Tuesday comes with the same great weather and promise. We sit the morning and nothing, the afternoon and nothing again. It’s frustrating, but it’s still cold, dark and lightly snowing off and on. Wednesday comes and goes with the same results as Monday and Tuesday. By this time I’m ready to change spots, I’ve sat as long and cold as an 11 year can in one spot. Dad reassures me that he knows it’s a good spot and Thanksgiving Day is the day, it’s the best hunting day of the year. See he knows if you want to shoot big bucks in the big woods in the stand than you find a good spot and put your time in, all day everyday no matter what.
We go in Thanksgiving morning where on the way in I fall down and there’s just enough snow on the ground that the scope and action of my gun are covered with snow. I get up and brush off my .243 bolt action the best I can and we keep going. Its super cold this morning, around 10 or 15 degrees and between how discouraged I am with this spot and the cold I tell dad I’m not sure how long I’m going to last this morning. 7 o’clock goes by, then at 8 I’m cold, 9 I’m getting colder and by 9:30 I tell dad I’m really cold won’t last much long. He says alright and that he’ll get down in 15 or 20 minutes and hunt is way back toward me. I say okay and settled back in. A couple minutes after I shut the radio off I hear something back behind me over my right should. I look back to see a beautiful big doe working her way towards me. It takes her about 10 minutes to work her way by me, getting within 10 yards of me. I was excited about seeing the doe but sad about not seeing the big buck and freezing cold. About 20 minutes later I saw my dad coming from his spot which was to my left and in front of me a little. I’m watching him work his way toward me, I could see him for about 80 yards and about the time he got 40 yards away from me I heard a snap that didn’t come from his direction. This snap came from behind me where the doe came from.
I look over my right shoulder and there he is ol’ mossy horns in all his glory. He’s about 80 yards away with his nose to the ground rolling his huge rack back and forth with steam flaring from his nostrils where it was so cold and he was so hot fired up chasing that doe that just walked by. I’m on the other side of the tree from buck so I try to signal dad with my hands without the deer seeing me that there is a huge bucks coming our way. Dad thinks I’m just waving to him and keeps coming for a couple seconds until this big boy lets out a huge grunt. This grunt is deep and long for a grunt and followed by some kind of short grunting and clicking almost, it was all very deep, raspy and old sounding. I see dad look over and his eyes light up as big as I’ve ever seen them, he stops dead in his tracks and freezes. I look back at this big boy and he’s coming down the does track without a care in the world, he’s in love. I’m right handed and only 11, I don’t think to shoot left handed and I can’t turn enough to get a shot at him so I turn all I can in order to get a shot on him as soon as possible. I have to wait for him to get into my shooting window but I can see him great and my dad can see him even better. He’s a huge bodied 11 pointer with great big tall tines and thick horns that roll perfectly forward, still the biggest deer my dad said he has ever seen in the woods after hunting hard for 46 years. After what seems like an eternity but was probably more like 30 seconds to minute of coming through the woods grunting he finally walks into my shooting range. He’s only maybe 15 or 20 yards away at this point, I put the cross airs on his neck and pull the trigger. CLICK. All my gun does is make a click noise but no bang. I keep the cross airs on him and keep pulling the trigger. I keep pulling the trigger harder and many times over and nothing is happening, being so young I didn’t really know what was going on or maybe I was too excited to figure it out. My dad told me later he went from thinking “I’m going to see my son shoot his first buck, he’s a monster and how awesome this is” to “why isn’t he shooting him” to “he’s got buck fever.” Once I figure out my gun simply isn’t going to go off I put it down to signal to dad that it’s okay for him to shoot him.
By this time the big boy is 10 or 15 yards from me and no further from dad and getting closer to him. In about 3 seconds the buck stops dead in his tracks and looks up straight at my dad. My dad between the excitement, knowing I was going to shoot my first buck, and not wanting to move so the buck wouldn’t see him still had his gun slung over his shoulder. It was like an old western showdown at high noon in the dusty streets of the town. Both the hunter and the amazing animal in their prime with a little age on them staring each other down waiting to see who was going to make the first move. I don’t remember who moved first it just all happened at once. Someone moved first and in about 5 seconds the big buck had made just a few massive bounds and was about 70 yards away before dad got half a shot on him while he was leaping over the skid trail. Dad pretty much knew he hadn’t hit him and came over to me and says “Wow, that was awesome. How come you didn’t shoot? That was unbelievable!” I told him what happened with my gun and he said jack another one in it and he’ll get on his track for a minute, he might not be far away and if I jump him the way the wind is he’ll probably come right back through here. Well my dad jumped him again but he was so surprised at how close he was he wasn’t ready and didn’t get another shot at him and he didn’t come my way.
There it was, the story and buck of a lifetime. An experience that probably no other to people or at least not many will ever experience together again. We think when I fell and got the snow on my gun it was so cold it froze the firing pin just enough that it didn’t make the bullet go off, there was actually a little indent where the firing pin hit the bullet just not hard enough. We didn’t get ol’ mossy horns but we got to see and hear him so well together it was more than you could ever hope for in a lifetime. My dad told me I may never see another deer that big in the woods my whole life, that was 16 years ago and although we’ve shot, shot at, and seen deer over 200lbs since then we have not seen one that big. I was already in love with the big woods but that experience sealed my love and addiction for hunting big woods bucks forever. I grew up mostly sitting but now I track whenever I can, every time I get on a big track I picture that big boy and hope there’s one just like him is at the end of it.