Listen; can you hear them in the distance? Wave upon wave of migrating sand hill cranes, their distinctive and haunting call proclaiming their southbound journey, filled the skies above us and briefly interrupted our glassing for mule deer in the rugged breaks of east central Wyoming. I was with my client, Andy, on a mule deer hunt and the sight of thousands of sand hill cranes migrating only added to the total experience. And that,in part, is what hunting is all about; that is, the hunt and being out there . Andy and I agreed that if we had not been in the field in pursuit of game, we would not have been out there and would not have been witnesses to one  of nature's many side shows. Sharing outdoors experiences is, or should be, at the heart of our days afield, whether they be for a day, week or month. Overemphasis on the size, or score of an animal taken does little to add to the memory. Who cannot recall every detail of their first deer, partridge or wild trout ? I'll venture to say that all of us can do so. My first whitetail buck was taken when I was twelve years old and I can recall every detail, down to the time, place, the shot, and the excitement that can only be described as "off the charts." The deer, a spike buck, was to me a trophy and to this day means as much to me as any big game animal I have taken over the course of a long hunting career, and I have been blessed to take over a dozen of North America's splendid big game animals.
As a full time professional hunting guide for the past twelve years, both in Maine and Wyoming, I have always encouraged my clients to live in the moment; put aside the smart phones, and forget about all the daily tasks and responsibilities that fill our lives day to day. Business, family, work are certainly important; of equal importance is your own well being and nothing is better for that than a day on the track, up on the mountain or in your woodlot out behind the house. And if any of these experiences can be shared with a young person, so much the better. Last fall I had a day to get out in the woods in Northern Maine for a few hours to hunt for myself in between guiding clients. Conditions could not have been better that particular morning as we had just about two inches of fresh, powdery snow; what more could a tracker ask for? I headed straight for one of my favorite areas where a hardwood ridge is bordered by some mixed softwood growth. In less than twenty minutes I cut a big track, the kind that a 30-06 cartridge can fit inside the width of with room to spare. I could tell from the age of the track that he was up from his early morning bed and was meandering through the softwood growth in search of does. As an aside, you will often find that bucks will bed just before or right at first daylight so when you get out of your truck, be sure not to slam the doors and be on the alert right away. Even though the old boy has heard the approach of the truck, he way very well lay tight and wait for you to wander off. At any rate, I was on the track for less than an hour, with the wind in my favor, and I could see that he was slowing down and browsing, perhaps getting ready to bed again. As I slowly scanned the woods in front of me, I detected and antler in between two blow downs lying parallel to one another, and he was bedded between them. I brought up my binoculars for a look and could see that he was a five point, certainly not what I was looking for. It proves that a big track, while an indication of size and weight, does not always indicate a rack to go with the body size. I once had a client who took a buck that dressed at 225; however, the deer had a small, spindly set of antlers. My point in relating this is this: tracking that deer and sneaking up on him, without shooting, was very bit as rewarding as pulling the trigger.
My client, Andy, did not shoot a mulie buck on his hunt, although we did see over two hundred deer during the course of his hunt. But seeing the migrating sand hill cranes, crossing over the Oregon Trail in Central Wyoming, and experiencing the vast open stretches of the west, were rewards in and of themselves that he will carry with him for years to come. Oh, he did shoot a great antelope buck. We did not score it and it did not matter to Andy for he was very pleased with the animal he had taken. It just so happens that it was an exceptional critter and photos will be posted shortly.
I will be heading for Canada in a few short weeks and am praying to the Red Gods for snow. But I'm sure that regardless of weather, deer, or lack of deer, I will make it an adventure. And do that for yourself as well. Get on the track, stay on the track and make it an adventure. Lose yourself in the moment and cherish every second outdoors.
Best of luck to all this season. Be safe, have fun and hope to see you out there.
Jim Bernardin
BWB Team Member
Registered Maine Guide
Licensed Wyoming Guide