Once again my deer season kick-off was our annual guide’s trip to Ontario in mid October. This year we drove, stopping at a motel for a six hour break to stretch out and get a few winks of sleep. All of us snorers slept but some of the other guy’s didn’t! We arrived at camp to find the weather quite warm. It stayed fairly warm for the seven days we were there, and we were hunting in shirt sleeves. Needless to say the big bucks were not moving around much. Buck sign seemed to be limited to small area where a buck was spending most of his time. Overall there was lack of buck sign. By the end of the week the consensus among the guys was that the warm weather was keeping them down and that there was definately less deer than usual. I asked the guy we rent the camp from about the previous winter and he said it was colder and snowier than usual. Since a lot of the deer in that area don’t yard up, there was a pretty good winter kill. Everyone in camp saw a few bucks, but not many real big ones. There were a couple of missed shots, but I won’t mention any names! I never saw a buck that I was interested in shooting but the highlight of my trip was my son Gary shooting his first 200lb buck. He shot a nice heavy horned six point with no brow tines the first morning out. It was Gary's first trip with us. He had just returned from serving his country in Kuwait so it made it extra special.

I got back from Ontario just in time to do some scouting around home. We had snow on the ground, so it made scouting extra fun. I couldn’t believe how much buck sign there was around here for late October. I checked a bunch of my favorite signpost rubs and they were torn up. The bucks were already laying down scrapes, so I had high expectations for the season. Of course the snow melted off and we hunted on bare ground for most of the first two weeks. The first week was warm and not much activity during the day. My hunter came close when I rattled in a buck but he smelt us and spooked just as we were getting our first glimpse of him. The second week turned colder and buck activity picked up. Later in the week we got an inch of snow in the higher elevations. It was cold noisy snow but it was better than nothing. My hunter that week came close on a couple of occasions but couldn’t quite close the deal.

The third week we got a little more snow, but it was still quite noisy except for a day that pretty windy. I think we chased a big buck every day except one that week. We had close call after close call but our timing was always a little off. The last day we got a look at a dark heavy horned buck that we were tracking, but no time for a shot. Although we got around lots of bucks, I just couldn’t seem to get my hunters a shot.

Thanksgiving week this year I decided I was going to hunt for myself. Sunday night when I looked at the weather, they were calling for snow showers all week. I was like a kid in a candy store with excitement about tracking all week. The rut was in full tilt and the bucks were running everywhere that first morning. I was working out an old track when I cut a fresh one at about noon. The track was so fresh that I had already spooked the buck when I found the track. I knew he was up and searching for does and that my chances were good. This track was one of the toe draggers I like to see. He went about a mile without stopping before he got in with another good buck. I heard deer running and thought I spooked them, but as it turned out they were chasing each other. When the two bucks split up the bigger one I was tracking was headed for the Canadian border, so I opted to take the other track. It was a good track but I told myself I would try to get a look at his rack before shooting. Well, I got the chance when he bounded out in front of me in a strip cut. He was quartering away and I couldn’t see big horns so I held off on what was an easy shot for me. I snorted at him and he stopped in some brush. I got my binoculars out and focused in the brush. Wouldn’t you know I could see the buck facing me with a rack outside his ears! Now I didn’t have a shot and I watched as he walked up over the ridge at 200 yards.

It snowed the next day then turned to rain and I hunted on crust with snow up to a foot deep for the rest of the season. I saw three more bucks Thanksgiving week, but no shot. I crunched around all muzzle loader week hoping to catch one looking. Tuesday I decided to go hunt with Guide Kevin. We each got on a buck going into the same area and Kevin got a shot at the buck he was on but missed. Then we ended up together on the track of the one I was on. We ended up near the road when Kevin heard a buck snort at him. My buck had crossed the road with a doe, so Kevin and I regrouped in the road. We were standing together eating a sandwich, trying to figure out how we were going to get near a buck, when Kevin calmly says to me there’s a buck! I looked down the road and there was a decent buck standing in the road looking at us. We dropped our sandwiches and pulled up the guns. When I pulled up I realized that I couldn’t swing that far left. I didn’t want to move my feet and the bead was bobbling around on the buck. I touched off the smoke pole and the buck whirled and Kevin fired. The buck disappeared into the woods and we picked up our sandwiches and walked down to where the buck was standing. There was no hair and no blood. We were laughing about both blowing a chance like that. We finished our sandwiches and went to check the track. About five jumps away, the buck was laying there dead! Now we wondered who hit him. He was hit in the ribs with no exit hole. Kevin figured I must have hit him as the buck was jumping when he shot and he didn’t feel good about it. I told Kevin that I didn’t feel good about my shot either, but I would take the buck. We figured the buck to be a 3 ½ year old eight point. I was gutting the buck out when I found that the heart had a bullet crease in it. Now I knew it was Kevin’s buck as the buck was quartering towards us when I fired and away from us when he fired.

By the end of the week the deer were heading to the yards. I got on a good buck the last morning knowing it would be a miracle to get near him. I tried anyway as there’s always a chance. I caught up to him and spooked him about five miles from the truck and bid him a farewell. I got back home an hour before dark and decided to take a walk up in back of my house. I was about worn out by now so I sat down to enjoy the last few minutes of the season and reminisce. It was overcast and still. All of a sudden I heard crust of the snow breaking. Three does were coming along just feeding. Light was fading fast and I was enjoying the show when I heard the crust breaking again from the opposite direction. The sound of footsteps coming fast got my attention. Then, out of the thicket stepped a big ten pointer. I brought the gun up wondering if it was still shooting time. My next thought was that this buck is coming here for the winter. I brought the gun back down and let the old boy walk for another year. It just didn’t seem right to me, to shoot that buck almost in the back yard. I’ve shot plenty of good bucks, and I didn’t need to shoot one just for the wall. For me at this point in my deer hunting career, I get my thrill from the hunt and the chase. With any luck I might meet that buck next fall ten miles from my backyard and the end result might be different.

All in all the deer hunting was pretty good last fall in the Jackman Moose River Valley where we live. At Cedar Ridge we had one of our better years. The hunters that came to Cedar Ridge this fall killed 3 bucks over 200lbs. The biggest buck field dressed at 249lbs. and a few other bucks weighed in just under 200lbs. Several other hunters reported misses during the season. There were plenty of bucks sighted and a bunch of smaller bucks passed up.

I hope all of you had a great season wherever you may have hunted.

Best regards,
Hal