Around September, I looked at my deer schedule for the upcoming season. I had to guide three weeks, meaning that gave me two weeks to find a buck. Yes, I'm a Big Woods buck hunter, but I also have a family to feed and venison is important to us. So, when my wife told me the freezer was full with moose and bear meat, I was relieved. I could hunt all fall, waiting to pull the trigger on only the biggest of bucks. After my guiding duties, which saw my clients hang four bucks, I was ready to chase whitetails for the next couple of weeks.
I had a couple of days to hunt the 3rd week as my clients weren't coming in til Wednesday night. I picked up a nice track first thing in the morning on soft snow. I followed the buck not even a mile when he found where two huge cedar trees fell, enticing the deer to feed heavily on the fresh browse. After it snows, a fallen cedar tree is like a candy store to whitetail deer. He dinked around the heavily tracked area, then walked up a ridge towards a thick softwood bluff. This is where I change the game.
I had a feeling—ok, I knew, he was lying on the bluff. The wind was wrong, doubling with the fact, I'm not the best at tracking uphill. So, I got downwind from the bluff and sat down. I know, this is not the “big woods way” to kill that buck, but it's a way I've found to kill bucks. I call it “still tracking”. I have had success hunting bucks this way. Especially since I beat cancer, got old and can't hump the big woods like I did when younger. I sat only a few minutes, when a doe walked under a fallen cedar and began to feed. I watched her turn, check the wind and go up the bluff. I'm now convinced, there's deer on the bluff. I made a bold move, tracking the doe 50 yards or so. I sat.
A half hour goes by, I'm getting antsy. The wind picked up, now blowing northwest. This allowed me to sneak further up the bluff. A doe stood up, walking off with another deer. They stopped, looked back and trotted through the fur trees.. Then, it happened. The buck was standing already, but occupied with the does. I got the crosshairs on him, but was having a hard time seeing his headgear. He scurried off, allowing me a good look. Nope, I let him walk. Though I didn't get a real good look, he wasn't the big guy I was looking for.
The horned skills it takes to track a buck and kill him are the same skills needed to “still track”. I knew or would bet the buck was on that bluff. Though his track said he wasn't real big, it did tell me he was looking for a bed. Sometimes we just need to look outside the box, as my old buddy Kevin Harrison use to say, to kill a buck.
I saw a few small bucks during Thanksgiving week, but no shooters. On the last Monday of deer season which is muzzleloader week here in northern Maine, we had plenty of tracking snow. I was out of the truck before light, as I wanted to get into a spot before the deer retreated to their daily bedding areas. I was sneaking down an old snowmobile trail as the rising sun peaked through the softwood trees, when a big doe jumped across the trail. She was followed by a beautiful high racked buck. The sex driven stud aimlessly walked behind the doe, never knowing I was there. I placed the crosshairs on the bucks shoulder at around 30 yards. A smile wrinkled across my face, as I let the buck walk. He was an awesome buck, toting six points. I also knew, this act of courage and/or foolishness, might seal my doom for the remainder of the season. It did. That was the only buck I saw for the remainder of the week.
Remember, not everyone is a deer tracker. It is the hardest way to kill a trophy buck in America when done in the big woods of the northeast. Don't be afraid to mix things up. I'm not.