Russell Report 2018

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Dad joined us a few mins later as he’d heard the commotion. It was awesome to witness the older brothers embrace in the same way Josh and I had earlier in the trip.
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Right then it really started snowing and the buck was covered in just a couple mins. “Look how long he is! Look how big his chest is! Would you look at that friggen rack!” We were in awe.

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Josh and I thought he was over 230. Dad guessed two-and-a-quarter. Uncle Gary really didn’t give a sh!t what he weighed! “He’s a keepah” he kept repeating. We dressed him off, and I pulled him around to line up to the truck and someone said, “Well that’s HALF the drag!” The trucks were RIGHT there.



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I rode with Uncle Gary on the ride out. He was so pumped and loved the way it all turned out with all of us there together and with the entire day left to celebrate. At the check-in station a small crowd gathered, and the estimates were all over 220. The scale settled in at 236 pounds! and Uncle Gary was speechless for the first time ever!

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We were all so happy for Uncle Gary. He hunts hard and it had been awhile since he’d shot a good one. With his focus on hunting this particular buck, it was so fitting he was able to fix his tag on him. We’re quite certain this is an 8 year old deer and we have pictures of him since he was a 2 year old 10 point. We’ve shown pics and videos of this buck every year since 2012 in the Russell Report. What a slammer!

We hung out a camp for a couple hours as the snows built up and then Josh and I took a quick ride to check a camera. We saw a cow and calf that hung around for a few pictures and we took another partridge.


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We were back at camp before dark and after a dinner of chicken, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and fresh-canned corn, we sat back and told stories again- now with a new one in the mix.
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As we spoke we realized that we had never hung as much weight on the game pole at one time… and we’ve had 3 deer hanging on multiple occasions! The snow finally stopped falling around 7PM leaving over a foot of accumulation. My cheeks hurt from smiling and sleep came easy.

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JOSH Saturday Nov 17[SUP]th[/SUP]
The predawn search yielded nothing from the road as the bumper pushed snow over the windshield. Woods look beautiful in the headlight beams, though.

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We decided to head to a spot we like to hunt 4[SUP]th[/SUP] week. A place we’ve seen a lot of bucks in the past, but just have never been able to connect for whatever reason. We knew it was a yard, but it also held a great local population of deer too. When we took a left on the final spur road we wanted, the tracks crossing in both directions were encouraging. It didn’t take long for us to find the track of a good buck who was trailing several does. While he wasn’t a monster, he was worth the effort even if it turned into an info gathering mission.
Jeff joined me again as we dropped down to the South. After a while it was clear that this buck was not with the does, but he was on their trail.

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Every few hundred yards he’d veer off the trail and come back to it. At one point he veered off the trail and dropped down into an alder swamp and made a rub.


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We could tell he was a good buck and that he wasn’t too far ahead of us, so we continued on his trail. A short while later, he got back onto the main deertrail, and continued his search for does. We came to a spot that was the classic barnyard of tracks and with a fewcircles; we were able to pick up his track again. There were a few main trails through thearea, buck tracks crisscrossing all along. His track was the biggest of them all which made it a littleeasier. Every time we’d come across apile of crap I’d pick up a pellet to squeeze it to see how fresh it was; mostof the morning it was frozen solid.

Hestarted feeding on some old man’s beard and his track was pointing up a littleknoll with thick spruces on top. I wasconvinced he’d be bedded there so we slowed way down. His track went up over the top of it. On the other side the feeding signcontinued. We dropped it down anothergear, taking a step at a time. When wecame to his bed we were both impressed with the size of it. There were walking tracks coming out of it,but his bed was frozen up pretty good.
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As we continued along his exit trail, we cut another bucktrack that was similar size and he was with a doe. We assumed it was our buck and that he hadpicked up a doe during the night. Thingswere looking good. We had just freshenedhim up and made up a lot of time in the process. He was also distracted.

We continued on their tracks and they began feedingagain. Again, we slowed way down. Aftera few hundred yards we came to their beds. Walking tracks were leaving it and I picked up a pellet of crap and itwas soft! I was getting pretty pumpedthat we would bump into some hair pretty quickly. For the next couple of hours, we followedtheir zig zagging tracks. She was takinghim into the thickest terrain she could find – and he was not letting up. At one point we lost their tracks, or lostwhich one was the freshest, so we made a big swing. The snow was knee deep in the open areas andthere was a thin crust on top. I wasgetting pretty worn out but knew we had to keep on them. Jeff took over breaking trail for a while andwhen we found their tracks leaving the mess they made, we took a break forlunch.

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Once back on them they settled down a bit and were justgoing nice and easy. They fed again on acedar blowdown and old man’s beard and I knew they were bedded close by. We inched along and soon enough could seetheir beds up ahead. My heart sank alittle when I saw bounding tracks heading out. We had jumped them up never heard or saw them – I’m assuming they pickedup our scent so we gave them some time to settle and took off after them. They bounded for a few hundred yards but itwas pretty easy to follow two sets of bounding tracks. At one point the doe got onto one of the maindeer trails while the buck parelled it off to the side. I stayed on the main trail and kept an eye onhis tracks with my peripheral vision. Acouple hundred yards later, I couldn’t see his track anymore so I stopped andturned to see what happened. Movementcaught my eye about 20 yards away. Iwhispered to Jeff “Deer!” I watched a deer take three steps through thespruces, but all I could see was legs. Iswung the rifle up to an opening ahead and waited. And waited. And waited... After a while Idecided to sneak up to where the deer was. Sure enough I came to the bucks walking track and, after a few yards,his bounding track again. How a 200lbbuck can vanish at 20 yards still amazes me. While I was disappointed I never saw his head, this was the second timewe’d caught up with him and it was only noon time. He was clearly distracted with the doe andbecause of this, I was still confident we’d get another chance.
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These two deer continued bounding for another mile andthen they came to an area absolutely covered in tracks. They again got on one of the main trails andwe did our best to stay on him. Itappeared he split off from the doe, but that was tough to tell. It was either that, or there was another bucktrack of similar size. It was clearlythe freshest track so we stuck on him.
Now it was getting later in the day – he took us up asteep ridge, paralleled the top and then came back down the side he startedon. He dumped down into a cedar swampand for the third time that day, we jumped him up. It was the same buck we had been on as thetwo beds confirmed he was back with his doe. They busted out of the swamp (again never heard or saw them) and startedheading back to where we had first come to their beds 6 hours prior.

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There wasn’t much daylight left so we went hard on themfor another 45 min before we had to call it quits. They bounded the whole way. I don’t think we were more than a mile from atruck the entire day as they stayed in the same general area, just making anumber of circles throughout the day. Itwas 4:00 and we had a half mile walk back to the truck. We started towards the truck and had to cut back acrossthat cedar swamp. As we were coming outof the swamp Jeff whispered “Josh! I think I see one!” He pointed up the ridge on the opposite sideof the swamp and 75 yards up there was a deer standing broadside. With the fading light and heavy breathing, Icouldn’t get a good look at its head. Icrouched down next to a cedar blowdown and got the rifle rested up, cranked thescope up and still couldn’t get a clear picture of the deer’s head. There was moisture on the scope from thefalling snow throughout the day and I did my best to wipe it off. Eventually, I was pretty confident it waseither a doe or yearling buck. With timefading, we decided to head towards it to confirm. When we got about 40 yards away she boundedoff. I waited hoping it was the doe we’dbeen chasing, but was pretty confident it was not as she’d come from adifferent direction - no buck with her, so we hoofed it to the road and arrived there in the dark. While I never really got a chance at thatbuck, it was certainly a fun day of chasing him around. My legs were jelly and I was ready for a dayof rest that Sunday would bring.
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JEFF Sunday Nov 18[SUP]th[/SUP]
Sunday. Up with the sun. Hot coffee. Black Coffee (this is deer camp, after all)… and Dad baked up some blueberry muffins thick with hearty oats.
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We loaded Uncle Gary’s 10point and wished him a safe ride home… he was all smiles. Josh and I then headed out for a scout. The plan was to break a trial into “The X” as an earlier cam check showed a big 10 point was still alive. I hunted him a bunch last year, missed him the year before that, and jumped him for the 1[SUP]st[/SUP] time in 2015. The primary logging roads were greasy, and the secondary roads were really bad and worsening. We bumped into the game warden and he suggested we turn around as he’d gotten stuck and was struggling even with chains. Actually, he offered to follow us in to ensure we made it up one particular hill safely, but we felt the most responsible thing to do was to turn around as we left the chains back at camp. He’s a great guy. We had a relaxing afternoon at camp. Cheese burgers again. Camp fries. Cold beer. More story telling.

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JOSH Monday Nov 19[SUP]th[/SUP]
Well after we bailed on our scouting plan on Sunday, my plan was to head back to the X. A spot that had a lot of camera action in December last year, so I thought it would be a good spot given the snow depth and deer movement. The stand is a spot Jeff has hunted a bunch in the past, but it’s also the same general area that I found the big track earlier the prior week and not far from where we tracked on Saturday. Jeff agreed to be my pack mule for the day, so we loaded him up with the tree seat and clothes pack that would allow me to sit for a few hours and I made him break trail for the half mile walk in with headlights. I did let him break at the mid-way point for a quick sip of water.

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Along the way the sign was great, but as we approached the stand, the sign petered out. The deer were still using the two primary trails that stand over looks, but it didn’t look like much more than they do normally and the sign was certainly better closer to the truck.
I thought about sitting there anyways, as it was prime time and really the sign was good. But something told me to head back closer to the truck. Jeff never took the pack off, just turned around and started heading out. It was light at this point so I was in front with the model 7 loaded up. Halfway back, I heard a deer blow in front of us and looked up to see a deer taking off. I got the whole deer in the scope and confirmed it was a doe. We waited a bit hoping to catch a buck following her, but none showed. We continued back towards the truck. We got onto a skid road that the deer were crossing heavily when Jeff and I spotted one about the same time. I was swinging the gun up as Jeff said “I see one!” I got the scope on this deer and could tell it was a fawn.

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She hung around for a while and I thought it was odd thatwe couldn’t see her mother. Sure enoughI caught movement off to the right and a big doe stepped out onto the skidroad. Again we waited for a buck toshow up but they were elsewhere. Wewatched those two deer for a while before they took off. The truck was only another few hundred yardsso we got to it, dropped off some gear and I headed back in to sill hunt whileJeff went looking for bunnies.
I decided I’d stay in the same general area as the signwarranted it, and we’d been seeing deer. I figured I’d get on one of the main trails and try to figure out wherethe deer were going. I poked alongslowly, using the grunt and can calls along the way. Stopping and looking every 10 yards or so asI was fully expecting to see some deer. Jeff had a camera up on a cluster of signposts in this spot and hadgiven me the coordinates. While I didn’thave any intentions of checking the card, the GPS was telling me I was gettingpretty close to it. Sure enough thetrail I was on went right past the camera…on the wrong side.
 

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The sign posts had all been hit this year, but only onehad shavings on top of the snow. The onethat was out of the camera's view. Itlooked like two bucks had hit the post, one good one and one medium sizedtrack.


I continued along the trail and when warranted hopped offfor better visibility. After about amile I saw a real good track cut off to the side. He was with a doe and it appeared as thoughthey were heading away from the crowd. With the snow conditions, it was tough to tell how fresh they were, butI figured I’d stay on them as long as I could to find out. They meandered quite a bit, and he waschasing her a bit. There were still abunch of tracks cutting in and out so it was slow going. I took them for about a half mile and thattook me maybe two hours. They fed alittle bit on old man’s beard, and shortly after bedded down. The beds were frozen solid and the trackswere walking coming out of it. I figuredthat the beds were made during the night and with it being afternoon at thispoint – I decided to bail. I had plannedon heading back to the trail the does were on earlier that morning to watch itfor the last hour or so of the day, so I stuck to that plan. I took a slightly different trail back andcame across another cluster of signposts where a good buck had polished oneup.


His track was heading the right direction, so I stayed onhim for a ways before he rejoined the trail I had started on.
It was about 3:00 by the time I got to the spot I wantedto sit, so I threw on an extra layer from my pack, found a big poplar to leanagainst and waited. The trail was infront of me up hill to my left and to the right dropped down into a spruceswamp. I was expecting the deer to comeup from the swamp and so my attention was focused towards the right. After watching for 10-15 minutes, I heardsomething to my left – where the trail crosses to my left, it is 15 yards away– and as I turned my attention to the sound there is a deer, broadside at 15yards, only back 2/3s showing. My riflewas leaning up against the tree and I knew I was going to make some noisetrying to get to it. I decided I’d waitfor the deer to step out and in a couple of seconds it did just that. As soon as its head came into view I couldsee it was a legal unicorn and he locked onto me. I had tucked myself behind some pines andthat did the trick, he could tell something wasn’t right, but with the wind inmy favor he kept moving. Now I hadn’tshot a Maine buck in a few years and honestly was slightly tempted as this deerwas 10 yards broadside and I was carrying my model 7 which I had never killed adeer with, but I still had plenty of time left in the trip and was seeing deerevery day at this point. I left therifle leaning against the tree, grabbed the camera from my pocket and took somevideo of him before he moseyed off. Iwaited until dark, but nothing else showed. I’d be back in the morning.
 

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JEFF Monday Nov 19[SUP]th[/SUP]
I was Josh’s snow plow and pack mule for the first few hours of the day and was lucky to witness some incredible over-the-shoulder action. We saw 3. All does.

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Josh wanted to head back into this spot alone to still hunt so I had the rest of the day to myself. Snowshoe hare. I’ve never hunted them. Never even seen one with a shotgun in my hand despite so many years of partridge hunting. After taking my buck I made a goal to get a hare by tracking. There’s this great buck tracker out of Vermont- Matt Beantown or Bretin or something ��- great tracker and he hunts hare in the offseason. I’d no plans to chase hare going into the hunt so was going on what bits I’d learned and could remember from his posts and articles. With 4-day old snow I knew it would be a challenge, but I had so much fun and frustration (weighted to the former) trying to track one down. In the first cover I tried there were tracks everywhere, trails actually, and for the first time in my life signs of the snowshoe hare excited me.

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My eyes became tiered from looking for white on white and I was cursing that Vermonter for ever suggesting this was possible. It felt like cheating when I spent 20 mins in there tracking a consolation prize as I encountered fresh grouse tracks, followed till wing marks, and looked up.
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It only took an hour to realize hare hunting was so much more difficult than chasing birds and shockingly similar to deer hunting. I spent a couple more hours still hunting in there for hare and left with a collar full of snow, a growing desire to shoot one, and a stupid grin on my face. Back to the truck for some coffee and a muffin and then off to find a new place to start over.

That first location was way too thick with fir, so I looked for some cover with a bit more mixed growth. I headed into a spot with rabbit tracks along the road (but not crossing it), and made a big semi-circle keeping all the sign on the inside of the loop. There was a lot less sign than the first location and I figured only 1 rabbit made base camp here. After an hour and a half of “process of elimination” (much like done when tracking deer), there remained only one small patch of fir he could be in. I closed in with the gun ready and I caught one quick flash of ‘ol Yellow Toes as he escaped me! I was smiling and almost embarrassed as my heart skipped a couple beats! “Basturd!” I murmured. “I’m going bird hunting.”
 

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JOSH Tuesday Nov 20[SUP]th[/SUP]
My plan was to head into the stand I had seen the spike from and sit all day. The road into this place was getting worse by the day, so I gave myself some extra time. Before the trip I had bought some tire chains, but somehow they ended up on Jeff’s truck. You can see where this is going. After I conquered the worst of the roads, I took the final left onto the spur road I’d be hunting. Not 20 yards down that spur, I lost control of the truck (going 5mph) and the next thing I know I’m in a ditch. No problem, I’ll put it 4 wheel low and crawl out of it. Nope, still a problem. After a quick temper tantrum I decided I was just going to grab my pack and go hunting. I sent Jeff a text on the Delorme – “Trucks in a ditch, its fine but gonna need a pull. I’m going hunting so take your time”.
Now instead of a quarter mile walk into my stand I’m looking at a mile and a half. I took my time walking the road as I didn’t want to sweat up after about a mile I checked my watch and it was after legal light so I loaded up my little bolt action. I took a step and bam – a deer blew 20 yards off the road. I looked over and saw one bounding out, got the scope on it but it was still too dark to really see. A second later, another took off. I waited there for 10 minutes confirmed they were gone and there weren’t any others and then continued into my stand. I got settled in and waited.
After an hour or so, I thought I heard something to my right and as I looked that way, I saw a deer that I was pretty sure was a small doe walking perpendicular to the trail I was watching. I pulled up the rifle, but it had disappeared. I kept my focus on that area and after a couple of minutes, could see a deer walking towards me on the trail I was watching. It was coming through a pretty thick patch and as I got it in the scope could see a rack! I clicked the safety off and waited. When it stepped out at 40 yards, the rack turned into a pair of forks (it was actually more a 4 pointer than a fork horn - I think he was 2.5). He was a healthy buck probably 140 lbs. or so. I was tempted, very tempted. He continued up the trail and was now broadside. NOTHING in the way. 10 yards. Now I’m even more tempted. Crosshairs are on his chest and then his neck and then back to his chest. I’m not sure how, but I put the safety back on, lowered my rifle and watched him continue up the trail. A couple minutes later I look back down the trail where he had come from and here comes a doe following the same trail. I thought my chances were good she’d have a buck behind her and while I waited another hour, she had no pursuers.
At about 10:00, I headed out to the truck with a plan to circle the trail they went up and try to find out where they were going. I headed straight up behind the truck and cut their trail pretty quickly. The sign heated up as I continued along the trail. For the first time in a few years, I was fully expecting to see a deer with each step I took. I took the trail for a mile when it took me to a hemlock knoll that we’ve hunted quite a bit in the past. The sign on this knoll was unreal and what was bizarre is that it was only .2 of a mile from the X stand we had abandoned the morning prior. I poked along this knoll for the next couple hours. I thought for sure I was going to make something happen. The snow started falling again and I came to a spot where the leaves were all torn up there was also part of an old beech stump that was moved around. I could see there were mushrooms on it so I assumed the deer were feeding there. Upon further investigation, there was a bunch of deer hair scattered about and bounding tracks heading out of this spot. It was now clear to me that two bucks went at it pretty hard a few days prior and judging by their tracks, they were two bucks I’d be happy to throw a tag on. That got me fired up and focused. So focused in fact, that I spotted a fat grouse putting on a display.

I made a big swing back to my stand from the morning and sat there until dark with nothing to show.
 

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JEFF Tuesday Nov 20[SUP]th[/SUP]
I drove the roads before dawn looking for a track for Josh. Several other reports mention this- all you could look for was the stagger between tracks. While doing this I learned Josh’s truck was in a ditch which I knew was really MY problem because he still had a tag and I didn’t! Another example of where the GPS with texting capabilities is priceless as we were 40 miles apart. I drove back to camp for some more equipment and saw 2 nice bulls feeding out in a cut on the way. I also came across a doe that was in the road on a long straightaway.
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It took an hour to dig Josh’s truck out. I anticipated I’d need some clippers and was glad I grabbed a pair at camp. I’ll always have a pair in my truck from now on as the road side ditches are full of growth that can really hang up a frame which was the case with Josh’s truck.
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That afternoon I did some heater hunting for birds as Dad had a craving for another cast iron pan full of bacon-wrapped partridge. “Partridge is tasty alone but if you put enough bacon on it, it tastes JUST like bacon” he joked. I shot my limit. From field to frying pan- same day.

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JOSH Wednesday Nov 21[SUP]st[/SUP]
The snow that started the prior afternoon continued off and on throughout the night and turned into a dusting so I planned on trying to find a fresh track to follow. Jeff and I took different rigs so try and cover more ground and after we made plan on who was going where, off we went. I checked a few roads that we’d located a few big bucks but came up empty. I did find two fresh buck tracks from the truck but one had a truck parked next to it already and the other, although it was a mile or two away, I was pretty sure it was the same buck so I left it alone. With the day getting brighter and brighter I figured I’d head out on foot and see what I could find. Just as I was stepping out of the truck I checked my Delorme to see what Jeff had seen “I found one I think you should follow!!Huge. It looks like a small moose track. But it isn’t!” I replied with I’d be right over. Well with the road conditions and the distance, it took me an hour. I bumped into two bulls on the way over and stopped to take a quick video. When I got to Jeff he had already shoveled a spot for me to park- camp b!tch, remember. The track was huge, but it was a bit older than I was hoping.

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While it snowed during the night, there was a bit of snow in the track. The good news was that it was big, very big and it was a location away from any yarding activity. His track went up and down the road and it took us a little bit, but we got him sorted out and were on his trail around 8:30. He took us North and West heading up a mountain. We were hoping he’d get up on the mountain, find some does or do some buck things and we’d be able to make some time on him. After a mile, he had done none of those things but he was still heading up the mountain. Jeff offered to break trail for me as he could tell the snow depth and elevation were wearing me out.
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We were still hoping he’d show signs of feeding and be bedded at the top. Our hopes were not met as he went up over the top and back down the other side. There was a fresh chopping on the other side and we soon got into some other deer tracks. It looked like there was a pocket of a handful of deer hanging in this cut. He fed a bit, meandered around for a bit checking the older deer tracks out and kept on going. He cut into a cedar swamp and parelled the cut for a while. When he came back out of the swamp he hopped on an old skid road – a quarter mile into that road he finally slowed a bit to make a rub and a
few hundred yards later a scrape.

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I got excited thinking we’d be able to make up some time. I think he made one other scrape but really just kept in a straight line for the most part. I said to Jeff “If we don’t come to his bed by noon, we have no shot at this deer”. He continued heading North and when we got to the base of another mountain we saw where he fed heavily on some old man’s beard. It was about 11 and as he left the spruce blowdown, he pointed himself up the mountain. Right on schedule.
We continued on his track as he climbed up and we slowed our pace, expecting to come to his bed. He skirted the peak as its pretty steep terrain and started paralleling the back side of the mountain on a shelf. We stopped around noon for a break and had a sandwich. We were two miles from the truck and it was getting late in the day but We continued along the track for another half mile when he dumped down off the mountain completely, crossed another log road and continued on. We bailed on the track as it would take us a while to get back to the truck and his track was not any fresher than when we started several hours prior. The walk back to the truck was tough – we stopped a bit along the way and had some laughs about how miserable the conditions were for walking. We finally got back to the rigs and I punched it over to the spot I hunted the day before. I snuck into the hemlock knoll and watched it for the last 30 minutes of light. Plenty of tracks on the way in, but no deer showed.

I knew it would be a long shot on this buck, but with the size of his track, I thought it was worth the effort. No regrets, but I’m still waiting to get one of those big bucks that goes half mile from the road and lays down. You know, the kind of track Jeff seems to always find.
 

RussellBro2

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JEFF Wednesday Nov 21[SUP]st[/SUP]
Same routine as the morning before. Out early looking for a track for Josh to follow. We had received another dusting of snow overnight which made things a little easier. It was past daylight and I’d found a few fresh buck tracks but nothing really impressive. Josh had informed me via inReach that he was going to go still hunt near “the X” and just after I received that text I found a smasher of a track. I’ve never seen hooves so rounded at the top. Wide hoof. It looked like that of a caribou. Long stride. Good stagger. One of the top 5 tracks I have in my memory for sure. The track was on top of most of the new snow but there were still some flakes in it. It certainly wasn’t the freshest track but it was made the night before and I told Josh he had to jump on it. That buck took us on a long chase, but we were too far behind and he was straight-lining East. We believe he was heading for a doe group that was another 3 miles away. We climbed two 2000ft mountains in the process and Josh kept repeating “This track is older than white dog sh!t”

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We were beat and come noon we began a 4 mile walk back to the rig. Here’s one scene of exhaustion along the way.
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