Twin kill in bountiful clear cut
By Dennis Jensen
STAFF WRITER | October 28,2012
Photo by Dennis Jensen
The authorís 3-point buck (photo at top) is shown in the leaves behind Camp Swampy in upstate New York. The buck was taken on the opening morning of the fall muzzleloader season in mid-October.
Can it get more perfect than this? Itís opening morning of the fall muzzleloader season in New York, with the temperature at 21 degrees, a clear sky overhead and little breeze.
With the exception of a large flock of Canada geese, winging quite low overhead, the woods, just after first light, are eerily quiet. Then, a dark brown, nearly black beauty comes scurrying by.
I should have expected as much. The red squirrels, so often plentiful and noisy hereabouts, are nowhere to be seen or heard.
A fisher scampers by my tree stand, not 10 yards away. Red squirrels are a big favorite of these stealthy hunters and squirrel numbers seem to plummet when the carnivore comes to town.
Despite the fact that I am motionless, the fisher turns around the tree, then stops, looking right up at me. It steps even closer and I get the feeling that perhaps the critter imagines a meal up here.
So I wave my hands back and forth and grunt loudly. No matter. It remains in place and continues to stare back. Iím dumbfounded now, because fishers are cunning and, I thought, would scamper off at the first sign of danger. Ten seconds later, the fisher turns and vanishes into the thick darkness of cedars.
Thatís one of the striking things about hunting ó one often gets to see things that most folks will never witness.
I love this spot, located about a half-mile behind Camp Swampy, up in the St. Lawrence Valley. It has been very good to me. I built ó and rebuilt ó this stand more than 15 years ago, at the corner of an old clear cut. That first year, I shot a big, splendid, 6-pointer poking along just inside the cedars, which literally surround the clear cut.
Iíve been up the tree stand for about an hour now and still very focused, looking for any kind of movement. I move my head, slowly, back and forth, scanning the thick cover of the clear cut and a few openings in the cedars, brought on by a logging operation four years ago.
The first thing I picked out was the white of his antlers, coming out of the dark cedars. The buck moves along, slowly, then stops, just before stepping out into the clear cut. He is unseen now, protected by the green cover of a cedar top that is tilted down, probably by a heavy snow.
I move the muzzleloader from my knees and shoulder the rifle, settling it on the edge of the cut, where I hope to get a clear shot. Thirty seconds pass, a very long 30 seconds, and I guessed later that the buck was sight-checking the opening in these deep woods for danger or, more likely, a doe.
Now the buck is moving, edging toward the end of the clearing, about 30 yards away. When he offers a good opportunity, I grunt, but he continues to move. I grunt even louder, hoping he will stop, and he does just that.
These darn muzzleloaders! When the gun goes off, a huge plume of smoke comes out of the barrel, blocking your vision. But I can see the buck, going like hell. Then he turns left, into the cedars, and I hear the crash as his body collapses into the brittle, dry branches.
Two afternoons later, with another tag in my pocket, I am carefully studying the clear cut again. About an hour before dark, two yearlings step into view and the heart jumps a few beats. Then, a doe of about 100 pounds, comes out of the cedars. A minute later, an even bigger doe comes out to feed on the wild raspberry bushes, so favored by the deer in this region.
Itís a good 65-, 70-yard shot, but the doe is statue-still and feeding when I touch off a shot. The bullet hits below the spine and the doe collapses, where she stood.
She dressed out at 126 pounds, even bigger than the buck, which went 110 pounds.
The trip to brother Tomís camp went beyond my best wishes. With two deer in the freezer and the New York rifle, Vermont rifle and the Green Mountain Stateís muzzleloader season ahead, the rest, as they say, will only be gravy.