Friday, November 29, 2013

A Northwoods Goulash - Maine Deer, Vermont Grouse, and a Surprise

     With October drawing to a close, and November coming into bloom, the ASO crew found themselves moving about and getting down to business. Some of our travels proved more fruitful than others, but regardless, camps were filled, boot leather worn down, lungs filled with crisp air, and time was spent afield.

     ASO regular S.S. took a crew deep into the North East Kingdom of Vermont on a grouse hunting adventure. S.S. has been talking about hunting the NEK for a few years now, and this year he threw down the gauntlet, and took on the challenge. The reports were far from disappointing,and the guys were thick into birds. And considering they were hunting dogless, I'd say that speaks well of the grouse and woodcock populations in the NEK. The area they hunted was only a stones throw away from my regular haunt just over the border, so perhaps next year I'll spend a little time over that way, too.


Some Vt Scenery

The ASO Crew


Grouse N Gun

A nice Vt Covert

Vt Mixed Bag
     Shortly after the crew held their successful pilgrimage to Vermont, I found myself in Maine. I hadn't hunted Maine in about 10 years, but I had a hole in my schedule, and an invitation that fit, so I headed up. My good friend from the kennel, Bruce, invited me to join him and his friend John in deer camp.
     While I'm not anywhere near as serious about deer hunting as Bruce and John I accepted the invitation. The plan was, I'd grouse hunt in the mornings, and if I found good deer sign, sit with my deer rifle in the afternoons. I wish I could tell you all that things worked out that way, and I shot a bunch of grouse, and a deer. It just didn't work out that way, however. Road prospecting the area I found lots of cover that looked promising, but we just weren't finding any birds. Oh, they were there, just not in any significant numbers. I was finding lots of good, fresh deer sign. So after two days of fruitless grouse hunting, I put down my double, and picked up my rifle.
     I'd decided to concentrate my deer hunting efforts on a spot that had two things I very much like when hunting any species; fresh sign, and no other hunters. I found such a spot, and the deeper I got into the woods away from the heater hunting locals, the more fresh sign I found. In fact, every visit I found more fresh sign. I was getting excited.
     The plan, as it developed, was to basically get into the area with the thickest sign early and sit on a stump. Then, after the morning had passed I'd sneak about as quietly as the forests carpet would allow, hoping to make my own luck. Hopefully a little snow would fall, quieting things up for a bit, but that, too never happened.
     The last day I found myself in the "zone". The weather had warmed, the melted frost quieting the leaves under foot, the wind seemed to miraculously be blowing steadily in my face no matter how many course changes I made, and I'd carefully selected the night before's meal so as to sully the area with flatulence. Now, I can't say with any certainty that the obviously large animal I herd making it's departure from the crest of the ridge 30 yards above me was a deer, but it sure made enough of a fuss busting over the top.  Nor can I say with any certainty, that had it not busted out that I'd have seen it, or even gotten a shot at it. But I can say this, I blame that damned red squirrel, and all it's chatter. All was not lost; I had seen a deer a few days earlier. Just not anything with the required head gear. Oh well. Being in camp was still great, and I firmly believe that a good campfire beats out television any day of the week.


A Selection of Rubs

A Fresh Scrape

A Couple of Fresh Tracks.
(These were tracks I found back tracking that had cut my track)

A Big Clump of Moose Hair
     Hunting camps all around the globe are filled with various traditions. My annual grouse camp wouldn't be complete without Old Fashions in the evenings, scrapple in the mornings, and the annual "Toast to the dogs of yesterday". Bruce and John, too, have a tradition, and it is because of their tradition of watching Escanaba in da Moonlight that I've finally seen this hilarious movie.
     While the content of the movie might well fall squarely into the "you can't make this stuff up", our camp too, experience a bit of that. Shortly after arriving in camp Bruce received an interesting text from his brother Doug. While we were driving north, Doug, a die hard bow hunter, was sitting in a stand behind the kennel. Yup. He killed a big 205lb, 11 pointer.  You can't make this stuff up.


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