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My first PA hunt ever.. and it was a pretty good one!

You guys have me thinking about deer hunting now… This is a long story, but a good one and worth the read if your so inclined, if not… that’s ok too, there mite be something to learn from this one, maybe not, idk, but it was an adventure I will never forget and I’m sure most will find it funny if nothing else.. For many years I was convinced the deeper I went, the horns must grow bigger, I was positive bucks with ginormous racks probably died of old age in these spots, maybe they do, who knows, for those that have never experienced the Adirondacks, it is no exaggeration to say we have areas where you could go 20 miles or more in a straight line and never cross a road, and lots of these areas. My plan was to find one of these bucks/areas and go after him. This was 15 years or more ago when this hunt happened, I had found some super big buck sign about as far from a road as you can imagine, the country looked good, not tore up with sign but good, big, fresh buck sign, so I hunted it hard that first year, sleeping in a tent, the only way you can hunt this area at all. We finally got some snow that first year and it wasn’t long and I located the main target buck, I can still remember what his track looked like after all these years, long and skinny, long stride, wide stance, he was a good one, his rubs were always super high on the tree. So I tracked this buck 3 times that year I believe, always on good snow, and I never caught up with him once, but I learned a lot, where he bed, his escape route etc.. Twice after I had that buck fresh and going he crossed a beaver dam, on a major stream or small river I guess you could call it, both times it was toward the end of my hunt and I never kept going, still to this day I’ve never been across that river. That beaver dam was a major crossing spot for everything in the woods, I remember seeing coyote tracks on that dam, other deer tracks… what a spot for a bow stand.. Anyways that was it, I found a good one, he gave me an education and he would have to wait until next year… The next summer a friend showed me a camera he had just bought, a trail camera, this contraption took batteries and 24 exposure film, I had never owned a trail camera before and knew nothing about them, he said take it and use it, so I did, and knew where I wanted it, that beaver dam. A good friend of mine tagged along that summer day to put that camera out, he‘s not the woodsy type, by lunch time he was calling me every name in the book as his legs were shot and the bugs were brutal, I had that beaver dam saved in my GPS, when we finally got there to my surprise it was gone, high water, dead beaver, idk what happened but it was gone, now what… So I picked a tree close to where that dam was and mounted the camera, I had no other plan so it was better than bringing it home. We walked up and down that river for a bit thinking we had the wrong spot looking for it, but the dam was definitely gone, I did find an old canoe stashed, it’s not uncommon to find old boats laying all over in the woods around here, almost every pond/lake has a boat stashed on it, this was unusual though… in this area… and it had been there a long time, it was a Radisson or old Sportspal, anyone who has used one knows they are basically a soda can of a canoe lined with foam, the paddle was still there as well, all the foam was gone from this canoe, mice or something had chewed it all up, and the rivets were basically falling out of it, but I marked in my GPS because you never know…. So sometime later that year, early September would be my guess, I made the trek back in there to pull that camera. I gave the film to my wife and she dropped it off the next day at the photo shop, I had a couple pictures of one bear, and this buck… I was convinced it was probably him, the buck I had been after most of the season before. This is a digital picture.. of the picture..

So season rolls around and all I can think about is this buck, I want him bad. I made plans, tent, wait for the rut, etc.. We got snow early that year, and it was deep, so my plan was simple go in there and find that deer while we still had good snow. The first day I ventured back in to that country, it took me most of the day to get there, even from a tent, the half assed trail I followed part of the way was littered with small saplings bent over from the heavy snow, it was a pain, finally sometime after lunch I was almost there, close to that beaver dam, and where the target buck usually crossed, he always crossed that dam and went straight up, or straight down off the mountain he spent a lot of time on, that day he was coming down off it, and headed into country I had never hunted toward across that river, so I looked the track over real good, I was positive it was him, and backed out. There was no way, that late in the day I was going to go after that buck in new country, the opposite way of my tent, which was still several miles away, I just backed out and left, I knew tomorrow he would still be around, or at least I hoped. The next day I got an early start, followed my path/tracks from the day before in the new snow and was on a mission to get in there and find that buck. I can’t remember exactly how far, but I would guess less than a 100 yards from where he was coming off the mountain the day before, there was his track smoking fresh going back up. The snow was deep, quiet, and this deer was headed straight up through wide open hard woods to bed on the side of this mountain where I had tracked him the year before, and his track was fresh. As a I started up his track through those woods there was zero doubt I was going to kill this deer, all I could think about was how the heck would I get this thing out of here, I didn’t care though I would figure that out. One step at a time, slowly I crept up that hill, my head scanning every spot in front of me, to this day I still hate hunting open hard woods like this, I’d much rather be in some thick swamp or spruce thicket. So I would guess about half way up that mountain, creeping along that track, which was super easy, zero other deer or tracks to get confused with, and the conditions were perfect, I spot this one lone hemlock tree, a big green hemlock, right above me, the track is headed right for it, so now I have my gun half up, and I am really creeping, super slow, I’m within 40-50 yards from this tree, the track is headed straight for, and remember I’m on the side of a steep mountain, and that buck picks his head up and looks right down at me.. all I can see is eyes and antlers, he’s looking right at me, I pull up and he’s gone, but in my mind I knew he was screwed, I could see all around this bench, small shelf, whatever you want to call that spot he was bedded on under that tree, I knew I would see him again, and just like that, the whole ordeal probably took less than half a second, there he was again, wide open, going mach 10 broadside in front of, and above me across that wide open hard woods, maybe 40 yards away, so I unloaded on him, emptied my rifle, I had zero doubt he was dead on his feet, I vividly remember not even reloading my rifle as I walked over to what I imagined to be a huge red blood trail on brand new snow going across that mountain, well it didn’t happen, I’m not sure how long it took me to load back up, or realize it wasn’t happening, but eventually I figured out this deer wasn’t hit, I even walked back to the original crime scene and looked for more blood thinking maybe in my excitement I had taken the wrong track out of there after shooting at him, but that wasn’t the case, there wasn’t any other deer around him, and all I found was a couple fresh dead saplings from a .270 bullet. So back down his track I go, now this buck is really hammering out of there, I have no idea how long or far I tracked that deer after missing him, but it was an all day project.. I took the entire tour of that mountain, all over it, time was running out, I had him back to a walk several times, and then I would bump him again and the sprinting would start back up, he even bedded back down again once, I blew it that time too, I just caught a glimpse of him. So after all that, the buck decides he’s had enough of me and wants off that mountain, so down he goes, and the whole time I’m watching on my GPS, sure enough he’s going to cross where that dam was, or used to be, yup he crossed, swam the river.. now what. Like I said before, imagine if that dam was still there, what a stand spot, everything in that woods was crossing on that beaver dam back then, and also apparently when there’s no dam there. So the realization of how I just blew it was starting to set in, I was a few miles from my tent, which is also 4 miles from my truck, wet, tired, and I had my chance and now this animal has swam a river, heading into country I’ve never hunted before, at all, the wrong direction out of there…. then I remember that canoe down stream… So I walk down and check that thing out better, it was only a few hundred yards from my buck track, by the washed out beaver dam spot. This canoe is not much, as you can imagine it had been sitting in the woods for only god knows how many years left there by someone because it was trashed already and they didn’t care what happened to it, a Radisson with no foam, if you’ve ever been in a nice, new, Radisson canoe you can picture this thing I’m about to float in, half a soda can, and I’m not knocking their product, I have a Radisson and they’re super tough, with the foam, not without it. I left my rifle and pack on shore in case this thing sinks and decided to make a test run first, bad idea, 20’ or so from shore I drop the homemade paddle and begin going downstream at a decent clip, never mind the fact every rivet hole had water pouring in, so I reached over the side, the best I could, and begin to hand paddle my way toward shore, it worked, I finally got caught up in the some brush on the bank, and luckily the same side of the river I started on. That was it, this time I really was finished, the buck would live to see another day, my guess is that deer died of old age, who knows, the walk out of there that night to my tent was brutal, I have never hunted that woods since. I didn’t have ONX back then, know one did, heck I was using a trail camera that took film, I won’t lie though I’ve often thought about that spot, and the new cameras we have now and what mite be crossing that beaver dam still if it was back in action…
If oklahoma ever had a good snow during rifle season I would LOVE to attempt tracking. Doesn't even have to be a big buck, I'd take tracking a doe group.
There’s nothing quite like finding a smoking fresh track and seeing and learning what a buck does, especially where they stop and rake a tree until there’s fresh shavings laying on top of the freshly fallen snow, or you find that reddish yellow snow where they’ve urinated during the rut and you smell that tincture mix of deer urine and Tonkin is what I call it…. a very unique odor of a rutting buck almost a pine like deer urine smell. Hard to explain in words but you’ll never forget that smell.

Where I am in New York there is so much private land ownership you’re on somebody else’s land before you know it. Tracking is definitely a big woods public or large private tract endeavor but you can learn a lot about deer by tracking them in the snow no matter how much acerage you have.
Dude just nailed a sick PA buck, solo! 4-mile track job, through briars and snow, with a wild finish! Respect!!!