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Thread: NorthMaine's Week 3 Report

  1. #1
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    Default NorthMaine's Week 3 Report

    Much to my wife's displeasure (she gets bored in Jackman), for the first time in my 18 years of hunting, I had an entire week of hunting planned. For my Dad it was the first time he has taken a week off for deer season in probably 10 years. In the past 5 years or so, my hunting has been limited to Friday/Saturday of the last week while his is typically Fridays and Saturdays scattered throughout the month. In the past, my wife and I would have Thanksgiving dinner with her family in the afternoon, then point the truck North to my parent's in Jackman in the evening so that I could hunt those last two days. Last year we did that with an 8 month old and the trek was less than ideal, so with this year's week long trip it was kind of nice to be able to relax after Thanksgiving dinner and not have to worry about the 3+ hr. drive North.

    We planned to leave Southern Maine Sunday the 11th for hunting the 12th through the 17th. The third week is typically a good bet for snow and colder weather, so my Dad and I were both looking forward to a week together in the woods, but in medrhunter's words, "be careful what you wish for"... When I spoke to my Dad Saturday night, he said a foot of fresh wet heavy snow had fallen in the North Country where we normally hunt and the going was pretty tough since it was hard to tredge through. With the cold temperatures forecasted for the following days, I hoped that the snow would settle and dry out but feared that that it may become crusty and noisy for our hunt. I hadn't remember hunting in that much snow in probably 10+ years and little did I (we) know, it was just the beginning. Bucks (and big bucks) were being tagged at an astonishing rate in town and I couldn't wait to get in the woods.

    We arrived in Jackman Sunday afternoon and I got all my gear ready for the next morning. We headed out early the next morning and made the drive to our usual hunting area(s). Dad and I planned to hunt in and around an old chopping where he had seen decent sign the Saturday before. When we got out of the truck, I was happy to find that the snow had dried out completely on Sunday and wasn't crunchy at all and the temperatures were in the teens. It still wasn't "easy" going in that much snow (especially for someone who sits at a desk 40 hrs. a week, 52 weeks a year...) but had I known what was in store for Tuesday and again Friday, I was in no position to complain about the snow depth. There were tracks from Sunday up and down the old road we walked in on and a fair amount of tracks at the base of the cut as well. Dad planned on slowly still hunting the bottom near the brook while I would loop around the perimeter and work the edges of it. As I started up the gradually inclined skidder trail, I thought about how as my Dad ages, our roles have kind of reversed. I remember when I was young, I would sit on a stump, or slowly hunt a small area while he looped around me, and now I was the one looping around him. As I write this, I realize that I make it sound like he's old and can barely walk, but in reality, he's only 62 and still in good shape. I guess working as a logger and being physically active doing firewood and such is good for him. Anyway..., I slowly worked my way around the cut and quickly realized how out of shape I was. What appeared like a foot of snow in some places quickly turned into a foot of snow and a foot of "void" where it was being held up by raspberry bushes, grass and other underbrush. I worked my way through older tracks as I slowly still hunted my way around hoping to find a decent track to follow. At one point, as I stood and caught my breath for a second, I thought, "what a great place this would be to see a deer". Then I thought of all the other "great places to see a deer" that I have hunted, sat, passed by, etc. over the years, however, I have never seen a deer in those spots... I'm sure some of you can relate.



    It's amazing how quiet these Gray Jays are for a larger bird.

    As I continued my loop around the backside of the chopping, I came across a recently well travelled deer trail. It was packed down about a foot wide through the deep snow. Looking back, I should have probably spent more time on this during the week but... The only problem, is this area is very close to posted land so one could spend a lot of time hunting an area only to push the deer into the wrong area.

    In that trail I did come across a nice buck track that I was going to follow as it was the best sign I had seen yet.



    The track was following the edge of the cut and was heading away from the posted land. As I moved along it, within 15-20 minutes I jumped 2 does that were standing in the beach whips in the cut. A few waves from the white tail and they were down over the hill and gone. I tried a quick snort/wheeze at them as I saw them bound, but they never stopped, so I continued on the track. While it was initialy headed in the "correct" direction, after a half mile or so, it had turned and headed back into the cover of the posted land. At this point, it was lunch time so I cut my losses and headed back down to meet up with my Dad. We left that patch of woods, had lunch and made plans for the rest of the afternoon.

    That afternoon we went to another area where we had seen good sign last year which wasn't too far from where I had seen the small fork horn I had posted about last year. Surprisingly, there was very little sign this year. I have to imagine the snow played a factor. The first day was under our belt and I was happy with having seen a few deer and decent sign, however, my legs were definately not happy about what I had put them through over the last 8-9 hours.

  2. #2
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    Tuesday morning we got in the truck to heavy snowfall and a couple fresh inches already on the ground. We headed back up to the same area we had first hunted the day before but speculated that it would be difficult to find any "fresh" sign in this weather. On the other hand, if you were able to find anything fresh in this weather, the maker would have to be really close. Our boot tracks were refilling at an alarming rate and the deer didn't seem to be moving at all, and I think at this point, those that were, were heading to their yards. By the time we got back out to the truck in the afternoon, another 8 inches had fallen brining the total depth in the woods probably close to 18-20". We tried to do a little exploring trying to find fresh sign in the later afternoon. After getting hung up once and then almost going into the ditch while going around a tree in the road, we quickly discovered that with these snow conditions and the little amount of traffic in the woods, it was not time to start exploring and get stuck then have to walk out miles and miles. No deer sightings today, however, folks did get into them, as a few real good bucks were tagged today, including one that KC posted about who happens to be my parent's neighbor. He definately puts his time in, but is a great hunter and always seems to manage a 200 lber. That buck should be top 10, if not top 5 in the state for weight, and would easily make MASTC if scored. Congrats Timmy!





    Wednesday was forecasted to be brutally cold and windy and it did not dissapoint. We decided to stay closer to home and hunt some more local areas where both myself and my Dad have taken deer in the past so that gave us a chance to sleep in a bit. The wind chill was well below zero when we left the truck. At this point in the week, I was finally starting to feel like I was getting my legs under me. My Dad planned to hunt an area on one side of the road, while I would go into some green growth on the opposite side suspecing that the deer may be (still) hunkered down from the storm and not traveling large areas. As I poked along, my suspicions were confirmed. I cut a set of tracks likely made late the afternoon before prior to the end of the snowfall. Within 15 minutes on the tracks I had heard a blow and jumped a deer. As the tracks were still snow filled, I wasn't being too careful walking through the thicker growth. I wasn't expecting the deer to be that close, but as I followed the tracks right to the bed, I quickly realized what had happened. The deer had walked (what I was following), fed on a blown down cedar 10 feet away, bedded, got up and fed on the same cedar and bedded again which is when I jumped it. Again, I had tried wheezing at it, but it never stopped. Judging by the tracks in the bed, it was hard to tell, but I suspected it to be either a small yearling buck or a good sized doe. If a buck, it probably wasn't going to be a deer I would shoot regardless, but I waited 20 minutes or so and decided to push on the track and see if I could get a look at the deer.

    The deer made a small loop back towards where I had come from and when it hit my tracks, it started walking them back out from where I had came. It hopped/walked in my tracks for probably a quarter mile before it left them and made its way towards the end of a cut and some old skidder trails. At that point, I stood for a few more minutes and called my Dad on the radio. He made his way to me and we continued on the track together. I followed the tracks while he paralleled me 30-40 yards away. Again, the deer was moving steadily, so I wasn't expecting it to be so close, but within another 15-20 minutes after it had left my track, I jumped it again. This time, I got a good look at her as she ducked her head and barrelled through the brush accross in front of me about 10-15 yards away. She had cut down a bit towards where my Dad was walking and was standing there watching/listening to us in the thick slash. I was happy to have seen another deer and gotten to see a deer that I had tracked.

    Wednesday afternoon we hunted another spot in the same general area. I hiked up the side of a small mountain to the top and worked my way along the edge of the hardwood/softwood while working my way around and back down the backside. My Dad hunted the edge of a swamp a quarter mile or so down the road. He found pretty good sign but I did not.
    Last edited by NorthMaine; 11-28-2018 at 10:52 AM.

  3. #3
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    Thursday was forecasted to be warmer, however, when we left the house, I believe it was like 8 or 10 degrees as we headed back up North to the regular stomping grounds. Now a day plus after the Tuesday snow, it appeard that the deer had started moving again and there were tracks in the logging road on the drive in as we approaced where we would hunt. When we saw the increased tracks heading "up" instead of down where we had originally planned to go, we parked the truck and headed out.
    It was a balmy -8, but hey, at least the wind wasn't blowing... We had seen a decent buck track cross the road a quarter mile or so back from where we parked, so I planned to hit the woods and parallel it in an attempt to cut the track in the skid trails. The snow was deep and walking the "dirtier" skid trails, it took me a lot longer than expected to cut the track and when I finally did, the deer had turned and was heading right back to where I had just come from, only probably 50 yards from where I had just walked up... I almost immediately came on a nice scrape he had made and a good distinguishable track. Being new to tracking I hadn't realized how difficult it was to make out tracks in this deep of snow. It was very difficult to even determine the direction of travel, let alone what it was you were trying to follow.





    As he headed back to where I came from, he stopped a few times to feed on some mushrooms and very briefly rubbed a small whip.



    Based on the direction he was headed, I feared that I had just made a rookie mistake and when I came out to the main road a little while later, this was confirmed. The deer had crossed the road again and was now heading down low. I saw where my Dad had stopped and looked at the track crossing the road before he headed to where he was going to hunt. At this point, I had lost probably an hour and a half and a mile for nothing had I traveled the road before hand to ensure the deer had not come back down across. Regardless, it was too late now and I continued on. He headed down into some thick green growth along the edge of a brook.


  4. #4
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    He crossed the brook and I again wasted a little time going downstream and finding a few blowdowns to make my way across on. As he left the softwood buffer, he fed a few times on some cedar and old man's beard as he approaced an old road which runs along the main road. I suspected he would probably be bedded here not too far ahead, but I didn't feel like I had made any ground on him (if anything I had probably lost time) so I pressed on. When I came to the end of that old road, I saw where he made his way under a patch of smaller pines and bedded down.



    You can see the bed from outside the patch here:





    Again, based on the direction he was headed I suspected that I wasted time and steps. He crossed the main road again which I could have seen earlier had we driven the road but... He was now in a patch of woods surrounded by roads on all sides.


  5. #5
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    I followed him through an area I was familiar with. In hopes to try and make up some time, I left his track and headed back out to one of the roads planning to walk down it and see if he had crossed or not. This time I actually made a good decision and he had. He crossed the road and was now walking down the road we had gone in on Monday afternoon. We walked in the road for a surprisingly long ways, sometimes hopping, sometimes walking before he finally went in an old turn-around on the upper side headed towards another road finger a half mile or so away. I continued to track him between these two roads where he made some more scrapes.



    I checked my GPS and he was headed right towards that upper road and I was sure he would cross it. I got to a point where I could practically see the road where he turned and then started going completely away from it... At this point, it was like one and I had been on him for like 6 hrs. and like 4 miles and he was headed in the completely wrong direction of where we had left the truck. This deer was clearly just traveling cross country. With the deep snow it was really slow going and in the time I had tracked him I hadn't felt like I had freshened up the track at all. It was unlikely that I would ever catch back up to this deer. I had no idea what my Dad was doing and knew I had at least another probably 3 mile walk back to the truck if it was where we left, so I headed out to the upper road. To my surprise, I found my his boot tracks walking the road. I followed him a little ways and found him walking back towards me a little bit later. Luckily when he had come out of the woods, he had seen what I was doing and had been trying to cut me off to "save me some steps" haha. He had driven the truck down that finger as far as he dared knowing that the road doesn't get any better the farther you go (as they usually dont in this country). It's amazing how little time it takes for the underbrush and alders to start taking over when a road is no longer travelled. It was close to two by the time we got back out to the truck so we decided to go into the same general area where I had shot my 6 pointer back in 2016. We walked down the old road together and my Dad hit the woods on the upper side while I continued down the road and took a finger to the right towards him as we planned to meet back up at the end of that finger. When we met back up, he talked about the nice rub line he had found. On our way back out to the truck, he took my back through where he had gone and showed me. There were probably a dozen trees in a maybe a 50 yard square that were shined up nice from years before and earlier in the fall.

    Here is one of the more sizable ones.



    This area is obviously known by some, as there is a new(er) tree stand maybe a quarter mile from all the rubs facing the wood yard where my Dad went in. Jokingly, we talk about those who focus on one area and stand hunt and such. My Dad jokes how he knows that if you spend enough time in one spot, eventually you will kill a nice buck, yet "I don't do it". He can't sit still for very long and always has to be walking and exploring. I guess the apple didn't fall far from the tree in that aspect. He says "maybe when I am older and have a hard time walking" haha.

    On the walk out we see two cow moose.


    Friday, we again planned to stay local. It was snowing again (big surprise). We worked the same general area we had on Wednesday with no luck. At this point, I think the two feet of snow in the span of a week has really messed up the deer movement and habits. Driving through town, I notice (as KC reported) trucks lined up in known wintering areas near town. I think the heavy snow has really forced these deer to their yards. Hopefully we don't have another 2007 on our hands.

    Saturday my Dad wanted to go where he had planned to go on Thursday before we got distracted by all the tracks in the road. I had never really been in this area so I planned to just tag along and we would hunt together. We haven't done this since probably before I was a teenager and was required to be with an adult. Even at that time, we didn't always adhere to that rule as I mentioned about the stump sitting before.

    We went down the same old road and "T" we had Thursday afternoon and with the Friday/Saturday snow, our boot tracks were again snowed in. You couldn't even tell someone had been through there. The snow was over your knees at this point. We slowly walked to the end of that finger that I had walked and met my Dad Thursday and see a moose along the way and see a lone deer track from the day before heading down into the general direction we are going.

    Dad:




    We hit the woods working our way towards the river and what I believe to be the last mature softwood stand in the NMW (OK, it may not be the last, but it's one of the very few I have seen). As we hit the softwood, it really is a thing of beauty. I wish I had taken some photos in there. Walking through the mature stand, I wish I had been around years ago when these were prevalent throughout the NMW before they were cut. All the fir and spruce was a foot plus in diameter and provided a nice canopy and makes the snow depth more managable. The small sapplings that attempted to grow only get to be about head height before they die off and dry out due to the lack of sunlight. My Dad said "take a good look at this because you may never see anything like this again in your lifetime. It's really a shame." He is a logger and has worked in the woods his whole life, so I guess you could say he is somewhat responsible for cutting these types of pristine areas. While he understands the landowners need to make money, he also understands how impressive these stands of wood are and how unfortunate it is to harvest them. Again, one of those "perfect spots to see a deer", but on this day it wasn't meant to be. I mention that I hope since its on the edge of a river that they won't cut it, but from his experience he is doubtful. He says they will likely come back and select cut it to promote growth of the smaller trees and he's probably right.
    Last edited by NorthMaine; 11-28-2018 at 12:18 PM.

  6. #6
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    As we poke along the river working back towards the "T" in the old road we cut the track we had seen before. It's headed down to the river and as we make our way see it has crossed. My Dad has hunted this area before and has hunted it for quite a few years now (long before I was hunting) and talks about how even in recent years there always used to be deer here. Especially in years with heavy snow. Just not this year I guess. When we get to the back of a cut that borders the softwood stand, we see two cow moose as the walk away. As we continue around the perimeter of the cut (not wanting to go waste deep through the middle), we again see two more cow moose on the other side. They were bedded just on the edge of the cut. The skid trails coming back into this cut lead back out to the end of the "T". Making our way up that old skidder trail back to the road is brutal. The snow is nearly waist deep and held up by the underbrush.



    This loop has taken us into the later afternoon. As we work our way back to the truck, we reminisce about the great week we have had despite not getting a deer. My Dad talks about how surprised he is that he didn't see a deer all week, as usually he sees deer almost daily. He hopes he is able to get "at least a few more good deer" before he can't hunt anymore. On the ride back home, we joke of all the big bucks my Dad has missed over the years and how he would have 7 or 8 "big" bucks well over 200 lbs. if he didn't get buck fever. He has only shot one 200 lber in his lifetime, but I hope he gets a whack at at least another. I guess though, if I was to only get one (still waiting for the first, but hopefull for more than one), a 210 lbs., 154 and change inch buck isn't a bad one to get. This year made 20 years since that buck. The mount now hangs in my house next to my buck from 2016. Shot on the same mountain 18 years apart.





    Last edited by NorthMaine; 11-28-2018 at 10:15 AM.

  7. #7
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    Despite no deer were harvested, it was a great week in the woods with my Dad. Seeing game almost every day and spending time with him is worth just as much as pulling the trigger. I hope we can do it for more years to come. We both kind of hoped for less snow, but hey, snow is better than no snow right?

    A few things I changed up this year:

    1. Going from Cabelas Whitetail Extreme boots to the Lacrosse Burlys (Airgrip) with a polypro wicking liner. My feet always used to feel wet in the Cabelas boots. I'm not sure if it was the sock liner or what, but with the liner and the wool socks in the rubber boots, by feet always felt dry. The boots were also comfortable and light and at least gauranteed waterproof. When I wore the Cabelas this spring, I thought they were starting to leak.

    2. Taping my pant bottoms. If you have it tried it, do. My pants always used to be a bit long so I would roll them up and they always collected snow. The tape is great, snow never collected on them.

    3. Suspenders. If you haven't tried them, do. Day one I just used the belt like I have in the past. There is no happy "tightness". Either it's too tight and not comforatble, or too loose and your pants sag and it's harder to walk (the deep snow made it hard enough...). The suspenders made it so your pants could be nice and loose yet remain up where they need to be.


    Another change you may have seen posted in the 760/7600 forum is my aquisition of a 7600 Carbine for next season. Throughout the week we joked about how we have ligher rifles at home yet we carry these heavy things for miles (i.e. old Winchester 30-30 with iron sights). For $400 private sale, I couldn't pass it up. I can't wait to get the peep sight mounted and put some rounds through it. In the little time I have handled this rifle, I can already see why folks like it so much. It is much ligher than the Winchester 670 bolt I was carrying, but more importantly it is much thinner in the receiver area and fits nice in the hand. Where a bolt is 2-3" thick here, the 7600 is probably close to half that.

    With a new baby on the way in January, I probably won't get out for a week straight next year. I can't in good faith leave my wife alone with two kids for a week. I think I will rather try and play it by ear watching the weather and maye take a long weekend or something instead. If I can sneak away from work for 3-4 days I will be happy. If I wasn't locked into a week this year, I probably would have hunted an earlier week when there was less snow but hey, it is what it is.

    Though my wife may have been bored with a week in Jackman, I think our daughter had a good week at Grammy and Grampy's playing in the snow, going to Canada, etc.



    Last edited by NorthMaine; 11-28-2018 at 12:20 PM.

  8. #8
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    Nice week- thanks for sharing it!
    Not all those who wander are lost. -Tolkien

  9. #9
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    Great report. Sounds like a good trip.

  10. #10
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    Thanks for the report. That snow looks brutal

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