As I sit here going through old photos, I replay so many things over and over in my head. My first hunt, my first deer, funny stories. One that always sticks in my mind is my first time in the woods with my Grandfather, Dad, and uncle together up in northern Maine.
It was 1984, and I was 12 years old. We were walking in a big cedar swamp, and I was with Gramps. If anyone has hunted cedar swamps in Maine, you know that the visibility can be about 5 feet at times. Not the easiest place to see a deer, let alone get a shot. We were walking through an area, with the adults spread out but keeping in shouting distance. I wasn't hunting, but I was tagging along with Gramps, trying not to make too much noise. After a little bit, I spotted some blood on the ground in the sparse snow, in a moose track. Next to it was a spent 30-30 shell. We figured someone had been checking the blood, and got another shot off. What we couldn't figure out was why the blood was in a moose track. However, there are so many moose in Maine, that the swamps are littered with moose and deer tracks overlapping each other, so we didn't know what had happened.
After talking about it for a minute, we continued our hunt. I walked a little further and all of a sudden, caught some red out of the corner of my eye. There, spread out underneath a cedar tree was the biggest deer that I have ever seen in the woods, even to this day. You could see he had simply laid down, and could even see in the snow where he was struggling to get up before he died. The only injury we could find was a hole where he had been shot in the rear knee. As you can see in the photos, he did have a bloody snout, so it's possible he was shot in the vitals, but that the entry wound had closed up in the days since he was shot. We couldn't believe that he wasn't found by the hunter, especially with the snow on the ground. But, it was a northern Maine cedar swamp, and that's not the easiest place to look.
The deer had just barely started to bloat, but not much. He had 12 points, and we figured he would have gone 225 lbs at least, maybe more. He was found within a mile or so of where my uncle had shot a 252 lber the year before. My Gramps looked at me and asked, "Do you want the rack"? I said "Really", and he said sure, since I found him. "Let's go get a saw."
So, I did cut off the rack, and it still hangs in my room back in Vermont. It will hold a couple of guns, or a gun and bow. Later that week, my Gramps got the biggest deer he had ever shot as he was walking down a logging road. It was a beautiful 9 pointer, 199 lbs dressed weight. I was not with him, but my father and uncle said that when they heard the shot, they rushed up in time to see him jumping up into the air, yelling and screaming. He shot that deer with buckshot from a side by side 12 guage that he got in WWII.
My Grandfather passed away in spring of 2009, and I inherited his shotgun. I will take it out hunting the first chance I get. I can easily say that I value these memories even more now than ever before, and I will continue to cherish the times that i spend with my Dad, and my 2 sons when they are old enough.