As with the night before any opener we were all pumped up and anxious for tomorrow to come. We'd all made the long drive to Maine for our much anticipated deer hunt together. I drove up by myself from Maryland where I was stationed at the time and my Dad and his Buddy Skippy had driven up together after meeting in Connecticut. I'd gotten a day of scouting in, but they would be hunting without having done any, just arriving that evening as they had.
We listened to heavy rains throughout the night and the comment "I sure wish this was snow" was muttered several times throughout the evening. It was still raining as we all turned in early in preperation for our planned wake-up well before dawn.
The rain had nearly stopped when we awoke the next morning and by the time we'd dressed, eaten and started to load the cars for the short trip to our chosen areas, it had all but stopped. My chosen area was about 1/2 mile from where Dad and Skippy would park on another logging road.
I parked the Jeep in the full darkness of the early morning and my breath was definitely visible in the cold, moist morning air. I shouldered my day pack and loaded my rifle, one of my favorite guns, a Winchester model 100 in .308. I slowly walked down the old logging road skirting the big puddles formed by last night's rain and paused briefly at the intersection of trails in front of me.
Quickly making up my mind, I hung a right and proceeded a bit further before stopping, now simply awaiting good shooting light. As you can imagine the woods were soaked and if any care was taken your footsteps were simply not to be heard, a perfect scenario for still hunting.
Although I'd killed most of my deer from stand hunting, I knew there was no better day than today to be silently slipping through the thick woods of Maine stillhunting. The heavy cold rains had likely kept the deer bedded at least some of the night and they figured to be up and about feeding come daylight and perhaps also looking for love.
It had always seemed to me that in our previous trips to Maine that the rut seemed to coincide pretty well with the gun opener which was beginning of November. This should mean that although deer populations were not high in this area, what bucks that were there would likely be cruising for does, themselves not overly numerous either.
The night began to fade and daylight crept ever closer as my eyes also better adjusted to the dark woods. Looking upwards showed that the skies would more than likely be sunny and the day bright, once it officially arrived. I finally felt comfortable enough to begin my day's hunt and began to ease down the logging road and on my planned route for the morning.
I would turn left in a little bit and hunt slowly through both very thick woods and some older cuts in the first stages of regrowth. There were a few openings along my route and I planned to pause there overlooking each one before completing my planned loop back to the original trail a half mile further down from the intersection.
I became attuned to the woods and the natural sounds and now was becoming very adept at walking most silently. Scanning ahead for the numerous sticks and fallen branches along my route, I'd skirt them or carefully step across them so as to not disrupt the pure quietness in these wet woods.
I paused to insert another chew of Beech Nut Wintergreen and silently folded down the top of the pouch and slowly slipped it back into my pants pocket. The day was cool, but not cold and the wind from the previous night was completely gone and all was still, save for the dripping trees and bushes.
I continued my snail's pace for a second hour and had just begun a third when I spotted the next opening. This one was larger than the previous one and in a few spots I could see nearly 100 yds for at least a small window. I stooped under a big cedar and settled to a knee silently waiting for something to move into view.
I stayed there under that cedar for perhaps 10 minutes and then decided to continue on through the side of the overgrown cut when I heard it. A twig snapped and was clearly heard. It didn't actually hit me immediately, but took perhaps 5 seconds to sink in.
Something large had surly stepped on a good sized twig and caused the sound I'd just heard. It was not really close, perhaps 50-75 yards away to my right and it was way too thick to see anything that far in that direction. I slowly sunk down on my haunches once again and waited.
Slowly I worked my head back and forth looking in the direction of the sound I'd heard and then turning further left to peer into that overgrown cut again. I forced myself to stay there and stay still as I figured the animal that caused that snap would soon ease into view. Was it a bear, a moose, or perhaps a coyote? Or was it actually a big whitetail, the kind that makes hunters return to Maine year after year hoping their chance will come at a 200 pound plus buck.
Just as I was deciding to move on after having sat there another 10 or 15 minutes I turned my head to peer into the cut one last time. There he was, framed by two short young pine trees. He was huge and his antlers caught the sun and seemed to shine. He still, to this day, is the only deer I've ever seen that I knew was a buck the instant I saw him. I suppose the bright antlers are what I first saw, perhaps.
He was nearly 100 yards away and I quickly cranked my scope from 2 to 4X as I raised the rifle. The safety was moved to fire and I settled the crosshairs on the point of his left shoulder as he stood quartering slightly away. The rifle fired and as it came out of recoil I saw him there lying on the ground. He had dropped at the shot.
I had the time now, after the shot, to get nervous and apparently I did not want to waste that opportunity. I knealt there for perhaps five full minutes staring at the down deer some 90 yards or so away. When I felt more composed, I rose up and began my walk over to my buck. I wondered just how big he was. His rack was surely a good bit bigger than the nice 8 point I'd collected in Maine two years prior.
That deer had dressed at 170+ and was the largest body deer I'd ever taken, but this one sure appeared larger when I'd quickly taken aim. I was finally standing over him and was immediately taken by his body size. Long and husky his neck was swollen almost grotesquely it seemed (it later taped at 34" in girth) and his rack was well above the ground as he lie on his side, very wide indeed.
I lay the gun down carefully and knealt alongside my deer slowly grabbing the rack. Thick and light colored, I counted the points HUH? How can that be? Something seems to be wrong here. The puzzled look on my face must have been very amusing at that moment. You see this high wide rack had a total of six points. Yup, a huge six point was what he was.
As quickly as I puzzled about that, it was forgotten as I carefully turned the deer into a natural position and then fed him his last bit of green, European style. I sat there with my deer for a few more minutes sharing a thanks and being sure I thought about the deed I'd just done and took it's full appreciation.
I stood back up walked a few steps and then blew the coaches whistle that each of us carried and used for both emergencies and also to let the other members of our group know when one had a deer down and now needed their help. I looked around and realized we did indeed have a big job ahead of us, this monster of a deer was down about 3/4 of a mile from the closest we could get any of our vehicles.
As they say, the work was about to begin. Soon my Dad, Ed Sr and Skippy were walking up as well and we all shared a few pleasant minutes as I told and retold my tale. We took pictures, field dressed him and then began that long drag. As you can well imagine the three of us were exhausted by the time we got him to the truck. We hoisted him into the back of Skippy's P/U and took him down to the little village to check him in.
He was a good deal larger than my other big Maine buck, weighing 225 lbs on certified scales after being field dressed. He would have been right at 280 lbs live weight. He is still the largest bodied deer I have ever taken, including the brute I shot in Indiana this November.
I did get him mounted, even as only a six point. His huge head and big frame still make for a very nice and a very special mount. As you see I also am very fond of the fact that the hunt was exactly what it had been. One hunter slowly moving through the big woods of Maine silently in search of his quarry.