The Payne Brook Twins
The summer flew by and we were already into mid September. With the leaves turning their beautiful colors, and the chill in the air, it was time for some scouting. The Deer God had been very good to us over the years, still we wanted bigger bucks. Big Mike and I decided to hunt farther into the backcountry. I remembered a spot I had hunted fifteen years earlier, which held some huge bucks. It was only a mile in, but a very hard mile as I remembered it.
The spot was adjacent to Payne Swamp, with Payne Brook coming thru it. The location was northern New York’s Hamilton County. Years ago it had just been logged and the tops made it very difficult to hunt. We talked it over and decided to give it a try. Parking on the road, we put a few drops of Fox Urine on our boots, headed in with hopes of finding some good sign. I’ve been using Harmon’s Deer & Cover Scents with good results.
The old skid trails had completely grown over. After only a few hundred yards, we both agreed it was one of the thickest jungles we had ever seen. When we reached what I thought to be about a half mile in it started to open up some. The farther in we went, the better it looked. It was a mix of hardwood and young pine. We were now walking fairly freely, but still talking of the nightmare start we had. Mike stopped to look down, and called me over. He said that couldn’t be what I think it is, could it?
I looked down at the largest pile of deer droppings this whitetail hunter had ever seen. All I could say was wow; the buck that did that must be scary. Another fifty yards and still another pile. Then we started to see last year’s rubs. There were several rubs at an intersection where two skid trails came together. All rubs were on big trees, all tore up good. I got down and took some leaves out of the way in a soft spot to look at the tracks.
This was without question the largest whitetail track I had ever seen. Its no wonder he is in here I thought aloud, it is almost impossible to get to him. I chose not to disturb the area any more then we already had. Climbing up in a big pine to look around, I could see three skid trails that paralleled each other, and the brook that flowed along the outside. Mike said I bet there hasn’t been anyone in here in years. I had to agree, it was certainly a wild spot.
We had two problems, how to find the spot again, and how to get in then out. Taking a compass reading showed the brook directly east of us. That solved the first problem. We would tie a piece of marker ribbon on the pine and bushwhack to the brook. Reaching the brook, we tied another ribbon so we would know where to turn to find the spot on our return.
Heading back along the brook was slow going, but much easier than the way we went in. All three of the skid trails were in good shape once you got in there. We would have to make ourselves a trail along the brook cutting only dead limbs and down trees.
The next day we cut the trail in and placed a stand near where Mike discovered the droppings. It would be easy to move later once we had it in there. I left Mike to do some scouting in his area, and I headed over the next skid trail to look around.
I started to find last years rubs, all on big trees, all four and five foot off the ground. The skid trails were covered with both deer, and bear droppings. The young pines were so thick in places that the deer were walking on the skid trails. I located a run coming from the brook that was very well used. It was about a quarter mile from Big Mike’s stand. I placed my stand just off the skid trail where I could watch the run. That done I picked up Mike and we timed our trip out. It took fifty minutes to reach the road.
We decided not to hunt the Bow or Black Powder Season in this spot. When the rifle season opened, we would be ready. Opening morning dawned to light rain and mist. The woods were very quiet going in. I wished Big Mike luck as we each headed off to our stands. Arriving at the stand, I put a few drops of fox pee at the bottom and climbed up. Right from the time I sat down, I could smell wet animal.
This was my kind of hunting weather, wet and still. Within ten minutes, I heard something coming thru the brush. A Black Bear walked out onto the skid trail fifty yards from the stand. I eased the safety off the Dakota, but really had no intention to shoot. We were after big bucks, not bear. He walked into the next thicket, towards Mike. It was a nice bear, three hundred pound class. To my way of thinking, the hunt was already a success. About 10:30, three doe walked out onto the skid trail. They also headed off in the direction of Mike. By 11 AM, after four hours in the stand, I needed to get down and walk some. As I neared the ground Big Mike came thru, also needing to stretch out. We had agreed earlier not to eat in there, for fear of spooking the buck. We headed back to the truck for lunch. Mike didn’t get a look at either the bear or deer. Some where between us they had turned.
After lunch, we headed back in arriving at the stand at 2 PM. It was around 3:45 when I heard the branches breaking in the thicket behind me. About fifty yards above the stand, out walked a beautiful six-point buck.
This was not your average six-point, but a rather large six. He was a nice deer, but not the one who left the big sign. At 4 PM I headed out, satisfied we had picked a great spot. The next day we would mark the trail with glow tacks. That would enable us to travel in and out in the dark.
Big Mike came out ten minutes behind me, happy with the afternoon he had. He had a huge bear walk down the skid trail at about 3:30. The place was full of bear. The next day was very windy, not much moved. We hunted the next three weekends with more of the same. The place was one of the best bear spots we had ever found. Earlier in the spring, we had gone to Canada and each harvested a nice bear. That was enough for one year. We could find no sign of the big buck we thought was in there.
The third weekend of November, we had our first snowfall. With four inches of new snow, we could look around to try to find sign of the big one. There were fresh scrapes all over the skid trails. We could find no rubs on four to five inch trees like the year before. Perhaps the big deer was just passing thru. There was a nice rub-line about forty yards from my stand.
To me it looked like the work of a good-sized buck. Looking at the tracks in the snow told me he was a good-sized buck for sure. Mike and I both agreed with the lack of sign from the big deer, to take a respectable buck if we got another chance. Late that afternoon I was about to climb down and head out when looking up the skid trail I caught the hind end of what looked like a big deer entering the thicket on the right.
The deer that put the rub-line down, and I had missed my chance. Quickly I grabbed the grunt call that was hanging around my neck and gave a soft grunt. Waiting about two minutes, I gave another soft, short grunt. That was all it took and out walked a nice racked buck. Putting the cross hairs behind his shoulder, the Dakota echoed throughout the mountains.
The buck went down in the fresh snow and never moved. Before I had time to think I heard the roar of Mike’s 375 H & H. Wow, two shots about five seconds apart. I was unsure what Mike had shot, but hoped for the best. Climbing down, I walked over and looked at my buck. He was a nice Adirondack Buck, about one hundred seventy pound eight-pointer.
Mike came thru the brush a few minutes later, looked at my buck and said, I have his twin brother over on my trail. We had just taken two eight-pointers a few seconds apart. This was big woods Whitetail hunting at its finest. Was it worth the extra effort it took to get in and out? By the big smiles on our faces, I would have to say, oh yes.