By Ed Turner
As with the night before any opener, we were all pumped, anxious for the morrow to arrive. We'd made the long drive to Maine for our much anticipated week long deer hunt. I drove up by myself from Maryland, where I was stationed at the time and my Dad and his pal Skippy had driven up together. I'd gotten in a day of scouting, but they would be hunting without having done any.
We listened to heavy rains throughout the night and the comment "I sure wish this was snow" was muttered several times during the evening. It was still raining when we turne-in early. We planned to 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 almost stopped. My chosen area was about 1/2 mile from where Dad and Skippy would park, on a different logging road.
I parked the Jeep in full darkness and my breath was definitely visible in the cold morning air. I shouldered my day pack and loaded my rifle, one of my favorite guns, a Winchester model 100 in .308 caliber. I slowly walked down the old logging road, skirting the big puddles formed by last night's rain. I proceeded a bit further before stopping, waiting for good shooting light. The woods were soaked and if care was taken your footsteps were practically silent, a perfect scenario for still hunting.
Although I'd killed most of my deer hunting from stands, I knew this was an ideal situation to be stillhunting, slipping through the thick Maine woods. The heavy rains had likely kept the deer bedded most of the night and they figured to be up and about feeding come daylight, perhaps even looking for love.
It had always seemed to me that on our previous trips to Maine that the rut seemed to coincide with the gun opener, which was at the beginning of November. This meant that, although deer populations were not high in this area, what bucks there were would likely be cruising for does.
The night began to fade and daylight crept closer, as my eyes adjusted to the dark woods. The skies would more than likely be sunny for a change and the day bright, once it arrived. I finally felt comfortable to begin my day's hunt and began to ease down the logging road on my planned route.
I would soon hunt slowly through the thick woods and some clear cuts in the first stages of regrowth. There were a few openings along my route and I planned to pause at each one, before completing my planned loop back to the original trail a half mile further along.
I became attuned to the woods and the natural sounds and was becoming adept at walking 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 quiet of the woods. The day was cool, but not cold, and the wind from the previous night was completely gone. All was still, save for the dripping trees and bushes.
I continued my snail's pace for a second hour and had just begun the third when I spotted the next opening. This one was larger and in a few spots I could see nearly 100 yards. I stooped under a big cedar tree and kneeled, silently waiting for something to move into view.
I waited under that cedar for perhaps 10 minutes and decided to continue on through the overgrown cut when I heard it. A twig snapped. Something large had stepped on a good sized twig. It was not really close, perhaps 50-75 yards to my right, and the growth was too thick to see that far in that direction.
I slowly turned my head to look in the direction of the sound I'd heard, then turned further left to peer into that overgrown cut. I forced myself to stay there and stay very still, as I figured the animal that caused that snap would soon ease into view. Was it a bear or perhaps a moose? Or was it a big whitetail, the kind that makes many hunters return to Maine year after year, hoping their chance will come at a 200 pound buck.
I sat there for another 10 or 15 minutes and was contemplating moving when I turned my head to peer into the cut one last time. There he was, framed by two 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 were what first caught my eye.
He was nearly 100 yards away and I quickly cranked my scope from 2x to 4x, as I raised my rifle. I moved the safety to "fire" and settled the crosshairs on the point of his left shoulder, as he stood quartering slightly away. The rifle fired and, as I recovered from the recoil, I saw him on the ground. He had dropped at the shot.
I had the time now, after the shot, to get nervous and did not waste the opportunity. I knealt there for perhaps five full minutes, staring at the downed buck some 90 yards or so distant. When I felt more composed, I rose and walked toward my buck. I wondered just how big he was. His rack was a good bit bigger than the nice 8 point I'd collected in Maine two years previously.
That deer had dressed at 170+ pounds and was the largest deer I'd ever taken, but this one appeared larger. I was finally standing over him and was immediately taken by his body size. Long and husky, his neck was swollen almost grotesquely. (It later taped at 34" in girth.) His rack was 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 fork-horn was what he was.
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 thanks and thinking about the deed I'd just done.
I stood and walked a few steps, then blew the whistle that each of us carried for both emergencies and to let the other members of our group know when we had a deer down and needed help. I looked around and realized we had a big job ahead of us. This monster deer was down about 3/4 of a mile from the nearest point 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. We took pictures and then began that long drag. We hoisted him into the back of Skippy's pick-up 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 pounds field dressed on a certified scale. He would have been about 280 pounds live weight. He was the largest deer I have ever taken.
I got him mounted. His huge head and big frame make for a very special mount. I am also pleased that the hunt went exactly as it did. One hunter slowly moving through the big woods of Maine, silently in search of his quarry.
Copyright 2011 by Ed Turner and/or chuckhawks.com. All rights reserved.