Tuesday, December 19, 2017



THE SOUND OF TWO ROCKS CLACKING- Misses, Misfires, Fuck Ups and Woundings

    For those not in the know, today at sunset was the the end of 2017 deer season. Here's the recap:
 I missed the first part of the season because of eye surgery,  but by the time the rut was kicking in, I was cleared and lucky enough to get in the stand. The first evening in the tree I went to the orchard stand at GNJohn's. This is my favorite spot of all my places that I have the honor and privilege to hunt. The land is owned by my great friend Good Neighbor John and overlooks the field  that used to be the Denniston farm. The Dennistons are buried in that field, as is Andrew Jackson (not the president) but Ray Gilkey's uncle. Ray's ashes are also buried there. It's hallowed ground.
    I wasn't in the stand an hour before I spotted a buck cutting across the swamp, heading for my stand. It was a pretty nice 7 pointer, but I let him walk. It was the first night. I knew I could do better. And I was right. On the last day of bow season in Savage's stand I saw the "monster" and well.....you already know that story. Most of gun season I hunted that stand. Even though Savage would chastise me every time I told him I veered from my time in the "office," I had to change it up a bit. If it was up to him I'd have moss growing on me. After the first few days of the season (seeing nothing but does and spikes) I stopped seeing deer altogether.
    The temperature dropped and the snow fell. Finally you could see tracks. And around the office there was no evidence of deer at all- no tracks and no scratching for acorns. Still, with the vision of that massive buck seared in my brain, I kept at it.....to no avail.
    Before i knew it, the second rut was on, there was 6 inches of fresh snow on the ground and my spirits lifted. Then the reality that I had not killed any turkeys in the spring and my freezer held nothing but ice, set in. I was now more than willing to take a doe. At this point I couldn't lay eyes on a whitetail of either sex. My only hope was the last days of the season when we put on deer drives  with Savage, Mupp, and UB. Savage had killed two good shooter bucks, a ten and a nine, Bird had been hunting a big buck and had scored with one doe. UB had killed a doe. Only I was empty handed. It's not a competition.......but then again it kinda is. We hunters seem hardwired to think that way.
So as painful as it is for me to relive any of this here goes:

6:15 am
   I walk, in the dark, to my stand behind the house.
Approx. 8:00
   I spot movement about 200 yards in front me in the woods. It's a deer. It doesn't look too big and I can't tell if it's a spike or a doe. I can only legally shoot a doe or a big buck. Then I lose sight of the deer. It beds down behind  deadfall. I can only see a head. It stays there. I'm to meet Mupp, Savage and UB at my house at ten. I have no watch.
Approx. 10:00
    The sun comes out and it looks like about 10 am. I howl like a coyote. The deer gets up and I see it is too small to shoot, climb out of the tree and head back to my house. The hunters are waiting. The first drive after coffee is behind the cemetery. I pick a spot by Carlito's stand and Mupp pushes two does right to me. The first one is a mature doe on the run. I bleat and slow her to a trot, pull up the gun and fire. She spins, stumbles and crashes into the thick stuff. I'm elated to have finally connected. Mupp comes out of the woods, picks up the trail and finds blood. I figure I'll find a piled up doe. Think again.
    UB sees my wounded doe blast by and has no shot. The snow begins to fall. A relatively good blood trail is obliterated within the couple of hours, while we let the deer lay, hoping it will bed down and die. It is gut shot. In the meantime we put on another drive where I missed another doe and UB killed one, giving me the deer. This is my first "pity deer." I am disgusted with my lack of shooting ability and perplexed as to just what I am doing wrong, but thankful for the meat. Late in the afternoon we get back on the blood trail, but it peters out and I never find the wounded doe. A bad season has just gotten worse.

Hunt one last afternoon in the "office" and see nothing.

Hunt UB's farm. We have radios. I'm in Charlie's stand and UB and Savage are driving. UB comes over the radio: "Osti, there's a good buck right below you in that thicket." I'd already had my gun up on what I thought was a doe, then I saw it was a spike. This was a good buck? Oh well, farmers sometimes think differently and if that buck gave me an opening I was gonna shoot it. Instead UB gut shot it and Savage finished it off. Turned out there were two bucks in the thicket. UB shot the wrong one and I never saw the other "good buck."
3:00 pm
   We ended the day at Mupp's with another drive. I dropped UB off at the agreed spot and continue up the hill. I kicked out four deer and a fifth one stopped. I take a knee, settle the cross hairs on her chest as fire. "snap." The gun does not go off. I franticly take out the primer and insert another. The deer is still there. Again I settle the crosshairs....."snap." She stood there for one more misfire and then pranced away.  UB said later he thought I was cracking rocks together to scare the little thing away. After missing and wounding a deer  I shot the gun on Sun. to see where it was shooting. It was right on. I then cleaned the gun and must not of dried it properly before reloading. The powder had turned to mush. Another self inflicted wound.

8:00 am
   The hunters arrive. The last day's drives are always planned for my place and Paradise Pond. The first two drives put out one deer and no shots. But at the PP it was a different story. I was in Uncle Harold's stand, Mupp was in Milawyer's stand and UB and Savage were driving. I heard something behind me, looked to my right and a doe was coming fast from behind. I bleated her to a standstill raised the gun, put the crosshairs on her front shoulder, clicked back the hammer and fired. The gun echoed across the lake and the deer rocketed into the woods. Then there was another shot. I hadn't touched the deer. It was like I was shooting blanks.
    We looked for blood and found nothing. The second shot had been two other hunters who just happened to be trespassing in the woods. They didn't score either. In the end Savage gut shot a little one, which Mupp finished off, which  they also gave to me- pity deer #2. By now lead from the guns of Mupp, Savage and UB had laid down the two deer on my porch and I had nothing to show for a long and frustrating season.  It takes a village.
3:00 pm
The last drive of 2017 was the back ridge above the Denniston/Jackson/Gilkey/Resnick farm. Savage and I drove and put UB in the notch and Mupp by Extension Road John's. By the time Savage and I were in position deer were moving. "Osti there's two bucks coming up the ridge." came over the radio from Savage. I looked over the ledge and saw a small buck run into an opening. Then I caught another deer heading right for me. It was a big doe with a buck (I couldn't tell how big) on her tail. I turned, took a knee, figuring they would give me a shot. The doe popped her head up about ten feet in front of me like a wack-a-mole. I never had a chance to raise the gun. She snorted and spun. Then the buck came up and gave me a good broadside shot. He was a nice size deer with a small six point rack. I could've shot. Maybe I should've shot. But I didn't. The buck kept on that doe and disappeared.
   By sunset UB had killed a another really nice, big, doe and we all ended up at Ray Gilkey's grave with the sun over our shoulders. It's one of the most beautiful places on earth, Ray's ashes tucked in by his uncle Andrew Jackson and a couple of Dennistons, welcomed us. We drug that doe out and congratulated each other on all coming out of the woods safe and in one piece. The sun was just sinking on the other side of the Neversink as we loaded her into the back of the pickup and drove back to the church.
    This has been probably the most frustrating, and in many ways worst deer season I've ever experienced. I had malfunctions, mistakes, and just plain mysterious misses. My confidence is at a low ebb. I think that maybe my ability has left me, or for who knows what reason,  I should give up and just stop hunting altogether. I'm at a loss to explain it. I can't blame it on anything apparent....not  my eyes or even Trump. But what I do know is, like more successful seasons I will always remember it. I contemplate every miss and malfunction and grieve for that wounded doe. It's not easy. But, like my old man was very fond of saying, "Nothing worthwhile ever is." Thank You! to whoever is listening.