By Jeff Calderone
Moose River 2010
Day 1 - November 6th (29-39 degrees and Sunny.) Set up base camp wall tent, wood burning stove, kitchen, cots, food pantry, gear, eat relax and sleep.
Day 2 - November 7th (Weather cold and calm, warms up later in day. 23-44 degrees. Light wind.)
Birthday Buck Day I am told by base camp to go get my Birthday Buck!!! We get a late start and hunt the camp area with Greg going in on our right about a quarter mile from us. I go up the mountain with Mike (2nd year Hunter)and inform him I will head in about 150-200 yards or more and he should go down a little further and do the same. He questions us hunting so close to the trail and I remind him about the 45 minute plus drive into base camp on a dirt road and the fact that this is not a public road, he reluctantly followed my advice.
The ground is so frozen it crunches every time I step and the woods are quiet. I find a nice log with some cover about 200 yards in and take a seat.
After a long scope of the area I am getting hungry after that hike up. At 10:30 am I eat a granola and a bite out of my huge turkey, ham, and cheese sandwich, 15 minutes pass and I’m hungry again. Perhaps another bit of that beautiful sandwich. Yes a bit it is, I get up and open the day pack for another bit of that delicious sandwich wow I was hungry.
I am standing looking uphill satisfied and relaxed, crunch, snap, I spot an antler main beam to my 5 o’clock trying not to move my head and see the body of a nice deer about 20ft away and moving slowly behind me, how did he get so close? I figure the deer is now to my back at my 6 o’clock with my gun in front of me pointing up leaning on the log; Quickly I grab my savage 30-06 to my body and make sure to hold the sling hoping the small tree will prevent him from seeing my movement. Unable to move my feet due to the frosted ground I have my gun to my body and see the deer in my peripheral vision at 7 o’clock, his head goes behind a small tree, I get the gun pointed in his direction and he does not see me. Now relax and come down on body, I squeeze the trigger as he stops perfect broad side. Boom! I fly back due to the awkward shot and watch as the buck goes bounding down the hill white flag waving good bye.
I call Mike; he saw the buck run up the hill and questioned, “What was that?” I informed him it was a buck... I grab my back pack and check for blood, nothing, no hair, nothing? I track the deer and recheck for any sign of blood and ask Mike to do same. NO BLOOD??? I check my gun... Scope is set to 9 power… I reset to 4 and keep searching.
Back to the main trail and I meet one Hunter who is with a party hunting about 6 miles back, he said they are hunting a big one! I explain my blunder about the one that got away and how this was not the monster they are chasing, but still a respectable deer. I go down the road about a half mile and go in and search, nothing at all. At this point the ground has warmed enough to move quietly. I cross a ledge and check a valley with many tracks and head back to camp, head slumped.
Back at base camp I am reminded how I tell others what not to do... yet I do those stupid things myself. Like leaving your scope on 9 power! I explain the story to camp in shame wondering if I will have a chance at seeing ANY more deer, but good deer sign and a full week ahead help my spirit.
I drove up after lunch/brake time at base, a rare occasion for me but I wanted my .44 magnum with open sights so out with the 30-06 and in with the model 94A. Greg and I started out in the same spot and worked our way parallel with the terrain and came across some nice sign, but it looked like doe and young. We saw a plethora of tracks in the area, but they we small and different sizes.
Forgetting my back pack in Greg’s truck I decided to get out and onto the trail well before dark and meet Greg at the truck to finish the day. Missing my birthday buck did not keep my spirit down due to the fact that he was not a monster buck; I did not wound him and still had a full week in the woods ahead of me. I always say if you miss a good buck it’s just practice for that Buck of a lifetime!!! I estimated this deer I missed to be at least a large 4-point or 6 point buck with about 18 inch main beams. The main beams were all I saw in the 30 to 45 seconds he was in view and made my decision to shoot AT the “Birthday Buck”.
Day 3 - November 8th (Cold, windy late morning heavy showers followed by calm overcast late afternoon-sunset. 26-45 degrees )
I drive up to the area where I shot and missed the day before with longtime hunting partner Shawn. I check the higher ridges and look for any sign of the deer I missed to see if he bled late, but find nothing. I am convinced I shot a log 100 yards away.
About two hours later it’s cold and starts to rain then downpours. I put on my extra top and bottom clothes and rain suit, nothing like being prepared. More heavy rain! I go up and back about a half mile and I have another 200 feet higher I can go. I turn back and save mountain climbing for another day as the rain tapers off.
I find some nice tracks the further away from the peaks I get, keeping a north heading. GPS shows my position over a half mile from nearest trail and even farther to a road. I start to head out with one hour of sunlight left. With 25 minutes until dark, I find I am still a little less than a half mile to the nearest road or path. I start to pick up the pace to get out, or close to out, by dark because I am not familiar with these woods and don’t want to get “stuck”. Ten minutes 'til dark and I am talking to base camp. Only about 600 yards to the road and the woods are getting dark, I get my flash light ready. As I am talking to base with Shawn I am noticing extremely large tracks and make notes on my gps. Twenty minutes later I am out, but thinking about those tracks. We discuss the day back at camp and everyone gets psyched for a morning hunt then drive in the area with the big tracks.
Day 4 - November 9th (Cold and calm early foggy partial showers, partly cloudy early afternoon calm. 37-47 degrees.)
I wake up at 3:30 am... pumped up... with a fire under my butt about 3 ft high and get my gear on and put on the same rain gear. Everyone is asleep and hardly budge as I scramble. I complain to all and make sure they hear it! I leave camp and try to head in where I saw the big tracks. It’s dark and I am trying to not get wacked in the face again from another branch, ouch! Tough to navigate the woods you are not very familiar with in the dark, don’t try this at home!
After I get in about 50 yards the woods open up and I can see better paths and trails. Fifteen minutes later and it's first light. Yes, joy! I move in about 175 yards to an open spot with cover on a ledge and sit down and post. I covered the area for about 2 hours, no movement; I decided to go up and in.
After several spots (stop and look) a few cliffs, extra layering, and lunch in a natural blind, I started off again heading up hill contemplating going back to the spot I missed the buck and still hunting it back till dark. Another nice opening, I stop and post, scanning I notice two legs walking fast, what appears to be a hunter, (Is that Greg?) Then I notice the hunter is the size of a deer with two more legs behind it, HMMMM. It’s walking parallel with my original path, but now walking away and up a ridge from me and gets out of sight quickly apparently not alarmed.
I move a little closer knowing the ground is wet using my feet to feel for twigs that might give me away and noticing a small brook for cover. I get my doe bleat and give one long call, no quick response. I slowly move in closer and figure if it’s a doe she is the best bet for attracting bucks. I stop, taking one knee with my left as a rest, thinking if it's a buck he will catch me moving if I go any further. I see a body coming my way with a big shine on the side main beam and my heart drops. If I miss this one the boys will never let me hear the end of it, two bucks in one week?
I have no tree to support me and realize I am now in the open. I steady myself on my knee, contemplating a prone position for steadiness, but there is no way I can try that in the open... he can see me now.I steady my Winchester .44 mag. and think, "Squeeze." But I don’t have a clear shot. As he approaches two more feet, my heart pounding, I am amazed how steady my gun is. Still behind cover I wait. There is no scope on this gun so I can’t use "the scope on 9X" excuse. Easy now, wait, he is coming to you, relax and just focus on the shot.
With no thought of deer size or antler size, my sight is steady, my breath controlled, but my pulse is racing! Two steps into the clear he stops broad side. I squeeze the trigger, Boom! He charges straight at me from 45 yards to about 20 in a second as I stand in shock. Two more shots and he turns to get away from me. One more shot as he gives a perfect second broad side and one last shot as he tries to escape. I quickly check to verify I am empty then a 35 yard run to check the downed deer as he takes his last breath. Happy about the quick kill I thank our creator multiple times.
Concentrating on making a good kill I really did not notice how big his antlers were just that they were there and VERY noticeable. When I came up on him, hmm, well let’s just say I was a little overzealous. Having taken an 8 pt buck in the adirondacks I knew what a buck, (weight, body and antlers) have looked like, and I had never seen anything so beautiful. To say I was jubilant is an understatement. If you were within range you would have heard me screaming at the luck, joy, experience and companionship of what hunting is all about. A quick call to the hunting party and I discovered Shawn was the only other person in the woods that actually heard my shots. Shawn convinced everyone at base camp that ham burgers could wait.
I came out and lead the hunting party to the beauty after several rests. After many pictures and high fives we started the real work. Three and a half hours after the first shot I was back at base camp with Shawn, Jason, Anthony, Mike and the most beautiful Adirondack Buck I have ever seen!!!
Jeff's 207 lb. buck was taken around noon on November 9, 2010 at 2400 ft.