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The Buck From Alder Ridge

With the trees turning colors, and the chill in the air, we had turned the corner into autumn. I was not complaining any, as it was my favorite time of year. It was a Saturday afternoon in mid September when I first saw the Big Buck from Alder Ridge. It was my first scouting trip of the year, and I was enjoying it. I was crossing Alder Ridge and flushing one Woodcock after another. Between the Birch and Alder Trees, with little grass, it was an excellent spot for Woodcock. I have been calling the spot Alder Ridge for twenty years. Its proper name is Wilson Ridge. It is a Ridge that overlooks the Cedar River Flow. Itís located in Hamilton County, northern New York State. Itís 13 miles from the village of Indian Lake. There are miles of state land for hunting and fishing. On this outing, I was hunting the early bear season. Had no real interest in bear, but it was a good excuse to scout for bucks.

While sitting down enjoying a sandwich and glassing out the ridge, I saw him. While searching out the young Alder Trees for rubs, he just appeared. There was this huge deer, standing on his hind legs, and pulling down the branches of an Oak Tree. He was shaking down Acorns from the tree. I could not believe the size of this buck. From his huge body, to the trophy rack on his head, he was magnificent. I was in the perfect spot to just sit and observe. I watched him for over 30 minutes, until he walked deeper into the hardwoods and disappeared. Waiting another 30 minutes, I got up to leave., taking note of some landmarks to make sure I could find this spot again. Heading down thru the Alders I decided to sneak back next the weekend with a portable stand. I wasnít worried about other hunters moving this deer, as the ridge is about an hour walk up hill, and I had never seen another hunter up there. The week passed quickly and I was back, packing in the stand, and tacking out the trail with glow tacks. I placed the stand in a group of Cedar trees on the edge of the area he had been feeding in the week before. I trimmed only enough to see out. This was a good place for the stand; hard to find if you didnít know it was there. The next morning I went in early and climbed the stand for a look. I arrived about 7A.M., and in a few minutes had several doe feeding under the Oaks. Looking to my left, I watched him come over the ridge top and into the feeding area. Wow, what a buck he was. He was about 80 yards from me but I could make out at least 6 points off one beam. Thatís when I saw it, the buck had a drop tine off the left side. He was a non-typical whitetail. I was now more excited then ever, for I have never taken a non-typical buck. On this day, he walked thru the feeding doe, into the hardwoods, and out of sight. Black Powder Season opened in 3 weeks. That would be my first opportunity for a shot.

In years passed I had taken several big bucks off this ridge. Usually it was during the rut,with snow and cold to deal with. However, sitting in the stand enjoying the splendor of autumn was sure to be more fun. I didnít go back again until opening morning of Black Powder. I knew I was in for a tough day because it had rained all night. I waited until first light to head up the ridge to my stand. It rained on and off, hard at times, all the way in. After climbing up and into the stand, I settled down and prepared for a long wait. I was not there 10 minutes when a nice looking 8-point buck walked thru not 25 yards from the stand. On any other black powder hunt, I would have taken that buck. However, I had made up my mind to try for the big non-typical, and let the buck go. By 9A.M. the fog had settled in and covered the ridge top completely. I stayed until 10, and with no let up, decided to make my way down and back to my camper. I was disappointed, but had to next day for another try. The next morning was no better, but worse. The fog was so very thick at the camper, the entire world looked fogged in. There would be no hunting in this fog. However, the deer had been alerted. About 15 shots rang throughout the Mt. as the hunters off loaded their Black Powder guns .

The following Saturday was the opening day of rifle season and there would be more activity than normal. This vast and beautiful area opened before the rest of the state, and tended to bring out the early hunters. I arrived Friday evening early, set up, and prepared for the next morning. I made it into the stand before daylight and hoped to get lucky. That did not happen as I hunted all day and only saw 2 doe. The next day brought more of the same. The next weekend was about the same, however I did see a nice 6 pointer in the feed area. Would I ever get a chance at the Drop Tine Buck?

We were now into November, and the nice autumn days had been replaced by cold rain and wet snow. Snow comes early to this area. I was now scouting the edges of the feed area to try and find sign of him. There were several large bucks here, and it was hard to tell what sign was his. I knew I was in trouble by the 8th day of November, as scrapes started to appear all over the feed area. He would now be traveling in search of more lady friends. By 15 November, I had seen five different bucks. All were takers if I hadnít been determined to find the Drop Tine Buck.

I had started to convince myself that if I got another chance at a buck, I should take it. We were just a few days before Thanksgiving, and I was now hunting in a foot or more of snow. I had taken a vacation week as the rut was in full swing, and the hunting would probably be the best of the year. I was still hunting from my stand, and still seeing deer. One morning I looked out the camper window to watch the snow coming down hard. This may be my last chance at the ridge as it was getting too hard to get there. I arrived at the stand about 8.30 A.M., better late than never I told myself. It was harder now, and I was tired. Sitting in the stand with the wind blowing in my face, found me wishing for one more autumn day. In the next minute things changed quickly. Three doe crossed from left to right in front of the stand, about 75 yards out. They would stop, and look behind often. One doe had her tail in the air, her cycle was in for sure. I knew in my heart there would be a buck in view soon. Five minutes passed, and darn, it was snowing harder now. Then he came into view, head on the ground following the hot doe. I raised the Dakota and found him in the scope. Bingo, it was the Big Drop Tine Buck at last. Massive big horns on that huge body, about eighty yards out. I followed him to an opening and the Dakota roared. The buck went down hard and never moved. The whole season played out in my mind over the next several minutes. After a while had passed, I climbed down and headed over to see my buck. Arriving, I was surprised, saddened, and elated at the same time. There at my feet lay a beautiful monster buck, but not the Drop Tine Buck. I had shot a ten pointer that would dress well over 200 lbs. Thick heavy horns, this deer was six or sever years old. I had never seen a neck that big and thick before. This was a true prize for any whitetail hunter. I couldnít help but wonder what happened to the Drop Tine?. Would he be there next year? With Godís help, I sure would.

- Dakota