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Packing In For Back Country Bucks

It was Thursday morning when my wife asked me to please check my list for the last time. Bill and I had been packing, and preparing for a backcountry Whitetail hunt. We planned to hunt for a week, about twenty-three miles back in off the road. The hunt was to take place in Hamilton county, northern New Yorkís Adirondack Mts. I had already checked, and rechecked my gear.. I was ready for some hunting fun in the big woods. Bill arrived and we loaded the camper and headed out.

The plan was to set up the camper at the Cedar River Flow. We were able to drive thirteen miles in from the village of Indian Lake to the Cedar Flow on a seasonal use road. We would then travel by boat for the next seven miles. The last three would be on foot, with packs. I had hunted this area for years, but never this far in. We had made two practice runs over the summer, brought in and buried several boxes of can goods. You would be surprised how good a can of beef stew tastes after hunting all day. After setting up the camper and loading the boat, we were off.

We had a twelve-foot boat with 5 hp. outboard, loaded to the max. Laughing and joking, telling stories about past trips as we headed up the flow. This was big country, my favorite place on earth. After about an hour and a half, we pulled the boat up on shore and started our hike in. It was a beautiful day, maybe a little warm for hiking with heavy packs. We each had a pack, and the deer carrier was loaded as well. Arriving at our campsite, tired, hungry, and glad to be there. We would now call a state lean-to home for the next week. The state had placed several lean-tos along the river to accommodate hikers. I set out the sleeping bags, hung most of the gear, and Bill started the fire. We had brought a lightweight tarp to close in the front, and keep the wind off us. After hanging the tarp, it was time for dinner. We opened a can of chicken stew, and heated it on the one burner cooker. Stew with bread and butter, cold ice tea, not bad at all. It was now Friday evening, and the opening day of rifle was the next morning. We made plans to find a spot to sit at first light. After a few hours we would start scouting, try to locate a few good rub lines. We had figured on using the first day for scouting. We had some light rain overnight, made the woods very quiet. You could not ask for better conditions for scouting. The morning broke to a misty, cloudy day, but cool. Bill went up an old skid trail not far from camp. I followed the river for a ways and found another skid trail to hunt off. After sitting for about an hour, I decided to head up the trail and see what I could find. There were Bear droppings in many places on the trail. About 15 minutes in, I found a nice crossing, big run. On the right were hardwoods, left was a large swamp. Heading into the hardwoods to take a look, I discovered the first rub. It was on a well-used run, coming thru the hardwoods. Following the run for another 50 yards I found more rubs. This buck was picking 3 and 4-inch trees to hit. He was no little guy for sure. It was a safe bet he was bedding in the big swamp, and feeding in the hardwoods. I back tracked out to the trail, and entered the swamp on the other side. Thick Cedar Trees on the edge of the swamp made for excellent bedding. Large droppings and tracks were easy to find anywhere you looked. I needed to find a spot to set up for this buck. Back out on the trail I took a compass reading to find north. I needed to set up on the south side of his run, as the wind would most often come from north, north west. I went back into the hardwoods to follow the run but kept off 20 yards, so not to disturb. Picking my way thru, located two large rocks on a knoll. This was a good spot, about 40 yards off the run. I would sit there for the morning and bring my climbing stand back for the afternoon. I located a spot to sit with my back to a large Beech, put down two drops of Fox Pee behind me. After about an hour, I spotted a doe with a little skipper coming up the run into the woods. They were feeding, and taking their time. Five minutes behind them was another deer. He had horns, but small. Looking thru the scope, I could see he had spikes. He must have caught my movement as he turned, and looked right at me. He turned his head from side to side not knowing what I was. More than likely, he had never seen a human before. Keeping me in view, he followed the run behind the other two deer. After they had vanished into the woods, I waited 10 minutes and eased my way back to the trail, and back to camp. Bill had the soup on and waiting when I arrived. He was very impressed with the sign he had found. On the ridge behind the lean-to he had located two different rub lines. Both he thought were mature bucks. This was better then we had hoped for. We finished lunch, wished each other luck, and headed off with our stands. It took me about twenty minutes to reach my spot. Finding a young Beech to the right of where I had been earlier, I proceeded to climb to about twelve feet. I would like to have been higher, but there were too many leaves still up. We still had some light drizzle from time to time, but good hunting weather. Towards the end of the day I had five doe come thru. All were big healthy deer, fun to watch. Over dinner that night Bill told me of a six-point buck that he had seen. It was a nice deer but not what we packed in for. It got much colder over night and the next morning it was in the low thirties. We had coffee, and headed out to the stands. The down side of using a climber was I needed to wait for first light. I have never been able to master it in the dark. It was a sunny morning with a good chill in the air. By 10AM I had seen seven deer. Five doe and two small bucks. Some of the doe here were huge. We were seeing deer everyday, but no big bucks. Several days passed , still no big bucks. By Wedensday I wanted to try something different. We had a plan to try and push off a small part of the big swamp. Bill would take my stand and I would make the push. I put Bill in the stand and headed up the trail to the end of the swamp. Entering the swamp brought a day Iíll never forget. I had been in about five minutes, picking my way thru when there was a loud scream to my right. Wow, did that ever get my attention. It was no Bobcat, way too much volume and depth. The first was followed by another that was closer to me. I took the safety off my Dakota not knowing what to expect. I had upset what sounded to me like a large cat. I had heard stories of Mountain Lions, but had never seen one. Thinking the worst, I proceeded to back out of the swamp and into the sunlight. Boy, what a rush that gave me. Shortly after, Bill came walking up the skid trail towards me. I asked did you hear that? He said big cat, and I said bingo.

We headed back to camp for lunch, and to talk it over. We still thought the plan was good, as all the deer came out of the swamp. The big buck was most likely in there. I had probably bumped into a feeding cat, or maybe one with young. I felt sure our chance meeting would moved it out of the area. We would try it again, but start the push in a different spot. This time I would take the stand and Bill would push. I climbed the stand about 2PM. Twenty minutes later six deer came bounding into the hardwoods. Four were doe and two small bucks. Then it happened, and so quickly I just reacted. The big buck crashed into the hardwoods at full speed. I followed him in the scope for about fifty yards when he stopped to look back. Thatís all it took and my Dakota roared. The big buck went down and never moved. I waited a few minutes and climbed down. When I reached the deer I found a true Adirondack Buck. Big thick horns on a huge body. He was an 8-pointer that would dress out over 200 lbs. Within a few minutes Bill came walking up the run with a big smile on his face. He said I saw him go out but had no shot. After a few high fives and congratulating each other on a good plan it was time to get to work. I dressed out the buck while Bill went back for the carrier. We loaded the deer on the carrier and headed back to camp. It was 4 PM and getting colder by the minute. Over dinner we decided to take the buck out the next morning. It was cold and we were afraid of getting snowed in back there. We had a cold night as the temperture dipped into the twenties. We got up early and made coffee and something to eat. By 7AM we were headed down the trail to the boat. We each took a side of the carrier, as the deer was too heavy for one person. It took us four hours to travel the three miles. By the time we reached the boat, we were too shocked for words. We both just stood there looking out at the completely frozen flow. I never dreamed the flow would freeze this early in the year. We needed to make a decision fast as it was still below freezing. The ice was thin, less than 1 inch. We pushed the boat out on the thin ice and loaded it up. With the added weight of the buck, we were riding low in the water. I pointed the bow out and hit the throttle. We began breaking ice with the bow of the boat. I would get about 30 yards and have to back up and get another start. In some spots the ice was paper thin. We could travel two hundred yards at a time. It would be a long trip, but I thought we could make it. We arrived back at the camper at 6PM. What a trip and what a hunt. We were met by the State Ranger who was glad to see us. He checked our deer and listened to the story of the cat and smiled. Sounds to me like you boys had a good hunt. Thinking back, I guess we sure did at that.

- Dakota