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The Hunt For Crooked Foot
While hunting a remote section of the Adirondack Mts. of northern New York on a cold snowy day in late November, I jumped a deer that snorted so loud and nasty it made me stop and think for a second. As it moved away from me it gave me several more snorts, very loud and somewhat evil. Iíve had many deer snort at me over the years, but nothing quite like this. I picked a spot under a large Cedar to stand for a few minutes as it was now snowing hard. After giving the deer time to settle down, I moved up the ridge towards where I had heard the first snort. Entering a thick stand of Cedars, so thick you could hardly pick your way through, I found a bed. Next to the bed were some of the largest deer dropping I had ever seen. I had moved this buck off his bed, and angered him in the process. By the size of the bed and droppings, it was a large buck, dead in the rut. They can be rather nasty this time of year, traveling days without sleep, in search of new lady friends. There was about two inches of snow on the ground, but it had not yet penaterated the Cedars. As I picked up his track I had to take a second look, as something was wrong with this buck. His right front foot was turned in badly.
After following his tracks for about one hundred yards, he exited the Cedars and crossed an old skid road heading down towards a large swamp. He had crossed the skid trail in one bound, the foot injury must be old. Following the tracks through the hardwoods, it was easy to see how badly the foot turned in. However, it didnít seem to slow him down any. He was now walking and had stopped to feed under a large Beech tree. I looked at my watch to see it was now three P.M. . I had about an hour and a half before darkness would cover the Mt.. He was headed in the direction I needed to go anyway, so I decided to follow slowly and see if I might jump him again. About an hour passed and the buck had stopped to put down a large scrape in front of a young pine, hooking its branches and ripping one off. We were about three hundred yards from the swamp he was headed for when I caught movement to my left. The buck was standing in some thick scrub pines, the kind that grow to about five feet tall, looking back at me. He had stopped to see what, or who, was following him. I was caught flatfooted, no way to recover from this and ever get a shot off. I eased ahead a few steps to put a large beech tree between us. I shouldered my Dakota, and peeked around the tree hoping he might still be there. He wasnít, but had moved about twenty yards ahead into an even thicker stand of pines. Looking through the scope to try and find him I caught a glimpse of his head. Wow, for one second I was looking at one of the largest whitetail racks Iíve ever seen, alive that is. That quickly he was gone on a dead run towards the swamp. I took the gun down from my shoulder and thought to myself, what a monster. On that day the chase for Crooked Foot had begun.
With very little daylight left I had to start for my truck , about a half hour away. Reaching the truck shortly after dark, I was met by my hunting partner, Bill Cox. He said I was starting to worry about you when it got dark. I proceeded to tell him of the adventure I had on that snowy afternoon. Sitting in my truck reflecting on what I had seen, the buck would probably score in or around the one seventies, B.C. . Would I ever see him again, I didnít know.
We had hunted this section of the Cedar River Flow for years, as it yielded some beautiful whitetail bucks. Itís a wild, mountainous region, with large stands of heavy timber. Its located just outside the village of Indian Lake N.Y. .Two large wilderness areas come together here. The West Canada Creek Wilderness Area, and the Moose River Plains Wilderness Area meet here. The state has set up many wilderness campsites for campers looking for a true wilderness adventure. There is no charge for camping. The sites can accomadate tents, popups, and small travel trailers. There are no hook-ups available, just fire places and outhouses.
The next day was Sunday, and my camper was parked about 5 miles away at the beginning of the road. All through dinner we talked about the big buck, and wondered if anyone else had ever seen him. This country is so vast and wild a deer can go a lifetime and never see a human. Next morning we were up early drinking coffee and making lunches to take with us. The dawn broke to a cold windy day, the kind of day that could easily keep the buck down. However, with the rut in full swing, we would have to go for it. The plan was for Bill to go high, to the Cedars where I had jumped him yesterday. I would cut the edge of the swamp trying to find sign of him. I found a spot to sit where the swamp and an old skid trail came together. After a few hours, I needed to move to keep warm, and decided to try and pick up the trail from yesterday. I followed his tracks until I hit water and could go no further. I was sure he had bedded on one of the many islands this swamp had to offer. We were now having white outs from time to time, so I decided to pack it in and headed for the truck. I met Bill on the trail out, as he had also had enough. He had more luck than I, as he had seen three doe and a four-point buck. They were in the thick Cedars out of the wind. He had an easy shot, but we had agreed to harvest only mature bucks. As we drove out, we made plans for the following weekend. I would again bring my trailer up, I lived one hundred miles to the south in the Albany area, and Bill lived in the Lake George area, about forty miles south. Over the next week, my mind drifted to Crooked Foot from time to time. Friday afternoon came, I loaded the camper and headed north to meet Bill. The plan was to hunt the same area and hope to find sign of the big boy. Saturday morning was perfect with about one inch of new snow. As we were pulling off the road to park the truck, we discovered fresh tracks of what looked like several doe and one big buck. They had crossed into the hardwoods on an opposite side of the road. We would have to change plans a little, as someone would have to track this buck. We decided Bill would set out after the buck, and I would go in and hunt the back side of the swamp for the Crooked Footed Monster. We agreed to meet at noon for lunch. I was about half way in when I heard the roar of Billís 348 Winchester. Being hunting partners for years, we had a signal. If you shoot and kill, or hit one, wait five minutes and fire two shots. Now it was time to wait. Sure enough, five minutes passed and two more shots rang throughout the Mt. . With a big smile on my face, I headed back toward where Bill had gone in. Arriving at the truck, I followed Billís tracks into the hardwoods. About one hundred yards in I heard him yell for me, and could see him standing on the hillside. As I got closer, I could see the buck at his feet. He had shot a heavy horned, eight point, wide body. The buck would dress out over two hundred and score around one forty B.C. Seemed the buck had stopped to take a nap, and Bill walked straight into him. After congratulating my partner, I helped dress out and drag the buck back to the truck. Back at the camper lots of hunters stopped to take a look at, and admire Billís fine buck. None knew of the Crooked Footed Monster still roaming the Mt.
With only one weekend left in the season I wanted to make the most of the day and went back in alone for another look. Bill knew the area I was hunting, in case I had trouble. Its not a good idea to hunt this area alone. I hunted the rest of the day seeing only two doe.
The next weekend Bill came along, but I hunted alone. Saturday we had freezing rain and nothing moved. Sunday was a bright, cold day with little wind. I hunted hard with no luck. I would have to wait another year for a second chance at Crooked Foot. That would give us something to think about in the off-season.
Come Spring we would be back Trout fishing and looking for sheds. When the trees turn colors, and frost settles on the Mt., we will be hunting for Crooked Foot once more.