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Two big bucks in one day

I listened to the ravens, crows and turkeys fight over the morning's gut pile. I was still giddy about my success as I climbed into the treestand, almost within sight of the Sky Condo.  Motion to my right caught my eye and I saw a deer feeding on acorns. I lifted my rifle and peered through the scope, hopeful that I could punch my doe tag. My heart raced as I saw the antlers. I was looking at a buck as big or bigger than the one I had shot hours earlier.  Two big bucks in one day! I calmed myself down and swapped my scope for my binoculars and paused. The buck I was now looking at was a large spikehorn. Where had that big buck gone? Where had this buck come from?  Adjusting the binoculars, I saw the smaller buck make a circle and lay...

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The trick to hunting: always be learning

I have hunted deer for more than half my life. Every season is different and I learn or observe new things all the time. It is how you get better and more proficient. This season, the lesson blew my mind and will stick with me for every hunting season to come. During the 2022 season, I shot a doe on opening morning of rifle season. Maine hunters’ ability to shoot both a buck and a doe has allowed me to be more strategic about how I hunt.  I can focus on shooting a doe to put meat in the freezer and then hold out for a big buck. The first two weeks of the 2023 season were fantastic.  It was during the third week of the season that I learned something new about my rifle and ammo.  I grabbed three new 180 gain bullets as I headed out on...

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The end of my deer hunting goals

My phone showed 4am. There were photos from the cell cameras.  With one eye open, I started scrolling and saw one of the big bucks.  He had been in the same spot days earlier and had made a 5 hour loop.  I had 3 hours to get in my stand. I took two steps away from the truck and the world erupted around me.  The only thing louder than the crunching of deer running, was the beating of my heart. Several deep breaths later, I started back on the trail to the stand.  A few more steps and another deer jumped and ran.  Had it been the buck? I wasn't far from where we had been.  I passed by my camera at 5:05am; three hours since the buck had been there. Don't Do Rodents There is something about hearing mice scratching inches from my face that...

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New hunter shoots dream buck

I skim the hunting Facebook groups for photos of amazing deer during hunting season. My favorite are those of successful female hunters.  I love the photos of incredible deer that are what (almost) every hunter’s dreams of taking.  This past season, I found a female hunter with an incredible buck and a fantastic name! Erin McGraw grew up fishing and did not start deer hunting until just a few years ago.  She shot her first deer, a spikehorn in 2019 but took a year off  due to the birth of a baby. In 2021, Erin and her husband hunted but were never able to be in the right place at the right time. “It was a great year to practice still hunting,” Erin exclaimed, “It was a really cool experience to get more familiar with the woods around...

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The best wild game dinner

Hunters are always asked if they eat the animals that they hunt.  Bear is one of the most asked about animals. After I accomplished my grand slam, I offered to host a wild game dinner for people to try some of the meat that I had hunted.  My friend, Candace agreed to be my chef.  The result was some of the best wild game dishes I have ever eaten. Candace and I picked out the cuts that I had and built our menu around that.  It was an incredibly hot day here in Maine, so that altered a few of our plans.   Here was our menu: Apps - Cheese, crackers, pickled fiddleheads, sauteed moose heart with onions, BBQ moose heart flatbread topped with mushrooms, garlic scrapes and chive blossoms, smoked Alaskan salmon and spicy black bear queso...

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The shot that will haunt me

In December 2021, my grandfather passed away. Weeks before, I jumped him when I came bursting into his house to tell him and my Grammie that I had shot a buck and had completed my Grand Slam. He laughed at my overzealousness but hugged me and told me how proud he was of me.  We made a deal hours before he passed away that he was going to deliver me an 8 point buck since I have yet to shoot one.  I held on to that belief all through the year. Dad and I obsessed over trail cam photos throughout the summer and fall, we had three really nice bucks showing up.  They all seemed to be nocturnal, but they were around.  Fast forward to the start of the season and my morning kicked off pretty well by taking a nice doe in the first hour. I had...

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I am done shooting small bucks

It was an emotional rollercoaster of a season.  All I wanted was an eight point buck.  I will save the story for another time, but it didn’t happen. But what did happen changed my whole perspective on deer hunting. After twenty years of hunting, I am done shooting small bucks. I shot my doe in the first hour of rifle season, so having the ability to shoot a doe AND a buck gave me the opportunity to keep hunting and looking for that big buck.  I could sit and watch more of the does and fawns at different spots on the property.  One morning, I watched a fisher running around my stand.  I enjoyed being in the woods, knowing that I had a specific buck that I was after and that I had already put meat in the freezer. This season was more of...

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Fastest deer tag ever

I was relieved to see my name on the list of people who had received doe tags in the lottery.  There were so many doe on our trail cameras that it seemed likely that we would be successful. But, as opening day got closer and closer, illness struck my household and I was the last person standing without a tissue or cough drops in my pocket. In my attempt to ‘quarantine’ myself, I packed up and headed north. My watch read 32 degrees when Dad and I snuck into the woods. At a fork in the trail, Dad paused and waited for me to get into the Sky Condo before he continued on. I flicked off my headlamp and watched his light disappear around the corner.  For all I know, the deer stood there and watched us split up because just when Dad started...

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