The Sausage Buck
Although I didn’t tag out myself during the 2017 Maine deer season, this season was one of the most exciting deer seasons I have ever experienced. Scouting began in September as I stepped back into the woods to lay eyes on previous years’ hunting areas and to check trail cams placed at the end of the 2016 season. When approaching the first GPS marker I realized my camera was no longer on the tree. Instead I found scratches in the bark where the camera had been placed. I searched the area and found the camera mangled on the ground a few feet away. The camera had a puncture hole in one of the sensor caps and scratches that peeled away at the exterior. A black bear had torn the camera off the tree and left me with only 4 out of focus shots. One shows a chest of a bear with 2 white patches, another the black nose and a rounded ear. No whitetails to be found.
My significant other Coop and I scouted the area and decided to hang the camera on a game trail with a single small summer rub. The rub was on small tree that ran along a stream in a section of hardwoods on one of Maine’s western mountains. At the end of October with rifle season approaching I worked my way back into the woods and found a single picture of a 7pt buck nose down working the trail. The start to the season was warm and dry. Much time was spent crunching leaves while scouting for fresh rubs and scrapes to signal the start of the rut.
A few years ago my brother-in-law and good friend Kevin, an avid fly fisherman, shared that he would like to start hunting whitetail as a source of natural meat for him and his children. Kevin in recent years took on the challenge of building a greenhouse and grows a large percentage of his family’s food. In hope of adding natural meat to his family’s diet, Kevin took to the woods in search of his first big game. After being skunked 3 years in a row Kevin was determined to get a whitetail this season. He listened to podcasts, studied techniques of Maine’s famous big woods trackers, reflected on the last three seasons, and paid close attention to the weather.
This year I was able to take a 10 day hunting vacation and each day out I would update Kevin on my progress and we would talk strategy. The night of November 9th I got a message from Kevin asking if Coop and I were hunting the next morning and we quickly made plans to meet up at 5am. The next morning Kevin enters the house quoting Maine’s famous Tracker Hal Blood stating, “Today is a deer killin’ day!” Kevin had been waiting for a morning like this; the wind was howling, it was cold and the season’s first snow had been falling through the night. With smiles on our faces, Kevin, Coop and I left for the woods.
We decided on a mountain in western Maine where as a group we have been successful in the past. As we drove in, our truck laid fresh tracks, we were the first to this area. With first light we all went our separate ways in hopes of cutting a nice track. I took to the base of the mountain where cedar trees and swamp meet hardwoods, an area that does like to travel on cold days. Coop took to the hardwoods in an area he hunted the previous year, alongside a small mountain stream. Kevin headed to the high ground, where the hardwoods meet spruce and fir trees.
Coop never did cut a deer track but instead spent his morning tracking a black bear. In Maine there is a general black bear season the runs during the whitetail rifle season. So if while hunting for Maine’s whitetail you come across a black bear you are able to harvest that animal. This season I saw more black bear sign than I have ever seen before. I believe it was due to the abundance of beech nuts. This food kept the bear active deep into the fall. Berry filled scat, clawed trees, and torn up stumps were in abundance.
With the snow falling and frigid temperatures I hunted the base of the mountain near a migration trail that deer use to get from two adjoining mountains to their winter yarding area. It wasn’t long until I cut a nice track, he took me through about a mile of thick terrain until it opened up into beautiful hardwoods. In this section of hardwoods he brought me to 4 different rubs and a fresh scrape. This buck was rutting and I was on his tail! I finally came to a fresh bright rub that was longer in length than my Rugar M77 Hawkeye. I marked this on my GPS as “Rub 17.” A few minutes later an echoing gunshot was heard ringing from the high ground. I turned up the volume on my radio and waited for an announcement but heard nothing. About 15 minutes later a second shot echoed through the mountains. With my radio still on, I heard Kevin announcing in a calm even toned voice, “I just shot my first buck. He’s a big boy.”
With adrenaline and excitement for the news of Kevin’s first big game, I started my hike out, the buck I was on would have to wait, but this wouldn’t be the last of “rub 17.” An hour passed by the time Coop and I hiked out from our spots to the old logging roads and made our way to the truck. Kevin had told us over the radio that he thought it was a big buck and that it was a 7 point. Knowing it was his first deer, in my mind’s eye I pictured a 160-180 pound buck with a small 7 point basket, but what we were about to see would be the biggest deer any of us have ever seen!
We met Kevin at a trailhead where he gave me a hug that lifted me off the ground and swirled me in a clockwise fashion! He then proceeded to walk us through his hunt as he lead us to his deer. He hunted along an old grown in skidder trail. To the right of the trail is a cut about 10-12 years old. The left of the trail is thick terrain covered with spruce/fir trees. As Kevin was hunting the trail he spotted a small rub on a spindly 3 foot fir tree just off to the left, he made his way off the trail and began scanning the area, to his amazement he spotted his buck stepping out from behind a blow down. The buck had bedded there during the nights windy snowstorm. Kevin waited patiently as the buck stepped into the only shooting lane he could identify in this thick terrain. He aimed and fired his first shot. The buck ran to the right jumped the skidder trail and ran towards the old cut. Kevin made his way to the buck’s bed and followed the track looking for blood, but no blood, after years of patience, the frustration and disappointment was building. He took a few minutes to collect himself giving the buck time to settle before getting back on his track. After traveling roughly 100 yards from where Kevin feared his first shot had missed, he sighted the buck a second time, kneeling in the top of the old cut. Kevin took a second shot into the vitals and as the deer fell to the ground all of his frustration, disappointment and worry melted away.
We all sat amazed at the mass of this buck, he was solid from his shoulder to his back-end, no rib cage definition, just solid mass. Together we dubbed him “The Sausage Buck.” Kevin finally had the natural meat for his family and a beautiful massive Maine whitetail. While field dressing his deer Kevin learned that he never did miss that first shot. With the deer now field dressed, cold steady winds and frigid air soon reminded us that we were on the top of a mountain and now had the challenge of getting this bruiser to the truck. To the boy’s delight the buck slid like a seal down the mountain as they navigated to the nearest logging road where I met them with the truck. The golden standard in Maine for a whitetail is 200 pounds field dressed. A buck over 200 pounds will get you into the Maine Sportsman’s Biggest Bucks in Maine Club. The 200 pound mark gets your buck published in the February issue of The Maine Sportsman magazine and you get the coveted red patch for your hunting jacket. Kevin’s buck weighed in at 239 pounds.
This hunt is one we will never forget. The story will be told at many family holidays, each hunting season from here on out, and to the next generation of hunters in our family. There is nothing like a family hunt in the big woods of Maine. Thank you Kevin for including me in your hunt! Let’s do it again next year!