My New Hampshire Record Buck
This story actually began during the 2002 NH deer season when I found the signs of a big buck frequenting one of my favorite hunting areas in Hillsborough County, southern New Hampshire. I spent several hours, through infrequent visits, studying his entry and exit trails and learned that he followed a pattern that brought him every three to five days through a small depression alongside a hemlock stand harboring a small wetland area. The hemlocks were mature and stood along one side of his trail, on the other side of his trail was a knoll grown over with open hardwoods that included red and white oak, red maple, cherry, etc. interspersed with some white pines.
I like to hunt from selected natural ground blinds that provide a good opportunity for my choice of firearm for this area, a T/C Encore 50 caliber muzzleloader. I settled on two sites that would provide the cover, view, shooting lanes and provided protection from the natural air currents, or so I thought.
Through this planning stage, I also learned that the buck came through the area within the first hour after daybreak. Finally, I felt comfortable that I had developed a good setup for my ambush. That buck came to me on at least five occasions, each at daybreak, and always heading in a southerly direction. Each time, he busted me before I could get a good look at him. Although I had worked out a good plan, something always tipped him off before I could settle my crosshairs on him.
It was rifle season in southern NH when I finally decided to try again for that big buck. I started searching for a new setup and located an area along his trail that went through a funnel area. Looking around, I found a natural ground stand, partially obscured by a blown-down hemlock, still alive and green. Once again I felt that I had discovered "the stand" to take this buck.
On Friday, Nov. 21, I was so anxious to get to my stand that I arrived and settled in a full half-hour before sunrise. Finding my new stand proved not too difficult, although I did range a bit too far east and north and had to circle back to find it. This stand was very comfortable, and afforded good vision in all directions except for easterly due to the downed hemlock. It was laying in a south-easterly direction from where I was sitting and nearly obscured all vision; because I expected the buck to come in from either the north or west, this seemed perfectly all right for my planned ambush. I carefully laid out my scent line, and returned to my ground blind and settled in full of expectation and excitement.
Daylight was approaching as darkness was disappearing and the woods were starting to take shape. In the gray dawn I could see a movement and watched intently as it slowly came closer and closer. It was coming out of the north, directly down a deer trail and heading right at me. Soon I relaxed as the shape continued directly toward me, and I determined that it was much too small to be a deer. In another minute I could see that it was a fisher, out in search for breakfast. I sat motionless thinking about that fisher and realized just how inconspicuous I must be to have him come so close witihout knowing I was there. My camouflage must be really good.
Nine o'clock came too fast for me, but it was time to leave and tend to some chores that were still waiting for me. No deer, not the buck, not even a doe but, I felt happy for the oportunity to be there. I looked one more time just to be certain, but nothing. I stood up and casually turned to my right, bending over to pick up my gear bag. Something caught my attention... still standing in a bent-over position I slowly turned my eyes southward and could only see antlers - large antlers!
I watched as he came slowly along his trail, feeding as he was approaching. I was completely taken in with his antlers, I didn't notice his body size just those gigantic antlers. I pulled myself together and quickly looked for a shooting lane. He was not suppose to have come from this direction, he continued to come toward me grazing as he came.
Then he hit my scent line and turned on to the trail that would take him about 80 yards easterly of where I was now in an upright position, my T/C Encore ready, myself perfectly attuned to finding the shot alley. There was one spot between the branches of the hemlock that seemed to offer a small window through all the branches and all the way to the end of the tree. I focused on that spot, raised my Encore and was ready for him to step into that litte window of opportunity. Just three more steps...I cocked the hammer on the Encore.
As his shoulder moved into my sight plane I immediately, and almost without thinking, settled the crosshairs on his heart and squeezed the trigger all in one heartbeat. The air immediately filled with smoke from the ignited black powder, my vision was totally obscured. I could not see him anywhere. After what seemed to be the longest time that I had ever held my breath, the smoke started to clear, and I saw him. I eased up on him and verified that he was dead, then took note that there was no ground shrinkage on this deer. He was as huge as when I first saw him, maybe even bigger. I immediately removed my cap and spent a moment of silence in respect for this majestic animal, then bowed my head and gave thanks to my God for the bounty I realized.
I dressed him out quickly. Because of his size I needed help getting him out of the woods. I called my brother Dick who had waited for my call, saying he knew I was going to score that morning. He and his sons, Rick and Jim helped me drag the buck back to the truck. We brought him to the state fish hatchery for registration and weigh-in. He weighed in at 228 lbs. and was about 4 1/2 years old. Once all the registration and entry forms to the NH Big Buck Club (any buck over 200 lbs. qualifies) were completed we went to Jim, a meat cutter specialist, where the deer would hang in his controlled cooler for five days.
It was only at this time that I began to realize what an awesome buck I had, but still didn't realize just how awesome he really was. I met another hunter while there who convinced me to have the buck green-scored by the Northeast Big Buck Club. I learned that I had taken the new NH state record for muzzleloader-killed deer.The final B&C score was 181 6/8 inches.