On Friday, February 15, 2019 I finally had a chance to try to get to my camera for the first time since the last day that I hunted—October 13, 2018. I hoped that the three streams I had to cross would either be frozen enough that I could walk over them or shallow enough that I could cross them in knee-high boots.
My first challenge came before I even reached the first stream. There was a flooded part of the path that was too deep in November and December for me to get through.
As you can see in the photo, it was iced over. If the ice was thick enough, I could walk on top of it, but that might prove to be precarious in rubber boots.
My first thought was, “I should have brought my wading staff…and maybe my waders.” I found a good, sturdy stick, pressed it firmly onto the ice, took a deep breath, and stepped carefully onto the ice. At first the ice held me, I started to slip, and then, the ice gave way. I braced myself for icy water to run over the top of my boots, but it didn’t happen—just barely. I continued on, breaking through the ice, step by step. I made way to the river bank, hung on to the overhanging branches, and made my way to dry ground.
The first two streams weren’t bad at all to cross, and there were lots of beaver tracks around them.
I knew the third stream by my stand (and the camera) would be the deepest, widest, and trickiest to cross. It was. The hardest part was when I would break through the ice and the pieces of ice would be under my feet on the bottom of the stream. Again, the water was just below the top of my boots. Again, I used overhanging branches to make my way across.
To my surprise, the lock on the camera popped open easily. It was 45 degrees outside, but there was sign of rust around the lock, and it hadn’t been opened in four months. Also to my surprise, the batteries in the camera were still good. In fact, they appeared to be at full power for an instant, but then the camera died.
I switched it back from OFF to SETUP a couple of times, and it showed the batteries at one bar (almost dead). They were powerful enough for me to correct the time for daylight savings. I brought new batteries with me, and I switched them a few at a time (as my dad taught me), hoping that the camera wouldn’t go back to all the default settings. Luckily, it worked. I swapped the SD card, locked up the camera, and headed back home.
Just after going through the flooded area (and while I was within sight of my house), I saw a huge rub. That’s my boot for perspective in the photo, but notice the old telephone pole; that’ll tell you how thick that tree is. Next year, that buck will be big enough to rub the pole!
I hoped that this giant buck went by the camera at some point over the past four months. Luckily, he did, and he had bark from that tree in his antlers, as you can see in this video.
To my surprise, he was just one of 10 bucks that went by my camera. I think. Here are videos of the 10 bucks. Watch them, and let me know whether you think that they are 10 different deer.
This was stunning to me since I had hardly gotten a single buck on the camera around the time that I was hunting in September and October.
Seven of those 10 videos were taken between October 17 and November 8. The other three were taken between November 11 and November 17. In some cases, two bucks would pass the camera within an hour or two of each other.
Last year, I consistently got two 9-pointers on camera, even after hunting season was over. The only questions were:
- Was either one hit by a car?
- Would they survive the winter?
Based on what I see above, they both survived. Split-Tine 10 is clearly one of them. The other is likely one of the three 9-pointers.
I only hunted this stand twice in 2018 for several reasons:
- I would have needed my chest waders to get to my stand with all the rain we got in October and November.
- The only deer I got on the camera was a doe with two skippers and that yearling doe with no tail. I did have a doe permit (two permits, in fact), but the deer only came by about once per week. Unlike 2017, they seemed to be avoiding this flooded area.
- I mistakenly assumed that all of the deer would avoid this area during the rut too.
- Like nine other eastern states, there is no Sunday hunting in Massachusetts! There were many Sundays that I had a chance to hunt, but I couldn’t legally do it. A couple of the daytime videos above were taken on Sundays in which I was hunting in New Hampshire.
Other highlights from the trail camera include:
A gray fox (which is rare in these parts) carrying a rabbit (which are not rare at all):
That tall 7-pointer grunting:
As I expected with such weak batteries, the infrared didn’t work in the last few videos, but I still got a couple of cool, if not dark videos of raccoons standing, running, and yelping in ways that I’ve never heard.
I also caught a clip of six deer yarding up on December 11:
I’ll guess I’ll spending a little more time hunting this area during the rut this year; even if it requires chest waders!
In the meantime, who wants to go shed hunting with me?