I was out in a deep snowfall in winter hunting with my late wife, Eileen. The snow had fallen all night and was deep and heavy, making walking a struggle.
I was taking a break, sitting down on a big Beech stump, when I realized that in this heavy snow I could only walk half as far as normal. I had been hunting for two days and had seen two sets of tracks. That was way above the average sighting for Washington-Greene County deer hunter at that time. I have been hunting for a long time, and back then there just weren’t the numbers of deer there are now.
I can trace my first deer sighting to 1956. Gleason had told me the story about how his mother objected to his deer hunting as it was considered kind of dangerous back then. There were reports in Greene County around this time by a game warden that he was seeing a larger number of deer, but they were unconfirmed. In the not-too-distant future, Greene County would become one of the leading counties for Whitetail Deer hunting. Back then, this rumor was taken as fact and a small number of dedicated deer hunters started hunting in this southwest corner of the state. This was why Eileen and I were out that day. Normally, we headed out to Potter and McKean County, but we were caught up in the wave of excitement that was sweeping through our area in Washington County.
I decided to check in with Eileen as the heavy and wet snow made it so hard to travel and looped back around to push toward her. We were learning a new method of hunting. In the northern realms, there were so many deer we would stake out a spot that the deer frequented and set ourselves up by daylight. Here we would wait for a deer, and usually a herd of deer, to come by. The rumor of deer in Greene County had us out after this heavy snowfall. Instead of using the 30-30 that was commonly used in the northwoods we were trying guns with flatter trajectories, with which we could shoot at longer ranges that were unheard of just a few years before. Opening day had showed us just the two tracks but today would change everything.
I pushed through the heavy snow and around a stand of trees that Eileen stood at the end of. That’s when I saw three deer bound up from in front of me. They were having the same problem I was having. The heavy snow made it difficult to travel. I stayed back waiting for Eileen to sight those deer. I could see antlers, though they were off in the distance.
The scarcity of deer and hunters in those days meant we had to find new methods of finding and hunting these animals. Under these circumstances, it was important that we had to find places they rested and fed. A trick we used back then was using the snow to check for disturbances. We tracked them, posted and pushed. Today’s hunter has little chances of using these methods as an increase in deer and decrease in unposted lands make this method not practical.
I can still hear that clear shot ring out through the snowy lands. Eileen had seen the deer and now it was time for me to move. I turned and went back toward that turn in the woods, hoping those deer were coming past her my way. Keeping the woods patch between us I went around to the other side. There stood a fine eight-point buck. He was looking back my wife’s way. I took a careful aim and fired. The buck dropped in his tracks. Both of us would have a buck that year. Eileen shot a decent six-point. This was not a normal thing for us. We were both elated.
Now our problem was we both had a buck and we were a mile out and it was a tough drag back. Now Eileen was tough but not that tough, so, of course, I volunteered to clean both and take mine out and then come back for hers. She was tired so she agreed. I was on my way back to the gate when I met up with her coming along attempting to drag her own buck out. She said she was too pooped to drag another step but just then we both noticed the cows in the field coming our way through that heavy snow.
We had obtained permission to hunt in this field in Greene County and the farmer had warned us that he had a bull in this snowy field. I had never seen a cow the whole day, now there he was. Eileen suddenly drug that deer through that gate with a burst of speed. I shut that snowy gate and we both laughed the rest of the way to the truck.
We hunted a lot in those days, learning as went along. We hunted hard out at dawn before the sun came up. This was how we learned about this new kind of deer hunting.
As the herds increased, we learned to adapt and changed our methods. But that was the time of digging out the deer, of working together as a team to hunt.