My deer hunting had started around the ripe-old age of 12, tagging along with a single-barreled 20 gauge shotgun with two older neighborhood kids and their dad. Back then, the state had two deer zones; with the north zone encompassing all of the state's mountainous areas and the southern zone took care of all the rest, from the foothills to the sea or the Massachusetts border. Each zone had a season of about 30 days.
To say that hunting pressure was high and deer kill low was an understatement. During the northern November hunt, all the "down country" hunters would head for the northern zone, often just stopping a mile or so after passing into the zone. In the Conway area the deer hunters were as thick as fleas on a dog's back. The reverse happened when December came along, with hunters from the north that hadn't scored came south for the next month of hunting.
We don't remember ever seeing a live deer during both the northern and southern hunts for the first three or four years of my hunting. And we saw darn few dead ones as well.
Our first deer ended up the largest of many deer that came after we were able to learn some of the ropes, at the age of 17. I had put my faith in a local warden, Carl Akerley, who had terrorized the deer herd in the most northern town of our state, Pittsburg. When we were invited to join a group that was headed for Tall Timber Lodge in Pittsburg for a five-day hunt in that area, we did the smart thing. Meeting with Akerley, he laid out several plans for small-party deer drives, and put an "X" on one drive that he said always had produced for him. "Be a part of the drive on this first one and make sure you get to stand where this "X'' is on the next one."
Being unaware of a bridge over Perry Stream, we waded the waist high and terribly cold stream to get on that "X''. Luckily my wool clothes still provided some kind of warmth or we would have frozen to death. It wasn't long (it seemed like hours) before a nice doe came bouncing through the cutoff that we were watching. I only had time to fling a desperation shot at her (later on finding out it was a spike horn buck).
When cranking another shell into my friend Brad's dad's 32 Special, something told me to look up. There was this huge eight pointer looking right at me, but because I was standing in front of a log pile, he hadn't made me. Moving as slow and quietly as possible, we covered his front shoulders and neck with the open sights and "touched 'er off." The big animal went down as if hit by lightening and my screams and yells soon had all of the half dozen or so people involved in the hunt pounding on my back and doing the "oooh and aaah" thing. At the Tall Timber Lodge scales, the needle got stuck at 225 pounds and was the largest deer taken at that point to grace their deer pole.
There were two more exciting episodes. The first came that afternoon when my friend, the late Doug Gray, downed that spike horn that I earlier thought was a doe. It was a beauty that weighed 130 pounds.
The next episode was a life changing event for me. After taking my deer, it was traditional for me to get back into the woods and hunt for the crowd, doing all the pushing. It was very tiresome. So sitting down in the cutt-off with my back against a half-burned tree stump, I watched one of our party come out on a small cliff about 200 yards away. I had just lit up a cigarette when a stinging feeling in my face and head followed by the report of a gun caused me to yell out and roll into a depression for cover. A trickle of blood stained my hands but the wound was only surface. I had been shot at. And I had a darned good idea who did it.
Stunned, I never let out another sound as fright had taken over and I sure didn't want to have another round sent my way. And the hunter finally walked off.
At supper time, our group always had a chance to individually tell about the day's activities. When it was my shooter's turn, he had this tale about how he'd shot at a bear out in the cutoff. I ruined his day and hunting trip when I announced that I was his target, displaying the cut on my face, that happened to be caused by a flying wood chip where the tree was hit - only a scant inch or so away from a direct hit on me. He left for home in shame and believe it or not, the hunting party's organizer publicly criticized me for humbling this man in public, the shooter being a retired Navy admiral.
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.