A Remote Adirondack Hunt
The remote style hunt is something every hunter needs to try at least once in his/her lifetime. In 2016 I was visiting Jim Massett’s camp the day before the first tracking snows of that year when I met Dave Williams of the ADK Trackers for the first time. I had seen some pictures of his remote teepee tent setups in their newly published book, and I was intrigued by the proposition of heading deep into the forest haunts to hunt unbothered wilderness bucks. I’d always dreamed of such a hunt, but did not have the knowhow to actually make it happen. I’m no newbie to camping, but a remote hunt adds some complication to the camping experience, and I wanted to learn as much as I could from an experienced guide like Dave. After grilling him for information on his remote camping experiences, I knew I was going to hunt in this old fashioned manner at some point in the future.
One of the things about hunting and camping of any kind is the people you have for campmates must be likable or else the experience can end badly. I liked Dave; he was intelligent, a sound and knowledgable woodsman, a successful tracker and still-hunter, a businessman, and was gentle and kind. But underneath his calm exterior you knew he was a man with a real will to win in the deer woods. I could relate and I found him to be engaging and willing to teach in our brief conversation at Jim’s place that night. And so as 2017 deer season rolled around, I’d already made a mental note to give Dave a call and inquire if he could provide more pointers on remote setups for tracking deep in the Adirondack interior. Not only did I get pointers, Dave asked if I’d want to come along on the next trip he took. I had not expected to be asked, and the invite was quite an honor to me – and so I excitedly said yes.
The first week of November we set off for parts unknown. It was a hellish trip in, not because the terrain was all that difficult, but because I did not have the light, mountaineering style gear that Dave owns. And so I was lugging a 60lb pack six miles in on my 47 year old meat suit. I was one tired bugger when we got in and made camp. We settled in on an area where several ridges met on one side with a large mountain on the other. We had a beaver pond and several seeps for a water supply. (We boiled the water on the small titaium wood stove which, by the way, was a tidy, packable marvel of engineering I can tell ya. That little stove saved my life on the second day when I found my right foot stuck on beaver dam, and I fell forward and took a full body drink in an adjacent beaver pond. It was 7 degrees and windy – and I was soaked head to toe; not a good situation! In desperation to keep warm and alive I got my foot freed from the root it was entangled in, I crawled out of the water and proceeded to run the quarter mile to camp frozen gun, woolens and all. I managed to get to the tent and got a fire started in that marvelous little wood stove. I became a believer in its design when I realized that my woolens and gun were almost dried out completely before Dave even got back to camp an hour and a half later. Amazing. )
The first day after camp was set up, I hunted the side of a ridge coverd in beech with an occasional grove of spruce and witch hobble. I only had a few hours to still-hunt, but had a close encounter with a grunting buck and a doe he was chasing. They winded me when they had gotten close, and I never got a good look at them. I used the grunt call I keep on a lanyard around my neck to call them in. It had worked, but you cannot fool a buck’s nose. And so my first day was a success by any measure in the Adirondacks.
The next few days saw the cold weather turn warmer with crunchy snow with few deer sightings or tracks. The one buck I did see was a decent eight pointer. He too was chasing a doe. They were coming straight at me from downhill on the front side of the mountain. I had just busted a group of does just moments prior, and I was sneaking as best I could on the crunch hoping I’d run into some more deer. I saw movement below, and then the doe materialized as she ran up the mountain towards me. I could see the buck behind her, but had not gotten a good clear look at him yet. I pulled up the Green Machine, got him in the crosshairs as he made his way through some spruce and waited until he cleared it to get a good look. As soon as he ran past those conifers he slammed on the brakes, my crosshairs on his chest. I almost pulled the trigger and decided against it. It was early in the season, and I was near a buck both days we had been out there. I assumed I would see a bigger buck if I remained patient. His rack was just out to his ears with 8 decent points. He was either a really good 2 1/2 year old, or an average 3 1/2 half year old. Either way, I passed on him (and I regretted that decision more as the season passed. Once I realized my trophy was “tag soup” at season’s end, I kept thinking of that perfect shot of him in my crosshairs.)
From that day on, both Dave and I went on our “armed hikes” scouting more than hunting really. We saw lots of bear tracks, and at one point Dave scared a small cub way up on the mountain so badly it tore down the slope right past me on a dead run. I just happen to be sitting there eating my 10 o’clock sandwich when that little bear came streaking by! Damn near gave me a heart attack. I laughed out loud knowing Dave had scared him down to me (I kept crossing Dave’s tracks on the mountain, so I knew he had pushed the cub to me.)
All in all it was a fun trip and a wonderful learning experience. The teepee tent set up was awesome. The stove kept us warm and dry. The tent is set up so the condensate does not get you wet. You cooked your food and boiled your water on the stove so there is no need to carry in extra propane tanks or any other extra food preperation equiptment. It was quite comfortable and efficient. I really am looking forward to spending more time in a remote set up this year, as Dave and I are already making plans for the hunt. I just hope that this time, when I have a buck in my sights, I make a better decision and I pull the trigger!
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