A Remote Adirondack Hunt

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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Is the 35 Whelen the Perfect One Gun Arsenal?

Is the 35 Whelen the Perfect One Gun Arsenal?

I’ve been mulling an idea around in my head for many, many years. I’ve wanted to hunt all of the traditional big game animals of North America, but I wanted to add to the challenge by achieving the goal by taking all of them with just one gun. I would hunt them exclusively by means of tracking and/or still-hunting. None would be hunted from treestands or blinds of any kind. This goal would include taking a big woods whitetail buck, an elk, a moose, a black bear, a caribou, a grizzly/brown bear, a mule deer, an antelope, and a ram and/or a mountain goat – all with that same one rifle. In pursuit of this idea, over the last decade I’ve experimented with many styles of rifle and action type, and I think I have come quite close to creating the nearly perfect one-gun arsenal; my “Green Machine” as people like to call it. It’s a highly customized ’92 Remington Pump action 7600 in 35 Whelen with a Leupold 1x4 scope cerekoted in olive drab green, wearing synthetic stocks, and modified to fit my length of pull and neck length, etc. It is as near the perfect North American one-gun specimen as can be made. But some of you might think otherwise. Let me make my argument here:

The 35 Whelen is about the best all around caliber out there. While not nearly as popular as its parent cartridge the 30’06, it is easy to reload, has some great factory ammunition now being made by Hornady, Remington and Barnes, and has an effective range for most all big game out to 400 yards. It also has enough power to deal with a grizzly charge (with the correct bullets of course) and has tame enough recoil that anyone can learn to shoot it well. As a tracking platform for whitetails or mulies, it is an absolute hammer. Running shots are probable when tracking, and the margin needed for a possible raking shot is there with the Whelen. A Barnes 200 grain ttsx going 2600 feet per second out of the short 20″ barrel of my custom Remington can plow through some serious bone and sinew if needed. Being that the casing is a 30’06 necked up to .358 caliber, you get an increase in powder capacity for the same grain bullet weight when compared to the ’06’s .30 caliber pills. This increase in bullet diameter coupled with the slight increase in velocity without a great increase in recoil gives the Whelen the qualities of a genuine brown bear cartridge. The cartridge case capacity coupled with a 250 grain Nosler Partition is an effective combition for any game in america. Even with the heavier Nosler bullet (250 grains) the drop from line of sight at 300 yards when loaded to 2400 feet per second is nearly identical to the 200 grain projectiles loaded at 2600. A versatile round for sure!

Now, I’m not saying there are not other rounds out there that can accomplish this same one-gun task. There are. The 350 Remingon Magnum is one. The 30’06 is another. And the 45/70 is another if the round is flying out of a strong action lever gun or single shot. However, for a one-gun arsenal I have yet to find a better combination that allows for quick shooting (pump action), a wide range of bullet selection (180 -250 grains), a large diameter bullet (.358 caliber), a flat trajectory (good for 400 yards with the proper loads), and some real insurance should a grizzly decide to eat you.

If you know me, it’s no surprise I’m a fan of both the Marlin lever gun and the Remington pump series of rifles. Some of you may have even attended my “Understanding the Tracker’s Rifle” seminars that I give at many of the outdoor shows under the Big Woods Bucks Team banner and I always have a few of my favorite Marlins and Remington’s on hand for the audience to look at and examine. While I’m fascinated by guns in general, my real passion are guns that are easy to carry. I find my romance for firearms cools rather quickly when I handle a gun that is unwieldy and awkward in the hand. Maybe that’s because I’m predominantly a tracker and a still-hunter, and for those in this camp, heavy and ill-pointing rifles are a serious hindrance. The mountains and the big woods demand a certain level of comfort in the hand, and over the years I’ve found both the Marlin lever action and the Remington Pump action rifles to be the best tracker’s rifles out there. Of course this is my opinion, as many folks enjoy other styles, makes and models. With all that said, my 35 Whelen Green Machine checks all the boxes required for a one-gun solution. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t sound off on my runner up choice for such a goal – and it might surprise some of you. In runner-up position are any of my Marlin 45/70 models. But that’s a story for another day!

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