The Sportsman’s Corner: One down 

  • Mike Roche FILE PHOTO

Published: 12/1/2022 2:32:34 PM
Modified: 12/1/2022 2:30:11 PM

The Massachusetts shotgun deer hunting season opened Monday at 6:26 a.m., one half hour before sunrise which occurred that day at 6:56 a.m. At 7 a.m., this writer was sitting in a ladder stand 14 feet above the ground scanning the area around me. Some earlier scouting had determined that the hemlock tree that grew up on the side of an old cart road once again had a buck scrape under the lower branch and that scrape was one of three within sight of the ladder stand. The ladder has been in place for well over 10 years and many hours have been spent at dawn and dusk hoping to see a buck pass by. There are a number of well-used deer runs, which is what hunters call the travel routes deer commonly use as they move through forested areas, within view of the stand but all my previous time has been for naught.

That changed as a deer was seen walking towards my location along the old roadway. At first glance it was obviously not a rack buck but there seemed to be some light color atop the deer’s head. That is often the case as a deer’s eight-inch ears are white on the inside. Now walking broadside to my position, there were no obvious antlers but the deer stopped at two of the scrapes and really spent time sniffing them. Buck use scrapes, (pawed sections of ground usually a foot long or more) to communicate as bucks urinate and leave tarsal gland scent and does in estrus will also scent mark the scrape with urine. It made me think that maybe this was a buck and then when it was facing towards me the spikes, about the same length as the ears, could be seen. This was a legal deer for me as the regulation requires a three inch antler.

The safety on the Remington 1100 was off but the deer was in cover under a stand of hemlocks that did not present a shot. The deer visited a third scrape and was still not clear but stepped out into the clearing and began walking down a slight incline quartering slightly towards me at 30 yards. My mental check list (deep breath, follow the front leg up, squeeze the trigger) was in my mind and I decided to use the old hunter’s trick of making a grunt sound to stop a moving buck for a better shot. Bad idea! My attempt to stop the deer resulted in him swapping ends and bounding right back under the hemlocks. But he stopped, standing broadside and that allowed me to squeeze off a shot. The sight picture was perfect in my mind’s eye when the gun went off and the buck bounded full speed away. There was no indication for nearly 100 yards until the deer, stopped, turned around and fell. Meat pie for Christmas!

A good friend once said that once you pull the trigger the fun ends and the work begins. He was right! Field dressing to remove the entrails is a chore and the most important rule is to make sure to have the deer bleed more than you do. Don’t ask about the Band-Aid on my thumb! The sharp knife used was the one given to me by my father before my first hunting season at age 12. The “drag rope” is also from that first season. They remind me of him and I do so appreciate the fact that he took me along.

Then it was time to drag the deer back. It was not terribly far, less than a half mile distance but the uphill section reminded me that there are a few years on this body! Fortunately Steve Johnson and PaulieLussier showed up just in time to finish the drag and get the deer in the truck.

At noontime, the spike buck weighted one 115 pounds on the MassWildlife scale at Flagg’s Tackle. We are lucky to have a checking station so close during shotgun season, when all deer must be reported at a check station within 48 hours of taking. The biologist on duty asked if I would be willing to have the deer tested for COVID-19 and I did. While waiting, a number of other successful hunters pulled in to Flagg’s, including Frankie Marz of New Salem. He is a serious hunter and fisherman and his nice racker was beat up from sparring with other bucks and had lost an eye and had a number of “war wounds.”

My deer was the only one taken by our party on Monday but everyone saw deer. One hunter had a deer walk up behind them within 10 feet. Unfortunately, by the time it was seen the deer had spun and bolted before a shot could be taken. The next couple days (this column is penned on Wednesday) have not resulted in any sightings and my second buck tag still sits in my wallet. There is a lot of time until the last day of muzzle loader season on Dec. 31.

Many thanks to those who have inquired about and wished the best to my wife in her recovery from back surgery. She has made great strides and is able to be independent (so I can go hunting!).

Laney is also fully recovered from her paw cut and hunted like a champ the last few days of pheasant season.

A reminder about black bears. There seem to still be a number of active bears about and the hunting season is open until the end of shotgun deer season. However, you must possess a bear permit to take one so make sure you have that provision on your license or go online and add the bear permit. Good luck!

Mike Roche is a retired teacher who has been involved in conservation and wildlife issues his entire life. He has written the Sportsman’s Corner since 1984 and has served as advisor to the MaharFish’N Game Club, Counselor and Director of the Massachusetts Conservation Camp, former Connecticut Valley District representative on the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board, has been a Massachusetts Hunter Education Instructor and is a licensed New York hunting guide. He can be reached at

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