New Hampshire Wildlife News
by Certified Wildlife Biologist, Eric P. Orff

New Hampshire Nature Notes
by Eric Orff

Deer Camp 09 and DEER SEASON

Thursday 11/12/2009

Deer camp in Maine is always a special time for my family and deer season is a special time for a whole culture across this country.

I grew up in "deer country" from northern Maine in the 50's and then as I joined the Londonderry NH Fish and Game club in 1964 "deer season" just became a way of life. For instance when you meet many of your friends during deer season its not " Oh. How are you doing? What have you been up to lately/" For our culture it is "Did ya get your deer yet?" Everything else is way on the back burner come deer season.

And its more than that. Our culture talks about the upcoming deer season. Where they have seen deer, what were the deer feeding on, were there bucks seen and how big. And all through the season you can expect detailed reports on deer sightings and deer behavior observations. Though I don't consider myself a particularly good deer hunter, nor a "rabid deer hunter" I kill a deer whenever I can for eating. I call myself a Betty Crocker deer hunter as I go for the meat. As do nearly all the other hunters I know. Sure killing a big buck is a nice event now and then but the old saying around my friends is "You can't eat antlers." Deer hunting really becomes your way of life each fall. And for me it includes my son, son-in-law,our extended families and close friends. Friends you feel comfortable hunting with.

For instance for this year's "Deer Camp" in Maine it was just my son-in-law, Derek, and me. But what a year it was. Due to Derek's schedule we didn't head up until Wednesday half way through the first week. WE arrived about 2 pm and quickly unpacked and headed out hunting/scouting. Not much for acorns around the camp or tall oaks of the camp. But I did run into a small snapping turtle still active, all be it sluggishly, in this cool November.

So the next morning we headed up onto the local hill/mountain to check the oaks there and also around a lush green field. No acorns there either but the fields had some deer activity. And for the first time in my nearly four decades of going to deer camp it began to spit snow. I hiked up to the hill top and crossed a 40 acre blueberry barren. How beautiful it was with the bright red blueberry field slowly being bracketed with a white fringe. Deer camp always gets me into the Christmas spirit. Mostly it is the smell of the fir trees as I hunt through them. But the brilliant reds and falling snow made this time extra special.

Derek did kill a doe that afternoon at sunset in the field. We dressed the deer and hung her at camp as the snow changed to rain showers with snow mixed in. But that changed as the night cooled. By 9:00 pm the camp deck was covered with snow. We celebrated the evening by adding Derek's rifle bullet shell casing to the rafter in the camp. A row of memories from the spent cartridges of deer we have taken at camp.

The next morning I headed out in a winter wonderland. The heavy wet snow had the trees covered and many bent over. There was about three inches of snow on the ground. Perfect for hunting if you didn't mind the snow cascading down your neck as I burrowed my way into the forest. I did jump some deer by mid morning not that I ever saw or heard them but I had fresh tracks to follow. That's when I ended up "turned around" out in the big swamp and cut off. It always is a shock when you realize that you are not where you think you are. But these woods are not so big as to truly become lost. The snow covered trees dampened any sounds and the clouds were slowly breaking to reveal the sun. Actually I kind of enjoyed being "lost" for the moment. The wood were thick with the smell of firs. I simply took a compass bearing and headed south towards camp. But is was a surprising while before I began to recognize where I was. I had never hunted in snow here so even though I was familiar with all these woods, so I thought, the snow disguised them to a degree. But I was exhausted when I spotted the smoke steadily puffing from the camp's chimney and the sight itself warmed my heart. I hunted until mid day Saturday without seeing a deer. But this no doubt will be a year we will be talking about for years to come. "Remember the year we had snow?"

Monday my son, Derek and I cut up and vacuumed sealed Derek's deer and had it in his new freezer by early afternoon. It is the whole experience of planning a hunt, being successful on occasion, then processing and finally eating the deer that is the "whole culture" of hunting. As I said it is a way of life that really transcends time. We really are not that many generations from ancestors whose lives depended on the success of the hunt. Having a deer in the freezer warms you all winter I find.

Back here in NH I did get out muzzle loader hunting with my life long friend Rick on Tuesday and then out rifle hunting on the opening day, yesterday 11/11 with my son Adam, his best friend Derek, my son-in-laws brother Rob and his Dad. We had a great morning of hunting and headed off 11ish to the local restaurant for our annual hunters breakfast. That taken care of were back out in the woods locally. We managed to jump deer several times and by mid afternoon my son managed to call a doe in and kill it. As I said we all are Betty Crocker hunters. I'm looking forward to processing his deer. We eat the tenderloins during that process. Life is soooo good during deer season.

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Subtle changes this week.

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Awesome possum, slinky mink, prickly porky and more in store this week.

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