Gene Chague: Shotgun deer hunting begins Monday
Here we go again. Another sleepless night caused by the anticipation of opening day of shotgun deer hunting Monday morning. I don't know why I even go to bed, with memories of bygone opening days haunting me and preventing sleep.
How well I remember one opening day in the late 1970's or 1980's. Back then I hunted Beartown Mountain a lot with Bob Stanard and his brother Rick from Lee. These guys grew up on Beartown Mountain and knew it like the back of their hands. We had good luck hunting there.
On this day, we were going to hunt the mountain in back of Rick's house. The three of us, along with a fellow named Jack, headed into the woods while it was still dark and very foggy. Flashlights did no good because the rays reflected back off of the fog, actually making things worse. After following a logging road through a valley, I cut off to the left and followed a ravine to a ridge where I had good luck in the past. Bob, Rick and Jack continued straight, heading for stands further in. We were scheduled to meet around noon for lunch.
The fog was so thick that the only guide was the sound of an intermittent brook nearby. After climbing a distance which should put me near my fallen tree stand, I couldn't find it. The arrival of daybreak was no help, for one couldn't see more than 20 feet. Orientation was impossible because the land contours, trees and other landmarks were invisible. I started roaming around looking for the stand. The fog showed no signs of burning off, and by 7 a.m., I knew I was in trouble – not lost, just "turned around." I thought of staying put until the fog cleared occurred, but what if it didn't? I didn't want to be fumbling around in the afternoon as darkness was approaching.
I decided to go back the way I came, along that brook, but it was impossible to find due to the lack of snow (no tracks) and thick fog. Then and there I decided to get off that mountain by heading east toward Beartown Mountain Road. I should come across one of the logging roads, follow it out to the paved road, go back to Rick's house and try it again.
After blindly traipsing around, I finally found one and followed it. But, according to my compass, it was heading north, not east. Must be something wrong with the compass, I thought. After following it for a long time, the road finally turned east. The only trouble was that it still didn't look familiar. All of a sudden, I was startled when out of the fog came a truck which crossed only a few feet ahead of me. After taking a few more steps I stumbled onto Beartown Mountain Road near a water troth a half mile or so downhill from Rick's place.
Without knowing it, I had been walking the Burgoyne Trail, which was some distance from where we were hunting. Somehow I had crossed the saddle between the two major ridges without knowing it.
I trudged back up the road to Rick's place, re-entered the woods, hiked along the logging road into the previously mentioned valley to where I had earlier branched off, and took a stand there for the rest of the day. There was no chance of a repeat performance. It was around 11:00 a.m. and the thick fog still showed no sign of burning off.
Around 3:30 p.m., Bob and Rick's voices could be heard as they were coming off the mountain. The fog was still so thick that in spite of our florescent red clothes, we couldn't see one another until close range. They were wondering where I was for lunchtime. Being so familiar with it, they had no trouble walking around that mountain and probably could navigate it blindfolded.
"Where's Jack?" they asked, thinking that he was with me. We started calling for him but there was no response. It was getting dark so we decided to fire three shots (distress signal). We heard him fire three shots way up in the mountain. After some time, we fired again and so did he. We then called and he answered much closer. Then, out of the fog and darkness, he showed up. The only trouble, he wasn't Jack. He was another panic stricken hunter who also got turned around and was separated from his hunting party. He was mighty grateful for our help.
Now we had a real problem. Jack was nowhere to be found and darkness had settled in. Bob and I kept calling for him while Rick hiked back to his house to call Bob's wife Pat to see if Jack had returned for his car which was left there. He had, and then went home. We later found out that he also got turned around and walked out of the woods on the other side of the mountain, near Ice Glen in Stockbridge, and bummed a ride to his car.
None of us had any luck that day, or so I thought. Recently, I bumped into Bob's nephew Bill Stanard from Sheffield and he remembered that day well. While hunting a nearby ridge, he just barely made out a doe in the fog and shot it. Upon nearing it, he was surprised to see that it was a nice 8 point buck. He never saw the antlers in that dense fog.
Well, all's well that ends well. One thing for certain, when fog begins rolling in, I'm out of there. It was a lesson never to be forgotten.
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