The end-of-season flintlock trip to Camp F-Troop is one of my favorite weekends of the year. Conditions tend to be favorable. And someone – if not a handful of us – always gets shooting in. To get a jump on things, I headed to camp after work Thursday and spent the night by myself so I could get up early Friday and have a full day in the woods.
It turned out that Friday morning was a quiet one. I took my time walking up the southeastern corner of the hill behind camp and I cut fresh tracks in the snow that had fallen overnight as I neared the bench toward the top. I followed them west, toward the back of a hollow, until they entered a large patch of evergreens. I was on the trail for about an hour and walked roughly a mile to this point but didn’t see anything. I likely just pushed whatever was in front of me farther away. I backtracked and moved up to the plateau and still hunted my way back out toward the face. One large grouping of tracks from overnight crossed the top and were covered in a dusting of snow. I got out to the face and scanned down toward the camps. I stood there for a bit watching for movement. Matt came on the radio saying he had just gotten to camp and would be out in about a half hour.
I walked along the northern edge of the plateau and started working toward the back of the bowl below me. I figured Matt would be coming up the creek bottom and would push anything in there my way. I settled down next to a cluster of trees, ate a granola bar and drank a bottle of water. It was closing in on noon. I waited there for nearly an hour before going back up to the plateau and then toward the back of the bowl, still seeing no fresh tracks. A shot rang out nearby. It was Matt. Apparently I pushed four deer his direction and he got a shot at roughly 70 yards. I scurried out to get a look at the bowl and saw tails loping downhill through thick brush – too far for a shot. I followed their tracks for a bit and discovered their course passed within 20 yards of where I had just stood and ate lunch.
Matt moved to circle in behind them, so I went to where he shot and followed the trail he came in on. I cut down toward the creek and found fresh tracks. Matt caught up to me and we trailed them for a bit but they were too far in front of us. We conceded at 2:30 and headed back to camp so we could put on one drive to end the day.
We went back to camp, gathered Don and Gary who had arrived while Matt and I were in the woods, and headed north to the Game Lands where we bear hunt. Don took his shotgun and searched a few thickets for grouse. Matt walked across the face of the hill and didn’t see fresh tracks of any kind while driving for Gary and me. We didn’t see any deer either. We returned to camp to clean up and continued on to town for dinner at the Tippy Canoe Inn. Todd, Mike and Shawn arrived later in the evening to cap off this year’s attendance.
An hours-long rain storm arrived overnight and washed out Saturday morning. In the process, it made a huge dent in the area’s snowpack. It cleared up just enough after lunch for a quick hunt. Don stayed behind and pushed the grape vines behind camp hoping to jump a grouse. The rest of us decided to hit a section of Game Lands off of Davey Hill Road that we’ve moved deer on during previous hunts. Mike, Gary and I spread out and posted along the trail we walked in on. Matt, Shawn and Todd covered the surrounding woods in big circles hoping to get things moving.
I went to the end of the trail and settled in next to a large open field planted with food plots. Matt cut across the field, worked his way north through some evergreens and ended up pushing a group of four does right to me as he was making his way back. They ran within 30 yards and I shot and missed. Due to the damp conditions from it raining all morning, a light fog in the air and an on-and-off drizzle I was surprised the gun even went off. Still, it was an easy shot and one I should have connected on. I reloaded and followed their tracks for a bit until I was certain there was no sign of a hit. What snow remained offered no clues.
The deer headed in Todd’s general direction and thought he may push them back out toward Mike or I, but that didn’t happen. After about an hour, those of us on the trail started back toward the parking lot. Matt met us there after seeing two does as he was walking out to the vehicles but they were too far for a shot.
And with that, our deer seasons came to a relatively quiet, yet very damp, conclusion.