- Matt Breton
The Chase is the Thing
I adore the pursuit. To take a track in the snow, determine who made it, then follow where he goes until some end is reached...nightfall, a blown stalk, a buck taken... that to me is nothing more or less than the truth. It is existence, boiled down to the barest essentials. A chase, truly. No food plot, no treestand, no roadside shot, no happenstance.
Over the course of a day, I live with that buck, separated by a little space and time, a gap I try to close. I'm in a trance while following that track. There is little concern for yesterday or tomorrow, it is all about the moment. The spell that descends on me while chasing that buck is seductive. So seductive that I'll go without food or sleep to do it, that I can hardly wait for the next chance.
NH Buck 2019 - The Cruiser
My dad, uncle and I drove over to where we hunt in NH and hit the woods at about sunrise- it was cold, with windchills in the negatives. First day of rifle 2019. My uncle and I had been around a bunch for muzzleloader; Dad missed some time after opening weekend being sick. He still was, but didn't want to miss the day. We hit a spot where I had tracked a buck and doe a few days before and got cut off when they crossed a road. There had been a bunch of activity in there, so I thought we might get into them.
I cruised into the woods and within the first 15 min of heading up an old logging road I started seeing older tracks from the night before where deer had been feeding, etc. After about 45 min of clicking uphill looking for a buck track, I crossed one that was steaming hot. It looked sizeable enough to put some time in on, so off I went. This buck was checking on does, zipping along- he'd follow old tracks for a while, then strike off again. He started heading toward a road and I was nervous someone else would be on him, but after crossing a brook, his track was on top of all the tire marks- I knew I was close. His track headed into a cut between two roads I was familiar with. He and I, separated by minutes, not hours, cruised through that cut and crossed another road. His tracks were on top with no one taking them. I took a peak at my GPS and I had at least a mile and a half until another road.
Now, with better than an hour of following him, I realized he was on the move and not stopping soon. He hadn't made a rub or scrape the entire morning. I was working up a good sweat despite the temperature, so I stripped off my sweatshirt and picked up the pace another notch. He led me up a good sized hill and over the top. He began to head down through some patch cuts. Tipping down into these cuts, I began to scan every bench quickly, hoping to catch him. We crossed into a swampy bottom, then up a bigger hill. Cranking along, I was sweating pretty good despite the icicles forming in my beard and on my eyelashes. The wind on top was brisk and gusty. He worked right to the point of this hardwood top and headed down again, this time with a road looming ahead. I kept scanning as we descended, his track still fresh, despite the blowing snow. The cut on this hill side was a little older and he was holding to one edge. Trying to keep the pace up, I'd quickly peek over and drop down, peek and drop. Finally, with the last peek I spotted a deer ahead of me.
The deer was moving right to left, 60 yards out. I took a few more steps, hidden amongst some good sized maples. I got my rifle up and saw a beam - it was the buck! I scanned for a good shot. Nothing. I moved a couple steps to my right, lost him, then found him again- now 50 yards away, his head down sniffing tracks and the wind is gusty, so I'm still undetected. Finally I see an opening and I put the crosshairs on his ribs- pow! He mule kicks and runs off. I rack the pump and pull up, but there is no second shot.
I scooted right to where I first saw him, picked up the track and followed to where I shot at him. Finding hair, blood, I eased along the track, looking ahead with each step. Every step yielded sign of an improving blood trail and I finally spotted him piled up. A beautiful cruising buck! I've never gone as fast tracking a buck as I did this cruising buck.
8 points, 149 ponds
I gutted him out, tossed my sweatshirt on him, took a read on the GPS to where the truck was. Hoofed it out to the road and then walked a couple miles back to the truck. I drove back, hiked in and dragged him out, maybe 3/10 of a mile downhill with a snow covered snowmobile trail to help me out. An easy drag that I'm sure I'll have to pay for eventually. I got back to where we were parked for the day to wait on my Dad and uncle. I found Dad had some luck and had shot a doe! Uncle Ron made it out and we got the deer reported and headed back to VT!
Nice to have a trail for the drag out!