Dec 4, 2010

2010 New Jersey Muzzle Loader report - Day 1

Blueberry Hill Cabin
 Well we made it to camp on Sunday without any issues after a stop at Stokes Forest Sport Shop to buy our Muzzle Loader tags tags and a stop at the Layton Country Store for a Taylor Ham, Egg and Cheese sandwich, well 7 of them actually.  There were seven of us making the trip from Connecticut for our annual Muzzle Loader hunt down in the Delaware Water Gap.  Myself, Bubba, Busch Pilot, Chuck, Steve, Hooks and Cletus are all veterans of this trip and something we look forward to each year.  We arrived at the cabin which would be our home for a few days around noon and Ray, Jimmy, James and Bill were already unpacked and settled in and Ray was cooking up the Mexican venison dip that has become a tradition of these trips.  After some hellos and handshakes, we set about unloading the two trucks and getting all situated into our rooms.  The cabin we stay at is called Blueberry Hill and one of many that the Mohican Outdoor Center has available.  Blueberry sleeps 16 and we would fill it to capacity for this trip.  Bobby and his two young boys (Kyle and Brandon) were next to arrive with this being Kyles first Muzzle Loader camp and Brandon's second.  My brother Steve wasn't going to be in until later that night and my dad would arrive on Monday morning.

Story Time with Hooks

Sunday at camp is kind of a relaxing day for the most part as many of us have been hunting for weeks either during the Archery seasons or the Connecticut firearms season so our gear is pretty much ready and there is not much to do except sit around and talk about hunting plans.  A couple of us headed out to check a some spots close by just to make sure out initial plans for the mornign were still a go and they were.  The rest of the day is spent telling stories and lies and getting dinner ready while trying to control the anticipation of opening morning.  Dinner consisted of 2 baked hams, sweet potatoe casserole, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and rolls with some great tasting deserts made by Ray's wife Shirley which are always a hit at camp.  We always have a computer with us to watch a movie or check out many of the pictures we've taken but this time with both of Bobby's boys in camp and them bringing one of my favorite movies, Escanaba in Da Moonlight I just had to bring a portable projector for this one.  We watched a little slide show from Bubba's September Maine moose hunt before the feature showing.  If you have never seen Escanaba in Da Moonlight check it out but be warned it has some really weird parts to it but plenty to laugh about as well.  The characters in the show resemble a few of the characters in our camp so it makes it a little more special.  After a little night cap of Drambuie, by thew way this stuff is nasty,  it was off to try and get some sleep which is impossible to do the night before opening day.

The only quiet time at Camp!

It's always easier to get everyone moving on opening day and Monday was no exception as many of us jumped up and hit the floor at the first sound of the alarm craving that first cup of Java but instead we encountered an empty coffee pot.  I won't name any names but someone forgot to turn the coffee pot on after getting it all setup the night before.  It was a little ugly and unruly this morning but we recovered quickly and lets just say that we will have everyone certified on this prior to next year so we don't have to ever endure this tragedy again.  Bobby, the boys, Bill, Steven, James and Steve were the first ones out as they had to drive off the mountain to meet up with my dad as they were going to hunt the low country while the rest of us would stay up on the mountain for the morning.  The next to leave was Bubba, Busch Pilot and Chuck as they headed north up the ridge to a little spot named the Hour Glass, which is just a fancy name for a saddle between the two hill tops on the top of the mountain that just seems to produce every year as many of the deer get moved up the mountain from the hunters below and seek the sanctuary of the thick laurel that surrounds this spot.  Cletus was next as he headed directly above the camp to hunt the back side of a swamp which has also been productive for some of our crew in the past.  The last to leave was Hooks, Ray, Jimmy and myself as we headed south to hunt some old haunts just above the old copper mines.

It was almost the perfect morning for an opener.  Nice clear skies with temps in the low 20s and only predicted to rise to the low 40s and little to no wind and the only thing missing was some fresh snow.  Surely these temps would help the deer movement and make hearing them a whole lot easier in the crunchy frosty leaves so everyone was excited.  As daylight breaks and you are sitting there with anticipation of seeing the first deer and hearing the first shot you can't help but catch yourself day dreaming about that big buck that was sure to materialize right before your eyes anytime now making it difficult to stay on task of scanning the woods and listening for those tell tale sounds of deer coming your way and then the first shot rings out and you are bounced back into reality.  I'm really not sure where the first shot came from but it wasn't close to me and hard to tell if it was a Muzzle Loader from NJ or a rifle from Pennsylvania as today was their deer season opener as well and the only thing separating us was the Delaware River.  No matter where it came from it was the official sign that the season was under way.

One of Many trails just off the mountain top

All of us carry radios to stay in contact with each other and it was long before the first words of deer sightings and shots being fired were heard.  My brother Steven had just finished putting all his warm clothes on and settling in to his ground blind as he looked up and saw a buck coming his way.  He was thinking how great this was going to be seeing he wouldn't have time to get cold, but little did he know.  He took aim and squeezed the trigger firing the first round from our crew's 2010 Muzzle Loader season.  He said the deer flipped, hit the ground laid there for a few minutes and then got up and off he went.  He went to check on his shot and had some hair but no blood.  So he followed up the trail and found the first sign of blood, so he went back to his ground blind and waited a bit before he and my dad took up the trail.  I wish I could say this ended with meat in the freezer but they tracked very little blood spots until 2:30 before the blood just disappeared with no sign of his buck in sight.   Definitely not the way he wanted to start the season but he tried to stay positive about it and would be back in the same spot in the am for another look.

Busch Pilot was next to shoot at a nice buck only to be rewarded with a dead tree.  Yup, dead smack into a small tree that he just didn't see in his scope.  I keep telling him to wear his glasses but he doesn't listen.  Both Bubba and Chuck hunt close by and were also seeing deer but nothing offering up any shots.  The next to shoot was yours truly.  I could hear the deer in the leaves long before I could see them but my first look at them was as they walked across a little knoll on the other side of a small Hemlock and Laurel swamp that I was overlooking from my ground blind  on a rocky ledge.  Behind me was another patch of laurel and thick brush and I hunt this sport specifically because the deer like to head into this stuff and hunker down in the sun filed benches under the security of the thick brush.  I had my binoculars up and could see a doe, then another doe and then a buck.  Once I saw bone, the binos came down and the gun was at the ready even though they were still to far for a shot but seeing he the buck was bumping the does along I knew it could get crazy fast and wanted to be ready.  In all I saw ten deer and two were bucks,  one buck pursued a doe back across the knoll so I had my work cut out for me trying to keep track of both of them and not get busted by one of the does.  As the deer came off the knoll and into the laurel I couldn't see them but I could hear them in the crunchy leaves and it was so loud that with every crunch it sounded like they would pop out of the laurel any second but it took almost 5 minutes for the first doe to come exploding out of the laurel.  It was a small skipper and she came busting out and across the opening and stopped just 20 yards from my hiding spot and I thought for sure that she would pick me out and ruin everything so I willed her to not look my way and she obliged has she slowly turned away from me and put her head down to feed which was a good sign.  Now all I had to do was to try and keep track of her while watching for the other 9 deer to show themselves.  I saw two doe come out of the laurel about 90 yards away and I wasn't happy about that as the shot opportunities over there were limited, especially with a deer still feeding 20 yards from me and I got a little discouraged but that quickly went away as the sound of more crunching leaves in the laurel followed by some soft grunts just out in front of me picked me back up completely.  Then two more does emerged from where I had just heard the grunting and stepped out in the open just 60 yards from me and they slowly moved up the trail which would take them directly parallel to me at under 50 yards and then the buck stepped out took about 10 steps and stopped to survey his does.  While he was standing there deciding his next step I was locked on and had the cross hairs for my scope sitting on his chest but I had just a little bit of small brush in there as well.  I was willing him to take a couple of steps but he just stood there for what seemed like 5 minutes but in reality was probably less then one minute before I decided to take the shot.  At the pull of the trigger the air was filled with that wonder white smoke making it impossible to see if I had hit him or not and as the smoke was clearing I could clearly see all the deer heading up and over the ledge I was sitting on except for two.  One was that little skipper, which I had forgotten about, whom had been feeding just 20 yards from me and was now just standing feet below my position and the other was a deer running directly away from me along the laurel which I had a hard time getting a good look at because of the smoke from the muzzle loader and I quickly lost him.

My 8 pointer is down

There were still deer around me as I slowly and deliberately reloaded as to not spook the skipper or anything looking my way that I couldn't see.  I got reloaded and was looking to where the buck stood and started scanning the forest around for any sign of that buck but nothing stood out.  The skipper was still close when I heard a doe bleat and could hear steps coming out of the brush behind me as doe emerged and headed over the the skipper to gather her up and then they finally moved off following the rest of the deer.  I got on the radio to give Ray and Hooks a heads up as they were close by and told them I was going to sit tight as I could still hear the deer in the brush behind me as they were slowly heading away and didn't want to spook them anymore than they had been.  As I was sitting there replaying the entire scenario I couldn't help but think about both the good and the bad and I was so caught up in this fight of being excited and nervous because I didn't see the bucks reaction I never heard the crunching of leaves before I saw another buck coming over the same knoll as the other deer just had.  As he emerged I noticed he was a large spike and was heading right down the same trail the bulk of the deer just did and headed off into the brush behind me.  I waited until I couldn't hear him any more and got back on the radio to let the guys know I was going to move and followup my shot.  As I stepped off my perch and on to the flat along the laurel I heard another shot and I knew it came from Ray.  He was watching that big spike that had just cruised by me and deciding if it was worth using his buck tag or not when he caught movement and noticed the other tall tacked buck that was with the one I had shot at and took the shot only to find a clean miss.

Success and happy that I can see the road.

I made it down to where the buck was standing when I shot and could see the fresh tracks in the frozen muck and quickly found hair but no blood.  I could easily see the bucks tracks running in the direction that the single deer I had seen run away so I knew that was him I saw run opposite of the rest of the deer and I got a little excited.  at the next set of tracks I found some small drops of blood and then a little more blood at the next set and even more at the next.  I got on the radio to let them know I had blood and was following up the shot.  A few more steps and even more blood and then I looked up and could see the white belly and rack laying motionless on the ground.  I tried not to run over there just in case he was still alive but he wasn't.  He was laying right where I lost sight of him and less then 75 yards from where he stood when I shot him with a 250grain Thompson Center Shockwave bullet from my son's Thompson Center .50cal Encore rifle. This was now the second New Jersey 8 pointer that this gun has taken and the best NJ buck for me.  I like the trend for sure. As my hands grasped his antlers I said a quick thank you to this magnificent animal and to the big man above and then took a couple of pics with my cell to send to the crew.   I got my buck tag all filled out and attached and then field dressed and tied him off to my deer sled and started heading for the trail.  Ray met up with me as did hooks and help get the deer and my stuff out of the woods and back to camp.

My 2010 New Jersey Buck

During all that commotion I had also learned that Cleatus, which by the way is not his real name but a nickname Ray gave him because ray said he would never remember his real name, had missed a doe.  I had also gotten a call on my cell from Ray's son Raymond who wasn't staying in camp with us but was hunting about 5 miles south of us on the same mountain and he reported that he had shot a buck as well and would meet us at camp.  It wasn't long after that when I learned Bubba had shot what he thought was a doe but turned out to be a button buck.  So that made it 3 deer heading back to camp for a trip in to town to check them in at Alpine.  From the chatter on the radio everyone had at least seen deer during the morning hunt which was going to make for some great dinner conversation.

Me, Bubba and Raymond  - opening morning

After we got the deer checked in and had some lunch only those of us that stayed on the mountain where back in camp so we made a game plan to get some guys setup while a few of us pushed the brush along the mountain top and just off the top to see if we could move anything to the sitters.  We moved a couple of deer but they didn't cooperate.  When everyone got back for the night we got a recap of the day and I think young Kyle had a great day for sure, especially when he was telling us about his Doe fever...Don't worry it's not as bad as buck fever according to Kyle.  That young boy saw 7 deer and some of them bedded down above him but to far for a shot for him.  He had a spike sneak in on him but he couldn't get turned around for a shot before a doe came bounding by and took the skipper away.  Little did he know that that little skipper being dragged away by a female will be him some day.

We ended the day with a nice meal of baked ziti and moose meatballs, salad and garlic bread. The movie tonight was Jeremiah Johnson and it's amazing that no matter how many times you've seen it you still sit there and watch the whole thing.

Day 2 to come.


  1. Looks like a great trip.
    Lots of fine venison meals in the future.

  2. That camp looks great! I am glad you had a good morning hunting and avoided disaster at the coffee pot.

  3. Well written blog, really enjoyed this post. Deer have become part of my hunting back burner, but I still managed to get out in the woods a couple of times and did pass up a fork horn. Congrats on the hunt, and look forward to following.


  4. That's a nice buck! Congrats! Nice report and pictures.