Northeast Rut Reporter Mike Bleech has been hunting whitetails in his native Pennsylvania and throughout the Northeast for more than four decades. A Vietnam veteran and full-time freelance outdoor writer, Bleech has had more than 5000 of his articles published. States covered: ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, PA OH, MD, DE.
The first buck I saw last week during the Maine muzzleloader season, a 6-point, ran toward me and passed by without ever noticing me. My guess is that it was in some stage of looking for a doe. It was not the buck I wanted, though.
The next buck I saw was considerably more obvious in its intentions. It was mounting a doe. It was a lot bigger, too. Unfortunately I saw it 10 minutes after the close of shooting hours on the last day of the season. I figured that and a 50-inch bull moose that had allowed me to pass within 15 yards about a half-hour earlier would be the highlights of the hunt.
I did not know what had already taken place that day.
Jeff MacLauchlan, from Enfield, New Hampshire, and Dan Masterson, from Barnard, Vermont–a pair of very experienced deer hunters–were hunting, as was I, with #9 Lake Outfitters, in Bridgewater, Maine.
On the last day of the muzzleloader season, MacLauchlan and Masterson cut three deer tracks, one quite large. They set off in pursuit of what they hoped was a big buck at 7:00 a.m. Since the deer moved through a primary bedding area the hunters moved slowly and deliberately, ready for a long day.
“When you get on a track that’s following a doe it can take you for miles,” MacLauchlan said.
But in fact, they caught up with the deer in a hardwoods opening after following it for just about 3/4 mile. The deer had stopped to mill around. The hunters figured the deer might have bedded down.
But after cautiously crossing a couple of logs, MacLauchlan looked down what they later learned was a distance of 106 yards of an open lane and saw antlers.
“I saw my shot and I put it right on the shoulder, and I squeezed it off,” he recalled.
The shot startled his hunting partner, who had been looking in another direction.
After reloading his muzzleloader and taking a few minutes to calm down, he and Masterson walked to where the buck had been. It was lying 35 yards away with a hole in its heart.
Was it the peak of the rut there in northern Maine? Or were the dynamics of the rut just a result of the local deer density? While hunters go to northern Maine in pursuit of big bodied northern whitetails, deer are not as abundant there as they may be in more southerly locations.
In any case this shows why deer hunters should be alert to rutting activity throughout the entire rut period, not just during the peal of the rut.
MacLauchlan’s buck has 8-points with good mass and webbing. Of more interest to serious hunters of north woods bucks, it weighed 217 pounds after being field dressed. In the photo, MacLauchlan is on the left wearing suspenders, Masterson is in the middle, and guide Don Burnett is on the right.
Now guess who is hoping to hunt northern Maine again next fall?