I didn't kill a deer again this year. I make no apologies or excuses because I have basically made a conscious decision not to do so. I haven't been happy with the deer situation in New Brunswick for a few years now and I haven't got the time or energy to pursue big bucks that just aren't there. I decided to check out all my old haunts from past seasons to see if things were really as bad as everyone was saying. Most older deer hunters have places in their hunting territory where they have had success in past seasons and I wanted to check as many of my good spots as I could to make sure I got the true picture of the state of our deer herd, at least in my area. I made my rounds to as many of the hotspots that I knew and I was shocked by the lack of sign. Some places were nearly devoid of deer while the very best spots had a few smaller deer but very few decent bucks. I figured if I covered enough ground I would find some good deer sign but the Big Woods deer are gone from the Crown land around Grand Lake. I finally found some deer in a place that most people don't equate with being good deer habitat, in the mud dumps or mine tailings that surround Grand Lake. In my youth, these lifeless moonscapes wouldn't support a rabbit or even a squirrel but forty years later things had changed...considerably. Lots of grasses and clover with a good cross-section of hardwoods for feed and enough mature woods and planted conifers to provide cover. That spells deer to me and I started seeing tracks immediately. It was then that the irony of this situation really struck home to me. Finding deer in the last place you would really expect to find deer. But was it? It was at that moment that I realized I had seen a destroyed piece of real estate naturally revert back to a life sustaining ecosystem that had an abundance of wildlife. Including deer.
For those of you who have never seen the mud dumps created from open pit mining,let me assure you it's not a pretty sight. Many people don't realize that parts of Salmon Harbour, Grand Lake and some of it's tributaries were dug right to the water! This went on for around sixty years or more and some places were even dug more than once. I grew up in this environment, being raised in Minto, so I never thought much about hunting there but I did have a buddy who did quite well trapping the many ponds throughout the area. One thing I did notice was the older digs from the earlier years had actually reverted back to mature forest with an under-story of moss in the low spots and shrubs and grasses in the higher spots. All this growing on a series of small hills or mounds that a billy goat couldn't travel on. That was the way things were done in the early years. In later years, the ground was supposed to be leveled and either planted or seeded down and any viable ponds were stocked with trout for recreational fishing. The ponds were stocked for a few years and some new diggings were leveled but there is still a lot of work to be done in that area. But those areas that did receive some assistance turned out very nice. These are also the spots that held the most deer. It was a very pleasant surprise that changed my outlook on the future prospects for New Brunswicks' deer herd. If the coal mine tailings of Grand Lake can heal itself then clearcuts should be a joke to fix. I'll talk more about this subject later but here are a couple of photos of the area I hunted this fall.