Sunday, November 29, 2015


    This fall has been warmer than usual here at home on Salmon River and this seems to be turning into a trend. There has been a shift in weather patterns and it has been quite noticeable during this past deer season. Usually, the last week of the season sees freezing temperatures and at least a skiff of snow but not this year. A lack of cold temperatures and no snow seems to have stalled the rut and the bucks were just starting to move towards the end of the season. This makes taking a mature buck much more difficult because about the only time they let their guard down is when they are rutting heavy and get running around. They will stay in a nocturnal pattern and remain cautious until the does start to come in heat. Only then will they break their routine and start travelling outside their comfort zone. This is the time when most deer hunters want to be in the woods. Big buck hunters know this is the best chance to get that old Monarch of the woods and they try to take their hunting time to coincide with the rut. But that's hard to do if the weather isn't co-operating.
     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.

    The deer season in New Brunswick wasn't a complete bust but it was one of the worst on record. Any hunter who took a deer this year likely worked hard to get it. In times like these luck isn't much of a factor. Hunters took 4,313 deer this season (preliminary figures) compared to 6935 taken last year. That's quite a drop in the number of deer killed this year.

    Jamie got a nice little buck again this year and I know he put a lot of time and work into his hunt. Jamie found the deer but Kenny helped him pinpoint the buck and set up a new stand on a ridge line the buck was running. When the buck stepped out Jamie was ready and dropped him in his tracks, Here is a photo of his buck.
 Jamie knows how to get the job done and is very good in the woods. His many kills at a young age proves this out. Good job Jamie!
    Randy-Micheal took a young buck with his bow. This was his second buck with a bow.
    I was pleasantly surprised at the number of successful lady hunters this season. This photo shows a young lady with her first buck.
    This six point buck was also taken by a young lady hunter.
 The next photo shows another lady hunter with a beautiful 8 point buck she took this fall. This older lady was hunting with her boyfriend in the Riley Brook area.

 The next photo shows yet another lady hunter with a big buck that dressed out at 250 lbs.
 This young lady hunter took her buck with a .223
 Sonia G. took a beautiful 8 point buck on the first day of the season and got this nice photo in the field.

 Each year I see more and more women participating in the annual deer hunt and that can only be a good thing for this sport. I hope this trend continues into the future. 
    One of the bigger bucks killed this year was taken in the Riley Brook area. This grey faced old Monarch sported a 16 point rack. The hunter had found the sheds the year before and set up for him this fall. Luck and perseverance culminated
in the hunter putting this buck on the ground.
 This next photo shows a big 9 point that dressed out at 275 lbs.
 This 9 point buck with a nice heavy rack went over 200 lbs. dressed
 This buck has a nice 8 point rack and dressed out at 210 lbs.
The next photo is of a buck that was only a six point because it had no brow tines. It was a heavyweight though, coming in at 230 lbs dressed.
The next buck has a 9 point rack and dressed out at 210 lbs.
The next photo shows a proud hunter with a nice buck sporting a 10 point rack that dressed out at 199 lbs.
This next buck has a very distinctive set of antlers with good mass that comes around in a basket shape.
The next photo shows a big 12 point buck that was taken in the second week of the 2015 season.
 This photo shows a big, heavy racked 16 pointer that dressed out at 254 lbs. This buck was taken in zone 3 in northern New Brunswick.
Another heavy weight buck coming in at 270 lbs. dressed on the scale.
This big 10 point buck dressed out at 200 lbs.
 The next photo shows a nice 9 point buck that dressed out at 210 lbs.
  This buck dressed out at 205 lbs.

 Finally, this last photo shows Jason Curtis of   Blackville with a nice 8 point buck he got near the end of the season. Jason had quite a year this year. Not only did he get a nice buck under tough conditions but he was inducted into the Atlantic Salmon Hall of Fame earlier this year. Jason comes from a long line of Miramichi/Cains River guides and outdoorsmen and he's certainly living up to that tradition. Congratulations Jason on having a great year!

    I'd also like to congratulate all successful deer hunters this year. It was pretty hard going in New Brunswicks deer woods this season and hard work and perseverance paid off for some deer hunters.

    As you can tell from these photos, there are still some nice bucks running around New Brunswick's forests. Unfortunately, their numbers are getting very low. We are now at the critical stage and this is the time to act. I am confident that if all the players can act in unison, our deer herd can rebound in numbers quickly. This doesn't have to be difficult or expensive but all users of Crown forests must make a contribution. Since the biggest players are the forestry companies they should be the biggest contributors. What can they do without hurting their bottom line too much? (1) Stop spraying defoliant and herbicide so there will be an increase in food supply. (2) Plant cedar in the first 100 meters along all buffers. No loss in wood fiber and provides winter food and shelter. If they did nothing else, this small contribution would be a tremendous help. Hunters would contribute money through licence purchases and funds raised through Fish and Wildlife organizations. Trust Fund monies could be used to plant clover patches and for other ROW enhancement projects. Finally, put a bounty on coyotes. They kill a lot of deer and they aren't going away. Controlling their numbers has to be part of a recovery program. There, that didn't hurt too much did it? 



 If not,then be prepared for disgruntled voters and citizens. New Brunswick's 50,000 hunters have their backs against the wall and change is in the wind. I can feel it.

    I will continue with part two of my report on this years deer hunt in next months blog.

Until then, this is Dale Bauer saying "Happy Trails to You.....Until we Meet Again!"


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