2000 Hunting Story

From Willard Travell Weeks
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Seventy-one year old downs ghost buck of Brewer Swamp

Written by Willard T. Weeks, the Doc.

December 20, 2000

Dear Mike:

Maine has their Benoits of Hunting Fame. Pelham, Mass. has the Thorntons. This clan of sportsmen have hunted together in the Brewer Swamp Area of Pelham for several generations. In the memory of "Butch" Thornton over the last thirty years their largest buck has been in the 150's. Like Doc Weeks he has been forced by arthritis to be a standee rather than a driver, but he still is out there. This year in the two weeks of shotgun and week of black powder they hung up 9 deer.

This Brewer Swamp area could fit well in northern Maine for wildness. They only saw two other hunters in the three weeks. The swamp thanks to the work of beaver splits into two watershed, Buffam Brook over the Doc's land to the west and to the east into the Pelham Reservoirs through Amherst Watershed land. Moose have barked up and limbed two 3 inch pine 8 feet and they leave ant hill like piles of droppings in the large hemlocks bordering the swamp. Bear have torn down the Doc's bird feeder three years in a row in the Spring. Deer clip the broccoli and kale. A doe was chased off the patio for browsing on an oriental pear in the fall. Fisher tracks are seen in the snow, and a least weasel has kept the red squirrels and chipmunk populations down. A family of flying squirrels have chewed through the baseboard in a closet and are known to careen about the house in the dark.

The area has been logged at least every forty years. The climax forest is red maple and oak, black red, and a rare white that survived two years of defoliation by the gypsy moth larva, white pine and hemlock. The understory has hobble bush, high bush blueberries, wild azalea and mountain laurel. In open areas the moose have bloused the viburnums sot fat it looks like a flat hedge trimmed five feet up.

This last Saturday closed the six days of black powder hunting. It is a tricky proposition because you often can only get one shot off, and if you get a hang fire with your primer it isn't usually accurate, and then tape over the muzzle may help keep the powder dry.

The Thortons were driving the area between the "high lines"that they know like the palm of their hand and the Doc. was seated quietly waiting within 400 yard sw of his house where the recent snow showed a lot of fresh tracks and droppings. He'd spent 5 hours there the day before and had a deer resounding footsteps stop a couple of hundred yards from him, and stop as it bedded down. After 3 hours of waiting he headed in only to come back in the AM by flashlight. The big buck was jumped north east of the Doc and he heard 4 shots, the standees turned it back and it swam the swamp. Surprisingly the snow had softened and its footsteps didn't telegraph it presence, but a blurt of brown a 150 yards out. Silently he picked up his Renegade, cocked the hammer and sat down facing the best shooting lane that would intersect the bucks progress, and as he shifted the barrel to line up the sights the buck momentarily paused and took the ball high in the spine. He collapsed like a house of cards. A quick reload and he was dispatched with a second shot high in the neck.

Meanwhile one of the Thornton cousins had spent an hour circling the swamp and picking up the tracks which lead him to a gutted and tagged deer in an area that they thought' they had to themselves. He ghosted away when he saw me returning. I learned this from "Butch" when I called to see if I owed them thanks for the gift of the second largest deer that I have ever taken all within 400 yards of my house. Guess where I'll be standing next year, if I'm here God willing. I have inoperable prostate cancer, now in hormonal remission, and I hope the this will help others to make the most of each moment that they are given.