SI Vault
Mason Smith
November 25, 1974
For one brief hunt the clock was turned back to a time of coherence before Day-Glo hordes plundered the herds
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November 25, 1974

Lone Watch In A Gold-fobbed Forest

For one brief hunt the clock was turned back to a time of coherence before Day-Glo hordes plundered the herds

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"You see those deer out there? See the smaller one? Burt here shot it. Went to get it, had only one horn. Went to drag it, horn came off. Looked at the horn: covered with velvet. Guide goes to dress the deer, and the deer is a lesbian."

I am handed an ashtray from the mantel, with a skinny, seaweedy six-inch antler in it, a horned doe. It seems a bad start.

We breakfast in another sitting, never seeing the guides or discussing the plan of the day, praise the indifferent scrambled eggs and go out with jackets, hats, gloves, rifles, some with day-hiking packs, and pile into a school bus.

Wait a minute. A school bus? Inside the humpbacked blue-and-yellow vehicle a sign is stenciled: NO EATING ON BUS. Frankly this type of travel seems a little metropolitan.

But for such hunting, tight, linked, uniform drives with minimum opportunity for the loss of the large accounts, it is the cat's pajamas. McVean will drive along the roads, stop at a runway, say, "Gimme a scope" or "Brush gun," and to the hunter who clambers forward, "Get up on that knoll. Deer will be coming from over here." Then he drives on 200 feet and places the next man. Well, I think, these guys aren't really rich. They're customers.

But on my first watch, after a comfortable half hour of stillness, the deer explode, running, pausing, turning. Seven pass me. Thirteen are seen. On the second drive, two. On the third I see four, weaving under high ledges before me, shouldering together, overrunning each other, finally rock-scrambling up like mountain sheep, knocking down flints that clatter like a bunch of tin plates.

The impression is of things belonging, completing the warm wet day on long hillsides under the pillars and crowns of large poplars. You sense the weight, breathing, warmth of the deer, you see briefly into their lives—even if you do it exactly as a doorman. By God, it is good to see the creatures in this quantity.

The total count is more than 30 deer, many of them seen by five or six of us. But that's much fewer than five years ago, and no bucks. Some of us walk in after the last drive, and I talk with McVean about the herd.

Terrible. No deer. This was exceptional today. He doesn't blame the winters. He blames the doe permit and the night hunters. The state is responsible for both. The doe permit is some desk rider's dimwit idea, not applicable to this area of the Adirondacks [the state finally realized this, and as of the 1974 season no longer issues such permits], and the poaching goes unpunished.

Stan used to enjoy catching poachers and running them in. "Hunting men is twice as exciting as hunting deer," he claims. "But you can't be afraid to pull a gun on them, and that's just what I am now." Liable to end up talking to a judge himself for threatening human life or some damn thing.

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