Buck Tales: McHale nearly gave up after years of calling

In 30 years of hunting, Ballston Spa deer hunter Jim McHale has had just one buck respond to his gru

In 30 years of hunting, Ballston Spa deer hunter Jim McHale has had just one buck respond to his grunt calls, so when he tried rattling and grunting during the recently opened Northern Zone deer season, he didn’t really have any confidence in it.

After about a 45-second sequence of tickling the horns and making a mixture of young buck grunts, he put everything away. Fortunately, he didn’t put his Ruger .44 magnum rifle away, because 10 minutes later, a shooter buck came in looking for a fight. At 30 yards Jim won the fight with one quartering shot. Jim’s buck carried a nice seven-point rack and tipped the scales at 176 pounds.

Unfortunately, wounded deer are a part of hunting, and it usually happens to most of us at one time or another; sometimes, you will find them and sometimes, you don’t. But Jamie Alex of Rotterdam was one of those who found his buck. While hunting on opening day in Westerlo, Jamie shot a spike buck with his Fred Bear Element from his tree stand in late afternoon, and the buck ran off. Finding the blood trail, Jamie followed it until dark and then was forced to abandon his search. But he knew where to go for help.

He called John Jeanneney of Berne, who is a long time member of Deer Search, a volunteer organ­ization that, using specially trained dogs, helps hunters who cannot find their wounded deer. The morning after the hunt Alex, John and his European wirehaired dachshund Yuri picked up the trail. Yuri found the dead deer about 100 yards from where it had been shot.

Jeanneney told me that he has been involved with deer tracking dogs since 1975 under a special permit, then became a member of Deer Search when it was established in 1978. This was his 14th call for help this season, and he has found four deer and one bear.

“About one-third of the deer are found,” he said, “because most are not mortally wounded.”

In this area, if you need help locating your wounded deer, you can call John at 872-1779 or 265-0070.

Last Sunday, my good friend Dave Rooney of Saratoga Springs invited me to join him for an afternoon hunt in the hills of Saratoga County’s Northern Zone. Unfor­tunately, I could not go, but my phone rang about 7 p.m. and when I saw his cell phone number on my caller ID, I knew that he had “got one.” Dave, a knowledgeable and persistent hunter had spent many hours scouting this area, and it paid off.

He had set up on a knoll close to my old tree stand, overlooking a stand of beechnut trees, and just before sundown, he heard snow crunching behind him. Slowly, he turned and saw a deer feeding on the beechnuts, but could not see its head. For several minutes, the deer fed and when he finally stepped out, Dave — who had already shouldered his rifle — saw the antlers. The buck was about 35-40 yards away, and one well-placed shoulder shot with his Remington 35 Whelan ended the hunt. The buck was a wide-racked five-pointer and tipped the scales at 150 pounds.


Dan Ladd’s adkhunter.com website has photos of several local deer hunters who were successful. Joe Mitchell Jr. of Schenectady shot his first buck, a nice three-pointer, in Newcomb. Joe will be a Navy man in February. Aaron Robinson of Mayfield shot a big North County nine-pointer that field-dressed at 147 pounds, and Mark Miller of Amsterdam arrowed a 140-pound, seven-pointer in Saratoga County during the early bow season. And if you don’t think coyotes eat fawns, check out the website photos.

In the really big-game category, Hartford hunter John Durling, who hasn’t shot a New York whitetail yet, but has taken several other trophies, shot a 7-by-7 bull elk while bowhunting on public land in Colorado in September.

In October, John and his dad, Paul, were in New Hampshire for a moose hunt, and it wasn’t easy. For six days straight, they hunted the area around Cummins Pond in the rain and continuous 30 mph winds, and nothing was moving. On the seventh day, they cut a fresh track and set up to call, but did not get a response.

Heading back to the truck, John saw a bull standing about 60 yards off of the logging trail and shot. The two hunters followed the bull for about 150 yards before they caught up with him and both shot and put him down for good. Unfortunately, he went down in a pond about 20 feet from shore.

They were able to get some exper­ienced local help to get the bull out. It actually took quite a bit of work. They had to cut a trail to the pond with a chainsaw and then drag the bull out with a utility vehicle. The bull had a big forked antler on the left side and a drop-tined club that grew straight down on the right. At the New Hampshire game check-in stat­ion, the bull was aged at 3 1⁄2 years and weighed 580 pounds dressed. It definitely will be a very memorable hunt.


Recently, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation released its five-year Deer Management Plan, listing its major goals. The plan describes six prim­ary goals that encompass the current priorities for deer management and the values and issues expressed by the public.

These include:

(1) Manage deer populations at levels that are appropriate for human and ecological concerns;

(2) Promote and enhance deer hunting as an important rec­reational activity, tradition, popul­ation management tool in New York;

(3) Reduce negative impacts caused by deer;

(4) Foster public understanding and communication about deer ecology, deer management, economic aspects and recreational opportunities;

(5) Manage deer to promote healthy and sustainable forests and enhance habitat conservation efforts to benefit deer and other species;

(6) ensure that the necessary resources are available to support sound management of whitetailed deer in New York.

It is their intention to begin implementing strategies of the deer plan immediately, and they expect to begin making rules to implement a number of hunting-related aspects of this plan prior to the 2012-13 hunting season. These include establishing a youth deer hunt; starting the Southern Zone bow season on Oct. 1; allowing DMPs to be used during the bow and early muzzleloader season in the Northern Zone; and expanding mandatory antler restrictions into 7 WMUs in southeastern New York. To view the entire content of this management plan, click here.

Categories: -Sports

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