We’d been lifelong friends, and before I became a full-time Maine guide, I worked for him for a while in his Augusta lawn and garden retail store. But I never offered to take him on a professionally guided hunt, because it would have ruined my reputation. I did hunt with him a lot.
And to protect his reputation, I’m not going to tell you his name. Let’s just call him Bigfoot.
Bigfoot hunted through the woods like a raging bull moose. That’s why we usually let him do the walking while we took stands up ahead of him, counting on him to drive the deer our way.
He is a lot of fun to have on a hunt because he is very lucky and always manages to see deer, usually coming up with a novel way of failing to shoot one.
Back in the day, our favored hunting method was the deer drive. This involves sending a few hunters through the woods in a line, hoping to drive deer toward a few standers up ahead. Driving is legal in most states, but Maine, in its fastidiousness, has made it illegal. Many hunters still drive deer but I avoid it these days, not willing to risk my guide’s license.
Anyway, when driving deer, we would place Bigfoot between two other drivers, hoping to slow him down and keep track of him. Didn’t always work. I remember one drive when, half way to our finish line, we encountered Bigfoot coming back toward us. He’d already gotten to the finish and returned!
Occasionally, hoping fervently that he might finally shoot a deer, we would place him in a stand. One time, another guy in our hunting party escorted Bigfoot to his stand before moving on to another spot.
We started the drive about a half mile away and about 200 yards from Bigfoot’s stand, I jumped three deer. They headed right for Bigfoot and I eagerly listened for his shots. Dead silence.
When I got to the stand, Bigfoot was gone. Did he race off after the deer, I wondered? We looked for him briefly, then gave up, returning home for breakfast. Upon arrival at the house, there, at the kitchen table, chowing down on Linda’s homemade blueberry muffins, was Bigfoot. He’d gotten hungry and abandoned his stand to get an early breakfast!
I’ve got a lot of Bigfoot stories, but here’s one of my favorites. We’d still hunted a neighbor’s woodlot all morning, Bigfoot starting on one end, me on the other, with nary a sighting, so I decided to try something different in the afternoon.
Knowing that he, on days like this with no wind and a soft understory for quiet walking, would still be heard about 200 yards ahead as he stalked through the woods, I decided to put him to work for me. We’d cover small pieces and try to get a deer moving toward one or the other of us. Truthfully, I assumed all the movement would be in my direction.
I sent Bigfoot off down a tote road, told him to go about 500 yards and then enter the bog on his left, go in there about 100 yards, turn left and hunt back to me. If that didn’t work, we’d move up the woodlot about a quarter mile, and I’d do the walking while Bigfoot took a stand. Seemed very democratic to me.
I settled in, sitting on a stone wall where I could see about 75 yards into the bog, eagerly awaiting the big buck I hoped Bigfoot would send my way. I hadn’t been seated very long when, out in the bog, I heard a shout.
Now, I had carefully instructed Bigfoot to avoid even whispering when we were hunting together, so a shout was shocking. But it was him, no question about it, although I couldn’t make out what he’d shouted.
A quick second later there was a shot, close enough that I jumped – and took cover.
Then more shouting. Only it was getting further and further away. Terrible thoughts ran through my mind. He’d shot himself and panicked. He’d shot someone else, and was running for help. While I stood there, not sure what to do, there was another shot – now so far away that I couldn’t tell if he was still shouting.
I tore off towards the last shot, hustling along through the bog as fast as I could. As I approached the place where that last shot came from, I hoped to see Bigfoot. No luck. Not even a trace. And there were no more shots – no more shouts. The woods were silent. And I was scared.
So I started shouting. Using an imaginative vocabulary, I shouted his name, let him know how badly he’d messed up. And got no answer. Now I was really worried. If he had shot himself, how would I find him? Would he still be alive?
It was about 3 pm, with just a couple of hours of light left, so I had to find him fast. Assuming he’d continued on in the same direction, I headed onward, up and out of the bog, towards a high ridge. I walked and hollered. Walked and hollered. No answer.
After 20 minutes, I crested the ridge, gazed down toward a stream that meandered through the valley about 300 yards from where I stood, and spotted the familiar orange cap, tipped back on the head of Bigfoot, who seemed to be very much alive, still moving away from me.
Not about to lose him now, I fired a shot. And he turned my way. No way was I going down there to get him, so I waved at him, signaling for him to come to me. And he did, arriving with his head down and sweat pouring off him.
He fell to the ground, sat with his back to a tree, took off his hat and unzipped his coat, and slowly told me his sad tale. It was hard to believe. I asked for proof. So we began the long hike back to where it all started, the place of the first shout, the first shot.
Pointing to the ground, Bigfoot exclaimed, “It was right there. I was walking quietly through the bog and when I got over by that small pine over there, I looked this way and saw it, lying right there.” He’d been standing about 40 yards from the spot he pointed to.
Looking carefully at the spot, I saw a good deal of blood. Yes, a deer had lain here, bleeding badly.
Bigfoot had been plowing along when he saw a dark brown object laying here, in a heap under a small bush. Carefully and quietly approaching, at least to the best of his limited ability, he got within 10 yards and identified the object as a deer – a dead deer.
He walked a bit closer, lowered his gun, and shouted to me. “Hey Bill, there’s a dead deer here!”
The “dead” deer, alerted to Bigfoot’s presence, struggled up and limped off. Bigfoot was stunned. Punching off the safety on his rifle, he fired wildly from the hip at the doe, moving more quickly now through the bog. It was a clear miss and later I pointed out the tree that he’d hit. “Got yourself a tree, my friend,” I told him.
Bigfoot charged off after the deer, tripped and fell, a couple of times, but amazingly, caught up with the poor thing, and got off another blast as well as another shout. Missed again.
This time the doe was getting desperate to escape and leaped into a fir thicket, tail down, a pretty good indication that she was really hurting. Bigfoot saw her dive into the thicket, ran to the side of it, and took another shot as she emerged. Another miss. In my confusion, I remembered hearing only two shots, but Bigfoot insisted he’d shot three time.
When the doe crested the ridge, she was gone. He would not see her again, even though he trudged after her, after taking a few minutes to collect himself.
I made him return with me to the ridge and show me the last place he’d seen her. Down on my hands and knees, I looked for blood, hair, anything that would lead us to where I was certain she now laid dead. There was no sign of her. And the ground was so hard and rocky, I couldn’t even find a good track to follow.
For the final 30 minutes that day, Bigfoot and I traveled in concentric circles, on the other side of the stream, hoping to see her lying on the ground. No luck. With heavy hearts, we gave up as darkness settled in, unloaded our rifles, and began the long walk back to my vehicle.
I would have returned to continue the search the next morning, but a heavy rain that night washed away any chance we had of finding her. These days, there are several guides who will show up with dogs specially trained to find dead deer. If we’d had one that day, I am certain we’d have found that deer.
Thankful that Bigfoot was ok, but angry at the hunter who had wounded that deer and not looked for it, I am still, today, troubled by it all.
It was many years before Bigfoot actually shot a deer, and I always thought it was because he failed to take that deer when it was offered up, right there at his feet. But for a shout, it would have been his.
This is a work of fiction, based on real situations I experienced while hunting with Bigfoot.