My favorite hunting story: One Ground Scrape, Three Deer

DSCN8232                I love to hunt ground scrapes that bucks use to mark their territory. Across Route 41 from my house, I found a line of scrapes one season made by a buck after he emerged from the nearby bog. I lugged over a seat and placed it in a fir thicket, about 50 yards from the scrape, and vowed to sit there until the buck arrived.

On the second day of the season, I sent Dad down to sit in the blind, while I hunted down over a hill and through the bog in his direction. About 8 am I heard him shoot, and after a brief pause, shoot again. Well, a spikehorn had emerged from the bog, trotted up towards the scrape, and Dad has shot him. But before Dad could even get out of his seat, a big buck came along behind the spikehorn, and Dad took a shot at him, a clean miss.

Now I was sold on that spot, so for the next few mornings, I crawled out of bed in the darkness and sneaked over to that blind, sitting there for several hours. One morning, I set my alarm incorrectly, jumped out of bed when it went off, dressed quickly, tossed some food and a novel into my backpack, grabbed my rifle, and trudged over to the blind. It seemed awfully dark when I got there, so I checked my watch. It was 4 am, an hour and a half before legal shooting time. I’d gotten up an hour earlier than I intended!

Well, there was nothing to do but sit there, and that’s what I did. At 8 am I was reading the novel when I looked up and that big buck was straddling the scrape. I hadn’t heard him walk up. Carefully setting the book down and picking up the rifle, I poked the barrel out between the limbs of the firs in front of me and shot at him. He whirled around and took off, and I shot again. And then he was gone.

After calming down, I walked out to the scrape and saw quite a bit of blood. I’d hit him hard. Walking over to where I’d shot at him a second time, I found a tine off his antler. Yes, I’d shot the tine right off his antlers! Knowing I should wait and let him settle down someplace, I raced after him anyways, jumping him twice before I decided I needed help.

Dad was expecting to meet me at the Hunter’s Breakfast at the Vienna Grange Hall, so I hiked home and drove over there, telling Dad my exciting story and grabbing him and a friend, Ray Anderson, and heading back to the house.

I had followed the buck to where it entered a thicket of firs, quite close to Route 41, and hoped he had laid down there, so I positioned Ray and Dad on opposite sides of the thicket, and I followed the blood trail into the firs. Almost instantly I heard Dad shoot. Sure enough, the buck was in there, and he leaped out right in front of Dad. So Dad got the first and the last shot at that buck!

And later, Dad would reattach the tine I’d shot off. It’s the buck in the photo at the top of this column, and I’ll bet you can’t tell that one of the tines has been reattached!

Josh’s Deer

The story gets better. The next year, another buck was making scrapes in that same place, so I decided to continue to use that blind. My 16-year-old son Josh was sitting there with me one afternoon when we heard deer coming down over the hill behind us, headed our way.

A nice doe stepped out first, right by the scrape, and Josh calmly shot at her. She leaped forward, disappearing quickly, and we heard her tearing up over the hill to our right. I figured he had missed.

So when two more deer, another nice doe and a lamb, stepped out by the scrape, I whispered in a loud voice, “Shoot Josh, Shoot.” But he didn’t lift his gun, and they sauntered on past us. When I asked him why he hadn’t shot, he said, “Because I shot at the other deer Dad.”

And sure enough, we found the first doe, about 100 yards away, dead. And I knew immediately that my son was a better hunter than I was!

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.