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The Outlaw Deer Hunter

By Peter Tucker All Rights Reserved ©

Adventure / Fantasy

Blurb

The Outlaw Deer Hunter is dedicated to all the old-timers out there who have stories of their own hunts. In addition to Dad, who is probably up there in the sky giggling about this book, it is dedicated to every hunter, young and old, to give him or her laughs at the hunting camp. And most of all, it is dedicated to Pete K., who really told me that The Outlaw Deer Hunter would be a great book and probably a great movie. I dedicate this book to you, the true sportsman. Enjoy

Chapter 1: My First Hunting Trip

I think back to one of the first hunting trips with my dad and how he started training me in his way to be a deer hunter. Oh, boy! Think of all the adventures. I lived them. Now you have to keep in mind that this was the late ’60s, if I remember correctly. Dad was a hard-working man, very hard. He was taking care of a family of four boys and one girl. Mom was and is an angel for putting up with it all, but that’s another whole story. Dad came home one night all lit up; at that time, he was drinking Black Label beer. And yes, lots of it. He believed in having fun on his nights off, and he knew everyone in our little town. Well for me, this was a weekend not to forget. He rolled into the driveway in his work van, and stumbled into the house. His words to Mom were “Rose, Eddie and I are going hunting. Put the hunting things together.” There was no “please” in his voice, just “put my hunting shit together,” and she did. She put food and clothes together for a weekend for us. So Th e Outlaw Deer Hunter 2 off we went on my first hunting adventure. We piled into Dad’s jeep; it was a 1947 Willys 4x4. He called it the Bucket of Bolts. It was cold and 7 at night, with a two-hour drive ahead of us. We lived in upstate New York. We were on our way to Lake St. Catherine, Vermont—“The Hill,” as Dad called it. Well, of course, there were stops for a cold one on the way. When we finally made it to The Hill, it was like a dream come true for me (hunting). The so-called hill was a mountain next to a beautiful lake. Now, you have to picture it: There were at that time hardly any houses around, and this was a Vermont farm—a nice farm. The road came to a perfect 90-degree angle. At the bend in the road was a driveway to the right. As we pulled into the driveway, the farmhouse was on the left and the barn to the right. As we drove between them, there were cornfields that had been cut for harvest. It was, if I remember correctly, late October. There were about three inches of snow on the ground. At the end of the cornfield was a logging road that went up the mountain, and it was no hill—it was a huge mountain. To the left of the mountain was another field with another mountain next to it. That was the mountain that became to be known as The Hill later in life. As 3 Peter E. Tucker the years passed, we built our second hunting camp in that valley. It was awesome; I’ll get to that later. Well anyhow, up the logging trail we went. It took about an hour to get three-quarters to the top. The windy road got used maybe only once a year before hunting season, if that. Needless to say, it was all grown up with brush, but the Willys just plowed through it. The Willys was like a little bulldozer, and it seemed that nothing could stop it. I remember looking out my window to the right and looking straight down a ledge. What a ride Dad was taking me on. The moon was very bright, and I could see the snow-covered branches on all the trees. It was wonderful. This was God’s country, and I loved it. We reached the plateau where Dad wanted to set up camp. It was awesome, a flat area surrounded by a brook and hills. What a spot. It was like its own little valley in the hidden hill. This later became one of my favorite spots to hunt and just be with nature. Well, we stopped and Dad said, “Let’s set up camp and eat.” I thought to myself, Eat? It’s 2 in the morning. I want to sleep. Of course, what I thought didn’t matter. This was Dad spending time with his son. We set up a two-man tent. Th e Outlaw Deer Hunter 4 My job was to get firewood. There was plenty of wood on the ground; every turn I took, I was loading up with firewood. I remember Dad saying, “Nice, huh, noman’s land,” as he was starting the fire. He cooked a big breakfast of bacon, eggs and home fries. It was 3 in the morning, and he cooked— never did eat; he picked but he never ate. I think back and remember he was on a mission to feed me, thinking of just my stomach and me. I was hungry. He really was quite the dad. Anyhow, off to bed we went. It only took about three seconds and Dad was snoring like there was no tomorrow. My God, it was loud. I was trying to go to sleep, but between the snoring and the noises I was hearing outside the tent, I was spooked. I was a nervous wreck. Dad was in his sleeping bag to my left, and I was in mine. Our heads were at the entrance of the tent, and the door wasn’t zipped. The noises were getting louder and louder every second. I was frozen with fear. This was my first time camping in the deep woods, and I was the only one awake. It was a weary feeling at a young age. The noises kept getting louder and louder. Then, I heard a growling. Out of nowhere, BOOM, the head of a black bear 5 Peter E. Tucker crashed into the tent through the open door. His mouth was open, with his nose pointing toward the top of the tent. I froze. The bear looked at Dad snoring away, then backed out of the tent. I curled up into a ball at the bottom of my sleeping bag. I heard the bear ruffling through our things outside. He feasted on our leftover breakfast. Then he went away. Thank God, I thought, that he went away. I don’t think I slept a wink all night. Dad woke up as the birds started chirping. I don’t know how he did it. Anybody else would have slept till noon. And, he didn’t even have a hangover. As he woke up, I told him about the bear. He laughed. His reply to me was that there wasn’t a bear on this hill. He told me that there were no bears in Vermont and that I was dreaming. For the longest time, I thought he was right. He was my dad, and what he said was correct. But as I get older, I think back to all the tracks around the campsite. Dad said they were dog tracks. Bullshit. I know better now. They were bear tracks. I look at it as if Dad knew of the bear, but he didn’t want me scared for the rest of the hunting trip. He did say to me that morning, “A bear’s got to eat to, ya know.” Well anyhow, we got Th e Outlaw Deer Hunter 8 ourselves dressed, and we went up the mountain on foot. Dad told me to be very quiet and step in his footprints, to stop when he stopped, and to look everywhere at once. Always look everywhere for animals. He said we needed to be so quiet so the deer didn’t know we were coming. We proceeded to stalk up the logging trail that was more like a footpath. It was awesome. We went from tree to tree and rock to rock, very slowly and quietly. At one point, I looked down the mountain at the farmhouse in the far distance and saw the beautiful layout. It was magnificent what God created in Lake St. Catherine. It’s no wonder Dad loved this place. We reached the top of the mountain. Dad said to me, “We’ll sit over there next to that tree; it’s my favorite deer watch.” No wonder it was a great spot. The tree we sat under was about four feet in diameter and as old as the hills. We sat there, and Dad said to watch the two hillsides next to us. We were in a little valley, you might say. I could see the paths that the deer used to cross here. Dad said that they were runways. That’s what hunters call them. We sat very quietly for about two hours. As the sun came up over the trees, it made me quiver with cold. It was about 20 degrees out. And if 9 Peter E. Tucker you’ve ever been at your hunting spot when it’s like that, you know what I’m talking about. Out of nowhere, we heard a noise to our right. I was sitting to Dad’s right. Dad whispered into my ear, “There is a deer coming; don’t make a sound and don’t move.” He readied himself. A deer then appeared. We could just make it out through the trees. I looked behind that deer and there was another and another and another. My body warmed right up. It was as if someone turned the thermostat up to 110 degrees. I watched Dad raise his rifle, then BOOM–BOOM–BOOM–BOOM. Dad was so fast; he went from deer to deer. He shot all four of them; in seconds, all four deer were down. He looked at me and said, “Meat’s meat, and a man’s got to eat. This is how you and I hunt, and only us. What we do hunting stays between us till the day I die. Always remember that. I believe in filling the freezer with food, and that’s what we do.” He said to tell no one how we hunt. And that stuck with me for years and years. We cleaned the deer. We went for the jeep and brought the deer down to the farm barn where Mr. Phales and Dad cut them up. At that time of my life, I learned how to hunt like my father, the outlaw hunter. Wow, the things that Th e Outlaw Deer Hunter 10 followed hunting with Dad, people only think about—and I lived it. Now as the next couple of years passed, gun safety was pounded into my head. And I mean safety. A big one was to always point the gun at the ground. Never point the gun at anything till you know what the background is and where the bullet will go when the gun is fired. Always know where your hunting buddies are. I’ll never forget the time Dad took me to a place in Hartford, New York, near my Uncle Tink’s farm. He was a boxer in his time, and you didn’t want to be on his bad side. It’s said that in his prime, he could throw his punches about 20 times and no one would ever see his arm move. I used to think it was because he was so fast, but now I think it’s because when he hit you the first time, you went out cold and never saw the other punches. In his heyday, as Dad called it, Uncle Tink sparred with Joe Louis (a would-be heavyweight champ) at Jigger Canals Boxing Gym in South Glens Falls. In the first round, Uncle Tink, known as Gorilla Tuck, knocked out Louis with three rights. And he knocked him out cold. When Louis came to, he said to Tink, “I’m glad you don’t fight professionally.” 11 Peter E. Tucker Uncle Tink said to him, “I do fight professionally. I fight for the United States Army.” He was in World War II and the Korean Conflict, and what an outlaw deer hunter he was. I learned from the best. He was a sniper with his rifle, and he could shoot the eyes out of a hawk at 20 yards with his pistol. I have never seen anyone handle a handgun like Uncle Tink. Well anyhow, Dad and I went out into Hartford’s deer hunting fields. Thinking back, I know now he was training me, not caring if we got meat. We were sitting on the wood line of a field. It was starting to get dark, but it was light enough to hunt. We sat there for about three hours. I could just see the field through the tree line. Then to the left, I saw brown. It was raining and very cold. I had on a red-rim hat, and the rain was dripping from it. I was 12 years old. Dad whispered in my ear, “Now remember what I taught you about safety, and pick your target.” So I looked very carefully. I saw more brown; there was more than one—I saw brown all over the place. I wanted to shoot so badly, but I couldn’t make them out. Then they got closer. Wow, there were four cows! “Can’t shoot a cow,” Dad said. “Good eyes,” he whispered. Th e Outlaw Deer Hunter 12 “Keep watching them.” Then I saw what he was talking about: A big deer was behind the cows. I waited for the cows to get out of harm’s way. There was a hill behind the deer. I knew this was it, my shot. I pulled up with the 44-Ruger semi-automatic. What a rifle! I still have it. I took a broadside, front-shoulder shot and fired: BOOM. Down the deer went. “I got him,” I yelled. Dad said, “Nice shot. Meat’s meat, and a man’s got to eat.” I’ll never forget him saying that. I was 12 and bagged my first deer. We cleaned the deer, and dragged it back to Uncle Tink’s farm. On the way, Dad told me, “Remember, these are our hunting secrets; never tell anyone.” And I didn’t for more than 30 years. What happened while hunting stayed at hunting. We were out in the little barn hanging the deer with Uncle Tink, and Aunt Betty came out to see what was going on. I was bloody from head to toe from cleaning my first deer. Everybody got a kick out of that. Aunt Betty asked who got it. Dad said, “Eddie. It’s his first.” She yelled, “He’s only 12.” And Tink said, “This is my land that I fought for, for my country. And if this boy is old enough 13 Peter E. Tucker to carry a rifle, he’s old enough to provide meat for this table.” His words always stuck in my head. If you’ve ever known anybody like Uncle Tink, you know what I mean when I say you have to love him. They all sat at the table that day while getting the meat packed, talking about the old days of their youth and hunting with Grandpa Tuck. One story stuck in my head: Back when Uncle Tink was my age, he went hunting with his dad hunting on West Mountain, which is a ski resort now. It was during the Depression and food came real hard. The family owned a big farm on the Hudson River, and Grandpa was a carpenter by trade. Uncle Tink said, “Your dad was a little boy. He probably doesn’t remember this.” I looked at Dad, and saw that he didn’t. He wanted to hear what Tink had to say. Anyhow, they were on the mountain in an old Ford pickup truck in the 1930s or so. They parked the truck and went to Grandpa’s hunting spot. Sure enough, down the hill came a big doe. Gramps pulled up on it with position shooting and shot. Down it went. Gramps never smiled. He just said, “Meat’s on the table; let’s take care of biz and get it home.” As they started to clean it, there was a Th e Outlaw Deer Hunter 14 man with a badge at the top of that hill. When they came down the hill, a man started yelling at Gramps, “I finally got you, Tucker.” It was the game warden, and he had been trying to catch Gramps shooting deer for quite a while. The warden came to them, and as he did, Gramps, without hesitation, pulled the rifle up to him, pointing it right at his head. He said, “Yep, you got me. Is your family hungry, Ned?” They knew each other; it was a small town. Ned knew what Gramps would do to feed his family. Gramps, with a stern voice, told Ned to take his knife and cut the deer in half. “You take half for your family, and I’ll take half for mine.” Ned knew Gramps meant what he said. I know Gramps would have buried Ned right there if he didn’t take half the deer—and so did Ned. Well, Ned took half the deer. On the way out of the woods, Gramps told Ned never to come into his woods again while he was getting food for his family. It would be easier to come to the house and get food if he needed it. Ned never bothered Gramps again. I’ve now and then thought what I would do if I were ever put in that circumstance. What if it were a depression and we had no food? God put food on this earth for us. And I’ll leave it at that. 15 Peter E. Tucker Skipping ahead a little in my outlaw life, when I was in my early 20s, my buddy Rip was getting into hunting. We were living in trailer parks. Rip is a great friend and always will be. We met in high school. Anyhow, we decided to have a poker game and talk about a hunting trip that was coming up in a few weeks. Little did I know that night’s poker game would start a whole new hunting adventure for Dad and for me. We were hard workers. I was running a plumbing and heating business and had a 1979 Dodge van. In my van were some tools for work, all my fishing equipment—poles for summer fishing, tip ups for ice fishing— my bow for archery and my rifle. Yup, it was the 44-Ruger that Dad gave me when I was little. My van was my work and sport mobile. Anyhow, we had one hell of a poker night; there were five of us. We were drinking and having a ball. About halfway through the night, Rip and I started talking about guns, and he was dying to show me his pellet pistol. He took it from a drawer and handed it to me. It was nice, really nice. Now, of course, we were drinking; it was a poker night. I was looking at the sites on the pistol, checking it out. I pulled up on Th e Outlaw Deer Hunter 16 the birdcage at Tweedy, Sandy’s bird. I pulled the hammer back and pulled the ticker. Yup, feathers flew all over. I shot Sandy’s bird. “Oh my God,” I said to Rip. “It’s loaded, the poor bird.” I yelled, “Why is the gun loaded?” Rip was in shock, and so were the rest of us. We learned that night to never play with guns while we were drunk. We already knew to treat them like they’re always loaded, but this was a huge reminder. Well, that was the talk for a while, how Tuck shot the bird in a cage. Poor damn bird. We buried him and went back to playing cards. We decided the last hand of the night would be showdown. The winner would get to throw a dart at a map of the southern zone, and that’s where we would all put in our doe permits. Cool, huh! I forget who got to throw the dart. I think it was Jelly (that was Jim’s nickname, which is a whole other story). Anyhow, the dart landed on Delhi, New York. We had no idea where Delhi was at that time, but that’s where we pulled our permits. It was a party permit if I remember correctly; I think there had to be a party of four back then. Well, we sent it in and got one. That started the Delhi hunts. Oh my God, the years that followed in Delhi. Three weeks later, we all decided to meet 17 Peter E. Tucker at Rip’s house for our first hunting trip there. Dad wasn’t there; it was just my school buddy and me. D e l h i w a s a f o u r- h o u r d r i v e f r o m Queensbury, my hometown, so we left around 2 in the morning. It was a drive to remember. We had no idea where Delhi was. Anyhow, we were driving down Route 10 in Delaware County. Rip said, “Here are here; it’s our county. We can legally hunt here.” It was still dark, and I remember driving real slowly on Route 10, looking at the hunting area that we could see in the dark just before the sun came up. And there she was; I saw a deer. Yay, I thought to myself. I pulled over to the right side of the road with my van. I left it running, something that Dad taught me—never shut off the vehicle because you’ll scare the deer. Of course, no one I was hunting with knew how Dad and I hunted. Anyhow, this all happened very quickly. I looked through the passenger window to see what was behind the deer. The deer was in a field with a hill behind it. I told Mike to roll down the window and duck. He yelled back, “No, I’m not rolling down the window, you crazy mother!” I looked at him and said, “It’s my window. Th e Outlaw Deer Hunter 18 Roll it down and get out of the way or I’m shooting through it.” He knew I meant business, so he rolled it down and ducked to the middle of the van. I put the 44-Ruger on the front shoulder of the deer and BOOM, down she went. Mike flipped out, yelling, “You can’t do that!” Rip yelled, “It’s done. Let’s see the deer.” We piled out of the van and looked around us. We were in the middle of the town of Delhi. I shot the deer in the middle of town. There were streetlights and everything. The field had an old church next to it. I shot the deer in the churchyard of Delhi at around 4:30 in the morning. We quickly put the deer into the van and high-tailed it out of there. Come to find out, Delhi at that time was a very small town. It only took about three minutes to drive through it. It was a farm town with a college of agriculture, one of the best schools in the country. Boy, could they raise deer. I loved it. All Mike keep saying all day was that he would never hunt with me again. He never did. I looked at it as if he can’t roll down the window for me, I don’t want him hunting with me. All Rip kept saying was “If you want deer, you’ll hunt with Tucker.” 19 Peter E. Tucker I just said, “Meat’s meat, and a man’s got to eat.” The rest of the day was spent driving around the town and checking out the area. It was and still is awesome. We drove past the college, took a right up a paved road that had only seven houses on it in 25 miles at that time, all fields and valleys. There were long shots across valleys, 1,000-yard shots in open fields. We saw nearly a hundred deer that day driving around. It was hunting paradise. At that time, I said to myself that this would be my new southern-zone spot. That’s what it became for Dad and me. Driving up this paved road, we saw a herd of deer walking up the road. I think they were going to the thick hemlocks to get out of the storm that was coming at us. The deer somehow knew it was going to be a bad storm. I stopped counting at 35 deer. My trigger figure was going nuts. All I wanted to do was shoot, but I didn’t. I enjoyed looking at them. It was a special day of my life, to remember seeing all those deer. Very seldom do you ever see that these days. We drove home that night, and I’ll never forget it. We had a deer in the back of the van, very legally. It’s a good thing it was. There was an ice storm and the roads were like glass. If we Th e Outlaw Deer Hunter 20 were doing 25 an hour, we were speeding on the highway. Back then, it was 55 miles per hour because of the gas crunch. Anyhow, there was a roadblock on the outskirts of Delhi. I couldn’t believe my eyes—a deer check roadblock in a blizzard. It was a blizzard, too. There was freezing rain, snow and high winds around 55 miles per hour. And here was this game warden in the middle of the road in an ice storm, stopping all the cars and checking for deer. That always stuck in my head. If you bring deer home from Delhi, make sure they have legal tags on them. I need to pound this into Dad’s head. He’s always been like, If there’re five deer, they’re all going down. But, he got better with age. He was really a great sportsman. 21 Peter E. Tucker

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