Gene Chague: Ask Lou Carmel, and he'll say you're never too old to go deer hunting (because he's 90)
The table top full of large deer racks in his cellar gives testimony to his love of and success in the sport. And there aren't too many places in North America that he won't travel to bag a large antlered buck, even at age 90.
The attached picture of him and his big buck was taken earlier in Saskatchewan, Canada, near Candle Lake. None of his friends or family could join him on that hunt, so he went alone. Incidentally, the last buck he got there was in 2015, the last time he made it up there.
He has been hunting Saskatchewan for about 12 years now, going after big trophies. He flies into Saskatoon, and then has a five- or six-hour automobile trip to his hunting spot. The main road is good, but off of that, it gets kind of rough.
He usually camped on Candle Lake, and there you have to hire local guides. They drove him by four-wheeler to his ground stand (blind) in the morning and picked him up at night or whenever he wanted.
He always hunted the first week of the season due to the cold weather up there. It frequently gets down to 10 below zero.
For the last several years, a 15 degree day was a good day.
"You have to open the blind to shoot out and it doesn't take long to get cold," he said.
About two years ago, someone suggested that he have the guides put a little heater in his blind. He did that, and it made all of the difference.
I asked him how he got the deer meat back to Massachusetts, as there are regulations here regarding the importation of deer from some Canadian Provinces in order to curb the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease.
He said that after he shot the deer, he would keep the antlers and never saw it again. There are a lot of poor people up there and he always left the meat for them.
I asked him how it came about that he started hunting up in Saskatchewan. He said that a deer hunter from Adams heard that he liked to hunt in Canada. He was going to Albany to buy some hunting clothes and invited Lou to accompany him to meet John Kilmartin, a guy who booked hunting trips to upper Canada.
After meeting him and discussions, Lou decided to go hunting there. He went by himself. The only problems that he encountered were flight connections in Toronto and he missed his plane. The airline put him up for the night and got him to Saskatoon the next day. After he made two or three trips with similar problems, he learned to go through Minneapolis, rather than through Toronto. It was a lot easier.
The last three years that he went to Candle Lake, his son-in-law, Kevin Farrell of Dalton, went with him. Candle Lake was exceptional, with thousands of acres to hunt. However, the outfitter decided to convert it to archery hunting only. After that, Lou went with another outfitter run by natives. The last few years he went alone.
I asked him the size of his biggest deer and he said 150. The picture that I saw certainly had a bigger deer than that in it. But when Lou talks deer numbers, it is not in weights, it is in inches of the antlers as determined by the Boone & Crockett official scoring system. Incidentally, while looking at Lou's photo album of all of the deer that he bagged in Saskatchewan, I noticed that he was usually all dressed in white. Lou said that wearing white is mandatory when you hunt there in Canada.
According to Lou, the cost of such a trip would be roughly $3,500, which includes air and stay at Candle Lake. To stay over a night in Saskatoon would probably be another $100 or so.
Lou has been hunting since he was around 15 or 16. He started hunting with his father, who was a fox hunter. After he came home from school, he used to immediately head for the woods with him fox hunting. His father also taught him how to trap muskrats, beavers, etc., and many a morning he would get up at 4 a.m. and check his traps before going to work.
In addition to hunting around here, he used to hunt the Allagash region of Maine. He hunted there for more than 25 years with the late John Zuber of Pittsfield and also with Clem Caryofiles, also of Pittsfield.
If their names sound familiar, both of these well known hunters won numerous sportsmen awards from the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen as well as the Massachusetts Sportsmen's Council. They also moose hunted in Labrador with Lou a couple of times.
When I asked Lou if he intended to hunt in Saskatchewan again, he said that he would think about it, provided his wife Pauline was sufficiently recovered from some health issues.
Lou will be the first to admit that he has no super human genes. He has had his share of serious medical issues over the years, but has overcome them. He attributes his hunting longevity to immediately contacting a doctor when he didn't feel right and getting the best doctor he could afford.
Lou Carmel, an inspiration to us all.
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