Gene Chague | Berkshire Woods and Waters: 91-year-old deer hunter scores again

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Readers may recall an article I wrote about then 90-year-old Lou Carmel of Hinsdale. The article, which ran on Dec. 25, 2016, was entitled "You are never too old to go deer hunting." In it, I wrote about Lou's amazing feat of traveling to the Saskatchewan Province in Canada by himself, hunting and bagging a large deer.

Well guess what, he went up there again in 2017. This time he was accompanied by his son-in-law Kevin Farrell of Dalton. They were there the first full week of November. They flew into the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan airport, spent the night in Saskatoon and the next day traveled about four hours to the deer camp in Neeb. Neeb is located in the northwestern part of Saskatchewan. Lou has hunted in that area for about 13 or 14 years. Some of the deer stands are 10 to 20 miles away from the camp, taking 1 to 2 hours to get to get to them by four wheelers.

The first day of their hunt was cold. It had snowed before they arrived, but most of it was gone. Lou was posted in one hunting blind and Kevin in another over a mile away. The blinds had zippers and Lou had to crawl in and sit. He saw a couple of smaller deer and watched them for quite a long time, hoping a bigger deer would come along. Eventually, the two deer laid down and went to sleep, right in front of him. All of a sudden, they jumped up and ran. Lou surmised that something scared them. He then saw a buck about 100 yards away, aimed his gun and 'click.' He forgot to load his gun.

He hurriedly put in a shell and 'bang,' down went the buck. There was a little crevice there and the deer dropped out of sight. Lou thought he had hit it but couldn't see it. He sat there for quite a while. He was feeling ill and had to take a trip outside the blind where the wind was blowing and snow flying. After taking care of business, he got back into the tent.

He saw a deer limping along near where he had previously shot and wondered if he had wounded that deer. He didn't think so, as he had drawn a bead on its shoulder. After he lost sight of the limping deer, Lou decided to reload his gun just in case it came back. He tried to reload it but couldn't because he was shaking so much. He gave up on it, put the empty gun aside and bundled up the best that he could. Sometime later, he heard the blind zipper behind him and one of the guides asked how he was doing.

Lou told him that he shot at a deer. The guide said that he saw it down below Lou.     They got into a four wheeler and found the deer. It was a 11-pointer and weighed about 220 pounds dressed. It was shot in the shoulder, exactly where he had aimed. (Apparently the limping deer that Lou saw earlier was a different buck.) Lou said that he perked up a little bit after that. The guide took a lot of pictures before taking Lou back to the camp where he had a nice hot shower. Not feeling that great, Lou stayed in the camp for the rest of the week.

There were a couple of fellas at the camp doing some filming for a TV show entitled "Born to Hunt." The program, which is broadcast in English and French, probably featured Lou and his deer.

Lou said that if Kevin didn't go up with him this year, he probably wouldn't have gone alone. "Its wild country up there and I don't know if I will ever go back on another trip," he said, "but then again, I said that last year."

Incidentally, Kevin also bagged an 11-pointer, but his was not as large as Lou's. His weighed around 200 pounds dressed. They ate back straps from the deer for a couple of meals, kept the antlers and donated the rest of the meat to some needy nearby families.

I wrote it in last year's column and repeat it again, Lou Carmel is an inspiration to us all.

A deer hunting family

Three generations of the McCarthy family of Williamstown have special reason to celebrate a successful muzzleloader deer hunt that they participated in on Dec. 16. Their classic New England deer hunt is a perfect example of a family embracing, enjoying and ultimately celebrating each others' company, memories and love through the hunt.

The McCarthys have lived in Williamstown for many generations and are active members of the community. What's notable about this family is that deer hunting and other outdoor activities are not limited to the McCarthy men, for many of the McCarthy women are active participants in these long-held family traditions and they've had their share of success!

Robert (Bob) McCarthy Jr. has been the town's tree warden and owned and operated Robert McCarthy Tree and Landscaping for many years. The entire family is involved in hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities, and many of them are active members and officers in the local East Mountain Sportsman's Club. Bob is an EMSC delegate to the Berkshire County League of Sportsmen and received its Silvio O. Conte Sportsman of the Year Award in 1987. Bob's late wife, Juliann, enjoyed gardening, hunting and fishing.

On Saturday, the family patriarch, Bob, met his son, Travas, on a parcel of land that has been in the family for many generations. Along with Travas was his wife Tammy, and their two children, TJ and Naomi. The purpose of this family meeting was to organize a deer drive. Conditions were perfect for the hunt; there was fresh snow on the ground and the wind was blowing out of the north. The plan was finalized with Bob, TJ and Naomi being posted as standers and Tammy and Travas being the drivers.

Bob, TJ and Naomi set up a few hundred yards apart from each other along the crest of a ridge and waited with the hopes that the drivers would move a deer into range.

As Naomi sat tucked up against a fallen tree, she watched the hillside below for any sign of deer moving her way. To her surprise, the sign didn't come from in front, but from behind her. She heard the slightest noise and slowly turned to see two large bucks standing about 35 yards from her. Now, this wasn't Naomi's first successful hunt, for she's taken a few deer in the past. But, to have two rack bucks standing 35 yards away and staring you down, would rattle any hunter!

Naomi did her best to slowly turn and get her muzzleloader up for a shot. But big bucks don't get big by waiting around, and they both bounded away. The young hunter wasn't deterred, for she let out a doe bleat and one of the bucks stopped at 50 yards. Naomi took aim and dropped the hammer on her muzzleloader. Surrounded by black powder smoke, she couldn't see if the deer had dropped or run off. When the smoke cleared she slowly walked over to where the deer had been standing. At first, she couldn't find any sign of a hit but, she started to track the big buck on her own and after walking a short distance, she saw the deer's rack sticking up out of the snow. She had made a perfect shot!

Soon the whole family was gathered around the deer and celebrating Naomi's success. High fives and hugs were generously exchanged, and a few tears were shed, too. You see, Naomi's grandmother, Juliann, the first female member of the East Mountain Sportsman's Club and a great hunter in her own right, had passed away exactly one year ago. As the family stood around the buck, Naomi's grandfather, Bob, gave her a big hug, wiped his eyes, and said to her: "Grandma would be very proud of you. Very proud indeed."

Then on Dec. 30, with one day left in the primitive firearms season, the McCarthys assembled again to enjoy one more hunt together in 2017.

This time it was TJ who took the honors by shooting a large coyote. To cap of the year, the three generations of the McCarthy family gathered once again to celebrate a successful hunt together.

Many thanks to George Hamilton III, of Pittsfield, who wrote this excellent McCarthy article.

Voluntary Public Access

There will be an information session on Wednesday evening about a new program, the Voluntary Public Access, that aims to increase public access on privately-owned land for hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing and hiking by providing financial incentives to landowners. The information session will be held from 6-7:30 p.m. at the Visitor's Center at Notchview on Route 9 in Windsor.

This VPA program is led by the Franklin Land Trust, in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, Berkshire Natural Resources Council, and the Massachusetts Forest Alliance. Through funding provided by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, landowners may be able to receive compensation for allowing the public to hunt, fish, birdwatch, and hike on their property by participating in this program.

The program is open to landowners in 28 towns in the northwestern region of the state.

Visit the VPA website for information about the participating towns, eligibility, funding rates, how to apply and upcoming workshops.

Gene Chague can be reached at berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com or at 413-637-1818.

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