The Monster Buck at the Five Mile Turn: In Memory of Ray and Eileen Abrams
Peterborough and the Kawartha Lakes in Ontario are a mecca for hunting and fishing. I have spent many years getting to know a lot of fine fellow hunters and fishermen, of whom will star in many more of my stories. I have also spent these many years walking for many miles, getting to know this vast land. It is abundant in fish and wildlife, although on a recent visit back I have noticed the pressure from people is starting to take its toll. Sad that most of the area around the Kawartha Lakes have been turned into developments, affecting the habitat of deer and fish, although the developers deny it. The most blatant effect is that more road kills are taking place. Sad, but that’s to be expected, I guess. Ask the insurance companies, and the local OPP (Ontario Provincial Police), they will confirm the numbers.
Now, in this particular story, I had just taken a job with Chex TV & Radio. I travelled to Peterborough from Kapuskasing, Ontario. I moved into the same area as a new soon to be best friend of mine, Rosie in my first apartment on Brown Street. I was just a newbie to the area so Rosie put me in touch with Roy, the taxidermist in Omemee. I was also lucky to have met the Abrams family, who also happened to live on Brown Street. They were a crazy bunch of musicians, whom have remained my friends to this day.
Recently Ray Abrams Sr. has passed, and our ride into the bush for this memorable story, Eileen passed in 2000. God bless them both. I love them dearly, and this story is dedicated to their memory. Eileen, or Ma as I would call her over the years until her passing to brain cancer, was like a second mom to me; I was only eighteen at the time we met. She would chuckle at our antics. The Abrams family loved to eat fish and venison.
Now it just-so-happened that I befriended Ray Jr., an avid hunter and fisherman, musician, and partier (go figure). We had a few bevies too many now and then (barrel wash, I’d call it), and shared in catching fish before the hunting season began. We also succeeded at getting our first license to hunt the elusive whitetail. Rosie was also in our mix, but as he was a new dad at the time, he had to put work ahead of this hunt.
Taking the advice of Roy (the taxidermist), I visited the only close hunting spot around, the Five Mile Turn. I told Ray Jr. that I would check it out, and if it looked good we would build a tree stand. This was well in advance of the hunt, of course. It also turned-out to be a very good duck hunting spot; a big marsh overgrown with snarl bush, tag alders, and scattered with ponds. But talk about snarly. I remember getting down on my hands and knees just to get into the honey hole. The Five Mile Turn was what we call a funnel: all runs led to a big open clearing, a cut in the forest that had been logged. It was a natural spot for our dream buck, Mr. Big.
I had read all the books on the elusive whitetails and set out to bag me one of those critters. If they were pressured, and you were in the right tree and quiet, they would come right to us. I was excited.
After my initial scouting report I was certain that a stand was a must. You could not get through the tag alders and snarl bush without one. So I talked Ma into driving us out to the Five Mile Turn, and Ray and Rosie into helping me build the stand. Wow, what an excursion, talk about sweat and work. After it was done, we had a couple of beers and dreamed about Mr. Big.
Ma would just laugh at us, the group of wanna-be Monster Buck Hunters. She said, “You seem pretty confident. We will see if you can really get one.” I can still hear her laugh. I also could never forget the old blue Econoline that provided our ride to and from this stand. We would go out from time to time and sit up in the stand for hours. Oh yes, doe after doe would appear, but no monster bucks. We would tell Ma that on opening day Mr. Big would mess with The Posse (our new group name).
The time had come, it was opening day. Ray Jr. and I got Ma up and out we went. I can still see her look at us, “You two are crazy! Why so early? 4 am?”
We told her if she saw how unruly this bush was, she would understand why. We were not even certain if we could find our way in, it was that bad, and so we needed the extra time. So with our head lanterns on, in we went. Ouch! Ouch! The further we went, the more we got nailed by the whiplash of tag alders and thorn bush.
“Was this all worth it?” We thought when we finally got into the stand, soaking wet with sweat.
We did not know about the other hunters in this area, and neither did we care; we had our lunch and drinks, we were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to kill the king of the Five Mile Turn. As the morning passed by Ray became very tired, and eventually decided to take a nap. In hindsight, it was a nap that both he and I decided was ill-timed after what took place. I admit I was fighting the urge to sleep as well, but hey, somebody had to be ready for Mr. Big.
I looked across the clearing with my binoculars, and saw a fellow hunter walking along the edge of the forest. After he got past the middle of the brush cut, I thought I saw a movement behind him. I glassed the area, until… bam!
Sneaking in behind this hunter as if playing hide-and-seek was a monster buck. His rack was hidden in the tag alder and snarl, but you could tell his body was big. What happened next, I will never forget. The buck, seeing the hunter had walked to the end of the clearing, walked right up the middle in slow-motion.
Oh, no. The moment was here, and Ray was fast asleep. What does a good friend do? I wake him up with a nudge. Big mistake. He wakes with a startled huh? And the big brute, all twelve points of him, saw and heard Ray, and started into a trot. I point at the buck. We fire. Bam! Bam! Bam! Until we can shoot no more. We looked at each other thinking, “Are you kidding? He was right there!”
We got down from the stand and checked for blood. Nothing, a clean miss. The hunter, hearing the shots, came over and asked, “Well, did you get the big bugger?” We told him no, we had missed.
He replied, “You and a lot of others. We have trying to get him for seven years. Don’t feel bad, it’s easier said than done to catch this monster buck.”
As the day went on, all we could do was go over and over it in our heads. How could we have missed?
When Ma arrived we were both tired and white like a ghosts.
She said, “You two look like something went Squirrelly.”
We were going to keep the embarrassment to ourselves… until Ray spilled the beans. Eileen laughed all the way back to Brown Street.
She said, “You can’t eat a shadow…shadow hunters! I knew it!”
Still, to this day, I can see the slow movement of this bruiser, this monster buck, and wondered, why didn’t I just shoot, without waking Ray up? But then, what are friends for?
Another story from the Squirrell’s Nest at Big Bear Outfitters – Nova Scotia from your hunting and fishing guide Brian “Bear” Squirrell at www.bigbearoutfitters.co