SMOKE-POLIN’ IN THE SNOW

by Ryan Albee

12/08 Wisconsin

Ever since I can remember, I have been after em’! Whitetails, that is. It started in my blood as my grandfather, whom I never really got the chance to hunt with, I’m told was one of the most avid hunters of his time. I am told and have seen pictures of him raising his coon and foxhounds and have always admired a 24 inch 8 pt that he had taken many years ago. My dad had it mounted on a plaque for him and I am in awe of it every time I stop to visit my grandmother. I have listened to many stories from my family of how hard my grandfather would work and hunt even harder. With most of my hunting success, my dad has always told me that he wishes grandpa could be here to see this and that he’d be so proud. My cousin Rick has always been a good hunting companion and we have always swapped ideas and tactics on how to bag our next big buck.
I have bagged several bucks with bow and gun ranging up to 140 class. I am becoming a true trophy hunter and have decided to really preach the importance of game management to friends, family and neighbors. Though some do not understand, you can only try! I have been letting more and more nice bucks walk hoping to see them again the next year. Believe it or not, for you with the “they will jump the fence and get shot” belief, it does not always happen that way. I have let a beautiful 9 point go for 3 years now and my game camera shows the size that a buck can put on year after year even with “brown it’s down” neighbors. He is still alive again this year after gun season as I have him on camera and let him go during the last two archery rut seasons. He is really becoming a deer that I want to take now that he is going to be a mature buck and I have so much history with him.

With no big mature buck opportunities during the early archery season and a nice 18-inch mature 8-point to put on the wall during Wisconsin’s 9-day gun season, I busted out the smoke-poles! Wisconsin has a 10-day muzzleloader season. During the first 9 days I had put down 4 mature does. It is a true challenge and a lot of fun hunting with one of these guns. A group of neighbors and friends had been spotting a real “hogg” of a buck. We stayed after him for days, pushing thickets and driving out large hillsides, but it seems that buck is going to make it into the New Year since he never offered any of us a shot. By now many of us working full time and hunting every chance we had, were starting to get a little worn down from months of hunting. Including a 12-day archery elk hunt that I was on in September. I work as a night electrician at the near-by Rayovac Corporation. I was on my way to work the night of December 9th when I got a phone call from “Schaeffer Kid” as I call him. He said that a good buck had been spotted that afternoon next to some property that we had permission to hunt. It was a no brainer for me, I was IN! I asked my cousin, Rick when I got to work if he would want to go with in the morning and he was ready when I got off work the morning of December 10th. I picked him up and we headed to the woods where the buck had been spotted. As us drivers got in place, and gave the standers time to set up and we started climbing a gigantic Wisconsin river valley hillside. About half way through the drive we heard a shot and some sounds of excitement coming from another cousin of mine, Tickie. He had just downed the buck at 45 yards as he was trying to sneak out the back door on us. It was great news; being the biggest buck he had ever shot. A massive 18 inch mature 8 pt. The drag out was not all that fun and was very exhausting for me since I had just got off working 3 straight 12 hour nights and hunting during those days.

Once we got him out we finished out a couple more drives resulting in nothing but does. After lunch from the tail-gate, we decided to try one more drive before the 2008 smoke-pole season was over. Rick, Tickie and I were going to be the drivers on this drive. All the standers headed to their spots and we came to find that we couldn’t do the drive the way we wanted to because of a few other hunters in the area. We came back down and were going to call it a wrap for the season. And then we got good news, David who had been saying all season, “you gotta stay after em,” said he seen a good buck and some does head into a big valley. We were all to re-group and go line up on the property that we had permission for and he and Tickie would bring him out by tracking him in the fresh snow. So after boring up a massive snow-covered hill with the explorer, Rick, Schaeffer Kid, Steve, and I set up as standers.

About a half hour later, as we are running short on daylight, I heard one shot in front of me and off to my right. I was standing where a small finger cuts off from the big-valley, hoping he’d sneak right up that finger. Well as I’m watching to my right, just like that, he was running right for me but about 100 yards to my west. I knew I would never get a good running shot through the timber so I took off running to get on top of a little 50 yard ten-year strip that I figured he would cross next. Just as I crested the ridge I spotted him at full speed heading to the timber and fence line that we could not cross. I pulled up my New England 50 Cal and let the smoke fly! To my surprise I had actually seen through the smoke and he was going down fast. After a quick and very shaky re-load, I took off after him. He was laying 15 yards from the fence line and I crawled into a tree-top and put the finishing shot on him, I was so relieved that he had went down before crossing onto the neighboring property. And then the HOOTING and the HOLLERIN’ began. I had just put down a 150-inch plus ten point! As the sun was setting, we were whipping out camera phones and sending picture texts to all of our hunting buddies. Upon meeting up with my father at the local tavern for a little celebrating and putting a tape to him, we found that he measured 20 inches inside. It seems I still have to stay after em because as we celebrated, dad and I joked about how I was still a few inches short of grandpa’s. Even though mine will score a lot higher, I have encouragement to stay after em’! It was a great day to be in the woods with smoke-poles! A day I will never forget! Thanks to everyone that made it happen!

Ryan Allbee

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