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Remember The Alamo

An ADK Outlaw Bailout

Pinned down & caged, running out of ammo as his quarry attempted an escape.

Would reinforcements arrive in time?

Two lifelong friends.

One epic hunt.


Chuck & I first met in college.

We each quickly realized we shared two things in common:

We were both student outlaws.

We both loved to hunt.

Over forty years of life experience have transpired since then. Eventually, my son RJ made us a hunting club trio. Three things however, through life’s time have remained constant:

Our shared love of hunting, our friendship, and our status as outlaws.

During the years I was sick and focused on battling cancer, Chuck took RJ under his wing. They forged a bonded relationship I to this day most heartily endorse. Who else is better suited to teach my son the finer points of a hunter’s life but my best friend Chuck.

After graduating college, RJ & his now wife Carrie worked to establish a southern tier foothold on life, working from and living near where the Monroe half of the Philo Road Hunt Club pitches in and does our share of the qualitative deer management work, under the guiding hand of and on Chemung County lands owned by Chuck.

The deer population is bountiful there. Managing and growing the herd in a way that promotes the growth and development of trophy whitetail bucks has become Chuck & RJ’s driving passion and focus.

We have many QDMA conversations while sitting around hunt club headquarters (aka: Chuck’s shop). Chuck & RJ share trail cam photos, discuss food plot development, blind placements, doe populations, how to age a buck through binoculars, identifying emerging versus target bucks, all with a mind towards one primary goal: promoting trophy buck populations with maximum antler growth.

With that in mind, Chuck has always made one thing clear. Any buck or doe on the hill is fair game, as long as the one making the shot is excited about the prospect of tagging that deer.

That said, he and RJ routinely return from an afternoon’s hunt with the same report; “Yeah, I saw sixteen does, seven spike horns, four crotch horns that spent the afternoon fighting each other, two 6-points that went crazy chasing all the does around, four two-year-old 8-point bucks broadside at 15 yards grazing, but no shooters.”

“Did you see anything, Dick?”

“Yup. A doe with two fawns, six wacked out grey squirrels on crack cocaine, thirty-four hundred & twenty-three blue-jays, plus one little spike horn buck half the size of a goat at last light. I’d have shot just about any of those 8-points you guys passed up, or maybe even one of the 6-points.”

We each have our individual hunting priorities. Theirs is tagging a trophy whitetail buck. Mine is for the most part enjoying the day, seeing something or other that resembles a deer, and simply surviving without adverse incident that particular day’s hunt, without adding to the pile of hunting jokes I seem to most generally be the butt of that Chuck & RJ have collectively stored in their archives.

For reasons still I still cannot fully fathom, 2022 for me was one season long struggle. I whiffed and missed throughout crossbow season, then again during gun season, shooting several times, never finding more than a few white hairs, if any hairs at all, followed by at best a few trickled droplets of blood that vanished as whatever deer I had attempted to target dragged our tracking party uphill through every pricker bush, briar and bramble known to mankind before leaving us scratching our heads in its dust.

I did, in the end, manage to somehow successfully tag a nice 7-point, with a guiding assist from my son.

So, as the 2023 season approached, I was determined to correct whatever was going on with my shot and get back in the hunt.

I spent a great deal of time to sighting in and target shooting with both my crossbow and scoped .308 rifle. In the end, satisfied I was dialed with both tight, I prepared to join Chuck & RJ to hunt.

My season began ignominiously. A 2022 crossbow repeat. I made what I thought was a good shot at a doe, only to once again find a few white hairs and sparse blood, as she lost us in brambles and brush on a trail consisting of not much more than a few specks of blood, trekking straight uphill. I knew my crossbow was dialed in and on target. I began to question my 60-year-old disabled hunter’s skills as a shooter. Was it time for me to stop hunting?

We returned to the shop. I verbally replayed every detail of my shot. Up until last year, I had always been a dependable shooter. RJ agreed. “Up until last year, when Dad shot, I knew that deer was down.” Not anymore. I was now mired deep in my own head’s swamp, struggling.

RJ suggested that maybe my aim point was my problem. Maybe I was trying to be too fine, not missing, but actually hitting a flawed front shoulder aiming point as I looked to make that perfect heart shot.

That struck home with me. It made sense. Two years ago, I had made a perfect heart shot on a buck. That buck dropped dead on the spot. Since that moment in time, I had not made one lethal shot.

RJ recommended I shift my aim point up and back a few inches. Chuck agreed. “A deer’s lungs are a whole lot bigger target than the heart.”

So, as 2023’s southern tier crossbow season came to an end and rifle season commenced, I made the mental adjustment to shift my aiming point up and back, hoping it wasn’t shooting that had become the problem, but my aiming point.

Opening morning, we all got dressed and set up. I was hunting a trail dubbed “Main Street” from an elevated permanent hub style blind called “The Cage”, overlooking a down sloping stretch of woods with my scoped .308.

Chuck, RJ & I had set up “The Cage” the previous summer. We named it after its brand, a hub style tower blind. It sits in a spot I had actually selected several years earlier and been hunting up to that point from a pop-up ground blind.

The first fall I hunted that spot, I dropped a doe double in one memorable hunt. One morning I shot one nice doe through my blind window. Once I watched her go down, I stepped out to go field dress, tag & drag her. When I stepped out of my blind, right in front of me, another big doe popped up. Still in possession of another doe tag, I chambered another round and dropped her too, right there on the spot.

At this point, I should mention that when I hunt with my .308, I only load one round. I have several reasons for that. The primary reason being that, with only one round loaded, it has always helped me mentally focus on making one good shot. I always reasoned that with a bolt action rifle, by the time I eject and chamber another round, if a deer is up and running, that second shot likely won’t be worth much anyways. Not having another round in the magazine prevents me from making a hasty, excited, out of breath, ill advised 2nd or 3rd shot.

The following year, I tagged a really nice 9-point buck, shooting from the same ground blind.

So, for the 2022 season, Chuck committed to making that spot permanent. Thus, “The Cage”.

I did not see any deer while hunting “The Cage” during 2022. I actually tagged my 2022 buck on a shared father/son moment with RJ, on a hunt he expertly guided, further west on the hill, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.

So, 2023’s opening morning once again found me in “The Cage”, binos & bipod at the ready, one round loaded in my scoped .308. I only saw two deer that morning, sixty-five yards below me in a gulley, browsing brambles. One little doe fawn not much bigger than a chicken, and a young 6-point buck I had fun watching but no interest in putting my tag on.

I sat there most of the morning, watching that buck come in and out of view of my binos. Each time I got a good broadside shot look, I said to myself “Nope! I’d rather shoot a nice big doe. That’s not my buck.

At some point around 8:30 or 9am, I heard one shot. Then a text came. “Katie shot a buck.” Katie is Chuck’s niece, the lone remaining active female member of our hunting crew, and when it comes to tracking, our primary bloodhound. Once the morning’s hunt was complete, Katie quickly tracked down and field dressed her buck, a nice 9 point.

While Chuck, Katie & RJ skinned and quartered her buck for evening transport to refrigeration at our senior hunting team member’s house, Chuck’s Uncle Bill, I went back to the shop and hooked up to my feeding tube. One advantage they all have over me is they can take snacks & a drink to their hunting blind. As a tube fed cancer survivor, I cannot. I had not taken in any liquid or nourishment since 3am, and by 11 o’clock after a cold morning’s hunt, I was feeling it.

By 2pm we were all back in our blinds and stands. My son RJ was battling bronchitis, feeling under the weather, and struggling. He opted out of his morning tree stand and moved instead to the wind protected confines of our most westerly ground blind. Confined now to doe duty, Katie was back in “The Tower”, this time accompanied by her son. Bill was watching a food plot field from a blind aptly dubbed “The Hay Bale”. Chuck manned his usual spot, another tower blind named for its brand, “The Redneck”. I was back in my morning haunt, “caged”.

Almost immediately after getting situated and seated, I once again spotted two deer bramble browsing the gully. The 6-point buck was still there, along with a doe, which I assumed was the same little fawn doe I had spotted that morning. The buck chased the doe a bit, which given what I assessed as her immature status, I found puzzling. She ran off to my left. I contented myself watching the buck, hoping his antics might draw in some company.

Just before 3pm, the doe reappeared to my left. I put my binos on her and realized, this was a much bigger doe, not the fawn sized doe I had seen that morning. I pocketed my binos, reoriented my bipod, & picked up my rifle. The buck was still below me. I said to myself, “You told yourself all morning you’d rather tag a nice doe than that buck. This is that doe. Don’t let that buck distract you. Dial in and stay focused.”

The doe worked slowly downhill through a stand of woods, quartering away from me at just outside fifty yards. As she entered a shooting window I had just cleared of hanging deadfall the weekend before, I took aim, exhaled, and squeezed off one round. She dropped right there in her tracks. I immediately breathed a sigh of relief thinking, “One shot. One kill. Doe down. There you are, Dick!” I flicked on my safety, exhaled, and lowered my rifle.

RJ had text messaged me “Dad, did you shoot?”

“Yes. Doe down. I’ve got her.”

“What do you want to do now?”

“Everyone stay put and finish the hunt. I’m re-loading.”

I did not see any more deer that afternoon. That 6-point buck was long gone. As last legal shooting light neared, Bill’s hay bale shot at a doe echoed. Rj showed up a few moments later with the four-wheeler. We loaded my doe and took her down to the field, while Katie and Chuck helped Bill find his doe’s blood trail.

With darkness upon us and an initial search suggesting a gut shot, they decided to pull back on Bill’s doe until morning. We finished field dressing, skinning & quartering my doe. Then RJ & I transported Katie’s buck & my doe to refrigeration at Bill’s house. Opening morning, two deer in hand, one more yet to find. A productive rifle season opening.

RJ & I returned to his house for dinner and sleep in preparation to track Bill’s deer and get in one more hunt the next morning.

Sunday came, clear and cold. RJ was congested and coughing. By the time we reached Chuck’s house, RJ had decided he was not up to hunting. He drove Chuck & me to our stands, then went home to rest for the day. No one questioned his choice. We all knew RJ must be pretty sick if he was foregoing even one minute of hunting. His last words as he dropped me off at “The Cage” were “If you get a big buck, call me.”

I got myself situated again and loaded one round. My eyes slowly adjusted as sunrise hit the side hill I was watching. The morning was still.

I was oriented center window, with my bipod in front of me. I had windows open left and right, overwatching Main Street’s east-west approaches, with everything closed on the uphill side, behind me.

At 8:45am, a deer appeared above Main Street, through my left side window, having come down the hill from behind me. At first, I could only see it’s right side and the back of its neck. It looked to me like a big doe. I put my binos on it as it lifted its head, to my surprise, three nice high, well defined antler points filled my view. My heartbeat picked up. Assuming an unseen brow tine, I realized I wasn’t watching a doe, but a nice 8-point, working slowly downhill towards my shooting windows at inside sixty yards.

There was no hesitation on my part. I knew in that moment. “This isn’t that 6-point I’ve been watching. This is a much bigger deer. This is my buck.”

However, at that moment, I was oriented for a shot center window. I feared I couldn’t shift my bipod without spooking the buck. So, I waited. The buck worked down onto Main Street, where I lost sight of him momentarily through tall trailside brambles.

While he was out of sight, I shifted everything left, lifting my rifle to my bipod. I caught sight of him again once he crossed the road and worked his way back into the hardwoods, quartering downhill from left to right at sixty-five yards, across the shooting windows in front of me.

I watched and I waited, keeping the buck in my scope. Sometimes I could see only his right-side antlers, sometimes his head, sometimes his back, sometimes the white of his tail. I finally had a good clear shot in the same window I had the afternoon just before shot my doe through.

I clicked off my safety, exhaled, and squeezed. The buck jolted and stood there, stunned. I was confident I had made a good shot. The buck staggered forward but did not go down. Buck still on his feet, I chambered one more round. I once again took aim, clicked off my safety, exhaled and squeezed. The buck staggered forward again, but still did not go down. He was now sixty-five yards below my center window, masked by brambles in the gully. I could see his antlers and head but had no clear sightline to his body.

I chambered a third round. I knew he was hit hard with two fatal shot rounds, but I did not want that buck to run. I watched and waited as I scoped what I could see of his head. He finally gave me just enough of a view that I was able to squeeze off a third round. He dropped in the brambles below me. My buck finally was down.

At that moment, 8:58 am, my cell phone vibrated. It was RJ. “Did you shoot?”

Instead of texting back, I called him. “Katie said she heard three shots. I told her it wasn’t you, because you always only shoot once.”

“Yes, it was me. I shot three times at a buck. My first two shots hit, but he just would not go down. He’s down now though. I’ve got eyes on where he fell. No sign of movement. Everything’s still.”

RJ said, “Stay put. Don’t move. Give him some time. I’ll call Chuck.”

Suddenly, right at that moment, I saw one bramble bush wiggle, then another, then suddenly my buck stood back up! “Holy Crap! RJ! Buck’s back on his feet. I gotta go!”

I loaded a fourth round but did not have a shot. I could see the brambles moving, but initially had no clear sightline of the buck. Then he emerged from the brambles, clearly staggering, facing directly towards me. Between the trees and his head-on orientation, I had no good shot. As he staggered uphill through the hardwoods back towards me, not wanting him to run, I sighed and made my best shot. The buck dropped once again, legs sprawled in front of him, body framed between two oaks, with only his back, antlers and part of his head visible to me. I could see his chest rising and falling. His head was still moving occasionally. Four rifle rounds in him, that buck was not dead.

I re-loaded. This was my fifth round. I had only brought seven rounds with me. I was about out of ammo. Just at that moment, I heard the 4-wheeler buggy approaching up Main Street from my right. I immediately put down my rifle, leaned out my front window, and began waving frantically. “STOP!” Luckily, just in time, Chuck saw me.

I called him on my cell phone. “Chuck, the buck is down, but not dead. He’s twenty yards west of the big oak, directly below me. I only have a shot at his back. I can see his chest rising and falling. I’ve got him in my scope. I am afraid I will need to shoot him again, but I don’t have a good angle for a shot.”

“Okay. I’m going to get out with my rifle and approach him from the road. I’ll walk under you.”

“Okay. I’m lifting my rifle until you are clear.” I reached my left arm out of the blind and gave a directional signal to orient Chuck on the buck. Once Chuck had passed me, I put the buck back in my scope until Chuck had a clear sight line to him.

“Okay. I’ve got him. What do you want me to do? Are you okay if I finish him?”

“I’m coming down to you now. Keep your scope on him. If he makes a move to get up in the meantime, I’m fine with it. Take the shot. Finish him.”

I descended the cage with my rifle and bipod and made my way down Main Street to Chuck. I took aim and fired, round number five.

I had only two rounds left. Things had not gone as envisioned, desired or planned, but with a little reinforcement bailout from my friend, I finally had my buck.

As it turned out, the buck’s left side only had three antler points, making him a seven. But for me, it’s never about rack size or antler point counts. To me, every tagged deer is a trophy. It’s about the hunt, living in the day I am in, and the moment.

This hunt was far from textbook. There are many things I likely could have done better. But, in the end, no lost deer (Katie successfully tracked & recovered Bill’s doe), no alibi’s, no incidents, 4 deer in the freezer.

It’s a shared moment I will never forget. A story that will be told, re-told, re-told again, and most likely exaggerated.

A story of the day I was pinned down, caged, & running out of ammo.

A story of the day my best friend showed up in the nick of time for a bailout.

A story of a from here forward a re-named hunting blind.

One shared moment in time I shall forever cherish.

One epic hunt.

Remember “The Alamo”


Until Our Trails Cross Again: