Down East 2013 ©
Fall’s hunting season here in Maine. Bow hunting takes place in October, and come November, they bring out the heavy artillery. So if you’re out walking in the woods, be sure to wear your blaze orange vests, hats and what not. I know, it’s not in my color wheel either, but sometimes you gotta forgo fashion for safety. Why, even our little dog Scamp wears his colors. Got him a blaze orange bandana and vest, and boy, oh boy, does he ever look cunnin.’
Hunting season always makes me think of my Grandfather, Fredrick Gilbert. Grampy was a Registered Maine Guide. Folks from away would come up to Maine to go hunting and fishing, and they’d hire him to take them to places they couldn’t find on their own. What a character he was, with his French accent and that battered green fedora.
Heck of an outdoorsmen, too! Always dressed and ate what he killed. Or gave it away to people who could use a little extra. And my Grammy baked the best minced meat pies ever; you know, the real kind, made from venison.
Though he was a good shot with a rifle, Grampy Gilbert really liked bow hunting best. “Takes finesse,” he’d tell me. “Bringin’ a buck down with a gun’s one thing, but with an arrow, that’s something else all together.”
He even killed a black bear, once, bow hunting. And this is before they had them big fancy bows and arrows like nowadays.
“I come ‘round this stand of birch trees, and there it was, not thirty feet away, lookin’ straight at me. Mon Dieu, my heart was poundin.’ All of a sudden, it stands up. The thing’s as tall as me, I’m thinking. I don’t know, somehow I set my arrow, aim and let her rip. To my surprise, I dropped it right there! Then, I go see. Turns out it’s a female, maybe a hundred and fifty, two hundred pound. Makes me sad, eh, that little bear. But hey, at the time, I figured it was either me or her!”
Grampy went on to explain that a bear’s hair stands on end when it’s alive, adding about four inches all ‘round to the bear’s size. When it dies, though, the bear’s hair matts back down, making it look much smaller.
That was the end of bear hunting for Grampy. “With the deer, what you see is what you get. Besides, your grandmother, she says bear meat’s too gamey, and I think maybe she’s right.”
Oh, that Grampy Gilbert, he had stories up the ying-yang! Here’s a couple of family favorites:
There was the one about the doctors from New York, come up to Maine to go fishing one June. On the phone Grampy says, “I’ll tell you right up front, it’s black fly season up here. Sometime’s the air’s so thick with them p’tit mouche, you can’t see your hand in front of your face. In fact, a swarm of them carried off Mrs. Dugall’s dog last week. No shit! And it was a St. Bernard!” The doctors come up anyway.
My grandfather took them up to a little cabin on a lake you could only get to by pontoon plane. His friend Ernie Lambert flew ‘em in. Ernie dropped them off, and agreed to come back in five days to pick ‘em up. Well, by the time them New Yorkers got their gear into the cabin, they were covered in bites, head to toe. They’d had it, and spent the five days drinking and playing cards. Meanwhile Grampy doused himself in Fly Dope, and had the greatest time fishing, all by his lonesome! Heck, with all them bibbit, the lake was fairly boiling with bass. “I can’t believe they pay me to have this much fun,” he laughed.
Here’s another one. Two guys from Massachusetts hire him to take ‘em moose hunting, right? Oh, they talked a good game, all tricked out in brand-y new gear from L.L. Bean. I guess they big plans of mounting moose heads on their walls back home.
“So first day, we’re walking down the trail, turn the corner and boom! We come face to face with a big, honking bull moose. Them two city slickers take one look at that beast, and head for the hills, scared silly. When the dusts settles, it’s me and the moose standing there, sizing each other up. Finally, the moose just snorts and walks off into the woods. I take a little nip from my flask, hoist it high and say, ‘Salut, monsieur!’
“Must have taken me an hour to find those fellas. They told me they’d pay me double if I got ‘em back to town before dark. Eh, la, la! Was I gonna argue with that?”
That’s it for now. Catch you on the flip side!
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