Growing up in New Hampshire, the deer season was split between what was called the “Southern Zone” or the “Northern Zone.”
That gave us plenty of time to hunt as both zones usually took up the best part of a month, with the Northern Zone starting about a month earlier than the Southern Zone. We always talked an adult deer hunter (we were under the legal age of 16!) into let us tag along with them.
We would bribe them with the promise of helping drag out their deer, helping them dress it and very rarely (we were always short on cash) offer to put some gas in their tank or treat them for a meal.
Usually the gas was just a couple of bucks. In those days, everything important was 25 cents so if two of us chipped in a buck each, that would provide the needed ride up to the Northern Zone and, very rarely, the opportunity to see a deer, so very rarely did we have a chance to actually take a whack at one!
But our mentors were quite aware that we were just trying to get a free ride upcountry as we’d never on our own have a chance to hunt deer!
The closest we ever got to seeing a deer on those hunts was generally out the window of our ride and never in an open hunting zone, or at the deer-checking station tied to the back of one of the sedans of that era that sported a spare tire on the rear door that could be raised up. We called it the “jump seat”.
In those days, when shooting a deer was a difficult endeavor, the rare times we had actually got a deer we just about wore the poor thing’s fur off as we paraded our dead deer around town, stopping for people to admire it at every chance we were given!
In all of the many deer hunting trips to the “Northern Zone,” we don’t remember one time that we came home with a deer strapped to our rear spare tire but as we became more serious and started to score deer, we were less likely to do much touring, knowing that the deer meat’s quality was more important than making our statement as great hunters!
Eventually we became quite effective in our hunts as we had begun to realize that there were probably more deer in our Southern Zone than up north, and we were very much more familiar with the grounds as we hunted upland game in most of the places that were also good deer covers.
This was shotgun-only territory by law and those of us who were a bit more serious invested in the new-on-the market special pump shotguns that sported rifle sights, and the Dickster was one of the first in our group to actually have a specialized 12-gauge that sported a telegraphic sight. We spent some serious cash to purchase a short barreled “slug barrel” for our Ithaca Deer Slayer pump that turned into a real deer killer!
Part of this success was that we spent an inordinate amount of the family fortune on special 12-gauge deer slugs and buckshot. But it wasn’t long before we shed the buckshot after having a couple of deer we’d hit with a lot of buckshot get away on us.
After that it was slugs only and over a few years the ammo industry brought about some great slug cartridges that would hold a five- or six-shot pattern inside a foot-round target at up to 100 yards and better.
Actually we got so into the 12-gauge slugs for our deer hunting that we started to take deer with that load up to and a bit farther than 100 yards! We’re not bragging here. We were just serious enough about this that we spent a lot of time and cash-slinging slugs at targets up to and a little farther than that.
We can’t count the times when we would flop down, try to find a good rest for our gun and shoot and kill a deer at well over 100 yards with our trusty-scoped 12-gauge Ithaca Deer Slayer pump, while my hunting partners just crouched there watching and whispering to each other that we’d never score!
Several times those deer hunting buddies of mine had to eat crow while the Dickster was eating some great venison! It cost me a small fortune to find out what ranges would hit where I wanted it to with a variety of 12-gauge rifled slugs and by now using a special rifled shotgun barrel.
We had to modify our shotguns as most of our deer hunting was here in the Southern Zone where it was shotgun-only allowed for deer hunting. Being properly equipped gave me a huge advantage and several of my hunting buddies had to eat a lot of crow!
Those were the days, my friend. We thought they’d never end!