One of my best and dear friends, Tom “the Tomcat” Connors, formerly of Portsmouth, was the first person I’d actually hunted deer with. We found that after several hunts together we pretty much knew where each other was and what could happen. Some of these places were like old friends that we visited often.

We most often would split up and one of us would circle around. We’d try to take a stand at locations where previous hunts had revealed them to be active deer crossings. The other one would stealthily sneak-n-peek down through the cover and hopefully get a shot, often at a deer on alert but not on the move.

But often that deer on alert would pick up a scent or see our gun movement and bound away. When that did not happen, a well-placed shotgun slug would end the hunt for us. But when the deer took off and bounded away,sometimes it was just the noise or occasionally in sight but offering no chance to shoot,it sent shivers up your neck as you waited to hear your partner’s shots ring out.

Quite often Tom and I were joined by my young nephew Eric Syphers, who was a commercial airline pilot and had quite a lot of free time to hunt with us. We just rotated who would hunt and who would cover escape routes. Our previous hunts or scouting revealed these most visible spots. Sometimes two of us were “covering-off,” as we called it, with one hunter on the move, or two of us would hunt through the cover with one of us watching the escape routes.

This technique was not just fun, with a lot of camaraderie as a bonus, but was also a very effective way to get your tag put on a deer!

It got so that each of us could pretty much tell who was doing the shooting, and especially true when the Tomcat was covering-off a large section of open cover or fields. There was something about his nervous system that told him that his best chance was to put a lot of lead in the air instead of taking one well-aimed shot.

It got to the point that we could tell if he’d hit the deer or not, as the sounds of his shooting indicated which direction he was shooting. If the first rounds were fired in our direction they were the loudest, and if they continued the sound would tail off as he was shooting away from us. It took us a while to figure this out but when it happened, we’d know that he probably missed a running deer. He got pretty excited at those bounding targets!

But when it was a single shot or one following another after a minute or so, we’d know that he’d connected and often had to finish the deer off with a killing shot.

Tom was a very good shot but something about running deer, especially in an open field, made him feel that lots of shots fired were better than one well-aimed one!

If we’d been hunting with Eric or another partner while Tomcat was on stand, I’d be able to yell over that he had missed or had got the deer just by the number or sounds of the shooting. Tomcat’s theory is bring it up loaded and bring it back down empty! A very fun guy to hunt with!

One brisk day, with snow squalls coming through in the last days of the season, Eric, Tomcat and the Dickster got together for a last-chance hunt. It was cold and windy but by rotating our walking or standing we were able to keep going without frostbite.

Eric and I had given Tomcat plenty of time to circle around and be in a proven spot to take care of any deer. We’d move out into an old open cow pasture with just knee-high grass that provided excellent shooting conditions.

After a few minutes of Eric and me stalking down through alder swamps and thick growth, Tomcat let go with a volley of about five shots and then, after a minute, a single shot.

“He must have hit that one,” I shouted over to Eric, who shouted back his agreement.

When we came out of the thick cover, I shouted, “you get ‘im?”

“You get ‘im?” I shouted. Tomcat gave me a silent answer with both hands open and spread out in the “I screwed-up” statue.

He motioned to me to come over to him. I hadn’t walked 10 yards when a deer jumped up right in front of me. Tomcat had set me up to walk into that deer but he didn’t know that the deer was only wounded. Instinctively, making sure it was a safe shot, we finished off the deer.

“I thought that you’d shot a deer, by listening to your shots. Why didn’t you finish him off?” I asked.

“That’s a different deer than the one that I fired five rounds at. And I only had one shell when I looked up and there was another deer, that small buck standing there looking at me. I knew you’d be hustling down here and you’d be able to finish it off, me being out of ammo!”

Just another day in paradise! Drop us an email at and get out there and get you some.

Dick Pinney’s column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at