On The Ridge: ‘Bear’ With Me

  • It’s been only bears on the trail cams so far during archery deer hunting season for outdoor columnist Joe Judd. PHOTO BY JOE JUDD

  • It’s been only bears on the trail cams so far during archery deer hunting season for outdoor columnist Joe Judd. PHOTO BY JOE JUDD

Published: 11/9/2022 4:35:48 PM
Modified: 11/9/2022 4:35:21 PM

Franklin County deer hunters have come out of the gate strong this year, with remarkable success stories coming in from all over the region during the early weeks of archery hunting.

One of the best I’ve heard comes from the Bassett household, a Shelburne family full of hunters with more on the horizon to carry on the tradition. Bob Bassett, who I’ve been close friends with going on 50 years, and his children Wade, Toby, and Abby, all excellent hunters, with Kim and mother Connie cheering them on, really turns this whole story into a true family affair that dates back for generations. And I think it’s fair to say that they’re as good as it gets when it comes to deer hunting in Massachusetts.

Bob’s grandsons (Toby’s boys) Mason and Cole have followed in that tradition by each bagging their first deer on the same day. It shouldn’t surprise anyone when you consider the amount of time these boys have spent in the woods tagging along with their dad, grandpa, and Uncle Wade just enjoying the outdoors with some of the best mentors they could ever hope for. And now, growing up in this lifestyle and getting to the age where they can almost manage things by themselves, the lessons they’ve learn are beginning to pay off with three generations of Bassett’s in the field on that successful Youth Day deer hunt together. How can it get any better than that.

Of course, knowing the Bassett’s and how they hunt, these boys will continue to learn more as they move ahead in their journey. But the real beauty, as it is with many New England families, is that they’re motivated to learn and eager to gain and take seriously the responsibilities that come with hunting. Congrats to them both for working hard, being patient, and learning the lessons that made this day possible! And I’m certain with the family support they have that this story is just one of many more to follow.

On the home front, my season started off with some family matters that were both pressing and sad. Then “work overload” kicked in due to the Nov. 8 elections, which kept me pinned down. But that’s about to change, within hours of this column going to print, as the election is now over with seven weeks of deer hunting remaining. I may be an extremely hard guy to reach until the last stroke of midnight on Dec. 31!

All that said, this deer season has been nothing but a daily dose of black bear sightings every single day. Whether I’m in the stand or seeing them on my camera from what I call the “honey pot” stand. Since Oct. 8, I have seen only one whitetail deer in my trail cams. One single whitetail deer in a month. So what does this mean exactly?

I believe, and have seen, that bear and deer will generally coexist in the same area. However, I also believe that the presence of bears, which are around daily, living and foraging in an area will have a noticeable impact on whitetail deer. That’s exactly what’s happening this year around the honey pot. Last year at this time, I was seeing deer every day and harvested a nice buck on Nov. 12, but this year the details of my adventures have spawned enough moaning and groaning to last everyone I know a lifetime.

But I, like many other archery hunters for deer, work hard preparing for deer season, and when I’m seeing black bears daily within 20 yards of my tree stand, but no deer, in an area where deer thrive, for over a month then I know something’s up. Some people would say, “just take one Joe, which will certainly help solve the problem.” But for me, that’s just not an option as I don’t hunt bear for several reasons, plus my nieces have named the bears Tim and Edna. I also realize that many deer hunters have seen, on an average trail cam day, both black bear and deer traveling the same trail within hours of each other, because they do share the woods together every day. But in the same breath, I know for certain that deer will avoid areas where bears regularly occupy.

So what’s my next move here, QUIT? Move my stand? Or just cry some more? None of the above is an option, except for maybe the crying thing. I’ll just sit in the honey pot longer and more often. I’ll wait for the cold to come and the bears to move to their den. And I’ll bring an extra supply of Kleenex, just in case!

Joe Judd is a lifelong hunter and sportsman. He is an outdoor writer, seminar speaker, member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association, and a 2019 inductee into the N.E. Turkey Hunting Hall of Fame. Joe is also on the Quaker Boy Game Calls and Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s Pro-Staff.

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