Ninety-year-old William Maines Sr. is a longtime Northwoods resident. Some years ago, he began turkey hunting in Missouri. Eventually, he started chasing bucks there.
The Missouri property Maines hunts is owned by Herman and Helen Kirn and family. Maines said he became acquainted because they’re patrons of his nephew, Art Long, who is a wildlife artist.
The Kirns’ property is in Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks area.
“We’ve hunted turkeys there for many years,” Maines said. He said the deer hunting got slow near where he resides in the Sayner area, so he and his nephew, Long, began hunting deer there as well. The accommodations are comfortable and the land is large.
“We get the royal treatment down there,” he said.
“The deer hunting is slightly unusual. I saw – in three days hunting – saw four or five bucks that I could have shot,” Maines said. “That’s like it used to be here at one time.”
The past and present
Maines did recall some of those past days as he sat at the kitchen table in his comfortable home, watching chickadees dart and dive around his feeder.
“I started hunting in ‘47. You could sit out there, back to a tree or stump, and expect to see groups of anywheres from five, 10, 15 deer parading past you,” he said. “That was in ‘47, ‘48.”
Maines believes management practices beginning in 1949 caused the deer herd in the area to be significantly decreased.
“In 1949, ‘50 and ‘51 they had open season on everything, and they cut the herd down to virtually nothing,” Maines recalled. “For at least five years, it was terrible hunting.
“If you saw one, you better shoot it, because it might be the only deer you’d see. And then the season got better. It was good up until several years ago.”
Maines deer hunted the Sayner area, but not near his house, which sits on a small property adjoining state forest land.
“My wife would not allow me to hunt here,” he said, pointing out the kitchen window. “In the past there was several times when there’d be a nice buck out here, and the gun right there. No-no. So they’d run away over the hill and somebody else would shoot them.”
Maines said his biggest buck, a large eight-pointer, came from the Northwoods about 15 years ago, when he had a good place to hunt on private land.
Maines has many recollections of Northwoods deer seasons.
“In ... ‘76, I started building a blind with a nice seat and a fire – pile of wood. My success rate went way up. Just staying there – good area,” he recalled.
Maines also recalled when there wasn’t baiting, but it was a common practice of some hunters to cut down a cedar near a blind in order to attract deer.
Maines said there were some good seasons when he had access to a nice piece of private property.
“I had a caretaker job, then my son had it,” he said. “It involved about 250 acres that we patrolled and I had a good blind there. I did very well there over about a 20-year period. You could pass up bucks – which you’ve got to be a brave guy to do now.”
The veteran Northwoods hunter thinks there might be too many seasons, and seasons that span too much time. He said, “The deer could use a rest.”
Maines also thinks the herd, especially in his immediate locale, has suffered because of numerous does harvested.
“Plum Lake is over 75 percent state-owned, so the local people have no say,” he said. “You go just to St. Germain, they’re probably just the opposite – 75 percent private.
“When they get these ... seasons [they say], ‘Nobody is going to hunt on my land.’ So, here, they just slaughter everything and just as far as St. Germain they have the power to save some of those does.”
Maines said he hasn’t hunted deer in Wisconsin in five or six years. He said he doesn’t often even see deer around.
It was lunch time on Nov. 13 when the buck Maines would eventually tag showed. Folks were gathered at a cabin on the Missouri property for a meal.
“Out of the cabin, there’s an open 1,200-yard field – it was planted with winter wheat,” Maines said. “It was extremely popular – deer there several times of the day.
“After lunch we were going to head back out, and where we would go is right down the end of that field.”
Kirn was transporting Maines in a Gator after lunch, bringing him to his hunting spot, and watching a particular deer in that field.
“One deer just stayed there,” Maines recalled. “The owner there, he says, ‘Shoot him, shoot him ... that’s a good buck.’ So we got down a little farther and he says, ‘Take him,’ and we stopped.”
Maines said there was a fence for a rifle rest, but the shot was pretty long – and there was an audience.
“As I was sighting, I said, ‘There’s four people looking out that window behind me there, watching,’ which is a little added pressure,” he said.
“He went down. I shot and he went down. It was 180 good big steps, so 160, 170 yards anyway. I don’t like shooting over a hundred, at 90, you know. You’re not as steady as you want to be.”
The gun was Maines’ familiar old .308.
“I’ve had that gun since ‘64, so when I think it’s time to pull the trigger it’s already gone. Finger reacts instantly,” he said.
The buck was a 10-pointer with some tines that had been broken fighting. It’s one of several nice Missouri bucks Maines has taken.
“They emphasize four points on one side,” Maines said. “There’s hunters, for meat they’ll shoot spikehorns, but they’d rather shoot the eight-points.”
Comparatively, he’s noticed that Northwoods bucks generally carry more weight.
“Missouri deer are small,” he said. “You see big antlers and you shoot the deer and you go up and go, ‘Did I kill that little thing?’ the body size is a lot smaller than the antlers.”
Maines said it’s bucks-only on his friend’s property and there’s plenty of room for the deer to roam.
“Where we hunt, there’s a couple thousand acres involved – no does. You can buy a doe license, but you can’t shoot there.”
The land is just for hunting and hosting hunters.
“It’s just for hunting turkeys and deer. Single owner, and sons ... and the world’s greatest cook, his wife,” Maines said.
He said the cabin and accommodations are even better than your average deer camp. Evenings might find one playing cards and drinking a little brandy. Maines enjoys the social aspect.
“I was born and brought up in New York state, upstate,” he said.
“We had a cabin up in the Adirondack mountains and highlight of the year was deer season. We very seldom shot any – maybe one deer out of six or eight guys. One buck. But we sure enjoyed the camp life.”
In Missouri, Maines said he is fortunate to have access to a large block of his friend’s holdings.
“Where we stay, it’s 300 acres there, and there’s only two of us allowed to hunt there. It pays to be 90 at times. Turkeys and deer.”
Turkeys and coyotes, too
Maines said they were targeting jakes when he went hunting the spring of this year. He took two.
“Herman said, ‘I don’t see too many toms. We’re going to shoot jakes this year.’ So, we’re sitting there in a little tent and here comes the turkeys.
“There were three jakes, the last two were bigger toms. He said, ‘Shoot that front jake,’ so, no chance to shoot those toms, so that’s what I did, twice. Two jakes.”
Maines said they also stay in the woods for some coyote hunting.
“Coyotes are hard on turkeys,” he said. “Coyotes, coons, possums, skunks. They’re all terrible predators on turkeys.
“A lot of times, all you’ve got to do is make a turkey call and here comes a coyote running like hell. I’ve shot two of them with the three-inch 12-gauge.”
Maines lost his wife, Helen, a few years ago. He lives alone in the home he built years ago and said he can really appreciate now how much his wife did around that home.
He added that he’s not quite the master with the old wood cookstove that his wife knew so well, but he still uses it to cook various meals.
Like many Northwoods residents, Maines is a fan of fishing, too. Especially on hard water.
“I just love ice fishing,” he said.
A 12-pound-plus walleye on his living room wall was pulled through the ice.
Maines recalled a very productive ice walleye spot on an area lake.
“About 20 years ago or so we went over there to try and catch the northern and started catching walleyes,” he said.
“And we caught walleyes. The smallest we caught were like 20 inches ... We had that secret, about four of us, we had that secret for two years. We didn’t abuse it, you know.”
Eventually, as is usual, the secret spot was no longer secret.
Maines also enjoys just watching the birds in his back yard and has devoted time to logging the different species he sees there. It’s a count that has dropped in recent years, too, he said.
Deer show up now and then. They are sometimes attracted to the acorns dropped by a productive oak in Maines’ yard.
“Last night I had two of them out here – first deer I’ve seen in a while,” he said.
Well, maybe it’s a start.
Craig Turk may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org