It wasn’t like the hunter had not gone a season without tagging a deer before. Still, he was proud of his average, a deer about every other year over his deer hunting career. This would be his second year, though, with an empty freezer. And he had hunted diligently this year: the whole bow season, the November firearms season, and two weeks almost of black-powder hunting. It was the last day of the two-week, black-powder season. The day before, with a tracking snow, he had jumped nine deer all bedded down in a fir thicket. Hoping to fill his bonus doe permit, he deliberately picked a medium-sized track and stayed on it all day. The deer knew there was a predator back there, and took the hunter through the usual alder tangles and mucky hellholes trying to discourage the pursuer. By day’s end, the deer never showed itself. Just before giving up the quest, the wet and tired hunter noticed a newcomer’s track. A coyote!

“Damn,” he said to himself. “Now I’m competing with coyotes.”

The coyote was on the deer’s track and, apparently, closer to the quarry than he.

“Time to call it a day, ” he thought, and began backtracking his way back to the truck.

As it had for so many other fall mornings, the alarm awakened the hunter at 4 a.m. He was tempted to roll over and declare the hunting season over. But there was still a tracking snow and it tugged at him. It was the last day and he knew from experience that it pays to persevere, if you want to hang a deer. Back in the same woods, he found lots of tracks. Too many. It was confusing. He decided to still hunt around the fir thickets on a chance that he might get lucky. By three in the afternoon, a chill took him and he decided to accept the inevitable: “It’s over for this year. Time to go home and get warm. It’s been fun all the same. Maybe next year,” he consoled himself.

Then he saw it. On the edge of the thicket there was a deer carcass. It was a medium-sized doe, obviously taken down and eaten alive by coyotes. It was a fresh kill. There was a sign of struggle. The entrails were spread around with a lot of hair and one of the hind quarters had been chewed up pretty good.

For a moment, the hunter studied the death scene with curiosity. From the tracks it looked like a pair of coyotes had killed the young doe. “What a way to go,” he thought to himself. He started to walk away, but had second thoughts. There was the smell of viscera in the cold air, but he turned the deer over just the same and saw that the other hindquarter was untouched by the previous diners. Taking out his knife, he skinned back the hide and cut off a large chunk of the hindquarter. Once the meat was separated, he stepped away and gave it the sniff test. “Hmmm, this is OK. It’ll do as a roast,” he told himself. He placed the meat in a big Ziploc bag he carried and put it in his hunting day pack.

Back at the truck, while removing the 209 primer from his muzzleloader, he got to thinking.”Maybe I’ve discovered a new way to hunt in Maine’s coyote-rich environment. Just get on a coyote track and let it take you to its next kill. You don’t even need to carry a gun. Just a knife.”

The next day, the hunter cleaned up the chunk of coyote kill and wrapped it with butcher’s twine into a 2-pound pot roast. He rolled it in flour with salt and pepper and seared it in a hot fry pan. Then he placed it in his wife’s new Hamilton Beach crockpot with some peeled potatoes, onions and carrots. To the crockpot he added two cloves of garlic, a can of Swanson’s low-sodium beef broth, a cup of orange juice, a cup of red wine, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce. He then de-glazed the frying pan with some hot water and poured the drippings over the roast. He put the crockpot on the low setting and let it cook covered for about eight hours.

While his wife was away, he set up a card table in the living room near the TV with place settings for two. He included a candle and some wine glasses. Upon his wife’s return, he invited her to dine with him at his impromptu dinner theatre. They turned on an old movie and the hunter served his wife a dish he called last-ditch pot roast. She said that it was by far the best pot roast she had ever eaten!

The hunter and his wife raised their glasses and toasted to the end of another Maine deer season.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal and has written his first book, A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WCME-FM 96.7) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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