Before iPhones, about the only time fellow deer hunters communicated with one another was during the noon break or back at camp after legal shooting hours. 

Not so today. We text each other during the day at agreed times. It might go like this: “On south side of bog. Good sign.” or “Just jumped a buck. Headed northwest, toward you.”

V. Paul Reynolds, Outdoors Columnist

This fall, hunting in the north woods in an area near our deer camp, my son sent me this text: “Come back out, Dad. Am on the 29 crossover road with Ron. Meet you by the stream between 11 and noon.” 

As the old man of the group, the younger companions sort of keep an eye on me, especially when I get off the roads and into the fir thickets, which I still like to do.

So I try to do as told, so as not to worry anyone. Shortly after 11 a.m., I broke out of the woods onto the crossover road within eyeshot of the stream. 

“Nobody here,” I said to myself.

“Hmm. That’s funny,” I thought. They said that they were already here waiting for me. This is the crossover road and this is the stream. What gives?” I asked myself.

At 11:45 a.m. I tried to text my missing hunt companions. Wouldn’t you know it? No battery power left on my iPhone.

By noon, annoyed that my son apparently had gotten impatient and taken off before I exited the woods, I headed off to hunt on my own.

Back at camp before a warming fire, my son said, “By the way, Dad, where the heck were you?  Ron and I waited by the stream a full hour and you never showed. We sent you a text with no response. You should have heard our voices or even Ron’s ATV. We finally just gave up and left.”

This put a scare in me. Was I losing it? 

“Scotty, you are joking, right?”

“No, I’m telling you. We waited from 11 to noon. You never showed,” he insisted.

“You guys must have been on a different road,” I interjected.

“No way, Dad. We were on what we have been calling the 29 crossover road,” he said. “The same road we went in on this morning. I went in on the west side and you came though from the east side where you parked.”

Only if you are on in years will you understand how unsettling incidents and conversations like this can be.

We finally unraveled the puzzle by closely examining the topographical map. By now you have figured out the explanation, right?

Here it is.

The road in question is about a mile and a half long. Although I had hunted the road years ago, my recollection was that there was one stream crossing the road about midway. In fact, as the map revealed, there are actually two almost identical-sized streams that cross this road about a half mile apart. Since I had entered the road from the east side and my son had entered from the west side, we both had erroneously assumed that we were talking about the same stream.

Part of our deer camp is wallpapered with a large topo map of our hunt area. Over the years, deer hot spots and navigational tips for logging roads have been scribbled in red ink. Added to the map are two streams clearly labeled West Branch and East Branch.

The best part is that there was a rational explanation. But it is a reminder to all of us who navigate the Big Deer Woods. Know your terrain and study the maps well.

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books; online purchase information is available at  

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