THE BRULE BROTHERS
The three Brule boys were some of the first team members to hunt with Dad and me, way back in the early sixties. Two of them married into my mother’s side of the family. They all worked for their family business—at the time the biggest landscaping company in Ottawa—so they were all built like Arnold Schwartznegger. They admired my Dad, and would do their best to come up whenever they could manage time off from their many contracts. Sometimes only one or two of them could make it for a weekend, but once in awhile, all three would arrive together. They were strong, tough, funny and fun, and we loved it when they joined our hunt. They accounted for some very nice bucks.
These stories about the Brule boys are things I remember fondly. They may not be completely accurate in all details, because they happened such a long time ago. But they represent the best of my recollection. The weights of the deer and the number of pins are accurate—I remember those statistics because we always compared our deer to other bucks taken by others: friendly and not-so-friendly rivals. When we had two or three pounds more than our nearest rival, I did not forget.
When we had just started showing them the ropes, and they didn’t have much experience, we would place them in the woods while we walked. Eventually, Roger Brule, who was the eldest, wanted to walk the woods with us. The first time I took him out, I told him that whatever he did, he must not cross a runway, because then he would be moving into another shooter’s area. We were deep in the swamp, where there was thick moss over muddy earth, so even a small creature would create a visible runway. A few minutes after I left him, Roger called out to me, “Buck, Buck, come here.” When I got to him, he was headed in the right direction, but was stopped by a bunny runway that ran out of a brush heap, across his path. He said to me, “if you tell me to cross this runway, I’ll do it.” He had worked with sod, but hadn’t any experience with moss, and that little runway looked pretty serious to him.
One day in 1962, we decided to drive Roger Lake Mountain, a gorgeous high, rocky ridge. There were three main runways—two on the west side of Pennock Lake and one on the east side. Roger Brule was covering the east side, where a runway dropped down steeply to an outcrop next to the lake. He was a real good shot, and carried a .303 Enfield with open sights. Dad led the drive, operating right down the middle. I was on the west side and my brother Jerry ran the east side of the mountain. We had worked our way to within a couple of hundred yards of the hunters on stand, when we heard Roger fire. Dad was on the buck’s track and eventually followed the jumps to the spot where the buck had dropped down to Roger. We had ourselves a huge 10-pinner that dressed out at 212 lbs. It was a 2-mile pull to get that beast back to the vehicles, but we didn’t mind the weight. The drive back to camp was fun and funny, with Roger describing his reaction to the deer: “It was a great big Black & Decker buck!” That expression has become our description of a good big buck, for all the years since then.
Rolly Brule was the middle brother, and he shot a real beauty, on Merritt’s Hill. It’s really much more than a hill: about 200 acres of rolling hills and 3 small swamps, all well-wooded. It was a run that we worked often. The walkers would silently stalk the deer on predetermined routes. We played safe, kept away from each other and away from the hunters on stand. If the walkers didn’t get a shot, we attempted to force the deer into what we called “the Box,” where one of us would have a good chance of shooting. The hunters on stand were always positioned so that they would shoot into a hill or gully, so we always had safe shooting lanes. You have to know your woods really well to set up like this, but no one knew them better than Dad. On this day, we knew we were tracking a big buck, and we were able to keep him from cutting back behind us. He worked his way ahead of us, and came out to Rolly, who made no mistake. It was a real trophy buck—10 pins, and dressed out at 233 lbs. It was one of the heaviest bucks we ever shot.
Marcel was the youngest of the three brothers, and he also found Merritt’s Hill a great place to hunt. He hadn’t been hunting with us for very long, and had just bought a 30-30 Winchester with open sights. One day we decided to teach him how to run the 200 acres of hills and swamps at Merritt’s, where he had only hunted previously on stand. Three others were on stand at the best runways, and three of us were to walk. My brother-in-law Ted was working the lower swamp, and I took Marcel with me, up above in the hardwoods. I had Marcel follow me inside his runway, and we stopped where we could see a secondary deer trail 20or 30 yards away. I explained to him that he had to give me 15 minutes to set up. Then I pointed him in the right direction and told him to bark, howl, “hut,” or otherwise make noise that would help me keep track of him. I also explained that he could easily follow his own tracks back out, if he needed to, since we had about 4 inches of new snow. I reminded him to wait 15 minutes, and then left him. After only about 5 minutes or so, I heard two shots. Then I heard Marcel call, “Buck, Buck, get over here fast!” When I got to him, he was admiring a nice 8-pinner stretched out flat and ready for the freezer. I could tell the adrenaline was pumping fast and hard, but he stayed back and asked me what to do. I coached him to go through the usual safe approach: stay behind the deer, throw a stick if you’re not sure it’s dead, etc. When he finally got to his deer, he grinned from ear to ear: he had his first buck, a nice, 170 lb. 8-pinner.
There was a time when Marcel didn’t take my instructions quite seriously enough. We were on Merritt’s Hill, and he was going to walk the same runway where he had shot his 8-pinner. We had close to a foot of new snow. I directed him, told him the landmarks he would see, and told him he would end up above a small swamp. He was to stop there, and wait for me. I would do my own portion of the run, then go to him above the swamp, and direct him for the remainder of the run. He was to hoot, howl, bark or holler while moving through the bush, so I would know where he was and there would be no mistakes, and under no circumstances was he to cross my tracks, if he came across them. I took off to the upper runway, and I heard Marcel get started howling. I started my run, and came across a deer track coming up from his direction. It wasn’t a fresh track. Unfortunately, when Marcel hit that track, he didn’t recognize that it was not fresh. Adrenaline took over, and he started following that track. I didn’t know he was doing this, but I did notice that I didn’t hear him anymore. I wasn’t worried—you can’t get lost in new snow. I finished my run, and came out above the little swamp. Marcel was not there. We finished the rest of the run, had no luck, waited quite awhile for Marcel to show up. Finally Dad said there was no point in staying there, since Marcel might already be back at the camp. We returned to camp—no Marcel. Dad told us to relax and have something to eat. He had his cup of tea and pondered what to do next. After about half an hour, he said that Marcel must have crossed my track. If he did, he would be approaching the Bear Killer’s Ridge. Dad thought that Marcel would not climb that ridge. He would realize his mistake, and follow his own tracks, back. If he had not muddled the whole mountain with his own footsteps, it would be easy for him to find his own way out. Dad said he’d been gone nearly three hours, and that would be about right for Marcel to be coming out to the road. He told me to go out and pick him up, and there Marcel was, right where Dad said he would be. Marcel admitted that he had crossed my tracks while following that old deer trail, but he figured they were not my tracks, or I must have made the mistake. Adrenaline is not good for rational thought. Marcel may have made a mistake that day, but he was as proud as anyone could be, because he got himself lost and found his own way out before dark.