We slipped the canoe out of the back of the pickup an slid it down over the bank by the bridge. The cloudy cover, left over remnants from Sandy, obscured the moon and left the spot ink dark. Ralph and Steele knew the path through the alders, but it was all new to me. I grabbed the stern and they led the way.
After a few minutes of sloshing through the muddy track, we came to the river’s edge. The water was high to the bank, but lower than flood. Guns, life jackets, spare clothes, camera gear and a snack all were loaded into the canoe. As the sky started to lighten, Steele jumped into the bow and I grabbed the larger of the paddles and eased the whole rig out into the current. I carefully assumed my position in the stern and with a gentle push we started the glide down the river.
Soon the small blacktop road disappeared and we were silently moving with the dark black flow that drains this part of Maine. Steele was to be the bow shooter in the first float of the season, so he had the 10-guage loaded with buckshot at the ready. He had taken a deer here two years ago, so he was alert.
Floating the rivers is a very productive way to hunt. Usually in the fall the rivers are fairly low. This means that in many places there is a dry flood plane between the bank of the river and the woods. The deer often come down in the evening to hide in the tall vegetation along the water’s edge. They just curl up, blend into the brown grass and take a snooze.
With the canoe there is almost no noise. The river current supplies most of the energy. My role was to steer in such a way as to keep us off the shore and maneuver around boulders, beaver lodges, and overhanging trees. I basically stuck the blade of the paddle just under the surface and turned it to direct the flow of the water along the stern. Push out and the bow went right, pull in and the bow went left. In most cases I never had to lift the paddle out of the water. No noise. Only a gurgle once in a while when I had to apply hard pressure.