Game Mistakes: Swimming for the big buck

Another in my series: Game Mistakes    

deerbuck3This mistake had a happy ending.

For years I had a favorite spot in woods near the far corner of a small local pond. I could sit inside a rock formation and the deer had only a narrow pathway to go past me along the shore. There were always buck scrapes there, a sure sign that a buck will be along.

It was late November and very cold. I spotted the buck quite a ways up in the woods, and sure enough, he came right to a scrape and straddled it. He was facing me, so I waited until he turned and continued on his way to take my best shot.

I got off three shots before he bounded up and over a small knoll, running along the shore of the pond. I knew I’d hit him, so I gave him some time to lay down, then took off after him. His trail, with lots of blood, was easy to follow, but he surprised me when he turned right, moved out of the woods and into the swale grass alongside the pond.

I jumped into the grass, wandered around there, but couldn’t find him. Then I raised my head and spotted him about half way across the pond. He died in the pond and was floating.

Well, I didn’t know if he might sink, so I stepped back onto land and shed my clothes down to my underwear. Yes, I was not thinking very clearly at that point. I wanted to get my buck before he sank! The buck was about 150 yards out in the pond. I waded into the water, then started to swim. At about 40 yards, it finally occurred to me that this was a very bad idea. The water was freezing! And how on earth was I going to tow that buck back to shore?

Coming to my senses, I returned to shore shivering, pulled on my clothes, hiked out of the woods to my vehicle, and drove home.

My teenage son Josh helped me load the canoe and we drove to a carry-in boat launch the other end of the pond and paddled down to the buck which, much to my relief, was still floating. He had a very nice rack. We tied a rope to the antlers and towed the buck to shore. That’s when I found out that the coat of a deer can absorb a lot of water. What a job we had dragging that buck up the hill to the vehicle.

If I had weighed him immediately, he’d have been a new state record! Eventually, after he dried out, I got him down to the Mount Vernon Country Store where he weighed 165 pounds. Not a state record, but certainly a buck I will never forget.



George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.