As the firearms season on deer approaches, I’m going to share some of my favorite deer hunting stories with you. And I have a lot of those! I’ll publish the stories in several columns spread throughout the month.
I hunted for many years, usually with my dad, and I never saw a deer. I think I was 26 when I shot my first deer. I was hunting in the north woods west of Millinocket with my friend Dave Emery. We were staying at one of Great Northern Paper Company’s lumber camps.
The first day I got lost in the woods, but, luckily, found my way out. On the second day I was walking a woods trail when I spotted a deer peeking around a tree at me. And I shot that deer. I cleaned it out, with thanks to Dad for showing me how to do that, and I dragged it down onto the trail where Dave met me and helped me haul it out to our vehicle.
For many years after that I shot the first deer I saw, so I shot quite a few does and small bucks. I have lots of small antlers in my garage. Eventually, as I got older, I started to focus on big bucks. And I shot quite a few. I have four big buck mounts in my home office.
The biggest buck I ever shot, 216 pounds, is one of my favorite stories. Dad and I were hunting behind the North Wayne farm where he grew up. I sat up in the woods behind a cemetery with a pretty good view except there was a thick group of small firs to my right. Dad started in the woods down by the farm, quite a distance from me.
After sitting there about an hour, I heard a deer coming my way. Unfortunately, it was just the other side of the firs. I had one small opening where I might have a chance to see the deer, so I aimed my rifle at that opening and when the deer – a huge buck – trotted through that opening, I shot at it and missed. I could hear it trotting away from me and I was devastated.
The very next day Dad suggested we try that again but this time he put me in a better spot where I’d have a good look at deer coming up from the farm. And again, he started in the woods down by the farm. I sat there quite a while and then I heard a deer coming up over the hill.
And oh my gosh, here came the big buck I had missed the day before. This time I hit it, but it continued trotting along, so I shot it a second time, and he ran into a tree and flipped right upside down. Amazing!
When Dad came along and saw my big buck, I could see he was very pleased. And so was I! When we took it to the Mount Vernon country store and had it weighed, I was so happy. It was the only buck I shot that was big enough to qualify for the big bucks club (although I did shoot two other bucks that weighed 192 and 196 pounds, just short of the 200 pounds needed for the club).
Now I’ll share one more story with you. I took a friend from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife down to my woodlot, and sat him in a very good spot near my bog. I came down through the bog in his direction, knowing that the deer liked to spend the day in that bog, and I spotted the antlers of a big buck as he jumped up and headed out of the bog into the woods in the direction of my friend.
So I stood there and waited to hear his shot. But there was no shot. So I hiked out to his spot, and asked him why he hadn’t shot in the buck. He told me the buck had come out of the bog and headed through the woods in his direction but before he got right in front of my friend, about 50 yards away, the buck reentered the bog. I told him he should have shot at the buck. He actually had a good chance when the buck was only 50 yards away.
I left my friend there, and hiked through the woods about half a mile in the other direction and then got back in the bog and headed back towards my friend. And amazingly, I chased that buck back out to him and he shot it! It weighed about 180 pounds.
I’ll stop there but I’ve got some great deer hunting stories for you coming soon.