Deer hunting stories #5 My last minute buck

This is my fifth column of deer hunting stories, posted every Friday. Included in this column is a big buck I got in my 15 minute hunt.

It was a Saturday and I got home from a funeral in the late afternoon, put on my hunting clothes, grabbed my rifle, and ran a half-mile through the woods to a spot I liked on a small ridge above my stream. When I got to that spot, I glanced at my watch and noted that I had just 15 minutes left in the legal hunting day.

Amazingly, about two minutes later I spotted a nice buck walking by me in the thick furs to my right. I did not have a shot but I hoped he’d turn and head my way. Unfortunately, he went down over the ridge towards the stream.

But a few minutes later I saw him walking through the firs headed in my direction. There was a big boulder about 10 yards in front of me and to the left of that it was all open. All I could see as the buck walked through the firs was a beautiful set of antlers.

But when that buck walked past that big boulder, I shot it and it dropped. I glanced at my watch again and noted that there was just one minute left in the legal hunting day. And I’m being honest about this! Ever after, this was my last minute buck.

It was getting dark as I paddled that buck back to the house in my canoe, and as I approached the small bridge in front of our house, I saw my wife Linda and young son Joshua standing on the bridge watching for me.

When Josh saw the buck in the canoe he yelled, “Great fishing dad!” And boy, he got that right!

A few years ago, I took Deirdre Fleming, the outdoor writer for the Portland Press Herald, on her very first deer hunt. I took her to a farm in Fayette and spoiled her. In three days, she saw 17 deer. On day two I thought she had a pretty good chance of shooting one of the deer but she didn’t shoot, telling me she thought it was too far away and a difficult shot.

I worried that she passed up her best chance, but on the third afternoon we were sitting in the woods watching a field when 4 deer trotted up over the ridge and walked right by in front of us. Deirdre made a good shot and hit one of the deer, but it didn’t drop, so I whispered to her to shoot again but she looked back at me and asked me to shoot.

I did not want to do that so I told her again to shoot and she did, and the deer dropped. And then the landowner came out and actually cleaned the deer for her. Yes, she definitely was spoiled. Deirdre and I both wrote stories about the hunt.

I always enjoyed taking new hunters out after deer. Back in the 70s, I had a friend who had never hunted, so I got him to come up to Mount Vernon a couple of times to hunt deer.

The first time I took him into the woods not far from our house and left him in a very good spot. And then I walked about a half-mile and took a stand myself. After about an hour I started back in his direction and about halfway there jumped a doe and a nice buck. And luckily, they headed right towards my friend.

I was able to follow them and when I got to my friend’s spot, he was gone, but the deer walked past that spot only about 10 feet from it. I could not imagine what happened to my friend but I walked home and there he was at the kitchen table enjoying breakfast. He told me he’d gotten hungry so he came home to have breakfast. Yes, I told him he’d missed his chance at very nice buck.

On his second visit I put him on the edge of a field up at the end of my road and then hiked up the hill to his right and started down through the woods in his direction. I had not gone very far when I heard him shoot five times, and I thought, that’s great. He must’ve got his first deer.

I was about halfway to the field when I heard him shoot another five times. And just before I got to the field he shot three more times. Well, a buck had run across the field first and he missed it all five times. And then a doe ran across the field, and he missed all five shots. And finally, a small deer stepped out into the field and stood there while he shot at it three times and missed, and the deer leaped into the woods.

Yup, 13 shots and no deer. I sent him home and told him to get out on the range and practice shooting.

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.