Sitting atop a hill in Holden on Dec. 13, I couldn’t help but reflect on the deer hunting season that was about to end.
A breeze blew across the hill and down the ridge, adding an extra chill to the frigid 18-degree air. Even so, brilliant sunshine helped make the solitary sit on a three-legged stool not only bearable but enjoyable.
Appreciating the beauty of the surroundings often is the only redeeming value of a hunting excursion — especially when you don’t have a chance to see or shoot a deer.
What struck me most during my third hunting season is the camaraderie shared by hunters.
I am blessed to have several friends and acquaintances who have gone out of their way to help me learn about hunting and who have tried to put me in position to bag a whitetail.
After two years spent in one area, I decided last fall to leave that comfort zone — and my best hunting buddy — behind to explore other areas. (I did eventually make three trips to Otis).
“Hunting buddy,” whose smiling face graces these pages three days a week, gave me the initial crash course in deer hunting and firearms safety. And I’ve had the pleasure of joining him on two moose hunts, the first of which was the impetus for putting on the orange hat and vest.
I am also fortunate to work with someone who is passionate about hunting deer. His hunting stories and suggestions have proven valuable in my understanding of the sport.
Terry Farren also has been a coach whose willingness to work with a novice shooter has instilled me with the confidence of knowing if and when the next “shootable” deer crosses my path, I will make a good, clean, successful shot.
Hunters sometimes pop up in unexpected places.
Steve Trimper, the baseball coach at the University of Maine, grew up an avid hunter in Pennsylvania. When he discovered my interest in the sport, he introduced me to some of his favorite hunting territory in Orono and made his tree stands available to me.
We hunted together a couple of times and Trimper even walked while I sat to potentially push a deer in my direction.
In Kenduskeag, Brhaun Parks, who is married to my cousin Leanne, opened up their sizeable property to me. He’s also a diehard hunter with many years of experience, all of which he is willing to share.
Parks helped me select a site for my ground blind, showed me around his “Back 40” and pointed out potential hot spots.
It was there I was presented with my first chance to shoot a deer. Inexperience, and perhaps a bit of ego, led me to talk myself out of shooting the spike-horn buck.
Sitting in a tree stand, I watched as the little fella made his way along the edge of the woods. He stopped two or three times within 20 feet of the tree.
As Farren says, “I could have hit him with my car keys.”
Deer seem much smaller out in the field than those monster bucks you see photos of in the BDN and on TV hunting shows. I decided it was “too small” and allowed it to walk.
This was Nov. 11 and I never got a shot at a deer the rest of the season. I likely will never hear the end of it from anyone I told about the situation.
If I am fortunate enough to get another such opportunity, I’ll take the shot and enjoy the tender venison. As co-worker Jim Goodness, another of my hunting “advisors,” pointed out, “You can’t eat the antlers.”
David Ellis of Holden played the role of hunting guide during the second week of muzzle-loader season, my first foray into that endeavor. Ellis, who owns Bangor Frameworks, eagerly introduced me to some spots near his home, where the deer are often plentiful.
I actually saw seven deer there in two days, but all were bounding away from me.
I would be remiss in failing to acknowledge hunting and fishing proteges Chris, Timmy and Billy Lander. The brothers’ vast experience, guidance and uncanny tracking skills shared in recent years are greatly appreciated.
It has been a gratifying experience learning about hunting and being in the woods with such a great bunch of guys. I was looking forward to sharing some venison with them.
Maybe next year …
Thanks for the help, boys!