Taggers report bigger, more plentiful deer

Posted Nov. 22, 2010, at 1:25 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:37 p.m.

NEWRY, Maine (MCT) — Deer hunters Mike Piveronas of Rumford Point and Barry Sweatt of Errol, N.H., shared an interesting similarity when they stopped at Doug Webster’s Bear River Trading Post within minutes of each other Saturday afternoon.

Deer’s abnormal antlers stop traffic
A Northport 15-year-old bagged a deer with an extraordinary rack.

That morning, Piveronas was hunting with a Howard Hill longbow with a 48-pound draw and Sitka spruce arrows with razor-sharp steel broadheads. The very lightweight equipment has a kill range of 25 yards.

Sweatt was using a 6.5×55 long-range deer rifle.

While hunting many miles apart in Oxford County, each saw a big buck late in the morning, but at the other’s shooting distance.

With one shot at about 15 yards from where he was waiting in the Upton woods near the Rapid River, Sweatt dropped an 8-point buck that weighed in at 180 pounds on Webster’s scale.

He said the buck was enraptured by a doe walking just ahead of it and neither was aware of Sweatt.

“I was sitting in the woods when they walked by,” he said. “I couldn’t believe how close they were to me. I was in the right spot at the right time.”

But Piveronas, dressed head to ankles in dense brush-patterned camouflage and rubber boots, could only watch and fret about what he said was a much larger buck topping a hardwood ridge that spotted him and wouldn’t come any closer than 80 to 100 yards.

“It was the biggest deer you could imagine,” Piveronas said, declining to reveal where he was hunting.

“To be able to see that in nature, it was really amazing watching the whole thing happening and there was nothing I could do,” he said. “He was completely out of range.”

Piveronas, who usually hunts deer in Newry and Rumford, switched from a rifle to a longbow three years ago for the challenge after bagging what he called a trophy deer with the gun.

Both Piveronas and Sweatt said they’ve seen fewer deer this year. The archer has been out 15 times, whereas Sweatt said he can only hunt on Saturdays, and this was his second trip into Maine where he would rather hunt than in New Hampshire.

Three weeks into the deer hunting season that ends Nov. 27 for all but muzzleloader hunters, tagging station officials in Dixfield, Rumford and Newry said they had registered more deer than last year.

As of noon Saturday, 68 were tagged at Ellis’ Variety in Dixfield, 56 at the Rumford Fire Department and 69 at the Trading Post in Newry. Those numbers could be higher than usual due to the shutdown of other tagging stations.

“When muzzleloading season closes on Dec. 11, I expect we’ll be ahead of last year, because of all the tagging stations closing,” Rumford firefighter Jeff Harren said.

Several agents have stopped tagging hunters’ takes in protest of last year’s hike in the tagging fee from $2 to $5, of which, $4 goes to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The tagging station agent still gets $1.

“We’ve had some people come from long distances to register their deer,” Harren said. “A Vermont guy came in from Parmachenee this morning with a 200-pounder.”

Parmachenee is in northern Oxford County near the Canadian border.

Harren said that of the 56 tagged, four were does, of which three were taken by archers during bow season.

“That’s good,” Harren said. “The fewer of the females taken, the more offspring there will be next year.”

Webster in Newry said that of the 69 he’d tagged, 10 had been does.

Harren and Webster both said this year’s deer are heavier than last year’s.

“Last winter wasn’t too severe and the weather this year was good for feed, like grass, berries, acorns and beech nuts,” Harren said.

“Last year, we were seeing a lot of deer with (antlers from) 6 to 8 points, but now we’re getting 10 to 14 points,” Webster said.

The largest Webster has tagged was a 14-point, 224-pound deer taken on Nov. 4 by Ramsey Harrington of Newry.

Harren said the largest they’ve tagged was a 224 1/2-pounder taken on Nov. 12 by Matthew Duguay of Roxbury.

Getting that big buck is what it’s all about for many hunters, but for Piveronas, just watching one move through the woods out of bow range was thrilling.

“That was the most incredible experience,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about for me. My time will come.”

Copyright (c) 2010, Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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