RUMFORD, Maine — Opening day Saturday of the regular firearms season for residents hunting white-tailed deer began slowly in the River Valley area.
The countryside was socked in with fog in the morning as temperatures climbed into the low 50s. By 11:30 a.m., only one deer had been registered and tagged at the Rumford fire station. That was a 140-pound, six-pointer.
Tagging work picked up at the J&K Sporting Goods game station beside Route 26 in West Paris. Employee Mark Neary said they had registered 10 deer by 3 p.m., which was about average for opening day.
The largest, taken by Allen Westberry Jr. of Norway, was a 155-pound, 8-pointer.
“We’ve been fairly steady all day,” Neary said of business from hunters bringing in deer to register and people shopping for hunting guns, accessories, ammunition and blaze-orange clothing.
Neary said it was “very foggy” Saturday morning, but hunters Matt Cole of Greenwood, Paul Driscoll of Portland and Eddie Keiser of Paris Hill said the fog lifted in the West Paris area at daybreak.
Hunters registering deer in West Paris said neither the fog nor unusually balmy 70-degree temperature hampered their hunt.
“This morning it was cool enough,” Cole said. “I went out at about 7 o’clock and started calling and rattling antlers, and at quarter to 8, he came right in.”
Cole shot a 4-point, 120- to 125-pound buck. A hunter since the age of 10, he said it was his first deer taken on opening day and the first one he’s called to him.
Driscoll and Keiser said they were in the woods at daybreak and had been hunting for four to five hours before they saw a deer.
“I had a doe walk right past me and I waited 40 minutes and this guy walked in,” Driscoll said of the 135-pound buck he shot at 12:30 p.m. with a .270 rifle.
“When I texted you, I said the buck would be following her, you know,” Keiser said.
Hunters Brandon and Cassandra Cary of West Paris stopped in with their bright-orange-garbed children to shop for ammunition at J&K. One child, Jacoby Cary, 7, admired Driscoll’s buck after Neary had weighed and lowered it back into his pickup bed.
He said his dad had to work Saturday and didn’t go hunting.
Brandon and Cassandra Cary said they intend to go deer and bear hunting next week. It was too warm on Saturday, they said.
“If you shoot a deer that’s way too far into the woods and it takes a couple of hours to drag it out, the meat’s going to be terrible,” Cassandra Cary said.
“I didn’t want to be out there hunting today in my shorts and my hunting vest on,” Brandon Cary said. “The colder the better. It gets the deer moving, too, when it’s cold out. Your bucks will start moving.”
While Brandon Cary, 30, has hunted since he was 16, his wife said this season would be her first, although she went moose hunting with her father two years ago.
Both said they intend to hunt bucks this year and didn’t apply for doe permits.
His biggest, Brandon Cary said, weighed 100 pounds. He and his father both shot a deer on the same day.
“I wanted a challenge this year,” Brandon said. “I haven’t shot a big one yet, so that’s what I want.”
Saturday also marked the first time that two epidemiologists with the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention were doing blood surveys for eastern equine encephalitis, also known as Triple E or sleeping sickness.
Heidi Mallis of Lewiston and Sara Robinson of Augusta both said it was their fourth year of doing the survey statewide, but it was the first time in Western Maine at the J&K Sporting Goods tagging station.
“We’re particularly interested in Western Maine, because we don’t have a lot of good data here,” Robinson said.
Triple E is one of the most severe mosquito-transmitted diseases in the United States.