Bright and early Saturday morning, a new generation of deer hunters headed into the woods, led by parents or adult mentors who would begin — or continue — the process of introducing them to a rich Maine tradition.
The state calls it “Youth Deer Day.” It’s a day set aside for junior hunters who have reached their 10th birthdays, but have yet to turn 16. On that day, the Saturday before the traditional residents-only opening day, the woods are theirs. And so are the stories.
We asked readers to share some of their tales from Youth Deer Day 2013. Here are a few, edited for clarity, length and style:
From Michael Matheson, Houlton
Elijah Matheson, who turned 10 this year, was up and out the door before sunup. We went and checked some areas that I had scouted out earlier in the season in the Monticello and Bridgewater area.
At 7:30 a.m., we spotted a big doe out in the field. She was too far away for him to take a shot, so he began slowly moving closer. As he was closing the distance a pickup truck with a very loud exhaust drove by and sent her, and another deer that we had not seen, running into the woods.
Elijah was very disappointed. We circled around the small woodlot that they ran into, and they came out in another field. The big doe was standing well within his range, but standing with her was the deer we had not seen in the other field. Beside her was a very small lamb, or fawn that may have just lost its spots.
Elijah looked at me wondering what to do. I told Elijah it was his hunt and his call to make. He looked at me and said “Let’s keep looking.”
I told him he made the right call and he said the baby would not be able to live without its mother. We left the doe and her baby as they walked back into the woodlot. Discouragement set in around 3 p.m., after being in the field and not seeing another deer.
At 5 p.m. we went to another pre-scouted area in Littleton, and walking the tree line was another deer.
We went to the landowner, who lived across from the field where the deer was, and made sure they were OK with us hunting there. Elijah closed the distance to 100 yards and made the shot on a nice 110-pound doe that did not have a baby with her.
When we went back to our vehicle to get our gear for field dressing, the landowner was standing outside.
Elijah did not know them, but he went up to them on his own to thank them for giving him permission.
As his father and an avid outdoorsmen I could not be prouder with the decision that he made passing on a big doe with her baby not knowing whether he would have another chance.
From Josh Willard, Lamoine
My 10-year-old, Josh, has been looking forward to deer hunting for quite a few years. Hunting heritage runs deep in our family’s history.
We participated in the hunter safety course just a few weeks ago and we have been target practicing and deer scouting every Sunday since.
We did some last-minute scouting late in the day Friday only to find that the spot we had picked out for opening day had less deer sign than it had two weeks prior, so we settled back on a spot that we had just gained permission to hunt on the Thursday before Youth Day.
When Saturday morning finally arrived, I think — no, I’m sure — I was more anxious than Josh was.
We had set up our ground blind on our final scouting run the prior night so now we just had to settle into it and stay ready. It was the quintessential perfect morning for a first hunt: No wind, no rain and cold enough to feel downright deery.
The first half hour was spent inventorying the local red squirrel population. This was soon followed by a false alarm porcupine sighting. Just over an hour had passed and Josh squealed out in a whisper, “Deer, deer!” This was no false alarm.
Sure enough, we had a doe and a fawn in the far end of our longest shooting lane. Josh immediately sprung into action, knowing this was going to be a longer shot than we had been practicing. I lent a hand and attempted to steady the forestock for him.
Just then, a mature and much larger doe stepped into our shooting lane. This deer was still a good poke for even most seasoned hunters.
Still trying to help steady the gun for him, I asked if he had a good bead on this larger deer. He answered, “Dad, all I can see is the top of the trees.”
At that time I realized it was now or never.
He lined up on his own (freehand, not even with elbow on knee). He asked “Am I ready?”
By now, all three deer were aware of our presence and getting prepped to flag and run.
“You tell me,” I whispered while focusing on the deer, not him. No sooner had I said that when I jumped to the sound of his .243 barking out as he reached out and made his first attempt at harvesting a whitetail.
From the reaction of the deer, I knew he had made a good hit. Hunched with tail tucked, she about-faced and went back in the direction she had come from.
Next, we found ourselves approaching the spot where she had been. Josh saw her first.
She was 18 yards from where she had stood. His perfect 94-yard shot had entered the vitals and passed through the heart for a quick kill.
Who could ever imagine all of this happening in the first hour of the start of what I suspect will be a lifetime tradition?
The first thing he asked me was, “Dad, do you think my nickname could be ‘Sniper’ now?”
I replied, “Yeah, bud, you earned it for sure.”
From Jean Mathews
My grandsons Rodney Mathews and his brother, Nicholas, each shot deer on Youth Deer Day. R.J. is 15 and a sophomore at Narraguagus High School. Nick is in seventh grade at Milbridge Elementary School. They were hunting with their dad, Rodney Mathews.
Both deer were together, side by side, in a field. Nick shot the first one. His deer was a spike-horned deer. The second deer moved away, then stopped. R.J. shot that one. His deer was a 7-pointer. It would have been eight, but one of the points was broken.
The deer were not weighed, but were estimated at about 130-140 pounds each.
From Neali Moir, Woodland
Carter Moir is 13 years old and shot a 202-pound, 10-point buck in Woodland in Aroostook County during the 2013 youth hunt. Carter was hunting with his dad, Scott Moir, and his 10-year-old sister, Brooke Moir, when they came upon three deer. Carter managed to get a good shot and dropped this beautiful buck.
This is the first buck for Carter. His sister is eager to get one, as well. The field that he shot his buck in had other deer in it and several moose. When Carter went to take a shot at his buck he had to wait a moment because a moose walked in front of him.
His dad had to actually wave his hat at the moose to get it to clear the area. There were two moose that were very inquisitive of what was going on and even hung out in the area after the deer was shot.
Send in your deer tales
The BDN is always on the lookout for good deer-hunting stories, and as the season progresses, we’ll share some of the best with our readers. If you have a hunt to remember this fall, send along the details to firstname.lastname@example.org or post them at bangordailynews.com/post. Include photos. Have fun. We look forward to hearing from you.