When David Baker began deer hunting this fall, he didn’t plan on becoming an internet hero, or starting a trend that other hunters would vow to follow.
Instead, he had modest goals. He hoped to find a deer for his son, of course. And he hoped people would refrain from walking off with his gear.
“Two or three years ago, over in Veazie, I had a stand down there in the expanded [archery] zone off Chase Road,” the Glenburn man explained. “I had a tree stand disappear, and I never found the tree stand. And a short time after that I had a [hunting] tent down there and I went in there one night and it was totally crushed … I started walking out and I found some of my equipment in the woods.”
With that incident in mind, Baker decided to try a different approach at a ground blind he sets up each year in Hudson.
He attached a pair of signs to the blind. The first, visible from the outside, said: “Visitors welcome.”
And the second, hanging on the inside of the blind, spelled out Baker’s wishes quite clearly: “If I am not here, feel free to sit in my blind. I typically hunt Friday/Saturday only,” the note read. Then, in bold red type, the message continued. “Please do not steal my equipment, but if you do, make sure you smile big for my trail cameras!!!”
Baker said he wasn’t really trying to be a hospitable hunter; he simply wanted any potential vandals to wonder where he might have hidden the trail cameras that they couldn’t find.
“I thought, I’m only going to get up here on the weekends … I don’t want to take the time to run up here and check [the blind] every night, so maybe I’ll just leave a note up here,” Baker explained.
And about those trail cameras?
“They say paranoia will destroy ya,” Baker said with a laugh. “Between you, me and 1,200 of our favorite friends on the Maine Deer Hunters Facebook page who I told yesterday, I didn’t actually have a camera up there this year.”
Baker’s note was worth a chuckle. But when he received a reply, he shared photos of his own message, along with that reply, on the popular Facebook page.
And the reply changed everything.
“Thank you!” said the note, which was scrawled on a paper napkin and left hanging from the blind’s ceiling. “My kid got a doe on Monday. Right window. Rick.”
Baker took the note home with him, intending to keep it. Then he took photos and shared them on social media. The reaction was instant, and unexpected.
“It’s overwhelming. Everyone loved it,” Baker said. “I was getting messages, private messages, saying [things like], ‘You’re a true sportsman, this is what Maine hunters are all about,’ ‘Love it when this happens,’ [and] ‘What a great idea. I’m going to do this with my stand next year.’”
Baker said helping inspire other hunters to take the same approach “would be pretty cool,” but he admitted that he didn’t really set out to set any kind of an example.
“[Years ago] when I walked through the woods, my dad said, ‘There’s a stand over there, let’s go around. We don’t want to disturb anyone if they’re there,’” Baker said. “I would never walk up to anybody’s stand like that.”
But Baker knew that others were using the same path that led past his blind, and figured that ignoring that fact was going to be fruitless.
So instead, he set out the welcome mat, teased potential visitors about the potential presence of a trail camera, and hoped for the best.
And as turned out, the best is exactly what he got: Somewhere, a young hunter is proudly celebrating the doe he or she tagged this fall, and will likely always remember the goodwill gesture that helped make it possible.
“I’m all about the kids getting a deer,” Baker said.
Despite more than 1,000 page views and dozens of comments on the Facebook post, Baker still has no idea who the mystery hunter is. He’d like to find out, and would like to offer his congratulations to the successful young hunter.
“I put on [the Facebook page], ‘Rick, if you’re on here, respond,” Baker said.