When Adrian Pray headed out for an opening day hunt with his son, grandson and nephew on Saturday morning, the Bradford man didn’t really know what to expect.
“I really hadn’t seen that many deer this fall,” the 71-year-old said. “I ride around on my four-wheeler a lot and I haven’t seen that many signs. But we actually saw seven or eight deer that day.”
Six or seven of those deer were does or fawns.
And the one that wasn’t — the one that Pray shot at around 10:30 a.m. — was a whopper.
The other three members of the hunting party had spread out on land that Pray owns in Charleston. Pray took a walk down an ATV trail, and a big-boned buck was waiting.
“He come right out in front of me,” Pray said. “He come out just to the edge of the road and I could just see his head and neck.”
Pray said he knew he had little time to waste.
“I thought he was going to turn and go because he looked like he was looking right at me. I fired quick and I was lucky: I stuck him right in the neck.”
The deer somersaulted once and landed facing back the way he’d come. Pray’s season was over.
“I backed right in and loaded him into the pickup. We didn’t have to drag him more than 10 feet, probably,” Pray said.
That’s a good thing, because Pray’s deer was obviously a big one. It sported a handsome, well-matched 10-point rack, and members of the hunting party traded guesses on its weight. One thing was certain: It was heavier than 200 pounds, the traditional Maine benchmark that separates “nice” bucks from “big” bucks.
Finding out how much heavier would be more difficult than they thought.
“We thought he might go 250,” Pray said. But upon arrival at the tagging station, they learned that they may have underestimated a bit … not that a crowd of spectators believed what they were witnessing.
“He weighed 269. And then people said, ‘There’s no way he weighs 269.’ So we dropped him down and put him back up again and he weighed 266. Nobody would believe the scale, so we took him up to Charleston, up to Barry Higgins at Maple Lane Farms,” Pray said. “He had certified scales out there.”
And according to the certified scale, Pray’s buck weighed 271 pounds, field-dressed. The certifi-cation card that Maple Lane staffers filled out estimates the deer’s live weight at 325 pounds.
“We have good luck around there,” Pray said. “I’m lucky. I’ve got almost 2,500 acres, so we’ve got a lot of different country and we can hunt and not worry about homeowners.”
The generally accepted state-record deer is a 355-pounder (field-dressed) shot by Horace Hinckley back in 1955.
Though Pray’s deer is undoubtedly a trophy, he slyly admits that when he was much younger, he saw even bigger deer.
“I’ve been hunting for 65 years,” Pray said. “I haven’t tagged one this big, no. I’ll be truthful: Back years ago, we needed meat, so I shot a few when I wasn’t supposed to.”
On Monday, Pray’s 271-pounder was still hanging from a front-end loader on the lawn in front of his Bradford farm. And he said the deer was generating a lot of traffic along West Road.
“It’s been a steady stream [of curious onlookers] here, just about since Saturday,” Pray said. “Ever since word got out.”
There’s no doubt that a big deer can draw a crowd in a hurry. But Pray said modern technology has increased the number of visitors he has had.
“Of course, with this texting thing now, everybody’s texting everybody,” Pray said, holding up his own cell phone. “And they’ve been coming in here steady.”
More breakfast options
If you missed out on your local hunter’s breakfast on Youth Deer Day, and you couldn’t attend a feed on the traditional opening day, don’t fret.
There are plenty more hunter’s breakfasts on tap.
Just check out our hunter’s breakfast calendar, on these pages, for this week’s options. If you want to plan ahead, go to our website www.bangordailynews.com) and you can figure out where you’re going to eat for the rest of deer season.
And if your organization is holding a hunter’s meal and you haven’t notified us yet, it’s not too late to do so.
Send e-mail to the address below, or regular mail to me at P.O. Box 1329, Bangor, 04402-1329, and we’ll take care of the rest.