For years, Virginia Mattson-Tracy enjoyed spending autumn days in the woods in search of whitetail deer. She began target shooting about 70 years ago. She tagged her first deer seven or eight years later.

As years passed, the Hermon woman’s passion for hunting didn’t wane, but age did begin to take a toll. And in 2005 — the last year she filled her tag — she faced a harsh reality.

“The last year I got one, I couldn’t drag it,” Mattson-Tracy said. “I had to call my grandson-in-law and he came down and helped.”

Although she and her third husband dance regularly and remain active — he’s 85 — Mattson-Tracy said she decided to stop heading afield.

Now, she lets the deer come to her.

“I don’t go out hunting any more. If I see one I go out and shoot it. If I don’t, I don’t,” she said. “I can’t tramp any more. It’s too hard.”

The decision to stop heading into the woods was a tough one, she said.

“I used to hunt alone a lot. When my second husband passed away, I hunted a couple of times alone. After that, I wasn’t able to,” she said. “Let’s face it: I was in my mid-70s. And it’s a lot of work to get a deer. I gut ‘em out myself and everything.”

On Nov. 15, Mattson-Tracy didn’t have to tramp in order to fill her tag. She didn’t have to get cold or wet or even muddy up her boots. In fact, she barely had to leave her house. And eventually, her third husband, Sylvanus Tracy Jr., took care of the field-dressing chores… but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

First, we’ve got to tell you about the deer.

Mattson-Tracy said she was doing some work in her Hermon home, which overlooks several fields, when she headed to the kitchen.

“I just happened to go to the sink and I looked and saw it standing there,” Mattson-Tracy said. “I said, ‘Oh my gosh.’”

Then she got busy.

You see, while Mattson-Tracy’s tramping days may be behind her, she’s always prepared to take advantage of an opportunity if it presents itself.

“In hunting season I keep [my .300 Savage rifle] around so I can jack a shell in, and away I go,” she said.

That’s just what she did on Nov. 15 (after, we presume, putting on the state-mandated two items of hunter orange clothing).

“I went out. He was still standing there [about 30 yards away]. But my husband was coming down the field with a car, from the garage,” said Mattson-Tracy, who figured the deer might get spooked by the arrival of the auto. She needn’t have worried.

“That deer stood right there and looked at [my husband],” she said. “One shot through the heart and I had [the deer].”

The deer ran a short distance and flopped over a stone wall, which broke off one of its antlers.

“I lost a horn and I can’t find it,” Mattson-Tracy said. “He was a six-pointer.”

In fine Maine form, Mattson-Tracy went to fetch their tractor, which she used to haul the deer back to the house. By the time she got back to her husband, he had field-dressed the deer, which weighed in at 128 pounds.

And when people kept telling her that they liked the photo of her, the deer and the tractor, she decided to share her story with us.

“I didn’t know if [the story] was any good or not, but there’s not too many 70-year-old women out there, traipsing around,” she said.

Or 81-year-olds, for that matter.

And she doesn’t mind telling folks her exact age, in case you’re wondering.

“Hey, I’m proud of being able to do the things that I do,” Mattson-Tracy said. “The good lord’s been great to me, [letting me] do these things.”


John Holyoke

John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their...