Andrew Gordon of Brewer had a pretty eventful morning on Saturday, as he watched a steady parade of deer visit the tree stand he was sitting in during Youth Deer Day.
First, a couple of does stopped by for a visit. Then, another. Eventually, the first two deer returned. And finally, a big-racked 8-point buck stepped into view 125 yards away.
Gordon, a 10-year-old who has been deer hunting for three years, made the shot pay off, as he bagged his first-ever deer. His proud grandfather, James Phinney of Brewer, was Gordon’s adult supervisor on the hunt.
After the shot, Gordon and a pack of relatives descended on Bob’s Kozy Korner, an Orrington store and tagging station, to register the deer and trade guesses at its weight.
Gordon thought it weighed 220 pounds. His grandmother said 250. Phinney said 200. His 3-year-old sister, Zoee, didn’t have a guess, but she did make an observation about the deer (which she originally thought was sleeping).
“He’s so cute,” Zoee said.
The deer officially weighed in at 157.4 — shy of many of the estimates, but still a great way to start a hunting career.
From left (clockwise): Kason Bagley, 12, of Veazie (left), his father Chris Bagley and brother Nolan Bagley watch as Kason’s first deer is weighed at Bob’s Kozy Korner store in Orrington on Saturday; Andrew Gordon, 10, of Brewer registers his first-ever deer at Bob’s Kozy Korner store in Orrington; Randy Ruhlin prepares eggs to order at the Eddington Salmon Club’s Youth Deer Day hunter’s breakfast. Credit: John Holyoke | BDN
Maine began staging Youth Deer Day in 2002 as a way to introduce more children to hunting. Each year junior hunters are given a day of their own to hunt, a week before the residents-only opening day of firearms season. Those hunters, who cannot have reached their 16th birthdays, must be accompanied by an adult supervisor, who is not allowed to carry a firearm or archery equipment on the hunt.
Youth Deer Day began early for many on Saturday, including the volunteers at the Eddington Salmon Club, who opened the club’s kitchen to provide a hunters’ breakfast for both hunters and community members.
Club member Randy Ruhlin, owner of Brewster’s restaurant in Brewer, manned the grill, and kept plates of eggs to order, along with beans, bacon and sausage, moving in the direction of hungry guests.
The fact that he was busy didn’t stop him from firing off wisecracks, however.
“Eggs? How do you want them?” he asked one customer. “Over easy? Great. You want those with shells, or without shells?”
Nearby, Ruhlin’s sister, Eddington Salmon Club president Robin Ruhlin James, said that the turnout had been brisk, especially just after the doors opened at 5 a.m.
“From 5 to 6 we were probably the busiest, with the local youth [hunters]. A lot of people were out hunting locally,” James said.
But even at 7:30, the lineup for eggs and pancakes was busy as new customers — mostly non-hunting visitors — filed in.
The club has staged a hunters’ breakfast for years, and began holding it on Youth Deer Day last year. There was some question about whether this year’s event could be held due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but members eventually decided it could be done safely.
“There was a lot of discussion about how we could do it safely,” James said. “Where Randy owns a [restaurant] business and is so familiar with the guidelines, we knew we could do it safely and [keep people socially] distant.”
Half the tables in the club were marked as off limits, and customers kept their masks on until they were seated and ready to eat.
Back at the Orrington tagging station, 12-year-old Kason Bagley of Veazie also stopped by to tag his first-ever deer. Bagley was hunting with his uncle, Mark Watson of Veazie. Not far away, his dad, Chris Bagley was hunting with Kason’s 10-year-old brother, Nolan.
Kason Bagley learned a valuable lesson on Saturday: Sometimes, all you have to do is threaten to leave a particular hunting spot to change your luck.
“We were about to leave. [My uncle] had just called my dad, and we were about to go to a different spot,” Kason Bagley said. “As soon as he was about to get up, three deer walked in. He said, ‘Go for the one in the middle,’ so I shot the one in the middle.”
The deer was a 106-pound doe.
Chris Bagley said he was happy to have been able to spend time in the woods with his sons.
“Nowadays these kids are locked on computers and game devices, so any opportunity to get out here in the woods [is good],” he said. “I grew up hunting with my uncle, and to get these guys out like this, it’s just fabulous. They didn’t sleep last night. They were excited. Everybody was looking forward to this morning.”
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