I often have a hard time explaining why hunting is important to me. Yes I love the nourishment and purity of harvesting my own meat. I love the brotherhood of a good hunting buddy, or 10. It sounds a bit weird, but I love the adversity of terrain, weather, and all the other factors that go into deep woods hunting. What I really cherish is the memory. I enjoy the quiet moments when I can recall every detail of an epic hunt, not just the successes but also the failures.
On November 17, 2003 I killed my first racked Maine buck. I had hunted when I was a kid but lost the desire through my late teens and early 20’s. My wife and I had moved back to Maine so I could attend the University of Maine. It was then that I rediscovered my love for hunting.
I gained access to a large track of land and scouted hard. On November 16th I was walking in at first light and I could hear a buck grunting and chasing does. It was still dark. I never saw that deer but came across a long scrape line. At noon I hung a treestand 100 yards down wind of the scrape line. The next morning I was in the tree a full hour and a half before first light. It was 17 degrees. I set a climb down time of 8:30 AM, if I didn’t freeze first.
At 8AM I was frozen and I was trying every trick to stay warm, the air was dead still. I was trying hard to talk myself out of getting down. All of a sudden a doe came crashing through the frozen leaves and past me up a hill. Then nothing. I thought maybe another hunter jumped her, or she scented me. Three minutes later I heard the sound of another deer walking on the same path as the doe. I still can see the deer appear from the cedars as clear as if it happened yesterday. Frozen air from his nostrils filling the air as be bellowed out a grunt and strutted into the old chopping. The sun shining on his antlers, the hair on his back bristled up. I took aim and fired. He seemed to jump 10 feet high bound once and stood broadside to me at 30 yards. Blood and steam flowed through the mortal wound, a good hit. He tipped over and his life left him. I remember the conversation I had with myself as I processed what had happened. I had to calm down before I climbed down. I was afraid I would fall I was so worked up. I remember the long drag to the truck and the trip to the tagging station. I remember the scale reading 195lbs dressed. Even today he’s the biggest weighing buck I’ve killed. He had 6 points, no brow tines. I didn’t care, he was mine.
I took him home to my wife and two kids. honking the horn with joy as I pulled into the driveway. My vegetarian wife had never experienced anything like this, but she was gracious enough to help me get him hung in a tree. I think at that moment we both knew what had been a hobby had just become a full blown obsession.
I had pictures developed of him, (it was so long ago there was no digital) from every angle and carried them in my pocket to show my family at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Over the winter I read every book I could on deer hunting, and tracking. And have continued to hone my skills ever since.
I don’t know what happened to all those pictures. I gave the antlers to my father in law to make knife handles, I don’t know if he ever did. I have one picture left of me and my 8 year old son posing proudly with my deer, to be honest I don’t need any. Good hunts last a lifetime.