December 11, 2023

Remember That First Deer?

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It is something that all of us remember no matter how long ago it happened. In my book, “The Legend of Grey Ghost and Other Tales From the Maine Woods“, I tell the tale of my first ever deer and how it affected my life from that moment on. It is truely a life changing experience – to what degree, one never knows until it happens.

I was a freshman in high school at the time and too young, small and inexperienced to be on the varsity or junior varsity football team at the local high school. Early November always brought a conflict between the end of football and the start of deer season.

It was a Saturday and the weather was milky sunshine and cold – breath-seeing cold, just the way Maine hunters like it. My father made the plan of attack and being the know-it-all cocky sort of a typical young man, I thought he was nuts but nonetheless, I followed orders.

I headed into the woods and crossed a short bog hole to reach the spot my father had told me to go and wait. It was a good spot to be in for a number of reasons besides the obvious one of that’s where I shot my first deer. What I didn’t know at the time and what my father did know, was this spot was the intersection to take deer everywhere or lead them back to anywhere – if that makes sense.

I looked around for a place to sit. I find that if I stand, I make too many movements. I was stilling poking here and poking there trying to find the perfect spot – you know, the one that is most comfortable, in the sun so you can stay warm and above all else, a place to rest your back against. That’s when I heard something.

I mean to tell you I was completely unprepared for deer hunting. My mind wasn’t even on any prospect of deer because my father had put me out of his way so I wouldn’t bother him – or so I thought.

I turned in the direction of the noise and immediately spotted a fantastic looking 4-point buck coming up out of the bog where I had come in. With steam blasting from is wide open nostrils, he quickly ascended the small ridge I was on. I don’t think the deer ever saw me but just as he crested the rise, he turned to his left a bit and walked away from me headed for who knows where.

I wouldn’t call it buck fever because I don’t think I even managed a slight temperature rise. What I had seen was impressive. The morning sun brightening the forest after a frosty night, seeing the vapor from an early active young buck’s nostrils and witnessing the grace, strength and beauty as he proudly walked away.

I slumped in my stance realizing what I had, or actually hadn’t done. It’s funny how in times like this the mind will think of the oddest things. My mind raced through the countless hours of sitting around the house listening to the retelling of deer story after deer story. Many of these stories were comical, at the expense of the person making the story funny. I knew I was going to be the subject of one of those, “You know what the dumb SOB did?” stories.

God spared me the humiliation! Before I had fallen on the ground overtaken with grief, I looked up in time to see the same young buck, retracing his footsteps. Whatever for? As the deer got to the top of the rise, this was the point I had predetermined would be the best and clearest shot, I took careful aim – right from the hip. That’s right. This time it was buck fever!

I’m not sure what ever possessed me to do that but I did anyway. Maybe it was a subliminal thing. You see the gun I was using was an ancient and ugly stick. It was a 12-gauge, single shot blunder bust that when fired would promptly knock you on your backside. I knew this from watching my brothers shoot it. I was the youngest of four boys and I wasn’t about to take the punishment they had.

Another scary thing with this weapon of individual destruction was, it had a tendency to fall apart. The most often seemed to be while bird hunting. Whenever the gun got raised above the shoulders, the barrel would fall off and land on the ground or hit you in the head even, if raised high enough.

We were dirt poor and that’s what we had, so we hunted with it. We still have that gun somewhere, although I’m not sure which member of the family is in possession.

I had loaded some 00 buckshot in her and was ready for all out war. The shot was deadly accurate but I didn’t know that at the time. When the smoke cleared, the deer was gone and I was ready to be. Ashamed again for failing to successfully shoot my deer, I dejectedly moped around the area looking for blood.

Soon my father arrived and he put everything into perspective for me and we commenced a methodical search. Soon we found the deer – 4 points and 147 pounds. I told you we all remember our first deer.

The lessons I learned that day went right off the charts and from that moment on, hunting has never been the same for me. It was a life changing experience.

Tom Remington