There is no place I would rather be than my home state of Maine during the peak color of fall. There is no sight more beautiful than an early autumn morning surrounded by Maine’s wilderness. The leaves are crisp under your feet, the air is fresh in your lungs, and the deer are on the move. This also happens to be the same time a large portion of Maine’s residents partake in the great chase, the chase of white-tailed deer.
We call it “the chase” because it isn’t easy to track a white-tailed deer, and it isn’t meant to be easy. It is a rare occurrence that a worthy buck walks into your field of view without hours and hours of tracking or sitting, but that is exactly what happened to me in the fall of 2015.
All of my life, since I can remember, my parents took me hunting and fishing. I showed a great passion for the outdoors at a young age. My parents helped this passion blossom into something larger. My mother was a hunter nearly her whole life and a great shot. My step-father was also a great shot, and he actually became an exhibition shooter. The two helped me sharpen my shooting skills as I grew up. My mother and brother taught me a lot about stalking a deer, how to be quiet in the woods, and what signs to look for.
Like many people from my area, I “officially” started hunting when I was ten years old. We lived a very busy life and when I wasn’t in school or at practice for sports, I was finally able to get a little hunting time in. Fortunately, I have had more and more time to spend in the woods since becoming an adult. 2015 was my first year having plenty of time to spend in the woods. This was also the first year I got a deer. A buck, and a big one too.
So here it is, last day of the season for regular firearms, it was warmer than usual with temps just above freezing. I had been sitting in my boyfriend’s treestand for a few days overlooking some fields I grew up hunting in. I know the area well and knew there would be deer down here. After watching a hunter drive through one morning and shoot a deer nearly 500 yards from me, I was determined to get mine too. For some reason, this morning felt special.
I had my boyfriend’s daughter, T, in the stand with me, she was 12 and had shot two doe already, both on youth day on the coast of Maine. Her and I talked quietly as we shivered in the early morning air. I had four layers on my head, my camouflage hat, my orange hat over it, and two hoods. Needless to say, I couldn’t hear too well, and when T confirmed that what I was hearing was something other than the chickadees bouncing in the limbs above us, I readjusted my ears to listen. Sure enough, it was the swale grass being knocked over from a deer just fifteen minutes into our hunt. At this point, we couldn’t see if it was a doe, button buck, spike horn, or a mature buck, but we knew it was a deer. I saw T looking around and both of our eyes focused on the deer standing at the edge of the stream for a quick drink. We both pulled up our scopes to look, I couldn’t see his antlers, but she could. I got T ready to shoot, and, in doing so, he moved out of her view and into my shooting lane. This buck was looking straight at me, and I waited for my opportunity to get a look at his shoulder. As he barely turned about 25 degrees, I squeezed the trigger and hoped for a clean kill.
A feeling many don’t understand
As I took the shot, I saw the flames release from the end of my new Tikka T3 Lite 7mm08. I reloaded my bolt-action rifle without moving it from my shoulder to make sure the buck wouldn’t go anywhere. I watched him lay down after taking two weak strides and my heart swelled with instant joy. I was so thankful for a clean shot and for only having to take one at this beautiful buck. T and I were ecstatic, hugging each other, and laughing with joy! I was so happy, I could hardly stand it.
I got out of the stand as my boyfriend arrived, and watched as he picked my buck up by the antlers from the shoulder deep grass, “It’s an eight pointer, a big one!” he said. I rushed over to see my first deer and gave thanks for this simply amazing animal and clean kill. After plenty of hugs and high fives, we got down to business and I field dressed my first deer with unexpected ease. I am thankful for the way I was raised, I am thankful for my home state, I’m thankful for my family and loved ones, and I’m thankful for many meals of fresh and wild protein. Fall 2015 was truly a blessing, and though this last season didn’t end with a deer, it ended with a smile.