ORRINGTON, Maine — Thousands of young Mainers braved the elements on a rainy Saturday morning, hoping to cross paths with a deer on the 11th annual “Youth Deer Day” in the state.
Few families fared better than the Lunt brothers of Orrington: Both 12-year-old Nolan and 15-year-old Drew filled their tags long before noon, shooting does.
Nolan, hunting with his mother, Terry Larsen, had more of a tale to tell: By the time he stopped by Bob’s Kozy Korner store to tag his deer at around 10:30 a.m., his brother had already done so, and the wildlife biologists manning the tagging station knew all about his morning hunt.
“Did you find it?” asked Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologist Lee Kantar after Nolan strolled into the store.
A grin and a nod told the story, and Kantar congratulated the young hunter on his first deer, and on showing the tenacity to go back out to search for a deer he’d originally thought he missed.
Kantar said five hunters had tagged out as of 9 a.m. at Bob’s Kozy Korner, where owner Bob Bastey holds a free rifle drawing for all successful youths who tag deer at the store (and where every successful junior hunter walks away with a free hat). After the early flurry, however, the traffic slowed down for a bit.
Youth Deer Day is open to junior hunters who have reached their 10th birthday and have not turned 16. Junior hunters are required to hunt with a parent or qualified adult. The adults are not allowed to possess a firearm during the hunt.
Nolan Lunt said he and his mom had a plan in mind, and it worked nearly perfectly.
“I went down behind my grandmother’s because there’s been a few sightings of deer down there,” Nolan Lunt explained. Lunt and his mom were up early and had to wait for the light to improve before they could see that deer were, in fact, around them.
“I think they were there before we got there. I saw them first, before my mom did,” he said. “They were just dark, shady figures. We had to wait until it was light enough to see them.”
When the light did get better, Nolan was ready.
“One started heading toward the woods and I just looked through my scope and it was clear as day,” he said.
They didn’t find the deer immediately, though.
“We just gave up. We thought I missed,” he said. That’s when the hunting party adjourned to Bob’s Kozy Korner. After enlisting some more help from friends and family, they headed back into the woods to find the deer. They did so nearly immediately, even though a steady rain likely washed away any blood trail.
“We were just looking in the wrong spot,” Larsen said.
Larsen said she has an extensive background in firearms, having served as a weapons instructor in the military. Hunting, however, is a new endeavor.
“I got my license so I could take [Nolan],” Larsen said.”Nolan and I were out [on Youth Deer Day] last year. That was our first year,” Larsen said. “Drew got his first deer last year, his second one this morning.”
Although some hunters may have stayed home on a rainy, warm Saturday, Larsen said she liked the weather just fine.
“[The deer] couldn’t smell us, and they couldn’t hear us coming, so I think this was a good day,” she said. “Because [Nolan's] not very quiet.”
Quiet or not, Nolan tagged out. Add in Drew’s deer, and the family has plenty of venison for the winter.
“They’re good eaters,” Larsen said of the two does. “They’ll cook those up for snacks.”