According to the master plan, 12-year-old Dean Grass wasn’t going to be hunting on Saturday afternoon.
He wasn’t going to be sitting in a raised blind with his father, Jeffrey Grass, watching a Belmont field.
He wasn’t going to see the 237-pound deer that showed up. He wasn’t going to shoot it, then lose track of it, then — after more than two hours of searching — find his trophy.
No, according to the master plan, Dean Grass of Searsport was to have spent the afternoon of Youth Deer Day at football practice, after hunting just the morning with his dad.
Then the rain came. Football practice was canceled. And there was Dean, in the right place, at the right time, ready to make the right shot at the deer of a lifetime.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First, you’ve got to meet the hunting Grass family.
Jeffrey has been hunting for years. His wife, Pam, shot a 200-pound 10-point buck back in 2010, after Dean had spent most of the season waiting for that deer to step into range. Dean, a seventh-grader at Bangor Christian School, shot a 175-pound eight-pointer last year, winning the junior deer contest at Morrill General Store.
Jeffrey Grass is a proud dad, but admits that he and his family have a perfect situation in Belmont, where a local landowner has allowed them access to some fantastic deer habitat.
“We’re fortunate to have a real nice place to hunt,” Jeffrey Grass said. “I do all [the landowner's] mechanic work for him. He has 165 acres.”
Make that 165 acres teeming with deer: On the way out of the field after shooting the 237-pounder, Dean Grass said he and his dad jumped at least six other deer.
But again, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Let’s start in the beginning, as Dean and his dad had an inauspicious start to the 2012 deer season.
“Early in the morning, when we first started, it was really dark out,” Dean Grass explained. “I was opening [a window on the blind] while my dad was on the ground, lifting stuff in, and I saw a hornet’s nest, then a wasp’s nest. So in the morning, we kind of had to deal with that.”
The Grasses weren’t stung, but did spent some time swatting hornets and wasps, they said.
Then, it rained. And rained. And rained some more.
“It would pour and it would sprinkle, then it would turn off,” Dean Grass said. “Then it would start sprinkling and pouring again.”
After sitting for the morning, the duo headed to a local store for some food, and to dry out. They learned that football practice had been scrapped for the day, and headed back into the woods later in the afternoon.
“Before we went [back[ out [my dad] predicted that we were going to see some movement at 5:45,” Dean Grass said.
As that time approached, however, Dean was otherwise occupied.
“We were probably an hour into the sit and I was getting bored, so I asked to play on the phone,” Dean Grass admitted.
“It was like 5:30 and [my dad] said to put it away because we were starting to have some movement,” Dean Grass said. “I was like, ‘OK. In a second.’ He told me a second time and I didn’t listen. The third time, he said, ‘There’s a deer out there at 120 yards. Put the phone away.’ He was getting, like, a quiet angry.”
And Dean Grass admits that he thought his dad was joking because … well … that’s what his dad often does.
“I looked out there and saw this big brown blob and I was like, ‘Holy crap!’” Dean Grass said, laughing. “I put the phone away, picked up the gun, and looked through the scope. He said, ‘If it’s a buck, shoot it.’”
It was. And he did … eventually.
“In the beginning I was really shaky. So I took another minute to get ready,” Dean Grass said.
After the shot, the deer ran into the woods. The first time the Grasses searched, they didn’t find the deer. That’s when they took a short break, returned to the store, and called in reinforcements: Pam Grass and one of Dean’s buddies.
While at the store, Dean got the chance to prove that he’d been absorbing the lessons that his dad has been teaching him since he was even younger.
“[The clerk] saw me in my hunting clothes and asked me if I was a hunter, and I said, ‘Yeah,’” Dean Grass said. “And she asked me, ‘Did you get anything tonight?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah.’”
Then the clerk asked the magic question.
“She asked me where I shot it,” Dean Grass said. “I guess she meant the town, but … [my dad always says] ‘don’t give away where you’re hunting,’ so I said, ‘in the woods.’”
Jeffrey Grass laughed then, and is still laughing.
“I said, ‘the training’s working,’” Jeffrey Grass said.
At that point, Dean Grass wasn’t too excited to head back into the wet woods to look for the deer. In fact, he may have asked if they could come back the next day, when the sun would be shining and finding the deer would be easier. Jeffrey Grass was having none of it.
“He said, ‘No, because we have to be ethical deer hunters and look for our game and try our hardest, or it might spoil,’” Dean Grass said.
After returning to the woods, they found the deer in a creek. Neither Grass had any idea that the deer was as large as it turned out to be.
“The antlers were really small,” Dean Grass reported. “It had a really big neck, but we really didn’t noticed that. I asked my dad how much it would weigh and he said, ‘probably 180, like last year.’”
When Jeffrey Grass tried to drag the deer out of the brook, however, he was in for a surprise.
“It came out of the brook pretty hard,” he said. “I just thought it was me. I didn’t think about it at the time. But I’ve got a good excuse for why it came out of the brook so hard, now.”
Consider: He was trying to drag a deer that ended up weighing 237 pounds … after field-dressing. Or, as Dean Grass pointed out, the deer weighed nearly three times as much as he does.
“I weighed myself last night. I’m 84.8 pounds,” he said.
And since his 175-pounder won the youth deer contest at Morrill General a year ago, you might imagine that Dean Grass is pretty excited to find out how this deer — larger than either his mother or father has ever shot — fares in the contest.
“I signed up for it this year, too,” he said with a grin. “So I have a good feeling, and hope I win again.”