Wife’s first deer puts husband in the clear

Mike Harman will tell you there are certain things you ought to do when you’re hunting. He’s big on “total stealth,” for instance.

And the Penobscot man will tell you there are things you absolutely shouldn’t do while you’re hunting, especially if you expect your wife (who you introduced to the sport) to continue to enjoy spending time in the woods.

For instance: You shouldn’t rush home from work, grab your wife’s gun, tromp to your wife’s favorite ground blind, and shoot a deer that she’d been waiting to see for four years.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what Harman did in early November. And as soon as he pulled the trigger on the seven-point buck, he began to feel shooter’s remorse.

“I have an hour at the end of the day that I can hunt,” he explained. “I went to her blind because it was close. Wouldn’t you know, I shot a seven-pointer … God, I felt bad.”

His wife, Debbie Harman, admits that she didn’t make it easy on her husband at first.

“At first it was like, ‘You did what?’” she said, describing her reaction when she got the call from her husband. “We had seen [that deer] around in November and that was my blind, so we were hoping to catch a glimpse of it. That particular day I was at work, so he thought he would go.”

It didn’t take long for Debbie Harman to see the humor in the situation.

“Ultimately it was in my freezer, so I forgave him,” she said with a laugh.

For the rest of the season, though, Mike Harman kept hoping that Debbie would end up seeing a buck of her own. But just like in years past, Debbie ended up seeing nothing but doe after doe after doe.

The regular firearms season ended on Nov. 24, and Debbie Harman hadn’t filled her tag. Then came black-powder season, when hunters are allowed to use more primitive weapons during their hunts.

Debbie Harman wasn’t sure she wanted to take part. She’d hunted hard already, and had no luck. The weather was getting colder. And Mike was done hunting.

Then, on Nov. 29 — a Thursday — Debbie got a big surprise: Mike had made the long drive from work in Millinocket to Penobscot to make sure his wife could hunt the next morning if she wanted to.

Debbie Harman of Penobscot poses with the deer she shot on Nov. 30, 2012, during black-powder season. Harman’s husband, MIke, had shot another buck earlier in November while hunting in his wife’s stand, with her rifle. (Photo courtesy of Debbie Harman)

“I guess that’s what started it,” Debbie Harman said. “It kind of guilted me into going [hunting]. He came down from Millinocket to make sure that the black powder gun was cleaned and loaded for me.”

So on Nov. 30, Debbie Harman geared up and headed to her favorite blind.

“It was probably the coldest morning so far. I spent two hours freezing and I said, ‘I am never going to do black powder season again,’” she said. “It took me about four hours to warm up. Then I thought, ‘He came all the way down to load that [gun], so I can stand two more hours.”

Into the woods she went. Again.

And again, nothing happened. She sat. She got cold. The day began to darken. She got colder.

“I was ready to quit again. And I thought, out of desperation, I’d try a buck grunt, because I had a call with me,” she said.

A grunt produced no response. Debbie considered packing up.

“I grunted again and I went to set [the call] down and caught some motion on the right side of my blind and [a buck] came just strutting out looking for that [deer that had been grunting],” she said. “It was just like in the movies.”

The only problem: The buck was staring right at the blind, looking for the rival that had challenged him. After about three minutes, Debbie Harman was able to move the hammer on her black-powder rifle back, and was ready to shoot.

“He started trotting right at me. I thought he was going to charge the tent, maybe. We didn’t really go over a scenario for that, so I was kind of at a loss,” she said. “But after a couple of trots, he changed his mind. He stopped. And when he stopped, he was standing broadside.”

Debbie was ready.

“I took the shot, and with the black powder there was a big poof of smoke and a loud bang and I didn’t see the deer’s reaction,” she said. “After the smoke cleared, I did see the last bound that he made into the woods. I was discouraged. I thought I totally missed him.”

With Mike available by phone from Millinocket, but unable to help track the deer, the Harmans called some friends, who drove over to help. Despite their best efforts, the search team didn’t find the deer that night. By the time Mike arrived, it was late.

“I told him how discouraged I was,” Debbie Harman said. “[I kept telling him] ‘I did everything right. I did everything right.’”

Mike Harman agreed: He told his friends, who had expressed doubt that Debbie hit the deer, that he had faith in his wife. He told them they should, too.

One reason for his confidence: The couple shoot together regularly, and both are NRA basic pistol instructors.

The next morning, Mike Harman learned that his faith had been well-founded: While the tracking party was searching in one area, Debbie Harman ventured 75 yards in the other direction and found her deer. It was an eight-pointer, and weighed about 175 pounds.

Debbie’s reaction upon seeing the deer’s white belly?

“[I kept saying] ‘It’s mine. It’s mine,’” she said. “And I hit it right where I was trying to.”

Mike Harman admits that his reaction was a bit different. He was proud, to be sure. He was impressed with his wife’s perseverance — she was out tracking the deer despite having injured her ankle a week earlier.

And of course, there was that little matter of the other deer: The one he shot. From her stand. With her rifle.

When Debbie Harman pulled the trigger that day, Mike Harman knew he was finally, officially, forgiven for his transgression.

“I was one relieved husband,” he said with a chuckle.

John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.