Last Saturday morning, hundreds of the state’s youngest hunters headed into the woods with adult mentors to take part in a cool tradition-in-the-making.
Youth Deer Day, which is held annually a week before the state’s regular residents-only opening day, began in 2002. Many Maine hunting families look forward to sharing the day with their children.
Some of those families returned after their Saturday hunts with stories that they’ll tell for years to come.
Earlier this week, I heard from one such family, thanks to proud pop Adam Curtis of Bangor.
Curtis went hunting with his 11-year-old daughter, Melody Curtis, a sixth-grader at William S. Cohen School.
And they had a hunt to remember.
“Saturday was her first youth day for deer and her first day deer hunting, period,” Adam Curtis said in an email. “I bought her a .243 rifle a couple weeks ago, and although she is small, she handled it well with the help of a recoil pad and shooting stick.”
The Curtises saw a doe and two fawns during their morning hunt, then took some time to regroup.
“We set up a side-by-side ladder stand during the day so that we could sit together for the afternoon hunt until dark,” Curtis said. “We got into the stand with about two hours of hunting time to go. The stand was set up near a brook, and with all the recent rain, it was very loud, and [the flowing water] made it very difficult to hear if there was any game coming.”
Melody Curtis, however, was sure she could hear an animal out there, coming closer by the minute.
“I could hear something as well, but between the brook noise and my older ears, I kept dismissing it as squirrels or partridge,” Adam Curtis said. “With about 25 minutes before the end of shooting time, she told me that she was sure there was something walking around in the thicket to our left. I was unconvinced until about five seconds later when a nice 8-point buck came walking out of there.”
Melody Curtis was right.
“I immediately saw the rack and told her to go ahead and shoot when she was ready,” Adam Curtis said. “When she moved the gun into position, she clanked the barrel on the metal of the shooting rail.”
In some cases, that would have been a deal-breaker. Not this time.
“The deer froze and snapped his head up and looked right at us at about 30 yards away. About two seconds later, Melody fired,” he said.
“She was ecstatic, and so was I. We called up her grandfather, who was hunting elsewhere with Melody’s cousin, and they came and helped us drag it out,” Curtis said. “There was no scale at the tagging station we went to, but when it was weighed the next day at the butcher, it weighed 200 pounds, even. [That] qualified her for the Biggest Bucks in Maine Club on her very first time out.”
Congratulations to Melody Curtis and to all the other successful Youth Deer Day hunters.
Got deer? Let us know!
As we roll into November, many of you will surely be able to answer that age old question — “Got your deer?” — in the affirmative.
Let me be the first to congratulate you.
A skilled (or lucky, or both) minority of the state’s deer hunters will emerge from the woods with the buck-of-a-lifetime.
Ten-pointers. 12-pointers. Deer that weigh 250 pounds … or more.
If you end up tagging a big ol’ buck, I hope you’ll choose to share your story with our readers. Each year, some of the most well-read outdoor stories we publish feature huge deer taken by other readers.
Of course, we can’t publish every story and picture we receive. But we can (and do) publish several each year.
If you end up bagging your own big ol’ buck, send photos and a description of the hunt (along with a telephone number I can reach you at) to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, if you’re a traditionalist, you can send mail to me: John Holyoke, Bangor Daily News, PO Box 1329, Bangor, 04402-1329.
Good luck to all the deer hunters out there. Have fun, and be careful.
Follow me on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke