ST. ALBANS, Maine — Since he started deer hunting when he turned 10, Zach Ramsdell has enjoyed quite a bit of success.
In fact, Ramsdell, who is now 19, says that over that span, he has filled his tag every year except three.
He credits having access to some very productive land, and growing up in a family that takes its deer hunting pretty seriously.
But despite that success, Ramsdell admitted that he’d never shot — nor seen, for that matter — a truly big buck while hunting.
On Nov. 9, that all changed.
“I sat in the morning, and didn’t see anything, so I went home and had lunch,” Ramsdell said. Upon his return, his luck rapidly changed.
“[I had been sitting] for 20 minutes, tops,” he said. “I had just sat down and gotten comfortable.”
Then a buck with impressive antlers bolted into sight.
“I don’t know what scared him, but he was right on a dead run when he came by me,” Ramsdell said. “I got ahead of him and got him in my crosshairs and pulled the trigger.”
After walking to the deer, he realized he had a bigger challenge ahead of him: The deer was big, and getting it out of the woods was going to be a chore.
“I called for help,” he said.
And in true Ramsdell fashion — the family is full of hunters, let’s remember — a large crew showed up.
The crew consisted of his father, Rodney Ramsdell, uncles Jason and Ryan Ramsdell, brother Kobey Ramsdell, and cousin Nick Ramsdell.
“We took turns dragging,” he said. “It took us the rest of the day to get him out.”
They also took turns guessing the weight of the behemoth. Everyone came up short.
“I think the closest was [one of my uncles],” Ramsdell said. “He said he thought it weighed 245. I actually thought it was going to go about 225. But I just couldn’t get past [looking at] the antlers on him. I wasn’t really looking at the size at first.”
The deer weighed 254 pounds, field-dressed, including the heart and liver, and sported a monster rack with 11 points.
The deer was a milestone for the hunting family.
“My dad and his brothers have always hunted together, and that’s the biggest deer that any of us have ever gotten,” Ramsdell said. “They’ve been hunting there for 20 years.”
Until that Saturday, the family’s big buck bragging rights belonged to Zach’s uncle, Jason Ramsdell. A week earlier, he’d shot a 210-pound 6-pointer.”
“He said he thought for sure he’d shoot the biggest buck of all of us this year, and then I had to go and prove him wrong,” Zach Ramsdell said.
A week earlier, Zach Ramsdell had gotten a look at another huge deer taken in the area, a 282-pounder shot by Neal Page of Palmyra. So when he took his own deer to Newport Trading Post to tag it, he opted to not enter it in the big buck contest that the store runs, figuring Page’s deer was a sure winner.
Then he found out he might have wanted to do so.
“I later found out that they pay three places,” he said with a chuckle. “I might go over and see if I can still enter. I don’t know how [the contest] works.”
Zach Ramsdell said shooting a big buck was something entirely new to him — his largest before this year was about 135 pounds — and said that tagging out so early in the season has left him with some free time he hadn’t planned on.
“I set up my schedule so I’d have Mondays free. I have every Saturday and Monday to hunt,” he said. “I don’t know what I’m going to do now. I’ll have all of Thanksgiving break to sit at the house while everyone else is hunting.”
If he’s lucky, he might get a call from a relative who needs a hand dragging their own monster buck out of the woods. If that happens, he says he’s ready.
It’s just the way things work in St. Albans, he said, where deer hunting is a way of life: Family and neighbors help each other out.
“The whole community’s into it,” he said. “I had a bunch of people stop to see my deer and I actually had five people offer to pay for the mount just to make sure I could have it mounted. They know I’m in college [and short on cash].”
Zach Ramsdell said he’d never ask someone to do such a thing for him, but said he appreciated the sentiment.
“It shows the kind of people that I have around me and that we have in the community,” he said.