For the past four years, Logan Swallow of Oakfield has spent Youth Deer Day with his uncle, Jeff Swallow. And for the past four years, they’ve returned at the end of the day without a deer.
That all changed on Oct. 22, when the duo teamed up on the hunt of a lifetime.
Jeff Swallow, 34, said they’d picked up his buddy, Matt Belyea of Houlton, and spent the day in a variety of locations around Aroostook County.
“We wanted to stick to [Wildlife Management District] 6, because [Logan] could shoot a doe there,” Jeff Swallow said.
The team field-hunted through Littleton and Monticello, and didn’t see a thing. Then they hopped out of the truck and began to slog through likely areas.
“We headed into the woods and hunted the woods all day,” Jeff Swallow said. “It was raining and foggy, but we did some walking in clear cuts, checking spots where we should have found deer.”
They had no luck.
Shortly after 5 p.m., as daylight dwindled, they headed back to Smyrna, where they’d begun the day. Their luck changed rapidly.
“We were driving in towards the field, and all of a sudden Logan says, ‘There’s a deer.’ My buddy, Matt, said, ‘It’s a buck.'”
The deer was 70 yards away, in a field on right side of the road, and Logan dismounted from the truck, took aim, and shot it. Both Jeff Swallow and Belyea were certain it was a good shot.
“It was getting dark, and it’s rainy and foggy, and [the deer] went down into the woods,” Jeff Swallow said.
Ideally, they’d have waited for a bit before trying to track the deer. The heavy rain called for a change in plans.
“We got right on his track because we wanted to stay on [its blood trail] before the rain washed it all away,” Jeff Swallow said.
After about 100 yards, Jeff Swallow found the deer in a stand of jack firs.
“I couldn’t see his head. I was at his hind end, and I gave him a kick on the butt just to make sure he was dead before I even told Logan and Matt that I found him,” Jeff Swallow said.
Then things got interesting in a hurry.
“When I kicked him in the butt, all hell broke loose,” he said. “On his feet he came, in Matt’s direction. Matt heard a commotion and thought I tripped and fell down. When he turned around to look that buck barreled right over the top of him. It put him to the ground. [The deer] went another 15 to 20 feet after he ran over Matt and dropped dead.”
Belyea escaped with just a scratch on his leg, Jeff Swallow said, and after field-dressing the deer, they learned that Logan’s shot had destroyed its heart.
“How that deer got up and went again, I’ll never know,” Jeff Swallow said.
When they got a good look at Logan’s deer, they saw its huge, wide rack, and knew the deer would tip the scales over 200 pounds.
“It was raining, and he was dragging hard,” Jeff Swallow said. “We had to call for [two more people to] help.”
At the tagging station, the 11-pointer weighed in at 247 pounds.
Jeff Swallow said Logan is beginning to realize how special the deer is, and that he may never see a larger deer in his life.
A steady stream of visitors has stopped by to look at the buck, and at one store, truck drivers pulled over to look at the deer in the back of Jeff Swallow’s truck.
But the deer’s size isn’t the most important thing to the Swallows.
“My father was a guide. He owned and operated Katahdin View Guide Service,” Jeff Swallow explained. “Logan did everything with him, whether it was lugging bear buckets when he was a little, little boy or wanting to go [out in the woods] with him all the time.
“My dad passed away five years ago of brain cancer,” he continued. “The rifle that Logan shot the deer with was my father’s favorite rifle, the one that he carried all the time. So that was pretty special.”
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