It was my privilege to introduce Maine Today Media outdoor writer Deirdre Fleming to hunting, accompanying her on her first-ever deer hunt the first week of November. I’m now calling her DEERdre. Her story of our hunt, published on the front page of the Maine Sunday Telegram yesterday, was exceptionally good. You can read it here.
Today, I’m going to tell you the rest of the story. Well, some of the rest of the story. Let’s start with a correction. Deirdre cleaned up my act a bit when she wrote that when those small deer stepped out into the field, I whispered “deer.” Actually, I loudly whispered, “Shoot! Shoot!”
Deirdre impressed me with her cautious and deliberate approach to deer hunting. She wouldn’t shoot at a running – or even a trotting – deer. And she wouldn’t shoot at those small deer, no matter how enthusiastically I encouraged her to do so. She did some sitting, but also walked a lot with me, still hunting through the woods.
Our three days of hunting were especially memorable thanks to George and Brenda Joseph, owners of Steep Hill Farm in Fayette, the best place to pick blueberries in the state. The Josephs are good friends of mine and allow me to bring other hunters to their farm, knowing we emphasize safety. I love bringing new adult hunters and young hunters here. Last year, Harry Vanderweide’s adult daughter Amanda shot her first deer here.
In three days of hunting at Steep Hill Farm, Deirdre and I saw 17 deer. When neither of us got an any-deer permit in the lottery, I sought a friend who would transfer a permit to her. I knew it would give her a much better chance of getting a deer, and the Joseph’s really wanted some does shot this year. Angus King III, the son of our U.S. Senator, stepped up and transferred his permit in our District 16 to Deirdre. Angus will be hunting with me tomorrow, and I really think he deserves a nice buck! I’ll do the best I can to make that happen.
On the third afternoon, we took a seat on the edge of a field and sat for the final two hours of the hunting day. We’d only been sitting for about 20 minutes when a small doe stepped out into the field about 100 yards away. I can’t imagine any other first time hunter passing up that shot, but Deirdre did, judging the deer too small.
Shortly after that, a big doe appeared in the woods to our right, headed toward the field. Deirdre watched it approach, and by the time she was comfortable shooting, she had to lean to the right and shoot at the deer as it stood between two trees. She missed.
The deer leaped into the field and stood about 70 yards away, unsure where the shot had come for. And that’s when Deirdre jumped up to prepare a second shot. The doe saw her and took off back toward the woods. Deirdre’s shot passed behind the deer, but she didn’t seem too disappointed. She did say that we probably wouldn’t see any other deer, now that she’d shot a couple of times. But I knew that was not the case, because there was more than an hour left.
That’s when she told me she was a far better shot standing up. I’d had her sitting behind a stone wall. And while I was not happy to see her standing, fearing she was too visible, I have to admit it worked out well.
About 20 minutes after she’d shot, another doe stepped out into the field. Yes, this is an amazing place to hunt! While I was urging her to shoot, in an ever-louder voice, her head was waving no, no, no. Finally she turned and whispered to me that it was too small. “It’s a nice deer,” I told her. But apparently not nice enough for my very selective hunter!
Just after sunset, with about 25 minutes left to hunt, a group of four deer trotted up over the ridge to an apple tree in the field about 100 yards away. I glanced at Deirdre and knew I didn’t have to encourage her to shoot. She looked pretty calm, actually, and had her gun up and ready. She had to wait briefly for the deer to divide, or she might have hit two with a single shot. When the deer did split up, she selected the biggest doe and shot it.
As it limped our way, she glanced at me. I think she might have been hoping I’d shoot, but I told her to get ready for another shot, and when the deer got about half way to us, she made a nice shot in the forward shoulder and dropped it.
George Joseph came out to congratulate her, and I didn’t make her clean the deer. She said she’d like me to teach her to do that, but I’m not sure she was watching too closely! We took the deer over to Fike’s Custom Cutting (207-458-3108) on Church Road in Readfield, where Brandon and his family do a superb job of cutting up domestic and game animals. Tomorrow I’ve got to get over there and pick up the ten pounds of venison that Deirdre generously donated to our Mount Vernon food bank.
As we drove over to Fike’s, after registering the deer at the Fayette Country Store, I told Deirdre deer hunting would never be that easy again. We spoiled her!