The First Deer

The First Deer

As a young man and boy I spent some time toting a bow or rifle in the woods with a bit of a derelict of an uncle I had. The buck I killed was with a bow and looking back on the experience I am almost positive it was on state land that was strictly no hunting (thanks statute of limitations) and likely near a corn pile. The other distinct memory I have was holding a old pump action .22 and being told to fire into a group of running deer… a .22 into running deer. So needless to say my experience was pretty much horrible

  Fast forward 18 years and as an adult I became interested in the woods again, in a strong and primal way. I made my entry back through foraging and gathering and the desire to reconnect with who I could feel was inside me.

  I had become a butcher by this point and extremely interested in ever part of where my food came from and through these two avenues I picked up a .22 again….

  This time it was a squirrel that I was after, not a doe in a herd of whitetails….thankfully…. and very quickly I was able to connect and feed my wife and self with its meat and I was hooked again.

   My passion grew from there and I picked up a bow again and sat in tree stands in the state where we were living at the time, almost connected with a buck but missed high. The first of many mental set backs in my adult hunting life.

   I pursued a job opportunity that brought us to Maine, my dream state… and the growth of my hunting career hit over drive very quickly.

   Conquer the setbacks with three major successes, one that was a once in a lift time experience and two very long beards.

   In my second year of applying I pulled a tag for a Maine bull moose in northern Maine and, with the help of a mentor and a Maine Guide, was able to kill my first big game animal in my new life, a beautiful 5 year old bull.

   The following spring on two consecutive days I killed Tom turkeys with 10 inch beards. I was able to call birds in and kill them at 10 yards.

   So the success mounted but the Whitetail buck still haunted me. In all the successes I had I failed as many times to hunt and kill a deer.

   Two years went by, two years full of lessons learned and mistakes made until I finally was given a shot at a white tail and I missed… I missed at 50 yards. I was shaken and mad, I was disappointed. It took a lot of time sitting with it to take on the positives of the lessons learned. What I did right to finally sit where the deer were, what I did to allow the buck to be so close… and how I missed.

   Later in that same season I was presented with a second chance, this time a doe at 70 yards and I hit her. She ran and laid down. I saw her but my hubris won and lack of knowledge fucked me. I walked to her after only ten minutes and she bolted…. Blood and bone, good lung blood…. Laid where she did. I spent the entire day looking for her, a friend brought dogs and we gridded the whole area that we could access, and she never turned up. She died, no doubt, but she fed coyotes and not me.

   This past summer the area I was hunting was logged out. Almost clear cut. As were the wood lots surrounding it and this area will lay deerless for a few years to rebuild. I felt like I was back at square one.

   It was devasting to see it happen.

   I spent the early fall scouting and trying to find a spot I could sit that wasn’t posted and that I had access to (in Maine any land is open unless actively posted by the owner).

  I turned up one spot on a powerline that laid between a small ridge and a trout river. It wasn’t amazing but I was open and I could hunt it. So I set up a rough blind, brought in my tri-pod and I hunted it.

  It was half way through the Maine rifle season when it happened. Honestly, I was about to leave the woods when he showed up. I had just had two hunters walk through my hunting zone and talk to me loudly about their day. I assumed I was busted but waited to make sure the other hunters were gone.

Before I could leave I heard a running noise in the crusty snow and than grunts. I buck was tending his doe. I saw the doe first and than the buck but he was out at easily 200 yards and running. I chalked it up to a cool thing to see and experience as the woods grew quiet again.

  But I heard steps. They didn’t sound like deer in the snow. It was too rhythmic but I saw legs, four of them and coming at me. He came right on the edge of the powerlines I was sitting. I was praying he would take the trail towards the rubs in front of me or he was going to walk right to me and bust with no shot. My luck was finally with me as he hung a left at 75 yards and stopped dead broad side. Dead.

  I don’t remember the shot ringing or the feel of the rifle. I just remember the sight as the deer fell 20 yards from the shot.

  It was over and I had conquered the road I had set out on years before.

  The drag was rough, up a mile of hill in 8 inches of crusty snow. Thankfully the old forest gate was unlocked and I could drive the last mile on the logging road.

  My wife and my son met me and took the drive back to the buck with me. It was better than I could have ever imagined having been. It worked out just the way the gods of this earth wanted it to for me. My family and my 6 point, 170 pound Maine Buck.


Written by Justin Kling

(Instagram: @thesolarhuntergatherer) 

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