As deer season after deer season has unfolded, I’ve typically taken to the woods with the same mindset: This is the year, I’ve told myself, that I’ll finally bag a buck.

The fact that I’m still buckless after more than a decade of deer hunting hasn’t deterred me. Wind, snow, sleet, and an occasionally balky back haven’t dimmed my spirits.

No matter the year, I’ve headed afield filled with confidence, eager to fill my tag.

Until this year.

This year, I’m happy report, I hunted through November with modest goals. And this year, I’m equally happy to report, I reached those goals with ease.

I went into the woods a few times. I spent time with great friends. I went on a few walks. Sat on a few stumps and rocks. Listened to a few red squirrels. And I even saw two deer. And I didn’t even think of pulling the trigger.

I can hear you now. “How can a real hunter consider such a lackluster season a success?” you ask. “Have you lost your marbles?”

My marbles, I’m pleased to say, are intact. So, too, is my wallet. And if I’d had the opportunity to shoot a buck this year, it certainly would have had an impact on the latter condition.

Somewhere around the end of October, as I assembled my deer hunting gear and got ready for the season, I realized that I had a bit of a logistical problem looming. My “Aha” moment occurred as I struggled to squeeze a couple hundred pounds of moose meat into my small chest freezer.

Eventually, I succeeded, and the meat was stowed safely away.

Then I started considering what that full freezer really meant. Among the realizations: We don’t even have enough room for a half gallon of Giffords Moose Tracks ice cream in that freezer … What happens if I get a deer this year? Where will I put it? How will I convince my wife that I’ve got to buy another freezer to store that deer meat? How much will that freezer cost? How much wild game can a guy eat in a year, anyway?

And most importantly, if I did fill my tag, buy another freezer, and cook moose and deer tacos every day for the foreseeable future, where would I sleep?

And after deciding that I wasn’t even sure I wanted to shoot a deer this year, the season turned into one glorious walk in the woods.

Don’t get me wrong: I was still hopeful. And I still wanted to happen upon a buck that would make me reconsider. But for the most part, I was perfectly happy wandering about, killing time, looking at all the monstrous trees that had been toppled by the October windstorm, and categorizing the odd forest noises I heard.

Squirrel. Squirrel. Squirrel. Squirrel. DEER!

Yes, I did see a deer this season. Two, in fact. And while I realize that’s not many for most other hunters, in the woods that I typically hunt, it’s reason to celebrate.

Neither of those deer had antlers, and both bounded away.

And at the end of each hunting day, I took part in one of my favorite hunting traditions: I met up with friends back at our vehicles, shrugged my shoulders, and asked, “What’d you see?”

Then, as they do every year, the tales began. Eventually, the stories shared, we’d head for home, vowing to return at another predetermined time.

For me, that means “next year.”

In the meantime, I’ve got chores to do, flies to tie, and moose meat to eat.

With no regrets, I’m looking forward to a fantastic winter.

Fly tying symposium on tap

If you’re a fly tier, or would like to learn more about becoming one, the Penobscot Fly Fishers are planning an event that you won’t want to miss. Their annual Fly Tying Symposium is set for Saturday, Dec. 9 at the Penobscot County Conservation Association on North Main Street in Brewer. The event will run from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.

The symposium is free to attend, and visitors will find plenty of experienced tiers on hand, demonstrating various skills and sharing tips and techniques.

I’m planning on heading over to visit at some point; hopefully I’ll see some new material that I’ve just got to buy, or see a new technique that will prompt me to dust off my vise and begin tying.

Hope to see you there.

John Holyoke can be reached at or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke

Avatar photo

John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...