Alexa Murray (left) of Addison harvested her first deer, this six-point buck, on Saturday alongside her future stepfather Dean Barrett (rear) and her mother, Lindsey Lewis. Credit: Courtesy of Ripley Strout

There was tremendous excitement and lots of smiles on Saturday as Mainers 16 and under celebrated the annual Youth Deer Day.

Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and siblings turned out in force on social media to celebrate the hunting successes and other special moments that were shared in the woods and fields.

Today we’re sharing a handful of those stories with you.

Alexa Murphy of Addison had a memorable, and somewhat painful, Youth Deer Day while hunting Down East.

The 12-year-old seventh-grader was introduced to hunting in 2020 by her future stepfather, Dean Barrett. Alexa was accompanied Saturday by Barrett and her mother, Lindsey Lewis.

Alexa harvested her first deer, a six-point buck, using a .243. But the shot came with a bit of a price.

The recoil of the rifle scope left a gash above Alexa’s left eye. Credit: Courtesy of Lindsey Lewis

“She’s a good shot, but she got scoped hard,” Lewis said.

The recoil of the rifle scope left a gash above Alexa’s left eye.

“She didn’t shed a tear,” Lewis said. “All she cared about was if the deer she shot was down. She’s the toughest kid I know and has gone through more than most adults.”

It turns out Alexa had some extra inspiration during her hunt. In a silver, heart-shaped pendant, she wore the ashes of her late father, Travis Murphy, who died in 2020.

‘When she told me she had brought his ashes with her it really touched us!” Lewis said. “He was not a hunter himself but would have been so happy and proud of her.”

The seventh-grader did not need any stitches to close the wound, but is sporting a butterfly bandage for a few days.

You can’t blame Connor Kelly of Medway if he was a little tired as shooting light began to fade on Saturday afternoon.

The 15-year-old had returned home from a soccer tournament in Madawaska at 11 p.m. Friday and asked his father, Keith Kelly, if he could sleep in even though it would be his last Youth Deer Day hunt.

They arrived Saturday morning at a friend’s farm in Charleston where Connor jumped a few deer, but didn’t have a shot. They eventually set up a blind at the spot where he had shot his first deer, a doe, three years earlier.

With shooting light running out on Saturday afternoon, Connor Kelly of Medway shot his first buck, this four-pointer, while hunting in Kenduskeag with his dad, Keith Kelly, on Youth Deer Day. Credit: Courtesy of Keith Kelly

Connor had dozed off when, with about 15 minutes of time left, Keith suggested he take a final 360-degree look outside the blind. Sure enough, he saw something.

Connor raised the scope and shouted in a whisper, “it’s a deer! I think it’s a doe!” Keith Kelly recalled.

Connor got back into the blind and assumed a kneeling position. He got the deer in his sights and made a new observation.

“It’s got horns!” Connor said.

After controlling his breathing and aiming deliberately, Connor dropped the four-pointer with a 130-yard shot from his .243.

He ejected the shell, put it in his pocket, racked another and put the gun on safe. He turned and fist-bumped and hugged his dad.

After walking to the deer, Connor handed Keith his gun and hit his knees. He thanked the deer and told his dad how blessed he was.

“Little does he know what it will feel like when he gets to experience this with his kids,” Keith Kelly said. “Next year he can hunt on his own. I hope he chooses not to.”

Hailee Penney, 12, of Pittsfield shot her first deer on Saturday during Youth Deer Day. Credit: Courtesy of Adrianne Penney

Hailee Penney of Pittsfield finally was rewarded for her patience during her fourth year out in the woods.

The 12-year-old shot her button buck Saturday with a 134-yard shot using her .243 rifle.

“I couldn’t believe it!” Hailee said. “My mom [Adrianne Penney] videoed it and when I watched it I couldn’t believe it didn’t show me shaking because I was so nervous. I looked a lot calmer than I was.

She added that the deer was special beyond it just being her first.

“I get to share the excitement with my parents [her father is David Penney II] and my Papa [Mike Nayock] that have been helping me learn all about hunting,” Hailee said.

Julian Henderson (right) of Camden and his father Aaron Henderson are pictured with the doe Julian shot Saturday on Youth Deer Day. Credit: Contributed photo

Julian Henderson of Camden capped off his time as a youth hunter on Saturday by taking his eighth career deer.

The 16-year-old shot a 100-pound doe only 45 minutes into his hunt in Lincolnville.

“One final youth day with my 16-year-old Julian,” Aaron Henderson said.

“He’s on his own now!” the proud dad said.

Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...