Saturday’s Youth Deer Day provided the opportunity for Maine hunters 16 and under to get out on their own dedicated day in the woods.
And what a special day it was for many youngsters — whether they shot a deer or not.
Few hunters will be able to tell the kind of story Cameron Albert of Newburgh has from his first day of hunting deer.
It was 5:15 p.m. Saturday in Waldo when a spikehorn buck and three does first came into the field within sight of his family’s tower stand.
“He made the decision that he wanted to take the spike and I told him if he felt comfortable making the shot to go ahead and take it,” said Cameron’s father, Chris Albert.
Cameron’s shot was on target and briefly dispersed the does that had been close by. Within a minute, all of them returned.
With an antlerless deer permit available, the 9-year-old opted to shoot the largest of the does.
His doubleheader harvest was accomplished in the company of not only his dad, but his grandfather, Gary Avery.
“Great memories made with three generations,” Chris Albert said.
Eddie Blakesley of Belfast is another first-timer who came away from Youth Deer Day enthused about his experience.
According to his hunting mentor, family friend Curt Freeman, Blakesley was only able to do limited preseason practice shooting because of the continuing ammunition shortage. But he was prepared.
The 13-year-old hunted in the morning and saw a deer, but didn’t have a shot. They returned to the same spot for the afternoon hunt.
At 5:40 p.m., a buck came over the ridge to their left and stopped, looking directly at them, about 50 feet away.
“Do I shoot him now?” Eddie asked when he had a good shot.
He fired and the buck dropped. The nine-pointer weighed 183 pounds.
“It was truly an experience that him and I will never forget,” Freeman said.
Abby Coleman of Dedham on Saturday continued her family’s tradition of hunting and putting venison in the freezer.
For the 13-year-old, the third time was the charm.
Abby spent the morning hunting with her father, Tom Coleman, and her brother Walter. They didn’t see any deer.
Things heated up in the evening.
“We got up into the double deer stand and it only took about 40 minutes until we saw the first of the four deer,” Abby said.
She saw one deer, but didn’t have a shot. Two more appeared a few minutes later and Abby got ready to shoot.
“I thought it was a perfect shot, but the deer ran away and did not end up being hit,” she said.
The other deer stayed. Abby missed her first shot, but then she was on target with her .223 rifle.
Both of her sisters and her brother also had shot their first deer from the same stand.
Harvesting a deer on Youth Deer Day also has another benefit.
“I was happy to finally get a deer and that I wouldn’t have to get up every morning at 5 to go hunting, but it was also a sad thing,” Abby said of the fact her season is over.
Ryatt Merry of Belfast could hardly contain himself in anticipation of the start of deer season on Saturday.
“He was wide awake and knocking on my door to drag us out of bed by 3:45 that morning,” said his mom, Astin Merry.
They were only in the woods for about three minutes, she said.
Initially, 5-year-old Ryatt was unable to connect. However, he persevered.
“The lil buck underestimated my little hunter and came walking out about 40 feet from him — right behind a nice 10-pointer that my boy has been watching all summer and missed after firing two shots — and hit this guy on his third,” Astin Merry said.
It was a four-year wait, but Olivia Drake of Littleton was among the numerous youth hunters to shoot their first deer on Saturday.
“She loves the outdoors and has hunted since she was 10,” said her father, Adam Drake.
The 14-year-old was only 20 minutes into the hunt when she took a 115-pound doe with a .243.
“This is the first thing she ever shot and now she is hooked,” Adam Drake said.
Saturday was a slow day of hunting for Collin Mehrhoff of Hermon.
From left: Olivia Drake of Littleton shot this 115-pound doe while hunting with her father, Adam Drake, during Youth Deer Day on Saturday, Oct. 23; Collin Mehrhoff, 11, of Hermon shot this doe during Youth Deer Day on Saturday, Oct. 23; Faith Pete of Bangor, 15, harvested her first deer, this spikehorn, during Youth Deer Day on Saturday, Oct. 23. Credit: Contributed photos
The 11-year-old, hunting with his father, Matt Mehrhoff, waited patiently in the hope of having an opportunity.
“A friend from work invited me to bring my son to his property and let him hunt for youth day,” Matt Mehrhoff said. “We had very little action besides watching a large owl overlooking a small field we were watching.”
The chance finally came with only a few minutes of light remaining as Collin shot a doe from 135 yards.
“These are the dad moments that we live for,” Matt Mehrhoff said.
Faith Pete of Bangor harvested her first deer in four years of hunting.
The 15-year-old shot a spikehorn buck with a .308 that she was using for the first time.
Pete was hunting with her uncle, Shawn Cookson of Dexter.
Correction: A previous version of this report misstated the timeline for Cameron Albert’s hunt.