Ronald Argraves Sr. is an avid lifelong hunter, but not until this year did the grandfather from Castle Hill accomplish a desired milestone — a Maine hunting “grand slam.”
Argraves killed a wild turkey, a black bear, a moose and finally a deer during a challenging season that ended at the Old Town home of his grandson, Justin Lewin.
“Once in a lifetime,” is how Argraves, who turns 73 next month, described the feat. “First moose permit ever, so I won’t get a chance for it again. I guess I could, but I highly doubt it.”
He likely would have pulled off a grand slam previously had it not been for some bad luck. There’s no grand slam without a moose and there’s no moose without a moose permit.
“I waited 40 years to get that permit,” said Argraves, who described the moose outing as an opportunity worth waiting for and one that was the most meaningful of his 2021 hunts.
The bull, shot in Wildlife Management District 4, weighed 860 pounds and sported 50-inch antlers.
“I had my oldest grandson, my son, oldest granddaughter and best friend with me and we got a nice bull on the first day,” Argraves said. “We probably could have waited for a bigger one, but I wasn’t going to blow my chances ’cause you never know; we might not have seen another one all week.”
Argraves previously shot a 20-pound turkey in WMD 6 and killed a 258-pound sow bear, also in zone 6.
He grew up hunting in a large County family where reliance on wild game was part of life.
“I was the 10th child, out of 13. We didn’t have much, so we had to hunt,” Argraves said.
His introduction to hunting came while pursuing yet another species.
“In the 1950s I used to go rabbit hunting with dad and my brothers. I shot quite a few rabbits before I shot any deer,” Argraves said. “Mum made stews and dumplings out of the rabbits. We ate a lot of rabbit, and deer, and whatever else dad could kill.”
The grand slam appeared to be in jeopardy after five weeks of fruitless deer hunting.
That was the case even though Agraves, for the first time, wasn’t working during deer season. He hunted every day, missing a nice buck on opening day, then failing to connect on a small deer later in the season.
“I spent all that extra time hunting,” he said. “I bet I spent $1,000 on gas, probably more. It takes $100 to fill my truck and I was filling it a couple times a week and still didn’t have anything to show [for it].”
Argraves’ streak of shooting a deer every year for a long time had ended in 2020. It also marked the first time he had hunted outside of Aroostook County or northern Piscataquis County.
This fall, it all came down to the final week of muzzleloader season. For that, he was forced to leave The County, where there is only one week of muzzleloader hunting.
“Once the season was done up home, it wasn’t looking good,” said Argraves, who paid a visit to Lewin in Old Town.
“I just needed a buck with one antler that was 3 inches long and I would have been happy with that.” “Really, a spikehorn would have been fine to get that grand slam. Not many get it.”
Lewin had seen some bucks on his trail cameras, including a big one. Argraves figured that he might have some hope of seeing a buck.
Last year, Argraves had built a small hunting shack for Lewin that was positioned at the edge of a field at Lewin’s house. On Dec. 6, he set up in there to escape the rain.
“Even though there was still about 20 minutes of legal hunting left, it was difficult to see because of the weather,” Argraves said, “and then this buck appeared, quickly making its way along the edge of the field.”
The deer stopped just before it appeared ready to duck back into the woods. Argraves fired.
“The smoke made it difficult to see where he went exactly and with the rain there was no blood to be seen. I thought I may have missed. It wouldn’t be the first time,” he said.
A short time later, Lewin found his Papa’s deer only a few yards into the woods. The 13-pointer weighed 202 pounds.
“When I saw it up close, it was bigger than I thought,” Argraves said. “I’ve shot many deer and seen many deer, [but] it has the biggest rack of any deer I’ve shot.”
Lewin had seen the buck on camera and at least once in his garden, at first light, a few weeks earlier.
Upon processing the animal, Lewin said it was marred by numerous significant puncture wounds all over its body that could have been the result of being attacked by another deer.
One hole in the hind quarters was large enough to accommodate his entire index finger.
Lewin had passed on some smaller bucks in the hope of seeing one of the larger ones. But he came away thrilled about how things worked out.
“I am very happy my grandfather shot him,” Lewin said. “He is a much more serious hunter than I am and I hopefully have another 40-plus years to hunt and hopefully find a trophy buck like this one. If I never do, that is fine. I am fortunate to spend countless hours with my grandfather hunting every legal game [species] that Maine has a season for.”