Deer hunting is all about timing and perspective.
For Sam Chaplin, those two elements didn’t align until this fall, when he decided to try the sport in earnest for the first time.
His motivation didn’t come from the thrill of pursuing a big buck or impressive antlers. Rather, it was to procure organic meat.
“I’ve been more conscious of where my meat is coming from,” Chaplin said. “I’m cutting back on meat in general and the meat I do eat, I want to make sure it’s more sustainably raised.”
Despite his minimal exposure to deer hunting, the Winthrop native demonstrated last week that a lack of experience doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a memorable day in the woods.
Chaplin shocked himself and his friends on Veterans Day when he harvested an 11-point buck that weighed 202.2 pounds while hunting behind his home in Manchester. The buck was his first deer and came during his first season of hunting.
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Growing up, he never felt compelled to go deer hunting. Lots of his friends hunted and he sat in the woods a couple of times, but that was it.
“I wasn’t sure if it was something I’d be into,” Chaplin said.
Finally, the timing seemed right this year.
Having bought a home and some property in Manchester about a year ago, he decided to give deer hunting a try. Chaplin, the portfolio manager for Penobscot Financial Advisors, ventured out for an hour or two during the mornings and evenings for several days.
Even so, he admits not working too hard at it. His friends had told him about the time, money and effort required to get properly geared up, remain hidden and reduce his scent.
“It was a pretty minimal amount of effort,” said Chaplin, who is a longtime bird hunter. “We’re talking about walking 150 yards out back of my house and sitting on a rock, so I didn’t expect to get anything.”
His simple approach paid dividends. He found a game trail with deer tracks and positioned himself on a rock not far away, armed with a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with buckshot.
During his evening sit on Nov. 11, he heard something approaching. He feared that he might not be close enough, or that it would be a small spikehorn for which he would have to determine whether its antlers measured at least 3 inches as required by state law for male deer.
There were no such complications.
“I saw this massive rack pop out. I couldn’t believe it,” said Chaplin, who had rehearsed being patient and taking some deep breaths to ensure a good shot.
“I just pulled up and blasted. I was pretty fortunate that I got it,” he said of the 25-yard shot.
Chaplin called his dad, David Chaplin, to help him with the drag.
“The adrenaline was dying down as I was trying to drag it 100 yards to my house,” Sam Chaplin said with a chuckle.
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The deer created a commotion among some seasoned hunters when he tagged it at Audette’s in Winthrop. Chaplin’s friends stressed that he needed proper documentation to register for “The Biggest Bucks in Maine Club” administered by The Maine Sportsman. He hadn’t even heard of it.
They were dumbfounded, Chaplin said, that he wasn’t planning to have the head and antlers mounted by a taxidermist. He is opting instead for a European mount, which features only the antlers and the bare top portion of the skull.
For Chaplin, the hunt wasn’t about the deer’s weight and antler configuration.
“Hunting is kind of that cross-section of being more independent and self-sustaining and also more sustainable for the environment,” he said.
Chaplin admitted that he wasn’t sure whether he would be comfortable pulling the trigger on a deer, even given the benefits of procuring organic venison.
“I wanted to put myself to that test,” Chaplin said. “The logical side of my brain and the emotional side of my brain were at odds. I kind of wanted to see which one of those would win out.”
For the time being, having a freezer full of meat and reducing reliance on mass-produced meat were well worth the effort.
“I think the best option for me is to manage where it’s coming from,” he said. “I would eventually like to get to the place where I kind of eat meat that I kill and maybe a few other exceptions.”