Jason Harris was running out of time to make the most of the season last fall -- but a moment of luck landed him one of Maine's biggest bucks.
Jason Harris of Newburgh shows off the monster buck he shot on Halloween day, 2022. The deer, which included a set of antlers with 11 points, field dressed at 265 pounds and was the largest deer shot last year in Maine. Credit: Courtesy of Kenny Bacon

With legal shooting time running out on Halloween, Jason Harris was ready to head home. The Newburgh hunter was on vacation and spent the second day of Maine’s firearms season sitting in his ground blind in Dixmont.

Harris had already stashed his binoculars and rangefinder, moved his shooting stick and placed his rifle against the side of the blind. He scanned the adjacent field one last time, then stood up as he prepared to leave.

Suddenly, the cellphone in his pocket vibrated. Harris had a new photo from one of his trail cameras, but at first he didn’t give it much thought.

“It was one of my cell cams which is religiously late sending photos,” he said, explaining that it wasn’t unusual to receive photos from that camera two or three days after they were taken. Just in case, he clicked on the image.

“I look at the time and I’m like, that’s right now!” Harris said of the deer photo.

He spun around, sat back down, grabbed his shooting sticks and picked up the rifle, hoping that the deer would cross in front of him. When it appeared, Harris swung his sticks to get into position.

once-in-a-lifetime deer hunt

“I ran one of the legs of the trigger sticks right into the grate on my Mr. Buddy heater,” he said, a move that resulted in a loud clunk.

He admitted having done the same thing a year earlier, but still harvested a 7-point buck. “I thought it was over; good night, Irene.”

Instead, the deer relaxed after about 10 seconds, lowered its head and started walking slowly toward the nearby bog.

“Everything happened so fast, which is good, because I usually get ‘buck fever’ like you read about,” Harris said.

He was able to steady himself and made a good shot with his Savage .336 caliber rifle.

Harris knew it was a nice deer — the largest he had ever shot — but never imagined that the 265-pound, 11-pointer would be the biggest buck among 43,788 taken in Maine in 2022.

“I know it was a big deer, but looking in years past, big ones have gone like 300, 270, 280 or whatever,” he said of the state’s heaviest deer.

The antlers, which scored 144 net using the Boone and Crockett system, included a split on the right G2 antler and a droptine on the same side. 

Numerous hunters are motivated by trying to earn the coveted “Biggest Bucks in Maine” patch through a program administered by the Maine Sportsman magazine. To get one, a hunter must harvest a deer that weighs at least 200 pounds, field dressed.

It was the first “patch buck” for the 48-year-old Harris, who has been hunting seriously for almost 25 years.

deer hunt data

“I was more than happy just to make the 200-pound club,” Harris said. “The thought of having the heaviest deer in the state never even crossed my mind.”

In 2022, the biggest bucks club welcomed 450 new members whose accomplishments were recorded in the February edition of the publication. There were other 200-pound deer harvested that were not entered into the “Biggest Bucks in Maine” registry. 

Harris didn’t have any delusions of holding out for the biggest buck he could find. He said the most important aspect of hunting for him is putting meat in the freezer. Nonetheless, he didn’t settle for just any buck — especially with two antlerless deer permits in his pocket. 

In spite of his good fortune, it turns out his state-best deer wasn’t even his target buck. It couldn’t have been, since Harris did not have a single trail camera photo of the 265-pound, 11-pointer. 

During archery season, he had an encounter with a solid eight-pointer, which was a bit too far away, and he could have harvested one of the smaller bucks he saw while hunting with his crossbow. 

He remained patient, hoping to cross paths with another eight-pointer, one he believes is even heavier than the one he shot. And based on trail camera photos from mid-December, the buck survived the hunting season.

“The thing is just built like a tank. It’s unbelievable,” Harris said. “It’s like a Holstein cow with a set of antlers.”

Assuming the deer survives until next season, Harris will again try to harvest it.

“I really want to meet up with him,” he said.

maine hunting tales

In the meantime, Harris will continue his relationship with the landowner, who for the last three years has allowed Harris to hunt there in exchange for doing some bushhogging work on the man’s fields.

“You’ve got to put your time in and then you’ve got to find a good spot, too,” he said of being able to shoot a once-in-a-lifetime deer. “You’ve got to be there.”

Harris’ buck was among numerous impressive specimens last year. Joshua Small of Woodland was the state runner-up with a 263-pounder and Nathan Devault of West Gardiner took a 256-pound buck.

Rounding out the top five were Gary Lind of Rangeley (255 pounds) and Robert Hogan of Sebec (249).

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the firearm used by Harris to harvest his deer.

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...