Mike Cummings of Bucksport found an antler shed in late 2019 or early 2020 that stopped him in his tracks.
It was the start of a hunt that lasted almost four years.
Cummings, 53, learned the huge deer’s travel patterns, its caution around open areas, what it ate, its distinctive tracks, its length of stride, the distance between its front legs, its social habits, and eventually, where it lived — its bedding area.
This deer, which Cummings thought was approximately 250 pounds live weight, became his obsession, and it paid off.
On Halloween morning, the huge buck stepped from the woods into a powerline clearing where Cummings was patiently waiting. Cummings aimed his .270 rifle while looking through the new Vortex scope his son Michael bought him for this hunt and shot the animal from 233 yards away.
The buck ran another 30 yards down the powerline before dropping into a ditch. The shot had split its heart in half. The animal was taken about a mile and a half from where Cummings had first found its antler shed almost four years before.
The buck weighed in at 269.4 pounds. This was Cummings’ 30th buck in a lifetime of hunting, but his first one that was more than 200 pounds, he said.
“It was like an out-of-body experience to stand next to him. I was blessed and honored. This is him. And he’s twice as big as anything I had ever seen,” Cummings said.
He couldn’t get the deer out alone, even after gutting it. Cummings had ridden his e-bike in about a mile and a half, then walked another few hundred feet into the powerline because the property is gated.
It took Cummings and his son 20 minutes to load the deer onto a game cart, then another two hours and 25 minutes to go 425 yards to a waiting truck. The mass of the buck destroyed the pins and brackets on the deer cart.
The landowner, who doesn’t allow vehicles on his property, gave Cummings special permission to bring in a truck, which minimized how far he and his son would have to drag the deer.
Cummings said that he stayed out of that woods during bird season and didn’t put up any game cameras so he wouldn’t spook the animal once he learned where the buck lived. He estimated he spent up to 200 hours in the woods over the years looking for the deer.
Finding the deer’s three beds about 50 yards apart near a bog was the turning point because that meant Cummings could hunt the animal where he lived, Cummings said.
He at first thought he had found moose beds because they were about the size of a hood of a car, he said. But he found hair in the bed and familiar tracks leaving the swamp, so he knew it was his quarry.
“I’ve never seen a stride like it in all of my years in the woods — two feet apart in breadth,” he said.
He didn’t hunt on opening day because the wind was coming from the wrong direction, meaning the deer would be able to smell the hunter. But on Oct. 31, the wind was right and it all came together.
He was lucky to be the one who shot it. There were a couple other treestands in the area and some hunters came into the powerline from the north. A guide also leases the property for bear baits and bird hunting.
The deer yielded 127 pounds of meat from the butcher. Although the number of inches on the rack didn’t score high, the antlers are big around and the crown is 7 ⅛ inches, he said.
Cummings is having a taxidermist do a full shoulder mount, with the deer turned just a bit so it fits in the house.
When Cummings decided five years ago that he needed to shoot a 200-pounder, he had no idea what odyssey would ensue.
“It was one of those milestones for me. It was a true once in a lifetime thing to walk up on a deer this special. When we weighed it, my face went white,” he said.