The thrill of your first deer

Growing up in Millinocket, my friend Matt was surrounded by family members who were passionate hunters. He developed a deep love of the outdoors and exploring the woods and waters of Maine. But, like many kids, he became involved with school-related activities and the time he had for hunting and fishing dwindled.

At 20, Matt put all of his time and energy into building his business.  His entrepreneurial drive left little time for activities like hunting. When COVID hit, his thriving business slowed down and Matt found himself with more free time.  It gave him the unexpected opportunity to get back to hunting and his love of the outdoors. “During that time, I formed a friendship with someone who really reignited my interest in hunting,” Matt explained, “I went ahead and completed my hunter’s safety class and then bought my license.”

Luckily, Matt has friends who offered to help him. They offered to help him get more comfortable shooting and for him to hunt in one of their stands.  The only problem was finding the time to be in that stand. “As a business owner, it is hard to carve out enough time in my schedule for hunting.  I want more of an opportunity to target practice and spend time with family and friends hunting,” Matt says.

Leading up to the season, Matt was fortunate enough to navigate the new any-deer system and get an opportunity in the second round to buy a doe tag.  Being able to shoot any deer increased his chances of having a successful season and Matt eagerly headed into the deer stand.

“I missed my first deer,” he said, “I was really deflated. I learned that I am left-eye dominant but right-handed.”  It was back to the shooting range to get more comfortable and work on shot placement given this new information.  On Thanksgiving morning, he headed back into the stand.

At 7:18am that morning, my phone buzzed in my jacket.  It was a photo of a buck on the ground. The grass around him still frosted from the night before. “I killed my first deer with one shot.  The five pointer dropped where I shot it at 138 yards away,” explained Matt happily, “I was so thankful to have made a good shot and for the meat that the deer would provide to me and my family.”

Now, like so many of us, Matt is eager to get back into the stand and hope a little bit of luck is on his side and he can punch another tag this year.  Most of us can remember that feeling of shooting our first deer and the excitement and adrenaline that hits us.  It’s that point when we become addicted to the outdoors and hunting.

I don’t consider myself a seasoned hunter but after 21 years of hunting, I have reached the point where seeing a new hunter be successful is as exciting as when I squeeze the trigger myself.  I encourage all of us to cheer on the Matts in our lives who, as adults, are now able to prioritize the time it takes to get into the woods and hunt.  Welcome to all of the new hunters this season!



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Meet The Author

Erin Merrill, author of And a Strong Cup of Coffee, is president of Women of the Maine Outdoors, a senior writer for Drury Outdoors, a contributor to the Northwoods Sporting Journal and passionate all things Maine, Hunting, and the Outdoors.