Sportsman’s Corner: All deer sightings special

Stacy Clark with her first deer.

Stacy Clark with her first deer. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Mike Roche



Published: 11-30-2023 5:29 PM

Every deer hunter has listened to and told deer stories because that is a big part of the culture that appreciates every aspect of the pursuit of the whitetail deer. The more years one has spent trying to outsmart big bucks the more stories accumulated. The shared experience of a day deer hunting is a sharing of what others saw, heard and felt and is perhaps the most enjoyable part of the experience. Every day is special. Freezing cold, windy, sunny, balmy, snowy, rainy or just a typical seasonal late fall/winter day, it all becomes part of the shared experience.

The fact is that deer sightings, never mind opportunities to bag a whitetail, are uncommon and are to be treasured. A glimpse of a white tail, a flash of brown or gray, or being blessed with a chance to watch a deer move through the woods; it all becomes a story. The sound of a twig snapping or the crashing of a deer in full flight, everything can be related to others who will remember and appreciate the moment. In truth, most deer sightings are brief, lasting a few seconds. The times when a hunter gets to watch a deer for a prolonged period are not common and special.

With Massachusetts regulations only allowing the taking of antlered deer with at least one antler three inches in length, hunters who are not selected for a permit in the zone they are hunting must allow does to pass and many times a deer’s movement through the cover prevents a hunter from determining if a deer is legal game. It is also worth noting that a deer with short antlers, typical of a yearling buck, when passing broadside may have their ears block the antlers from view. All these details are the stuff stories are made from, but the best stories are the ones that chronicle one’s first deer.

Monday, one of the hunters in the group that this writer was hunting with achieved that feat when Stacy Clark bagged a three-point, buck that later weighed 114 pounds at the check station. Stacy put in her time for five years. Faithfully waiting on stand or covering ground as a “driver,” in all kinds of weather, she had put in her time and had previous chances but had not killed her first deer. That all changed when two does passed her stand and were followed by the young buck. Stacy was ready and this time was successful in getting venison for the table!

It was hard to say who was most excited as everyone in the group gathered as the deer was hauled through the woods to the truck. Gabe Murphy, Stacy’s significant other, later was also successful as he filled his antlerless tag following the lunch break with a nice doe. All in all, there were a lot of sightings, a great lunch of pheasant stew (courtesy of Steve Johnson and Katie!), and great fellowship and camaraderie. The next day, Patrick Richards, who is home on leave from the Army, also was successful as he took a nice spike buck. Patrick and I reminisced about his days in the Mahar Fish’N Game Club and particularly a canoe trip to the Boundary Waters in Minnesota where he stood out as a leader in the challenges of that wilderness experience.

There were reportedly a good number of deer taken on the opening day, which certainly was a much better day than the weather forecasts in the days before. Another first deer congratulations to my cousin Kevin Marble! Wade Powling checked in a rack buck and a doe and Chet Hall Jr. also was seen checking in a nice rack buck.

This writer shares his “not so great moments,” and Sunday was one of those. As has been chronicled in this space, accuracy is important to me. I want my firearms, particularly my deer guns, to hit exactly where aimed. That, for me, means zeroing in to be “spot on” at 25 yards. In both the 12-gauge shotguns and inline muzzleloader that zero translates to being plus or minus three inches out to 100. In New England deer hunting, most deer are taken at 50 yards or less, but it is good to know that you can count on being on out to 100 yards if you can shoot from a steady position like sitting on stand or leaning against a tree.

Unfortunately, the first shot fired at the target during “last minute” sighting on Sunday with my brother Chris and nephew Jared was over a foot high! I could go into detail but let it suffice to say that this writer screwed up and burned several of his precious Remington Copper Solid Sabot slugs. They are no longer made so it was panic time. I carried my “backup gun” Monday and drove to Jaffrey, New Hampshire Tuesday to purchase a supply of Federal sabot slugs and resighted in the gun with the new ammo. The impact point was different, but it was soon sighted in to be “right on.” I want to offer special thanks to Tim St. Hilaire of Athol who was using the Orange Gun Club rifle range and offered me the use of his Caldwell Lead Sled. The device allows you to shoot with extreme accuracy and also absorbs the recoil. Santa will be getting a request for one!

Mike Roche is a retired teacher who has been involved in conservation and wildlife issues his entire life. He has written the Sportsman’s Corner since 1984 and has served as advisor to the MaharFish’N Game Club, counselor and director of the Massachusetts Conservation Camp, former Connecticut Valley District representative on the Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board, has been a Massachusetts Hunter Education Instructor and is a licensed New York hunting guide. He can be reached at