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Down the Road

Down the Road a Piece - Buck Fever
By Milt Gross
Sep 6, 2015 - 4:45:30 AM

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I've never been a good hunter or a patient fisherman.

The only wild game I ever shot was a partridge. It was standing on the ground under a tree, looked at me and started laughing.

"You're no hunter. I'm perfectly safe," it said to me.

But the gun went off, and it wasn't perfectly safe. And it did become a supper.

When I used to hunt deer, I secretly hoped I wouldn't see one, at least not a buck. I wasn't allowed by Maine law to shoot a doe, so they didn't count. I didn't mind seeing a doe.

I used to sit in summer on a ledge atop a hill opposite Songo Pond south of Bethel and watch a half-dozen deer, some bucks, wander up a path below me, cross the rocky hill right below me, and walk off into the sunset...or was it the woods they walked off into.

That was summer. No gun. No hunting license. In the fall, when I stalked the great western Maine forest, gun in hand and license in pocket, I could hear them laughing at me from a short distance away. Did you ever hear a deer laughing at you? If not, you don't know what you're missing.

It sounds a lot like a deer laughing at you.

I once shot a wild cat. No, not a wildcat. I now know the difference. But on that long-ago day, I climbed out of the car to see this wild cat eating our kittens. That meal made me think it was a wildcat. I shot it to save the kittens. A couple of years ago, I met a real wildcat. It had wandered into our yard to help a coyote enjoy a dead deer that had been hit by a car and which I had dragged into the woods below our bedroom window. We could see the entire performance.

I think the wildcat outranked the coyote from the way the coyote hedged its bets and stayed away from the wildcat.

The next day there was nothing left of the deer. Not even hair.

When I was a reporter over in South Paris, I got to eat every kind of wild game that existed in western Maine. I had gone to the Norway-Paris Fish and Game supper once to do a story. Not wanting me to have too much to eat for free, the club made me a member. I got to eat it all.

Not only was I a member, but they all laughed at...not when they met me in winter cross-country skiing on the club trails. My skiing gave them something to chat about at those wild-game suppers.

I remember deer hunting with the late Clarence and Jim. Jim set the pace by racing through the woods. Not only could I have not held my rifle still enough to shoot the woods itself, but my rasping breath probably either scared any deer within a mile fleeing or had them rolling in the woods laughing.

I never got buck fever. Well, there was that time atop a low mountain near Songo Pond, when I in the midst of a deer hunt came face to antlered face with one. He stared at me, and said, "You wouldn't shoot a harmless buck, would you?"

The last I saw him, he was walking away through the woods, providing a quiet conclusion for my final deer hunt.

But I didn't have buck fever.

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2015

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