December brings Christmas music and movies galore and moves us along from another year of Thanksgiving memories and important traditions. For many Mainers, it also means the end of the popular rifle and shotgun whitetail deer hunt. Whether hunters are celebrating the successful hunt, or wondering what they could’ve done differently to harvest the elusive whitetail, traditions are continually passed from generation to generation, keeping the old-fashioned hunt alive in even the youngest members of Maine hunters. Rylie Wareham, a GHS senior, began hunting at the age of 10, and continues to hunt today, seven seasons later. After completing hunter safety courses, she was still confused about the specific rules and ethics of harvesting different animals, such as which animals were appropriate to harvest during the various seasons. Her grandfather, Warren, educated her on the laws while hunting out of his house/camp near Lake Arrowhead, and taught her that there were responsibilities when taking game.
After harvesting their first whitetail, Rylie and her grandfather worked together to dress, skin, and process the animal. From then on, in Rylie’s words, “responsibility has been instilled in my brain and has taught me to be more mindful of my surroundings [when hunting].”
Todd Gagnon, a Gorham police officer, has also been hunting since he was 10. His father, Bruce, taught him everything he knew about hunting, including how to sneak through the woods. However, the learning curve was high. As Gagnon put it, “breaking sticks and tripping over roots was my specialty.”
When Todd was still young, he and his father started a “hooky day,” in which Todd was allowed to choose one day during the season to take off from school to hunt. According to him, “the look on my sisters’ faces was priceless.” Though Bruce passed last year from his battle with ALS, Todd has taken immense pleasure in teaching his now 12-year-old son, Nathan, the tips and tricks his father taught him long ago.
For people interested in participating in, or learning more about hunting in Maine, for whitetail or any other wildlife, a great resource is the website for Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Safety is the number one concern of hunting officials, such as game wardens, to other hunters, and for others also enjoying the fields and forests.
It is required that all new hunters take, and be certified, in a hunter safety course. Several courses are offered during the year through Gorham Adult Education. More intricate tips and tricks to help you in the field are reviewed thoroughly in these courses.
While safety is the primary objective, the secondary objective is for hunters to get into their local fields and tree stands and have fun. For many people, November is a month where traditions and memories, new and old, are created and celebrated.