WINTHROP — Adam Blanche was still oozing adrenalin a couple hours later as he retold the events that led to him bring down the four-point buck sprawled across his brother’s pickup truck. After combing the woods for the past seven Novembers, Blanche finally had a deer in the truck and story in his head.

“My heart was going so fast,” the 17-year old from Hallowell said. “I just prayed to God and shot.”

The opening day of the firearm deer hunting season today brought similar excited to thousands of hunters who fanned out across the state. The season, which opens to out-of-staters on Monday, ends Nov. 30. State biologists have estimated 25,000 deer will be killed between now and then.

Some of those deer were brought for tagging and weighing Saturday morning to Audette’s Ace Hardware in Winthrop. By noon at least a dozen hunters, including Blanche, had stopped by with deer shot in the early morning hours of opening day

“That’s about average,” said store manager Lee Robinson who did the tagging and weighing. “I think it’s too warm.”

By 11 a.m., the thermometer was pushing 60 degrees, making hunters anxious to get to a cool spot or, for many, the nearest butcher.

Most of the deer taken to Audette’s Saturday morning were just a year or two old and weighed less than 150 pounds, but Craig Stevens’ 226-pound, eight-point buck was a notable exception. Stevens, of Readfield, tagged the deer in Mount Vernon, but stopped by Audette’s to have it weighed. Stevens shot the deer in the same in spot Chesterville as he shot a big buck on opening day last year.

“I got one a little bit bigger last year,” Stevens said. “It seems like a good strategy.”

Stevens shot the deer around 7:45 a.m. while standing. He said he heard a snort, but didn’t see anything for about 10 minutes when the buck walked slowly into view, its nose to the ground following a scent trail. The deer stopped briefly and looked at Stevens before beginning to move again. Stevens shot, hitting the animal in the neck. It ran about 25 yards before dropping. Stevens said it was a chore dragging the beast about a mile out of the woods.

“My legs were seizing up,” he said.

Jake DeBlois, of Sidney, had a similar challenge pulling his deer from the woods in the Mount Pisgah area of Winthrop. DeBlois initially shot the small spike horn buck in the front leg.

“He made it a good three miles before he went down,” DeBlois said. He and his brother, Garth DeBlois, dragged the deer a couple of miles before meeting up with a person on a four wheeler who agreed to take the animal the rest of the way.

“It was quite the ordeal to get him out,” Jake DeBlois said.

Like Blanche, the deer was a first for DeBlois, but there were others who stopped by Audette’s, like Harold Door of Winthrop, who have made it a habit of leaving the woods with a deer in tow. Dorr said he shoots a deer just about every year.

“Enough so that I don’t shoot the big buck,” he said. “I try to go for the small ones. I like the flavor better.”

Dorr said he was standing when he shot his 3-point buck in Winthrop

“It’ll be a good eating deer,” he said.

If shooting a deer every year has tempered the excitement Dorr feels, Blanche more than made up for it with the joy he exuded after his first successful hunt. Hunting in Manchester with his brother, Blanche said he was in a tree stand when he heard a gunshot behind him.

“I thought maybe he jumped a deer and it will come my way,” Blanche said.

Moments later the buck came running into Blanche’s view. His shot hit the deer just behind the front shoulder. It ran about 100 yards before dropping.

“He ran right out to the power line, so that was perfect,” said Blanche’s brother, Jacob Blanche. “You couldn’t ask for a better ending.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642[email protected]