It was a dark and stormy day, not unlike Maine’s recent nor’easter.

But this storm fell on the opening day of deer season. With high winds, driving rain and warm temperatures forecast, I nearly opted to sleep in. Then I remembered the only certainty in deer hunting is you can’t kill them sitting in camp.

Full daylight had barely illuminated the woods when, much to my surprise, a buck suddenly appeared in my shooting lane. My shot was true and had I not forgotten my knife that morning, I probably would have been at the check station before it opened. The elation lasted about 24 hours. I woke the next morning still beaming over my success when it hit me. My season, the one I’d waited 11 months for, was over in less than an hour.

Early success in Maine’s deer season is a double-edged sword. It represents completion of a goal, validation for all your efforts in scouting and preparation, and meat in the freezer. But it also means a premature end unless you hunt the expanded archery season. You’re left to pine away inside while your family and friends are sitting in a pine tree on the back 40, waiting for their chance.

Of course, different folks have different motivations. Some have very limited free time so early success means an end to stressing over how to use that time. Others merely want to fill the freezer. Then there are those for whom the hunt is paramount. They’ve devised methods, like elevating their personal goals, to extend their season. Maybe they’re holding out for a buck rather than any deer, or an older buck rather than any antlered deer. Then the odds of early success go down but when it happens, the loss of future hunting time seems less troubling.

Though early success does have its downsides, it still may be preferable to the alternative. Lack of success as the days drag on leads to anxiety, self-doubt and deer-hunting depression. The pressure mounts as time grows shorter. Resolve starts to dissolve and increasingly you doubt early decisions of self- restraint.

I also can recall a season that was quite the opposite of that stormy Saturday success. Despite my best efforts, and I’m in the woods every day, I had yet to tag out as the days stretched into weeks.

I finally spotted a decent buck on Thanksgiving morning but there was just enough distance and brush between us to dissuade me from taking the shot, and by Saturday morning, the last Saturday morning, I was seriously questioning that decision.

It was around 10 when I lifted my binoculars and glassed the bog for the umpteenth time that morning. Only this time my eyes caught a glimpse of something. Antlers? Indeed.

The buck must have been bedded there, 100 yards distant, all morning, but I didn’t see him until the sun was just at the right angle to reflect off his eight-point rack.

After regaining my composure I took careful aim and fired, bringing a successful end to a very long deer season. The end result was the same as the previous example. It just took a lot longer getting there.

Maybe next time I’ll split the difference.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at:

[email protected]