SIDNEY — Angela St. Jarre, of Clinton, went on her first solo deer hunt Saturday. 

“I was nervous to walk out in the dark,” said St. Jarre, “but I got the courage . . . and we needed meat in the freezer.” 

Saturday’s opening day of the rifle deer season was only for Maine residents.

St. Jarre is usually accompanied by her husband, a merchant marine, but he was away that morning. 

The mother of three left her two daughters, ages 5 and 1, in the care of their older brother and headed into the woods where she found a doe at her hunting site. 

“It was too early, so I waited,” she said. “I saw a coyote, but it was too far to shoot.

“Then this guy came running.”

The white-tailed buck came running from about 500 yards away, St. Jarre said, and when it got to 100 yards, she shot it with her .243 rifle — and he dropped.

“I was pretty pumped to do it all on my own,” she said.

St. Jarre, who has been hunting for six years, said she comes from a family of avid hunters, both on her side and her husband’s, but it was not until the couple purchased 30 acres of property beside their home and set up trail cameras that she really started to love it. 

With her daughters in tow, St. Jarre checked the buck at Middle Road General Store & Bakery, while her son took his turn hunting and went with his grandfather. 

In Palermo, Shawna Cash also bagged a buck during her first solo hunting trip. 

With a licence she purchased that morning, Cash said she did not start her hunt until around 8 a.m. because she needed a babysitter for her 1-year-old daughter. She did not think she would see any deer because of her late start. 

“But I walked right up on some of them, . . . I just picked the gun up and shot . . . and he dropped!” said Cash. “I was really surprised.”

Hunters all over central Maine took to the woods in search of their white-tailed prize. 

Checking in a spike horn buck at Cobbie’s General Store in Wayne was 14-year-old Mason Bourque of Readfield. The Kents Hill School student found his deer eating acorns while hunting on his grandfather’s land in Wayne. 

In Readfield, Casidy Tims, 13, a student at Maranacook Middle School, took her buck at about 7:30 a.m. after a shot in the neck that put the animal right down. She was among a line of successful hunters waiting to tag their deer at Audette’s Hardware Store in Winthrop. 

At the tagging stations, hunters peered into the back of pickups, trunks of cars and a tractor bucket to see the racks and weight of each deer, but at Middle Road General Store & Bakery, vector ecologist Charles Lubelczyk was checking the condition of the deer, collecting blood samples and ticks.

Lubelczyk works for the Vector-borne Disease Laboratory at the Maine Medical Center Research Institute. He said deer are screened for Eastern equine encephalitis, a viral disease that can be transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito — and it was a heavy mosquito year.

This year, a horse in York County was euthanized after contracting the EEE virus, and Lubelczyk said there was also a human fatality in Massachusetts. 

He said the deer get exposed to the virus, but they do not get sick. 

“We actually get positive deer in areas in the state where we do not have any human or vet cases, so this tells us that the virus is being transmitted,” said Lubelczyk. 

“Just having a human or equine case is not evidence of all the risk,” he said. “Deer are exposed statewide.” 

There is no danger to eating the meat if the deer is exposed to EEE, Lubelczyk said. 

This was also a heavy year for ticks, Lubelczyk said. “The deer are a good way to pick up ticks (for researchers), so it can help fill in gaps where the ticks are in the state.” 

Seth Cash drives a bucket tractor carrying a deer that his wife Shawna Cash shot Saturday. The deer was tagged at Tobey’s Grocery in China before being carried the mile-and-a-half back to the family’s homestead in Palermo. It was Shawna Cash’s first deer and she joked that it was “beginner’s luck” being able to get a deer in the first half hour. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan Buy this Photo

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