Next-Step Hunting Workshops on Swan Island Led to First-Time Deer Harvest

ArrayOctober 21, 2020 at 3:20 pm

By Public Relations Specialist Katie Yates and participant, Jennifer Padera

Throughout summer 2020, the Department hosted several next step hunting programs on Swan Island in Richmond, Maine. The goal of these programs was to educate new adult hunters on how to blood track, field dress, and butcher deer. For many, getting into hunting for the first time can be challenging.

Hunting can be time-consuming. Learning hunting rules and regulations can feel complex. Understanding and acquiring the necessary gear can seem daunting and overwhelming. Plus, hunting requires a set of skills and a level of confidence that typically requires practicing alongside a mentor.

For many long-time hunters, practice and mentorship start young; they learn from parents and grandparents. But some hunters (especially those who developed an interest in hunting as adults) lack familial support, traditional hunting acreage, and the know-how to be confident in the field. Hunters of all backgrounds, skill-levels, success rates, and interest attended the workshops on Swan Island.

Jennifer Padera, originally from Florida, moved to Maine a few years ago. Although she always envisioned moving back to Florida, she fell in love with the state of Maine. Growing up, she spent time in the swamps and rural parts of Florida, hunting small game with her father. As an adult, she didn’t continue with the sport.

In spring 2020, Jennifer turned to the outdoors, like many others, as a method for coping with the stress of COVID-19 shutdowns and quarantine measures. Dusting off the skills and memories of hunting with her family as a child, she decided to teach herself to deer hunt in time for the fall archery season.

Although she grew up hunting small game, Jennifer had never hunted alone and was new to hunting big game. She received information about the Swan Island next step hunting programs in a timely email. These free workshops with instruction from Department experts in deer hunting were exactly what she needed to accelerate her learning experience. After the workshops, Jennifer felt more confident about stepping afield.

In September, during expanded archery season, she found herself spending mornings in a treestand. Typical of new deer hunters, she struggled with patience. She felt the need to keep busy by checking her phone, reading, or journaling. After several mornings with no luck, she decided to put everything away and just observe. She caught herself meditating and appreciating the serenity and solace of the forest awakening.

Her training, patience, practice, and experience fell into place when a 4-point buck eased by her tree stand, into her firing lane, exactly as she had hoped and envisioned when scouting for the perfect spot. Only 12 yards away, she paused to observe the beauty of the moment. She noted how calm and peaceful the deer seemed, “having a good morning eating his acorns.”

As the deer slowly moved, Jennifer drew back her bow. She had to decide quickly if she was going to take the shot. She aimed and released. The successful shot sent the deer running into the woods. “Seeing this beautiful majestic animal on this gorgeous morning with zero fear… just cruising his own territory, and then you put an arrow through him, and change his day drastically—it’s big,” Jennifer recounted through quiet tears. With her heart beating out of her chest, she watched the deer arc through the woods, paying close attention to where he ran. Her worst fear was to injure an animal and not be able to harvest it.

Jennifer’s husband was on a fly-fishing trip out west, so her neighbor offered to assist. After taking a few moments to process everything, she phoned her neighbor, Shane.

With his experiential know-how and the skills she acquired at the workshops, together they were able to successfully track the deer, field dress, and butcher it with a “steady stream of hunting stories in the background” recounted by friends and family that had come to share an honorary venison feast.

“Though much bigger and more emotional than I ever expected, bow hunting gave me the full field to table experience that I was hoping for. The exceptional level of support gave me the confidence I needed to get the job done,” Jennifer concluded.