In Northern New England There's Law and Our Own Order
Jud’s New England Journal
For October 2007
Welcome to the October 2007 edition of Jud’s New England Journal, the rather curious monthly musings of Judson Hale, editor-in-chief of Yankee Magazine, published for over 70 years in Dublin, NH.
In Northern New England There’s Law and Our Own Order
Take deer hunting, for instance …
Deer hunting in northern New England towns is a veritable way of life, as foreign to the average summer person as the world of horse shows and fox hunting on horseback is to the average New England native.
In the town in which I was raised, Vanceboro, Maine — and, I suspect, in most northern towns even today — deer hunting was and is a way of life year ’round. Not just during the season. Oh, sure, there are game wardens, and they’ll throw the book at any outsider caught poaching (hunting out of season) or jacking (hunting at night with a light). They’ll also prosecute natives for those same illegal hunting activities, if they have to. The subtle and important point here is that they’re apt to find ways not to have to.
I became aware of these deer-hunting subtleties at an early age. In fact, the first bona fide illegal deer I remember seeing was on a late September afternoon, when I was about 9 years old. It was a month before deer hunting season. A number of my father’s old farmhands (the young ones were off fighting Adolf Hitler and Tojo) and others were gathered at the Vanceboro store after the day’s work.
I was there, too — hanging around as usual for a free candy bar or lunch-bucket tidbit, which these men enjoyed giving their boss’s young son — when I heard one of them say to our farm foreman, a guy named Russell, “Got any deer lately, Russ?” Immediately there was an embarrassed and uneasy silence, with the most embarrassed being the questioner. Not because it wasn’t deer season yet, but because for a second he’d forgotten that the game warden was a member of the gathering that afternoon.
“Why, sure I have!” Russell boomed after a split-second hesitation. “Biggest ol’ buck in the State-o’-Maine. Got ‘m with one shot right between the eyes. He’s out there waitin’ for me in the truck right now if you wanna go see ‘m.” Everyone laughed uproariously, including the game warden. What a jokester, that Russell.
A few minutes later, I left the group, the men still laughing and backslapping, and meandered right out to Russell’s truck, parked behind the store. There, under a large burlap covering, was one of the largest buck deer I was ever to lay eyes on. A little warm, too.
I still think that if Russell had denied the deer, looked uneasy, and generally acted guilty, the game warden would have had to look in the truck on his way out — and, of course, would then have had to arrest Russell for poaching. Such was the code.
There’s a life lesson somewhere in that story — I think.