Coyotes, bear steal 10-year-old Pembroke boy’s first deer

Saturday was Youth Deer Day around the state, and as expected, Maine youngsters spent memorable days afield with parents or adult mentors.

The photos have begun pouring in, as have the stories from young hunters who filled their tags on a day set aside for them.

But as at least one hunter learned, there’s a fine line between “success” and “near success.”

That hunter experienced the elation of a successful hunt on Saturday, then the letdown that came when he didn’t find the deer he knew he’d shot. And on Sunday morning, things got even worse.

Let’s let the hunter’s dad, Tim Sheehan, take over the story from here:

Finn Sheehan, 10, of Pembroke, poses with bones from the deer he shot on Youth Deer Day. Sheehan and his dad couldn’t find the deer as darkness closed in, but did recover it on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, a bear and some coyotes had beaten them to Finn’s first deer … and had dragged away the buck’s head. Photo courtesy of Tim Sheehan

“Finn Sheehan, 10, of Pembroke had the best and worst hunt of his life on Saturday evening,” Tim Sheehan wrote in an email. “It was Finn’s first deer hunt. He and [I] waited on a tree stand as a spike-horn buck came out to feed in the field.

“Finn took his shot at the buck with a .30-06 rifle at 125 yards and obviously made a clean shot,” Tim Sheehan wrote. “The buck, however, disappeared into an alder patch and small stream and due to the darkness it was impossible to find the animal as dusk settled in.  After calling the local warden to report the incident, Finn and [I] resolved to come back in the morning to find Finn’s deer.”

That happens quite often; conscientious hunters are trained to pursue the game they’ve shot tenaciously, assuming that the deer is, in fact, down, and that it must be recovered. That’s exactly what the Sheehans did.

“The next day [we] found the buck only 50 yards from the site,  but unfortunately not much was left,” Tim Sheehan wrote. “Apparently during the night, a hungry bear, aided by some coyotes, had cleaned up the kill leaving only bones for the saddened boy.

“The worst part was that the head and horns had been carried off by the scavengers!” Tim Sheehan wrote. “Finn, [I], and his brothers are still searching the woods hoping to find the deer’s head and the spike antlers.  So far only trails of deer hair remains and the poor lad, Finn, has only a couple of deer legs for a trophy!”

Though he may lack a suitable trophy (or any venison to eat), Finn does have a story to tell, and some photos that illustrate that tale.

If a youngster you know has an interesting Youth Deer Day story, here’s their chance to become an outdoor writer, or to share their hunt with others: I’m putting together an impressive slate of hunting stories to share throughout the week (which will, I figure, inspire us adults to head be optimistic as we head into the woods on residents-only day on Saturday).

If you or a kid you know has a tale to share, they can do so by sending email to If you’ve got photos to share, include those in the email. Then stay tuned throughout the week as we share some cool youth hunting stories.


John Holyoke

About John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. Today, he's the Outdoors editor for the BDN, a job that allows him to meet up with Maine outdoors enthusiasts in their natural habitat. The stories he gathers provide fodder for his columns, and this blog.