Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo
Merradee Lyons of Brookfield, manager of the Middle Branch Market and Deli in East Randolph, checks the scale on a 117-pound buck shot by Matt Angell of Royalton, right, on Saturday.
RANDOLPH — Opening day of deer season was a classic case of “like father like son” for Brookfield residents Russ and Morgan Pettingell.
Less than an hour after sunrise Saturday both Pettingells had already bagged, tagged and dragged five-point bucks — one two pounds heavier than the other — out of their back field.
“It was ‘bang-bang,’” 60-year-old Russ Pettingell crowed following what might have been his shortest and most memorable hunting season ever.
“We were just going in for the morning hunt,” explained Pettingell, who said that’s when he spotted one buck on the horizon and then watched incredulously as a second stepped into view.
“It was amazing,” he said.
According to Pettingell, he pulled rank on his 25-year-old son and then pulled the trigger — dropping one of the two deer right in its tracks.
“Being the senior, I was able to do the first shot and that other buck just sat there and watched mine flop around and my son shot it,” he said.
The two deer, according to Pettingell, were nearly identical.
“To see them you’d swear you were seeing double,” he said.
The only difference, Pettingell said, is that the 148-pounder his son shot was just a little bit heavier than his.
“He beat me by two pounds,” he said, predicting both deer would fit comfortably in his 19-cubic-foot freezer — joining the deer his son shot during bow season last month.
The Pettingells’ good fortune had tongues wagging at the Middle Branch Market & Deli on Route 14 in East Randolph after they drove up Saturday morning, weighed their deer at the check station, and drove off.
As of 10 a.m. the Pettingells were responsible for half of the deer that Merradee Lyons had checked in at a store that was buzzing with hunters, most of whom had come up empty after spending the morning in the woods.
Denis Desjardins of Randolph Center wasn’t one of them, though he was almost apologetic about the 147-pound, five-pointer he shot while hunting in South Bethel shortly before 7:30 a.m.
“I felt bad,” he said. “I didn’t want to shoot the deer.”
Because, Desjardins said, it appeared from where he was sitting — perhaps 100 yards away — that the deer had already been shot once.
“It stood there for like 15 minutes and I didn’t want to shoot it again so I just kept waiting for it to drop,” he said, explaining that the deer forced his hand when it started to jump down over a ridge.
“That’s when I shot it,” he said.
Moments later, Desjardins said a hunter who introduced himself as “Pete” arrived on the scene after tracking the deer he shot earlier in the morning.
The two men went down over the ridge and after a cordial conversation confirmed the first shot “grazed” the deer’s leg and Desjardins’ killed it.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said, noting while he occasionally gets a doe during bow season, he shot his last buck in 1993.
Williamstown resident Chris Atherton, who shot a 124-pound, four-point buck while hunting in East Orange, said that ended a drought that dates back to 1991.
“That’s the first deer I’ve shot in 21 years,” he said, noting it hasn’t been for lack of trying.
“I hunted 12 days straight last year,” said the man, who on Saturday hunted for a grand total of 20 minutes, swinging by Farm-N-Country Hardware in Williamstown to check in his deer on the way home.
Atherton’s was the leader in the clubhouse in the early going at the Williamstown hardware store, where the only other animal checked by Tory Chouinard was a 170-pound bear.
All things considered, Chouinard, who said he missed the same eight-pointer four times during bow season, would rather have been hunting, and he said he would be today.
“I’m going to get that deer,” he vowed.
Matt Angell, who pulled into the Middle Branch Market & Deli in East Randolph with a deer in the back of his pickup truck shortly before 10 a.m. on Saturday, said he debated about whether to shoot the smallish, five-pointer that tipped the scales at 115 pounds.
“I almost let him walk, but he was 50 feet in front of me,” Angell of the deer he shot while hunting not far from his Royalton home shortly before 7 a.m. Saturday.
Angell seemed surprised that only three other deer had been checked in at the East Randolph store given the gunfire he’d heard while he was out in the woods.
“It sounded like a war zone earlier,” he said.
Not according to North Randolph resident Morgan Rilling, who went hunting for the first time ever with her husband, John, on Saturday and chose an interesting word to describe the deer-free experience.
“It’s peaceful,” she shrugged.
The Rillings were heading back into the woods following their coffee break and John Rilling said if they saw a deer it would be ladies before gentlemen.
“I’m not pulling my rifle up unless I have to,” he said. “If you see me crying later today, you’ll know what happened.”
Morgan Rilling’s father, Liam “Butch” Greenwood, had a similar arrangement with her best friend and his Saturday morning hunting partner, Bethany Osha.
“I already got one (deer) down in Ohio, so the pressure is not on me to get another one,” he said.
By 11 a.m. on Saturday nine deer and one black bear had been weighed, measured and tested at R&L Archery in Barre — one of the state’s biological check stations this year. They ranged in size from 102- to 171-pounds and from three- to 7-points, according to state wildlife biologist David Sausville.
The deer were shot in several surrounding towns, including Williamstown, East Montpelier, Berlin, Barre Town and Middlesex.
Rifle season, which opened Saturday, will run through Nov. 25 and will be followed by a muzzleloader and archery season that runs from Dec. 1-9.
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