RUMFORD – For a short while on Saturday morning, Jeremy Volkernick continually looked out a window from inside the Rumford Fire Department, trying to detect a change in the rain intensity.

Volkernick, who has maintained the department’s game inspection station deer- and bear-hunting records since 1980, was trying to anticipate how many deer that resident hunters would bring on opening day of the firearms deer hunt.

“Usually, we get nine or 12 on the first day, but with this weather, that’s going to discourage some of the hunters from going out,” Volkernick said. “We may see two today. Unless it lightens up, I don’t expect to see many deer. As soon as it stops raining, deer get up and move.”

The hunt officially started at 6:30 a.m., but Saturday’s early morning deluge and thickening fog had yet to let up by noon in Rumford.

However, despite the rain, long-time deer hunter Josh Gross of Hanover registered the first deer of the day at about 9 a.m. at the Rumford game station: a 167-pound, 4-point buck that he shot from a tree stand in Peru.

Hunting across the country since he was 10 years old, Gross said it was his 22nd deer.

“I was on the stand at 6 o’clock and spent an hour-and-a-half there before I got it,” he said. “It came right up the trail just like it was supposed to.”

Out making his rounds, Maine Game Warden Ryan Fitzpatrick arrived about the same time as did Gross, congratulating him.

Like Gross, Fitzpatrick’s day started before daylight, checking on hunters and making sure they were complying with Maine’s hunting laws.

“Today is residents only. That’s one of the things I’m checking,” Fitzpatrick said, sipping coffee offered by Volkernick. Opening day for nonresidents starts Monday, Oct. 29. The season ends on Nov. 24.

“Weather like this is discouraging for some hunters. It’s like, ‘Geez. I ain’t going out in this and getting my gun wet.’ Last year, people were hunting in T-shirts in November! It was that warm. Can you imagine that?” Volkernick asked.

Last year, the Rumford game station tagged and weighed more than 110 deer from the start of the bow hunting season to the end of muzzleloading season in early December. In 1980, firefighters tagged 66 deer. Seven years later, they hit their lowest mark when hunters only brought in 29 deer. The most they’ve done was 118 in 2000.

“Up until 2000, our best week was the fourth week of the hunt, Thanksgiving week. We hit in the low 30 range. But within the past five years, the first week has been the best, with the most deer being tagged then,” Volkernick said.

The heaviest deer they tagged and weighed was a 259-pound, 10-pointer taken in 1999 by Allen Tibbetts in Township 6. The largest rack was a 12-point, 201-pounder taken by Rumford policeman Daniel Garbarini on Nov. 18, 2002, in East Andover.

Other game stations contacted around the region were also seeing a slow start on Saturday, except for The Pines Market in Eustis, which had eight by 1:40 p.m., and Burnie’s Gun Shop in Lewiston, which had 10. The largest deer at each station measured the same: 180 pounds with an 8-point rack.

Additionally, by 1:40 p.m., Schrep’s Corner Store in Turner had four deer; Tilton’s Market in Buckfield and Rumford had recorded three; and Canton Variety, Ellis Variety in Dixfield, and Woodman’s in Norway all had two each.

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