WOODSTOCK — At age 11 Lexi Mack is on the cusp of personal hunting glory some spend a lifetime pursuing.

In just her second year of hunting she’s one away — a deer — from the so-called hunting grand slam, which, while many permutations abound, at its core consists of hauling in a deer, moose and bear within a single calendar year. 

The credit, she said, goes to a combination of skill, support and not a little bit of luck.  

“My game plan for the deer is counting on him,” Lexi said, pointing to grandfather Rick Mack sitting by her side, “and pulling the trigger.” 

The odds are stacked against hunters hoping to complete the grand slam. According to Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, deer hunters were successful 17 percent of the time and bear hunters 30 percent, while 72 percent of moose hunters succeed, although they first had to get a hard-to-come-by permit. 

In some ways, her personal odyssey is the latest installment in a family’s quest for a record year. It’s a point of pride that gently prods Rick Mack into laughter. Woods wisdom is a treasured inheritance in the Mack family. Rick was raised walking the hills and forests of Western Maine hunting, which for decades filled their freezer with meat. 

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Rick has come close to the prize, but luck has never quite been on his side. After raising three daughters to hunt, the closest the family came to that particular score was in 2009 when Lexi’s aunt was a bear short of the all-time inter-family bragging rights. 

Friendly banter leaped across three generations at the family’s table during a recent interview. Lexi teases her grandmother, Lisa Mack, who despite having nearly 22 times the chance to get a moose permit has yet to see her name drawn. Lexi, by contrast, with just two tickets in the statewide pool, saw her name drawn the first year she applied. 

Getting Lexi to sit and remain silent for the long hours of the hunt might be just as remarkable as the grand slam, Rick joked with a broad smile. 

Lexi, Rick said, is the newest generation to learn the most important things about the hunt: patience, tradition and safety. 

“Know what you’re shooting at, wear orange,  make a clean kill and control your muzzle. Those are the most important things,” Lexi said. 

They use traditional means of hunting — stalking, setting up blinds. Though they drive a truck in, Rick believes in getting into the woods. He corrects his granddaughter when she’s wrong about type of tree, so when she talks about a stand of trees she looks hopefully in his direction to see if she’s correctly identified them. They spend more time recalling each moment of the hunt, as opposed to talking about the prize of bagging all three animals. 

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The joint quest has had its surprises. Lexi shot a 130-pound bear just hours into opening day at a site in western Oxford County.

 The moose, by contrast, was a weeklong saga of close chances narrowly missed.

“I was terrified we were going to get skunked,” Lisa recalled of their trip to the state’s northwest corner. In the end, the 1,100-pound moose was 9 feet tall with an antler rack stretching longer than Lexi is tall. 

“We thought the hardest was going to be the bear, but it was the moose. I was so happy I was almost crying,” Lexi said. “Papa hasn’t shot one that big.” 

Half-a-dozen deer mounts line the inside of Rick Mack’s home, homage to a lifelong hunter. A bear hangs out in the corner. He assures that even more are in storage due to a lack of wall space.

“Lexi’s telling me now we have to build a house around the moose’s head,” Rick joked. 

 Next season. Lexi’s 4-year-old sister wants “Papa” to take her turkey hunting.

“I said if you want to go sit in the blind, I’ll take you.” 

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