Hermon hunter shakes off illness to shoot 215-pound 'COVID buck'

Chris Richards was immersed in Maine's hunting and fishing culture as a child. He was taught an appreciation for those opportunities by his parents and grandparents.

Richards said that some of his earliest hunting and fishing memories were staying in a tent with his grandfather. The traditions of going up into the big woods have always been the norm.

Richards is the husband and father of two daughters, but he is also the vice president of enrollment management at the University of Maine.

When he can find the time, the Hermon resident serves as a guide for his favorite pastime, moose hunting. Richards doesn't usually have much time to hunt in November.

He went north for a day of hunting after Thanksgiving. Richards could never have imagined the challenges he would face.

He overcame illness, exhaustion, and storms to experience one of his greatest thrills in the woods.

Richards went north of the Golden Road to look for a big buck.

Richards had been moose hunting in this region and had seen a lot of deer and deer sign in five days of hunting.

The snow got worse as the car drove in the dark. There were no other tire tracks on the road. It was perfect.

He was overcome with fatigue and a headaches when he arrived. He took a nap.

Richards said that when he woke up the sun was up and it was snowing. I feel better now.

He walked two miles but never cut a track. He decided to go to the area that was being cut during moose season.

He followed the track of a nice buck for about 20 minutes. He saw a deer tail on a ridge and pursued it. Richards' optimism waned over time.

The deer never slowed or turned around.

Richards said that they went through the most brutal Maine cedar swamp.

The deer moved away from the truck parked more than two miles to the north. He decided to stop the chase at 2:30 p.m.

Richards walked 17,000 steps to get to the truck. He was thinking about the next day when it happened.

Richards said that he was hit with the biggest wave of exhaustion he had ever experienced.

I had to build a fire and get together. I felt sick.

He got back to the truck after the respite. He sent a satellite message to his wife, telling her how sick he was.

The time was almost 4:00 p.m. Richards ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and took a few sips of coffee before heading home.

Richards passed another large buck track crossing the road before he could get to more than a mile. He backed up after slamming on the brakes.

It's snowing as hard as it can and there isn't a flake in it. Richards said that he was smoking fresh.

His hunting instincts took over. He couldn't resist.

I forget that I feel sick. Richards said that he would follow it for half an hour.

He came around a stand of young maples and there was one that was 35 yards away.

"He snapped his head up and looked at me and I touched one off and he was gone," said Richards, who had encountered a buck six days before.

The buck was 40 yards away.

He said it was a textbook, flat-footed Allagash buck.

The deer was dressed out at 215 pounds. Richards sent another message to Jeanne.

I just shot a giant buck and I can't believe it. He said, "Let everyone know,'" noting the contrasting tone of the messages sent 35 minutes apart.

The saga was not over.

Richards began dragging after field-dressing the deer.

He said that he was "humbled" by the magnitude of the task.

If he walked away from the truck, it would be a shorter drag. Richards knew his truck could make it in there.

He went back to the deer. He tried to get it into the back of his truck.

Richards said that it was a romantic north woods hunt.

He drove west to stay with his in-laws. He stopped along the 97 miles of snow covered logging roads to make sure the deer was still in the bed.

Richards went to his in-laws' house. He told them he wasn't feeling well. He left in the morning.

After losing his sense of taste, Richards tested positive for COVID-19. Kennedy, 6, and Ella, 5, were also affected by the virus. They all recovered after spending two weeks in scurvy.

Richards said that he didn't think he'd go up north and shoot a huge buck like that, but that's exactly what happened.

He said it was a blessing to get that buck, especially in the condition he was in. I'm glad I had a last push to try it.