Sandfield resident Doug Hutchinson, 95, celebrates 76 years hunting Island deer

SANDFIELD—This year’s hunting season is expected to bring large numbers of hunters out to the Island for a shot at a trophy kill, but few of those can say they have as much experience hunting as Sandfield’s Doug Hutchinson who celebrated his birthday last week.

“I’ve been hunting since I was 19, and I’m 95 now,” says Mr. Hutchinson, whose family has a pattern of longevity—his sister Jean McLennan of Manitowaning turned 100 this past summer and he has a cousin that is 101 years old.

Mr. Hutchinson has been hunting every year since then. He currently owns 1,200 acres on Manitoulin Island on which he hunts.

Hunting is an activity that is often passed from parents to children in a multi-generation tradition. Mr Hutchinson, however, says he learned how to hunt from his friends.

“(My dad) didn’t have time to hunt. He was too busy working,” says Mr. Hutchinson. “He was a mason and a carpenter, worked in the bush all winter cutting logs and wood. He had no time to fish or hunt.”

Mr. Hutchinson’s hunting group is now made up of about 10 people. Three of them are his sons with whom he has been able to share the experience of hunting. This year, two of his teenaged great grandsons will be joining the party.

Hunting is not just a pastime for Mr. Hutchinson. He says it has taught him important life lessons that he has kept with him.

“You gotta have patience. A lot of patience to wait on the deer to come to you,” he says. That is a contrast to when he first started hunting and hunters would chase the deer to where their friends were waiting in ambush. Now, hunting technique is dominated by the use of deer stands.

Hunting also serves as a social function for Mr. Hutchinson.

“My favourite part is the get together, the talk over the hunt in the evening after the day’s hunt is over,” he says. “And we get to see each other at the end of every year.”

A particularly good year for Mr. Hutchinson was when his hunting party of 12 brought back a deer for each person. He says the first deer usually goes down on the first morning, bringing the action early on.

“The first day is usually the exciting day. There’s lots of shooting and wondering who got what,” he says. The hunting group divides up whatever they bring back; they have a meat saw and take care of whatever needs they have.

For novice and experienced hunters alike, Mr. Hutchinson emphasizes the importance of safety and care whenever hunting.

“Safety is number one. Let a deer go by if you’re not sure it’s a deer,” he says. “There were idiots years ago that used to hear a noise in the bushes and start firing shells. Idiots.”

Even more unique than Mr. Hutchinson’s lengthy hunting career is the truck he drives. His 1992 Chevrolet half ton is an unassuming vehicle from the outside, except that is in remarkably good shape for its age.

Mr. Hutchinson was on a moose hunt in Dryden in the early 90s and decided to buy a $20 raffle ticket from the Lions Club.

“The day before Christmas, they phoned me and said I’d won a truck. I didn’t believe them at the start but it was true. I’d won the truck for 20 bucks.”

With his rifle, orange cap and camouflage all ready, Mr. Hutchinson is hoping for another good year. Considering he has been hunting for 76 years, he certainly has a number of stories from the bush that will be tough to beat.