Wade Whitehouse is the sheriff of Lawford, New Hampshire who has rarely risen to any challenge and has remained, despite his age, an overgrown teenager. He is a glorified crossing guard in this quiet, dreary town. On the first day of deer season, Wade's friend Jack takes a wealthy businessman out to bag his first buck but returns later claiming the man was a victim of a self-inflicted gunshot. Instead of letting the incident pass, Wade sees this as his opportunity to investigate a murder. However, his aggressive attempts to play crime-solver help to emphasize how misguided his life has always been. The death of his mother, due largely to his father's neglect, helps to accelerate the downward spiral of Wade's life until, stripped of all self-repect, he commits a startling act of violence.