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We’re in the middle of Maine’s traditional October archery deer season right now and already I’ve had several interesting experiences. It all reminds me of why I love (and hate) bowhunting for whitetails, but of course I continue to go each year because October in Maine means bowhunting.
My first encounter with an archery deer took place on my first day out, and of course it all happened quickly and, of course, the deer won! I was hunting on the edge of a huge briar patch where deer spend their days bedded in safety. Back in July I had wandered through the area and had snipped a few branches and twigs out of the way in order to create a nearly invisible winding trail that I (and the deer) could use to navigate through the dense cover. Just prior to the season opener I found that several deer had been using the trail, so I was confident that I’d see something during the opening week.
Well, I was right about that, to a point. I came in along the trail about two hours before dark and had reached my secret spot in plenty of time to get ready for the afternoon’s hunt. I was set up in a place where I could see the trail exit into the open woods, an easy 20-yard shot. I’d gotten to my spot, had put my pack and bow down to start getting organized and was just pulling on my face mask and gloves when I happened to look up and saw a nice, fat doe standing in the thicket just inside the trail I’d just come from!
She hadn’t seen me but she was alert and scanning the woods around her. I had no recourse but to just stand there and wait for her to move. I was hoping she’d continue in my direction where, a few yards away, a screen of trees would give me time to pick up my bow, nock an arrow and get ready to shoot.
Of course, the doe had other plans. To my surprise, she just stood there staring into the woods, and then, also to my surprise she simply backed up and disappeared on the trail. I have never seen a deer walk backwards before but she simply crawdadded out of there and was gone – not even breaking a twig in the process!
I quickly got ready and waited for her to return but, sadly, I didn’t see another thing that day.
Next time out I got to my spot much earlier and was ready to go well ahead of time. I didn’t want to be too late this time, and in fact I got there in plenty of time for the next frustrating scenario that is so typical of October archery deer hunting.
Sometime well before dusk I heard some movement on the high ground above me and, sure enough, a nice 8-point buck appeared at the crest of the ridge. The animal was walking slowly and didn’t seem to be on alert, so I just drew my bow and waited patiently for him to move into range. He was about 50 yards out and I needed him to be within 30 yards before I’d try loosing an arrow at him.
I was all set to shoot and he was closing the distance to the point where I was preparing to take careful aim at him when, out of nowhere, an arrow flashed over his back. Another hunter was on the ridge above me and I didn’t even know it! The buck flinched and trotted a step or two, and then stopped to look around. Another arrow zipped past him, this time too far in front. I held my aim but the deer was still 10 yards too far – and just then a third arrow flicked by him! The unseen hunter tried one more time and missed, and the buck simply wheeled and bounded back to the crest of the hill, tail up and obviously suspicious.
Seconds later an arrow clattered past him from the other direction – apparently there were two hunters on the ridge and both were shooting at the buck! Two, three and then a fourth arrow sailed harmlessly past the deer, which finally took the hint and walked away – right over the ridge through some open hardwoods! I expected him to come my way and dive into the thick brush behind me but as usually happens, the deer had other plans.
I stayed put as the two hunters came down from their tree stands, met on the ridge and discussed their bad luck. They did not see me and, as darkness fell, they headed out to the road and back to their vehicles.
I stayed in the woods till I couldn’t see my sight pins, and then headed back down my trail to the woods road beyond. I met one of the hunters on the way out and asked if he’d seen anything.
“Nope, not a thing,” he lied. I did not really expect him to tell me he’d shot at a nice buck four times, but it was interesting that he said he hadn’t even seen a deer! I suppose he didn’t want to tip me off to his secret spot, but of course I already knew his secret!
I went back to the spot the next day but the two errant archers had brought three other bowhunters with them, so I backed out of the place and hunted elsewhere. I would have liked to have had my turn at the buck, but I don’t like crowds in the woods, and five hunters on one little ridge is too much company for me!
On one trip I tried using a folding deer decoy (just to see if it worked) and was amazed to find that the squirrels in the area not only saw it immediately but also did not like it! Five noisy little tree rats ganged up on the decoy and barked incessantly at it, to the point that I finally folded the thing up and ditched it. That silenced the squirrels but had no effect on the deer and I went home empty-handed – again!
Next week: More bowhunting adventures and details about Steve’s new deer-hunting book! Don’t miss it!
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