|It’s the middle of Maine’s 2006 deer-hunting season and by now most unsuccessful hunters have settled into a routine that may in fact be costing them their chance at a deer. The places that were so great to hunt on opening day will have changed by now. There are no leaves for cover, the woods are open and airy and the reasons the whitetails used them as early travel or feeding routes may now be irrelevant as winter closes in.
This phenomenon is most commonly noticed among field hunters. October deer may still be found at the corners of fields throughout the daylight hours, but once the escape cover thins to saplings they are less likely to expose themselves in such places (except at night, when it’s illegal to hunt). Still, some hunters will invest all of their remaining time staking out open cover and, not surprisingly, most will end up with little to show for their efforts.
When the leaves disappear and the woods are breezy and bright, the most logical strategy is to head deep into the forest where the cedars and alders are almost too thick to walk through - that’s where you’ll find most of the deer during the day through the end of the season. The will feed in the fields and croplands at night, but in most cases they’ll browse their way back into heavier cover long before sunrise. Somehow they know that they need to be well away from open areas before daylight. Those first two weeks of rifle season have been an education for whitetails, too!
The best proof of all this will come with the first “serious” snow we have, and that can arrive at any time now. It always amazes me how there will be no sign of deer during the day following a st time I could spare. I would not necessarily choose high noon as the best time to find a deer in Maine, but it’s better than not going at all.
In fact, one year I was hunting with some buddies who insisted on going back to camp for lunch every day, a tradition in most deer camps. But, I was working that week and really only had a couple of hours to spare. It was tempting to head for camp and just eat stew and sandwiches with the guys, but I have never been able to stay out of the alders during deer season. So, I went into the woods as the others were coming in. It’s common knowledge that the bustle of hunters heading back to camp can cause deer to move around in an effort to avoid them, and because I was heading the “wrong” way, I managed to walk right into a trio of whitetails that were skirting the edge of a swamp not 100 yards from the main logging road.
At first I thought the crunch of footsteps coming my way was the other hunters, but a glimpse of brown here and a flash of antler there put me on the alert just in time to down a nice 6-point buck! As luck would have it, the next hunter coming by was on a 4-wheeler, so we loaded the deer up, headed for camp and had a great lunch before I needed to get back to work. I tagged the buck on the way through town and, in all, spent less than an hour “off duty” for the day.
I would not suggest that you’re going to tag a nice buck every time you enter the woods, but the only way to increase your odds for success is to get out there and hunt when you can. Ignore the cold, the wind, the rain and the snow. Hunker down where the cover is thick and dark and keep the faith.
There are two weeks of good hunting left and your chance can come at any time. I’d love for every reader to have a successful hunt this season, and it all begins with forcing yourself out the door. In fact, I’m on my way into the woods right now - see you out there!