|If you’ve been sitting around lately thinking, “It’s still only September,” think again, because there’s only one more week before Maine’s fall hunting seasons take off in all directions at once. On Oct. 1, every critter (except moose) that may be legally pursued in Maine will be fair game, and the annual moose season is such now that there are September, October and November moose hunts to think about, too.
That gives hunters a little more than one week to figure out what species they want to pursue, what gear they are lacking and what licenses they need to purchase.
The easiest way out is to specialize in small game hunting, which requires little more than a shotgun, a small game hunting license ($21 for residents) and a good pair of boots. Truth be told, you will have more fun and get more shooting this season if you focus only on squirrels, turkey, rabbits, grouse, woodcock and waterfowl. For the latter you’ll also need your state and federal duck stamps ($22.50 total), which may seem steep to some, but the price is a bargain if you consider that you can legally bag 27 birds and animals every day, plus there’s no limit on squirrels, raccoons and several other common (and tasty) targets. You would be hard pressed to accomplish a Maine “grand slam” of small game in one day, but think of the fun you’d have in trying!
While we’re telling the truth, we may as well admit that most hunters will be after deer (the regular archery season opens Oct. 1, with a basic license fee of $21) and bear (already open). To save time, trouble and expense, opt for the “Superpack” license, which costs $200 and covers everything you can possibly do in Maine (The Superpack license includes fishing, hunting, archery, as well as muzzleloader, migratory waterfowl, pheasant, spring and fall turkey, bear, crossbow, coyote night hunt, three expanded archery antlerless deer permits (does not include the expanded archery antlered deer permit), six free chances in the moose lottery, and entry into a special category in the annual any-deer permit lottery) other than the federal duck stamp.
Remember, we’re cramming most of these activities into two short months. Even if you don’t work for a living and never sleep again till December, participating in every sport known to Maine is going to be difficult at best. If you can do all that stuff in one season (with success) my hat is off to you and I hope you’ll write in and let us know about it!
What normally happens is that everyone aims first for their annual whitetail, which immediately means you could spend the entire season in the cold, wet woods without firing a shot. Remember, over 200,000 deer tags are sold annually and a little more than 10 percent of them are filled. That means 90 percent of hunters could have been doing something else!
Luckily, there is plenty of “else” for them to do, ranging from squirrel hunting in a secluded stand of oaks, pass shooting at sea ducks on the coast or following a hot-nosed bird dog in hopes of connecting with a partridge or woodcock. Back in my Philpot Ridge days I was able to rush home from a long day at the shoe shop, change into my hunting clothes, grab the dog and gun and trot down the road to the nearest beaver pond. On the way we’d pester the last few grouse in the roadside orchards, kick up a few woodcock in the swamp oozing out of the beaver flowage and then end the day (minutes before sunset) with a few shots at passing black ducks or woodies as they left the main flowage for points south.
On a good day I’d limit out on all three species, and some days I’d not see anything, but that hour of the day was what I lived for. If I had the energy (and the next day off) I’d hook up with a friend who had some eager hound dogs and we’d spend a few hours at night chasing raccoons along the Piscataquis River cornfields. Back then a raccoon paid $35 and up, while minimum wage was a princely $2.25. A good hunt could produce 10 or more raccoons, which meant we made more in one night by selling our coon hides than we could in two weeks of making shoes! There was many a sick day taken back then, I can assure you, but once the snow and ice came we were back to roughing, cementing and sole laying.
Because the seasons are short and overlapping, now is the time to get your proper licenses, inspect your equipment and clothing or just do a little scouting of your favorite hunting areas. Rushing out next Tuesday night in hopes of getting it all done in time for opening day won’t work. There are shells to buy, guns to sight in, bows to tune up and knives to sharpen, and you can’t do it all in one harried evening. Make a list of your needs and cross one off every night for the next 10 days, and come October 1 you will be primed and ready to enjoy another great hunting season in Maine.
One last little truth: If you want to make the most of your fall hunting escapades, make a list of your favorite species, schedule your hunts so you get several days of each. Mix and match as you see fit (early and late deer, early geese, late sea ducks, mid-October grouse, etc.) and then stick to your plan so that, come January, you can look back and be satisfied that the season didn’t get away from you again.
Compared to most states, Maine doesn’t have very long seasons on its small and big game (other than the hare season, which is one of the longest continuous open seasons of all). Pick you days and your species and make the most of it. You’ll have a great time, make some great shots and make some long-lasting memories that can never be taken away from you. Have fun, but don’t quit that day job!