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We mentioned last week that it’s already time to get ready for the 2009 bear season, and if you haven’t started organizing your bait sites you certainly should start thinking about it. The bear hunting season is only a few weeks away and will be here before you know it.
The same goes for the Expanded Archery Season, which opens Sept. 12. Hunting is allowed in specific areas of Bangor, Augusta, Waterville and other regions where deer numbers are high, gun hunting is not allowed and deer damage (to shrubs or vehicles) is a problem.
It’s probably a good bet that most archers haven’t even seen their bows and arrows since last season ended. If that’s the case, now is the time to dust off your gear and start practicing again. Most hunters now use mechanical bows, and anything mechanical is going to fail or at least show signs of wear after months and years of use. This is the time to take your bow to the local pro shop for tuning and adjusting. Strings stretch, cables twist and cams wobble over time, and you don’t want to find out that you have a malfunction as you draw down on the biggest buck of the season. Have your bow checked out by a manufacturer’s certified technician now! The fee for such work is minimal (most techs will do the job while you wait, sometimes for free if you purchase a few arrows, broadheads or other gear).
Most folks aren’t aware that a new Maine law allows crossbow hunting for persons 16 years of age or older to hunt bear with a crossbow during the bear hunting season, or to hunt deer with a crossbow during the open firearm season on deer.
A resident or non-resident 10 years of age or older and under 16 years of age may hunt with a crossbow if that person holds a valid junior hunting license (no crossbow license required).
A crossbow may not be used to hunt deer during the archery season on deer, muzzleloading season on deer or the expanded archery season on deer, but those opportunities should be allowed later as it’s shown that crossbow use is not going to decimate the deer herd, as some opponents suggest.
I’ve hunted with a crossbow for several years and have had great luck with it. Per the manufacturer’s recommendation, I sent it back to them recently for (free) routine tuning. It came back with a new string, tightened cables and new cams – and it shoots better now than when it was new! It’s a great piece of equipment and I enjoy using it.
No matter what type of bow you prefer – stick bow, recurve, compound or crossbow – you must become familiar with them and practice diligently so that, come hunting season, your arrows go where you want them to go. I shoot at least two dozen arrows a day in August with all of my bows. I have a take-down recurve bow made for me by Val Marquez (a Maine bowhunting expert), a compound bow and the crossbow. I shoot slowly and carefully, concentrating on form and follow-through, and by the end of most sessions I have to shoot one arrow at each target or I risk “robin hooding” too many (expensive!) arrows. This means I hit the nock of the first arrow with the second and ruin both arrows at the same time! It’s not so common with the recurve, but the compound bow and crossbow are neck-and-neck in that regard. Both are very accurate, and it’s not uncommon to have five or six arrows in a row pretty much hit the same spot, resulting in scarred arrows, shredded fletching and a reminder to shoot only one or two arrows at each target!
When it gets closer to the season, I will dress in my hunting clothes and practice on several targets at varying distances. Deer don’t always show up broadside at 20 yards, so it’s a good idea to anticipate the worst and be ready for it. I’ll also set targets at various distances from my tree stand and practice shooting down at anywhere from 30 to five yards. In fact, I’ll try a few straight-down shots as well, because I’ve had deer pass right under my stand during hunting season – a much tougher shot than one might think!
Another enjoyable practice technique is what’s called “roving.” You simply grab a quiver full of old, disposable arrows armed with field tips and roam the woods looking for likely targets. Rotten stumps, fallen logs, moss heaps, grassy hummocks, ant hills . . . anything relatively soft that’s the size of a deer can work. The game is simple enough: just walk along, spot a potential target and then nock, draw and shoot an arrow at it just as you would if it were a deer.
Roving is a good way to practice shooting, keeps you in shape and offers a bit more variety than chunking endless dozens of arrows into the same old back-yard target.
Of course, you’ll want to rove safely. Be sure of your backdrops and expect to lose a few arrows in the process.
Now is the time, too, to do some scouting in the areas you intend to hunt this year. Don’t expect things to remain the same from year to year. Even small changes in habitat or development can affect the habits of deer, and a hotspot one year can be a dead spot the next. Get out there and look for signs of deer activity, watch deer in fields and see where they come into an opening and where they exit. Find good places to set up blinds or tree stands, snip a few shooting lanes and create some log or brush funnels to encourage deer to travel your way.
As you can see, there is plenty to do this month. Fall is looming on the horizon and before you know it another hunting season will be upon us. Get your gear ready, scout your hotspots and come up with a new, fool-proof plan for success this season.
Oh, and don’t forget to enjoy what’s left of summer!
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