By V. Paul Reynolds.
My deer season started this fall in late September during the expanded bow season. As amazing as it seems to me, this was nearly my 70th year in the Maine deer woods! Imagine. During this long stretch, only one season was sacrificed when I was serving in the U.S. Navy during November of 1964.
Looking back, I recall as a younger man, in a moment of rare reflection during a deer vigil on a cold stump, telling myself that, because deer hunting has been such a passion for me, that, indeed, my life was apparently measured in just how many deer seasons might be left to enjoy.
An Old Man
Perhaps this explains why I hunted so many hours and so doggedly this season, an old man clinging to the annual November cycle in the Maine deer woods. And you want to know something remarkable? That special expectation and anticipation that is at the very core of deer hunting is for me still as keen as ever, not only for me but for my wife Diane, who shared the deer woods with me often this fall.
As you know, if you are a deer hunter who sits in a tree stand, or hunkers up against a pine tree in the shadows with a thermos of hot coffee, it is largely a waiting game. But if you put in your time, there will be those thrilling moments, adrenaline peaks, when a deer jumps amid the beech trees and waves good bye with a white flagging tail.
All told, between bow season and November gun season, I saw 12 deer in WMA 26, mostly does with young ones in tow. One late afternoon I sat in a canvas bag chair facing a known deer crossing. There was a stiff wind at my back and my ears were covered with a watch cap and a hood. Yep, three deer came crunching toward my position from my rear. They put on the brakes as I turned my head. There was eye contact, but no shots taken.
During bow season, with ten minutes of shooting light left, I elected to climb down from the tree stand for a much needed stretch. Murphy’s law. As soon as my feet hit the ground, three deer heading my way saw me at 50 yards, checked me out and then executed a quick one eighty.
In another treestand encounter, a doe with yearlings, warned me early from the alder tangles with an incessant round of blowing like I had never experienced. She and her youngsters finally broke out of the brush where I least expected, once gain behind me. No chance for an ethical shot.
Then on Veteran’s day, a cold and windy Saturday, this meat hunter had a shot at a love sick, single-minded buck. It was my 13th deer sighting and one shot from my .270 closed the deal. To be honest, it was a young buck and at this point in the season I was not about to let him grow larger antlers, urgings from Maine Fish and Wildlife notwithstanding.
As fate would have it, my dispatched buck was down in a classic deer woods hellhole, a softwood thicket peppered with criss-crossing deadfall. What lay ahead was anything but a short drag. Half way through the grunting, panting drag, I ran out of steam. “Paul,” Diane said,”You are too old to be doing that!” To which I replied,”No kidding, I have been telling myself that for the past hour.”
Texting messages to friends for assistance bore no fruit. (They were all hunting). However, a close friend, Jim Leighton, who was not hunting, took pity and summoned his grandson, Dillon Leighton, who came to the rescue. Between the two of us we finally extracted my buck.
Over the years you learn that in deer hunting it is partly being in the right place at the right time and partly making wise choices. The wise choices are most likely to get you that deer. This fall, despite my many years of experience in the deer woods, a number of mistakes spoiled my shot opportunities.
On stand, just before I bagged the buck, two does bounded into the thicket when I stood for a stretch. Reasoning that perhaps a buck might be on the does’ scent, I decided to sit tight. As luck would have it, that proved to be the right choice.
The deer were plentiful this year in my neck of the woods. I anticipate next year and hope for the chance to get out there once again in the deer woods in 2024. If it is not to be, Fred Benton’s prayer from the Bittersweet Mountains will be on my lips, “Thank you, Lord, for all that you have given me as a hunter.”
The author is editor of the “Northwoods Sporting Journal.” He is also a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program — “Maine Outdoors” — heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on “The Voice of Maine News – Talk Network.” He has authored three books; online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.com. or www.sportingjournal.com. Contact email — [email protected]
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