The Maine Sportsman - New England's Largest Outdoor Publication – Will be publishing my 6th story in their October 2009 edition (Pg. 41-43). The article will be part of the magazines “special sections” and highlight hunting whitetails. The introductory picture for the article is my Mom (Kathy Lloyd). For more information on the Maine Sportsman Magazine or to order a subscription click this link: http://mainesportsman.com. The copy below is the originally submitted unedited version. Enjoy!
Deer Hunting with Average Joe Sportsman
By Stephen Vose
Deer-Hunting - October 2009
My neighbor Joe is the type of friend everyone wants. He is jovial, kind and an all around great guy. Joe works as a self-employed carpenter and he and his wife operate a small vegetable stand. His century old farmhouse and decade old pick-up always seem to be in need of some degree of repair, a challenge Joe always embraces with vim and vigor. Joe’s two active teenagers are involved in a laundry list of academic and sporting activities and he always manages to attend their various functions. In essence, my friend Joe is a fairly average guy who works extremely hard to support his family. Joe’s family is appreciative of his hard work and understands that all he asks for in return is a few Saturdays in November to go deer hunting.
For the average among us we certainly understand Joe’s plight and can sympathize. Work and home commitments, generally combine for many of us to severely limit the amount of time we are able to spend in the woods and on the waters of this great state. The basic facts are that time is not on the side of the average sportsman. Despite all the obligations and responsibilities, how does the average Joe Sportsman find the time to hunt?
Maximize Available Time
There is a reason why 10% of the sportsmen shoot 90% of the deer. The consistently successful, tip the odds in their favor by investing serious amounts of time pursuing their query. While preparation is vital to success, it is also typically a huge time drain. Despite this fact, hunters can still dramatically increase their chances without investing huge amounts of time. By prioritizing important tasks and concentrating on basic skills, you are almost guaranteed to shoot a whitetail this season and save precious time in the process.
Microscout – Identifying Key Areas
Like its counterpart the microwave, a technology that vastly decreases cooking time, microscouting is a means of using available technologies to explore deer habitats, drastically decreasing scouting time.
Maine’s landscape is filled with prime deer habitats within minutes of our urban centers. Checking maps and identifying key areas offering shelter, water and food simplify finding these hidden spots. Exploring promising locations with your eyes rather than your feet is a huge time saver. The trick to maximizing your time is to use the correct tool for the intended task. The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer is an excellent resource for rough estimation of general hunting areas but it does not provide the detail needed for effective visual scouting. Area specific topographical maps and Internet mapping resources such as Google Earth provide a higher level of clarity, allowing sportsmen to easily scan possible hunting areas.
Pick two or three hunting areas, no more than thirty minutes from your house. The idea is to choose locations that can be hunted regularly and accessed easily when your busy schedule allows. Hunters having difficulty finding un-posted hunting areas should consider one of Maine’s Wildlife Management Areas (WMA). A listing of these areas can be found on the Internet via Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s website.
In May, consider combining your scouting with a spring turkey hunt to maximize your woods time. Invest a couple hours scouting and exploring your chosen spots paying attention to posted signs and securing landowner permission where applicable.
Conduct hasty searches of each area looking for sign (scat, scrapes and rubs) kept preserved during the winter. Look for places to hang a stand or stalking routes. If searches do not yield viable sign or effective set-up locations quickly move on to your next chosen spot. By the end of your survey work, pick a primary and alternate spot should hunting pressure forces you out of your initial location or a once open area become posted.
As the season opener approaches, game cameras are an expensive yet efficient means of gaining information about deer movements without the investment of additional scouting time.
ATVs allow for quick scouting of areas you wish to hunt. During the season they will get you where you want to go much faster than sneaker power. If you do not have an ATV, consider hunting locations within walking or a few minutes of driving distance from your residence. If no prime hunting locations are close at hand consider areas that may be between your house and work. You may be able to access these areas and squeeze in additional hunting time before or after work.
Microprep - Prioritize
Early fall invest an hour with the firearm you intend to use during the season. Become reacquainted with your gun and practice shooting in various scenarios. The idea behind this exercise is to gain confidence and insure you are hitting exactly where you are aiming. It never fails that every season I take family and friends hunting who insure me their firearms are “tack drivers”. One trip to the range often reveals a completely different story. Don’t risk wounding an animal and wasting your precious time with a firearm that has not been properly calibrated and tested!
If the sighting system is off even a little invest the time in fine-tuning your set-up. In the heat of the moment, you will never remember that your firearm was shooting low and to the left and requires a “minor” correction. For additional consistent accuracy, practice and hunt with one brand and grain weight of bullet. If you are comfortable with your firearm and pressed for time put two in the bull and go home.
Hunters in a hurry will want to consider using ground blinds rather than deer stands. Blinds offer portability and don’t require the additional set-up time and maintenance that deer ladder stands require. A blinds ability to protect against inclement weather will add to your all day comfort, making it possible to hunt longer when you have the time available.
Pack for Maine’s unpredictable weather to maximize any day you are able to spend in the woods. Nothing is worse than having a free day to hunt only to be forced to go home early because you neglected to pack a rain jacket or warm weather gear. Big deer travel at all times of the day, so if you have a complete day to spend in the woods bring your lunch, a book and plan on staying sunrise to sunset.
Making the correct deer sounding inflections is not a difficult undertaking but it does require an investment of time. Shorten the learning curve by buying an electronic game call. These devices provide sportsman a means of instantly creating these elusive sounds without spending any time in preparation.
Joe’s busy schedule balancing work and family provides him little time to go into the woods and scout for prime whitetail habitats. Instead he must rely on others to provide the necessary information. Sometimes this information is useful but often times it is not. To be successful, you must align yourself with reliable hunting friends who possess an extensive knowledge of the outdoors. Most sportsmen are willing to bend over backwards to assist even perfect strangers but finding these individuals isn’t always easy. Maine has a high number of quality sportsmen groups and clubs, joining one or several is a great way to meet individuals with similar interests and build friendships.
Hire a Registered Maine Guide
If you are limited on time, consider hiring a guide to assist you in your deer hunting. Guides are able to build a huge database of information concerning deer and deer behavior. The nature of their profession requires them to spend a huge amount of time studying deer throughout all seasons of the year. Consider these individuals a valuable resource and a great option to assist you in getting your deer this season.
Take Your Chances
If you are serious about shooting a whitetail, taking your chances should be your last ditch option. While many a deer has fallen to blind luck, it is typically an unrealistic believe that the average Joe will walk into the woods and harvest a trophy animal. On the off chance that you decide to roll the dice, it is typically a shot in the dark. I have been there and done that on many an occasion and the result is always invariably the same . . . an enjoyable fall afternoon spent walking around in the Maine woods with not a whitetail in sight.
As the hunting seasons slip quickly by, it is an unfortunate occurrence that may of us do not have the time we would like to dedicate toward the woods and waters. In order to maximize our available time we need to learn to “work smarter not harder”. By using new technologies and creating beneficial friendships, we can build a future that includes more quality time pursuing the outdoor sports we love.