This hunting season the state’s expanded archery zones are open from September 8 to December 8, 2018. The intent of the expanded zones is to have hunting occur in areas that are not open to firearms hunting due to municipal firearms discharge ordinances. This provides deer hunting opportunities in locations in where deer populations can withstand additional hunting pressure without negatively impacting human safety. A number of these designated areas exist throughout the state of Maine but for the purpose of brevity, I am going to concentrate on the “Waterville” zone.
The Waterville zone includes the towns of Waterville, Benton, Fairfield, Oakland, Sidney and Winslow. Like most of the towns and cities within the expanded archery zones, these areas are comprised of intensive residential development interspersed with small woodlots. As such, a majority of the land in the expanded archery hunting area is privately owned and hunters are strongly encouraged to obtain landowner permission. The City of Waterville even has in place a very strict Public Safety Ordnance stating:
(a) No person may be on the property of another (including city property) while in the possession of a bow and arrow unless the person is in the presence of the owner, or has the current written permission of the owner, which permission must be carried on the person.
(b) For city property, permission must be obtained from the director of public works or his designee, who will issue permits limited in time and location according to the needs of public safety.
Permits for hunting Waterville city property are distributed by a lottery held every year on the first business day after the 4th of July. Lottery applications are available at http://www.waterville-me.gov/publicworks/expanded-archery. Maps depicting the three city properties (Closed Landfill, Airport Business Park and Old Gravel Pit) are available by contacting John Lombardi, Waterville Public Works at 680-4744 or email@example.com. Bow hunters are additionally encouraged to contact the Waterville police department for information on municipal ordinances affecting the discharge and possession of a bow and arrow in Waterville.
Hunters who have problems securing permission from private landowners in the Waterville expanded archery zone or who aren’t selected in the Waterville lottery, should explore the areas around Oakland, Benton, Fairfield, Sidney and Winslow. After calls to both the town offices and local police stations in all of these areas, it is my understanding that access to unposted land is possible (though securing landowner permission is always the best policy) and registering at the local police station not necessary.
One particularly interesting section of expanded archery land exists in Oakland and is owned by FirstPark. The property, which can be accessed via Technology Avenue, is expansive and crisscrossed by Powerlines and ATV trails. While none of the land is technically posted “No Trespassing”, a conversation with a FirstPark employee indicated that any individual wishing to hunt in this area file a landowner/land user agreement form. This form can be provided to anyone interested in hunting the property by calling 207-859-9716 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Any individuals planning to hunt this property should be on their best behavior as it will certainly determine the future of accessing this hunting area.
Last season hunting the expanded archery zone, my hunting partner and I saw 46 deer. While not all were within range of an ethical shot, it was still an immensely enjoyable experience watching the deer and studying their habits. Considering in a good year, I might see 3-4 deer outside of the expanded zones, last season was certainly a treat. We did not however see all these deer by chance, pre-season scouting was essential to the success we enjoyed in 2017.
To scout effectively, checking maps and identifying key areas offering shelter, water and food simplify finding hidden sweet spots. Exploring promising locations with eyes rather than feet is a huge time saver. The trick to maximizing 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 Maps provide a high level of clarity, allowing sportsmen to easily scan possible hunting areas.
Absolutely no replacement can be made to thoroughly scouting an area than putting boots to the ground. Maine’s subtle terrain features and the obvious physical signs of deer can only be effectively used to your advantage through intimate firsthand knowledge. Pay close attention to the minute details and bring a notebook to write down GPS coordinates, prevalent wind direction, food sources, game trails, sign and location of sheltered bedding areas. Use this information to devise a game plan as to where to set-up stands or still hunt.
Hunters in a hurry will want to consider using ground blinds rather than deer stands in the expanded archery zones. Blinds offer portability and don’t require the additional set-up time and maintenance that deer ladder stands require. A blinds also have the ability to protect against inclement weather adding to your comfort and making it possible to hunt longer.