Friday, November 17, 2023

Tales from the Outdoors: Tick…Tock….

 By Bob Chapin

No…not the Chinese social media site…that is Tic Tok. This is the time that is escaping you if you haven’t begun your personal checklist of things to get done off your honey- do list so you can get to the things you really want to do to get ready for the coming deer season. The drawing date for the Any Deer permit has already passed and if you were not fortunate to get selected you may still be able to purchase a permit that is left over after all hunters wanting a permit for that particular Wildlife Management Area are satisfied. The window to purchase an additional any-deer permit in select WMA’s opened Nov. 6 at 9 a.m.

Pheasant hunting season in Maine runs through Dec. 30 and
adult hunters have a daily bag limit of two, either sex.
By now you should have checked in with the landowners who have given you permission to hunt their land in the past to see if you are still welcome there this year. Land uses change frequently, and it is your responsibility to confirm that you still have access. Owners die, sell all or parts of their property, subdivide or get zoning changes they ask for or get imposed upon them, neighbors have schools built where they used to farm and conservation easements could affect whether you can hunt there or not…. always check. Good farmland and woodlots are disappearing at a rapid rate. Don’t be surprised should a land use change such that it precludes you hunting your favorite spot.

If you were thinking about a food plot you are already too late. Too bad because with all the rain we have been experiencing, the fields are lush with vegetation. There may be a late-season variety that you could still get a crop out of but you are better off now investing in attractants versus trying to grow something. Use your scouting time to locate an abandoned homestead with an apple or fruit tree orchard. The deer know where they are and will eventually hit them, but it tends to be later in the season.

If you haven’t tried pheasant hunting in Maine, you are missing a real treat and a bargain. The state stocks approximately 21 sites throughout Cumberland and York counties and they are identified on the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife web site. The stocking schedule started Sept. 28, skipped a week then resumed for the next two weekends in October. The state, with the assistance of several Rod and Gun Clubs, places between 25 to 35 birds at each location each stocking evenly split between cocks and hens, and both are fair game. The season for adult hunters started Oct. 1 and closes Dec. 30 with a daily bag limit of two, either sex.

Pheasants are an excellent bird to start new hunters. They are a relatively easy target to hit, even with 20 gauge or .410 shotguns, but when they hold tight until you are right on top of them, their loud raucous cackling and wing beats can startle even the most experienced hunter and make their escape good without a shot being fired. Should that happen to you, watch where they fly and glide to as you may get a second chance. One caution though if you are using a young dog, a big ole cock pheasant can startle a dog as well. Also be careful about discharging a shotgun too close to a young dog unless you have acclimated the dog to the discharge by starting the dog a ways away from the gun and gradually reduce the distance to get him or her used to the sound.

Unfortunately, every year an over-eager hunter who has not done his field homework can ruin a good dog for the rest of the dog’s life. I witnessed such an occasion at a dove hunt in Virginia one year. The thoughtless hunter berated his dog for not fetching downed birds, but he somehow missed the fact his dog was cowering under his chair at the report of his owner’s shotgun…a terrible thing to do to a dog.

As hunters age they are less inclined to climb into tree stands, especially the climbing variety that takes a bit of athleticism to jack themselves up a tree. The advantage they give the hunter is amazing as they shield a lot of their movements on stand from vigilant deer eyes and their scent from acute noses. I did not get into a tree stand until quite late in my hunting career once I began archery hunting. I could not believe the difference it made in the number of deer I was seeing and how close they would come to where I was. In just one morning’s sit I had 19 deer in sight and 11 of those were within bow range. Unfortunately, every year hunters are injured or killed in falls from tree stands, usually homemade ones. Always use a safety harness from the moment you leave the ground. It can save your life. And it is always a good idea to tell a reliable adult where you are going and when you expect to return. Better to suffer the embarrassment of having to get cut down out of your harness than the alternative.

The older I get the more I like ladder stands and ground blinds. The ladder stands, correctly installed can be very stable both for your comfort and as a shooting platform. Be sure and pre-flight carefully any stands that you have left out since last season for rotted tie down straps, support poles that may have slipped, and debris that may have accumulated on the foot platform and seat. Climb up and sit in the stand as you would when hunting to see if you need to trim any vegetation that may be blocking your view and shooting lanes. As I return to my truck from a stand location, I clear my path of any downed limbs and install reflector tacks so I can find the stand in the dark. I put some ground blinds out yesterday and was amazed at how much the undergrowth has grown up. Don’t you be surprised on the morning you had hoped to hunt… good hunting! <

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