The Maine chance

It’s that time of year again. The time when the leaves we’re not raking pile up all over the property. The remains of the plants in the garden we haven’t decommissioned slowly turn brown. The herbs we haven’t planted in the hoophouse don’t yield basil, thyme, or oregano. The tuna we haven’t caught swims in the ocean.

Time to go out in the woods and not shoot a deer!

We’re coming up on our third deer season and we have, thus far, nothing to show for our efforts. Unless you count red ink – we’ve got plenty of that. I can’t bring myself to add up what we’ve spent on guns, ammunition, clothing, and gear. Then there are license fees, travel expenses, and an endless supply of those little chemical handwarmers.

It’s an expensive hobby, if you don’t get a deer. It’s an expensive hobby even if you do get a deer, but a freezer full of venison makes it all worthwhile. So what if it comes out to $35 a pound?

Our first season, we hunted locally. We knew, going in, that our chances weren’t great, since Cape Cod has some 18,000 hunters pursuing its seven deer. I did manage to see a small doe, and I went so far as to point my gun at it, but I didn’t have confidence in the shot and I didn’t take it.

The second year, we traveled. To Vermont. Our friends Dave and Bonnie live at the foot of the Green Mountains, and we came to hunt their backyard. Turned out to be Vermont’s worst deer season since the Ice Age, and we were, once again, skunked.

This year, we’re trying Maine. We have friends – I use the term optimistically, since we just met them and they haven’t yet had time to discover our shortcomings – who have a piece of land in the southwest corner of the state that absolutely, positively, contains deer. This past weekend, Kevin and I went up for a reconnaissance trip.

It’s not every day that someone you just met invites you to come stay in her home and hunt her land, but Susan Tuveson, a fellow food professional (she writes for a new magazine called Northeast Flavor) I met at the Nantucket celebration of pork and beer that is Hogtoberfest, is unreasonably hospitable. Kevin and I got to talking to her at the event, and convinced her to stop by our place on her way off the Cape. We started a conversation that clearly needed to be continued, and she invited us to Maine.

And that’s how Kevin and I ended up hiking through the Maine woods with Susan and her husband, Ron, this past Saturday, eyes to the ground. We were looking for three things: acorns (for the pigs), mushrooms (for us), and deer poop (for the good of the enterprise). We found all three.

Which is why, this week, we are in the market for a treestand built for two, red ink be damned. If you’re in for $35. venison, you might as well be in for $38. venison. So, if any of you with treestand-buying experience have tips, I’d appreciate them

Maine’s firearm season opens next week. Maybe the third year’s the charm.

23 people are having a conversation about “The Maine chance

  1. Hoosierbuck/Chris says:

    Another option to a two person treestand is to get two one-person stands and set them in the same tree. I have used combinations of two hang on stands using the same climbing sticks, or one ladder stand an a hang on that you access from the ladder stand. Works great, cheaper, gives a better field of view, breaks up the silhouette better, and is ultimately more versatile. Best of luck this year! We are enjoying our first fresh venison of the year due to our early bow season. It can be done!

  2. I do wonder if this is like playing the lottery….. they say you should play the same numbers every week or your chances decrease dramatically.

    • You always bring up such interesting comparisons. Now, should I talk about how your lottery chances are exactly the same no matter which numbers you choose, or should I instead address how deer hunting is actually a bit different from playing the lottery.

      Although, in my case, not so very much …

  3. Tamar,

    I’ve followed your blog off and on for a while now and love your adventurous spirit. It’s a hike from where you are, but if you are looking for out of state hunting opportunities, we have a tremendous deer population in the counties surrounding Baltimore here in central Maryland. The limits are generous, but most of the hunting on public land is by bow only in the suburban counties.

    I managed to take a small buck last weekend during our muzzleloader season hunting from the ground (elevated position on a hillside looking down into a bottom). Ground hunting can be effective if you get above the path of the deer and saves the weight of carrying a stand (and hopefully a deer) on the way out…

    You may also wish to consider two independent stands. You’ll increase your chances of seeing and taking deer if you can spread out a bit and survey more ground.

    Whichever path you take, best of luck in your hunt.

  4. Chris and Will — Thanks for the suggestions! The main reason we’re leaning toward a 2-man stand is that we’d prefer to buy only one right now, and having it hold both of us gives us the option of staying together. That said, we know our odds are better if we split up. The main problem is me — I don’t have a lot of confidence with guns, I’ve never shot a deer, and if I should end up wounding an animal (the stuff my hunting nightmares are made of), I’d like very much to have Kevin to help me track and finish the kill. That’s why I’m particularly concerned with being in a tree stand alone — while I’m getting down, that poor wounded deer could get pretty far.

    But your point about having two stands in close proximity is a good one. The 2-man ones aren’t that much more expensive than the one-man ones, so I’m thinking if we have one 2-man and one 1-man, we’ll cover all our possibilities.

    Or we could end up getting what’s on sale. That happens sometimes.

    Either way, thanks for the advice. And enjoy that venison!

    • i build my own stands. that way i can build exactly what i want, to my specifications, and make it custom to the tree i am dealing with. also on a side note, if you are concerned with wounding a deer, there is a simple solution: scout your spots well and build your stand very close to the game trail, (make your shot a “lay-up” shot).

      love the blog, and good luck!


  5. Go for 2 one person ladder stands. If you can, try to look at,sit in, or try to set up the stand before you buy one. Ladder stands can be difficult to set up w/o extra hands. Lock-ons can be dangerous, use a safety harness to hang it in the tree, are not the most comfortable. BE familiar with the stand! Always wear a safety harness!

  6. Accidental Mick says:

    Hi Tamar,
    I’ve mentioned before that I live in the most densely populated part of England so hunting is not an option. It would mean a lot of travel and paying a lot of money to whoever owned the land. (Every bit of Britain is owned by someone.)

    Partly because I cannot do it I find the whole subject , and people’s thoughts about it, facinating even tho’ I had to spend some time on Google to find out what you where all talking about. Chris’s through away line about getting deer early by using a bow I find awesome.

    Good luck, take care and keep us up-to-date (I never did find out what racoon tastes like).

    • Mick, here in New England every bit of land is also owned by someone. The difference is people are allowed to hunt on other people’s land by default unless one posts ones land against hunting, which costs money each year for the land owner to register the posting, and many hunters unfortunately ignore the postings or purposefully seek out land that is posted figuring the hunting is better there. I’m Sure Tamar and others here do not do this but I deal with this every year. It is a hassle.

      Note that I have no objection to hunting, merely to yahoos who rudely hunt where they’re not allowed and endanger us.

      • Accidental Mick says:

        I have neither time or patience with people who assume that the rule do not apply to them. You sound much more tolerant than I would be.

  7. I haven’t got any treestand-buying advice for you but I can discern from what I know of you that you will find hunting from a stand far preferable to stalking. It’s perfect for the easily-bored, Ipod wearing hunter. I’ve always had much better luck sat in one place waiting for deer to cross my path. And I leave one ear bud out to listen for them – my homage to fieldcraft.

    Wishing you all the $38 venison you can eat this season.

  8. We have taken all the hunters’ advice hear, and bought one 1-man treestand. We have been offered the loan of a second one, an offer we have accepted gratefully. All that remains is to choose the trees, set up the stand, and wait for the deer.

    Rob and Bob, we will most definitely be setting up close to the game trail, and we will most definitely wear safety harnesses. That “get familiar with the stand” thing might be a little tough, and we hope not to do it the hard way.

    Paula, I’d love to have a freezer full of elk, but the travel and licensing make it prohibitively expensive. And it’s even more expensive if you’re an inexperienced hunter and you come home with no elk at all.

    Mick, I know I never finished the raccoon story. I will, some day. I will. Thanks for not holding it against me.

    Jen – You’re right. It’s perfect. I’ll charge up the Ipod, load a real page-turner, and go get me a deer.

    TwithB – A couple years back, I didn’t know either, so I’m very glad you’re giving me the chance to show off my newly acquired knowledge. A treestand is a platform with a seat that you attach to a tree, usually ten to twenty feet off the ground, and from which you hunt deer (or other animals, but around here it’s deer). The point is that animals are much less likely to see or smell you if you’re a good ways off the ground.

  9. Game trail? Blind? Oh Tamar – how I wish you would just come to my place. The white-tailed deer have ravaged my gardens this year (up to 14 at a time) and you could just pop them off from the comfort of my deck. I’d buy you bullets…. *sigh*

    • Kris — If, where you live, there’s a legal hunting season, and you get permission for the discharge of a firearm from all your near neighbors, I am SO in.

      • Tamar, I hope you are all battened down for Sandy. It sounds like a very dangerous situation which will impact us here all the way to the Great Lakes. Take care….

  10. I must admit some amusement at hunting season. A little foreboding too. It is the time of year when strangers come up and shoot guns off in the forests, sometimes kill our dogs, livestock and each year a farmers or other people who still need to be out doing their business working the land. Hunting season is a dangerous part of the year for us. We can’t stop farming just because the yahoos are out in the woods.

    The amusement comes because I’m outdoors everyday and often see game either directly like the big buck Remus and I flushed on Sugar Mountain by our sap house while checking water lines and springs this week or simply their trails, beds, manure and hoof marks. I hear how hard it is to hunt for hunters yet I’m seeing the game all the time. This leads to the though that perhaps this is a Zen thing. Get the deer you do not hunt.

  11. Accidental Mick says:

    I was pondering Walter’s 2 comments and it got me thinking about the etiquette of hunting on other perples land. I have no need of this information I’m just the nosiest person you’ve ever met. I want to know everything.

    Haveing bagged your deer, do you gut and clean it in situ and, if so, what do you do with the offal? Is it polite to bury it or is there enough wildlife around to act as clean-up squad in a short enough time to stop the offal being a nusiance to other people?

    If you take the deer home to dress it you will be carrying a lot of extra, usless weight. That got me thinking about something else. How heavy are these beasts? I presume you are taking Kevin’s “hairy great” truck but from the only photo I remember, the load bed looked quite high off the ground. Is the winch on your boat trailer easily detachable?

    Told you I was nosy.

    • Well, you might want to take it home to add to your compost pile as it is rich in nutrients. Otherwise whether you leave it or not depends on the situation. Some land owners might make a stipulation one way or the other.

      In our case I don’t want the offal dumped by the road or near our farm for the dogs to get into or for it to attract coyotes. However the areas we allow hunting are far from the farm area so the latter is not a problem and the hunters simply clean out the carcass and leave the offal for the wildlife which makes short work of it. The nutrients thus return to the land. In a more urban area burying it might be a good idea but do so directly in the soil, don’t stick it in a bag or anything.

      The burial spot should be away from streams. Be aware that scavengers will likely dig more deeply than you. In our area the ledge rock is typically just inches to a foot or two down so that makes burial rather difficult.

      The worst thing to do is dump dead dogs, cats and guts along the road as they sometimes don’t get cleaned up so close to the road and then start a stinking pretty bad.

      Best thing to do is ask the land owner their preference – this helps you get a chance to hunt the following year. 🙂

      Deer typically weigh here in Vermont is in the 100 to 120 lb range but there is great variety.

      • Walter, I’m glad you answered the question because I had no idea. We’ve always hunted on public land, and I assumed we’s bury the offal. I’ll ask our friends what their preference is.

        Mick, as for the getting of the deer back to and into the truck, we’ll use a tarp as a sled and just haul. Deer aren’t that big, and we’ll have so much adrenaline flowing because we ACTUALLY SHOT A DEER!!!! that we won’t have trouble, I don’t think. As for getting it in the truck bed, if it’s too heavy for us to lift, we’ll rig up some kind of Rube Goldberg system. It’s a bridge I look forward to crossing when we come to it.

  12. Wish you could come to Virginia! We’re practically outnumbered by deer! They’re wandering around outside parking garages medians on the road, you name it.

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