The deer schneid

I suspect it would be really easy to write an interesting, engaging post about a successful deer hunt. I mean, really, the thing practically writes itself. You go out in the freezing pre-dawn dark, you sit in your treestand, listening. Then, when there’s just enough light to see (and to legally shoot), you hear the chip-chip-chip of a deer in the leaves. And it goes on, ending in triumph.

Writing an interesting, engaging post about an unsuccessful deer hunt is much more challenging. Even when you’ve had as much practice as I have.

Last Thursday, in the teeth of a nor’easter, Kevin and I loaded our two treestands – one bought, one borrowed – in the truck and headed up to Maine. Our friends Ron and Susan had invited us to hunt their 35 acres of woods, which we knew had real live deer in them. Kevin and I had seen the tracks and the poop, and Ron and Susan had seen the actual deer.

We arrived Thursday night, but weather and darkness prevented our getting the treestands up until morning. That gave us most of the day Friday and all day Saturday to hunt. Since we can’t leave our property for more than a couple of days, even with friends coming to feed and check on the animals, we had to be back by Sunday.

Ron and Susan’s property is bordered on the north by what’s either a small river or a large creek. There’s a path, used by both humans and deer, that runs alongside, and Kevin and I set up the treestands south of the path, a couple hundred yards apart. We each had a good view of, and a clear shot at, a section of path. Kevin’s spot was particularly good, as it was near a little depression where deer seemed to congregate, either to drink, or to wade across the stream.

Let me cut to the chase. I saw nothing. Absolutely nothing. I heard nothing, except A Tale of Two Cities (read by Simon Vance, the best audiobook reader in the history of the world) played very low in one ear. Kevin saw a very large doe, and would have had a shot, had he had a doe license.

We came home empty.

Before I met Kevin, I’d never heard the expression, “on the schneid.” After I met Kevin, I heard it all the time. It means to be on a losing streak (“schneiden” is “to cut” in German), and Kevin went on one almost from our first date. The U-turn in his trading success was so obvious that his friends started calling me “the schneid girl.”

Now, Kevin and I are on the schneid together, and this whole no-deer thing is getting very old. We recognize that it is, in part, a byproduct of our being overextended. We’ve been doing so many things that it’s been hard for us to do any of them as well as we’d like. Hunters who bring home deer do better scouting and block out more than a day and a half to hunt. They spend a lot of time in the field, understanding deer habits and behavior. And they do it year after year, getting better all the time.

Our season isn’t over. The Massachusetts shotgun season opens the week after Thanksgiving, and there are a couple of possibilities close to home. But we know we haven’t put in the time and effort that make the taking of a deer likely.

One of our problems is that we haven’t hunted the same place each year. Our first season, we tried Cape Cod and environs. Year two was Vermont. This year, it was Maine. From what I’ve learned from experienced hunters, it seems that getting familiar with a particular piece of land ups your chance of success significantly.

Which is why we’re planning to be really nice to Ron and Susan. We’re hoping they’ll invite us back next year, and we’ll be able to do a more thorough job. We’ll put up cameras and try to understand the deer patterns. We’ll find the best spots for the treestands. We’ll be up there for opening day. We’ll block out several days.

I really want a post that writes itself, and ends in triumph.  It’s time to get off the schneid.

21 people are having a conversation about “The deer schneid

  1. Great article. Keep at the deer hunting thing. I’m 45 and have been doing it since my Dad started taking me out when I was a kid. Took about 6 years off from it in my late teens/early 20s but have been back at it big-time for the past 20 years or so. I don’t get my deer every year but I do get one enough to keep it interesting and my success over the past 6 years is 66%! I think I’m in the prime of my deer hunting years in terms of skill and knowledge. I’m starting the downhill slide in terms of my physical ability though and that means I know I won’t be able to do it forever. Therefore, every hunt is a joy – just to be out there. To hear the woods come alive in the morning or to watch the darkness come on in the evening. I learn something new on every hunt and although I usually come home empty handed I enjoy every hunt immensely.

  2. A friend in Colorado would gladly give you one of her deer. She is very tired of shooing them out of the way when she goes out to the car.

  3. Maybe the deer didn’t like Dickens? Or maybe you’re just on a schneid. Better luck in MA with your local deer. It’s time for a break from all the fish and oysters…

  4. Do they even have elk up your way? I hear they’ve been reintroduced as far east as Pennsylvania. I mean from more westerly areas.

    i’m sorry about your disappointment, but you’re going to get one some day. You have to because you keep going out and the numbers say that you will.

    • There aren’t that many doe tags given out in that part of Maine, and we didn’t realize we’d be hunting it until after the lottery was over and they had all been given out. Next year. There’s always next year.

  5. We work on an average of “three stalks for one shot”. You’ve had your three, the next time is definitely your turn. How did you rate your ipod high seat deer hunts vs the walk through the woods type?

    • It’s hard to rate the two kinds of hunts when I haven’t bagged a deer either way. I think the treestand is the way to go, mostly because everyone says so. I definitely like listening to a book, but I also like walking. It keeps you both warm and interested.

      I hope you’re right about the three stalks. This whole no-deer thing is definitely getting old.

    • Not exactly suburban bushwacker. Certain areas of New England are over run with them, others aren’t. In northern VT, NH and ME deer are pretty scarce. There’s a saying that if you can kill a deer in northern New England you can kill one anywhere. Makes me feel better – both in the years when I get one, and the years when I don’t! The northern New England states have a perfect storm of factors that make it tougher hunting than in other places: marginal habitat, lots of predators(coyotes), less open land to hunt, more hunting pressure on land that is open to hunting, poor quality, spotty or inconsistent food sources, etc.

      • Well put, Dan. That makes me feel even better about my first three years of hunting, and last year, too. I had four successful years in between and I hope this year ends up being the start of another venison streak. We’ll see. This fall, as in the past few, I don’t have nearly as much time to spend in the woods as I’d like…

  6. put up your deer cams and have the sd card contents emailed to you once a week, leaving your hosts a second set of sd cards and some batteries. this is because so much time and fuel are wasted in going up there just to do cams. i see people do it everyday and its dumb. now there are deer everywhere there are people, so read up on mineral feeding and put out mineral whenever and wherever you can. a clover plot is nice too, if you find an unused semi-clearing.

  7. “…a byproduct of our being overextended. We’ve been doing so many things that it’s been hard for us to do any of them as well as we’d like.”

    Hunting takes lots of time. There is no shortcut. It can be either something from a bygone era, or, you make room for it by giving other things up. It’s a choice really, but not an easy one in this day.

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