No deer but it was a good year

Year six, no deer. I’m a little disappointed, especially because this was such a good year for hunters. It was a good year for me. I saw the first and only buck I’ve ever seen while hunting. People asked if I’d regret not shooting him if I didn’t have another one at the end of the season. I said no then and it’s still how I feel now.

scrapeI learned more and hunted in new places. The buck that made this scrape couldn’t have been too far ahead of me as it had a very strong odor. It’s beneath a leaning tree that the deer raked its antlers through, breaking a few small branches. I sat overlooking it for a while. Steve and I went back the next day and I sat near other scrapes he found. Looking at the map later, we were only two miles from home though it took nearly 10 miles to drive to the spot.

A doe we refer to now as my “pet doe” kept my afternoons on Democrat Ridge interesting. I saw her more often than not, usually in the same area, never with a buck. She blew at me a few times, crossed the road in front of me many times, and seldom had other deer with her.

It was raining so hard last Wednesday that we didn’t want to walk or sit so we road. We knew it was probably was futile with so many other vehicles on the road but what the heck. Better to ride the backwoods super highway we have out here after extensive logging than sit in the house. We’ve now been on every side road off West Lake Road and seen new areas. A flag caught my eye on the way home. “Deer!”

I pointed in the general direction with my right hand while grabbing at my coat and vest with my left. “Do you mind waiting for me?” He didn’t, of course. I pulled on my coat, wished for a better hat, and go out of the truck. I commented that “this is stupid, it’s pouring,” but Steve disagreed. I had nothing to lose. I crossed the ditch, bulldozed through gigantic blackberry canes, and walked up the hardwood ridge. The small doe I saw seemed to be gone. If she was there she blended in well with the leaves on the ground and brown beech leaves clinging to the small trees. I scanned, bent, twisted and ducked while searching for her. I found the roughed up leaves she’d run through but lost her in a big patch of moss. Backtracking to the Y in the road, I ventured off to the right rather than going back to the truck. The only interesting thing I found there was a tree stand. Being nosy, I checked it out without disturbing it. It has a label but doesn’t look like it’s been used this year.  I went back to the truck, rain running off the brim of my hat and dripping off my coat.

sm coyote trackWe followed this set of coyote tracks for about a mile early one morning. It’s a big animal judging by its tracks.

We went to one of my favorite places to hunt, a hill I enjoy climbing. It’s a little tricky in places because of fallen trees, deep skidder ruts and my lack of familiarity. I was ready to head up the hill when Steve pointed me in another direction. He sent me down a skidder road where he’d seen three does the previous weekend. He started up the hill but saw another hunting already sitting. He veered off in another direction, jumping a cow and calf moose. My phone vibrated in my pocket telling me I had a message. “Beware of cow and calf coming your way.”

I listened for them, hoping to see them. They were out of sight but I heard them running through three trees.

All but three hours of my hunting time was spent on the ground this year. That’s a big change for me. I usually sit in a stand. This year I sat on the ground or walked. I easily walked 30 miles over the course of four weeks. Most of those miles were walked during the first two weeks. After that the stream of trucks up and down the road was almost non-stop.

I hunted until the last minute. We saw a big bobcat and three turkeys Saturday afternoon. I’m not going to muzzleload. I’ve been doing something related to hunting since late July. As much as I love it, I’m ready for a break.

Steve got permission from a landowner for a stand and game camera but we didn’t use it. I’ve decided to ask permission again next year, this time during bow season. After six years of tag sandwiches I need all the help I can get. I didn’t have the confidence in my ability to humanely kill a deer with a bow this year but I’ll be ready for it next year.

Robin Follette

About Robin Follette

Maine Press Association award winner, 2013. Robin's Outdoors, Bangor Daily News, third place in Sports blogs. I grew up with a fishing pole in my hand and have always loved the outdoors. From gardening to hunting and fishing, kayaking, camping, hiking and foraging, most of my time is spent outdoors. I teach outdoor skills as a volunteer instructor for Hooked On Fishing - Not On Drugs and Becoming an Outdoors-Woman. Pro-staff at The Limb Grip. My personal blog is here. I'm currently working on my first book, a collection of short stories based on my outdoors experiences.