Maine’s expanded archery season begins Saturday, giving bow hunters in certain, limited areas a first crack at what, after a mild winter, should be a somewhat rejuvenated deer herd. Being able to get into the woods so early offers some distinct advantages. There are also disadvantages.

One of the most important positives is you’ll be among the first hunters in the woods. The obvious advantage here is that the deer have been relatively undisturbed. They are following a fairly regular daily routine (more on that in a bit) and will continue to do so until something changes. That something could be weather, food supply or level of human disturbance.

Every time you or any other hunter step into the woods, the odds of killing a deer in those woods go down. Human scent puts already wary deer on high alert and encounters with humans make them shift activity more toward the darker side of twilight.

As alluded to above, whitetails are very regular this time of year in terms of their daily pattern. They tend to bed and feed in the same areas, often traveling the same routes at roughly the same time each day. They’re also sticking pretty close to home. That is to say, they’re still spending most of their time in smaller core areas within their annual home range. It won’t last long.

Another advantage, if you’re after a buck, is that bucks are still in bachelor groups. During the summer, deer tend to segregate by sex. Does will be with their fawns, and possibly doe fawns from the previous year. Bucks, meanwhile, may form loose aggregations referred to as bachelor groups or bachelor herds. I say “loose” because the deer aren’t always together. They may bed separately or together.

It’s very common to see them entering a field at dusk one at a time, typically with the youngest coming out first, and the oldest and biggest bucks exposing themselves last. last light, you may have anywhere from two or three to five or six bucks feeding together in a small area (down South and in the Midwest it might be 10 or 12).

Perhaps the greatest disadvantage is temperature. It’s still generally warm in early September, and when it’s warm deer move less, particularly during daylight hours. That means you’ll have fewer hours of effective hunting time.

Really, your best odds will be during the first and last hour of daylight. Outside of that, the probability of natural deer movement declines precipitously. Activity may be slightly more protracted on cooler or cloudy days. An optimist might view this as an advantage. Depending on your work hours, you could work a full day, still be in the woods at the best times and know you’re not missing much.

Another down side to warm temperatures is bugs, particularly black flies and mosquitoes. You can use regular repellent but applying anything with a strong chemical odor works against everything else you’ve done to conceal your presence, particularly your scent.

One alternative is mesh apparel. You can sometimes get by with covering only your head, hands and other exposed areas. But if you’re wearing lighter clothes that mosquitoes can bite through, you may want a full mesh suit. I’ve tried mesh and it certainly works; but it obscures my vision and I have trouble shooting a bow wearing any type of face mask.

A third and very viable option is a ThermaCELL, a portable device about the size of a cordless phone. Its butane-powered heating element warms a pad saturated with allethrin, a synthesized version of a naturally occurring repellent. The odor does not alarm game, but will maintain a 15-foot by 15-foot mosquito-free zone around you. I was skeptical until I tried it, and now I don’t hunt in the early season without one.

Yet another disadvantage of this early season is that the hunting area is so limited. The expanded season was initiated with the dual goal of reducing deer numbers in areas where gun hunting is restricted, unsafe or impractical (or where the gun harvest simply wasn’t meeting biologists’ objectives) and to provide increased recreational opportunity. As a result, expanded archery hunting is limited largely to more densely developed areas of the state. Acreage is limited, and much of the huntable land has been posted against hunting.

That means bow hunters may find themselves crowded into the few areas open to hunting. As noted above, more human activity means less deer activity. It puts deer on alert, changes their daily activity patterns and makes them more nocturnal. The end result is fewer opportunities for the bow hunter.

You’ll be better off trying to avoid crowded areas, and not crowding other hunters. Circumstances vary, but somewhere between 50 and 100 acres per hunter is a good rule of thumb for a minimum.

In the final analysis, the advantages of early season bow hunting far outweigh the disadvantages. If nothing else, it’s an excuse to get out in the woods. Even a slow day in a tree stand is better than being stuck inside. And it helps you ease into the more intense hunting in the months ahead.

Get out early, hunt the prime times and don’t crowd other hunters.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and Registered Maine Guide who lives in Pownal. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]