Some folks call it a “finger” or “peninsula” when describing a highland that runs from a ridge into wetland thickets of swale, black and speckled alder and leatherleaf, ever so typical terrain in Maine.

When standing water collects in lowlands, common in wet years, deer love to bed down in these natural wildlife sanctuaries. Humans cannot walk or canoe across these places, so deer know they’re safe from hunters.

My favorite hunting spot includes a huge wetland that looks the same now as it did in my youth. A remote hardwood ridge of beechnut, oak and maple lies a mile from a road and drops to swale, shrubs and — often enough — pooled water. White pine and red maple cover a peninsula jutting far into the swale, and an ancient, well-worn deer trail parallels this finger of land.

The two, hard-mast species on the ridge produce beechnuts and acorns that attract deer. These animals love beechnuts, but oaks produce more consistently through the years — just a more dependable wild crop.

During my preteens, deer tracks in wet leaves and droppings on this ridge caught my eye. No one could miss the abundant signs that whitetails were hitting the spot hard.

Decades later, they still leave tracks under the oak and beech as well as piles of dark-brown pellets that resemble Junior Mints.

In my youth — those days before coyotes moved into Maine and exerted so much predation pressure on deer — hunters in my family would sit on this ridge and wait for deer to move onto the high ground and forage in daylight hours. This hunting strategy worked, too.

These days, our abundant coyote population hits whitetail-feeding areas hard, because they know these foragers congregate there. Deer scent lies everywhere these hoofed eating machines rummage, assuring coyotes of a possible meal.

Coyotes have influenced our deer to become more nocturnal, particularly after humans join the predator parade each fall. Because deer avoid the dining room except under the cover of darkness, wise hunters set up on a trail from the lowland bedrooms. That way, folks can catch deer moving along the trails to the hardwoods — maybe before shooting time ends in evening or after dawn breaks.

Hunters sitting on trails are taking advantage of hungry deer, moving into position to ascend the ridge after dark or to dally on the trail before bedding down after dawn breaks. In short, hunger works as an Achilles’ heel for deer.

How do novice hunters find trails between bedding and foraging?

It’s really simple and should be done on a rainy day with a howling wind — if possible. Dirty weather washes and blows human scent away, explaining why stormy days work best for scouting.

Scouting the ridge eventually reveals a trail heading straight into the lowland, so hunters set up on the trail between the swamp and ridge.

It helps during scouting to find more than one trail between food and bedding. Deer need alternative routes, so they always move into prevailing wind — often westerly to northwesterly in fair weather or southeasterly to easterly in stormy times, a consistent rule in this state.

A deer’s nose tells it what lies ahead. Because of that, veteran hunters stand downwind to a heavily used trail.

The back trail creates a vulnerable spot for deer, because four-legged predators often come from behind, explaining why bucks often stay back. Folks who haven’t thought the equation through call bucks cowards for letting does go first, but dominant males hold back to defend the weak spot.

One solid tip begins with finding several hardwood ridges near wetlands so a hunter doesn’t concentrate on one area and leave so much human scent that it frightens deer from that spot.

One point is certain, too:

Few hunters possess the still-hunting skills to sneak into a deer’s bedroom and get a shot. Deer have nothing better to do than doze through the day and listen for an approaching predator, so winning at this game takes unbelievable patience and skill.

Successful Maine hunters key on approach trails and put in dawn and late-afternoon vigils, the best bet in a game where the success ratio runs one out of eight to one out of 12 (or less), depending on the region in this state.

Ken Allen of Belgrade Lakes is a writer, editor and photographer. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]