Saturday, March 8, 2014
By Bob Humphrey
October is finally here and hunting seasons are in full swing, offering Mainers myriad options. There's something for everyone, bow and gun hunter, waterfowler or upland enthusiast. And for the generalist, it's a virtual cornucopia of opportunity.
Duck season is open across the state, providing a wide array of waterfowling choices. You could start the day at dawn in the duck blind watching over a spread of decoys as wings whistle overhead. Mallards and blacks, woodies and teal feed frantically for the first hour or two before heading off to their secluded daytime hides. Foul weather may extend the morning shoot but on sunny bluebird days you could while away mid-morning hours paddling down a lazy stream or slipping into a secluded beaver pond for some jump-shooting.
Geese will leave their night-time roosts and head out to the fields to feed after daylight. Set up some silhouettes or shells near in a hedgerow alongside a lush, green field or around a layout blind in the middle of a freshly cut cornfield. Later the birds will head off to larger ponds and lakes to roost, rest and digest, and a dozen or so floaters could pull them into range.
Along the coast, blacks, mallards and teal invade the salt pannes, tidal creeks and mud flats early. As the tide rises they'll raft up in the bigger creeks and rocky coastline, and a spread of decoys could provide slow but consistent action.
Around the coastal ledges and islands, sea ducks are often overlooked early in the season before cold weather pushes the big flocks down. However, there are plenty of local eiders around, along with early migrants like black and white-winged scoters. Weather conditions are also much less treacherous than they will be in December and January, making for a much more pleasant experience.
If you prefer sleeping in or tromping higher, drier ground, there's abundant upland fare to be found. Wait for the sun to rise and the frost to melt, then head down to the alder runs to chase woodcock, or up on the aspen ridges for grouse. If you happen upon a wet meadow, keep your eyes peeled for snipe. And if you're fortunate enough to live in an area that gets stocked, you may bump a pheasant or two.
Fall turkey hunting has not caught on with the same fervor as spring gobbler hunting, but that may change with some expanded opportunities this fall. Until this year, early October was reserved mostly for bowhunters, save a one-week shotgun season. Now, shotgunners in many districts can hunt most of the month. Typical tactics involve ambushing birds in regular feeding areas or busting flocks and calling them back in. The latter takes a bit more technique and luck, but is a bunch more fun.
Speaking of bowhunting, archers can now break away from the over-crowded expanded archery zone and hunt statewide for deer. The first rut sign starts showing up, and October is a great time to hunt scrapes or rublines for bucks. Frost, wind and heavy rain knock down apples and acorns, and with the colder temperatures deer are more actively seeking out these high-calorie food sources. So are turkeys, and you never know when a flock may happen by your bow stand.
There's so much to do that your biggest problem may be deciding which game to pursue and when. You could maximize peak hours by hunting ducks at dawn, upland birds at mid-morning and deer in the afternoon. Or you could double up by hunting deer and turkeys from the same bow stand, morning or afternoon. Watch the weather and save the foul weather for fowling, the pleasant days for upland birds and the cool evenings for bowhunting deer. Or you could pick one today and save another for tomorrow. It's a long and glorious month.
Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be contacted at: