November 14, 2010

Allen Afield: Yes, deer driving works, but it's difficult to do well


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Wary whitetails will move into the wind as a basic defense mechanism. The deer’s ultra-sensitive sense of smell allows them to sense what might be approaching.

Associated Press file photo


When taking a stand, veteran deer hunters scrape leaves and debris away so they can turn silently should a deer approach from an unexpected direction. Through the decades, this seemingly insignificant tip has made the difference between me shooting whitetails or not.

Yes, a well-run deer drive resembles chess-game strategies.

Many people disapprove of deer drivers making loud, deliberate noises, which allegedly frighten deer. Maine legislators also disliked the practice and made it illegal in this state.

I said "allegedly frighten deer" because in my humble opinion, drivers making loud, unnatural sounds just tell deer where hunters lurk in the woods, giving these intelligent animals a chance to get out of the way.

A silently moving driver mimicking the sound of a walking deer really makes these big-game critters nervous and pushes them into the wind. In short, noisemaking is for amateurs. Savvy hunters sneak when driving.

For more than two decades, driving deer was illegal in Maine because the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife deemed it unsafe.

After Maine adopted a mandatory requirement for deer hunters to wear hunter-orange on the torso and head, though, IFW's own statistics did not support that claim. Now, it's legal here to drive deer with three or fewer people.

I'd like to say that Maine was the only place in the world where driving big-game animals was illegal, but another country, state or province somewhere must have prohibited driving, too. While searching the Internet, though, I have never found another place where it's illegal -- and I have looked hard.

The rarity of such a law across the globe tells me something. 

Ken Allen of Belgrade Lakes is a writer, editor and photographer.


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