November 17, 2013

Deirdre Fleming: Hunting in Maine more challenging than Wisconsin

But Ryan Schweitzer, home from college, bags a trophy from a tree stand using his boyhood lessons.

Ryan Schweitzer came home from college with his older brother, Cory, last Friday just looking to get in a little time in the woods before they hunted with their dad, Scott, on Saturday.

A Wisconsin native, Scott Schweitzer raised his boys in a hunting culture in the farm country of his home state, around corn fields and soy crops – where as many as 700,00 hunters take to the woods on opening day, and whitetails abound.

Here in Maine, the deer hunt is different but the tradition for the Schweitzer family the same. And the 8-point, 190-pound buck Ryan Schweitzer bagged last weekend was proof of that.

Within an extended hunting clan full of boasts of monster buck sightings every year, Ryan’s Maine deer is one for the family annals.

“Everyone and everybody hunts in Wisconsin. It’s bred into the kids. And this is easily the biggest deer in the family history. He’s outdone his father by leaps and bounds,” Scott Schweitzer said.

The Schweitzers moved from Wisconsin to Raymond in 2001, when Ryan and Cory were just starting school. With a wooded lot behind their house and more woods behind that, they were happy to have landed in a hunting state.

But it didn’t compare to the scale of hunting pressure and hunting success in Wisconsin, Scott Schweitzer said

Here there are 30,000 deer harvested in a good year. In Wisconsin the 10-day hunt promises between 300,000 to 400,000 deer tagged.

But whether it’s in a tree stand looking out over farm crops, or a pine tree in a thick Maine woodland, Ryan Schweitzer said hunting to him is the same. It’s just more challenging in Maine, and takes more patience, but the hunt is exactly the same, he said.

“It’s just what I learned. When you’re in the woods, you try to make no movement, you don’t make a lot of noise, you try to make it like you’re not there,” said 18-year-old Ryan Schweitzer. “You’re not out there; so the deer don’t think you’re there. Because of my uncles and dad, I became a sitter; I became a waiter ... learned to be patient.”

When Ryan and Cory arrived home in Raymond from the University of Maine last Friday, they had an hour before dusk, just an hour left of legal hunting hours, so they went to their tree stands, not thinking an opportunity would present itself.

But as Ryan listened to the wind behind him, he kept thinking he heard movement.

When he looked back and saw antlers and a buck step out from a tree, he reacted and dropped it where it stood. But what he couldn’t tell by the way it fell was the size of the enormous rack it carried. Only when Ryan moved the deer did he see just how big it was.

“He was unrecognizable on the phone,” Scott Schweitzer said. “I couldn’t understand why he was so excited. He was talking so fast, not in full sentences. I just had to tell him to hang up and I’d get home. I said, ‘Son, I can’t understand you.’ It was very special.”

Ryan Schweitzer’s hunt was Wisconsin hunting: from a tree stand, in silence; not walking the woods and stalking. He said he hunted as his two uncles and his father taught him – waiting, being as silent and still as possible, letting the deer come to him.

Of course, that’s easy in Wisconsin, where deer are plentiful and, as Ryan tells it, seeing a dozen or more is not unusual.

In Maine, a hunter is lucky to see one deer on a day out in the woods, let alone a big buck.

“On opening day in Wisconsin one year, my uncle saw 36. In Maine, there’s no telling if you’ll see one,” Ryan said.

Scott Schweitzer scored his son’s deer based on the Boone and Crockett Club method, and twice it came up with a 150-inch score. He plans to have it scored officially once it’s returned from the taxidermist. But at least in the Schweitzer family, Ryan is now in a hunting class of his own.

“Here, you really earn what you get. In Wisconsin you don’t have to be nearly as good a hunter to get a deer. The hunters in Maine who get deer know what they’re doing,” Scott Schweitzer said.

Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or at: dfleming@pressherald.com

Twitter: FlemingPph

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