It’s the middle of October and hunting seasons for many species are in full swing. Waterfowl, grouse and woodcock, turkey and deer are all fair game.

It’s a great time to be an outdoorsman. But having so many options does present a certain dilemma. If you had only one day to hunt, which would you choose?

I say “all of the above,” and I offer a recipe for a perfect October day.

We begin choosing through a process of elimination. The first 30 minutes of daylight are critical for duck and deer hunters. Turkeys, meanwhile, are still sitting on the roost. Eventually they’ll fly down, start feeding and continue to do so throughout the morning.

That’s one of the nice things about fall turkey hunting, and the biggest difference from hunting them in the spring. You’re not nearly so dependent on the clock. Odds of success don’t change much throughout the day so we’ll leave them be, for now.

The grouse and woodcock will be out and about shortly after first light, but we don’t want to rush them. Upland hunting is a more gentlemanly sport, where one rises at a civilized hour, then takes to the field at one’s leisure. You want the birds to move about and leave plenty of scent for the dogs to follow. Let’s skip them for now, as well.

That brings us back to the ducks and the deer. Ultimately it’s an easy choice. I’ve always found mornings on the deer stand to be much slower than afternoons, particularly in the early season. Meanwhile, I’ve found exactly the opposite to be true of time in the duck blind.

Unless you’re on a roost pond, mornings are always more active than afternoons. Furthermore, you can only hunt waterfowl until sunset, which means you squander that critical last half hour of daylight, when deer move the most.

That settles it. We’ll start the day in a duck blind.

How long we stay will depend on several things, like weather, temperature and how well the birds are flying.

Good weather for ducks is bad weather for just about everything else, so it will be an easy decision to stay longer if it’s raining or blowing, or maybe even both.

On bluebird days, when the sun comes out and the air warms early, the birds won’t move as long, so make the most of it, then move on to the next mission.

Mid-morning we can pretty much write off for bowhunting, at least for deer. They’ll be bedded down by now and won’t be moving much again until the shadows grow long and the air cools.

But feathered fowl are out and about.

To some extent your choice now will come down to personal preference. Will it be upland birds, or turkeys with a bow? As previously mentioned, the turkeys will be doing what they do for most of the day. Grouse, woodcock and the odd pheasant, meanwhile, will gradually reduce their activity as their crops fill.

Furthermore, you want to get your dogs on the scent before the sun and wind dry up the morning dew. It’s decided then. We’ll start in the cut-overs and up on the aspen ridges for native grouse, gradually working our way down into the alder thickets in hopes the migrant woodcock are in.

If, however, you prefer the stick and string to a shot string, you may opt to go for larger fowl. Turkeys have flown the roost and will spend much of the morning moving along, gleaning the forest floor of acorns, beech nuts and whatever morsels they can find, or stuffing their crops with clover.

Maneuvering around to intercept is a better option on field birds, while you may have better luck breaking up flocks and calling them back in the woods.

Noon is the slowest time of day for the hunter. As the sun reaches its zenith you have time to take a break, or not.

Thanks to the abandonment of open and closed seasons, fall sportsmen now have a great new opportunity available to them in the form of open water fishing.

Waters are cooling, so fish once again become more active.

Furthermore, most folks have put away their rods for the year, so even the most accessible waters are uncrowded. Skip lunch and go fishing for an hour or two.

The early afternoon is the other side of late morning; so you can flip-flop your options. If you hunted upland birds in the morning, now’s the time to trade scattergun for compound bow.

If you opted for a.m. turkeys, break out the dogs and the smoothbores and hit the covers for a couple hours. Just make sure you leave enough time for the final event.

As the air cools, you race home, put the dogs in the kennel, hang the morning ducks, mid-morning partridge and mid-afternoon turkey in a cool place, grab a quick shower and change into your camos.

Give yourself enough time to get into your tree stand and let the woods quiet down long before the deer should be moving — about two or three hours before dark.

Bowhunting is much more passive and relaxing.

As you settle in and reflect on the day, you suddenly discover the next dilemma: what will it be for dinner? You could have sauteed duck breast with a side of wild rice. Or maybe grouse and woodcock with some homegrown squash. Or cubed turkey breast dipped in butter, dredged in seasoned bread crumbs then fried.

A few fresh trout filets would go with any of the above, as they would with fresh venison tenderloins.

Decisions, decisions. Such is the life of an October outdoorsman.


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