Two of the most important attributes of a successful deer hunter are patience and woodsmanship. It takes patience to wait out an opportunity and it is woodsmanship that often creates that opportunity by putting you in the right place and giving you the ability to recognize when something is about to happen.

Patience involves more than just enduring sometimes long hours of inactivity. You can spend that time reading a book or playing games on your smart phone, or you could pay close attention to what goes on around you. Often it’s the subtle things that prompt you into readiness.

Nothing moves through the forest without making itself known. During the early bow season, listen to the crickets. Over time their monotonous, high-pitched trill becomes background noise and you barely notice it until it stops. Something disturbed them and the silence can be deafening as you search for some indication of what it might be.

Other creatures also clue you in. Sparrows, juncos and thrushes stir along the forest floor searching for food and you pay them little mind until somewhere in the dense understory a cardinal issues several alarm notes, then darts through an opening, flushed by a larger creature. Or maybe it’s a jay that suddenly lights on a nearby branch and shouts a loud warning that something’s afoot.

Up on the oak ridge you watch and listen to the gray squirrels as they bounce from limb to limb, then stop to cut loose some fresh acorns. A few nuts fall to the ground with a thud, a sound that could stir nearby deer from their beds. You become accustomed to the sound of those squirrels bouncing along the forest floor or rummaging through dry leaves for fallen nuts. Then one scampers up a tree and begins barking a warning. Could it be a deer or maybe a predator?

The morning wears on and you begin thinking about other matters – chores that need to get done back home before winter sets in, a warm breakfast and a hot cup of coffee. But you know there’s still a chance. Now the game gets tougher as you glance at your watch and start setting deadlines: “Another 30 minutes,” you tell yourself.


A half-hour passes and despite the lack of deer sightings, or perhaps because of it, you remain. After all, it’s a beautifully crisp, clear morning. The squirrels and birds have all but ceased their stirring. The distant din of commuter traffic has abated and the warming of the air stirs intermittent breezes that rush through the canopy with a sound like distant waves.

You strain your ears toward some subtle rustling that seems slightly out of place. Then the wind ceases and so does the sound. Again the wind blows and again you pick up a faint noise. This time when the wind stops the noise continues. Something is scratching at the forest floor. Your pulse quickens just a bit, then races when you catch a glimpse of brown and white hidden among the greenery.

The opportunity is close at hand but it will take a bit more patience – often the hardest bit before a shot presents itself. And if it doesn’t, you’ll still call the morning a success and return another day.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at:

[email protected]

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