On a glorious October morning, the early rays of sunlight that had yet to reach the forest floor were fully illuminating the branches amongst which I was perched when a sudden commotion and the rush of frantic footsteps caught my attention.

I quickly grabbed my bow off its hanger and stood in one fluid motion, preparing for a potential shot. But instead of brown I saw white and orange.

The setter dodged this way and that through the alder thicket below for several minutes before more orange appeared, adorning a pair of shotgun-toting bird hunters. They were intently focused on the dog, so I gave a long, slow whistle, making my presence known without startling them. Once they made out my camo-clad shape among the greenery they waved apologetically and called the dog their way. I replied with an, “it’s all good” gesture and though I knew their intrusion was unintentional, it did mean a premature end to my bow hunt.

It happens. In fact, with so many fall hunting seasons overlapping it’s inevitable that one hunter or group of hunters will occasionally interfere with another. In most cases it’s unintentional and therefore easily forgivable. Still there are a few ways to reduce the probability of detracting from your, or somebody else’s hunt.

It’s rare that bowhunters interfere with one another, at least unintentionally. They hunt for the most part from a stationary, elevated perch, and typically know the areas they hunt well enough that they should be aware of the location of any other hunters. Still, I’ve occasionally seen hunters with bow in hand sneaking, albeit ineffectively, along on the ground. I even watched one sit on a nearby log and light up a cigarette. A quick whistle and a wave sent the red-faced nimrod on his way.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, I recall climbing into a favorite treestand one afternoon only to find someone else’s pull-up rope and bow hanger. The fellow even walked up to my stand later, presumably intending to use it. He apologized when he saw me, then asked how often I’d be using it, rendering me speechless. One of the cardinal rules of deer hunting is unless you have their express consent, you never, ever use another hunter’s stand. Ever.

Encounters like the opening passage are slightly more common, though still relatively rare and usually benign. The peak period for bowhunters is twilight – dawn and dusk. Most bird hunters don’t hit the woods until the sun is up; and they’re typically back at the truck well before sundown. Also, they know better than to head into a patch of woods where there’s a vehicle parked on the roadside. If every type of hunter followed that guideline we’d all have a more enjoyable time.

Fall turkey hunters are a rare enough bird that they seldom interfere with one another. Still, avoiding areas you know others are in is good practice. It’s also not a bad idea for the turkey hunter to wear a little orange while walking around, then switch to full camo only when needed. Sitting in a ground blind further reduces the chances of interference with other hunters or being detected by sharp-eyed turkeys. And here too, never use another hunter’s blind unless you have their consent.

Because they ply their avocation in such different environs, waterfowlers don’t have much to worry about except each other. Obviously, nobody should set up close enough to someone else that shot pellets from either party could strike or even rain down on the other. But you also should not set up close enough that your movement or shooting could take away potential shot opportunities.

For the most part, it all boils down to common sense and courtesy. Bird hunters bumbling through the brush might mess up a morning bowhunt but there will be other hunts. And finding your truck parked near their favorite woodcock cover might just as easily dampen their day. Seeing another hunter has set their stand near a favorite deer run can be discouraging, but give them credit for doing their homework and their leg work before you. Those sky-busting teens that set out their decoys just down the lake may frustrate today, but in time they’ll learn to save money on shells by waiting for better shot opportunities. Give others plenty of room and when conflicts arise, give them the benefit of the doubt. It can be frustrating but more often than not their bungle was unintentional.

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

[email protected]

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