The author, at age 14, with a brace of pheasant he took. Courtesy of Tom Roth

The 12th month is often called the busiest month. We have winter to get ready for, holidays to prep and plan for and a new year soon to usher in. But sportsmen and women don’t lament, there are still plenty of activities to enjoy.

The big news is for deer hunters. If you didn’t “get your deer” during the November firearms season, there are still two weeks to get out there during the muzzleloader season. From Dec. 2 through Dec. 14, hunters in this region can enjoy virtual solitude in the woods as they get one last attempt to fill their freezers for the long winter ahead.

Despite being in the southern part of the state, we may get a fresh tracking snow, and that gets the heart of any deer hunter racing. Deer return to their old patterns once the woods quiet, giving smoke pole hunters an advantage.

Bird hunters also have the whole month of December to chase biddies. Grouse hunters with dogs generally feel comfortable taking their prized pooches out again, given the small number of muzzleloader hunters. It’s still always good practice to avoid spots where you know a hunter is located, so look for parked vehicles.

There may still be a holdover pheasant stocked at one of the many release sites in the Gorham and Windham areas. Check the MDIFW website for release locations. Working the thick spots may just force a ringneck to erupt from their hiding place, startling the hunter like only a cackling pheasant can. A good dog is a huge advantage locating hiding pheasants, as these birds hold tight until you all but step on them.

I vividly recall the first pheasant I shot at age 14. I bumped the hen from a section of tall grass at a release site, and it took off in a line drive away from me. It was an easy shot, level and at eye height, so all I had to do was mount the gun, aim straight ahead and shoot. She crumpled neatly about 25 years in front of me and I was hooked!

Hare hunters have all December to chase their quarry. Again, a trained rabbit dog is invaluable, but a solo hunter can scare up the makings of a rabbit stew, or hasenpfeffer, as my grandmother called it. Rabbit hunting is best with a dusting of snow, so you can see where they have been. Looking for areas with low-growing evergreens will put you in prime hare habitat. Look for their tell-tale pellets. I say they look just like cocoa pebbles. Hare hunters can take four per day.

Small game hunters can also target gray squirrels all month. Many of us cut our hunting teeth stalking these elusive woods creatures. Far from their brazen city cousins, squirrels in the woods are hard to sneak up on. A .22 rifle or .410 shotgun makes good sport of these cagey creatures. You are allowed a bag limit of four and that’s enough to make a nice Brunswick stew.

It won’t be long when the big lake will be frozen and ice fishing will commence in earnest in this region. Until then, don’t get bogged down in the winter doldrums. Get out and get a in the woods at least a few more times before the end of the year.

Tom Roth is a freelance outdoor writer who lives in Raymond on the shore of Sebago Lake. He has been fishing and hunting in this region for more than 30 years and is a Registered Maine Guide.

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