While most of us have oiled our long guns and put them away for another season, the muzzleloader crowd still has two weeks to hunt. For those of you who have tagged out already, you are part of a record deer harvest that will go down in the books. With only preliminary data in thus far, Maine hunters tagged 41,875 deer so far, not counting muzzleloader season which runs through Dec. 10. This just beat out the previous record harvest of 41,735 back in 1959.

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.

While a high deer population, estimated to be more than 300,000 animals, helps, a new method to get extra antlerless deer permits added to the high harvest. This year, hunters who did not receive an antlerless permit in the regular drawing could purchase one from unfilled districts. Some districts even had more permits than interested hunters.

After having been chased for four weeks straight (longer if you factor in archery season which began in September), deer are sketchy.  I noticed on the farm where I hunt that deer stopped coming into the fields two weeks into the season until well after dark. While I don’t muzzleloader hunt (but I think I’ll start next year), I would concentrate on setting up well within the woods of a field where deer are seen in the evening. These “staging areas” offer security rather than being in plain sight and offer the crafty hunter a shot as the sun sets.

This deer was elusive all season. Hopefully he will be back next year. Tom Roth / For Lakes Region Weekly

In built-up locations, deer push closer to houses during the hunting season. If you are on good terms with your neighbors and can safely shoot away from residences, these micro-habitats can offer some productive hunting. Just be certain of where you are at all times, and never shoot across the road.

Acorns were a big draw for deer this year, so don’t forget to spend some time where these nutritious fruits are still on the ground. If you can find a stand of oak before the snow falls and covers these tempting droppings up, deer will visit your locale at some point.

Hunters can still harvest grouse until the month ends, so there is reason to keep that scattergun handy. I’m sure the old birddog would appreciate one more romp or two in the woods. Although grouse are hard to come by in this neck of the woods, they are around. Grouse eat buds in the trees on a sunny December morning, so look up as much as you look down on the forest floor.

As the calendar gets swapped out for a new model and we look toward a new year, I’m already excited to see what 2023 brings. Good luck to those stalwart hunters this month and I hope everyone has a safe, happy and healthy New Year.

Comments are not available on this story.