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A patron at the local diner recently mentioned to me that “hunting season” was about to start, October being just a week away. That got me to thinking and a check of the Maine 2012 hunting seasons show that things are pretty much already underway. The bear hunting season opened Aug. 27 and the Expanded Zone archery deer season has been open since Sept. 8. The permit-only moose season opens today in certain zones and continues through Nov. 10.
The regular archery deer season opens Sept. 29, with Youth Deer Day (Oct. 20), Maine Resident-Only Day (Oct. 27) and “Everybody Day” Oct. 29.
The Zone 2 fall archery wild turkey season opens Sept. 29 followed by the Zone 1 archery season (Oct. 6), and then the archery-shotgun season opens in Zone 3 Oct. 13.
The ruffed grouse, pheasant, squirrel and hare seasons open Oct. 1, while the raccoon and skunk (??) season opens Oct. 15.
Waterfowl seasons have been underway since early September for resident geese, and will continue in various splits and zones into January.
Point being, of course, that there is plenty to think about if you are a hunter looking for something to do this fall. Most of these sports (with the possible exception of skunk hunting) can occupy the better part of a day if you are serious about it, or they can keep you busy for several hours in the morning or evening if you are just a casual participant.
The young, intrepid types who try to participate in all of these seasons every day all season (which I often did myself back in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s) will wear themselves out making the effort – along with several pairs of hunting boots.
It’s almost a lucky thing that we don’t allow Sunday hunting in Maine, but Sunday fishing is still legal and trapping (which pretty much includes the month of November) is also legal. Factor in such things as scouting, game preparation and gear maintenance and it’s a sure bet that you won’t be doing anything around the house till it’s time to put up the Christmas lights!
I spent many a fall running from the deer woods to the grouse thickets to the beaver ponds to the apple orchards in an effort to participate in all the outdoor sports that are legal in October and November and finally came to realize that while it can be done, it’s not nearly as much fun as it sounds. Between the different clothing, equipment, strategies and tactics one must use to succeed at any given sport it’s a nightmare to try to keep up.
What confounded me most was the steel shot regulation for waterfowl, which requires hunters to possess only non-toxic shot when hunting ducks or geese. Before that law went into effect I could load my vest with shells and wander the woods at will, chasing woodcock in the alders, grouse in the birches and then black ducks or wood ducks in the swamps. Now I have to have one vest filled with lead shot for upland birds and then keep another loaded with non-toxic shotshells when I’m near the water. It’s true that one can use steel shot on upland species but those loads are invariably “high brass” magnums intended for thick-feathered birds like ducks and geese and will shred a relatively fragile grouse or woodcock when centered at close range.
My solution was to hunt waterfowl at dawn and dusk and upland birds during the day, which meant changing vests every time I entered new habitat. Toss in a little bowhunting for deer and then rifle hunting, trapping and even fishing at some point during the day and you can imagine what a tangle of gear and clothes I’d have in my truck.
These days I spend the mornings and evenings on some secluded beaver flowage hoping a duck or goose will fly by, and then focus only on deer, bear or upland game during the remainder of the day. I can do more and certainly have done so, but I enjoy pursuing one thing at a time far more than trying to chase them all at once.
Having said that, I notice that my list of necessary chores seems to have gotten shorter as the greater mix of hunting seasons approaches. All the painting, staining, building and fixing has been done, the firewood is in and the wood stove is clean and ready for the season’s first real fire. The ceiling fans have been cleaned and reversed (to draw the warm air in from the wood stove) and the back-up heating system is cleaned, primed and ready.
Slowly but surely I have made sure that all my chores, odd jobs and “to-do list” items have been completed, even though there are several weeks of good fall weather ahead. It’s as if I have been slowly taking care of all my late-summer responsibilities because another hunting season is just around the corner. Despite my good intentions and better judgment, I’m likely to try to participate in every season that’s open just because I may get only one chance to do so before fall, like summer, comes to its surprisingly rapid end.
I should know better after half a century in the woods but I am sure that I will try to do it all at least one day this fall, perhaps two or three times! One morning the day will start out with perfect weather for ducks, the afternoon will be ideal for grouse hunting, and then the hour before sunset will be perfect for sitting in an apple orchard waiting for deer.
Even after 50 years I can’t resist the many attractions of fall in Maine. The choices are many but the hours of daylight become shorter with every passing day. Before long the 2012 hunting season will end, and then all that remains will be the memories that were made.
Get out there and enjoy it while you can because it’s a long, long time till fall 2013!
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