This time of year there is a lot going on for the Maine hunter. Black bear is still open, archery season for deer is open and firearm season is right around the corner. Ruffed grouse, wild turkey and snowshoe hare are all open right now too.
Some of the folks who were lucky enough to pull a moose permit start their hunts in some southern zones on Halloween and fox opened a few days ago. Coyote, red squirrel and woodchuck are open year round!
If that’s not enough, waterfowl opportunities are in full swing with Canada goose and ducks open right now as well. With all of these seasons coming together to create the perfect storm, what’s a busy hunter to do? Multitask.
I love to hunt. I want to take advantage of every season I can and in Maine, that makes for an action packed autumn. Trying to find the time to do it all is the trick. However, when you find the method that works for you and implement your plan, it’s pure treat. Here are some of the methods I use to help maximize my time afield.
Grouping overlapping seasons
Put together a multi-species hunt plan that takes advantage of habitat, tactics and firearm type similarities. When going out for partridge for example, I may choose to hunt with a 20 gauge over under shotgun. The habitat I will hunt grouse likely will hold both red and gray squirrels as well. Snowshoe hare also share some of the same habitat. Just moving a couple hundred yards into the wood line here or down an overgrown skidder trail there opens up the hunting area and with it, opportunity.
Another example is when the 12 gauge shotguns need their walks. My Remington 1100 magnum semi-auto is great for turkey, goose or coyote. Again, I choose habitat like a field edge to set up. I can break up a flock of turkeys, sneak into my set up and start calling. Sometimes the turkey comes in, sometimes it’s a hungry coyote. Keeping turkey loads and coyote loads handy helps me to be prepared for either situation. I must sound like a wounded turkey at times because coyotes come in more than I anticipate!
I can also prepare a decoy flock ahead of time and switch over to non toxic shot for Canada goose, all with same gun, habitat and set up.
Some of my favorite multi-species hunt plans are:
- Deer, Bear, Coyote
- Fox, Coyote, Bobcat
- Grouse, Snowshoe Hare, Squirrel
- Turkey, Coyote, Canada Goose
- Ducks, Geese, Grouse
Hunt, Scout, Hunt
The hunt, scout, hunt method is something I like to do when certain seasons are approaching and you need to start your preseason scouting. Deer, for example, takes a lot of preseason planning, especially if you hunt in the north like me with no chance of an any deer permit.
As deer season approaches I’m usually moving into areas that I need to scout and focus my time there. While grouse hunting, I’m identifying and rechecking known game trails for deer sign. I also choose which locations I’m going to place trail cams and pick locations for tree stands.
After I set the cams, I run a “cam line” like a trapper does his trap line. Now though, I’m still hunting, hoping to catch a bear off guard while tuning up on my stalking skills in the woods. I can also hunt fat gray squirrels on the hardwood ridges where I’m looking for deer around oak trees dropping acorns.
When setting up in riparian edges for ducks, I keep an eye out for fur bearer sign. If you are good at identifying tracks, passing this info along to a local trapper may be repaid in spades with information he’s gleaned on his trap line. Now that is multi-multitasking right there!
Prioritize peak times
For obvious reasons, there are better times than others to use these methods. That is where prioritizing peak season times is important. When the bear over bait season begins, that area is off limits. My focus is on the bear, the squirrels can wait. Likewise, after opening day of firearm season on deer, my grouse gun doesn’t go anywhere near a tree stand area.
That doesn’t mean I can’t implement one of my hunt plans, it just means that I adjust my hunt. I’m still okay to walk a logging road that sees routine ATV traffic, hunting grouse or turkey. The deer are used to the traffic, it’s normal to them, as is the partridge hunting. They will not stand for me tromping near a bedding area though.
Just keep in mind which type of hunting pressures are common for different species and when, then prioritize the peak hunting times like bear over bait and the rut for cervid hunters.
With a little planning and a whole lot of studying, autumn hunting in Maine simply can’t be beat.