Before I took up the bow, deer hunting was quite conventional. You layered up with long johns and wool clothing, grabbed the .30-30, some shells, a compass and then you spent a quiet — usually uneventful — day in the solitude of the Maine woods.
Now, long before November, I hunt deer in September during the so-called Expanded Deer Season. This special season allows me to bow hunt deer in specially designated, and very limited, parcels of woodland that are adjacent to municipalities and residential suburbs. However you slice it, this early season hunt can only be described as “urban hunting.”
For a veteran big woods hunter like myself, there is a period of adjustment, I have found.
Urban hunting for deer is unpredictable and uniquely different in so many ways! A few years ago, I bow-bagged a nice eight-point buck within shouting distance of a middle school. To my surprise, the buck, and the doe with it, seemed unconcerned with the sounds of barking dogs and a nearby soccer game taking place on the other side of the small swamp.
My second urban bow deer was taken from a ground blind set up in a meadow not far from a secondary highway. The deer narrowly escaped death from a passing vehicle only to fall to my arrow, after the feathered projectile first passed through the fabric of the ground blind.
There are other hidden challenges associated with urban bow hunts for deer.
In an untried urban woods setting where there is ample fresh deer sign, I erected two tree stands about 50 yards apart — one for me and one for my wife, Diane, who also is a bow hunter.
The other evening, a cool, clear one, found each of us hunkered down in our respective stands, bows at the ready. We had a good feeling about this place. An old, overgrown thicket laced with still-productive crab apple trees, it had potential. There was a decent chance that the evening solitude would be broken by the crunch, crunch of an early feeding whitetail.
Just as the sun dropped beneath the tree line, the solitude was broken, but not by a deer.
Suddenly, abruptly — like a shrieking incoming mortar round — the invasion began. Our eardrums were assaulted and our love of quiet pummeled by the loudest, most stridently offensive sound known to a man or woman of my generation. Hard metal rock music!
Wham, wham, wham. EEEEEEEeeeeeeeee. Wham, wham, wham. You my baby, you my baby, you my baby. Wham, wham, wham. EEEEEEeeeeeee. Bam, bam, bam. Oh babeeeeeeee. Wham.
A vibration against my chest. No, not a heart attack. It’s Diane calling me on the cell phone. “You have to be kidding!” she whispers in my wincing ear. “Boy, you really know how to pick the hunting spots. What is going on?” she asks.
“Must be a pep rally at the high school. Hang in there, hon. Who knows, maybe it’ll get the deer up and moving,” I offer.
Mercifully, the reprehensible 10,000-decibel assault ended as abruptly as it began. I wouldn’t have to sneak through the woods and put a broad head into a large speaker after all. Solitude returned to the woods just as the magical last half-hour began ticking down.
My prayer of thanks was premature, however.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to high school football,” the announcer said. “Please stand for our national anthem.”
I stood in my tree stand, partly out of patriotism and partly because I have long wanted to bag a deer to a good marching band.
When Diane and I left our tree stands, the home town was leading by two touchdowns and a field goal. The deer never showed.
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He also is a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected] He has written and published two books: “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook” and his latest, “Backtrack.”