December 1, 2022

The Sounds of Silence in the Maine Woods

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The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife can hype the return of the state’s whitetail deer herd all they want, but I’m here to tell you that in the area where I have hunted whitetail deer annually for near 40 years, it remains bleak. In addition, the forests are mostly void of much wildlife.

This hunting season I covered more territory in Maine deer hunting than I have in several of the past years. I felt pretty good and my back and left leg seemed to be cooperating this year. Personally, I spent perhaps close to or above 40 hours hunting, almost never sitting and absolutely no time sitting in a tree stand. That’s not my thing. I grew up a stalker or still hunter and I shall probably die a stalker/still hunter.

As far as deer are concerned, I actually spotted 2 deer and heard one running away (boy was I dumb on that particular hunt). I had no special permits and therefore was restricted to the harvesting of antlered deer only. Neither deer that I saw could I positively identify as having any antlers. Both deer live another season.

While seeing only 2 deer in 40 hours of hunting is embarrassingly dismal, it is 2 more than I have seen in the past 5 years. So, perhaps there is hope for the future.

In roughing out some figures, I would estimate that total hunter participation was around 200 hours of hunting time. Of that 200 hours very few (maybe 6 hours) were spent in a tree stand. If my calculations are correct a total of 9 deer were spotted and some of those were the same deer. No shots fired.

That’s pretty pathetic when you stop and think about it. That’s over 250 years of whitetail deer hunting experience in the woods of Maine and nothing to even tell for stories.

To be honest, let me make sure readers understand that I am talking about the area I hunt, comprising perhaps as many as 700 – 1,000 acres in Western Maine. It is my understanding from some reports that deer in Southern Maine and portions of Central Maine are plentiful and hunters are having good success. This is not the case for Western Maine.

As a matter of fact, the forests in this region are void; the sounds of silence always echoing about. It’s eerie.

In the near 40 years I have hunted these woods, I have always enjoyed stopping to sit on a rock or a stump and just listening to and taking in the life of the forest around me. On more than one occasion I have had chick-a-dees land on the visor of my hat as I sat perfectly still. On this trip, it was a rare event to hear or spot Maine’s official bird.

40 hours in the woods and I spotted an occasional chick-a-dee, 2 blue jays, I heard one pileated woodpecker in the distance, saw or heard 6 ruffed grouse and 2 red squirrels. One afternoon I hunted down in front of the camp, what once was pastureland, along the edge of a swamp and for about 3 hours I never heard one sound…..not one! It was deathly quiet. A clear day, little to no wind, plenty of sunshine and moderate temperatures and not so much as a bird or creature of any kind moving about. It was quite uncanny.

While I never heard the baying of coyotes at night, everywhere that I traveled there was always coyote scat laying under foot. This was never the case in years prior to the dogs’ infiltration, and like many other long-time Maine hunters, I can only conclude what is logical: the coyotes presence has turned the woods into a useless place for wildlife to dwell and hunters to hunt.


Photo by Tom Remington