December 9, 2023

Just Sunset At a Maine Camp


Milt Inman Photo


The Sounds of Silence in the Maine Woods

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


It’s a Bug’s Life

When living “in the woods” one has to expect to share that space with all creatures, even some of the small ones that some people would find creepy and crawly. This summer has been exceptionally wet, with tons of rain and yes, more is expected tonight and tomorrow and into the weekend.

I don’t recall in the many years of coming to my camp, that there being so many worms/caterpillars as there have been this summer. We spend a lot of time on the tarp-covered deck and it appears that the caterpillars are taking over that too. You better look close before sticking a hamburger in your mouth. There’s apt to be a worm sitting there looking at you.

We have seen tons more birds about the trees as well, I suppose due to the increased number of things to eat.

Below are a couple of pictures of bugs crawling on the deck, table and picnic table.

Last night a bard owl was hanging around. This makes two evenings in a row. Likes to perch in the same tree and watch over the opening and grassy area we created here last year.

Over the years, I have been taking care of all the oak trees and managing the forest around them in hopes of having healthy trees that produce better nuts for the wildlife. Trees are looking good. They are producing acorns this year, although not in any sense a bumper crop. Some nuts have begun to fall and those that do look very small – perhaps because of all the rain.


Photo by Tom Remington

Photo by Tom Remington


Sunday Dinner

Yesterday was one of those rare days at camp this summer where it wasn’t raining (began raining just after dark last night and still raining). So, I fired up the fire pit, set up the grill and tossed on some bits of chicken. Yummy!


Photo by Tom Remington


All in a Day’s Work

Photo by Tom Remington