Hunting: extended archery a little more expensive than you think

The extended deer archery season – in very limited areas – opens on the Saturday after Labor Day and continues through mid-December. John Ewing/Staff Photographer

The moment of truth was near. A one-year-old doe was slowly walking towards me and was now standing just a few feet from the opening I hoped she would soon enter. A sudden noise distracted her and she turned her head to the right, eyes forward, ears pricked and legs stiff as she prepared for a hasty exit if danger presented itself.

Just 100 yards away, an owner exited through a back door to his patio, down three steps and then disappeared around a garage towards the driveway. The doe remained silent and rigid for several minutes before waving its tail to signal that all is well, then moving into the shooting lane. The near-silent shot was true and after a 40-yard dash she huddled under a stunted oak tree. Moments later, the owner returned to the garage, back up the steps onto the deck and into the house, completely unaware of what had just happened.

Many people’s vision of deer hunting in Maine is to cut the trail of a northern timber giant in the snow and follow it through miles of undeveloped wilderness. Many more hunters spend their time immobile, sitting on a stump or possibly on a raised platform overlooking a large field, grassy swamp, or block of mixed forest. There are also quite a few who ply their trade in areas and under circumstances that may seem unconventional to those unfamiliar with Maine’s expanded bowhunting.

The expanded archery season began in 1997 in an effort to reduce deer numbers in areas where gun hunting was considered dangerous or impractical, leaving deer population growth relatively unchecked . The original hunting area comprised a narrow strip along the south coast running roughly from Brunswick to the New Hampshire border. Hunters were allowed one deer of either sex in addition to the standard deer by any method during any season. The expanded area has since grown to include 10 more areas in places like Lewiston, Augusta, Bangor and the Coastal Islands, to name a few. The bag limit now includes one deer with antlers and an unlimited number of deer without antlers.

The impact of the bowhunter is relatively minimal. In 2019, they killed 2,180 deer during the expanded and statewide regular archery seasons, with most coming from the first. That’s less than a tenth of the total number of deer killed statewide, but the effort and harvest is concentrated in very small geographic areas where deer reduction is most needed.

Hunting conditions in the expanded area vary widely. In some areas you may be in large wooded blocks where you may be half a mile or more from the nearest house or road. In others, you might be close enough to see passing traffic and hear distant conversations, or watch people exit and enter their homes.

There is no need to worry about security. While an experienced and skilled hunter can shoot longer distances under controlled circumstances, most shots are made within a quarter of the length of a football field. Additionally, most archers hunt from elevated stands, so their shots are at a steep, downward angle. Failure simply results in a muddy fighter head.

Bowhunters are stealthy and stealthy; they must be to succeed. Most people who live in extended archery areas are probably unaware of their presence, but they do their job, helping to reduce damage to vegetable crops and ornamental plants and reduce the risk of disease from Lyme or collisions with deer.

Maine’s expanded archery season begins the Saturday after Labor Day and continues uninterrupted through mid-December. As noted above, bowhunters purchasing a license for either sex can take a buck or doe and multiple antlerless licenses. Hunting areas are scattered throughout the state, primarily in developed areas where deer depredation, property damage, and Lyme disease are more prevalent and where deer numbers exceed levels tolerated by the general public. Good luck to all bow hunters this season and stay safe.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered guide from Maine who lives in Pownal. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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Earnest A. Martinez