For the past seven Novembers — ever since I joined the state’s league of orange-clad sneaky-creepers and tree-sitters — I have eagerly looked forward to shooting my first deer (and, to be honest, telling readers all about it).
Unfortunately, after a month of tree-sitting (I’m not much of a sneaky-creeper, it turns out), I can’t do that today.
Another season has come and gone. And so, apparently, has my deer.
This year, however, I’ve got a really good excuse.
I did plenty of research on the matter, you see. I talked to other hunters. I talked to biologists. I talked to game wardens.
All of them said the same thing: Deer were scarce.
You hear that?
This year, it had nothing to do with my fidgeting, nor my nonstealthy behavior. This year I didn’t call too often, nor too loud, nor too soft, nor not frequently enough.
I didn’t use too much deer attractant. Or spread it around too sparsely.
This year, I won’t even blame myself for smelling like a person instead of smelling like pine needles or acorns or some other spray-on cover scent.
This year, the experts assure me, my failure to fill a tag wasn’t my fault at all.
The deer just weren’t there.
Thank goodness for that.
Of course, the more I think about my deer season, the more I second-guess myself … even though my experts were nice, and put that handy “scarce deer” excuse in my pocket.
Last year, you may recall, I never saw a single deer during all my hours in the woods. Not one.
After that season, my annual unscientific one-man survey indicated that (surprise) deer had become extinct.
This year, the wily critters were supposed to be even harder to find.
And they weren’t.
I almost hate to say this, but according to my annual unscientific one-man survey, the woods were full of deer this season.
Well … nearly full … by comparison.
One day, a deer bolted by me twice. Coming and going. Either that or two deer bolted past in close succession, one coming, one going. I’m still a bit unsure.
Another day, a doe trotted directly to my tree stand, swerved around it and ambled up the ridge where I’d tried to convince Hunting Buddy to sit.
I had no doe permit. Hunting Buddy did.
But Hunting Buddy was somewhere on the edge of a distant swamp, sneaky-creeping, because he was convinced that my particular stand of woods was devoid of deer … or if there were deer, I’d certainly do something to scare them all away (toward the distant swamp).
Two deer in one year? In your woods, that might be a bad year.
In mine, it’s reason to celebrate, whether you get to eat one or not.
And there’s more.
Much, much more.
Like the red squirrel that decided to throw bark at me.
Like the woodpeckers that visited a few times.
And like the time I sat in another buddy’s ground blind and got to see something I’d never seen in the woods.
A flash of tawny brown in the distance caught my eye, and I watched as the shape silently moved closer. Closer. Then, finally, it stepped into the clearing and hopped onto a fallen tree just seven yards from where I sat.
The large bobcat sat there for a bit, staring me in the eye, apparently unsure what it was looking at. When I finally blinked, so did the cat.
A few seconds later, it hopped off the tree and retreated, just as silently as it had arrived.
No, I didn’t fill my tag this year.
That’s OK. The deer were scarce. Everybody said so.
But the more I think about it, seeing a little bit of something during a year that promised to be full of nothing isn’t really that bad.
In fact, it’s not bad at all.
Hanrahan to sign books
On Tuesday I mentioned Tom Hanrahan’s new book, “Your Maine Lands, Reflections of a Maine Guide,” among several holiday gift options.
In the coming days Hanrahan will travel around the state for eight meet-the-author and book-signing events at seven sites.
Department of Conservation Commissioner Patrick McGowan will attend some sessions, as will Will Harris, director of the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands.
If you’re interested in meeting Hanrahan and having a book signed, you can find him Dec. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Bangor Public Library on Harlow Street, Wednesday at 2 p.m. at the Augusta Barnes & Noble and Dec. 23 at 11 a.m. at Duke’s Barber Shop in Augusta.
Other signings are slated for Portland, Brunswick (twice) and Freeport (twice).