Work For Your Deer
By Dave O'Connor

Aroostook deer are few and far away this year. I normally have to keep nylon deer fencing covering my green beans, my baking beans, my peas and several other garden crops. Once they are up the deer invade and soon have a feast, at my expense. Not in 2009. The deer are just a small bunch of backwoods survivors from hard winters and constant rain. I only know of a few southern Aroostook locals who have seen adult deer. No tracks, no crop damage, no deer...sometimes for miles.

I will still deer hunt, because I still love the challenge. I've seen poor years and wonderful deer seasons, just as I've seen great gardens and had absolutely lousy success in a Maine vegetable garden. Rodney Willette recently told me," Next year's garden is going to be a corker! It couldn't be any worse." Everyone seems to feel the same about deer hunting in 2009. One of the Smith boys, an avid deer hunter, told me,"This year will be hard, but I intend to hunt harder." I think he has the right idea.

Successful deer hunters will probably put in more hours and walk, sit, stand and plan a lot more in this season than they have for years. Easy hunting is just not possible unless luck plays a role in the toss of the dice. We all know hunters who will get a great buck the first morning. It could be luck. It could be planning. It could be skill. Those who do it regularly know the whitetail deer very well. It's not an automatic response.

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One year in the 1970s, following a coyote invasion and a huge amount of snow and cold weather we had a terrible success rate, locally, on deer. But, the "hunt until the last day of the season" guys and gals shot some huge deer. A schoolteacher frind of mine got a 226 pound ten pointer on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. He told me it was his eleventh day of "checking out the deer." Good checking Barry.

We are plagued by a loss of cedar swamps for winter survival. We are sent reeling by snow, cold, spring rains and lots of associated troubles...but, we are not beaten. The Aroostook whitetail will survive and again prosper. It's just the 2009 is going to be a year of looking for luck, chance, fate and fun. I have fun whether I see a deer or not. Several years ago I was on a stand "down back" on my own land when I saw a pine marten chasing a red squirrel. It was on the edge of a big hay field and I watched them chase, evade and finally escape for fifteen minutes. Great day. As I turned back to look at the field my neighbor, Don Perrin, a UPS driver, shot a huge buck in PLAIN SIGHT TO ME. I was watching nature, not hunting. Did I feel bad? No, I walked home, got the fourwheeler while Don dressed the deer out and came back to help him haul the deer back to his house.

To me, Maine hunters are like that. I also got a huge roast and some nice venison steak about a week later. Good going Don. Good going Dave. We both had a day of memories while out deer hunting. Success comes in many forms. Some days are diamonds, some days are stones or as the bible says,"Turn, turn, turn." I think the Byrds made that famous, too.

I don't know about you, but I fully intend to deer hunt this month... and smell the onset of winter in the Maine wilds. Whatever else happens is a bonus.

Dave O'Connor is an award-winning outdoor and travel writer with 45 years of experience. He is also a photographer, camper and arctic adventurer with more than 170 trips to the northermost reaches of the continent. He can be reached yeararound at :

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