I recently dedicated an evening of mine to a venture through the woods near Wilton in order to get a good hike in while the rain decided to subside over the mountainous region of western Maine.
Although it was overcast above the trees, and clouds pervaded the sky, I could tell the sun was strong behind them, and the atmosphere was incredibly pleasant to walk along. I decided to explore a tempting creek bed that I had discovered beforehand in order to find out where it went and to possibly locate some good deer hunting terrain. The small brook that I followed was flowing at a good pace with the help of the recent rain, and I enjoyed slowly making my way around certain bends and dreaming about particular segments of water that I knew housed a trout during some portion of the year.
I find it funny how some sportsmen will anticipate a season following the current one and plan ahead for the next go-around on the cycle of outdoor interaction. Although ice-fishing comes next, as soon as the New Year comes, I marked this area for spring fishing in a part of my brain that isn’t prone to forgetfulness.
As I continued along, I hefted a single-shot 20-gauge with a handful of shells in my pocket. The area, a rock throw away from the stream, contained some denser foliage with low bushes that a partridge might find enjoyable, so I cut a course along its edge. The other side of me contained a variety of hardwoods easy to walk through due to their more sparse distribution. Every once and a while I found a spruce or hemlock clinging to a towering birch, or tri-fecta of maples; these softwoods offered a contrasting color to what was otherwise entirely orange from the fallen autumn leaves.
I came across some country that was a thrill to explore, and I found myself looking over my shoulder to the west and cursing myself for leaving as late as I did; the sun was setting and I had no more than two hours left—I still had a reasonable amount of ground to cover. Many areas captured my attention and I frequently stalled by following game trails, looking for animal sign, staring at peculiar trees, and scanning the canopy of surrounding trees for roosting bystanders.
After a half mile or so of sauntering along, the sides of the creek I followed turned into the beginning of a meadow, and the stream split in to dreadfully slow pathways of water. Every once in a while I got close enough for a good look at the brook, and it was close to navy color; behind the hue I could detect the high sediment load and the mass amounts of silt that collected along its bed. These pathways began to make their way out into a causeway of water and crests of land that nourished stands of beech and maple and the occasional outcropping of alders.
This terrain is mucky, wet, and offers extremely difficult footing in places; one is frequently forced to jump across five-foot gaps of water in order to continue their desired course because the small brook will wind itself back and forth in front of them. I kept to the edge and kept my eyes out for a straight, limbless tree on the brink of this meadow that could potentially support my climbing tree-stand.
For the first time that trip I discovered an area heavily traversed by deer, betrayed by fresh tracks that left their impressions on the soft leaves and game trails that split through the long grasses. Spread some a distance away, I observed a couple buck scrapes where the deer tore the ground apart with its feet. It was easy to tell that I was going through the best terrain of the hunt thus far. The fringe following the stream (from a distance) continued to offer good habitat for birds, and the time was just right for them to start moving around and relocating to the trees.
Meanwhile, as my head continued to be consumed by a plethora of thoughts on hunting and gathering, I jumped for what I believe was a deer just to my right, where the vegetation was lush and dense. I was unable, however, to get it in sight. I assume it was a deer because it moved quickly away from me in heavy crashes. It could have been a moose, though I feel a moose would have been slower not only in evacuation, but in recognizing my presence as well. Not many creatures are more intelligent than the white-tailed deer in the Maine woods, and I must say that their giant relative the moose is certainly not one of them.
I wrapped up surveying the giant meadow, and ended a little hunting strategy going on in my head. The sun had almost set at this point and I had only the LED lights integrated into my hat to illuminate my way once dark set in. The journey back was as peaceful as the hike in, and I ventured even further from the stream this time. I made sure to keep a steady western direction in order to meet back up with my Civic parked on the road some distance away. Although the walking wasn’t nearly as easy as when in proximity to the stream, the scenery was beautiful and again I caught myself diverting from my course several times to do random things like peer over the side of a plateau and spying and investigating a mushroom colony that created a wig for a decaying green stump.
Although I spend a good amount of my time outdoors, each time I visit the woods it causes me to regret not dedicating even more of my time towards these escapades. When I got back to my car I was extremely pleased with how my hike turned out and the knowledge of new land that I had acquired. Have you ever thought that finding a special spot in the wilderness is like becoming acquainted with a new person? Maybe it’s just me. I came home without any birds in the sack, but when I arrived a friend inquired what I had been up to all day and I was able to say, “Today, friend, I found my buck I’m hunting this winter.”
Good luck to all the hunters out there and remember to wear orange. We aren’t like those lunatics from New Hampshire that practically run around in deer suits to not be noticed. Live free or die, I guess. Also, try to get outside to enjoy the scenery which people from states away are coming to see! We got it all here in Maine, folks.