My First Solo Turkey Hunt

I love to turkey hunt. It’s what got me hooked on hunting, but it’s never been a favorite for John. He’d go along, being the voice and calling in turkeys. I would sit waiting to take my shot. I never had to deal with any type of call, let alone trying to call a turkey while waiting for a shot.

After losing my job, I had nothing but time, but John had to work. I decided I’d take advantage of the time and do some turkey hunting on my own. For the last two years, I’ve been trying to learn how to use a mouth call. While I can do all of the calls on my slates, it’s entirely different trying to call and actually sound like a turkey using a mouth call. It takes a lot of practice and patience getting used to the feel of a call in your mouth. When I first started trying to call, the vibration was almost unbearable. I soon learned I needed smaller calls and then I started getting better.

Once I felt that I actually sounded somewhat remotely like a turkey, I decided to try going solo.

Turkey hunting solo is much harder that it sounds. Damn hard actually.

Add my bow to the mix and I had a challenge I really wasn’t prepared for. I’ve never shot a turkey with a bow, but I wanted to challenge myself.

For the past two weeks, I listened to turkeys gobbling. I had pictures on my game cams of turkey strutting every day at the same time. The tom had the biggest beard I think I’d ever seen.

The very first day out, I made calls. I called turkeys in consistently, but literally got busted every time I tried to draw my bow.

In an attempt to outsmart the tom, I went into my tree stand. I hung my bow and made my calls. I instantly had turkeys responding. The turkeys came in just as the deer I had shot came in. From my left, I heard them coming, but not one gobble. As they emerged, I decided I’d take whatever presented itself.

Five. Five birds busted through the bushes and straight out in front of me stood two jakes and three hens. They took one look at my decoys and started cutting and you could almost see the panic in their behavior. Before I reached for my bow, they spotted me. A few more cutting sounds and they made a sprint for the woods.

Just when I thought I was done, I gave one more call. And there it was. A gobble. A single gobble on a mission. That bird circled me from the left, up behind me and down to my right. There it stalled. I could call and get answers continuously, but I could not get that bird to come in close enough for a shot.

After it decided there was no hen, it lost interest and just stopped responding to my calls. The tom was gone. Turkeys 2, Staci 0.

After three days of chasing turkey with my bow, I decided to bring my shotgun along instead. I headed out back to find that longbeard that had been just out of reach each day. This bird had a pattern, but just when I thought I had it figured out, he didn’t show up. I followed the trails until I came along a ridge. I gave a call. Instantly a turkey gobbled back. I was at the top of a hill and no matter how much I called, that turkey wouldn’t go up hill. So I waited about twenty minutes and headed down the hill. I stepped behind this huge boulder that had a fallen fir tree on the top. I gave a call, and boom. That turkey was back answering and coming my way. I debated whether to stand or sit, then in an all out ditch effort to hide, I plunked myself on the ground in the leaves. My butt on the ground, legs stretched out and gun across my lap, I took out my slate and gave some soft purrs, and then raked the dry leaves.

That turkey came gobbling in. He was so close I could hear his feathers ruffle and puff as he strutted. He was directly on the opposite side of that boulder. I didn’t dare move. My heart was racing. I prayed to the turkey gods he wouldn’t come in on my right, since I’m right handed and was facing left. He strutted there but I couldn’t get him to cross over that rock wall to where I could get a shot at him.

Not until I decided one more time to make a soft call. Gun across my lap, I picked up my slate call and striker. As I look up, the tom hopped over the wall and stopped dead in its tracks. It saw me and there I was caught red-handed with my call in my hands. I dropped the call and drew my shotgun. I popped off a Hail Mary shot, but that bird took off running before I even had the bead on him. Then he flew. My morning was over.

Not to be defeated, I opted to try at another piece of land I have permission to hunt. I headed out. When I got there, I could see a group of turkeys strutting in the far corner of the field. Not to be busted, I made my way through the woods along the tree line, making calls with my mouth call. I had continuous answering, but they never ventured my way. I continued to work my way through the woods until I was past the end of the field. I slowly made my way to a group of trees where I would have good cover. I set up and made my first call. Immediately I had an answer. The birds (yes, there was more than one!) kept coming and calling. And then there was no sound. I sat waiting, just giving some soft purrs. I sat silently and motionless.

And then I saw them. They were making their way right to me! The birds crossed out in front of me. As they stepped behind a tree, I pulled my gun up and made ready. When the first bird stepped out from behind the tree, I shot.

My bird dropped, and the other took off leaving his buddy for dead.

I was ecstatic. I had my first solo bird.

I carried that bird out to my truck along with my gun slung over my shoulder. I was just about drained by the time I got him there, and somehow, I managed to lose my brand new camo hat. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t gotten the monster tom. I got a bird, and I accomplished my goal.

I’m already practicing my calling for this year. I have my spots all picked out. I have a new hat. Now if only I can find the time to take a couple days off from work. That big tom is still around, and I’m a bit smarter this year. I hope that if you’ve never tried turkey hunting, that you’ll give it a try. I’ve already told my friend, that I’ll take her. We haven’t gotten one yet with her as the hunter, but maybe this will be the year!

My First Stab at City Hunting

I was never keen on sitting in the city with the thinking I wouldn’t be able to hear anything.

If you can archery hunt, then you can hunt expanded archery, which is simply hunting within city limits designated as Expanded Archery zones. It requires an additional permit that you can buy online. What’s great about expanded archery is that you can tag deer in non-expanded archery zones, then you can buy a permit for an anterless deer permit, or a permit that allows for either antlered or anterless deer, and continue to bow hunt the remainder of the season. So you really can get more than one deer a year! Since I got my doe in a rifle zone even though I got it with my bow, I am considered “tagged out”. I didn’t get nearly enough time in the stand, so I figured I’d give this city hunting a try. I won’t get into the bullshit regulations that local municipalities try to enforce, which in my opinion defeats the purpose of making the area an Expanded Archery zone in the first place. Hubby has had landowner permission for years. That should cover it.

John has been hunting expanded archery for over ten years, so he has the information on where to hunt. I was never keen on sitting in the city with the thinking I wouldn’t be able to hear anything. I’ve been so used to having minimal traffic noises that I just couldn’t imagine it being a positive experience.  Au contraire mon ami!

My first spot sitting behind a fallen birch

John showed me where he hunted, and we set up a blind with fallen boughs and branches near a fallen tree. I went out the first morning expecting not to see anything. Not only did I get to see the sun rise, but also, I got to see four does. Unfortunately I had made a big circle to get to my blind and as soon as those deer hit my travel path on the knoll, they followed it right away from me. But I saw deer!

Good morning from the city!

I couldn’t go out every morning because it’s just too far into town, then back home in time for me to get ready for work…and that damned time change… really put a wrench in my hunting schedule.

A few days later I sat again. I heard a buck grunt, but I jumped it. Two days later, I got in very early. This particular parcel gets lit up by city lights so even when it’s pitch black out, I have a hard time getting in there before it feels light. I sat myself closer to where the four does had traveled.

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I pitched my chair behind four birches and was facing towards them which is also in the direction of their travel. I gave a blow on my buck grunt. In a matter of seconds I had deer practically running at me…from behind. I made a 180 degree swivel in my chair and readied my bow. Only problem was that the front doe saw me even though it was barely light. She made an immediate 180 degree turn and bolted. I tried to get a shot on the second one, but before I could line up my peep sight, she too bound away. I listened as their  walking around in the leaves for quite some time just out of sight of me. They never blew their warnings, but they never came back either. An exciting morning for sure! Now if only I could face the right way when they come in.

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In an attempt to change things up, we tried another spot “at the top of the hill”. I sat under an ash tree that was directly beside the biggest buck rub I had ever seen. In fact, there were several buck rubs in a nice line that I could see from my chair.

Sitting there, I heard a noise to my right. As I turned my head, I got a glimpse of the hind end of a deer. She was on a run. She stopped when she went to pass the small sapling I had sprayed with doe urine. With her body aligned with a larger tree, all I could see at first was where her belly stuck out on each side of the tree until she moved closer…at about 15 feet away, I drew my bow to ready a shot. I peaked around the the tree….the tree between her and I. Just as I peaked, so did she. We looked at each other. I tried not to blink. She wasn’t fooled and in a flash, she turned on her heels and bound away flashing her white tail my way.  Again, I saw a deer.

Now I know what you’re thinking….she can’t hunt for crap…well keep in mind, I’m still a newbie at this bow hunting thing…and it’s not just about getting a deer. However, I’ve seen way more deer this year than I’ve seen during rifle hunting, so I’m happy. I’ve had some great experiences seeing other wildlife too. I’m enjoying my time in the woods and I’ve discovered I can block out those noises that I dreaded and really concentrate on hunting. I can safely say city hunting is just as exciting as “regular hunting”.

We’ve moved to another spot in the zone, so perhaps my luck will hold out and I’ll not only see a deer, but I’ll actually take a shot at one.

Wish me luck!



More Bear!!!

I had been dreaming of bear hunting all week, and I can hardly sleep at night! With hunting scenarios running through my head, I imagined what it would be like to finally have a bear…Saturday has been too long coming!

I Can Hardly Sleep at Night!

John and I decided to change things up this year. The plan was to bait only once a week. I had been dreaming of bear hunting all week, and I can hardly sleep at night! With hunting scenarios running through my head, I imagined what it would be like to finally have a bear…Saturday has been too long coming!

Mr. Lefty

Well, plans change occasionally, and this week, I couldn’t bait on Saturday because I was attending the all-women guide school course in Augusta that Women of the Maine Outdoors organized. As I sat there all day, I wondered if John had seen any bear on our baits. Were they still hitting? How many? Any big ones? Any sows with cubs? So many thoughts filled my mind about the fact that I wasn’t there helping and that I was also missing out on the adventure with him. To my delighted surprise, John decided to wait for me and we went up to the mountain on Sunday. Even with the threats of thunderstorms and rain, I was excited…giddy in fact.

Too little…I’ll pass on this one.

Prepping to get there takes a considerable amount of time. I brought an extra change of clothes, new batteries for the game cameras, new SD cards to switch out, and a jug of ice water to keep us hydrated. I helped load the  bait, caramel, nougat, scents, and grease. In no time, we were on the road; after a quick fuel stop and breakfast to fuel our bodies, we headed to the mountain. We had only one quick rain shower on our way so the woods weren’t too wet. Riding in wasn’t bad this time either. We re-distributed the weight of the bait so that the four-wheeler was less tipsy. There’s nothing better than riding down the dirt road in the wild and smelling the sweet smell of anise oil and bait.

IMG_20160816_214232269_HDRWhen we arrived at my bait site, we found all the bait gone from the blue barrel, most of the grease gone, but some pink nougat still left. The bears had been there every day taking turns throughout the day and night getting some much needed food. We still have one skinny one, but he just appears young, not tick infested as some other hunters have suggested. In the middle of the pile of bait left outside the barrel was the most beautiful 6 inch-ish wide bear track I’d ever seen. This was from a BIG bear. My heart raced as I wondered if it was Scrapper. I wouldn’t be able to tell if it was since I had crushed my digital camera the week before, so I no longer have a way to check cards until they go into the computer. Dang!

Little white patch on the throat…he’s a new one.

To my delight, we believe there are FOUR (eeekkkk!!!) bear visiting my site. One in particular does not like my camera. He’s chewed and gnawed on it several times. Luckily Moultrie built it right and it’s still hanging on….not a scratch on it!! Even after he spun it around the tree, I was lucky enough that he spun it BACK to almost where it was in the beginning. Note to self: camouflage that camera. We weren’t so lucky on John’s bait. A bear finally hit it, but he also attacked the camera and although he didn’t break it, the camera wasn’t facing the bait for the last three days. As last week, I’ll post videos on my Facebook page since I can’t put videos here. Be sure to check out the bear bathing itself in the grease!

OMG…biggest bear ever!

I sure hope I find a way to sleep before I start sitting in my stand; the last think I need to do is fall asleep and miss one! This weekend’s forecast looks spectacular; I can’t wait to see who’s come to eat this week.

We Have Bears!!!

Week One

Waiting all week to check the bear bait has been hard, but I think our new strategy for bear baiting is going to pay off. Instead of baiting during the week, we only bait once a week on Saturday in the early part of the day. No more after work baiting so that we don’t push bear out.We’ve never had bear come this early. It’s probably due to the lack of natural food since it’s such a dry summer. I also have my bait site in a stand of beech and it looks like we may have some beechnuts this year.


We bring our four-wheeler to do bait. The sites are far into the woods and despite my being more of involved than ever, there’s no way I could lug bait in that far. However, the machine is too back heavy with the basket filled for both of us to ride. After I did wheelie up the trail, I let John drive the rig and I walked.

IMG_20160806_114252427When we arrived, the bait site was trashed. The barrel had been ripped from the tree and rolled a few feet away with bait dumped. All the trees were clawed up and the caramel was eaten. They didn’t spend a lot of time on the nougat, but did like the grease.

Not only do I have bear, I have three different bear coming to my bait, and at all times of the day. It’s fascinating to see their different characteristics and to see what makes so unique. I have a small bear and two larger bears. One bear can get his head in the barrel, the other two can’t. One is left handed and one is right handed…how cool is that?!

We set our camera to videos this year which is really cool to see them in action. I’ll post videos on my Facebook page where you can check them out.

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The small bear, probably last year’s cub, is the most skittish; he/she was in the bait site about the time we arrived to bait on Saturday. Most of his/her visits were in the early morning 7 am but this day, he/she was there around 11:00 am. We were in there a half hour later. Our camera actually caught the bear taking notice of us arriving and its subsequent leaving. I’m sure it was just hanging out in the outer edges of the woods waiting for us to leave. I won’t be taking aim at this bear unless he/she puts on considerable weight between now and hunting season.

The bear that ripped off the barrel.

One bear is quite fat and the other quite lean (the one that ripped off the barrel) but definitely taller than the smaller bear. I’m hoping they’re hungry enough to stick around until it’s hunting season. Both of these bears are older and bigger than the small bear. I’m guessing a couple hundred pounds and more pounds to put on.

The bear that is left handed

So Scrapper didn’t make a show, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be back. The sow that had the three cubs last year and showed the year before also wasn’t back. I’m glad we don’t have a sow with cubs on the site…yet. We have three more weeks of baiting before I get to sit in my tree stand, and a lot can change between now and then. As for John’s bait, he had no hits. I guess with all the bear activity, we’ll be bringing our handgun with us next time.

John topping off the nougat into the pail at his bait site. I put out lots of grease and anise and caramel scent to hopefully lure a bear in.

Oh, and my nifty new blind’s poles that make it round…broke in the wind. I was pretty bummed since it’s supposed to be weather sturdy. I’m still hoping it works for me…I already have new improved poles coming free of charge from the company.

Until next week, I’ll be dreaming of my future bear hunt, and prepping for my September moose hunt.



Bear Baiting Season Begins!

I swear, every year I get more and more excited about bear hunting.

Bear baiting begins one month before we actually get to hunt. I swear, every year I get more and more excited about bear hunting. I haven’t been able to actually get a bear, but none the less, I enjoy every minute of the process, and the experience in the stand waiting for a big boar to show up.

Last year’s bear site

This year, we moved our bait sites and eliminated one of them. It was too stressful to decide where to sit when all three sites were getting hit, and it seemed like the third bait only made the bear come less to the sites we wanted them at. With increasingly more human traffic on the mountain, we decided we needed to head deeper into the woods. I had only had my other bait site for two seasons, but moving it in deeper will mean a better chance of seeing bear during daylight hours. This year’s bait sits on top of a mountain in a beech tree growth. Claw marks from where they’ve climbed on the trees are everywhere, so I’m extra excited. I’ve already had moose and deer using my trail so I look forward to a wildlife filled hunt.


Black bears are naturally nocturnal, so to get a bear to come out during the daytime, it has to be very comfortable with its surroundings. In order to eliminate the interruptions we usually create by baiting during the week in the late afternoon, we’ve left enough bait in the barrel so that whomever decides to visit, will have some bait to come back to, and we’re only checking baits on Saturday mornings for now. That may change if the bears don’t come around. I also have an ace up my sleeve if the season drags on and no bear come during daylight hours…but I’ll keep that to myself for now.

This year’s site all baited.

My new site is a good quarter-mile into the woods, so we use the four-wheeler to bring in the bait. This year, we bought one barrel of bait to supplement what we had left from last year, but for now it’s lots of yummy cinnamon, frosted danish and muffins from last year. Along with sticky marshmallow nougat, and grease in smaller pails, the bait is left in a big blue barrel. We also put out a wick of anise oil that smells like strong black licorice for those of you who have never smelled it. Bears have incredible sense of smell so the scent acts as an attractant to get them coming to the bait site, and the bait hopefully keeps them coming back. Hopefully, but no guarantees.


My secret weapon for 2016


Speaking of sense of smell; last year, I worried I was too open and that my scent let the bear know when I was there. The wind was constantly changing. So this year, at the 2016 Sportsman’s Show in Augusta, I found and bought the hanging tree blind I had regretted not buying the year before. This blind will provide me with extra scent protection, and now the bear won’t be able to tell if I’m in the tree or not since I won’t be seen in the blind, and I won’t be rained on! My tree stand is situated so that my back is to sun, so in theory, the bear will squint from the sun if it looks my way. A strategic move on my part, I hope!



Let’s hope I don’t have the sow and three cubs like last year.  As much as I enjoy seeing cubs and a sow, I don’t want to meet them in the woods, and I would never shoot any of them. I really am hoping my big old boar, Scrapper, comes around… or another big boar would do too.

Last year’s sow and cubs making their rounds to all of our bait sites.
Scrapper my night bear.








I’ll be keeping you up-to-date with happenings on the bait site and as I hunt. I hope I have exciting stories to write about…and eventually bear meat in the stew pot! Wish me luck!

Skunked by the Deer

Well, first of all I have to apologize for being so delinquent in my posts. The rest of deer hunting season followed by muzzle loader season and then the renovations among holiday preparations have taken their toll. I am behind, and in more than my blog, and Christmas is only three days away. I haven’t wrapped a gift or baked a cookie. However, my new fireplace and living room look and feel fantastic! I’m extremely proud of our work and can’t believe we got so much accomplished with our crazy schedules.

However, I’ve learned to adapt and life moves on whether we’re ready or not so why not just go with it and not fret over it. I can’t change it, and in fact, I wouldn’t change any of my life for the last year. I fully love my life and the chaos that comes with it. With each change and event, we grow as people… as hunters, parents, and human beings.


So, despite the fact that my six point buck returned at night only just before the season ended, I was happy to know he’s still around. I hunted him hard, but he outsmarted me. I jumped him numerous times in different spots but never got a shot because it was always too dark. The last time I jumped him was the last night of rifle season by my Buddy stand. I heard that familiar deer running sound, but couldn’t spot him. I pulled up my gun and looked through my scope hard. Nothing. I thought he had run off, but three more steps and I heard him again…heading towards my other stand. He never blew and just pounced away. I did see his his tail, the beautiful white tail flipping the bird and laughing as he pranced away. I could have taken a shot, but in reality…I say ‘he’, but I didn’t see antlers so it may very well have been another doe, and I couldn’t take that chance.

IMG_20151121_082238038_HDR.jpgMuzzle loader season only produced more does, and without a doe tag the best I could do was take a picture. Although I hunted every day except for one, I came up empty handed. I’m pretty hardcore, and can tolerate a lot, but when rain poured down on me as soon as I headed into the woods, I turned around and came right back in. Rain and black powder guns don’t mix well even when they’re modern, and I wasn’t prepared to sit in the rain only to get wet.

IMG_20151123_080428846John got a nice buck so we’re not meatless this winter, and we won’t totally break the piggy bank buying meat. I’m counting on rabbit hunting to bring in some more. We’re totally in love with our rabbit pot pies and I have a freezer full of them for winter.

We’ll be ice fishing soon, but other than our trip to Moosehead Lake in February, I’m not much of a participant. It’s hard to believe that as much as I love fly fishing and fishing in general, that I would be so apathetic about ice fishing. It may have something to do with the bone chilling cold, freezing cold wind and water on my hands, and not liking thin ice that has me thinking there’s got to be something more fun to do in the winter.  I used to ski until my knees wouldn’t let me any longer. I like to ice skate, but I suck at ice skating–and rollerskating for that matter. I broke my wrist roller skating so I’ve been banned from any skating all together. I have snowshoes, so when the snow finally falls, I’ll probably try snowshoeing where I hunt so I can get some  exercise.

Winter is the toughest time for this outdoor girl since I don’t like being cold and my asthma is at its worst. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not ready to give up. I’m not going to dwell on 2015 and beat myself up for not accomplishing what I set out to do….it’s not like I didn’t try….The bear and deer may have skunked me for 2015, but 2016 will be different in many ways…and I’m only beginning.

I’m not one to make resolutions so I won’t even go there. I started a healthy lose weight program before I saw my Miss Maine Sportsman calendar photos which would have pushed me over the edge much sooner…and I’ve lost 16 pounds…but I have much more to lose before next spring when I cast my fly again and my WISH is to be considerably smaller by spring.  My other wishes: to take a trapping course so I can trap with John next fall, shoot my first bear, snag another moose permit, and shoot my first deer with my bow.

I sure do miss fly fishing…and now my wishes are answered…. I just read that since there is no ice and it’s been so warm, that open water season has been extended but few fisherman are taking advantage…Well, damn it. No one told me! Perhaps I can convince John to take me to the river. The water may be cold, but my waders will keep me dry and warm. Perhaps I should be wearing my waders ice fishing?

Whatever your 2016 holds, I hope you’ll get out into the outdoors. Try new things, face new challenges…and never, ever, give up, especially when it comes to mice….I’m up to 15 and I have resorted to using pink mint marshmallows as bait.


Learning to Archery Hunt-Patience and Persistance Revisited

parker bow
This is what my bow looks like.
My oldest son’s pibold, taken with a bow. (c) S. Warren

In order to evolve as a hunter, I’ve taken on the task of learning how to bow hunt. I am the only one in the family who hadn’t tried bow hunting, because I didn’t have a bow…until my youngest son dropped over $800 on a new one. I inherited the grow-with-you Parker bow that we had bought him for Christmas a few years ago. I am fine with that since I am cheap, and a tune up is definitely cheaper than a new bow. After finally getting a proper fitting and a tune up at L.L.Bean, my bow is now officially ready to use to hunt.My dream is to get a buck. A big one…maybe even a pibold like the one my son got a few years ago.

I was thinking this was going to be easy-peasy-deer-in-the-pot, but I soon found out that couldn’t be further from the truth. Reality check in process!

I know your’e thinking, “Can this girl even hit the target?” Yes, I can hit the target, and given the chance, I might actually be able to take a deer with it. I bought some broad head points for a lethal shot, and lighted knocks so that I can find my arrow after I shoot it, if I ever get to take aim. On my first trip out, I was very optimistic and thought I’d have a deer in no time.

After spending so much time bear hunting in ‘real” wilderness, hunting behind the house is painful, but it’s helping me adjust to the noise in case I do go to the city. I really do live in the country, but I also live along two major routes that intersect at the bottom of the hill..oh yay…cars, trucks, motorcycles, dump trucks, tractor trailer trucks…all going by. Add wind, rattling leaves, barking dogs, construction, mowers and you have the idea. I even bought the Expanded Archery license in case I need to go hunt in the city for a deer where I can harvest a doe and still be able to harvest a buck behind the house. The benefit of the expanded archery season is that it goes until December 31st, past the last Saturday in the November of the rifle season and it’s a two week extension into muzzleloader season. I’ve shot deer with a muzzleloader in the past, but if all else fails I’ll be hunting in the city. My plan is to have some deer meat in the freezer this year one way or another!

Hunting with a bow is much more challenging than I realized it would be. It’s not the bow itself, but all the gadgets, and the odd shaped size that turns my stealthy walk into my stand into a clumsy wobble into my stand. I think I managed to catch every stick, limb, fern and leaf possible with the cams of the bow in my travels. Trying to climb into my stand with a bow in my hand is stupid to say the least. Yes, I tried it, and I made more noise than I thought possible..and it was daylight!  I can’t ever imagine trying this in the dark before daylight.

My new release to pull the string on my bow. It folds back to be “out of the way” which is a total advertising lie. It’s still very much attached to my wrist and makes noise no matter how I fold it.

Note to self: You can put the release on after you get in the stand so it doesn’t clink every rail of the ladder as you climb. My stand is hid among a bunch of fir, hemlock and spruce…with lots of branches that now need to be cut so I can use a rope to pull my bow up the proper way…and that darned quiver (arrow holder) is noisy too, so off that comes, but where to put it? The last thing I want is to drop that with my arrows, so I also need to put up a bow holder…and I have to fix my shooting lanes because I have none for a bow shot. My setup works for the rifle, but I need much more space to shoot a bow.

One of my main problems is that my bow hunting pants and shirt don’t offer up enough pockets for all my junk I tote along for the hunt, and I can’t throw a bow over my shoulder like my rifle. I have to have my windicator spray, deer scent and container, buck grunt, doe bleat, flashlight, phone, and on colder nights, I also need gloves, a neck warmer and a hat..and one pocket on my pants just doesn’t cut it. I have a backpack to bring, but that’s too noisy for mornings…SO I’m back to trying to store everything in my camo jacket liner.

buck grunt
Buck grunt to mimic bucks in rut.
doe bleat
Doe bleat to mimic does in heat. Calls in bucks. Anti roll edges which is new and very important…nothing to roll off the treestand.

If you’ve ever hunted in the morning, sound is amplified ten times more than in the middle of the day. Every leaf crunches, every movement makes noise, and every breath, every pulse seems to be there for you–and deer to hear…and that means every little bump, clink, swish of a leaf can be heard.

So, for now, I’ll keep you posted on my progress. I’ll need lots of persistence to get thru this clumsy phase. I’ll need lots of patience for the noise I have to contend with as I sit for what seems like hours in my treestand. There will probably be more stories of my being busted due to my clumsiness than deer success…and I will most likely switch back to my rifle in a couple weeks. For now, I’ll make sure I use my harness and hope for the best and enjoy the sit before it gets too dark and cold.

After all, it’s the adventures in the process, not just the harvest.

Bear Season Ends and All I Get Are Moons

Scrapper giving us the Full Moon. Notice you can’t even see the barrel. (c) S. Warren

Bear season ended pretty quietly. The bear never came back until two nights before the baiting season closed. The temps were low, the weather good and sunny during the day, and I sat hoping to see the bear. Any bear. After all, I had plenty of bear on my site at night. The Cuddeback camera failed again and although we knew there was a bear there the night before, we had no pictures to verify the time. The final night revealed just how big Scrapper is, and he topped it off with a proverbial moon of his own, as if to be laughing at me as he finished off the sticky nougat. A younger bear showed up at 6 am in the morning on the last day to get a few bites before the big guy came back that night. The only reason we know this is because we took our cameras down the last day so when we went back to remove our stands, all the bait was eaten. Makes clean up easier…but then again…we’re not done! Scrapper hasn’t won yet. We were amazed to see the exact tracks Scrapper took to come into the bait…they walk in the same tracks every time they come into a bait site. Perfect impressions in the forest floor and mud tracks to show just how big he really is. This will be a challenge and we may not be successful, but it will be another new adventure.

Nice sized bear. Note the nice perfect ears…not Scrapper. (c) S. Warren

Trapping bears, which we’ve never done, ends October 31st. John trapped for many years but hadn’t found the time to keep doing it. With a few papers signed and notarized and all permits purchased, John is now a licensed trapper, and he’s going to try to trap Scrapper. I can’t trap because I have never held a license before, and an apprentice license can only be obtained if you trap with someone who’s trapped for the last three years…so at this point I will be an observer. Hopefully it will be exciting!

So bear season for me ended. However, I got to see the Blood Moon, lunar eclipse and super moon whatever you want to call it…I loved it…and I even got to see a few shooting stars as I watched the lunar eclipse unfold.

In my frenzied moments of anxiety when no bears present, I also spent a good portion of the season investigating Maine mushrooms. This is new field of study for me, yet I find it entirely fascinating. It’s a lot like searching for fossils. Identification and the satisfaction in finding a species that you can actually eat makes the finds seem like treasures. As it turned out, my backyard yielded many lobster mushrooms, which I am trying to figure out how to freeze for future uses in my rabbit, partridge, and just maybe bear dishes. I can’t wait to find others that I’ve only read about but haven’t managed to find yet. Onto my next adventures…bow hunting!

Lobster Mushrooms…yes they are edible! I found all of mine under oaks. (c) S. Warren

Patience & Persistence

Raising three kids, I’ve had more than enough time to say, “in due time”, “eventually”, “at some point”,  “in the future”, “be patient”, “never give up”, “don’t quit”…yet these are words that I’ve had to remind myself to keep in mind on more than one occasion this bear season.

After a banner opening week of bear baiting with bears on two baits, the last thing we expected was for the bears to disappear. I mean they DISAPPEARED! Two plus straight weeks of nothing. We checked and rechecked with no results. We used more scents than I could ever imagine. We sprayed, greased, stocked, and topped off baits…nothing. Mother Nature graced Maine with abundant natural food this year. Berries, choke cherries, mushrooms, apples, beechnuts, acorns…the list goes on… so no matter what we offered, we just couldn’t compete with what Mother Nature was offering up. Then Mother Nature gave us an extra kick in the gut with temperatures in the 90’s.

The actual bear hunting season kicked off and while some hunters were sharing their successes, many were also expressing the same frustration…no bears. That gave me some comfort, but not much. I was feeling totally defeated, and while some hunters were choosing to sit on cold baits, we weren’t and that was making the anxiety even worse…What if’s consumed my mind. What if they came in, what if they came in during shooting time, what if they never come back…We weren’t even sitting, but the clock to the end of bear season was still ticking. No bears and oppressive heat meant our chances of seeing a bear was pretty slim.

Contemplating what the season will hold, John and I enjoyed a backyard campfire and family time with youngest son. Patience again required as it took three times to get the fire to actually burn. Sitting under some of the darkest skies I’d seen all summer, I watched shooting stars; probably leftovers from the meteor showers earlier in the month. Watching for the possibility of another required patience and a good neck to stare at the sky. My patience was rewarded with six shooting stars that night.

Scrapper returns. (c) S. Warren
A new bear showed up. Not as big as Scrapper, but a nice one. (c) S. Warren

And so persistence and patience along with Mother Nature helping has paid off. The temperatures have finally dropped, the berries have gone by and bears are looking for calories. We finally have bears back on the baits, and more than one and none are sows with cubs, so we’re excited. We even had a bear show up in the middle of the day when we were working. We’re hopeful, but we must still remember to be patient and persistent. Meanwhile, please be patient with my postings. Bear hunting is very time consuming, and this full-time working girl gets tired.

Daytime bear 12:15 on a Thursday..Gahhh! Young bear trying to avoid the bigger bears that come in at night. (c) S. Warren
Same bear that came in before came back after Scrapper was in. (c) S. Warren

A Rude Awakening

Me and John ❤

October is my favorite month. In fact, my husband John and I were married in October. We had initially picked the first Saturday in November to get married, but that was supposed to be the first day of deer season, so we bumped it back a week earlier so not to interfere with hunting. After all, nothing should come between a man and opening deer season. (I didn’t hunt then so it really was all about him.)

As luck would have it, the October date turned out to be the first year that Maine decided to make deer season earlier…and you guessed it. We were scheduled to be married on the first day of hunting season. After putting my foot down that I was not going to take a black marker to the invitations and change the date, John conceded and we got married as planned.

The first day of hunting season has always been a huge event in our family, so when our youngest son finally turned 10, John wanted to be ready to take him out. Friday afternoon was an iconic picture perfect Maine fall day. The sun was shining, and the Indian summer was in full force. John had scouted beforehand and decided to put up two hanging tree stands overlooking a well traveled deer lane on a knoll not far from the house. Buddy stand

When I first started hunting, we didn’t have many tree stands and we considered ourselves resourceful when John built some, since anything was better than the old rickety nailed on tree stands of the past. We owned hanging stands, and some of those were homemade. We also had some screw-in tree steps, some strap-on ladder steps, and homemade ladders to get into our stands. Ladder stands were the newest thing on the market and we had purchased a “buddy stand” which seats two people, to use when John and I first hunted together. I really, really like that stand.

The majority of the time, I used the homemade or a combination of the homemade stands since we had several places to hunt and we wanted as many options as possible as the season went on. When I look back, it’s amazing I even continued to hunt given how hard it was for me to climb into stands. I really thought John was testing me because some of these stands were so challenging to get into. I was always athletic and strong, so realizing I couldn’t climb into these stands as easy as I thought I could made me try even harder to succeed.

I had the stand that had strap-on ladders, that led to climbing several feet of hemlock limbs only to be totally spent by the time I reached the actual stand. More than once, I’d have to stop and catch my breath, take a break and pray I wouldn’t fall out of that tree. By the time I finally made it into the stand, I’d be a wash of sweat.

Another stand we still use requires climbing a pine about 25 feet high to get the stand. I’ve only climbed that tree three times because it literally takes all the strength I have to climb it. This big old tree overlooks a swail grass area known for deer crossings. After climbing tree steps, I have to hold onto limbs so big it requires me to hug the branches, not hold onto them with my hands. Every step has to be calculated so that I can step onto my stand, and unlike a lot of my stands, coming down is just as scary.

Then there was “tall stand” because it was in a tall tree. It was located down in the bog which wasn’t some place I craved to be. It consisted of a small maple tree with it’s top broke out and a board perched on top of it. After climbing screw in steps set too far apart for my short legs, and then shimmying up two pine saplings I finally made it onto the platform where I threw myself across it and lay there trying to figure out how to actually maneuver into a sitting position.

And finally, there was the tree that wasn’t that bad to climb into, except that I had been sick with the flu for a couple days and when I sat in the stand, the wind blew so hard that the tree swayed back and forth all night; it moved and bent so hard I had to hang on in fear of falling out of the stand. I’m not sure if it was the flu or the swaying, but I was not a happy hunter.

That’s right, I was afraid of falling out of all those trees because not once did I ever wear a safety harness or use any type of system to protect me from a fall. None of us used a safety harness.

Getting ready to bear harness in place!
Selfie….Getting ready to bear hunt…safety harness in place! (c) S. Warren

Rude Awakening Day: On October 30, 2009, John had found the perfect spot to take our youngest son. He remembered he had a stand already hanging from the previous year, so he decided to check it out. Climbing about twenty five feet up the tree, he hung the second stand next to the existing stand. Then he cautiously climbed onto the existing stand. He tested the tree stand as he hugged the tree, putting his weight on it, and then gave a couple jumps. “Good to go”, he thought. He settled into the stand and looked out over the oak stand, just enjoying the fall afternoon view. A minute later, all our lives changed.

The tree stand made a loud snap; it was the weather-rotted strap breaking. John fell to the ground, landing with his back onto a stump. He laid there unable to move. After what seemed like forever, he rolled over onto his hands and knees and began coughing up blood. He knew he was hurt and had to get out of the woods fast because he didn’t think anyone would find him. After not being able to reach anyone with his cell phone, he decided to walk out. John made it to his truck, and then he drove himself to our house. Our daughter rushed him to the hospital in Waterville. After being examined, he was transferred to Portland for trauma care for seven days. He suffered broken vertebrae, ribs, shoulder blade, a ruptured spleen, punctured lung and several smaller breaks and bruises.

D55SRC_V068.C01031.061__FG=1750,FT=31471,NIR=1,GM=41,  EV=40,PY=28,DY=51,GB=0x80,SG=0xc,EL=584,AEY=193,VC=255,VT=0
John baiting before he sits in his tree stand. Note the climbing harness is on. 😉 (c) S. Warren

Fast forward to today. John is lucky to have come away not crippled or permanently injured from his fall. He still hunts, but he and none of us hunt unless we wear a safety harness. “I never thought I needed a harness, but I’ll never go into a tree stand without one now” says John, “and I’ll never use a tree stand that’s been hanging for a long period of time.”

We also gave up our homemade stands, not because they weren’t sturdy, but because the price of metal tree stands have come down. We change our straps every couple years and never leave them hanging anymore. We’ve added Prusik knot life lines to the big pine and I only use ladder stands now. I’m a much happier hunter knowing that not only can I climb into stands but also my family is safe from tragedy.

Bear hunting season is about to begin and that means the beginnings of sitting or standing in tree stands, so when you go out this season, please use a safety harness system. Happy Hunting!