Introduction

A tremendous amount has been, and is being, written about hunting whitetail deer. I, personally, have subscribed to four fine periodicals on hunting; one specializes exclusively in the study of deer and deer hunting (hence the name). I also own several books that address the subject, and do it very well. I have nothing less than profound respect for those individuals who have dedicated themselves to the study and hunting of deer, whose unimpeachable credentials are substantiated by their success. However, for those of us who live in the more populated parts of the Northeast, one problem persists: much of what is written about stand hunting is irrelevant.

The overwhelming majority of deer hunting celebrities who dominate both the written and video media are plying their trades in the South and Midwest, usually on large private exclusive leases where hunting pressure is managed, buck-to-doe ratios are kept balanced, and bucks are allowed to survive unmolested to three or four years of age. Of course, there is nothing wrong with this. Those who live and hunt in whitetail meccas are certainly allowed to offer advice, and those who do are worth listening to. The problem, however, is that many of us will never have the opportunity to hunt on private leases in places like Kansas or Missouri, and where we live it’s a whole different game.

Not only are there far more deer in the Midwest than there are here in the Northeast, but they are also much more concentrated. There the landscape is dominated by large crop-fields, broken by comparatively small tracts of woodland, with well-defined bedding areas. Available cover tends to be loaded with deer, and travel routes are easy to discern. Here, there are virtually no crop-fields, and the landscape is covered with forest. Often, bedding and feeding areas are poorly defined and intermingled; sometimes deer do not even bed consistently in the same cover each day. We have far fewer deer to begin with, and those that we do have are not nearly so concentrated, since cover is more prevalent and ubiquitous, scattering them over a much larger range.

The plight of the New England stand hunter is further complicated by the fact that (at least here in Maine) all private land is open to public access, unless clearly posted to the contrary. In contrast, such free access is not allowed in most states, where hunters who have permission to hunt on private property are able to do so unmolested by the masses. Here, all unposted land is the equivalent of public land, and the hunting pressure is brutal.

Throughout much of the country, private land is leased to hunters who manage it to maintain healthy buck-to-doe ratios, producing scores of large-antlered mature bucks, who strut around with virginal naivety. Here in southern Maine I see at least a dozen does (sometimes many more) for each buck of any size, and two-and-a-half year old bucks are battle-weary veterans.

Conditions really are sufficiently different in New England to warrant my suggesting that deer hunting here is a completely different game. I recently read an article by a well-known contributor to a popular bow-hunting periodical. In it, he opined about minimum standards by which, in different geographical locations, a deer might qualify as trophy-class: 130 inches of antler in such-and-such a location, 150 somewhere else, etc. His definition of a trophy whitetail in the northeast was any deer - buck or doe.

I have personally met people who have moved to Maine from Midwestern and Southern states, who expected the deer hunting to be similar here to what it was back home, only to be rudely awakened to the harsh reality that it is not. One young man comes to mind. Even though he had been an accomplished deer slayer in the south, in several years of hunting in southern Maine, he had only seen two deer, both does.

I have become acquainted all too often with frustrated beginners, as well as jaded veterans who have never had consistent success, who resign themselves to the “fact” that they can only expect to bring home venison occasionally. Such resignation is most unnecessary. Maine is not Iowa; Massachusetts is not Kansas, and they never will be. Nevertheless, there is hope. The puzzle pieces can be put together; sense can be made of the confusing conditions that exist in most northeastern whitetail habitat; the freezers of New Englanders can be consistently stocked with venison; northeastern hunters can even learn to take decent bucks regularly.

Bear in mind that, since New England is not the Midwest, “decent buck” must be defined accordingly. In my opinion, in the areas where I hunt, any buck that is wearing its second set of antlers is as much a trophy as a Pope-and-Young monster on managed land in Kansas or Iowa. Here in Maine, very few hunters ever pass up a shot at a legal deer, and yearling bucks are slaughtered each fall. Those that survive to see another hunting season are old beyond their years. For this reason, my definition of “mature buck” will henceforth include two-and-a-half year olds. Yearling bucks will be referred to as juveniles.

This book is written with two groups of hunters in mind: beginners, or those who have hunted relatively unsuccessfully for years and would like to take more deer; and hunters who have no trouble taking does and juvenile bucks, but would like some help learning how to take mature bucks more consistently. All the information contained herein will be relevant to the difficult conditions in the northeast, and is intended to help equip the average hunter, who works forty hours per week (even in deer season) to consistently put deer-hide on the ground.

You will notice that there is nothing in this book about specialty food plots or guided hunts. There is nothing wrong with either, but the majority of hunters do not have access to such luxuries. This book is written for the regular guy who does not own a woodlot and cannot afford to take a trip to Kentucky. If you fall into this category, then be encouraged: deer can be hunted successfully close to home.