Steve Beckwith - Maine Hunter

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Pre Rut...Rut...Post Rut Here We Come!

Once again I find myself working my calls during the rut here in Maine. Calling is not always a instant rewarding adventure, but when it works there's nothing like outsmarting any buck or doe, big or small, if you can call a deer into shooting range you are doing everything right!

Trail cameras can be your eyes while you're at work or sleeping the facts will be shown in the photos and the time and date stamps will be your tools to better chances! 

First you must reach way back into your memory bank and remember places where you have seen bucks, or that bucks are currently making ground scrapes, even scrapes & rubs from years ago or buck sighting from years ago in an area will be great places to return to do calling sequences later in life.

Doing your homework can pay off for calling during the rut! 

From my life's experience of being in the woods and observing everything to assist me with patterning buck and doe behaviors. I have found that each year or sometimes every other year deer will breed and "chase" during the pre-rut, rut and post-rut in the same areas of the woods, almost ancestrally. The best way to recognize breeding behaviors and the start of rut is by keeping a mental note of traffic in a given area, if yesterday the deer tracks were a single track or maybe two to four deer moving in a single line across the area and when you return the next day or two, three days later you begin seeing many random deer tracks all over the oak leaves or forest floor coming and going in all directions...chances are you have found the breeding or the "Chase" zone. Always remember these areas from year to year, as this activity is generally done after legal shooting hours by the darkness of night or moonlight, but these areas make great places to sit the fringes of during the rut.  Just sitting there might be productive for your hunt, but you will increase your chances of finding that dominant buck in that area if you do a little calling!

I have mentioned calling in previous blog posts, but my favorite calls to use during rut and post rut are "doe estrus bleat" calls. There are several I have used successfully, from the Lil' Can, Primos adjustable mini deer call, to electronic calls such as Extreme Dimensions Estrus Bleat and my now favorite my cell phone app called HuntPro, the Estrus Bleat works with or without a bluetooth speaker. The only time I use the Bluetooth speaker when calling is on very windy days, but, when all is quiet in the woods just use your cell phone on it's loudest volume setting with no remote speaker. It's perfect volume to call in a buck!

Okay.. you must be thinking... how often, how loud, when to call, how many bleats, do I use scents? The answer to scents is YES, use that doe estrus urine, I prefer the Wilderness Freaks brand and use it on every setup.
I also make mock scrapes using their buck urine inthe area deer travel and previously have made scrapes in from my current year and past scouting. Mock scrapes are simpl to make, I just use my rubber boots to dig up the scrape area down to the dirt and throw the dirt just like a buck would do when making it, I drizzle 1/4 of the bottle into the scape to start it off, then return daily or periodically to refresh it with buck urine and once a buck has visited my scrape, I start adding doe urine to it as well.

That same night I made this scrape, this buck below visited it!

When I hunt and call I keep my scent wicks about 18 inches from the ground, not up high in a tree branch because bucks travel with their nose to the ground and scent rises with the heat of a day, keeping it low is very important.
Calling Them In!

With calling... what has worked for me in the past is that you want to call as soon as you can see well enough to identify a deer and see them in your crosshairs or sights, you don't want to start too early and bring in that giant buck in the dark before you can see him coming, in my area of southern Maine, I like to wait until about 15 minutes before sunrise to actual sunrise to start my calling sequences.  I access the wind and noise in my area and if it's nice and calm, little or no wind, I use the estrus bleat call on my cell phone with the phone volume at maximum, or I will use the Lil' Can "Estrus Doe Bleat". Either one works great on calm days!  If the wind is blowing causing sound not to travel very far, I step up my cell phone call by using my Bluetooth speaker (I use a Bose SoundLink Micro Bluetooth® speaker, but you can use cheaper ones that do the same thing, I prefer the clarity of the Bose, plus it's waterproof. ) and start on mid volume.   My sequence is 3-5 bleats about every 5 minutes and I turn my volume up and down between each bleat, something like this, low volume on bleat one, bleat two up one notch, bleat 3 up two notches, bleat 4 back down two notches and bleat 5 down another notch of volume. This simulates the deer moving her head and body around as she bleats by changing volume.  On calm days I stick with about 3-4 bleats of the Lil' Can and do this about every 5 minutes until about an our after sunrise and then I stop all calling until 1/2 hour before sunset, I then use a "Doe Grunt" call with 1-3 soft grunts every 5-10 minutes until end of legal shooting time.

Below are bucks I have called in using Doe Estrus Bleat - electronic calls.

This deer above was called in using my Cell Phone Ap 

The deer above was called in on a very windy day using the 
Extreme Dimensions Estrus Bleat call on maximum volume!

The only calling I do between one hour after sunrise and 1/2 hour before sunset are buck grunts! When I am stalking through the woods (walking carefully and slowly)  I usually grunt about every 5-10 steps depending upon how quiet I have just walked, if I break a twig, I grunt and stop briefly before continuing on. When I jump a deer and physically see or hear deer running or blowing,  I grunt loud and quickly, many times deer will stop, look back or even start walking your way stamping their feet, trying to locate the buck they just heard!  When I am traveling to my to my stand after lunch time or if I am approaching open fields or powerlines in my travels, I will use a turkey diagram call and putt, yelp my way to where I am heading.

I have had very little success in Maine using the rattle call for big deer, but I have called in smaller bucks, does and yearlings using a fighting rattle sequence a few times when sitting powerlines just in the last 20 minutes of legal shooting time in Maine. Deer have jumped out of the woods looking up and down the powerline to locate the fight I simulated. I have filled more than one antlerless tag using this method in my life. So don't give up on using the rattling call for big bucks, because I know many hunters that have been very successful using rattling in Maine! But always remember when using the rattle call...there has to be at least a couple dominant bucks in the area you are rattling in for it to work, the more big bucks, the better this will work!

Well.. The rut is on and I hope some of my tips will help you out the next time you head into the woods to fill your deer tag! Always remember: Any person that fully enjoys the pursuit of his or her intended species with the end results being an accomplished and happy hunter regardless of sex, weights, bag limits or protruding extremities! Steve Beckwith - The Maine Hunter

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

To Hunt Fall Hens and Poults Or Not Is A Hunters Choice.

Let me start off this blog post with a favorite quote of mine that I live by:
Definition of a Maine Hunter:
Any person that fully enjoys the pursuit of his or her intended species with the end results being an accomplished and happy hunter regardless of sex, weights, bag limits or protruding extremities! 
Steve Beckwith - Maine Hunter

I had a client earlier last week and this client would only shoot a Tom, or the Boss Gobbler as he called it,  the client was 74 years old, with a bad leg and was limited on the type of terrain I could take him over, as well as being completely deaf and I had to communicate with him using texting sitting next to him. I enjoyed the gentleman immensely and he was an excellent sportsman, but it was a very trying experience for me as a Maine Guide. He only hunted with me for two days, sunup to sundown and each day the morning set ups were in a field/meadow that was picturesque and we even had a gobble on the roost the first morning, but both days the birds would not fly down into the wet grass of the field and they landed in the woods on dry ground. The land owner gave me permission to hunt only until 8 AM each day due to they had a horse riding stable that catered to disabilities and therapy riding lessons and started at 9 AM, so we could not stay or return when the birds hit the field in that area. We traveled for many hours and located many birds, most were hen flocks with poults and these birds were nothing this gentleman was interested in pursuing. We found several Toms but always on land we couldn't access or under someone's bird feeders. We sat fields in the evening hours for the roost, but of course they either didn't roost or were at the other end of the field from our blind. My client went home empty handed simply because he was not willing to harvest a hen in the fall, a choice he made and had to live with after paying my guide fees of two days. 


I haven't had much chance to get out and hunt this fall for myself, but between setting stands and scouting for clients, today Oct 10th, I got a morning to myself  and harvested two hen turkeys with one shot.  (In Maine you can shoot two birds in the fall of either sex.) It was an awesome adventure that after it was all over I thought, it sure would have been nice to have had a buddy along to see it all come together as I out smarted an entire flock of birds. My clients who wouldn't shoot a hen missed out on the excitement of the birds coming to the call, to each their own, but I love calling in any wild animal, male or female and outsmarting it, that is the challenge to me and always will be.
Many people ask me how I hunt in the fall. It's been many years of trial an error, but I have finally become quite good at succeeding on a flock of hens and poults in the fall.  First I locate a flock of birds by traveling the known areas birds live, travel and frequent, once I spot them I get ahead of them without being seen, usually I use the woods to get into what I call "The Zone" (Close enough to not be seen by the birds but not so far they can't hear my fall calling yelps and putts.) I set up quick and call like the audio file below. I will pause my calling 3-5 minutes between calling and don't call when I can see a bird, I let them hunt me down, with gun up and ready because there's too many eyes coming in quietly to move once you see them. I sit against a tree and if I can sit behind evergreens it helps to give me better cover.  Watch without moving a muscle and be ready, if I get busted and the birds alarm or run off, I will get up and try to move at them to bust them up, then sit back down for a few minutes and start to call again from a slightly different location, usually they will come back in to re-group with the flock and you may get your chance then. 

I have also shot many Toms in the past in the fall using a single Jake decoy in a field, (If I can get it set up ahead of a group of males without getting seen, I usually use the hills in the field to place the decoy when I can.) when they do see the decoy they will come running in at it so be ready if you try this set up! I know there are a lot of other methods for fall turkey hunting but this is just what works for me and I hope it helps someone else who is struggling with fall turkey hunting, I know I did for many years! 

(The audio is how I call fall birds in using my own vocal chords, no man made call used. It's rough calling but many birds have fallen for my "fall calling", some in the spring too!)

Good luck and Happy Fall Turkey Hunting!