The trick to hunting: always be learning

by Feb 13, 2024Hunting in Maine, Maine Deer hunting, Maine Hunters, Tree Stand Hunting, Whitetail Deer, Women Who Hunt

The trick to hunting: always be learning

I have hunted deer for more than half my life. Every season is different and I learn or observe new things all the time. It is how you get better and more proficient. This season, the lesson blew my mind and will stick with me for every hunting season to come.

During the 2022 season, I shot a doe on opening morning of rifle season. Maine hunters’ ability to shoot both a buck and a doe has allowed me to be more strategic about how I hunt.  I can focus on shooting a doe to put meat in the freezer and then hold out for a big buck.

The first two weeks of the 2023 season were fantastic.  It was during the third week of the season that I learned something new about my rifle and ammo.  I grabbed three new 180 gain bullets as I headed out on Saturday morning. My usual brand bullets didn’t pierce the buck’s hide the previous week and while we did find him, there was no blood even though it was a double lung shot. I figured that with these other bullets, I would get blood.

In the final hours of the day, two does walked up through the trees and crossed a trail.  They were feeding so I had time to aim my rifle at the next opening that they would have to cross. The smaller doe walked through first and then the larger doe.  She gave me a clear shot.  Putting my cross hairs on her shoulder, I squeezed the trigger.  The puff of smoke gave way to her still standing there.  She trotted up on to a ridge and stopped. I watched her through the scope, thinking maybe she would start to stagger and fall. But she didn’t act hurt. I shot again and still, she acted unsure of what was happening. She did not act like a hurt or shot deer.

Dad joined me on the ground as the sun started to set. I could see both deer still standing on the ridge.  I pointed and yelled to Dad hoping he would be able to see the deer that I could still see from up in the tree.  He took a few steps and two flags ran away from us.  Again, neither looked like they were injured.

I climbed down and we searched where she had been standing when I shot. No hair and no blood. While it was a different stand, she had been standing closer to me than my buck had been when I shot him.  It didn’t make sense. I had successfully shot my buck the week before with the same gun and in the same spot on the body. We searched and came up with nothing.

On Sunday, Dad called me with an update.  The bullets I had grabbed were patterning seven inches lower than the original bullets I had used when the season started. Seven inches! How is that possible? They were the same grain bullets. I wasn’t close to hitting that doe, I was shooting the ground!  After two decades of hunting, I learned something new. I will know now to either re-sight in my gun or stick the one type of bullet throughout the season!

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Meet The Author

Erin Merrill, author of And a Strong Cup of Coffee, is president of Women of the Maine Outdoors, a senior writer for Drury Outdoors, a contributor to the Northwoods Sporting Journal and passionate all things Maine, Hunting, and the Outdoors.

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