When hunting season for upland birds began on Monday, many of us began making plans to head afield — maybe with a loyal bird dog — and enjoy one of our favorite times of the year.
For others, bird season means slowly riding the dirt roads, watching for the tell-tale silhouette of a ruffed grouse.
And none of us — none — ever head into the woods thinking that this might the day that we shoot another hunter. But unless we consciously think about that possibility, and make plans to avoid situations that could cause a tragic mishap, we’re asking for trouble.
Two cautionary tales to consider: On Monday, opening day, Maine game wardens responded to a scene in Gorham where a 55-year-old Casco hunter had been shot in the face by another bird hunter or hunters.
According to a news release from the Maine Warden Service, “the victim had a brief interaction with two men after he was shot. The two men, who were not identified, quickly fled the area.”
The man was taken to the hospital and treated for non-life threatening injuries, and the two men were eventually found and questioned.
On Tuesday, wardens scrambled to a hunter-involved shooting in Township 15, Range 9, southwest of Fort Kent.
According to the news release, a 67-year-old woman was hit in the leg by birdshot fired by her husband.
The woman was hit by three dozen pellets when her husband fired through heavy foliage. She, too, was treated for non-life threatening injuries. Neither the husband nor the wife was wearing hunter orange clothing, which was not required. (Bird hunters are not required to wear hunter orange except during the firearms season for deer or when hunting in a wildlife management district that is open to moose hunting).
Two incidents in a season is too many. Two in two days is downright alarming.
And I’m certain that none of those involved headed into the woods thinking they’d finish their hunts would go so drastically wrong.
That’s why it’s incumbent on all of us to make safety a priority every time we head afield.
It’s our responsibility to know our targets, and what lies beyond. Our shotguns or hunting rifles shouldn’t be pointed in a direction that we don’t intend to shoot.
And while the law doesn’t always require hunter orange, donning an orange hat or vest is often a good idea.
These autumn weeks can be among the most glorious of the year. Go outside. Enjoy them.
But do yourself a favor. Make safety a priority, too.
On Monday morning, the second wave of moose hunters will hit the woods for a six-day season. In all, 1,095 hunters will be hunting, making this second session the busiest of all Maine moose seasons this year.
The hunters will be spread across 19 of the state’s 29 Wildlife Management Districts, and each of the hunters will be focusing on bull moose — there were no cow or any-moose permits allotted for the season.
As I’ve previously mentioned a time or 10, I’ll be among those lucky hunters. My sub-permittee, Chris Lander, and a sizeable pack of friends and family members will head up to Brassua Lake in WMD 8, and hope to have a memorable trip.
Our goals are flexible — we’ll look for a big moose for a day, but will reevaluate and look for smaller critters as the week progresses — but one thing is certain: Our menu is well-planned, and we’ll eat like kings.
And if we’re successful early in the week, and fill our moose tag, we’re fully prepared to switch gears and spend the rest of the week looking for grouse … and eating the remainder of our food stash.
Here’s wishing good luck to all of the moose hunters.
Send in your local meals
Since we’re talking about hunting and food, it seems like a great time to mention hunter’s breakfasts. And lunches. And dinners.
Each year, many civic organizations and clubs sponsor hunter’s meals, and plenty of hungry folks (hunters and non-hunters alike), flock to them.
As has become our tradition, we’ll do our best to make sure that nobody misses out on their own local hunter’s meal.
But we need your help. If your club is holding a meal during deer season, send us the details so that we can let our readers know.
You can email those notices to the address below. Be sure to include the time and date of the meal, and the price. Menu items are optional, but if your feed is especially epic, including those details might help you draw an even bigger crowd.
John Holyoke can be reached at email@example.com or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke