T Nation

Any Experienced North Woods Hunters?

Good morning T-Nation brain trust.

I’ve decided that this is the year I begin to hunt seriously. My stepson is taking a serious interest in it (bagging a monster turkey with his bro last week sure helps) and I’d like to make it something we do together for a really long time.

My experience up until this point has been what I’d call “casual”. I’d go along with my uncle on backyard hunts as a kid, learned how to field dress a deer, scout for tree stand locations with him, stuff like that. I’d occasionally venture out into the woods with friends to shoot stuff at other times in life, but these were unorganized boondoggles at best.

Right now I’m struggling with budget and whether or not I want to pursue both archery and firearms hunting. My uncle is a high-level bow hunter, a great resource for getting started and he’s pushing me HARD in that direction. He’s all about scouting his spots and setting up mobile tree stands with a walk-up setup. He’s got some impressive trophies with the bow over the years, so his success is obvious. I was proficient with a simple recurve as a youth, and he assures me that I can get proficient with a compound before October with a little bit of practice.

Gear-wise, my uncle’s two pieces of advice were to buy a used high-quality bow appropriate for your draw length and weight AND buy nice, not twice on your treestand. He was adamant that this is the best product on the market and ADAMANT that it is worth every penny. Apparently he’s sunk a few thousand into similar products over the years before he found his Goldilocks.


One of each of those for me and my kid already puts me at $800 worth of hunting equipment. I’d like to keep this under $2,000 for this year, at least.

That brings me to firearms. Different seasons, different permits from archery and it’s possible to hit your total bag limit in archery season. My thought for a north woods big game rifle is a Ruger American in 30-06 with a relatively inexpensive scope like a 3x9 Leupold. I don’t have a lot of experience with scoped rifle shooting but I’m not anticipating any 400-500 yard shots. I like the idea of a heavy bullet that can punch through a little brush and take a moose if I win a permit, but this is all theoretical for me right now. What I most like about that is it is a $500-600 game harvesting setup that should work fine for shots out to a few hundred yards for me.

I’m not sure what to get for a bird gun. I may go cheap here as well and get a used Mossberg 500, but damn if I couldn’t talk myself into a Browning Citori really easily. The other possibility I’m considering is investing heavy in archery and just grabbing a cheap, used shotgun with barrel swaps for birds and slugs for deer.

Outside of gear and other “getting started” type of advice, I’d appreciate any other tips for hunting the vast north woods of Maine and similar habitats. Moose is a distant possibility due to low lottery odds, but deer, turkey, pheasant, quail and grouse are all definitely on the menu. I’m an experienced woodsman and backpacker but I’m sure there’s plenty to learn about hunting that hasn’t even entered my mind yet.

Any an all advice and feedback is appreciated. Thanks!

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following - very limited hunting experience (wandering in the woods of South Carolina when I was stationed there with some good ole boys I was friends with) but have a few friends and family members who are equally interested in getting started.

Not quite N Woods Maine but not TOO far away.

Biome-speaking I’m actually on the edge of the northern mixed hardwoods biome and the boreal forests that take over as you go north. It is similar but still quite a bit different from the type of land I know how to scout, which was the flat midwestern woods and wetlands I grew up around and hunted with my uncle.

Monster bucks a-plenty there. Corn-fed!

Obviously not in the North Woods but I will weigh in. Are wanting to do this for fun or for food?


My gravitation towards a cost-effective game harvesting rifle and/or shotgun setup is to make sure I have a viable food supply, should my bow-hunting methods prove ineffective.

Bow hunting in Maine has the obvious advantage of being in October and having a full month to have a crack at the best deer before rifle, crossbow and shotguns can join in. Cheap to practice, too!

I live in the deer hunting capital of my state. Our deer are small and every year bow hunters seem to wound and lose as many as they take. Not saying anything is wrong with using bow, just be damn sure you know now before you do it. If you wound one you have to track it, a rifle is the easier of the two for a good clean kill for a beginner.

A 30 06 is going to blow a big chunk of meat up if you don’t make a good shot. Nothing worse than a bunch of bloodshot meat you can’t use.
Instant ass chewing by daddy if you wasted meat with a bad shot.

I don’t know how much you already know so I hate to keep rambling. Do you how to tell of he’s in rut? What to do after it’s on the ground? Etc…

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This was my general concern with bow hunting as well, at least in my first year. Am I good enough? That’s part of why I think my uncle is so big on his lightweight easy-climbing tree-stand. That’s how he gets close most of the time. I am very certain in my patience to wait for a shot I’m confident in.

This is part of where I’m torn with my hunting firearms. If it was just deer I’d go with a smaller caliber for sure, but what if I win a moose permit? The odds are low, but I wouldn’t want to take a .243 moose hunting. I’m also considering entering multiple moose lotteries in the region and even Canada once everything opens back up.

I could afford specialty firearms for each type of game I intend to hunt, but I’m trying to keep this whole enterprise in a reasonable year 1 budget. I may go off the reservation on shotguns though. I’ve always wanted a nice piece of steel and walnut.

I suppose what I’m looking for here is anything I’m not going to learn in hunter safety or basic information I’m likely to come across as I knowledge up on this subject. You know me well enough to know the level of detail I approach a new hobby, so whatever you think you can add, have at it!

I know a guy that is a former bow hunter (deer specifically, he still bow hunts carp). The reason he stopped is due to the low kill to injury rate. He had one or two that he shot in his bow career that he never found and felt guilty about. He still hunts with a gun.

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The .30-06 is a fine round and there are great rifles for it, but I’d recommend the .308 or, more precisely, the NATO 7.62mm. (They are not exactly the same thing, but close enough for your purposes.)

The .308 shoots flatter, is about the same power as the .30-06 (depending on the load of the .30-06, which can be majorly goosed), and is just an easier round to deal with. It’s also a hair cheaper. Probably less hamburger from a shot.

There are also far more weapons that shoot the .308/7.62, so you can branch out to really accurate weapons or serious self-defense weapons like an AR-10, later in life. Endless accessories, like a FLIR site (with programmed drop computer) abound.

I’ve shot and killed endless white tail and elk with .308. I’ve even shot a moose and brown bear with a .308. Some people say you should have something more exotic for either (say, like a .300 Weatherby), but both dropped instantly.

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I understand not wanting to break the bank. If you are hunting deer for meat just make a neck shot. Nothing gets up and runs if you break it’s neck. Whitetails have a nice little white patch right under the head. When it looks at you, aim for that. No wasted meat and instantly on the ground. If you are wanting a mount then pull back and shoot right behind the shoulder.

When you approach make sure it’s eyes are OPEN. You can tell it’s soul has left. If they are closed it’s not dead. And yes, you may have to put around round in it’s head. A deer wounded deer will fuck you up! If it’s dead, cut it’s throat. Let it bleed out. It will make the meat soooo much better.

Never shoot a big buck in rut IF you want meat.
It will smell and taste so bad you can’t even cook it. His neck will be swollen. The little patches of hair between his back legs, like at his knee joints, will be very dark brown because his pisses on them and rubs them together. That’s where bad vension comes from. Even for deer, pussy makes them stupid!

I’ve looked at .308 as well, and it was probably my 2nd choice for many of the reasons you listed. Self-defense wise I’m covered with 9mm and .223. I’ve been training with those for years and I’m quite confident I could harvest a deer with a red dot on my AR, but I’d rather get a purpose-built hunting setup. I want something that can reach out a little further and place shots a little better, especially since my eyes aren’t getting any better as I head into my 40’s.

The only reason I was leaning 30-06 was due to stories of performance in thick brush. There’s a lot of thick growth in parts of Maine and the reasoning is that a heavier, slower 30-06 will lose less accuracy than the faster .308 as it dings off of twigs, branches, etc. I have no idea how much truth their is to that or practical accuracy considerations there really are, but that was my thought process.

@ChickenLittle Good practical things to remember, I like it! Thank you!

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I am not a hunter. I’ve never been, and have zero interest in doing it. But I have a ton of relatives and friends that hunt all of the time. My grand-father went moose hunting every year and what I know about it is this: you better have a large calibre side arm just in case. If there’s a rifle issue, you need a hand cannon as a backup when hunting moose. I don’t know how that affects the budget.

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I have 7mm Rem Express for this. My dad made it for me when I was a kid and cut the barrell down to take a little weight off of it. It’s a freaking cannon… lol

I suppose it depends on the load, but at .30-06 is typically a faster round by 100-125fps.

The older .30-06, is, however heavier.

The two rounds are almost identical in power (with the .30-06 having a slight advantage). But the .308 flies much flatter and true due to its shape, so it’s actually more accurate.

Again, either is perfectly fine for short distances.

My main point is the .308 weapons are more plentiful and a deal is far more likely to be had, if economics are truly a pressing issue.

If nostalgia is the issue, I get the preference for the .30-06. I tend to wear a Schofield .45 long Colt pistol my great grandfather took off a cavalryman than accidentally ran into the blast of a double barrel 10 gauge one day somewhere just outside of Ft. Stanton. Poor guy.

I think you misunderstood what I meant by stories. I’m just talking about a local redneck I know explaining why he liked a 220 grain 30-06, which is to say it punches through the brush better (according to him). I have no idea how much truth their is to that, but it seems sensible. If not for that sole consideration, I’d be firmly .308.

I just don’t know how much weight to place on little anecdotes like that. It is kind of like when I got into serious lifting. I knew I wanted to be a serious lifter but I had to navigate all kinds of advice from people who were not, or maybe weren’t any good at it without knowing how to filter good information from bad out.

If I go “nostalgia hunting” (and I almost certainly will, just maybe not year 1), I’m getting a 30-30 or 45-70 lever gun with iron sights. I want a grown-up Red Ryder. Maybe year 4 or 5…

A little misunderstanding, but more an assumption that the redneck was having nostalgia. The heated fight between these two rounds has been going on since the .308 was introduced. Truth is, they are extremely similar at short ranges. That doesn’t stop gun blogs from filling up pages of conflicting BS.

Again, I can’t stress this enough: both are perfectly fine. It’s a personal preference thing. Go “try on” some guns and pick the rifle that fits YOU best, then figure out if it is a .308 or .30-06. Either is the correct choice.

30-06 is a great all around caliber because it packs power and (more importantly) the flight path is pretty level. It’s easy to hit anything accurately from 25 to 200+ yards.
Nobody should be making a shot through “thick” brush, that’s just poor hunting discipline. Clear shooting lanes near your stand if the brush is really that thick.
As far as bows go, picking up a used Matthews or Bowtech is probably the way to go. If you practice enough and have a big enough broadhead, wounding deer shouldn’t be an issue.
Depending on state regulations you could bridge the gap between rifle and bow and get a crossbow. My uncle hunts exclusively with a crossbow and has never lost a deer he has shot at.

I’m not too worried. I can always talk myself into another gun next year, and the year after and so on. I’d like to pretend I’m going to avoid this somehow, but I recognize the potential for my fiscal discipline to evaporate at times.

No point in Maine. Crossbow season is the same as rifle.

As an aside my uncle is LIVID about states allowing crossbows during bowhunting season. He just moved from IL to IN and I guess that’s how it is now. I busted his balls by saying that the recurve hunters probably felt the same way about compound bows, but he scoffed at this notion.

This is a man who was serious enough about hunting to lose his first (admittedly shitty) marriage over it. He hunted his way to divorce court, to hear my mom explain it anyway. That’s part of why I value his opinion so much.

My favorite LGS is a Matthews dealer. I’m figuring I can get a quality used rig for $300 but I’ve just started shopping around to get an idea of the used bow market. My uncle pointed me to an archery forum with a great classified section but I’ve got to wait two weeks AND make 20 non-spam posts before I can even see the classifieds.

Aside from being a PITA, it actually seems like a sensible troll, scammer and spammer prevention mechanism.

This cannot be stressed enough.


Another general topic I’m interested in is tree stands vs blinds vs other methods of stalking and ambushing.

My uncle is HUGE on the climbing treestand product I linked above. He is very much into fast, light bow hunting and loves having the ability to set up quickly and quietly wherever he wants. Apparently most of his trophy animals have been taken from that stand with his bow, including a high-scoring Arizona bull elk.

I’m also realizing he’s very myopic about his methods and overall hunting ethos. I’m guessing many hunters are. He’s very much steering me towards bow hunting and I understand all of his reasons, but I also want to make sure I’m putting a deer in the freezer ever fall. Falling out of a tree is also a concern of mine, although I think I can avoid this as long as I leave the whiskey back at camp.

Incidentally, bow hunting is the only way I can put more than one Maine deer in my freezer via special doe permits apparently. Goofy laws are another thing I’ve been learning up on, and there’s plenty of them to know.

I’ve heard this as well, but the only serious injuries and deaths I know of from Maine moose involve collisions with vehicles. As much as I’d love to buy a nice .44 magnum revolver, I’m not ready to spend all of that (along with lugging the damn thing around) on the off-chance I get charged by a moose and that handgun is my only hope of salvation. There also hasn’t been a fatal black bear attack in Maine since the 1800’s. I think I mostly need to worry about drunk humans while I’m out hunting, which I guess is the same as when I’m not hunting.

It never hurts to be prepared, however!