Re: Sika Deer Hunt
I never hunted sika in Maryland with an outfitter, but I did a couple of DIY hunts for them back in the 80ís. First one was in Dorchester Co. on Fishing Bay WMA out of Best Pitch; second was in Somerset Co. on Maryland Marine Properties. Both trips included the last day or two of archery season, then the entire week of firearms season. At that time MD had one week of general firearms season, bucks only, followed by several days of antlerless only season. It may have been either sex on the Eastern Shore at that time, I canít recall.
The Fishing Bay hunt was a real adventure. I hunted out of Best Pitch and camped in the back of my pickup at the boat launch. There is very little dry land and the best way to hunt is by using a boat to reach Guinea Island, a fairly large dry island out in the river. I had rented, of all things, a U-Haul john boat with a 20hp motor, and each day would take the boat to the island and hunt. I had a blast, saw a lot of wildlife including deer, ducks, geese, swans, cranes, herons, raccoons, fox, grey and fox squirrels, and even a mink. I also managed to get myself into a couple of pretty hairy jambs during the week as well.
Saturday morning, the first day of firearms, it was rainy and was the only time I saw deer; several whitetail does that I only got a glimpse of. I woke up Sunday morning to the sound of ducks and geese. Looking out to the river it was foggy but there were hundreds of birds in the area and fish were rising in the river, really cool. I spent the day drying out my clothes and camp. Overnight on Sunday/Monday, a cold front came in and for the rest of the week temps never got above the low 30ís, teens overnight, but it was clear beautiful weather for hunting. Iíd hunt out of my climber till mid-morning, again in the late afternoon, and spend the middle of the day still-hunting and exploring around the island.
Not sure what day it was but it was earlier in the week. I was still-hunting and came out to the edge of the island and could see another small island out in the marsh, maybe three hundred yards away. Between me and the small island the marsh grass was low and looked fairly solid, so I got it in my head to walk across and check out the little island. As I started to cross the grassy expanse it seemed mushy but fairly solid. Iíd gone perhaps a hundred yards when all of a sudden the earth fell out from under my feet and I found myself sunk up above my waist in the muck. Luckily, I must have hit a root or something else solid enough to stop me from sinking further. I remember my first thought was that someone would find me, 10,000 years from now, fossilized, and that at least I might be of some use to science. I lay my rifle out at armís reach on a patch of good grass and fortunately was young and strong enough to wiggle myself out of the mess. That was the last time I attempted to walk across the salt marsh.
By mid-week I had figured out that the far end of the island was better terrain and spent the remainder of the week motoring down there, even though it was quite a trip with the way the river ox-bowed all around. I saw a lot of small game down there, ran into two old local hunters, and managed to get myself into another couple of jambs. My first mistake was the first day I went down there. In the morning I had pulled the boat up to the little bit of beach, pulled the bow up a few feet on land and tied her off to a root. Well, Iím a land lover and didnít know a thing about tides. When I came out of the woods in the evening just at dark, I found the boat 30 yards from the water! Again, I was young and strong and managed to walk the boat, swinging it end to end, back to the water and made it back to camp. Lucky it wasnít the other way around and Iíd arrived at low tide!
I believe it was the next day that I ran into the old guyís. They were in their early 70ís (I was in my early 30ís) and were brothers, born and raised right down the road, and had a really cool john boat rigged up with all the bells and whistles. They had killed several deer earlier in the week including a whitetail and two sikas, were a blast to talk with and gave me a lot of useful advice, including a shortcut back to the dock that would cut my travel time in half. That last bit of advice served to get me in trouble that night, no fault of theirs. That evening, the tide was a little later, just starting to fall. It was particularly cold and windy and the river was quite rough as I started up-river toward camp. The bow was kicking up pretty good as I breached the two foot waves and I was anxious to get back to the dock. The old guys had told me of a narrow channel that cut across eliminating the largest of the ox-bows and really cutting the distance back to the dock. In those conditions I decided to take it. I got to what I though was the channel and turned into it, but after going a ways realized that I must have took one of the ditches that go into several waterfowl blinds established by MD DNR. It had gotten pretty narrow and as I got turned around I realized that the tide was going out, FAST. I remember flying down that ditch as fast at the boat would go, the prop hitting bottom and kicking up mud as I desperately tried to reach the main river. If I couldnít make it, Iíd be in for a very miserable night out in the marsh. Once again, beginners luck was on my side and I made it out to the main river and back the rest of the way safely. The next day I found the channel in daylight and was able to utilize it for the remainder of the trip.
Maryland Marine Properties is mostly dry land and a neat area. Again I camped in my truck. The last day of bow season I had found a nice place where a marshy run cut up into a wood lot for hundreds of yards. There was an obvious deer run along the woods line and I picked out a tree for Saturday, the firearms opener. I was in my tree well before first light on Saturday. Not long after good light, I saw a deer working its way toward me on the trail, but still several hundred yards away. When I put the scope on it, I could see it had a nice basket rack and was preparing to shoot when WHAM, an unseen hunter down the line dropped the buck. It would be the only deer I saw in daylight all week. Later in the week down towards the tip of the peninsula I was set up in some mildly flooded woods and had several deer pass under me in the dark one morning. It was pitch black and I couldnít make them out well enough to know if they were whitetails or sika, but I had the distinct impression they were the latter. I saw a lot of birds and small game on that trip and had a good time exploring. I was just getting to know the place by the end of the hunt and always meant to go back, but it never happened.