Chris Lander (left) and BDN outdoors editor John Holyoke try to stay warm while deer hunting in Otis on an icy recent day. Credit: John Holyoke

Over the past two decades, I have constantly (and unintentionally) discovered countless ways to screw up perfectly good deer hunts.

Sometimes I’ve twitched at the wrong time. Other times, I’ve sneezed. Or stepped out from behind a tree only to hear the deer I’d been pursuing bound through the underbrush. I’ve dropped things that made a racket. I’ve fallen asleep. I’ve even allowed myself to be distracted by red squirrels when I should have been concentrating on deer.

You name it, I’ve done it.

Today, I’m not so happy to announce, I have stumbled onto yet another way to scare off all the deer in the forest. And when I say “all the deer,” I am not engaging in hyperbole. I mean it. All. The. Deer.

My most-recent woes began on Friday night, when I found myself with a bit of spare time, and began plotting ways to finally (after nearly two decades of hunting) break my dry spell and take my first deer.

Many of my fellow hunters had been saying that they’d been having great luck with various calls, including buck grunts, doe bleats and antler-rattling. And though I own a set of rattling antlers, a doe bleat and a grunt tube or four, I had begun experimenting with a phone app that puts all of those calls (AND MORE!) in the palm of my hand.

There’s only one problem: My phone is not a loudspeaker, and when I push a magic deer-calling button on the app, the result is a low-volume deer-whisper which would, I suppose, work great as long as the deer I was calling was within 20 feet of my blind already.

Otherwise, he wouldn’t hear my desperate call at all.

And that simply wouldn’t do.

So on Friday, I went on a scavenger hunt, looking through my stepchildren’s rooms in search of — you guessed it — a Bluetooth audio speaker that I could link to my phone, and to the 21 different irresistible deer calls my app offers (Yes, I counted).

Now, I figured, I’d be able to hunker down in my ground blind, link to the powerful Bluetooth speaker and REALLY talk to the animals. In fact, I was quite certain that I’d be able to talk to animals a half-mile away, if I decided that was necessary.

Not that I would have done that, of course.

So there I was the next day, huddled in a blind, trying to stay warm, as a 20 mph wind made the 18-degree temps seem downright arctic, with my new secret weapon stowed in my pack.

My hunting buddy Chris and I shared the blind, opting to split the deer-spotting duties while sharing the use of his portable propane heater on such a cold day. And after sitting for a bit, I pulled out the Bluetooth speaker and told him my plan.

I may or may not have said that the use of this speaker would likely revolutionize deer hunting, and change the way we’ve been doing things for years. I may or may not have told him that our luck was sure to change, and that deer would arrive shortly, eager to participate in our hunts.

Then I fired up the speaker (ignoring the soft mechanical beeps and boops it makes as it powers up and syncs with my phone), and called up my deer-calling app.

Man, didn’t that speaker work great.

I started with a couple of soft buck grunts, then added in a little doe bleat and eventually increased the volume a bit for some antler-rattling.

Then, after waiting a bit and receiving no reply, I decided to crank up the volume (never a great idea, whether you’re living in a dorm room or calling for deer), and cued up the call I was certain would turn the tide in our favor.

“Bucks fighting” is a 25-second medley of sound, and on that Bluetooth speaker, you could nearly feel the ground shake as the furious battle progressed. After a couple rounds of battling bucks, I smiled, put the speaker into my pack, and sat back to wait for the stampede of eager deer that I was sure were on the way.

I also put my phone back in my pocket, which may not have been my best idea of the day.

About 10 minutes later, I discovered that it is entirely possible to pocket dial one’s music app from a cellphone by simply shifting in a camp chair in an effort to keep warm.

And then, from the speaker I’d stowed in my pack, at nearly FULL VOLUME, one of my favorite tunes began blasting. And blasting. And blasting.

Luckily, my buddy Chris has grown accustomed to things like this happening when we hunt together. And luckily, he has a good sense of humor.

For a full 90 seconds, all the deer and moose and red squirrels in the forest enjoyed a nice musical interlude — “The Way You Laugh,” by Dawes, if you’re curious — as I struggled to figure out how to shut down an app I rarely use.

On the bright side, I guess, is this: I may not be great at apps, but half of my master plan panned out: The speaker worked just great.

John Holyoke can be reached at or 207-990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke. His first book, “Evergreens,” a collection of his favorite BDN columns and features, has been published by Islandport Press and is available wherever books are sold.

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John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...