Thursday, July 21, 2016

Digging Clams and Eating Goose Tongues

Three Generations on the Clam Flats and having Fun!
Last summer I relived with my family, the simple childhood memory of digging Mya Arenaria, soft shell clams. As a child, my family would spend hours in the intertidal zone, digging up these delicious delicacies but over the years, these fond memories had been largely forgotten. What fun, we all had, excavating buried treasure from the acrid smelling mud flats! With each person able to harvest a peck (2 gallons) of clams, in no time, we had more steamers then we would have dreamed and, given summertime prices for this decadent treat, we truly ate like kings!

While clamming isn’t inherently difficult, there are several things potential “clammers” should know about digging clams. Of most importance, is that individuals secure the necessary license. Clam licenses can be obtained at local town offices, as well information on where to dig and if certain flats are closed due to “Red Tide”, an algal bloom, which causes sickness and even death if stricken shellfish are consumed. Clams are dug on a falling tide, during low tide or at the early stages of the incoming tide. “Clammers” should use care not to overextend their digging as the tide rises fast and can quickly overwhelm those not paying attention. Flats are best explored with rubber boots and clothing that one doesn’t mind getting covered in mud. Many find thick rubber gloves also helpful, to avoid cuts from broken clam shells. Finding clams is simply a matter of slowly walking the flats, looking for holes. Once a hole is located, they become easier and easier to find as one teachers their eyes what to look for. To extract the clam, slide a four-tined spading fork down into the mud about a foot and 5-6 inches in back of the hole. Gently tip back on the fork, prying up the mud and clam. Often, the clam will squirt out seawater from the hole as it tries to escape. Expert clammers use a specialty designed clam rake that makes harvesting much easier, so if planning to make clamming a regular activity, a rake is well worth the investment.

Legally, clams must be 2 inches long to keep and any with broken shells should be thrown away. Collected clams should be thoroughly rinsed in saltwater to eliminate as much grit as possible. Cook clams by steaming in a large pot till their shell pop open. Once cooled, clams can be easily separated from their shells, rinsed in broth, dipped in REAL butter and devoured! While Down East has many fine spots to dig for clams, one of my favorite is Cobscook Bay State Park (DeLorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 37, B-2).

Access to the mudflats is easy and no clam license is required there OR in any of Maine’s state parks! Also, check in at the park office as they frequently have a few clam rakes and baskets available for borrowing.

Goose Tongue
Known by the names wild goose tongues, seaside plantains, or Plantago maritima this seaside wild edible exists as the perfect accompaniment to steamed clams. Goose tongues posses a rich salty flavor, reminiscent of spinach and can be eaten raw in salads or boiled and enjoyed with butter and a drizzle of apple cider vinegar. Once identified, large patches of this herbaceous perennial can be easily found growing at the top of the intertidal zone. While some prefer to harvest Goose Tongues using a knife or scissors, they can also easily be harvested by hand, and are yet another fun and educational summer seaside activity to be readily enjoyed by young and old alike. Goose tongue grows practically everywhere in coastal Washington County and is rarely if ever harvested, something that particularly shocks me given their sublime flavor.

Huge patches of this edible can therefore be found growing wild all along the Down East shoreline from Lubec (Map 27, A-4) to Culter (Map 27, D-1). A Short Hike with Impressive Views Trimble Mountain (DeLorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 37, D-2) boasts impressive views of the St. Croix River Valley and is a great spot for hikers. Travel Route 1 South past the Calais/Robinston line. In approximately 1.5 miles, turn right onto the Number 3 (Brewer Road) road (if you pass the Redcliff Restaurant on the left, you have gone too far). Take a right at the fork and go about half a mile and then turn right onto the McNeil road. Drive straight ahead till you reach a sizeable parking lot. The last quarter mile to the summit is barely passable with a four-wheel drive vehicle and should be hiked. Trimble Mountain is privately owned and maintained, so visitors are asked to be extremely respectful and pack out all garbage, this will ensure continued access so the area and continued enjoyment by future generations.

Sportsman Alliance of Maine Newsletter July/August - Black Bass

 As water temperatures begin to slowly rise, bass become increasingly active. This leads to great fishing, with activity remaining steady up to the end of the summer. The combination of abundant forage and jacked metabolisms, make bass exceedingly voracious and they attack lures with contempt and struggle against lines with every ounce of their being. Angling excitement runs high, as aggressive strikes create watery explosions and hooked fish fly high into the air, in displays of astounding acrobatics.

While a certain contingent of anglers believe strongly in a strict policy of catch and release that does not match my ideals. Fishing without keeping a few of these delectable trophies to me is a lot like chewing and not being allowed to swallow . . . there is simply an enjoyable component of the fishing experience that is inherently missing. If planning to try hauling in a few hogs for the deep fat fryer, the perfect size bass is in the 2-3 pound range. This size makes for a good-sized filet for the exerted effort and also provides a younger fish less likely to be loaded with copious amounts of mercury. Though many will brag about their award winning frying batters, I prefer an easy to prepare whole milk, egg, flour dip. Simply put each of the three ingredients in separate bowls and dip the filets into each bowl, completely covering them with each of the ingredients. Once the pieces are completely covered with batter they can be lightly dropped into the deep fat fryer where they sputter in the hot oil till they reach a golden brown color. Once removed pat dry with a paper towel, salt heavily and drop on a plate with a side of garlic smashed potatoes and a couple ears of corn on the cob, lightly sprinkled with chili powder. DELICIOUS!

Fishing for bass is all about location, find underwater structure and the bass will be there. While many waters may be fished from shore with success, reaching the best fishing spots requires breaking free from the crowded boat launches and accessing areas that see limited fishing pressure. All manner of large and small watercraft can be used to bass fish effectively, as long as care is taken to respect the anticipated weather conditions. Maine lakes are notoriously fickle and a beautiful day on the water can quickly turn life threatening. Depth maps and fish finders help anglers study bottom structure and locate fish but nothing quite compares to general firsthand knowledge of a lake or pond. Bright sunshine, calm water and polarized sunglasses, greatly facilitate the process of finding areas containing ambush cover for hungry bass. Locating beaver lodges, underwater weed beds, sunken logs and stumps, rocks, shoals, ledges, drop offs and submerged islands, will put you leaps ahead of other fishermen. Mark these areas with a GPS or write down locations and you will be served for years to come with fishing hotspots.

Fishing with friends, vastly increases the chance of finding that magic color and lure combination and allows the opportunity to locate bass faster by effectively covering more area with more lines in the water. Using a variety of different lures can assist anglers in finding combinations that strike gold so never be afraid to experiment and try something new. For the bass fisherman looking for a unique experience, try using live red fin shiners (3-4 inches), 2/0 hooks and large bobbers. This set-up is effective on both small and large mouth bass. For many, pitching a bobber and staring at it all day long is not going to prove to be the most exciting of fishing endeavors. For the search and destroy crowd, who like to cast, sluggos, blue foxes and terminator spin baits are all capable of eliciting brutal early spring reaction strikes. Fishing two poles, one for bobbing and one for casting, greatly maximizes your presentation by keeping two baits in the water at all times. This set-up allows you to fish live bait while a second line is cast and used to locate fish. This system is very effective anytime during the fishing season.

*Please note that you are not allowed to keep bass in the state of Maine caught on live bait until after July 1st. Also until July 1, you are only allowed to catch and keep one bass, over 10 inches. One way to stay updated on the latest bass fishing action is to check out: This local bass fishing club was establishedwith the goal of improving the sport of bass fishing through such endeavors as introducing more youth to bass fishing, promoting catch and release and helping to improve the quality of fishing in Maine. Club members enjoy promoting the sport, answering questions and assisting other anglers in finding that magic selection of lures, time and habitat that will lead to a successful day on the water!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Wildlife Quiz - Black Crappie

The Black Crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus) exists as a species native to the eastern United States and Canada. Due the popularity of the Black Crappie as a sport and commercial game fish, illegal stocking efforts quickly expanded the Black Crappies range to all 48 contiguous United States, including Maine. Also known as Calico Bass or just plain Crappie, the Black Crappie possesses a rich silvery-olive to golden brown coloration overlaid with a pattern of dark black blotches. The laterally compressed body and dorsal fin spines makes the Black Crappie closely resemble bass and sunfish species.

The largest Black Crappie ever caught in Maine was a 3 lb. 4 oz specimen pulled from Sibley Pond in 1986 by Wayne Morey Sr. Breeding typically occurs in spring in nests built by the male. Males build nests by using their tails to create shallow depressions in sheltered waters near shore. Female crappies deposit eggs in these depressions. Males release milt to fertilize the eggs and eggs and sperm become randomly mixed. After spawning, the male guards the nest until eggs hatch 2-3 days after initial fertilization occurs.

As fry grow into fingerlings and finally adults, they feed on a progressively larger and wider array of plankton, crustaceans, insects and small fish. Black crappies reach sexual maturity between 2–4 years, with those hatchlings fortunate enough to evade predators living for up to seven years in the wilds and fifteen years in captivity.

Wildlife Quiz Questions:
1. What is the native range of the Black Crappie?
2. Due to illegal stocking, where can Black Crappies now be found?
3. What other names does the Black Crappie go by?
4. How much did the largest Black Crappie caught in Maine weigh?
5. When do Black Crappies breed?
6. What do Black Crappies feed on?
7. How long does it take for Black Crappies to reach maturity?
8. How long do Black Crappies live?

Wildlife Quiz Answers:
1. The native range of the Black Crappie includes the eastern United States and Canada.
2. Due to illegal stocking, Black Crappies can now be found in all 48 contiguous United States, including Maine.
3. The Black Crappie is also known as the Calico Bass or just plain Crappie.
4. The largest Black Crappie ever caught in Maine was a 3 lb. 4 oz.
5. Black Crappies breed in the spring.
6. Black Crappies feed on a wide array of plankton, crustaceans, insects and small fish.
7. Black crappies reach sexual maturity between 2–4 years.
8. Black Crappie hatchlings fortunate enough to evade predators living for up to seven years in the wilds and fifteen years in captivity.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Mainer's Know Ad Campaign for Honda

Many thanks to the Maine Honda Dealers and RealWorld Marketing for selecting my "distinctly Maine" vocal talents to provide the voice over work for several different television ads. Honda's "Mainer's Know" ad campaign was televised across the state of Maine in May of 2016. Links to the videos, now posted on YouTube, are provided below.

Inquiries related to voice overs, speaking engagements, product endorsements, personal appearances, etc. please contact Caron Bryan at: or by phone at 207-415-4015.

Monday, June 6, 2016

The inteliSCOPE Pro+ Transforms Hunting for Young and Old Alike

The spring 2016 turkey hunt was an exciting time for my sons and I as it was the first time we were all able to hunt together in the Maine woods. A change in the previous hunting laws, that became effective on January 1, 2016, eliminated the provision that a child needed to be 10 years old before they were allowed to hunt. Now, the current law permits a child of any age to hunt, as long as they are in immediate proximity to an adult. For my family, this means that my 7 and 9 year olds were able to both join me on the spring turkey hunt!

Preparations for the hunt started when both boys were just 5 years old, as this was the age that they both began shooting BB guns. Both children progressed to learn to safely shoot pellet guns, the .22 rifle, the .410 shotgun and as we moved closer to turkey season the 20 gauge shotgun. In accordance with Maine law, the 20 gauge is the lowest gauge allowed to hunt turkeys. As we progressed through our shooting practice, I noted that the 9 year old easily managed the recoil of the 20 gauge and was able to look down the barrel and correctly acquire the sight picture necessary to hit the turkey target at 30 yards. Unfortunately, as the spring turkey season crept ever closer, the 7 year old was just not understanding what he needed for a sight picture and even worse, was beginning to develop the bad habit of flinching at the recoil of the 20 gauge. Even at 15 yards, he was not consistently hitting the turkey target. Understanding these problems, I began researching other means of helping him successfully shoot his turkey. This is when I found the inteliSCOPE Pro+.

The inteliSCOPE Pro+ ( is an extremely innovative product that allows the Smartphone we all tend to carry to be used as a weapon sight. This is accomplished by the use of the inteliSCOPE Pro+ mounting system that firmly attaches to a picante rail of an AR15 OR (with a little finagling), to the rib of a shotgun. To the mount is securely fastened the users Smartphone (Android or iPhone). By downloading the company’s intelliSCOPE App, users are able to simply load up the apps crosshairs on the Smartphone’s screen, line up targets and pull the trigger. Now if that was ALL the entire app did that would still be great for most practical applications but it does so much more.

The intelliSCOPE app ties into your Smartphone location services making it able to provide real time wind speed, direction and GPS location. The app also allows the user to record video (perfects of hunters wanting to record their kill!), zooms up to 5x, the ability to change reticules and an adjustable sighting system that provides pinpoint accuracy at various ranges and calibers.

For the 7 year old and I, that meant we could sit together in the turkey blind and I could assist him in lining up his target. The large Smartphone screen, made it possible for both of us to effectively see the turkey in the crosshairs, allowing for an ethical shot. Additionally, because his cheek did not have to be firmly planted on the shotguns stock, to look down the barrel, he was able to fire the gun with less felt recoil.

Off and on through the months leading up to the spring turkey season opener, the 7 year old and I practiced with the intelliSCOPE system until I felt confident that he could manage his excitement and hit his target. Well, as they say, practice makes perfect and just one week into the season, a large Tom turkey strolled into his shooting lane . . . the boy took a deep breath, stared intently into the intelliSCOPE and pulled the trigger. Excited can not properly express how wildly thrilled the 7 year old was at that that moment when that old bird dropped dead to the ground with a single lethal shot. Many thanks to intelliSCOPE, who in the design and development of their impressive sighting system, likely never dreamed that it would someday be used to help a young boy shoot his first turkey, thereby forever adding him and his unforgettable experience to the tradition of hunting.

MORE INFORMATION: In an email discussion with intelliSCOPE President/CEO Jason Giddings, Jason mentioned that the intelliSCOPE system is currently being used to help folks with various disabilities continue to hunt. Individuals with visual impairments, loss of limbs, paralasis, etc. can mount the intelliSCOPE to their rifles or shotguns and control the aim with a chin-joystick, pulling the trigger by puffing a straw. This is an amazing gift for those individuals who wish to overcome their constraints and continue to chase their hunting dreams despite their physical disabilities.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Black Bass and How to Make a Turkey Spur Necklace

Author Fishing with Son on Meddybemps Lake
Black Bass
Bring the Action June is peak spawning time for black bass and for a few magical weeks while the fish are guarding their nests, the angling is beyond compare. The spawn, abundant forage and jacked metabolisms, make bass exceedingly voracious and they attack lures with contempt, struggling against taunt lines with every ounce of their being. Angling excitement runs high, as aggressive strikes create watery explosions and hooked fish fly high into the air, in displays of astounding acrobatics. Meddybemps Lake (DeLorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 36, D-4) and Big Lake (Map 35, B-5 and C-5 and Map 36, B-1) rank as two of the premier smallmouth bass waters in Down East and my personal favorites.

Meddybemps Lake at 6,765 acres contains numerous small coves, a rocky shoreline, abundant forage and a high quality spawning habitat. All of these essential elements combine to make the lake one of the best in the state in terms of the shear number of bass it produces. While bass are plentiful, they tend to decimate the available food supply, resulting in a below average growth rate. Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has classified Meddybemps as an S13 classification, to encourage an increased harvest by anglers by allowing “No size or bag limit on Bass”, except that under the general rules, only one bass may exceed l4in. Anglers should expect to encounter lots of small bass averaging between l0-12 inches. A great boat launch for accessing Meddybemps exists just off route 191 in the town of Meddybemps. Anglers should use caution when fishing Meddybemps as the lake is notoriously rocky, so slow speed, while navigating its waters, is mandatory.

Big Lake at 10,305 acres also maintains high a quality spawning habitat and the lake consistently produces of bass 11-14 inches. While even larger fish are always a possibility, extensive time and luck will be needed to find them. Access to Big Lake is possible via the west Princeton road, just outside of the town of Princeton. Fishing for bass is all about location, find underwater structure and the bass will be there. Depth maps and fish finders help anglers study bottom structure and locate fish but nothing quite compares to general firsthand knowledge of a lake or pond. Locating beaver lodges, underwater weed beds, sunken logs and stumps, rocks, shoals, ledges, drop offs and submerged islands, will put you leaps ahead of other fishermen. Mark these areas with a GPS or write down locations and you will be served for years to come with fishing hotspots. Sluggos, Blue Foxes and Terminator spin baits all elicit brutal early spring reaction strikes and anglers would be well served to have several of each in a variety of colors available in their tackle boxes before heading out. Having two poles ready and equipped one with a weed less Sluggo and the other with a spin bait or Blue Fox, anglers are well prepared for whatever conditions they may encounter.

Authors 2016 Spring Turkey
Turkey Spur Necklace or Hatband Hunters in pursuit of a tom turkey Down East this June will have from April 30th (Youth Day) to June 4th to score a trophy bird. Prime turkey hunting locations exist throughout Washington County, with some locales obviously much better than others. Do not limit your hunting to large open fields, as often better hunting options exist on smaller skidder roads, snowmobile trails and power lines where the compacted areas work to funnel birds into effective range. After locating that perfect hunting spot, plan to hunt on weekdays, rather than Saturdays. Hunting pressure is lighter during the week, reducing potential conflicts with other hunters. Nobody wants to go through the heart wrenching dilemma of arriving at their prime hunting location, only to find someone already parked there. Also, if possible find multiple locations in which to hunt, should your first or even second choice become compromised.

An exciting hunt starts in Northfield (Map 26, B-2) and driving logging roads into Smith Landing, the beautiful Great Falls (Map 26, B-2) and continuing south, following the Machias River into Whitneyville. Birds can often be found along this route picking gravel from roadsides and feeding and strutting in the large expanses of blueberry fields.

After shooting a nice gobbler this season, most hunters will want to in some way preserve their trophy. While a majority of hunters mount the tail and beard, a lesser know way of preserving the memory is by making a turkey spur necklace or hatband. This is a relatively easy process, performed with a few basic tools.
1. Using a hacksaw, cut through the leg bone above and below the spur. This leaves a half inch piece of the leg bone with the attached spur.
2. Next, take a knife and scrape off all the skin from the bone. Remove a turkey breast feather from the carcass and use it to push the marrow out of the leg bone.
3. After thoroughly cleaning the spurs, let dry in the sun or in a bag of Borax and then use rough sandpaper to remove left over bits of dried flesh.
 4. The leg bones (not spurs) may be whitened by soaking in a dish of hydrogen peroxide.
5. For a glossy look, spray the spurs with clear polyurethane. 6. String spurs on a leather string, using wooden beads as spacers.

Thursday, May 19, 2016


Discriminating against someone for being a hunter is a supremely unfortunate aspect running rampant within our society. I find this news disheartening. Hunters and non-hunters alike need to stand strong against those who would disparage an individual for their legal and ethical choice to harvest their own food. This is important as much of the anti-hunting rhetoric is built on a word that needs to be eliminated from our vocabulary, HATE. As a society, we need to embrace each other for our differences and not force each other into living lives based on our own personal convictions and preconceived notions of right and wrong. Anti-hunters are NOT crusaders on a mission to save animals; anti-hunters are bullies on a mission to attempt to abolish hunting while spreading hate and discontent in their wake.

I find it alarming to read stories of someone sending a HUMAN being a death threat because they killed an ANIMAL. Have these people lost their minds? When did it suddenly become okay for the life of a human being to be considered of lesser value than that of an animal? This skewed notion of right and wrong is completely unacceptable. Larger and larger segments of our society are simply losing their connection to the natural world. This departure, from the roots of our very existence, is creating a misinformed sub-culture detached from the reality of what it means to be an integral part of the circle of life.

Farmers are loathed because they till the land, killing thousands of mice, shrews and nesting birds, where crops are planted, butchers are hated for killing and processing the pigs, cows, lambs and chickens we eat, loggers are sent death threats because they cut down tree to keep houses warm throughout the cold winter months. The cowards, inspired to target these hardworking people, do so from anonymous social media accounts using threats and obscenities they would never dare utter directly to a person’s face. These types of people typically eat meat, wear leather jackets and burn wood pellets to warm their homes but are unable (or perhaps unwilling) to understand that their very existence is dependent on living things dying for them to survive. Even the strictest vegetarians and eco-conscious individuals must kill plants to eat to fuel their bodies so that they may live. Considering these facts, why have so many in our society completely lost the ability to see beyond their limited view of the world where living things are no longer seen as food? “Hunting” is at its core, the very definition of what it means to be personally and intimately connected to your food supply.

Outside of the United States, a vast majority of the world still lives a subsistence existence. Unfortunately, we here in America seem to have fallen out of sync with the rules of nature and I fear that continuing on this path will lead to the de-evolution of our species. If we hope to advance as a species, we need to reconnect with the natural world and stand up to support and defend each other for our unique differences, loves and passions. My words are not meant for anti-hunters, for it is highly likely that their minds are already set upon a path that will not be changed. Instead, I want to reach out to those non-hunting individuals who are perhaps currently sitting on the fence and wondering which way to bend. I also want to encourage large companies and small businesses alike to stand strong to support hunters, hunters who buy their products, hunters who uphold the law, hunters who pay taxes and hunters who valiantly and tirelessly work to support a traditional way of living that mankind has relied upon for survival for thousands of years.

Also, here is an older piece I wrote about killing animals for sport.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Pick Up Bow Hunting and “Expand” the Possibilities

Bow hunting has the exciting ability to open up a world of new possibilities for Maine hunters. Unlike firearms, the bow and arrow appear too many in our society to be a more “environmentally friendly” or “green” method of harvesting game animals. This is likely because compared to their modern day cousin the firearm; bows are quiet, arrows incapable of traveling great distances and the pursuit of game with the bow and arrow a sport romanticized on TV and in modern day movies. This perception allows archery to be more readily accepted by residents in urban areas, where the general population would otherwise normally disallow hunting with firearms.

While hunting opportunities exist across the state for archers looking to pursue game in residential areas, archers not wishing to compete against firearm hunters, wanting to have the ability to hunt from mid September to mid December and to potentially hunt close to home, the state of Maine’s expanded archery zones provide great deer hunting opportunities. Hunters who have a valid archery license are able to purchase multiple expanded archery antlerless permits for $12.00 each, and one expanded archery either sex permit for $32.00.

The state’s expanded archery zones were established to provide deer hunting opportunities in urban areas without negatively impacting or human safety. Most of these small parcels of land are residential developments interspersed with small woodlots and existing within city and town limits, areas unable to be hunted with firearms due to municipal ordinances.

Currently, there are 11 different expanded archery zones, including the cities and towns of: Augusta, Bangor, Bucksport, Camden, Castine, Eliot, Lewiston, Portland, Waterville, parts of WMD 24 and WMD 29.

Within these zones, a vast majority of the acreage is privately owned, almost exclusively requiring landowner permission to hunt. In addition, large sections of additional acreage is unhuntable due to sanctuaries, local ordinances or because individual landowners do not support hunting and/or trespass on their land. While this creates an added burden to archers attempting to find areas to hunt, let me stress that it is well worth the additional effort. This past hunting season, I saw no fewer than 7 deer, within the bounds of the expanded area I was hunting, including 4 does, two 6 pointers and a massive 12, that total equates to more deer than I have seen in the Maine woods in the previous 4 seasons combined! While I was unsuccessful in harvesting one of the massive brutes, I encountered, I did manage to harvest a 110lb doe, my first with the bow and arrow.

The excitement of bow hunting, along with the added thrill of being able to see so many deer has me hooked on hunting the expanded archery zones. While these areas do require considerable planning to hunt successfully, this season I was able to learn a few key elements that tip the odds in the sportsman’s favor, when hunting these zones. It should be no surprise that pre-season scouting is essential. To accomplish this successfully, good aerial maps supplemented with tax maps of the area and a GPS are essential. In the expanded zones, it is important to not only know where you are but also upon whose property. Having both maps readily accessible makes it easier to find huntable areas and immediately follow up by phoning and asking the owner for permission to access. Without a tax map, hunters will encounter a lot of signs stating, “Access by Permission Only” but with no indication on the sign who to call for permission. Once a suitable hunting location and permission is secured, get in early to scout, find an ambush location and get out. With hunting in these zones starting in September, hunters should know the property and have stands in place by July. While a majority of these properties are small and in close proximity to human habitation, the deer can still be easily spooked if their core area suddenly receives a human invader.

Expanded zones located in close proximity to areas allowing hunting with firearms can often be safe havens for deer during the November regular statewide firearms season. Hunting the expanded zone throughout October and November, I noted a spike in deer activity and the number of deer seen during this time. While some of this increase in sightings can likely be contributed to the rut, I feel that some of the increase is also due to the much lower hunting pressure that exists in the expanded archery zones. In addition, to what I learned about he expanded archery zones previous hunting season; I also learned a ton about what it take to be a successful bow hunter.

After several years of practicing with the bow and arrow, this past hunting season, I felt I finally had the confidence and skill needed to shoot my first deer with the bow. While I had the “mechanics” of shooting a bow down, what I realized is even more critical, to being a successful bow hunter, is being able to negotiate all of the unforeseen elements that occur when shooting a bow. One of the most difficult things for me to overcome was shooting with a face mask. After the first week of fighting with the masks Velcro straps, feelings of claustrophobia and eye holes that never seemed to actually fit over my eyes, I finally gave up and began using camouflage face paint. This small change changed my entire bow hunting game and I will NEVER use a facemask for deer, turkeys of ducks ever again. I had thought that the paint would be messy and hard to remove but by carrying a few baby wipes in a Ziploc bag, I was amazed at how easy it was to clean up after hunting. The second important consideration for me this season was related to overall comfort. Knowing that I would likely be spending large amounts of time high in the treetops, I invested before the season started in two pieces of new equipment that transformed my comfort. The first piece of equipment was insulated, waterproof bibs that made long sits extremely comfortable. With the extra cold protection on my legs and lower back, my feet were considerably warmer and I was even able to still wear them on even the mildest of days if paired with a lightweight jacket. The second piece of equipment was a three-section articulating bow hanger by Realtree. This simple device screws into the side of the tree and a swing arm bring the bow to any forward or side position the archer chooses. This take the bow out of ones lap and hangs it readily within reach, making it available to grasp when required, with little movement. Having the bow hanging facilitates stretching, taking a drink or relieving yourself without the worry of dropping ones bow, thereby greatly increasing the ability to be more comfortable.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Wildlife Quiz - The Porcupine

The North American Porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum), ranges from Alaska into sections of northern Mexico, where it favors woodland habitats with high densities of evergreens. A wild porcupine can live 5 years, where it spends a majority of that time in the tops of evergreen trees in pursuit of its favorite foods. An herbivore, porcupines eat a wide variety of conifers as well as green plants, berries, seeds and nuts. Also know simply as the porcupine, it exists as a member of the “rodent” order of animals.

The porcupine is the second largest rodent in North America, losing by only a narrow margin to the beaver. Mature porcupines grow to a snout to tail length of 2 to 3 feet and weigh around 12 pounds, with some impressive specimens tipping the scale at a whopping 35-40 pounds. Porcupines come in various shades of brown, gray, and even white.

Porcupines are nocturnal and are usually found during the day lounging peacefully high up in the branches of a tree or caring for young deep underground in simple burrows. Porcupines are perhaps most well known for their impressive coat of sharp quills that defend them from predators. Adult’s backs and tails are covered with almost 40,000 quills. When attacked, the porcupine defends itself by swinging its tail like a club and pounding quills into its hapless enemies. In the past it was believed that porcupines were capable of launching or throwing its quills, this is of course a fallacy. Each quill comes equipped with tiny barbs that slowly push the quill in even deeper, making removal necessary and extremely painful.

Despite its impressive defenses, porcupines still occasionally become meals for bobcats, coyotes and fishers who have learned to attach the porcupine’s unprotected nose and belly.

Wildlife Quiz Questions: 1. What is the range of the porcupine?
2. What is the average lifespan of a wild porcupine?
3. What is the average weight of an adult porcupine?
4. What impressive maximum weights have some adult porcupines reached?
5. How long do porcupines grow?
6. What do porcupines eat?
7. How many quills do adult porcupines have?
8. What predators eat porcupines?

Wildlife Quiz Answers:
1. The range of the porcupine stretches from Alaska and into sections of Northern Mexico.
2. The average porcupine lives 5 years in the wild.
3. The average weight of an adult porcupine is 12 pounds.
4. Some adult porcupines have grown to reach 40 pounds.
5. Porcupines grow to a snout to tail length of 2 to 3 feet.
6. An herbivore, porcupines eat a wide variety of conifers as well as green plants, berries, seeds and nuts.
7. Adult porcupines have almost 40,000 quills.
8. Despite its impressive defenses porcupines are still fed upon by bobcats, coyotes and fishers who have learned to attach the porcupine’s unprotected nose and belly.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Shoot Coyote, Serenade Turkeys and Beat Blackflies

Coyotes Hungry
 May has long been one of my favorite times of the year to hunt for coyotes. Even nighttime temperatures creep into the low 30s, a mercury reading practically balmy after long winter nights in the shooting shack with frozen toes and fingers, my body teetering on the edge of hypothermia. Coyotes also begin becoming more active, as both parents constantly search to find food to feed new born pups. Bait sites can light up during this time of year and the call of the screaming rabbit often brings them running. Hunters can monopolize on this small chink in the armor and harvest a few song dogs with minimal effort. Those heading down east, in pursuit of coyotes, won’t be disappointed. Still evenings, shortly after sunset, are frequently fractured by the piercing howls and yips of packs of coyotes on the hunt. In order to kill more coyotes, think food and explore locations where cupboards are not quite bare.

Discussions with farmers will typically yield stories of coyotes stealing chickens, grain and other food stuffs. Hunting these properties is usually as easy as just asking and often yields lasting friendships. Route 9 running from Amherst (DeLorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 24, A-2) to Beddington (Map 24, A-1) contains many of these old farmsteads as well as Route 1 running from Topsfield (Map 45, D-5) to Danforth (Map 45, B-3).

Turkey Serenade
Turkey seasons this year, in wildlife management districts (WMDs) 7-29, runs from May 2nd to June 4th, with hunters eligible to harvest two bearded turkeys. Northern zones WMDs 1-6 will continue to be governed by a split season and a limit of one bearded turkey per hunter. In my discussions with sportsmen both young and old, many share that the single biggest reason they don’t turkey hunt, or why they have been unsuccessful in harvesting a turkey in past seasons, is they don’t properly understand how to call spring turkeys effectively. While learning the basic “yelp” is easily mastered by a majority of sportsmen, progressing to learn the complexities of the cluck, cackle, purr and gobble are lost to many. This is unfortunate, as these additional calls often make the difference between success and eating tag soup. While the Internet offers many how to videos on how to create a sweet sounding turkey serenade on a box or slate call, the truth is that most of us simply don’t have the time need to effectively learn these skills.

Electronic calling devices are legal for the hunting of turkeys in Maine and serve as a great way for those short on time or new to the sport to quickly master the calls needed to harvest a big tom turkey this season. While some of these calls easily run into the hundreds of dollars, I have had great past success using my smart phone and a small Bluetooth speaker. With this set-up, I can easily place the Bluetooth speaker 30-40 yards away and send turkey calls to it from my phone. Portable, easy to quickly deploy and with waterproof speakers available, it is a virtually problem free electronic calling solution for just about every sportsman. If investing in a Bluetooth speaker, remember it will also serve hunters well predator hunting and during deer season! Large flocks of turkeys comprised of hens, jakes and toms can frequently be found in strutting across the blueberry barrens throughout all of May. Hunters with good optics can often find these flocks and using the topography devise stocks that will bring them to within shooting distance.

Fun places to spot and stalk, or as I like to call it wish and walk, include the expanse of barrens existing to the East of Pleasant River Lake (Map 25, A-2) and stretching to just beyond the area categorized as “The Middle Grounds” (Map 25, A-3, B-3).

Beat the Blackflies Camp NOW!
Day time temperatures in May can be downright pleasant and night time lows still remain enjoyable, when spent around the pleasant glow of a roaring campfire. Add to the reasonable temperatures, the fact that blackflies and mosquitoes typically do not emerge until the third or forth week of the month and it’s easy to understand why May is my favorite month to camp. No need for reservations in early May or time spent worrying about not finding a suitable lot, as most primitive campsites will be largely deserted till Memorial Day weekend. Hadley Lakes (Map 25, A-3) and Pretty Pond (Map 25, B-3) both contain primitive campsites capable of supporting tents as well as small RVs and will additionally put hunters within easy driving distance of several prime turkey hunting areas. If traveling from Bangor to Calais, Hadley Lake is found by taking a right hand turn onto the dirt road immediately following the Wilderness Lodge. After about a mile, the road veers to the right and a small road turns left. Follow the smaller road to the campground. For those traveling from Bangor to Calais and wanting to visit Pretty Pond, take the next dirt road after the Pleasant River Lake road. The dirt road roughly parallels Mopang Stream for approximately four miles before Pretty Pond emerges on the right.
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