Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wildlife Quiz - White Sucker

White Sucker
The White Sucker (Catostomus commersonii) exists as a freshwater species native to the North American Midwest and Northeast and as far south as New Mexico. The Catostomidae, or sucker family, is closely related to minnows.
Also known by the names mullet, white horse or just plain sucker, White Suckers were originally so named because of their odd toothless mouth and distinctively fat lips. White suckers use these fleshy lips to suck up bottom sediments and consume organisms that may be hidden there. White Suckers will eat almost anything, including small invertebrates, algae and a wide array of plant matter. In turn, larger predatory fish species such as togue, bass and northern pike prey on the White Sucker.
While there exists a growing interest in serving up White Sucker as table fare, more commonly they serve as fish bait for anglers targeting large and more desirable fish species. For those interested in eating the White Sucker, their flesh is described as white, flaky and moist and highly prized when deep fat fried or served in fish chowders.
In Maine, the White Sucker spawns, usually in great numbers, in the shallow water of streams throughout April and May. During the spring spawn, females release thousands of eggs that are fertilized by awaiting males.
 White Suckers reach sexual maturity at three to eight years. Those hatchlings and juveniles fortunate enough to evade predators can live up to approximately 17 year and grow to 15-20 inches long.

Wildlife Quiz Questions:
  1. What is the native range of the White Sucker?
  2. What are other names for the White Sucker?
  3. Why are White Suckers called “Suckers”?
  4. What do White Suckers eat?
  5. What fish feed on White Suckers?
  6. When do White Suckers spawn?
  7. When do White Suckers reach sexual maturity?
  8. How long do White Suckers live?
Wildlife Quiz Answers:

  1. The native range of the White Sucker stretches from the North American Midwest and Northeast to as far south as New Mexico.
  2. The White Sucker is also know by the names mullet, white horse or just plain sucker.
  3. White Suckers are called “Suckers” because of their odd toothless mouth and distinctively fat lips.
  4. White Suckers will eat almost anything, including small invertebrates, algae and a wide array of plant matter.
  5. White Suckers are fed upon by larger predatory fish species such as togue, bass and northern pike.
  6. In Maine, the White Sucker spawns in the shallow water of streams throughout April and May.
  7. White Suckers reach sexual maturity at three to eight years.
  8. White Suckers live to approximately 17 years of age.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Fly Fishing Need Not Be Complicated and Stream Side Sushi

Fly Fishing Need Not Be Complicated
Fly fishing certainly is an art form and many over the course of their lifetime master this sport. However, one need not cast a 60 yards, know the name of every nymph in the fly box at LL Bean and dress like they stepped out of an Orvis catalog to have fun catching fish on the fly. For most, the seemingly most difficult step to becoming a fly fisher is picking up rod, reel and line and attempting that first tentative cast. Well, don’t be an anxious angler, just do it! Fly fishing is not nearly as complicated as it is frequently made out to be and a person can learn all they need to achieve casting success and catch fish in as little as an hour. Now I am not saying that your cast will be perfect or that you will be able to cast like a pro but what most newbie fly casters don’t realize is that 90% of the fish caught on the fly are done so with casts distancing less than 25 feet. Therefore, fly fishing is more about understanding specifically where the fish are hiding and targeting them with short, well placed casts.
Another issue I see frequently when instructing new fly fishers is poor gear selection. They buy expensive waders, sun glasses, fly jackets and nets but purchase their fly rod, reel and line at Walmart. Avoid frustration, maximize available funds and shorten the amount of time it will take to master the art of fly fishing by first investing in these three critical items. This isn’t to say big money need be spent but $100 on a rod, $80 on a good weight forward tapered floating line and $50 on a reel will go a LONG way in shortening the learning curve. Better gear simply casts easier allowing beginners to become less frustrated when trying to learn.
When fly fishing, always wear eye protection. Beginner or experts should all heed this warning and when instructing I cannot stress this enough. Wind, branches, other fly casters, fish spitting the hook, misplaced casts . . . there are simply too many uncontrollable variables for an angler to make a perfect cast every time. Even experts casting in perfect situations can make mistakes. A hook in the ear or head is an inconvenience; a hook in the eye is potentially tragic. Full wrap around polarized sunglasses on bright days and cheap $10 clear safety glasses on those days that are overcast are what I call simple preventative measures.
Read a book, watch youtube videos, take an adult education class, hire a Maine guide, take a class at LL Bean . . . whatever the final choice, there are lots of instructional options to help anglers successfully take that first cast. 
After long months of inactivity, “anglers anxious” wishing  to fly fish open waters would be well served to make a pilgrimage to Grand Lake Stream (Delorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 35, B-4). Open April 1st to fly fishing only, hoards of anglers descend upon the stream, drunk on the prospects of pulling fat silversides from the stream’s turbulent, ice cold waters. Fishing is often fast and furious during the first three weeks of April, with hungry salmon eager to bite hard on any imitation smelt patterns (Black Ghost and Gray Ghost). Those new to the sport of fly fishing and confused by the overwhelming selection of flies can stop at the Grand Lake Stream store and simply ask the clerk what they are biting.
Widely considered one of the top landlocked salmon rivers in the state, Grand Lake Stream regularly produces salmon of between 16 and 20 inches in length, with larger fish always an exciting possibility. Regulations set a length minimum for salmon at 14 inches and a one fish bag limit on salmon. The dam pool is by far the most popular (and also most crowded location) so those wishing for a quieter and more pristine experience, it is good to explore other areas of the stream such as the hatchery pool.
Stream Side Salmon Sushi
Those staying in Grand Lake Stream usually stay in lodges with three fully prepared and served meals a day (American plan), however, those with more budget conscious considerations choose to cook our own meals (house keeping plan). For those choosing this plan option, I can think of no better lunch time meal than freshly caught salmon. This meal can be easily prepped ahead of time and assembled on-site with little more time commitment than making a sandwich.
Start by making the sushi rice the evening before, I prefer “Rice Select” but there are many other brands equally good. Cook rice according to the directions on the rice package and after the rice has cooled, add approximately 3 tablespoons of rice vinegar per cup of rice made. Rice can then be place in a large Ziploc bag.
In the morning, pack up the sushi rice along with, roasted seaweed wraps, pickled ginger, soy sauce, wasabi, and avocado. Once a salmon is caught it can be filleted and the flesh cut into thin strips. To assemble the rolls, place a seaweed wrap on a plate and press a thin layer of cool rice on the seaweed. Leave at least 1/2 inch top and bottom edge of the seaweed uncovered for easier rolling later. Dot some wasabi down the center of the rice so that it is spread evenly through the entire roll. Arrange avocado and salmon to the rice about 1 inch away from the bottom edge of the seaweed. Slightly dampen the top edge of the seaweed and then roll from bottom to the top edge. While some people prefer to accomplish this step with the help of a bamboo mat, it isn’t absolutely necessary. Cut roll into 8 equal pieces, top with a thin slice of pickled ginger and serve sprinkled with soy sauce to taste.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Advanced Game Camera Presentation

Video on how to more effectively use game cameras to
 target deer and other game animals . . . Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wildlife Quiz- The Striped Skunk


Maine’s Striped Skunk
The striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) belongs to the family Mephitidae (means stench). The skunk’s range includes the continental United States, southern Canada and northern Mexico. Highly adaptable, skunks can be found in a wide variety of habitats from field and forests, agricultural and urban areas.
Skunks wear a coat of pitch black fur with a distinctive broad white strip running down its back, making them uniquely easy to identify. Despite this obvious and memorable warning many household pets never seem to learn the “stay away” lesson, repeatedly finding skunks irresistible.
About the size of a house cat, skunks weigh between 3-14 pounds and grow to a length of 25-32 inches. For their relatively diminutive size, skunks possess an impressive defense system. Scent glands on each side of the anus produce a foul smelling fluid, potent enough to ward off almost any predatory attack. Direct contact with the fluid will cause severe skin irritation and temporary blindness.
Skunks are neither diurnal (day) nor strictly nocturnal (night) creatures but instead categorized as crepuscular or twilight creatures, active most during dusk and dawn. Skunks encountered during daylight should be avoided, since this uncharacteristic behavior is typical of skunks carrying rabies.
Omnivores, skunks eat a wildly variable diet of plants and animals, including insects, birds, frogs, fruits, grasses, buds, grains, nuts, and carrion. In residential areas, skunk’s burrowing and feeding habits frequently conflict with humans, making them wildly undesirable pests.
            Breeding occurs in February through March with young born in April and June with litters averaging 6-7 young.

Wildlife Quiz Questions:
1. Is it legal to keep a skunk as a pet in Maine?
2. How far can a skunk spray?
3. Is there a hunting season on skunks?
4. Do skunks hibernate?
5. If an animal is sprayed by a skunk what is the best way to get rid of the odor?
6. What is the best way to get rid of a skunk from a property?
7. What is the home rage of a skunk?
8. How long do skunks live?

Wildlife Quiz Answers:
1. No, it is not legal to keep a skunk as a pet in Maine.
2. A skunk can spray up to 15 feet.
3. Yes, skunks can be hunted from October 15th to December 31st.
4. Skunks are not “true” hibernators but will den and go through long periods of inactivity during extremely cold weather.
5. Many highly effective commercially available products are available at pet stores. Home remedies include ingredients such as tomato juice, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and baking soda.
6. The best way to get rid of a skunk from a property is to eliminate denning locations around houses and garages. If this is not a viable option, skunks maybe live trapped and relocated a minimum of 10 miles from the original location.
7. The home range of a skunk is 2 miles.

8. Skunks in the wild live about 3 years while in captivity they have live 10-15 years.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Bait Fish Trapping Through the Ice

In years when the ice is safe, March is the perfect month to introduce a child to the sport of ice fishing. Increasingly longer hours of sunlight create days where the mercury creeps high and anglers are able to tend ice traps in t-shirts. These are the best days to ice fish and every year I relish being able to enjoy days like these with family and friends. While I used to enjoy ice fishing the “Grands”, in pursuit of big togue and salmon, my favorite ice fishing trips now are those made with my young children and their friends to local “pickerel ponds”. These bodies of water may not hold trophy sized fish but the fast action is practically guaranteed to keeps the kids busy chasing flags, re-baiting traps and catching lots of fish. One thing I learned quickly, when ice fishing with kids on pickerel ponds, is that they go through A LOT of bait in a very short amount of time. Not only are pickerel ravenous eaters but kids also tend to kill and lose a fair number of bait while attempting to learn how to properly place bait correctly on a hook. On a typical outing, it’s common for me to bring 8-10 dozen baitfish just to make it past lunch time.

Considering baitfish are now being sold for $4.50 per dozen, a half day of ice fishing can get expensive! To solve this problem, as well as introduce kids to another fun angling endeavor, this winter we started trapping our own bait. The state of Maine allows any person who holds a valid fishing license permission to take live bait for their own use with hook and line or bait trap. Baitfish traps must be marked with the name and address of the person who is taking or holding the baitfish, and must be checked at least once every 7 calendar days by the person who set them. It is also important to note that not all bait sized fish are legal to possess only; Smelt, Lake chub, Eastern silvery minnow, Golden shiner, Emerald shiner, Bridle shiner, Common shiner, Blacknose shiner, Spottail shiner, Northern redbelly dace, Finescale dace, Fathead minnow, Blacknose dace, Longnose dace, Creek chub, Fallfish, Pearl dace, Banded killifish, Mummichog, Longnose sucker, White sucker, Creek chubsucker, and American eel. To ensure anglers harvest only legal baitfish, IFW maintains a website (www.maine.gov/ifw/fishing/species/identification/baitfish.htm) listing most of the above species along with full color pictures.

 To trap bait in the winter, it helps to have both an auger, ice scoop and chisel. The auger quickly drills the large hole needed to accept the bait trap, the ice scoop cleans slush from the hole and the chisel chips out ice on future visits, when the hole is frozen over. The best place to locate baitfish is on weed edgings in close proximity to the shore line where small fish tend to feed and hide from larger fish. Start by drilling a single hole and using sounder to check the depth. I prefer bait fishing in 4 feet of water or less. If the depth seems right, drill three more holes (for a total of four) that are all touching each other, then use the chisel to connect the four holes thus creating the one large hole needed to accept the bait trap. Lastly use the ice scoop to clean out the slush and large ice chunks so the bait trap can be easily lowered through the hole. Always start out with a larger hole, than seems necessary as it helps immensely later as in Maine’s extremely cold weather the edging of the hole closes in quickly with ice, becoming rapidly smaller with every visit.

 I bait my Gee’s minnow traps with a cup of dog food and a slice of bread. The two choices seem to encourage more and a wider selection of baitfish to enter the trap than just the one choice. Other anglers swear by Cheetos, spearmint gum, hotdogs, corn, dry cat food and even Styrofoam! Half of the fun with bait trapping is working to find that perfect combination that will lead to big hauls. Once baited, the traps are lowered down the ice hole on a rope until the trap rests about a foot off the bottom. The other end of the rope is then tied to a long straight branch suspended above the hole using two forked sticks. The sticks help keep the rope and the branch from freezing into the ice directly above the hole. I then mark the hole opening with a small spruce tree, warning people of the large opening in the ice and also ensuring that in even after the deepest snow fall it can still be easily found.

 For those looking to try catching their own baitfish Simpson Pond (DeLorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 26, D-3) located in Roque Bluffs State Park offers easy access and a multitude of Golden Shiners. Other good choices include Montegail Pond (Map 25, B-4) located in Columbia Falls which contains a wide variety of dace and minnows, East and West Pike Brook Pond (Map 25, C-3) and Pineo Pond (Map 25, C-2) both located in Cherryfield and both containing healthy populations of Golden shiners.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wildlife Quiz - Red Squirrel

The American Red Squirrel
The American Red Squirrel’s (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) native range stretches across the conifer forests of Canada, southern Alaska, coastal British Colombia, and the United States from the Rocky Mountains east to the Atlantic coast. The only area of the United States devoid of red squirrels is the Pacific Northwest, where their territory is eclipsed by the Douglas squirrel. 
Scientists studying Red Squirrels have determined that over 50% of their diet is comprised of white spruce seeds. Red Squirrels pile consumed seed cones in piles called middens. These piles can sometimes get quite large, encompassing more than a meter in diameter. Red Squirrel territories may contain one or several middens.
Red Squirrels when not aggressively eating, busily work collecting white spruce cones, buds, berries and even mushrooms. Red Squirrels store food in centralized caches where they can be easily accessed throughout the long winter months when food is less readily available.
Red Squirrel females produce one litter per year. In some years reproduction is skipped, while in other years females may breed twice, scientists predict that availability of food, the overall health of the population and other environmental factors may affect these patterns. Rarely nesting below ground, Red Squirrels more commonly nest in the branches or cavities of spruce trees.
Litters range in size from 1-5 young. Pink and hairless at birth, baby squirrels are completely dependent upon their mothers until they finishing nursing at 70 days. At 125 days Red Squirrels reach their adult size of approximately 9 ounces.
Red Squirrels experience severe mortality with only about 22% surviving to one year of age. Those fortunate enough to beat the odds and survive to one year of age, typically live to 2.5 years. Red Squirrels in captivity have been recorded as living as long as eight years.

Wildlife Quiz Questions:
1. What is the native range of the Red Squirrel?
2. How often does the Red Squirrel breed?
4. How big are Red Squirrel litters?
5. What percentage of Red Squirrels survive the first year?
6. What do Red Squirrels eat?
7. What are piles of Red Squirrel consumed seed cones called?
8. How old can Red Squirrels live in captivity?

Wildlife Quiz Answers:
1. The native range of the Red Squirrel stretches across the conifer forests of most of Canada, the southern Alaska, coastal British Colombia, and a wide majority of the United States from the Rocky Mountains east to the Atlantic coast.
2. Red Squirrels produce one litter per year, but in some years reproduction is skipped, while in other years females may breed twice.
4. Red Squirrel litters range in size from 1-5 young.
5. Only about 22% of Red Squirrels survive to one year of age.
6. Red squirrels eat tree buds, berries, seeds, acorns and even some types of fungi.
7. The piles of seed cones consumed by Red Squirrels are called middens.
8. In captivity, Red Squirrels have been known to live to eight years old.


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Ice Fish Like a Kid Again

By the end of an extremely long day suffering through cold temperatures, without even a wind flag to show for a “monumental effort”, I was beginning to question why I had even decided to come on this particular ice fishing trip. As predicted, the temperature fell steadily throughout the day and as the sun dipped below the horizon, a bone chilling north wind kicked up spin drift further hampering the laborious task of picking up ice traps and trekking the mile back to the truck.
To say I was disheartened, by the inactivity of the day, may have been an understatement and while the sport is called “fishing” and not “catching”, it was painfully obvious, as I trudged through the blinding blizzard, that something fundamental had changed in my understanding of the sport of fishing from when I had been a child. At some point in my road to adulthood, I had come to believe that catching BIG fish was more important than catching LOTS of fish.
I was three years old when Dad took me ice fishing for the first time on a small body of water in Washington County called Vose Pond (DeLorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 37, C-1). This small pickerel pond sits just a short snowmobile ride from my childhood home and hot fishing action was always guaranteed. Throughout my youth, I enjoyed many such outing with my family ice fishing on various pickerel and perch ponds throughout Down East, including some of my fondest memories ice fishing Conic Lake (Map 36, C-5).
As I grew older, however, I began to evolve beyond this “childish” view of ice fishing and instead of desiring to catch lots of fish, I decided it was more important to catch one big fish or perhaps none at all, if that was the price needed to catch a trophy. This practice to suffer through long, cold hours of fishing for that one glimmer of hope at a trophy continued for years until that bone chilling day, trudging through that blizzard when my childhood memories of ice fishing transported me back to a time when ice fishing wasn’t about a trophy fish, it was simply about catching tons of fish.
Helping me along on this renewed path are my two children, who at 8 and 10 are simply not going to enjoy sitting on the ice for hours without some degree of excitement. This means that in order to provide for them a fun day of ice fishing, they need some degree of diversion and that means catching LOTS of fish. Fortunately, finding lots of fish isn’t a problem if one isn’t picky about the type of fish they are targeting.
Washington County contains many bodies of water that breed healthy Yellow Perch and Pickerel populations and anglers looking for a fun day need only fish these waters to be practically guaranteed non-stop action. Last season, the tribe and I fished one particular yellow perch filled body of water and logged 135 flags! While every flag certainly did not yield a fish, we caught enough yellow perch where by the end of the evening I was tired of cleaning them!
Speaking of cleaning perch, this chore has always been one that I certainly did not relish until I researched perch cleaning methods on the Internet. Google “How to clean a perch is 10 seconds”, for an interesting video on how to quickly prepare freshly caught perch for the frying pan!
A gregarious species, yellow perch often travel in large schools, making fishing for this delectable treat exciting once anglers can locate them. Rarely taken from water more than 30 feet deep, yellow perch prefer living in shallow waters so targeting areas with water less than 30 feet is necessary. Begin by cutting a lot of holes as this helps to quickly determine where the perch are hiding. Jig a hole for 5-6 minutes and then move to the next. If using ice fishing traps, start with lines set at different depth and once fishing start hitting adjust lines to best target the same depth at which fish are biting. Because perch travel together, one hole can quickly yield multiple hook-ups. Once a flag goes up, a caught fish is immediately placed on the ice and using a jig pole the anglers drops a small lure down the hole. Schooling perch quickly hit the jig and are rapidly pulled out and iced. This really saves on live bait, especially when the perch are voraciously feeding!
Yellow Perch are a relatively diminutive species of game fish, so anglers shouldn’t expect to catch many fish over 5-8 ounces. Occasionally, healthy perch waters will yield large adults weighing 10 ounces but this is much less common. Any Yellow Perch over 1 pound is a real beauty and always be on the look out for any fish that will beat the monstrous 1 pound 10 ounces behemoth taken out of Worthley Pond in East Peru, it currently stands as the state record.

Many Washington County waters contain healthy Yellow Perch populations. Here is a listing of some of the most prolific: Barrows Lake, Bowles Lake, Fulton Lake, Greenland Pond (Big), Fifth Machias Lake, Otter Lake, Upper Oxbrook Lake, Pickerel Pond, Possum Pond, Rand Lake, Roaring Lake and Sucker Lake.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Wildlife Quiz - Togue

The Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush) also known as Togue, Laker, Grey Trout, and Mackinaw exists as a freshwater game fish inhabiting freshwater lakes throughout northern North America. A fish species native to Maine waters, a Lake Trout prefer to inhabit deep, cold, oxygen-rich waters.
A slow-growing fish species, Lake Trout populations can be heavily damaged by overfishing, as such IF&W biologists closely monitored Lake Trout populations in Maine lakes. Maine anglers normally catch Lake Trout averaging between 18 to 24 inches and weighing 2 to 4 pounds. Occasionally a fortunate angler will land a behemoth fish exceeding 15 pounds. Beech Hill Pond in Ellsworth currently stands as the birthplace of the state record Lake Trout, a 31 pounds 8 ounces monster caught by Hollis Grindle in 1958.
Lake Trout possess muted black to gray colored bodies overlaid with light spots. This dark pattern gets progressively lighter down the side of the fish, finally turning white on the fish’s belly. The back of the Lake Trout sports a darkly colored dorsal and adipose fin while the pelvic fins are orange with white edging. The Lake Trout’s tail or caudal fin is forked, easily distinguishing it from of its relative the “square tailed” brook trout.
Opportunistic feeders, Lake Trout, prey on a wide variety of species including alewives, rainbow smelt, crustaceans, insects and even small birds and mammals.
Lake Trout spawn in the fall returning each year to the same spawning area. Young Lake Trout (fry) hatch from the egg and hide in the gravel substrate until early spring when they emerge and begin searching for food. If able to successfully avoid predators, Lake Trout may live to exceed 25 years. Lake Trout can breed with Brook Trout to birth a "Splake". This can occur naturally but more commonly occurs in hatcheries where Lake Trout eggs are fertilized with brook trout sperm.

Questions
  1. By what other names is the Lake Trout known?
  2. Is the Lake Trout native to Maine waters?
  3. What kind of environment do Lake Trout need to flourish?
  4. What is the average sized Lake Trout caught by Maine anglers?
  5. How big was the largest Lake Trout caught in Maine?
  6. What do Lake Trout eat?
  7. How old can Lake Trout live?
  8. What is a “splake”?
Answers

  1. The Lake Trout is also know by the names, Togue, Laker, Grey Trout, and Mackinaw.
  2. Yes, the Lake Trout is native to Maine waters?
  3. Lake Trout need deep, cold, oxygen-rich waters to flourish.
  4. Maine anglers normally catch Lake Trout averaging between 18 to 24 inches and weighing 2 to 4 pounds.
  5. The largest Lake Trout caught in Maine 31 pounds 8 ounces.
  6. Lake Trout eat a wide variety of species including alewives, rainbow smelt, crustaceans, insects and even small birds and mammals.
  7. Lake Trout can live to 25 years of age.
  8. A “Splake” is a fish resulting in the cross breeding of a Lake Trout and a Brook Trout.

Monday, January 16, 2017

A Swing and a Miss

 A Maine grand slam consists of harvesting each of Maine’s large game animals (Turkey, Moose, Bear and Deer) within a single hunting season and the pinnacle sporting achievement. For me, the possibility to achieve this dream became a reality, when I was drawn in the 2015 moose lottery for a bull tag in zone 2. At the time of the drawing, I had already shot my spring turkey with a bow and so was excited with the prospects of what was sure to be a VERY exciting hunting season.
Immediately after returning home form the lottery, I began researching bear guides and after considerable thought, finally settled on an outfitter in the Millinockett area. The bear hunt occurred during the first week of the season and was truly everything I had hoped it would be. I was served great food, treated to fantastic lodging, lead by a knowledgeable guide and joined by several other sports of truly the finest quality. The hunt was exciting and I had two perfect opportunities to shoot bears on Monday and Thursday evenings. Both bears, however, weighted around 125 pounds and while considered “average” sized bear, they were below my personal expectations and so I passed on shooting.
Over the next several weeks of bear season, I was invited by other guides, who had heard of my plight, to hunt over their baits. These hunts yielded no results but even as the season began to come to a close, I still remained hopeful right down to last night I had available, before heading off on my moose hunt the last week of September. The final evening was sweltering hot, and with little wind, the aroma of fermented doughnuts hung heavy in the air, offering a perpetual assault on my olfactory senses. I was sitting in a folding camp chair about 25 yards from the bait site in a small cluster of spruce trees in an area bordered by a large cedar swamp. A maze of bear trails intersected the bait site from numerous directions, making it a guessing game determining what direction a bear would approach the bait. Old washed-out tracks indicated a monstrous bruin had visited the site but after 3 days of hunting, no additional clue of his existence could be found. I still persisted and on the final night was rewarded by what is perhaps one of the most amazing events in my hunting career.
Late in the afternoon of the final day, as the sun started to dip below the horizon, I noted movement in the woods directly over my right-hand shoulder. Slowly turning my head, I could see that it was a bear, a BIG bear at about 40 yards, slowly approaching the bait. Being a right handed shooter, I was in a position where the muzzle of my .30-06 was in exactly the opposite direction of the approaching bruin. I knew, that considering a bears impressive speed, the option of quickly turning, shooting and placing an ethical shot into Mr. Bear were likely zero. My only option was to have the massive bear walk by me as he made his way to the bait. With what was painful slowness, the bear creeped into the bait site, his nose pointed high in the air constantly tasting the air to ensure it was safe. I figured that at any moment, the bear would bolt but instead he just kept coming. Amazed I watched the bear close the distance, 20 yards, 10 yards, 15 feet . . . finally the bear, which I judged to be close to 400 pounds, walked down the trail and by me at 9 feet as I sat on the ground in my camp chair! My adrenaline hitting critical, I struggled to keep my breathing under control and my heart rate from red lining but was rapidly losing the battle. As the bear edged by me, the wind swirled and I noted an immediate change in the bruin’s demeanor and I knew the jig was up. He stopped, took one final hesitated step and bolted into the woods like his tail was on fire, ending my bear hunting for 2015.
After my bear troubles, the rest of the “grand slam” went like clock work, as I managed to shoot my moose, a 750 pound, 13 pointer with a 51 inch spread, exactly 30 minutes into the first day. The beast even landed on the road and within a few hours my brother, father and I had removed the moose from the woods, tagged it and delivered it to the butchers and by noon were sitting on the deck, at our cabin at Red River Camps, enjoying an ice cold beverage.
My deer hunt also ended without incident, as I shot a 110 pound doe with my bow during mid October. After tracking the deer for several weeks using a game camera, I noted that she always walked by my deer stand, every three to four days, always in the evening, about an hour before last light. I went out and sat in my stand for the last three hours on the evening of the third day and encountered only squirrels but on the fourth day, like clock work, the doe walked right by my stand on her regular schedule. I drew back and fired a Rage expandable that impaled her behind the forward shoulder and dropped her only 10 yards from where she was initially hit.

I still think occasionally about my choice to pass on those two bear, but ultimately, if I had to do it all over again I would still have passed the second time. My close encounter would not have been possible had I pulled that trigger early in bear season and while I didn’t harvest that monstrous animal, being that close in its presence was well beyond the word amazing.  While it would have been a great accomplishment to have completed the “grand slam”, it was still an amazing hunting season and one that I will cherish for all time. Like I have said many times before, hunting is only about 10% about the killing the other 90% is about the time spent with family, friends, spending time afield enjoying Mother Nature and the frequent quiet, moments of self-reflection.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Scent Control Kills More Coyotes

Author's son "The Wildman" with his first coyote
Scent Control Kills More Coyotes
A coyote appeared suddenly, 50 yards downwind of my position. The wily dog weaved between spruce trees, offering me no shot opportunity. With the distance closing fast, I knew at any moment he would pick up my scent and the jig would be up. Fortunately, he kept coming and at just 10 yards, he suddenly stopped, finally smelling something that just wasn’t right. At that precise moment, my rifle cracked, and a single .223 round put that coyote down for good. I am not absolutely sure what happened that day; maybe that particular coyote wasn’t exactly the smartest of his breed. Instead, however, what I would like to believe is that I would not have shot that coyote had I not take extensive measures to control my scent.
I believe that many times when hunters fail to succeed in shooting coyotes, they simply have not taken the proper measures need to adequately control their scent profile. When the stakes are high and we are chasing whitetails, it is easy to invest the time and energy required to control our scent. When hunting coyotes however, maintaining that same level of discipline can be difficult. Scent control is not rocket science and even a basic level of scent control, when hunting coyotes, will often go a long way in allowing hunters to put more fur on the ground. No-scent soaps and deodorants are effective but should be used each day 3-4 days before hunting to ensure that residual smells from scented shampoos and body washes are eliminated. Also, wear hunting clothes no more than two outings before rewashing in no-scent laundry soap, drying and then storing in sealed plastic bags with spruce or pine boughs. Done right, more coyotes will see their last Maine winter.
            Hunting coyotes is practically a sport in Down East, almost as exciting as the high school basket ball tournaments. To get in on the action, use the Stud Mill road to access a massive road network, providing access to thousands of miles of prime coyote hunting opportunities. One of my personal favorite spots is located in and around Cranberry Mountain (DeLorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 35 E2) and Lower Sabao Lake (Map 35, D1, E1) both of these areas hold enough song dogs to make any hunter happy.

Ice Fishing
West Grand (Map 35, B-3, B-4) exists as a hugely successful salmon fishery, standing as one of the premier salmon lakes in Maine. The lake’s 14,340 acres and 128 ft watery depths provide excellent habitat for salmon, perhaps one of the most consistent salmon fisheries in eastern Maine. The lake provides superb habitat for coldwater sport fish, yielding trophy sized togue and salmon every season. Currently, the lake is being managed by Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) to produce a high percentage of 2-pound salmon. Salmon caught by ice anglers typically range from 17 to 19-inches with the chance to pull up a larger trophy fish always a possibility. In years, boasting high smelt population densities, between 40-50% of the salmon harvested weigh 2 pounds or greater.
Show me a map of West Grand Lake and it would be difficult to indicate a specific spot where I have fished and not caught many fine salmon. Whitney Cove, the Throughfare, Hardwood Island, Pineo Point and many, many other locations are great choices for catching old silversides through the ice. Anglers targeting salmon will encounter more success if they bring smelts. While salmon will bite shiners, a much larger degree of success will be managed by those willing to invest a little more expense and effort and use smelts. If unaccustomed to using this baitfish, know they are notoriously difficult to keep alive. Bait buckets equipped with small aerators will increase the chances of keeping bait actively swimming all day long.
West Grand Lake should not be trifled with any time of year but especially during the winter. Those wishing to fish its icy depths need to have a backup plan should weather turn nasty. This plan should include extra layers of clothing, food, fire starting materials and being sure to leave an itinerary with someone should you not arrive back home by a specified time.
Snowmobile Riding
My idea of the perfect snowmobile ride includes a maximum of about 50 miles of trail done at around 10-20 miles an hour. At this speed, a rider is able to fully appreciate his or her surrounding and enjoy the beautiful scenery that the Maine winter offers. Often, I see riders flying down trails and across lakes at such unsafe speeds, it has me wondering why they appear to be in such a big hurry. It isn’t that I am an old fossil; it’s simply that I enjoy taking things slow. When I ride, I like to take my time and enjoy the moments spent outside, I stop to talk to ice fishermen, other snowmobile riders, cross country skiers and have even been known to stop at a store to get a snack and drink piping hot cocoa.
            If looking for a slow ride with plenty of beauty and nice places to stop for hot drinks and an afternoon snacks, I suggest taking a ride on the Sunrise Trail (http://sunrisetrail.org) from Machias (Map 26, C-3) to Dennysville (Map 27, A-1) or Cherryfield (Map 25, D-2). This scenic trail passes through some beautiful country and can be accessed by parking at the causeway in Machias. While the scenery is spectacular, even more fun is stopping after a long afternoon of riding at Helen’s Restaurant in Machias for a hot cup of coffee and a slice of one of their delicious pies.  



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