Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mr. Presidents Bronze Back Adventure

Under increasingly threatening skies and against every ounce of better judgment, Mr. President and I grabbed our fishing poles and headed out for No Name Pond.  With fall color creeping into the landscape, a late season foray into the world of the local large mouthed bass fishery had me less than hopeful. Tempering my pessimistic thoughts, however, was a wildly grinning and infectiously enthusiastic Mr. President. He explained that the bass were hungry and tired from their long summer days of hanging in tepid waters and would be voracious this time of year as the waters cooled, the approaching fall days signaling primal urges in their bellies. Somehow, the exulted leader of “Duck Power Incorporated”, seemingly always possess the ability to elicit confidence, in even the most dire of situations.

As small droplets of rain began ricocheting off the fenders of the ATV, I hit the throttle and we screamed off into the quickly deteriorating weather forecast. Arriving at the pond, I gradually flipped over the old canoe, first warning Mr. President that often paper wasps found the underside of the canoe a hard to resist spot for building lakeside vacation homes. We both let out a sigh of relief, finding that no stinging, winged avengers were present.

Gently entering the ancient watercraft, it creaked and moaned like an old man trying to get out of bed in the morning. Constructed of slowly deteriorating fiberglass and with more patches than my Grandfathers old hunting coat, the old girl was in need of a vast amount of TLC. Suffering from approximately four decades of abuse, by various means of outdoor debauchery, water leaked through the floorboards at a constant and regular rate.

Not to be discouraged, by neither the rain entering our faulty craft from above nor the water seeping in from below, was the venerable Mr. President. While lesser men may have crumbled in such dreary conditions, Mr. President only flashed that Jack O’ Lantern sized smile, that despite the heavy cloud cover, had me squinting so hard you could have blindfolded me with dental floss.

Unawares was I, Mr. President had come equipped, for this endeavor, with a selection of bass enticing lures certain to leave the bronze backs unable to maintain a single ounce of composure. I struggled not to take offense, as Mr. President almost collapsed in the bottom of the canoe, at my suggestion of using a Frog Jitter Bug and he scoffed loudly at my usage of a six-inch minnow imitation Rapala.

Mr. President confidently tied on a ZOOM Super fluke and landed three fish in as many casts. Watching his artful fishing display, I became consciously aware that my mouth was hanging open and I was drooling, Finally regaining composure, I asked if perhaps he might have another of those fancy lures. Cutting his line and handing over the secret weapon, I have to admit I was somewhat astonished. While it certainly is within Mr. President’s nature to be a “gift full” individual, it is not typically in his nature to pass up an opportunity to shamelessly badger his opponent.

Bracing myself for the anticipated onslaught of comments, Mr. President instead began to calmly peruse his collection of lures.  After several decisive minutes of reviewing various candidates, he finally decided on using a “Terminator” spinner bait. As if it was even possible to catch fish at an even exponentially faster rate, I sat in disbelieving angst. Fast forward one hour and I was shamelessly begging Mr. President for the “Terminator”. Again brashly cutting his line, he handed over secret weapon #2 and quickly switched to ripping up the waters with a “Blue Fox”, now seemingly on a mission to search and destroy. Mr. President fiendishly worked the flats and structure in an all out effort to break his all time single day catch record. Despite my best efforts to throw him off his game, by eliciting subtraction penalties from the many pickerel and perch caught, his numbers kept adding up. As the sun began to sink low, the President, nursing an aching wrist and heavily growling stomach, boated his fiftieth large mouth bass of the day.

I suppose somewhere in this sorted excursion, I should mention that during this wild tale of fishing excellence, Mr. President additionally managed to boat what he described as the second biggest large mouth bass of his life. Being an ex-tournament bass fisherman, this is an extraordinary task, to not only beat his all time daily record but also be so close to beating his all time bass fishing size record. Though I can take no kudos for the ultimate fishing display, by Mr. President, I do take great satisfaction in the fact that I chose our fishing location and was there to enjoy his through trouncing of his previous fishing record. I figure, as my gym teacher always told me in High School, if you can’t be an athlete be an athletic supporter. Congrats Buddy!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Bear Hunt Taken to the Extreme (Part II)

The 2008 Maine bear season found me back in Grand Lake Stream for my second chance at harvesting a black bruin.  Last season despite my extreme measures of caliber selection and scent control, I still managed to leave the woods bearless. Returning this year with renewed vigor, I vowed to turn the tables on old Mr. Bear and finally fulfill my life long dream of harvesting my last of Maine's big 4. 

Arriving at my final destination found me standing in the Grand Lake Stream town store gathering last minute supplies and drooling over hundreds of wet and dry fly patterns and an assortment of handsome handmade ash pack baskets. My eyes wandered over to the chart listing the number of bears harvested since the season opened. I noted few bears had been harvested and even fewer above 160 pounds. The guides explained that an unusually large crop of black berries and beechnuts had combined to create a smorgasbord that was keeping bears away from the baits. It became immediately apparent that taking a bear this season was to be no easy task. Never one to be discouraged, I ignored this data and decided that if it was to be my time I would indeed harvest a bear.

In the faded light of the second evening, my peripheral vision spotted the shape of a bear slowly creeping up my right hand side toward the bait.  The stealth of the creature gave me pause as it silently navigated through a tangle of blow downs. As Mr. Bear entered a blind spot, I slowly raised my Browning (BAR) .30-’06 Springfield loaded with 220 grain core-locks and settled into a braced position.  The bruin edged around the bait bucket causing my adrenaline to surge, heart to race and a euphoric feeling to wash over me. As the bear began feeding, the cross hairs of my Leupold 3x9 VXI settled behind the bear’s forward shoulder. Unfortunately, the remainder of this story doesn’t have timing on my side as legal hunting had ended 10 minutes before the bears appearance and the cambered round had been removed.  In the dying light, I instead enjoyed watching the bear greedily gobble doughnuts, until the sound of my approaching ride encouraged the bear to sneak back into the woods as quietly as it had arrived.

In my final days of hunting, no other bears were seen and my second year slipped past with an unfulfilled tag. While unsuccessful in harvesting a bear the memories of this hunt and the lessons learned from the previous two seasons have allowed this bear hunting rookie to amass much knowledge. Suggestions include:

1.  Bear hunters need to be patient and wait for a good shot option to present itself. Bait sites typically offer hunters shot opportunities at 20 yards or much less. This tends to be an unusual hunting situation from most hunters so practice sessions at this yardage with your chosen firearm should be organized.

2.  A firearm should be selected with sufficient knock down power. Maine guide favorites include the .30-’06 Springfield, .270 Winchester, .45-70, .444 Marlin, .500 Smith and Weston and a dozen other acceptable selections. No matter your caliber choice remember that shot placement is more important than caliber selection.

3.  Low light situations often exist at bait sites so use quality optics or open sights. Test your sighting choice in your close range practice sessions in light conditions similar to those expected to be encountered at bait sites.

4.  People have shot bear while smoking cigarettes and with little care for personal hygiene. My method of scent management is significantly more aggressive. My system includes making sure that body and clothes are washed in no scent soap. Boots, backpack and primary clothing layers when not worn are packed in garbage bags filled with pine or cedar branches. Properly matched cover scents are also employed.  Don't use acorn or earth cover scent if you are sitting in a pine tree. Most importantly be consistent and do not get lazy.

5.  Limit your movements while on stand. Pack to be comfortable by being properly prepared. Bringing water, cough drops, food, pee bottle and other necessities designed to make your long sit enjoyable. Have bug netting and a comfortable seat.  There is noting worse then trying to remain motionless with mosquitoes drilling into your face and a wooden plank biting into your posterior. Camouflaged clothing matched to your surrounding will mask any small movements that you make.

6.  Bring your GPS, map & compass and know how to navigate using both. Ask your guide where you will be hunting and what is in the immediate area for roads, streams, etc. Prepare for an emergency should one arise and understand how you will contact assistance should it be necessary.

7.  Should you be fortunate enough to shoot a bear plan for extracting the animal and your role in the process.

8.  Maine's weather in September can be fickle, during my 4 days of hunting temperatures ranged from 40-70 degrees with heavy rain and wind.  To combat the worst of Mother Nature wear layered clothing matched to the anticipated weather conditions. Bring a winter hat despite the predicted weather as it takes up almost no space and is invaluable if you begin to get cold. A wide brimmed baseball hat is also helpful in either keeping the sun’s glare or pouring rains off your face and out of your eyes.

9.  All guides want you to be successful so listen carefully and be receptive to their ideas.  If they want you to sit on a stand for 4 days so the bear learns not to fear your scent or that certain stands are better in different wind/weather conditions then don’t second guess their advice.

10.  Don’t leave the stand until the time designated by your guide. If possible wait for the pick-up vehicle to arrive and scare away any bears in the area so that you don’t accomplish this task while leaving. Best not to educate the bear that someone was at the stand site.

Driving back to central Maine over snaky route 6 and down mind numbing I95 gave me plenty of time for reflection. Pondering over the two years worth of bear hunting experiences had me comparing and contrasting the various hunting scenarios I had grown so accustomed to over the years. Sitting on a bait site had been an odd departure from what for me was considered usual and I relished every minute of it for the lessons learned. Sportsmen who view every time out in the woods as an educational opportunity greatly increase their chances of having a positive outdoor experience regardless of the final outcome. The ability to maintain a positive attitude despite adversity and level of success is tied to an understanding that anything worth achieving never comes without a serious investment of time and energy. Through persistence, consistency and patience your hunting successes will greatly improve as will your overall outdoor experience. If I know that on a hunt I tried my absolute best then I will leave satisfied even if not successful. A poor shot in the dark my look like a great option when your thoughts wander to going home bearless but true sportsman rises above. Be patient, your time will come.

Bear Hunt Taken to the Extreme (Part I) can be found HERE.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Striper Fishing Success

Salisbury State Park, Salisbury, Massachusetts is perched on the intersection of the Atlantic Ocean and the mouth of the Merrimack River. This placement allows for the perfect mix of camping, beach fun and striper fishing. Huge sand beaches, a giant play park and ample opportunity to cook marshmallows over the campfire are sure to please kids of all ages. Throw on the top of this exciting mix, the possibility to catch a striped bass or blue fish of truly epic proportions and you have all the ingredients necessary for an awesome family weekend.

Where to fish you might ask? No worries, as the beach is typically loaded with excited fishermen, all willing and eager to share the latest information on how and where the fish are biting. My suggestion would be to show-up, toss in a line and listen to the latest gossip. Half the fun with surfcasting is watching the jumping baitfish and diving seagulls, to determine where the fish are schooling and working out a game plan to catch them.

There are some great sites, within the campground, to pitch a tent or park a camper that are within 50 yards of great fishing. We stayed on the beach end of “Y” street and great fishing was less than a minute walk. Just realize that most spots are VERY close together and privacy is VERY limited. Also, if you want shade for a dog or yourself if the weather is sunny, you may want to request a site with trees, otherwise take your chances and you may end up in a barren region of sandy purgatory.

See here for more information on Salisbury State Parkor nearby Hampton Beach State Park.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Incredible Edible Cattail

One of the activities that I enjoy is exploring edible native foods. Last year, I wrote a post about dandelion greens and along those same lines, this year I am exploring the edible nature of the cattail. As you are well aware, cattails are an amazingly hardly plant and can be found fairly easily and readily in swampy areas. Instead of restating the exceptional resources that are available online, here instead are several of my favorite.

Monday, August 16, 2010

My Kinda People . . .

This post is a compilation of a number of qualities (some funny, some serious and some just plain ridiculous), that I myself posses and have grow to appreciate in others. I know there are a lot of “My Kinda People” out there in cyberspace reading my blog. If any of these descriptors relate to you, your family members or your friends please drop me a comment simply saying “Heck Yeah!” Thanks!

  • Talk about thoughts and ideas and not people
  • Aren’t picky about the beer they drink
  • Don’t flinch
  • Know how to use a compass
  • Can cook
  • Can drive a stick shift
  • Are well read
  • Like Twinkies
  • Drink coffee black
  • Are members of at least one sportsman organization
  • Can gut a deer
  • Think "Animal House" is the greatest movie ever made
  • Occasionally howl at the full moon
  • Are rough around the edges
  • Wear ball caps with a sizeable bend in the brim
  • Think wearing Carhartts and flannel is a fashion statement
  • Take kids fishing
  • Think bacon is the worlds most amazing food
  • Love big dogs
  • Like their whiskey on ice and women on fire . . . sorry Hank.
  • Know how to brew beer
  • Aren't afraid to ask for help
  • Drive 4 wheel drive trucks
  • Know how to paddle a canoe
  • Are never bored 
  • Are a member of the "KISS ARMY"
  • Own at least one belt buckle
  • Can start a campfire in the rain
  • Can change a baby’s diaper
  • Own at least 3 guns
  • Know who Uncle Jesse is . . . and NO he wasn’t on “Full House”!
  • Like campfires
  • Can jump start a car
  • Know at least 20 different knots
  • Don’t mind getting dirty

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I’m Calling in Sick Today

I am obviously no poet but fortune favors the bold, so I present this shot at comedic poetry. I got the idea for this piece flying back from a recent trip. Amazing the dribble you will stoop to create when squeezed into a high altitude sardine can!


I’m Calling in Sick Today

I’m calling in sick today because I am not very well to do.
Dr. Aflack called and said all tests indicate bird flu.

Boss man I am certain you are curious of my health and care.
My symptoms range from bad to worse so say a silent prayer.

My head is pounding from shotgun blasts and body aches from the frosty morning chill.
My lips are chapped from the blowing wind and trigger finger itches from the ducks I plan to kill.

My nose sniffles from the smell of gunpowder and eyes water from the glaring morning sun.
My throat is raw from laughing but I swear I’m not having fun.

As you can plainly see I have an avian affliction with only one viable cure.
It requires time in a duck blind with family and friends of this I am sure.

This apparently fowl predicament will have me out most of the week.
But when I return, I promise to stop daydreaming about shooting ducks on the wing.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Maine Mountain Lion?

Maine Bobcat, Mountain Lion or some strange yet to be identified hybrid? The two photos below depict a Bobcat and a Mountain Lion. In examining the two photos and comparing them to both my original and enlarged game camera picture you can begin to see why many hunters swear they have sighted Mountain Lions in the Maine woods. At quick glance, the coloration, movements and even many physical attributes of these feline predators are similar. A closer examination, however, reveals a number of differences including tail length, spotted coat and size . . . look closely and make your own decision . . . Bobcat or Mountain Lion!

Want to Find a Maine Mt. Lion? Read Hiking for Maine Mt. Lions

Bobcat Photo
Mountain Lion Photo

Original Game Camera Photo
Enlarged Game Camera Photo

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Outdoorsman Eat Garbage

Bacon, doughnuts, soda pop, corn beef hash, greasy eggs and an extensive list of other unhealthy foods are typically attached to any of our early morning hunting and fishing outings. Though loaded with carbohydrates, fats and possessing bizarre powers capable of expanding bellies and asses to titanic sizes, they are perhaps, because of these attributes, the most perfect snack food for an active outdoorsman.

Of these ass expanding favorites, on the top of my list firmly sits the Twinkie snack cake. Oh sure, there are other competitors who have vied for my attention over the years and on occasion I have deviated from the Twinkie and explored other snack cakes. Little Debbie Fudge Rounds, Hostess HoHos, Ding Dongs, Suzy Os, Zingers, Drake Yodels and Coffee Cakes have all, at one time or another suffered at the hands of my sweet tooth and overactive lower digestive system. Despite these delicacies ability to elicit almost instant diabetic shock, their saccharine laced goodness is to overpowering to resist.

Sitting in the duck blind that cold November morning, I have a vague remembrance of peering down at the strange, yellowish, oblong, spongy, cream-filled, pastry sticking to the palm of my hand and thinking, “I bet the shelf life for one of these things is close a millennium.” Years later, I would stumble upon the website twinkiesproject and some of my worst fears would be realized. Undeterred, by the experimentation on my friend “Twinkie the Kid”, my love affair with the noxious inorganic pastry continues.

Despite its strange appearance, a practically endless shelf life and the necessity of using five adjectives just to describe it, a Twinkie is something to be cherished when your body aches from the cold north wind, the ducks aren’t flying and you need some serious comfort food to get you through the morning. It is at these moments, that our minds focus our bodies energies into staying warm and nothing seems to fit this craving any better than that rich, high energy sugar filled snack food from Hostess.

An exploration of the ingredients label, on a package of Twinkies, is not for the faint of heart. Most of the ingredients would be difficult to pronounce, for even the most cunning linguist. Those words you would be able to wrap you tongue around would leave you breathless and dizzy just at the thought of their possible consumption. Though a chemical filled and preservative laden perversion, in moderation, they are delicious . . . just stay away from reading the ingredients list!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Twitter Affliction

My latest technological distraction is “Twitter”. Like I didn’t have enough to occupy my time, I have now subjected myself to hundreds of daily updates on a wide range of topics from hunting, fishing, weather, national and local news updates to scores of other related and unrelated informational injections. Through an application called “Twitterfeed”, I join in on the fun and am able to automatically send my blog updates to Twitter to alert any of my “Followers” when I write new posts. These notifications appear as short one-lined titles with short URLs that direct “Followers” where to go if they wish to read the provided article or find additional information.

At first, I found Twitter to be a little bit overpowering, as there are simply to many updates. To assist in managing the shear volume of information, I quickly learned to organize “lists” and “favorites” that help to center your attention on smaller more manageable bits of data.

If you haven’t yet connected your blog to twitter, I suggest you give it a try! It certainly helps in distributing your posting notifications to a much larger audience.

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