Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bear Video

This video was taken last season of a bear working a bait site. This bear was not harvested, so for the nature lovers among us there are NO impact shots. This video serves as a great educational tool to show clients how to successfully estimate bear size. Note that the bear passes a stump that is approximately 25 inches in height. My challenge for commenters, to accurately judge the bear's weight. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Waterfowl Youth Day

I had the distinct pleasure, a few weekends ago, of sharing a duck blind with a father/daughter hunting team, who share my wild passion for waterfowl hunting. Needing assistance in organizing boats, decoys and finding a prime hunting location, these sports contacted me to make the arrangements. Arriving at the boat launch at 4:00 am, I was greeted by three very excited duck hunting animals. Piling into two small watercraft, we managed to safely transport all required gear to the duck blind without a single interesting tale to tell.

In Maine, the youth waterfowl opener occurs every year around mid September and offers kids 10-15 and under a fantastic opportunity to harvest early season ducks, before regular season hunting pressure makes them nervous as a mother hen. In addition Dad and/or Mom can enjoy hunting along side their son or daughter, possibly at the same time getting a chance to target members of our healthy resident Canada goose population.

Hunting with kids is always entertaining and this scenario certainly was filled with its fair share of laughter. Everything from lost hunters needing gas for depleted outboards, an unscheduled early morning swim and an over active Labrador retriever that dropped something so vile, it had me gagging for 4 hours.

Watching Jordan's uncoordinated attempts to take a mallard out of the air, with her youth model over under Stoger 20 g, had me smiling, remembering a time long ago when I to was learning the finer points of marksmanship. With a high degree of patience, her Dad directed how to effectively mount, acquire a moving target, calculate lead and fire. Jordan was an eager and receptive student but shooting a moving target, with precision, is a skill that takes years to master. Jordan's practice, will someday foster explosive results.

We worked all morning, to call 5-6 mallards and black ducks into shotgun range but ultimately heavy fog and inexperience at shooting ducks on the wing, ended the hunt without a duck in hand. Ultimately, hunting is much more than the killing and it could not have been a finer morning, enjoyed in the fine company of new friends!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Retreat Into the Maine Wilds

For a few years, I have been toying with the idea of writing and attempting to eventually published an act of fiction (book, short story, etc.). In an attempt to spur along this endeavor, I plan to publish a series of blog post that highlight my thoughts, notes and writing related to the project. I am hopeful that this will generate comments, suggestions and feedback to drive my interest and assist in keeping the project going. Ok, enough explanation, here is the first post!

My name is Gus N. Kindle but I remember a happier time in my life when my friends simply called me Gunk. I remember not when or who bestowed upon me the nickname, an obvious perversion of my real name and with the passage of so many years my cares have found other bay unto which to anchor. In those earlier days, it seemed easy to take happiness and joy for granted. To fail to appreciate the simply pleasures of existence and the apparently effortless way a life in the modern world unfolds. Possibly through design, we as a society have worked to eliminate surprise and institute a level of control in our day-to-day activities, as to attempt to remove anything resembling disorder. Is it possible that in our attempt to fight chaos, we have inadvertently allowed ourselves to become complacent? Have we simply become drones or automatons driving forth in our daily routines for no more apparent reason then they are simply habit. Are we so comfortable and unwilling to embrace a life less ordinary that we fear what we do not know and refuse to wander far from our small corner of the world? Like one of those maps you purchase at a gas station, are we afraid to unfold and explore new territory for the fear that we will not be able to put it back together in a manageable stack that will fit neatly back into our glove box?

The fragments of my old life seem strange and far away, like the chapters of a book read long ago, where the characters and plot are distant and practically forgotten. Occasionally, the ghosts of my old life visit my dreams and wake me with their whispers, bathed in sweat and screaming, I curse at them to go away. These vivid memories are meant to torture me least I attempt to forget past indiscretions. While I fear not death, the faded echo of a life near perfection haunts me. I accept my sentence as one might swallow a bitter fowl tasting medication, it must hurt to heal so the old saying goes. Almost twenty years have passed since the accident and only a few less since I abandoned life in the civilized world and retreated deep into the Maine wilderness to find solace, healing and peace in the bosom of the natural world. The shear effort required to stay alive out here, with only the very basic elements of survival, is enough to keep my mind focused on the now, with little time for thoughts to drift to the past. I guess if I am honest with myself, my original plan had been to die out here, to escape the pain of my great loss and put my soul to rest. My decision to continue to draw breath had not been something I had originally relished but it was eventually an idea that I grew to tolerate. Though many years have passed, the anticipation of the day the Reaper visits leaves me anxious, as one might feel about missing a flight to some exotic locale.

Of most, I have little doubt that my retreat into the wilds was viewed as a means of running away from my fears, as turning a blind eye to the problems of civilization, in an act of complete selfishness. Perhaps some were even so cruel, as to see the act barely above the cowardice of suicide. To this rabble, I hold no grudge or ill will, for they understand not the animal that lurks in some men’s souls.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Moose Eat Doughnuts?

Young Moose Investigates Bear Bait
I wanted to share this picture captured at one of our bait sites during the first week of bear season. The photograph depicts a young moose investigating a large pile of fermented doughnuts. While I have never know a moose to eat doughnuts, they certainly find the odor wildly difficult to resist. Occasional visitors to bear baits, they are enjoyed by "wide-eyed" sports who have never encountered a wild moose at such a close distance.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bear Hunting Success - A Maine Guide's Tale

The feeling I had festering in the pit of my stomach, could best be described as tempered anxiety, the anticipation of things to come,  pressured by the hope that for the sport, this would be his first black bear. As a guide, you do all you can to prepare a bait site and brief your client but in the end, it is ultimately up to the sport to pull the trigger and make a clean ethical shot. This plot line, creates a feeling in guiding professionals, not unlike what parents experience sending their children off on their first day of school.

Unlike with a normal bear hunting scenario, this bait location was complicated by a conscientious observer. The sport was accompanied by his wife who was planning to video tape her husband. This meant that two separate stands would need to be installed to accommodate both individuals. Adding further to the complications, were the obvious facts that two individuals double the chances that some small detail will be missed. Tops on this list are of course, scent control and  movement, two of the fastest ways to make a comfortable bear leary.

Parking the truck about a 1/2 mile away, I turned on the walkie in preparation of the excited "bear down" call that I had high hopes of soon receiving. Though it was only the first day of this week long adventure, there is still something distinctly gratifying about your sport harvesting a bruin on the first evening.

The hours of waiting were spent reading, making hunting knives shapah (yes, that is how you spell it and say it in Maine!) and writing this story on my Blackberry, all desperate attempts to keep my mind from wandering to thoughts of how their evening was progressing. I had high hopes that even if they weren't seeing bears, that at least they were comfortable and enjoying the rugged beauty of Maine's flora and fauna.

As the day faded into evening and was finally enveloped in darkness, no shot indicated they had not encountered a "shooter" sized animal. Upon picking up the wide eyed sports, I was gratified to find they had great video of a smaller (110 lb)bear working the bait site but had ultimately passed on taking the animal with hopes that a larger bear would present itself before weeks end.

In reviewing the video, it appeared to be an average sized bear but some choose to roll the dice, determined to take their chances at scoring a truly massive animal. For them, time would tell if they had played their cards correctly.

On Tuesday evening at 6:00 a call from another guide came over the VHF indicating that a 300 lb plus class bear had just strolled across the road heading directly for my sports bait site. Unfortunately, the paths of the bear and the hunter did not cross and another evening slipped quietly past.

Wednesday presented itself and my conversation with the sports indicated that if the 110 lb returned they would take the shot. As I settled the sports into their stands, my confidence was running high. Though the bear had failed to show, the previous evening, the bait site was cleaned out daily, indicating that it would only be a matter of time before he returned during legal hunting hours.

As Jimmy Buffet sang "Margaritaville" for an annoying 11th or 12th time, that sweltering afternoon, a single gun shot, from the clients .30-06 Springfield, suddenly shattered the songs mellow chorus line and I fumbled for the walkie. Checking the walkie volume 3 or 4 times in as many seconds, I forced myself to take a deep breath and wait. Moments seemed to crawl by, making me exponentially more and more nervous. Finally after what seemed like hours, a heavily garbled voice crackled from the speaker, "bear at pebble!".

Jumping in the cab, I hit the accelerator hard enough to throw loose gravel into southern Maine. Rocketing down the dirt road, spruce trees blurred and I silently prayed that there would be no close encounters of the moosey kind.

Arriving, I was pleased to see that, despite the adrenaline rush, the sports were still in their tree stands as instructed. I asked them if the bear was down and they indicated no. I next asked where the bear was shot and to point me in the general direction the animal ran. Tracing a blood trail as wide as a two lane highway, it didn't take long to find the bear heaped up by an old stump.

With my hand tightly gripping the handle of my hand gun, I slowly approached the downed animal watching carefully to see if he was still drawing breath. Convinced that he was most likely dead, I cautiously approached and gave him a firm kick. Getting no response, I tapped his open eye with a long stick and seeing no blink was finally satisfied that I could pronounce the animal dead.

As all hunters realize, after the shot has been fired, the real work begins. Any large game animal is a chore to extract from the woods and perhaps the number one reason to have on your side the services of a registered Maine guide. Possessing extensive tracking skills, the resources and equipment necessary to effectively and safely get a downed bear out of the woods and ultimately to the dinner table, securing their services is for the uninitiated a wise investment. For anyone interested in bear hunting, I strongly encourage you to look at Eagle Mountain for next years bruin adventure in the Maine wilds.

For more on bear hunting - Bear Hunt to Extreme I and II and Smallest Bear Calibers. Also check out Bear Season 2010 Mixed Bag.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Maine's Toughest Test Gets Facelift

IFW, in its infinite wisdom to further complicate the lives of some of the most dedicated and highly skilled sportsmen in the state, have decided to edit the requirements of the Maine guide examination. Last revised in 2002, the test was perhaps ready for a much deserved face lift, however, I argue with IFWs changes. On the top of my list of complaints, is the addition of a second oral examination for any NEW (applying after Sept. 1st) guide candidates wishing to receive all three Recreation, Hunting and Fishing endorsements. Why someone would need to complete a second oral examination, for one additional endorsement, is beyond ridiculous. Maybe I need to dumb myself down with a few more mercury filled Maine fish meals, to better understand this level of stupidity.

The one saving grace in this hullabaloo, is that a candidate need only to take the navigation portion of the oral exam once (for now anyway). When I asked IFW why they make a person take the lost person scenario twice, they responded that it was for "legal" reasons. Hmmm, something doesn't smell right. What good is finding a person, if you can't "navigate" them out of the woods? Who is the mentally challenged group of individuals that set these new requirements? I am certain that the committee was something akin to a Larry, Moe and Curly convention.

In addition to the lost person scenario, the oral will contain 10 five point and 5 ten point questions, as well as photographs of waterfowl, mammals, flyfishing flies, ammo, pfds and fish. In other words, the identification section has been removed from the written and added to the oral part of the exam. The written portion of the test is also changing and will be comprised of 100 questions rather than the old test that boasted well over 200.

What does this ultimately mean for me, currently holding a Maine guide license in recreation and hunting? It means that when I finally decide to obtain my "fishing" endorsement, I will need to once again complete an hour long oral examination, once again completing the lost person scenario. While this is not an extremely complicated endeavor, it is a slap in the face to those of us whom have already completed this requirement and were deemed by IFW as competent outdoor leaders. At the very least, I would have expected IFW to grandfather in any currently registered guides and allow them to complete their endorsements, however, this obviously appears to much to ask of an organization that continues to treat poorly its biggest supporters.

For more check out the DUCKMANS BLOG.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bobcat Revealed on Game Camera

After my exciting game camera photos of the “Maine Mountain Lion?”, I was excitedly poised to see if I could manage to capture some additional photos that provided more detail into the positive identity of this feline. As luck would have it, I didn’t have to wait long. The following photo clearly shows the short “bobbed” tail of a very impressive Bobcat.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Bears Captured on Game Cameras

The following are a few of my favorite game camera pictures that were taken during last weeks foray into the deep Maine wilderness in pursuit of black bears. All of the photos were taken at bait sites that I helped to maintain as part of my guiding obligations. In addition to bears the cameras also captured rabbits, raccoons, blue jays and a young moose with a lust for fermented doughnuts!

200+ Pound Black Bear
35 Pound Bucket Cub
Black Bear with Ear Tags
Black Bear with an Attitude!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Poisoned In the Maine Woods

Poison Ivy - Summer
I suppose, with all of my forays into the Maine woods that it was inevitable that eventually I would be forced to face that most diabolical and menacing of Mother Nature’s flora . . . the Poison Ivy.  Silly perhaps that my slippery ride into the burning and itchy hell pit of scratching misery and festering blisters, didn’t occur on some overland excursion but rather while mowing the lawn. Laugh it up readers, for I to find it amusing to dig at my flesh until it peels like a banana. (Wow, sometimes I surprise even myself when my sarcasm meter rivals that of my cynic hero Anthony Bourdain.)

Somewhere in this twisted tale, there must exist a life lesson to be learned. Like maybe not operating a lawn mower into unfamiliar territory wearing flip flops, shirtless and in shorts that make Speedos look like they provide ample coverage. (Do not judge me, I live deep in the woods, far from the prying eyes of neighbors and small children!) 

As the aggravating rash spread relentlessly across my legs, arms and other areas that will be left unmentionable, to keep this blog format PG13, I questioned if perhaps God was punishing me for possible past indiscretions. Scratching at the burning, slowing expanding rash, I began to review the life infractions against nature and my fellow man that had caused this wrath to befall me.

Perhaps it was that October 31st night in 7th grade when we decided to provide Mr. Clark with a Halloween trick rather than a receiving the traditional treat. Or maybe, it was the valiant attempt to out run that police car on the back roads of the Moose Horn National Wild Life Refuge or possibly accidentally peeing on the Marine Patrol Wardens car while passing through the NH Tolls. Regardless of any historical infractions, somehow the universe was attempting to balance my karma by making me very conscious of how good it feels to simply feel good. Ah, Confucius say, “Man who suffer through a week of itching and scratching, quickly learn to appreciate and value the little things in life. 

That others not follow my epic journey into itchy self-discovery, I encourage readers to check out the following resources: Poison Ivy, Poison Sumac, Poison Oak identification guides, photographs and treatments.
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