Monday, January 31, 2011

Wild Plants Add Zest to Outdoor Sports

I recently asked Maine author Tom Seymour to write a guest post for the blog. I figure at this point many of you are probably getting burned out from my continual rants, sarcasm and unbelievably tall tales and could use a break! Tom is an inspiration to me as a writer and his regular columns in The Maine Sportsman Magazine are always filled with excellent advice and interesting outdoor tidbits. I am perhaps a little bias, as he writes the magazine’s “Washington County” column, a region near and dear to my sporting heart. Tom maintains the blog Wild Plants and Wooly Bears and is a freelance writer, journalist and columnist. In addition to his writing for The Maine Sportsman, he also maintains a column in Maine Food and Lifestyle Magazine called "Wild Edibles”. His book credits include Foraging New England, Fishing Maine, Hiking Maine, Birding Maine for Globe Pequot Press. Wild Plants of Maine and Hidden World Revealed by Just Write Books of Topsham, Maine and Tom Seymour's Maine, A Maine Anthology by iUniverse Press. The Maine Sportsman also has published a collection of his wildlife columns. All books (except for Hidden World Revealed, Wild Plants of Maine and Maine Wildlife) are available through the links above, Just Write Books, in bookstores and online. In his “spare” time, Tom also revises and edits Maine Off the Beaten Path by GPP. Many thanks Tom for taking the time to craft a post for the blog!

Getting to Know The Wild Plants Adds Zest to Outdoor Sports
By Tom Seymour

For me, no day spent fishing, clamming or walking in the woods ever becomes a total washout. Because no matter what, some interesting plant captures my attention. Often, the plant has something else besides physical beauty to offer. As a forager, I make it a practice to harvest wild edible plants as often as possible. So whether or not trout cooperate or white perch agree to bite, I usually return home well compensated for my efforts. 

Anyone can do as I do, too. It doesn’t take much effort, only a desire to learn and perhaps a few books on the subject. Maine offers a stunning array of interesting and useful wild plants and an encounter with an especially desirable species can make for a memorable experience.

During the growing season, which in my part of the Pine Tree State begins in early April and extends through September, I always keep a certain few items in the trunk of my car. These include a basket (for mushrooms), one or two canvas bags (for plants) and gloves (for harvesting such prickly items as stinging nettles and beaked filberts. It makes sense to carry a hand trowel, too, just in case an unusually productive stand of groundnuts presents itself. I also like to have a few sandwich bags on hand just in case I encounter some desirable plant with ripe seeds.

So armed with these simple tools, I am ready for whatever the day might offer. Of course I do have an idea of what to expect, since each season has its own delights. Like cultivated vegetables, wild edible plants come and go according to a fixed schedule. Just as radishes and lettuce precede tomatoes, dock and jewelweed reach a useful size well ahead of Indian cucumber or hen-of-the-woods mushrooms.

In addition to edible wild plants, wildflowers have always captured my attention. These range from the ethereal and exotically-fragrant twinleaf to New England asters, the flowers of which often appear in captivating shades of rose or magenta.

So even if my day afield doesn’t include something to take home and eat, our wildflowers always add visual appeal. And for sure, while beauty isn’t an essential requirement for physical life, it certainly adds to our well-being and enjoyment.

Even now, in midwinter, with snow flying and temperatures holding below freezing, our wild plants offer an escape from seasonal “blah’s.” Now, with leaves gone on deciduous trees and shrubs, plant identification offers an exciting challenge.

So with guidebook and magnifying lens in hand, I like to walk in the woods and along edges of fields, examining the trees, shrubs and wild plants and trying to nail down their identity.

Even annuals and perennials leave tangible clues to their identity. The dead stalks of goldenrods, of which Maine has many species, have dried flowers clinging to their stems. Edible plants such as wild evening primrose are particularly noticeable, given that their dried, branched stalks and vase-shaped seedpods remain above the level of accumulated winter snows.

Everyone, no matter where they live, has access to Maine’s useful and interesting wild plants. Establishing a familiarity with them, once begun, can easily become a fulfilling, lifetime pursuit. 
  1. Wild Plants of Maine, A Useful Guide, Tom Seymour, Just Write Books, Topsham, Maine, 2010. Of course I can’t resist listing this, my own book here. Besides, it really is a good and useful guide to our wild plants.
  2. Stalking The Healthful Herbs, Euell Gibbons, David McKay Company Inc., New York, NY, 1966 and 
  3. Stalking The Wild Asparagus, Euell Gibbons, also by McKay, 1962. These and Gibbons’ other books are available as reprints. They are classics, industry standards.
  4. A Field Guide to Wildflowers, Roger Tory Peterson, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, New York, 1968. I always say that one good line drawing is worth a thousand fuzzy photographs. And the line drawings in the Peterson series are accurate and precise.
  5. Be sure to check out:

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Coyote or Bobcat Track?

I had a newly inducted predator hunter ask me the other day if I would provide a comparison of a bobcat track and a coyote track in the snow. Pay special attention to the wider track and distinctive toe separation in the bobcat track. The .30-06 Springfield cartridge, in the photograph as a reference, is 3.34 inches in length.

Track of 30 lb Male Bobcat
Track of 35 lb Male Coyote

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

WE are Going to DIE!

On this particular outing, the DDH and I were to attempt the most complicated of outdoor endeavors the dreaded late night/early morning coyote hunt combined with almost a complete day of ice fishing. While this would be a colossal task, for even the most die hard outdoorsmen, minus17 degree F temperatures kept us constantly watchful for frostbite and the onset of hypothermia, hampering our monumental efforts. At the conclusion of the two days we were rewarded by a ice fishing flag, a short salmon and some blood curdling late night coyote hunting.

The full moon cast eerie shadows throughout the woodlands making my eyes swear they could see movement even when there was none. After 15 minutes of sitting on a granite shelf on the edge of a frozen swamp, the sounds of wounded snowshoe rabbit, blasting on the electronic call, had a chorus of several excited song dogs wailing LOUDLY west of our position. A concerned DDH, slowly turned his head in my direction and whispered "WE are going to DIE!" This was soon followed by a remark inquiring on how many rounds of ammunition I had decided to bring and how fast I thought I could work a bolt action rifle. As a true “friend”, to further frazzle his already frayed nerves, I cranked the electronic call to its highest volume and hit "lone coyote howl". The DDH flinched in his seat (possibly from releasing something in an uncontrolled fashion) and his eyes expanded to the size of dinner plates. I had all I could do not to burst out laughing but immediately choked back this vocalization, as I frantically had to repeat, "that was me" lest he attempt to run for it.

In DDHs defense, if you have never hunted predators like coyotes, bobcats and bears you are unaware of how vulnerable it can make you feel. When a coyote howls or a bobcat or black bear silently stalks past you by only a few feet, the hairs on the back of your neck will stand on end like you are conducting electricity. Goose bumps spring forth from your body and your primitive mind regresses to a time when man was the hunted and not the hunter of these beasts. I sometimes feel it is similar to watching a horror movie, there is something unique inside each of us that simply enjoys a good scare. When you combine this adrenaline packed punch with the challenge of calling and the added struggle against the winter season, you begin to see the attraction of hunting these predators.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Hello Kitty Critter Getter

It is certainly no secret, that the DDH (otherwise known as Duck Man and the most honorable president of Duck Power Incorporated) is often the unfortunate target of my taunts, jokes and other assorted abuse. This is not to say, I hold any ill will toward the man, it is simply the way the male species bonds and displays their admiration for other members of the sporting tribe. As DDH pulled in the dooryard, I could hardly contain my excitement as I waited to unveil my latest practical joke. Though fully expected not to have quite the same humor level as the now infamous "wader" incident, the angst of the duck hunting opener, the exposure of West Grand, the brutality of the bronze back adventure or last season's forays to the hard water I still hoped that my latest attempt at poking fun at DDH would at least have smile cracking potential.

To best understand the jokes "practicality" one must be provided with some background. You see DDH is the proud papa to two beautiful little girls. Now these two have seen fit on occasion to glamorize and fashionize DDHs sporting equipment. These "upgrades" run from red ribbons tied on duck decoys, naked Barbies hidden in his hunting coat pocket and the book "My Little Ponies Rescue Fairy Town" stuck into his backpack. The latest accessorization incident occurred a few weeks ago, when DDH realized that all his ice-fishing traps were sporting "Hello Kitty" stickers. A blog post alerted me to this fact and provided me with all the ammunition I needed.

After DDH managed to settle in and relax, I knew his guard was down so I started to slowly build my "case". I carefully spent several minutes showing off my various models of "critter getters", including the wounded woodpecker, rabbit and squirrel I mentioned to DDH that I had a "special" contraption guaranteed to bring the coyotes running I had fabricated especially for his visit. As DDH's finely honed crap detector began to anticipate "trap" and his spidey senses reached their tingling climax, I knew it was THE moment to strike and I unveiled "Hello Kitty".

To try and explain DDHs reaction would prove difficult.Though I did manage to provoke a grin from him resembling that of a Halloween Jack-o’-Lantern, I think he failed to see the humor in my actions or the critter getting potential of my latest and greatest creation. As I attempted to relay these facts, DDH pulled an icy cold one out of his pocket, eased down on the couch, turned a deaf ear to my taunts and began reading "My Little Ponies Rescue Fairy Town".

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Aconcagua Climb 5 Year Anniversary

I can't believe that five years have passed since I planted my ice axe firmly on the summit of the highest peak in the Americas. It now seems a distant memory barely on the fringe of belief. I often wonder if I will ever return to those distant peaks or if I will even ever return to the truly big mountains again at all. It is not that the preponderance makes me sad or soulfully reflective only curious if my physical health and mental desire will continue to be strong enough to power me to these mammoth heights when and if the opportunity again arises. Below are a few additional posts on winter climbing and mountaineering that I am hopeful that you will find interesting and informative.

    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    Simplest of Circumstances Resurrect Outdoor Memories

    Faded memories are brought back to life often by the simplest of circumstances. A distinctive smell like a charred red hot dog cooked over the open flames of a campfire, an old song playing on the radio or in my case ice fishing with a forgotten relic from hard waters past. These odd bits of wood, nails, stain and felt were of the simplest design. Having no supporting feet, underwater spinning reels, windless flags, etc. they maintain no resemblance to the high tec "Jack Traps" and "Heritage" ice traps of today.

    Instead their bases were jammed into piles of slushy snow by the edge of the ice fishing hole, a fixed line descended into the hole and a bite was indicated by a basic lever mechanism. This antique of ice fishing's past was gifted to me 30 years ago, by an outdoor artisan now long dead. By all rights, he was perhaps a normal man, made legendary in the mind of a child. "The eight fingered man from across the lake", whom would salmon fish in the middle of the summer, awake long before the sun to ice fish, plucked fat brook trout from nearby streams and knew all the prime spots to find fiddle heads. A sportsman whose alcohol fueled fishing exploits and tales, both real and imagined, would make my eyes widen and young ears burn.

    Art Hinton was only one of the extensive list of Nashes lake rabble, whom ignited my childhood passions for vintage Hank Williams, red hot dogs, a card game known as pitch and a life long love of fishing.The others on the list included Norman Bohannon, Stanly McConvy, Carol Wallace, David Mahar, Eddie Bell, Earl Boyd, Bob Seeley, Ricky Lord and an assorted number of Mingos. These individuals were responsible for marinating my formative years in a complex stew of happy memories. My growing skill set was expanded by working to create rich camp made fish chowders, learning to shift gears on borrowed 3 wheelers, balancing young shaky legs on water skis and mastering the unique and potentially dying ability to craft an original tall tale. Because of all of these experiences, these sportsmen will not be soon forgotten.

    I am sure that each and everyone of you have a person or people who were instramental in kick starting your understanding of hunting and fishing. Please comment with one or two people (other than family) who made a differance in your sporting life. Thanks for reading!

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    First Coyote of 2011

    I love it when a plan comes together! This 35 pound male coyote was taken Saturday at 9:00 AM. I was hunting an area I had scouted extensively a month previous containing a large amount of coyote sign. A large granite rockfall of boulders boasted numerous well used dens and I was very confident that the morning was going to be productive. The edge of a small pond allowed me to quietly sneak into position and place my electronic call 100 yards to the NW. A gentle 3-5 mile per hour breeze blew directly in my face as I positioned myself behind a small spruce tree. I played a total of 6 repetitions of screaming snowshoe hare with a minute pause between each and an increasing volume level after every 2 sequences, ending at the max volume for the device. Suddenly I caught movement out of my left eye as two coyotes moved quickly through the underbrush and popped onto the frozen surface of the lake 15 yards from where I was sitting and downwind of the electronic call at about 85 yards.

    Knowing that they were unable to catch my scent, I took my time raising the rifle and centered the cross hairs on the larger of the two dogs. I whispered "got ya" and pulled the trigger dropping the dog with a lethal round of 125 grain .30-06 Springfield from my Marlin XL7. As if shocked that it had been deceived, the other coyote stopped dead in its tracks and looked around wildly, trying to determine the shot location. Working the bolt action with heavily gloved hands containing bulky heater packs, I made the mistake of not pulling the bolt back with enough force to eject the spent cartridge. As I turned the rifle over, to drop the spent round from the receiver, a VERY luck coyote sped through the forest like it was on fire. I let out a silent chuckle at my mistake but knew that ultimately that coyote and I would meet again! Thus ends yet another wild predator hunting tale made possible because of my new best friend, the Fox Pro Spitfire.

    Below are a few coyote hunting resources that I have found helpful. Even if you pursue these critters all the time the exciting thing about calling and hunting predators is that there always seems to be something new and exciting to learn. If you have any questions be sure to drop a comment and I will try my best to answer!


    Monday, January 10, 2011

    Greatest Outdoor Movies of All Time

    Don't get it? Watch Deliverance
    As the temperatures outside plummet into the single digits and a violent NorEaster rages outside the living room window, there comes a time when even the most dedicated and “Rabid” outdoorsman enjoys curling up on the couch and watching a movie or two. During this frosty winter season, here is a selection of a few of my outdoor focused favorites.

    1. Deliverance
    2. Touching the Void
    3. Shackleton
    4. Never Cry Wolf
    5. Cliff Hanger
    6. 127 Hours
    7. Vertical Limit
    8. IMAX Everest
    9. Man’s Favorite Sport
    10. Alone in The Wilderness
    11. Into the Wild
    12. As Far as My Feet will Carry Me
    13. The Eiger Sanction
    14. Jerimiah Johnson
    15. White Fang
    16. The Edge
    17. Castaway
    18. Alive
    19. Nanook of the North
    Please add a comment indicating your outdoor movie favorites . . . enjoy!

    Thursday, January 6, 2011

    Winter Camouflage YouTube Links

    It took a few years but I finally hit my 300th BLOG POST! Thanks to everyone for following and reading! 

    To support my previous posts on "Winter Camouflage" I wanted to share a few interesting YouTube videos that highlight making "budget" winter or snow camo and the importance of matching your winter camouflage choice with the intended environment. If you are interested in seeing my previous postings or more on winter camouflage from click HERE or HERE

    If you find any other interesting information or videos on snow camouflage or hunting in the winter environment please post a comment. Thanks!

    Tuesday, January 4, 2011

    Master Winter Camouflage for Better Predator Hunting

    The use of a tool like Google Analytics allows bloggers to gather information on the interests of their readership. Writers are able to see what blog articles are most popular, based on the number of times they are accessed. Sometimes the most read postings are not what you expect. For example, on a large number of people find the blog while searching for a post I created awhile back on winter camouflage. To respond to these queries, I am adding a few additional posts on winter camouflage and hunting in the winter environment . . . enjoy!

    Winter camouflage comes in a staggering array of options including: white, snow shadow, snow digital, Mossy Oak winter, Flecktarn, Seclusion 3D winter and various snow ghillie selections. The reasoning behind choosing a particular winter camouflage pattern is to create a direct match to the intended environment. Snow covered woodlands will require different concealment than wide-open spaces like fields and barren lakes. By being mindful of your anticipated hunting location and watchful of your surroundings, you will be able to more easily blend into the winter environment. As with any camouflage, high contrasts equals easily visible. As bad as dark camouflage patterns are against an open white field, white is equally bad when contrasted against a dark woodland backgrounds. Exercise caution when using white camouflage in dark woodlands as the wary eyes of predators will easily see your movements. In these situations, a mixed camouflage choice consisting of white pants and favorite woodlands pattern, will break up your outline better than all white. Other good examples include, hiding in a snowy brush pile wearing Seclusion 3D winter or wearing the white and blotchy green Flecktarn pattern if hunting a snowy pine or spruce thicket.

    The sportsman looking to enter into the world of winter hunting need not break the bank by purchasing the latest and greatest in snow camouflage. Many inexpensive options exist that will provide you with ample winter coverage. This year, I have been very pleased with a set of military surplus white nylon pants and a white nylon mesh camouflage covering I acquired for $20 and winter hat and gaiter from Walmart for $5 (see photos). This set-up allows me to quickly and easily adapt to different hunting scenarios with minimal effort. Other “thrifty” options include using painter coveralls with hood (not quite as durable as the nylon option) or simply a white bed sheet (just remember that cotton will quickly absorb water and ice up).

    The possibilities are obviously many and varied, so I encourage everyone to get out there and try out some of these snow camouflage selections! If you happen to find other great choices please drop a comment.
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