Friday, April 29, 2011

Turkey Hunt 2011

In preparation of the start of Maine’s Turkey Hunting Season, scheduled for youth hunters to begin Saturday 4/30/11, I wanted to re-publish a few of the various articles I have written regarding turkey hunting in Maine. This season promises to be yet again an exciting experience, as I have several family and friends joining me for what promises to be loads of fun. Added to this years mix, I will be guiding two junior hunters and their Dad on youth day!  I am sure that by months end I will have many new and exciting tales to tell! Good luck in bagging that long beard!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bigfoot Sighting?

This Picture is Obviously Meant to be Humorous BUT for a more Serious Look at Finding Maine's Bigfoot Be Sure to Read: "Finding Maine's Bigfoot".

Bigfoot or Very Wet Floridian Turkey Hunter? You Decide!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Florida Osceolas 2011 – The Whole Story

Battling oppressive heat, fire ants, tornado warnings, stampeding cows, trench foot and a curious panther that stalked to within 50 yards of my turkey decoys, were just a few of the exciting highlights of our 2011 Florida Osceola Turkey hunt. A normal man might ponder why any sane individual would subject themselves to this degree of abuse, in pursuit of game animals with the brain the size of an acorn. What they would be missing is the “unique” challenge hunting public lands in Florida presents to sportsmen.

Now you southern boys are going to have to cut this northerner some slack on these next few statements, lest you be invited to go sea ducking with me on the Atlantic in January while temperatures hover around a balmy 20 below zero.

One thing we have certainly well learned from our past two seasons chasing Osceolas, is that the Floridian jungle is like being on a completely different PLANET compared to the boreal forests of Maine. In Florida, even the simple act of sitting down is a complicated by a laundry list of potentially lethal possibilities. Fire ants, poisonous snakes, spiders and a dozen different plants with venomous spikes are just a few of the horrors that await any sportsman lax about where he places his fanny. Added to these pleasures, was this year’s added excitement of the angry free-range devil cows populating Seminole Ranch. This spawn of Satan, we quickly learned, took great pleasure in charging any sleepy turkey hunters who had the audacity to approach field edges in the early morning darkness. Lesson learned, lit headlamps not only attract moths but also 1500 pound cud chewers. Long will be my fond memory of frantically trying to shut off my headlamp, whilst dodging 25 stampeding pissed off cows and attempting to keep my lower intestine from completing an uncontrollable act. All that was heard in the night’s perfect blackness, by my hunting comrades, were the dozens of heavy footfalls and the frantic yelling of a (rabid) maniac yelling WOAH COW!! Good times, good times! BTW, instantly be considered one of my close personal friends by throwing a steak or two on the grill this weekend!

Throw into this season’s mix, of animal encounters, the unpredictable thunder and lightening storms, tornado warnings and hurricane force winds and you have all of the ingredients of a hunt that will eventually have you delusional, thrusting your arms skyward and screaming at the top of your lungs to God in heaven “Is this all you got”! Not that I would ever mentally digress to that degree of complete loss of self-control BUT I have this friend of a friend and that is all I am going to say.

Seminole Ranch is outwardly an awesome place. Huge fields filled with snowy egrets, hawks and yes, even turkeys are sure to impress. As a hunter, it is easy to scout these massive open expanses and think that shooting a turkey would be imminent. Unfortunately, this could not be further from the truth. Seeing turkeys and getting one to within 40 yards are two COMPLETELY different things and public land Osceola toms are very unwilling to come to a call or set-up of decoys, no matter how convincing you think you might be. I am not going to say it won’t happen, only that it is exceedingly difficult.
Hunters have a MUCH better chance at scoring a bird by hunting roads, hiking paths and routes leading to and from roosting and feeding areas (the massive fields). Using the tactic of hunting pinch points, thoroughfares other natural funnels, to your advantage, you limit the areas that a wily tom can escape. If you are lucky, a gobbler may even wander in front of your barrel with no calling or use of decoys. If you think you can accomplish that task, you are getting the idea of what it is like to hunt Osceola turkeys.

My best chances of scoring a bird, were first setting up 300 yards from another hunter who scored, second being surrounded in all directions by gobbling toms and third stalking a watering hole late morning that contained two hens. Each of these events, were they slightly altered or if fate decided to reward rather than punish me, could have potentially allowed me to score a bird. Unfortunately, time and knowledge of the area were ultimately against me and I now need to determine if I try for the Floridian resident Osceola again next season or head to Texas?!?!.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Sportsman's Power of Patience and Observation

I had a lot of time to sit and think a few weeks back, as one of the thousands of people stranded at a airport terminal as the airlines attempted to recover for the recent snowmageddon. As I pondered, I began to realize sportsmen posses a skill set that seems to be quickly disappearing from the general public. Around me hundreds of people were zoning out (or is it in?) to their blackberries, computers, handheld video devices and busily chatting and texting on their cell phones. Few if any people were able to disconnect that just “be”. It seemed easy for me to “waste” away the approximately 12 hours happily watching people and their comings and goings. I wonder if sportsmen are so used to spending quite hours in the woods watching and waiting, that over the years they have finely honed their levels of patience and  are perfectly content to sit and observe. Over the years, this mastery of patience and observation have served me well and allowed me to see hawks snatching mice from fields, tom turkeys battle for dominance, mink skirt vernal ponds, a fisher pass under my tree stand and numerous other woodland animals carry on their daily quest for survival with little or no knowledge of my presence.

People are truly fascinating creatures, perhaps the most interesting. We are all a storybook of secrets that an astute observer can sometimes unravel. Some folks are especially gifted in this skill like doctors, teachers, social and child care workers whose very job it is to know well the ins and outs of the human mind and be able to correctly and efficiently determine through the correct levels of observation, human interaction and questioning the inner workings of the mind. Everyone could certainly learn something about their fellow man, if they simply disconnect and observe the world around them at a much more immediate and personal level. I challenge you to unplug!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Florida Osceola Turkeys - 2011

The following is a letter my hunting buddy sent to a friend concerning our recent Florida Osceola hunt. It provides a perspective on our trip that in the days to follow, I am certain to embellish with wild stories of panthers, stampeding cows, tornadoes, soggy feet and other associated general mayhem. For more on hunting the Osceola turkey, from our 2010 trip, see HERE.

We have been duped again! However, our 2011 trip chasing Osceolas trumped last years by a long shot. We knew going into the grand slam, Osceolas were the most difficult. We did see toms and jakes daily but man, talk about a bird that will not come to a call! Public land Osceolas are flat out difficult. I would say our best chance was early Sunday (Yes, you can hunt on Sunday's in Florida!) morning when a Floridian named Hank provided us with GPS coordinates that put us smack dab in the middle of 4 gobbling roosted toms. Talk about exciting! Unfortunately, 2 other hunters arrived at the same spot 30 minutes after we were set up and bumped the birds. They ignored our waves and whistles and were simply unwilling to move on to another spot, a forbidden practice and seen as a huge no, no in New England but apparently an accepted practice in the swamps of Florida. I'm sure we will look back and laugh when this is all over but at the current time it is still burning in my soul.

On the plus side, I did NOT see any poisonous snakes. However, my buddy Steve (rabidoutdoorsman) had a Florida panther stalk in on his hen decoys. He finally spooked it at about 50 yards. Talk about a scary walk in the dark the next few mornings! No wonder the turkeys don't gobble when they hit the ground!

Unfortunately, we were given some false info at Bull Creek during our 2010 hunt that spoiled our final 2011 hunting day. In a nutshell, last year we were told that there was a portion of the ranch that was off limits to hunting and of course that is where we were seeing all of the birds. We set up on the edge of it Monday morning and saw toms and jakes on this small parcel all morning but like most Florida toms, they would not come to the call. They would have been easy, easy, easy to set up on in the dark and pattern. We could have hunted that piece the entire time but did not get this info until we checked out Monday. I blame myself for not persisting to find out and really wish the volunteer last year knew the property boundaries better because we would be done.

The flights were smooth both ways. We had a lot of help with the Pastor from my church and another friend from church with the early morning and late evening car rides. I still don't know how you southern folks handle that heat. I'm planting the seed now for our Texas trip, which may happen next spring if we decide to give Florida a rest for a year. It will be determined around December when they do the quota drawing. We had tremendous help this season in Florida through my buddy Ronnie and a great new friend Hank. (Hank BTW is older than I am and still looks like he could saddle up for the Boston marathon tomorrow morning and win)!  We realize that this info pre-hunt was priceless and saved us a ton of time. Hank and Ronnie collectively put us onto birds daily. We also saw over 40 deer, give or take, and 5 hogs. As always, my mom and her husband and my oldest sister really provided loving hospitality and patience for two dubs like Steve (rabidoutdoorsman) and I. An old fraternity brother of ours and his amazing wife, opened their home and their hearts and put us up for a couple of evenings and hosted several spectacular meals.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mystery Rock Piles

A friend sent me this picture of some unusual rock formations. These odd piles of rocks can be found on a river in Kingman, Maine during extreme low water conditions. The erratic rock piles are approximately 2 feet wide at the base and 1-1/2 feet tall and constructed of round stones all around the same size. In a discussion with a local biologist studying local flora and fauna, it was determined they were not made by animals but most likely created by humans.

A web search lead me to a few articles that discuss strange rock formations. However the mystery still remains. Anyone care to propose an additional theory or to hazard a guess? 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Monday, April 4, 2011

AR (Armalite) 15 Hunting Rifle

A friend stopped by my home shooting range during the weekend, allowing me an opportunity to test fire his two AR15s. I had long been interested in the AR15 platform as a sporting firearm and this outing provided me with a boatload of convincing proof. The rifles out of the box accuracy, lightweight, reliability, semiautomatic capabilities and endless list of possible modifications, make it the perfect predator hunting/home defense rifle. If you question my choice, take one to the range and you will quickly come over to my way of thinking.

On the range, with iron sites, I had no problem putting 6 of 10 shots quickly into a pie plate at 100 yards. Adding basic optics, it would become scary accurate at typical ranges (25-100 yds) most encountered in the thick Maine woods. Even when working extended ranges (100-300 yds) found when hunting frozen lakes and power lines, the zippy (2,820 FPS in 70 grain loads) .223 could deliver a terminal payload into the vitals of coyotes, bobcats and fox with ease.

Military grade firearms including the 1903 Springfield (WWI) and M1 Garand (WWII) have a long history of being converted into sporting use and the M16 /AR15 is certainly no exception. A large number of manufacturers produce the AR 15 including DPMS / Panther Arms, Armalite, Colt, Heckler and Koch (HK), Olympic Arms and many, many more. Remington also recently entered the market, making a very attractive AR15 simply called the R15. Right out of the box, it comes with some very nice basic features, making for a very slick rifle. It is available in several different styles, barrel lengths and calibers including .308, .243 and .223 . . . . AND (sit down and brace yourself) it comes in Advantage MAX 1 HD camouflage.

The obvious “classic” choice of AR15 is the .223 round mimicking the military 5.56 mm cartridge. With ammo available through a wide selection of manufacturers, it is both cheap and easy to obtain. Bullet grain weights range from 55 to 75 grains providing plenty of room to fine tune your loads to the game animal you intend to pursue. Fox hunting use the 55-grain load to cut down on hide damage. Want to add a little more knockdown power for coyotes upgrade to the 75-grain. Need better performance? Many ammunition companies offer high-end selections to this popular caliber.

Shooting the .223 is a dream for those used to shooting larger calibers as recoil is practically nominal. The basic ballistics of the .223 make it a formidable predator hunting selection. At 100, 200 and 300 yards bullet drop is 0, -4 and -15 inches. Zeroing in the .223 round at 200 yards would make the “kill zone” much bigger and distance calculations easier. Due to its lightweight, shooting long ranges in windy conditions may require significant windage calculations.

For the survivalist minded crowd, the AR15 is “THE” rifle to own ( Available in apocalypse, world ending 30 round clips and zombie horde stomping100 round drums, make it additionally a serious home defense weapon.
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