Friday, August 26, 2011

Snapping Turtle Surprise!

With a hatchet in my right hand and wielding a large knife in the other, I stared at the two turtles with slight dread knowing the extensive task that lay before me. Though I had seen a quick television clip a few years ago, on butchering turtles, most of that memory had faded. What remained of that recollection, were a scattered series of cuts and hacks, I was only semi-confident would end in a properly butchered animal.

Of course the most obvious place to start was the removal of the beasts head and dangerous mouth implements, capable of removing a man’s hand at the wrist even after the critters decapitation. (I was even told later that because of the low oxygen environment that a turtles brain typically exists in that its brain is still functioning hours after it is severed from its body!) With any animal, it is always a sportsman’s desire it be dispatched quickly and humanely. Given snapping turtles impressive defensive capabilities, the most direct approach, is to deliver a hard blow to the back of its neck with a sharp axe, completely removing the head in 2-3 quick blows.

I thought they smelled Bad on the Outside!
In a scene reminiscent of what you would see in the movie “Psycho”, my 2-3 quick blows were forcibly multiplied by adrenaline as the gagging, snapping, thrashing thirty pound turtle threatened to tear off one of my fingers. No matter my degree of prior hoping, turtle one did not go softly into that goodnight. Splattered in drops of turtle blood and breathing heavily, the task was complete. As when killing anything, sometimes even the best laid plans do not yield the most perfect results. What a sportsman can hope for is that these mistakes are taken as learning experiences and next times yield more impressive results. Turtle two had its head severed completely from its body in 2 blows of the axe.

The Story Continues . . .

Sardine Tournament of Champions - Semi Finals - Round 1

Winners of Round 1 and 2 (Bumble Bee VS King Oscar)
Winner King Oscar

This was an easy one to decide with Bumblebee and Beach Cliff having almost identical flavors. King Oscar with its rich smoky taste is an easy and clear winner!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Snapping Turtle Alert!

Watch Your Fingers!
As the sun edged over the horizon, shooting liquid sunshine through the venetian blinds and into my tightly closed eyes, a beam of light began boring a hole into my subconscious, shifting my dreams to thoughts of BBQ. As I began to imagine the faint smell of slow roasted brisket, my mind snapped awake and I abruptly re-entered the conscious world.

Looking at my watch, I was happy for not over sleeping and quickly threw on my camo clothing, grabbed my rifle and headed out the door in pursuit of Washington County’s health population of coyotes. Before jumping on the ATV, I ran into my brother whom was relieving himself off the back deck, I quickly reminded him he needed to recast the turtle lines into the murky depths as I was obviously busy. As I cruised away, I never gave our conversation another thought.

Back at camp several hours later, I encountered my brother, whose disheveled hair and frantic face were fantastic indicators that he was less than pleased by the effectiveness of our turtle lines. Arriving to within earshot, I heard my brother exclaim in a drawn out and bellowing voice, “You BAAAASSSSTTTIIDDD”. “What”, I replied, “did we actually manage to catch a turtle”? “A turtle”, exclaimed my sibling with growing agitation, “We caught two and one is HUGE, no worries, I saved the titanic one for you to recover, I have no desire to lose a digit today.”

What? Clean BOTH turtles?
Grabbing a knife, to defend myself against the beast, I mustered up my courage and headed for the lakeshore. A solid 50 yards away, I could hear the monster banging against the dock, in a desperate attempt to free itself.  Grabbing the pole, I frantically began pulling in the line. Half way through the involved process, I noted the creature had managed to become knotted around the docks pylons and I had to choke back a reflex to stick my hand in the water to untangle it. After several minutes of pulling and poking with a long stick, I managed to finally free the beast and throw it up on the dock. It immediately began hissing and gurgling and basically making all of the noises you would expect from a majorly pissed off prehistoric creature. Grabbing the angry turtle by the tail, I lifted it high into the air and wedged it firmly into a 5-gallon bucket. Thus secured, we headed back to camp, so I could examine the other specimen.

Though not as large as the male bucket dweller the “smaller” female snapping turtle was still a beautiful specimen. What the female snapper lacked in size, she certainly had in speed and tenacity.  After a brief session, marveling at their ability to effortlessly snap through a large stick, I pondered if I would ever go skinny dipping again in anything but a bathtub. After this brief revelation, I grabbed a hatchet and my brother and I were off to a remote spot to skin, slice and carve up our prey.

For More On Fishing For Snapping Turtles See:

The Story Continues . . .

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fishing For Snapping Turtles

We Americans are for the most part a truly odd bunch. A large percentage of us have determined that the consumption of anything not on a refrigerated grocery store shelf, resting comfortably on a bed of Styrofoam and double wrapped in plastic, is unfit for human consumption. Travel to most other countries in this world or watch an episode of “Bizarre Foods” and your mindset will quickly come to realize that many cultures on this planet have a much more open view of consumables.

Now, this isn’t to say that pockets of hardcore outdoorsmen, are not scattered throughout the United States, willing to eat just about anything. I have watched sportsmen eat raccoon, porcupine and squirrel, as well as much “wilder” game like alligator, snake, kangaroo, wild hog and camel. While these animals may seem wild to some, they are to a dedicated few considered normal everyday delicacies.

With sufficient arm-twisting, many individuals can be pried out of their comfort zones and convinced to try a small morsel of the above mentioned game animals. Where the problem exists and the line few will negotiate is the eating of organ meats such as lung, stomach, intestines, tongue and even the magnificent tasting heat and liver.

As a challenge, I encourage readers to be more open to trying new and exotic foodstuffs. In the end, you may just be pleasantly surprised.

This long introduction leads me to my latest outdoor adventure the trapping, cleaning and the eating of a snapping turtle. Yes, you head that right, one of those scary looking dinosaurs of the depths, that you may have seen a time or two during your visits to some of Maine’s lakes, ponds and rivers.

The Plan Forms

The adventure all started approximately a year ago, with a whiskey fueled late night discussion on how one would actually go about trapping, cleaning, preparing and lastly preserving the shell of a snapping turtle. With all of the unknowns and the added possibility of an unscheduled finger amputation, this escapade had all the important elements for potentially a truly great time.

Arriving “Upta Camp”, armed with the necessary gear for trapping a massive snapper, we were greatly encouraged by several sightings on the first evening. We watched with much anticipation, as two large prehistoric heads protruded out of the lake, as the turtles began their nightly ritual of searching for food. Looking at my meager fishing tackle, consisting of a handful of large octopus hooks and 45-pound test steel leader, I debated if my limited gear stood a chance of holding such a hefty and powerful amphibian.

In all honestly, my brother and I believed our chances, at actually catching one of these beasts, were close to zero. Baiting the hooks with chicken necks and securing the rigging, first to an empty bleach bottle bobber and secondly to a sizeable fishing pole, I began chuckling at the thought that our lines might actually be effective.

The Story Continues . . .

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Coyote Conundrum

At times, I feel I am at a slight disadvantage not having a Facebook account. However, the investment of time and the hassle of managing yet another online application and the associated updating and maintenance, frankly makes my head hurt. Typically, the advantages have managed to outweigh these disadvantages . . . until that is a few days ago when I read the following reply off the public Facebook wall of Maine Magazine ( in reference to my blog. Since I can’t actually reply to this commenter in that forum, I wanted to offer a reply here on my blog. IF you have a Facebook account and want to comment directly on the Maine Magazine wall and link to this article it would be much appreciated!! Be warned that the comment is several posts deep and will require multiple hits on the "Older Posts" button till you make your way down to June 8th at 1:52 AM. Searching for themaineoutdoorsman also helps! Thanks!

Claire Perry writes - I am not anti-hunting. I own prime hunting land and I permit access by permission to hunters I know. HOWEVER, it is extreemly unfortunate that people in Maine do not educate themselves better on a beautiful and intelligent keystone predator...our Maine coyote. They eat mostly rodents, will respect your property boundries (unlike wolves) and are intelligent and HIGHLY BENEFICIAL to our ecosystem ! We can learn to coexiest with them..and SHOULD. Go to to learn more. And I challenge Maine dot to do an indepth interview with Geri Vistein...Maine Wildlife biologist and carnivore expert regarding these amazing animals. We already have enough magazines that view wildlife as something to kill for fun. Time to evolve. Wake up, Maine dot


Conducting a short web search, I was quickly able to find many citations, conducted by state and regional biologist across the United States, clearly refuting and contradicting the claims of Claire Perry:

- Primary wildlife species that the coyote prey upon are white-tailed deer and small mammals such as rats and mice. Their diet also consists of rabbits, groundhogs, ruffed grouse, turkeys, chipmunks, squirrels, muskrats, fruits, berries, carrion, and the occasional house cat.

- In western states alone, coyotes reportedly kill approximately $27 million worth of livestock each year (Gompper 2002).

- Coyotes are opportunistic and will eat a deer anytime the opportunity presents itself. With this in mind, coyote predation on deer is most prevalent during the fawning season

- In Maine, a state study concluded that coyotes killed almost as many deer as the hunters did in 1995.

- Coyotes have learned that in suburbia where they're not hunted and humans pose no threat to them, they can move into woodlots, fenced roads, ditches, rights of way and even flower beds and dodge human contact, yet remain close to their food sources, which sometimes include deer that also live in these same places.

- Wolf genes allow coyotes to take bigger bite of deer herd


Obviously, there are two sides to every argument, so I encourage everyone to read the facts, talk to biologists and consider both sides of the coyote conundrum. Like it or not coyotes are here in the state of Maine forever. Despite the fact they are an invasive species, no matter how much we do to try an eliminate their populations they will always adapt and persevere.

While I do not support the vilification of the coyote or their complete eradication (mostly because it would frankly be impossible) I do support the belief that their population in Maine has become excessive. I think it is possible and justifiable for IFW to implement more robust hunting and harvesting measures that would keep this animals population better in check, just as they do with all other managed game animals.

Additionally, I would add that enjoy hunting these beautiful and cunning predators and every coyote I have shot I consider a personal trophy. If you have not yet had a chance to hunt coyotes, bobcat and fox I strongly encourage you to give it a try!

East Grand Hornpout with Black Spot Disease?

A friend sent me this picture of a Hornpout Caught in East Grand with a possible case of Melanosis or Black Spot Disease? Any other Jr. Biologists/Viral Disease Experts in my readership whom would care to take a guess? All I want to know is how he managed to get it off the hook?!?! My vote would have been to cut the line, spear it with a LONG stick and chuck it into the nearest garbage can.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hook Kids Into Fishing - What if We Catch Something!

ARRGH! Fish Have Teeth!!
Fish long enough and eventually your child will catch a fish. It will likely happen at the most inopportune moment, like when your dog has become hopelessly tangled in your youngster’s fishing line, the reel breaks or someone is attempting to take a pee. So, when the unexpected occurs do not be alarmed but accept it for what it is, after all this is fishing and one must learn to relax and roll with the punches.

As your child busies themselves reeling in their prize, your heart will be racing and you will no doubt forget to pull out your camera! This would be a MISTAKE OF TITANIC PROPORTIONS! Make sure to have your camera handy at all times when fishing with your kiddos, for it will be the moment that you forget the camera or fail to take a photo when the most amazing and memorable events will occur.

Netting Farm Pond Bull Frogs
So after a great struggle, you finally manage to haul this massive aquatic beast onto the dock, your kid is smiling like a Cheshire cat and you are flailing around trying to take a couple of good photographs, before the fish throws the hook and returns to the depths. It is important in this instance to remain calm. Yes, I know you are excited and caught up in the moment but it is also important that you remember that some fish are equipped with spines and teeth. In some cases, these fish species can inflict serious injury to you or your child. This should all have been explained to your child BEFORE they catch their first fish or when you catch one and they are shown. If you did not follow this advice, do not be surprised if you get a frantic, “Arrrgh, Daddy! FISH HAVE TEETH!” followed by your little one stomping on said fish’s head and kicking it back into the water.

Releasing Sunfish
To kill or not to kill
Another decision you will want to make before the first catch is your stance on catch and release. Are your plans to keep, kill and eat the fish or throw it back for whence it came? In my opinion both plans have merit. To keep, kill and eat a fish is a great opportunity to teach youngsters how to quickly and humanely kill game, where food comes from (not Styrofoam packages at the grocery store!!), and how to properly clean and cook a fish. Letting the fish go, teaches conservation, preservation, moderation and a bunch of other words ending in –tion. REMEMBER, fish and game laws may not allow you to keep your child's first fish so make sure to read your law book before heading out.

For More On Fishing With Kids Check Out These Posts:

1. Hook Kids Into Fishing – Introduction

2. Hook Kids Into Fishing – Hooks and Lures

3. Hook Kids Into Fishing – Putting It All Together

4. Hook Kids Into Fishing – What If We Catch Something

6. Lil Man Catches First Fish

Friday, August 12, 2011

Why Leased Land Will Destroy Hunting

The following post is part of a friendly debate that Swamp Thing and I are having on our blogs concerning Leased VS Public Lands. For more check out his blog check at:

Leased VS Open Public Lands
I have to admit that the prospect of paying for the privilege of hunting a particular piece of land is a bizarre proposition to this Maine boy. While Maine is certainly no stranger to the “Posted No Trespassing” sign, these areas are more typical to the southern areas of the state. Even with landowners limiting access, Maine’s many open private properties, expanded archery zones and Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) provide hunting opportunities, minutes from practically every Mainer’s doorstep.

While I understand the concept of leasing a particular piece of land and limiting access to that parcel to a small group of hunters, it would currently be difficult for me to justify the associated costs, given I currently get the same degree of access and pay nothing.

In Maine, we have vast and expansive areas to hunt, accessible primarily by logging roads and ATV trails. Even with these limited backwoods highways (some accessible only by 4-wheel drive), most of the access to the most beautiful and bountiful hunting areas of the state are only accessible via foot traffic. In Maine, great hunting is provided to any sportsmen willing to diverge a short distance from the main wilderness arteries.

Even I as an inhabitant of the central area of the state, am able to walk out in back of my house for good deer hunting or drive a few minutes to access large tracts of field land to chase turkey, grouse or Canada geese. It is often as simple as asking a farmer or landowner for permission. Even chasing puddle ducks can be done with great success by using public boat launches, jump shooting down a river from a canoe or setting up a portable blind on a small uninhabited islands.

On a recent trip turkey hunting in Florida, we were afforded a chance to hunt private lands with close to a 100% success rate at taking a bird and a $1,500.00 price tag. Instead, we chose to take our chances and hunt public lands that cost us nothing. Did we have to put up with other hunters? Yes. Did we go home birdless? Yes. Did we have a fantastic time? Yes. Will we go back and try the public lands again? Absolutely.

Why you might ask? Frankly, it’s the challenge, and the unwavering respect from any hunter when tell them you shot an Osceola turkey on a public land hunt in Florida. It is the challenge of the hunt and the prospect that your chances of going home empty handed are very good that matters most to me. I know to many, that concept will sound idiotic but to me it is the experience and not the kill that makes an animal worth hunting.

It is also worth mentioning that though the years I have met dozens upon dozens of people in my quest to find new huntable lands. From farmers and neighbors to individuals I have met on the Internet, my searching and scouting, has multiplied my network of acquaintances exponentially. Sometimes, I introduce a newcomer to a new hunting location and sometimes I am invited on a hunt. It is an unwritten free trade system that promotes and fosters a sharing and supportive environment for sportsmen both new and old. My Florida hunting experience is an excellent example of this where I connected via the internet with an incredible guy named Hank who even provided me with GPS coordinates that set me less than 50 yards from a roosted Tom one morning.

Considering the above, are leased lands killing the sport of hunting? Are we creating silos of our hunting brethren who are not interested in sharing their experiences openly and introducing others to the sport of hunting? Would you take someone you just met, who said they would like to hunt to your lease? Things to consider . . .

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sardine Tournament of Champions - Round 4

As I finish up the final round of sardine testing, before moving on to the semi-finals, I want to thank those bravely following me through this fun experiment and providing side humor, to these “sardine” posts, with occasional comments. It has been much appreciated. I promise everyone that this exploratory ordeal of the fishy kind will soon be over and I will then once again lapse back into my usual pattern of inane drivel!

The Contestants:
Chicken of the Sea VS Polar

Chicken of the Sea - (1 BAD, 5 GOOD)
1. Saltiness - 4
2. Moistness - 5
3. Firmness/Texture - 5
4. Fishiness - 3
5. Overall Flavor - 3
6. Appearance - 3
7. Packaging – 5
8. Number of Sardines to a Can - 4
9. Would you Buy Again – N
10. Additional Comments – Worst of all brands tasted. The smell, taste and texture of this sardine are just not working together to make this a product worth buying again.

Polar – (1 BAD, 5 GOOD)
1. Saltiness - 4
2. Moistness - 5
3. Firmness/Texture - 4
4. Fishiness - 5
5. Overall Flavor - 5
6. Appearance - 5
7. Packaging - 5
8. Number of Sardines to a Can - 6
9. Would you Buy Again – Y
10. Additional Comments – I preferred this product to the Brunswick, Bumble Bee and Beach Cliff as an interesting and different alternative to the classically bland taste of these other very similar sardines.

Comments: This wraps up the beginning taste testing! On to the Semi-Finals!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Hook Kids Into Fishing - Putting it All Together

This past weekend, I spent most of my day at the lake with the kiddos. During this relaxing session, I caught an exhausting limit of four and five year olds with rod and reel. While they certainly put up a good fight, I find that when lured by promises of marshmallows and hugs, all the thrashing ends pretty quickly and they are easy to net.

Kids absolutely love the game of pretending to be a caught fish and having you reel them in. It is also a great way for them to learn how to properly play a fish, set drag and hold a rod. These sessions are obviously done with hook less lures and in water that is relatively shallow to avoid accidents.

Fishing lingo, vernacular and jargon are often picked-up by sportsmen over a lifetime of pursuing fish. These words and catch phrases (no pun intended) are unique to the sport and when uttered for the first time by young kids, utterly adorable. Imagine a four year old telling you with a look on his face as serious as a heart attack that he thinks he just had a “dribble” and better reel in the line to see if it still has a worm.  If that doesn’t make you smile, how about picturing a five year old approaching a perfect stranger at the beach and asking “Hey Mistah, whatcha usein for bait?”

When you finally reach the point in your child’s fishing education, where the kiddos are having random conversations with other “rival” fishermen at boat launches, it is important that you sit them down and have a serious heart to heart talk about two of the most important aspect of fishing, secrets and exaggeration. In these ensuing conversations, children must be taught who can and cannot be trusted with fishing secrets and to whom and when it is perfectly acceptable to lie. For parents looking to speed up their child’s education, this might be a good time to also work in the “We don’t need to tell Momma everything” discussion. Speaking of secrets, I almost rolled off the dock when my 5 year old brought his mouth close to my ear and in a low whisper said, "Daddy, I have a fishing secret, you haftah be careful when your fishing to be quite so you don't scare away the fish". This was funny, because it wasn’t something that I had ever directly taught him but rather was most likely garnered from our quiet interactions at the lake.

Whenever possible ensure that your time fishing is enjoyable. Don’t expect every second to be perfect but make sure you are creating a scenario that kids will want to return to again and again. If something unexpected occurs (like someone gets hooked or falls off the dock) at least make sure to salvage the day with a trip to get ice cream or a hot coco. The trick is to always end on a good note AND while the kiddos are still wanting more. If they start screaming and crying when you tell them its time to go home, you have done your due diligence.

For More On Fishing With Kids Check Out These Posts:

1. Hook Kids Into Fishing – Introduction

2. Hook Kids Into Fishing – Hooks and Lures

3. Hook Kids Into Fishing – Putting It All Together

4. Hook Kids Into Fishing – What If We Catch Something

6. Lil Man Catches First Fish

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Hook Kids Into Fishing - Hooks and Lures

VIDEO above is my son's first experience ice fishing at 3 years old.

At 4-5 years, depending on maturity level, fishing for kids and parents begins to get really exciting. All of the introductory practice and preparations finally start to come together and little fishermen are afforded the opportunity to graduate to becoming big fishermen. During this transition, parents should still closely supervise and direct fishing activities but hooked lines can now be used. (*Of course kids can start MUCH younger using hooked lines, if jigging for sunfish or ice fishing and under direct parental supervision. Casting and retrieving is a completely different skill set, requiring a higher level of muscular control. Younger kids are likely not to have the physical ability to safely cast a hooked line without impaling themselves or others, therefore caution should be exercised.)

Introduce Hooks: 
Kids are introduced to hooks by allowing them to handle them and practice hooking them into soft plastic lures (like worms, frogs and salamanders) and then removing them. This practice allows them to understand how hooks work and helps to develop the fine motor skills necessary to hook wiggly worms, squirming grubs and soft rubber baits correctly later when in actual fishing scenarios.

Be sure to describe the parts of the hook (Point, shank, barb, eye, etc.) to your child and how different size hooks and styles are used to catch different types of fish and unique fishing situations. Also, describe how a hook can be safely removed from skin and clothes, if an accident occurs, so that children do not panic should there be a mishap. At 5 years old they will be to young to tie mono to the hook so parents can tie the mono to a large swivel and let kids attach the swivel to the eye of the hook. Large hooks are easier for small fingers to manipulate but parents may want to switch to using smaller hooks once the fishing actually begins, depending on fish being targeted.

Casting a Bobber:
When fishing, a large bobber rigged to the line helps with casting distance and allows an excellent visual reference for kids. The anticipation of watching and waiting for the bobber to go under the water is exciting for kids, when the fish decide to cooperate.

For More On Fishing With Kids Check Out These Posts:

1. Hook Kids Into Fishing – Introduction

2. Hook Kids Into Fishing – Hooks and Lures

3. Hook Kids Into Fishing – Putting It All Together

4. Hook Kids Into Fishing – What If We Catch Something

6. Lil Man Catches First Fish

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hook Kids Into Fishing - Introduction

Bed time this past Saturday evening was highlighted by my four year old confidently pronouncing, "Daddy today was the bestest day evah!" Considering the achieved levels of decadence of his past birthday parties and how badly he was spoiled at Christmas, I considered this an extraordinarily bold statement. So, you might ask, what life altering event could be so incredibly spectacular as to spur my young son to utter such a statement? To the dedicated sportsmen, it should come as no surprise, that this proclamation came on the heels of his first day fishing.

If you have been a regular reader of the blog, you are sure to remember the lil man’s first ever fish that came about as a result of a long day ice fishing on Meddybemps Lake. Now, technically you could classify that as his first day fishing BUT to a four year old, this fleeting memory pales in comparison to catching aquatic critters with a rod and reel.

Casting and Retrieving:
At this point, both the four and three year old are fairly proficient in understanding the dynamics of casting and reeling, skills they were both taught soon after they began walking. Kids readily learn these introductory fishing skills, as long as parents take the time to provide instruction in a fun and supportive manner. Small “kid sized” rods and reels fit well tiny hands and short arms and are well worth the investment. With fun designs like Batman, Diego and Barbie your child is sure to go wild when they are unveiled. Even if your budget is more modest, have no worry that any kid will be entertained for hours with a stick having a bit of line attached to the end. Neither fishing nor the equipment for fishing needs to be complex for kids to become hooked. What is most important is the quality of time you spend with your child in these situations and how enthusiastic you are about being outside.

Practice sessions, casting and reeling in lures, are done absent of hooks, until kids develop the motor control to cast and retrieve effectively. Even then, parents will be wise to keep a watchful and vigilant eye on an exuberant youngsters back casts. Casting is made more enjoyable for kids when you tie a plastic bait (salamanders, worms, crayfish, fish, etc) onto the end of their line. The often wildly colorful lures and combined wiggling, jiggling action make it difficult for any kid to resist exhibiting strong interest.

Casting and retrieving on a lawn or driveway, affords a place for instruction that is readily accessible and free of some of the distractions found in more “fishy” situations. Parents need not worry about lures stuck in trees, on lake bottoms or anyone falling into the water. Start by having kids cast beyond a specific point, so they can increase their distance. As distance improves, have them cast lures into hula hoops to help them improve accuracy. With continued practice, 5 year old kids should be able, with guidance, to cast a hooked lure and reel in live fish, eels, mudpuppies, bullfrogs and anything else that manages to bite their hook.

For More On Fishing With Kids Check Out These Posts:

1. Hook Kids Into Fishing – Introduction

2. Hook Kids Into Fishing – Hooks and Lures

3. Hook Kids Into Fishing – Putting It All Together

4. Hook Kids Into Fishing – What If We Catch Something

6. Lil Man Catches First Fish
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