Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Boot Fetish

Maine regular firearms season on deer, barely pushed the mercury low enough to warrant the through testing of my new Irish Setter 800 "Mt. Claw-King Toe" boots. However, by the arrival of Christmas, we were thrust into the deep freeze and the balmy days of November were quickly distant memories.

Maine’s weather is extraordinarily fickle and to be comfortable in these often rapidly changing environments, one must dress in layers and make sure to take excellent care of their feet. Whether hunting or ice fishing, having the right boots can make the difference between shooting a big buck, catching that monster pike or going home empty handed.

Warm and dry feet allow sportsmen to be comfortable in the wilds and spend their time concentrating on the task at hand and not expressly worrying about their feet. Want to have a miserable time in the Maine woods, spend the day with cold wet feet.

To combat this issue, it pays to pick your boots, dependent on the intended task at hand. Sitting in a deer stand motionless in 10-degree temperatures, ice fishing, backpacking, still-hunting, all require specialized boots. Too much boot and feet sweat and leaving you wet feet and blisters, too little boot and you could potentially loose a toe to frostbite.

It is no secret I am a bit of a boot aficionado. My love affair with foot wear, is directly linked to the wild changes that occur in Maine’s seasonal temperatures and a personal pursuit of a wide variety of different outdoor sporting hobbies.

Irish Setter 800s Balance Mobility and Warmth!
The latest arrival to the collection of assorted footwear is a lightweight, comfortable and warm hunting boot constructed with care by the folks at Irish Setter. This is a fine example of a “niche” boot, perfect for certain tasks, where it would be impossible for other footwear to succeed. Wear heavily insulated arctic boots built for ice fishing and you keep feet warm but lose mobility, when navigating thick spruce thickets and briar patches. Wear light weight leather hikers and gain mobility but lose warmth. The balance is stuck with the lightweight Irish Setter 800s that fit more like a sneaker than a “boot”, yet with 800 grams of insulation still provide adequate warmth on days when the mercury dips low.

The test area is an icy cold later December morning. The temperature on the thermometer reads 15 degrees Fahrenheit. My feet wrapped first in a thin perspiration wicking polypropylene sock and secondly with a thicker smart wool sock, rest comfortably in my Irish Setter 800s. Stepping off my deck onto the newly fallen snow, it creaks and groans, as if these boots are its enemy. I choke back a laugh thinking that perhaps they are. I exhale a breath from deep within my chest and the hot wet vapor freezes instantly . . . it is the perfect early morning to hunt rabbits.

Irish Setter "Mt. Claw-King Toe" 800s
I doesn’t take long to notice the familiar tracks of Maine’s varying hare and I follow them into a thick swampy spruce cover. Its slow going, through the thick cover and the ice covering the swamps hidden wet holes is thin. Suddenly my foot breaks through the ice and plunges into the frigid water almost to mid calf. Fortunately, the water does not exceed the height of the boot upper and my foot remains dry and comfortable.

After about 3 hours of walking mixed terrain, it appeared that perhaps Mr. Rabbit would win this battle. However, the good hunter remains vigilant until the very end and as I turned to go home, a single hare burst out of a spruce thicket and straight away from me. I raised my shotgun and fired and one more rabbit would be added to my stew pot. Good boots helped me be able to concentrate on hunting and not expending my mental energies on worrying about cold feet . . . another successful hunt thanks to my Irish Setter 800s.

Looking to add a pair of Irish Setter 800s to your hunting arsenal!? Check out:

Monday, December 17, 2012

Your "REAL" LL Bean Boyfriend

After recently reading the latest VIRAL Internet sensation: Your LL Bean Boyfriend, I began to ponder the specific qualities that women are looking for in a man? The site boasts the tag line: “Your LL Bean boyfriend BUILDS A TABLE and then has SEX with you on it". According to this bold statement, there seems to apparently be a connection between a man’s understanding of woodcrafting and his sexual prowess. I assume in all actuality, one could combine these two qualities into one simple statement and just say that women are looking for a man “good with wood” or a man who is perhaps a master "wood" worker.

Well, ladies I hate to be the one to break it to you but those damn posers in the LL Bean catalogue are pure fantasy. Much like what I am going to assume most of the Victoria Secret models look like minus the make-up and air brushing . . . throw those guys out of a photo shoot and into the unforgiving Maine woods and I give them all about 20 minutes before they start crying for their mommies. I laugh, when I think of poor LL Bean model Silas, sitting in a tree stand wearing his pants with little duckies on them or fancy sweater depicting a polar bear tickle fight, screaming like a little girl when a big black bear walks into his bait site.

I can guarantee that if any of those guys from the LL Bean catalog, “Signature” edition, showed up at deer camp they would be flogged and likely made into someone’s camp bitch. Yes, I agree that statement was perhaps a tad bit harsh but real men, who make tables and have sex with their women on them, are made of harsher, sterner stuff and not what is depicted in the LL Bean catalogue.

To perhaps provide a bit of comic relief, mockery and shameful comment related to Your LL Bean Boyfriend, I offer this reminder to all you women out there that depicted in the pictures below, are what REAL Maine men look and act like. We may not all be handsome, well groomed, recently bathed or dressed in the latest fashions and styles but our women most definitely find us handy in the workshop as well as the bedroom.

"Listen heah Deah, using a few feathers is sexy, only when 
using the whole bird does it become perverted", said Steve.

"Honey. I thought this is what you meant when you said
 you wanted to try two guns at the same time", said Tony.

"Hi Hotstuff, I finally reached the top of Katahdin and wanted
 to txt you this photo to express my love", said Steve.

Baby, did you want your steak well 
done or medium rare?, said Steve

"Darlin' understand that when a man tells you to pull his finger, 
it is impossible to resist. Sorry about the smell sweetheart", said Steve.

"Hun, I know your hard nipples turn me on 
. . . do my hard nipples turn you on?", said Tony.

"Do I make you horny 
baby, well do I?", said Tony.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Night Hunting Coyotes

It should be no secret that setting up a quality coyote bait for the night hunting season is no easy task. First one must select that perfect location that provides effective cover for spooky predators as well as good shot opportunities. Small ponds, fields and clear cuts are prime locations. This small wood lot pictured below, required about 12 hours of work with the chainsaw and hauling brush to get it "perfect". AND of course most importantly you got to make sure nobody dies.

To attract coyotes (night hunting) and other predators like fox and bobcat (legal day hunting only) your bait pile must contain protein sources to entice these scavengers. My bait pile this year includes deer, hog and one ill fated porcupine. Local butcher shops will be able to provide you with meat scraps BUT if you have the means, nothing attracts coyotes quite like a stinky old beaver carcass. 

In previous years, I have been plagued with coyotes and other predators stealing away the bait too quickly. I have tried to solve this problem, in past years by freezing the bait into 5 gallon buckets. This makes the hungry coyotes scratch and dig at the frozen "soup" throughout the entire season as it freezes and thaws. 

This year, as you can see in the picture below, I am trying something new. By wrapping the bait in chicken wire, I hope to make predators "work" at the bait, slowing down the time it takes to eat it all and providing me the added benefit of hopefully allowing a better shot opportunity. I currently have a game camera capturing video on the bait site, so stay tuned to see how this experiment ends. *Note in Maine you must clearly label your bait sites.

A comfortable 70 yard shot from the coyote blind, clear of visible obstructions, helps to make sure every shot opportunity amounts to a clean ethical kill. Note I attempted to tuck the hunting shack into the wood line but after over a month in the same location, I feel confident in assuming that it won't bother the coyotes.

Though may rifle options exist for the hunting of coyotes and other Maine predators, for quick follow-up shot opportunities, easy of use, reliability and a laundry list of possible modifications, it is difficult to beat the AR15 platform. Pictured below is the R15 in .223 . . . nicknamed "my Precious" (see her in action). It is topped with a Nikon 2x7 variable power scope. 

When the cold winds howl and the temperatures growl, it pays to have as little exposed to the elements as possible. A heavy curtain with a peep hole just barely large enough to fit through the rife's barrel and  scope provides visibility without sacrificing loss of heat. To the left, hangs the light switch to the red light that will illuminate the bait site on overcast or moonless nights. When operational, it runs off a 6 volt battery and the switch attaches directly to the rifles front hand guard.

The angle of death awaits any Coyote (Night Hunt 12/16/12-8/31/13), Red Fox (10/15/12-2/28/13) or Bobcat (12/1/12-2/14/13) that approaches the bait site.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Who is the Hunter and Who is the Hunted?

After a day of hunting the backside of the property, I noted a couple buck tracks and decided to set-up a camera on them and see if I could catch a glimpse of the potential rack of the deer that left them. On the way back home, I pulled a camera out of my backpack and hung it on a tree. 

The next weekend I went out and reclaimed the camera and began reviewing the photos and that is when I noted that a coyote had likely been following me. I finished setting up the camera at 5:59 PM and at 6:11PM along comes Mr. Coyote. Considering it took me a few minutes to re-pack my backpack and put it on, the amount of time separating me and the coyote was probably less than 5 minutes. The coyote was likely watching me from a distance the entire time, attempting to determine if I was a target worth tackling. 

While attacks by coyotes on humans are extremely rare, I am curious if had it been joined by others or had I been a woman or a child and of smaller build, if an attack would have occurred. While Maine law requires you to have an unloaded firearm, after the end of legal hunting hours, it does not limit your ability to carry a fully locked and loaded concealed weapon. Each of us needs to make his/her own choices about what it means to be safe and protected in the wilds, for me, peace of mind comes in the form of a handgun. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Wild Life Quiz - American Crow

The following blog post is copied from my regular monthly column titled "Wildlife Quiz" in The Maine Sportsman. This excerpt is from the December 2012 edition. Enjoy!
The American crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos, of the family Corvidae exists as a common and widespread species throughout Maine, as well as almost all of North America. Animal behaviorists consider crows to be among the world's most intelligent animals, with some species capable of tool use and construction. American crows measure approximately 20 inches in length, have a wingspan around 36 inches and weigh between 12 to 22 ounces.

American crows are easy to identify, having brilliant iridescent black feathers, black legs, feet and bill. From a distance, the American crow can sometimes be mistaken for the common raven. A discriminating eye looks for the raven’s larger size, heavier bill, feather tufts at the neck and wedge-shaped tail feathers in flight.

The American crow’s diet includes small mammals, other birds, insects, fruits, earthworms, seeds, frogs, eggs, and carrion. The most usual sound made by the American crow is a loud caw-caw-caw, but this crafty and wise avian can also produce a wide variety of sounds, sometimes mimicking noises made by other animals.  
1. How long do crows live?
2. Do male and female crows mate for life?
3. What is a group of crows called?
4. How many broods of young can a crow family produce in one year?
5. Can crows be hunted in Maine?
6. Do crows collect shiny objects?
7. When is the crow breeding season?
8. What does a crow nest look like?
9. What color are crow eggs?

1. Females live average 3 years, males 5 years. The oldest known American Crow was almost 30 years old! 2. In general, unless a mate is killed, crows stay with the same mate year after year.
3. The literary term for a group of crows is a "murder”, the scientific name is a “flock”.
4. American crows generally have one brood a year with an average clutch size of 4.
5. Crow hunting is open in WMDs 1-6 February 6-April 15 and August 1-September 22, 2012. WMDs 7-29 January 21-March 31 and August 1-Spetember 22, 2012.
6. American crows do not collect anything but food.
7. Breeding occurs between March and August.
8. Nests are constructed of sticks and lined with grass and moss. The nest is about 12 inches in diameter and in trees 20 to 50 feet off the ground.
9. Crow eggs are greenish blue with dark marks.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Maine's Hidden Gems

It certainly is no secret that Maine contains many hidden or secret “gems”, places so beautiful and pristine, that you might at first believe they could only exist in one’s imagination. The location of these amazing destinations is only whispered between local Mainah’s and NEVER revealed to those classified as tourists or “not from round heah”. To even breathe a suggestion, as to the whereabouts of these enchanted spots, could be enough to warrant a public flogging or at the very least, a horrific tongue lashing by the family elders.

Now being a pretty nice guy and one heck of a Maine guide, you might be under the impression that upon ample prodding and copious amounts of alcohol, I might be talked into openly sharing the particulars, of a couple of these extraordinary locations. Well, I’m here to tell you mistah that it just ain’t gonna happen! I haven’t yet given up great Grandma’s blue ribbon winning dill pickle recipe and I certainly ain’t tellin’ you about the remote corners of Down East, Maine.

Damn, now do you see what you have made me do!?! I done went and let the proverbial cat out of bag! Well, since it is highly likely that I will suffer a beating due to my indiscretion, I might just as well tell you the rest of the story! Truth be told, Maine contains many impressive wilds and waters that even the “natives” don’t know exist. By straying off the beaten path, locals and tourists alike will be treated to many truly unique and beautiful areas of our state that are rarely explored. The impressive Down East coast and the endless expanse of logging roads above the infamous Route 9, provide access to remote areas of the state still only bearing surveyed number designations, such as TWP 24 MD BPP.

Due to the geographically isolated nature of this area of the state, visitors will enjoy vast stretches of interrupted solitude. The large crowds of tourists that flock places along Rt. 1 south, typically never chance to drive to its beautiful Down East section. Down East Maine is the area of the state where I was born and raised. Even with a rabid love of the outdoors, this rural area of the state still contains many remote sections that even I have yet to fully explore. Simply stated, it is just too damn big. For the local and tourist alike, Down East contains something for every adventurer’s ability level, including hiking trails, remote campsites, ATVing and off road 4x4 opportunities.

Down East Maine’s Granite Coast: 
Great / Western Head Trail – Cutler – This trail is a bit tricky to find BUT for the person willing to put in a little extra effort, the views are truly impressive. This loop trail can be found in the town of Cutler. If traveling to Cutler from nearby Machias on Rt. 191, you will note a sharp bend in the road and immediately after a narrow road on the right that parallels the Little River. Follow this road to a tiny parking lot at the end. The Great /Western Head Trail roughly follows the tree line on the right hand side. After walking a short way down the small field, the rest of the trail becomes apparent.

Great Wass Island – Two trails begin together at the eastern edge of the parking lot, then diverge 100 yards into the woods. They may be difficult or even dangerous in bad weather -- especially in the frequent fogs. Please come well prepared for any kind of weather and be sure to wear sturdy shoes that will comfortably take you on a long hike through all kinds of terrain. Click HERE for more information!

ATV Riding in Washington County – Calais - Opened in 2010, the Downeast Sunrise Trail project has preserved 85 miles of the Calais Branch railroad corridor for future rail use, while additionally providing a wide, compact gravel-based trail for recreational opportunities. The scenic trail runs from Calais to Ellsworth, along the entire Downeast coastal area, connecting to multiple scenic conservation areas, intersecting the Downeast salmon rivers, and closely shadowing two state designated scenic highways. Click HERE for more information!

Wild Crows Motorcycle Tour  - Join me for an exciting motorcycle tour or Washington County!

The Wildlands: 
Lead Mountain - TWP 28 - Those interested in exploring this small 1,479 ft. monolith, the directions are relatively simple. Driving from Bangor toward Calais you will pass the Airline snack bar on your left and Rt. 193 shortly after on your right. Drive (approximately 1 mile) turn left onto the 3000 road at the Ranger Station. If you cross the bridge over the Narraguagus River, you will want to turn around. In about 150 yards, turn left . . . accidentally following the road straight will take you up the 3000 road into great partridge hunting territory but not to Lead Mt. Simply follow this dirt road to the end and you will see a small parking area.  Click HERE for more information.

Boulder Erratic - GPS Location: N 44 41.365 W068 18.748 - From Ellsworth, Maine take Route 179 North to the intersection of Route 200 heading toward Eastbrook. In a mile or so turn right onto Leona Wilbur Road. Turn right at the intersection and pull into the small parking area. The immensity of this boulder is truly awesome. Click HERE for more information.

Remote Camping at a Primitive Campsite - Wildlands- The most remote wilderness camping locations can be visited with the help of a Registered Maine Guide. From an island in a remote lake to a mountainside lookout, an expert guide can safely bring campers to remarkable places while sharing their knowledge of local history and geography.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Alive and Well in Lonely Country

Maine Magazine - November 2012 (pgs. 63-67)
Almost a year has passed since the Vose family deer camp was invaded for the first time by WOMEN! That sordid tale was already partially told last year in a series of blog postings (For more see: Girls at Deer Camp? -  Part 1Part 2Part 3 and Maine Magazines Response

What had not yet been revealed from this adventure, was the actual professionally published story written by Sophie Nelson and photographed by Erin Wallace (ALOVESUPREMEPHOTO).  

Please visit Maine Magazine ( to see the article as published in the November 2012 edition, titled "Alive and Well in Lonely Country". As they have the photographic rights, the online version contains dozens more photographs than I am allowed to publish! So, be sure to take a look! So with that little introduction complete, here is the REST of the story . . .

ALIVE AND WELL IN LONELY COUNTRY - Written by Sophie Nelson, w/Photographs by Erin Wallace - The leaves have fallen and turned to rot, and the sky can only manage varying shades of gray. Photographer Erin Wallace meets me in Augusta and together we continue north into the fast-falling night. Beyond Brewer, we follow a scar of highway through endless forest, navigate gnarly back roads, and eventually find it: a camp with a set of caribou antlers over the doorway, the place my friend Steve Vose escapes to every autumn. In the warm interior, I encounter a blur of camouflaged limbs and Bean boots, rag rugs, and a wood stove. I take a seat and drink when they’re offered to me. Faces come into focus. I smile and receive several smiles in return.
Dad plays the banjo
Steve’s father is also named Steve. He wears a soft, green corduroy shirt, worn jeans, and a neon-orange hat, and welcomes me with a warm handshake. Steve senior is joined by his friend John, and when I inquire about how they know each other, John kindly offers the backstory. John is originally from Caribou and met Steve in the 262 Engineer Battalion in Calais/Brewer. Steve, John, and their other military buddies gather at Deer Camp as often as they can, but this year just the two of them could make it.

“I want to tell you about a year when shooting a deer really mattered.” Steve senior says, confirming my suspicion that Deer Camp often has little to do with deer. He throws a glance toward John, who shifts his position and drops his gaze to hear Steve senior trace the story already etched in his memory. “Deer Camp 2005. It was the military group so we met in Calais. We were bummed because two were going to be deployed to Afghanistan. I had promised I would take John’s boys ice fishing while he was gone. After breakfast, we went out for a hunt and John shot a buck. It was the first deer we ever shot at Deer Camp, and it boosted moral so much we went to Walmart and bought one of those talking heads. It became the mascot. We didn’t meet again for another two years because of the war.” It’s Veteran’s Day, and I think about the way Portland’s Congress Street looked in the morning, filled with proud men in crisp suits and little boys and girls waving miniature flags with a fervor that didn’t quite fit the gray day.

As with any tradition, a healthy degree of nostalgia comes into play at Deer Camp. It’s clear that Steve and his brother Matt know the 2005 story well. I imagine that similar stories filled their home when they were kids, and that those stories, like this one, made them wonder—however subconsciously—what about Deer Camp wasn’t being communicated, or couldn’t be. “How old do you have to be to come to Deer Camp?” I ask, and Steve senior answers without hesitation: “Old enough to drink.”

John and my brother Matt trade stories
The camp we’re in is Matt’s. Unlike the neighboring camp, a sizable house topped with a satellite dish, Matt’s is fairly small and rustic. Steve senior recently renovated his own camp, which is about an hour and a half from the one we’re in, and the men tell me that modernizing old camps, or building them from the ground up with all the amenities, is a growing trend. I’m glad they met me here, in a camp with neither running water nor cell-phone reception, but I also wonder about the less quaint aspects of Deer Camp that I may be missing out on. I am, after all, here with the sole intention of breaking the cardinal rule: “What happens at Deer Camp stays at Deer Camp.”

As a group, they are quiet at first. Steve is his usual jokester self, and I sense familial playfulness in Matt, but it takes a little while to emerge. John, in head-to-toe camouflage, seems to prefer listening to talking, and the same goes for Preston, Matt’s friend and a fellow engineer at the Bucksport Mill. They tell me that another one of their colleagues, a “city boy” from Waterville, will be joining us later. Preston pipes up when I ask the men about the first time they ate an animal they had killed. “It was a frog with a BB gun,” he says. “I shot it and my dad said, ‘You shot it, you eat it.’ So I cooked up some frog legs. They really taste like chicken.” Matt adds, “Partridge for me. It always tastes better when you killed it.”

Erin plays us a song
After a dinner of meat and potatoes, I help Preston pump water for the dishes and Matt places a pot on the woodstove at his dad’s request—Steve senior wants to be sure Erin and I have the option of washing up with warm water before bed. We reconvene around the stove, and Steve senior brings out his banjo. Over the course of the evening, Steve and Matt never seem more like brothers than when they’re singing and tapping their muddy boots in unison. Their voices are good and strong and gruff around the edges. “You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille/With four hungry children and a crop in the field…,” they sing. I’m the only one familiar with Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Boxer,” and offer a sloppy solo, nodding my head in time with Steve senior’s, watching his mouth shape the words I almost know, watching a smile come over his face when I get a line just right. I’m unsure of myself, but he keeps pulling the song from me; he is the kind of teacher that tricks a kid out of thinking she has nothing left. When Steve senior and John leave— they’re heading to Calais to hunt that spot where John got a deer half a dozen years ago—I am sad to see them go. Chris from Waterville has brought his iPad, and we resort to his hip-hop playlist. Preston nods off on the couch with Mally, Matt’s affable yellow lab, asleep on his knee.

In the morning, I head to the dock with a steaming cup of coffee. The air tastes sweet it’s so clean, and I imagine the water does too but don’t dare disrupt it with a dip of my hand. In the spirit of trying new things, I eat corned-beef hash along with the eggs Steve scrambles, and don an orange vest and hat over my odd assemblage of winter gear. Hunting starts up with Steve’s truck. Erin, Steve, and I bump along back roads toward a location he has in mind, scanning the ditches for partridge collecting pebbles for their gullets. I try to concentrate but I’m preoccupied with the gun rattling between my thigh and the truck’s center console.

Dad tells a story about a really  BIG fish that got away!
As the car slows to a stop on the side of an old logging road, I sense a shift in Steve; his mood takes on a new and appropriate depth. He moves soundlessly down the path, rolling his feet carefully over the stones so that they don’t crunch under his weight while pointing out moose prints, nibbled branches, and scat containing tufts of coyote fur. Steve sets up speakers that correspond with an electronic game caller so that, from within the blind, we need only push a button to fill the silence with the wails of a wounded hare. We are in for coyote, not deer. In a whisper, Steve tells me about overpopulation and the trouble coyotes have caused. He doesn’t eat coyote, but he does make pelts with their hides.

We wait. My fingers and toes prickle as they freeze. Steve tells me about the season he spent 200 hours in a deer stand. He saw some deer, but none that were shooting size. The rule is one deer per year, and Steve is after a deer that will meet or exceed the 10 pointer his Mom shot in 2008. He speaks bitterly about the hunters who “go out at night and kill 15, 16 a year.” As a boy, he used to wander around his family’s many acres in Calais without spotting a single deer, and he worries that his sons will never have the opportunity to hunt.

 I can never stop smiling at deer camp!
The wail of the electronic hare crescendos. After about an hour, we call it quits, pack up the blind, and begin talking at normal volumes—though after so much whispering it seems inconsiderate somehow. Steve tells me it’s time for target practice. I lean the butt of the .223 R15 rifle into my shoulder, center the log between the crosshairs, and pull the trigger. The sound and the kickback I expect, but the feel of the bullet ripping though the barrel of the gun is terrifying. We spend the morning shooting, driving down logging roads en route to somewheres that seems like nowheres, listening to country music and gnawing on home-smoked duck jerky, passing only hunters in trucks and men driving 18-wheelers. Maine is a vast and empty state, and that is precisely what Steve loves most about it. I understand the appeal on a theoretical level, but in actuality I find these woods coarse and lonely.

View from the porch at deer camp
Late in the afternoon, cold to the bone and marveling at Steve’s dogged approach to the day, I somehow spot three partridge on the side of the road. I holler and point and, in the blink of an eye, Steve is out of the car poised to shoot. His excitement is palpable, rippling off of him and warping the air around us. At some point, we startle the partridge into flight and a vague shape—a brown smear on the gray sky—appears over the treetops. He shoots and the bird plummets. Soon afterward, he emerges from the woods carrying the floppy carcass by the feet. With his calloused and bloodied hands, Steve spreads open the bird’s intricate wings. Then, still intoxicated with adrenaline, he pulls the carcass apart to reveal the perfect pink breast that will be his dinner.

Later that afternoon, I see another partridge on the side of the road and it’s my turn to approach it with a gun in hand. I hold the heavy shotgun to my shoulder and “He tells me that he has the right shotgun, but the wrong bullets, and as if on cue the ducks ascend to form a flying V and come curling toward us, honking irreverently.” Steve follows closely behind, whispering instructions in my ear. Raw excitement overcomes him again, and rather than focus on the task at hand, I wonder about the source of it. I wonder where to aim to kill the bird, and whether or not I am capable of pulling it apart in the event that I somehow manage to shoot it, and, in that case, if I have any business killing it in the first place. I shoot and miss. To my relief, the partridge disappears into a dense, moss-covered patch of forest. Steve checks for it. We wait for a while. It never reappears.

The young men of deer camp
Toward the end of the day, as pinkish dusk settles over a swamp, Steve spots a flock of ducks at the mouth of a river. I can hear them but not see them, despite his best efforts to point them out. He tells me that he has the right shotgun, but the wrong bullets, and as if on cue, they ascend to form a flying V and come curling toward us, honking irreverently.

On the way back to camp, I think about the photos that hunters collect of themselves holding their kill by the antlers. Despite their unsteady smiles—or perhaps because of them—they don’t look happy, exactly. To me, hunting seems more about thrill than kill, about appreciating life in an acknowledgement of death and thereby living with a rare acuteness, even if only for the amount of time it takes a doe to flick her white tail. I think about Steve, who describes the habits of animals with the knowledge and tenderness of a parent prepping a babysitter. He wakes when they wake and sleeps when they sleep. He studies their miraculous anatomy and warps his mouth to mimic their sounds. This part of Maine is not in fact empty.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Game Camera Hints, Suggestions and Tactics

Game cameras offer the outdoor enthusiast a unique perspective into the habits of many unique and interesting animals. Since I began using these units, I have captured hundreds of different photos and videos of coyotes, raccoons, bobcats, deer, red/gray squirrels, bear, turkeys, porcupine, moose and songbirds.

While the possibilities for the naturalist and wild life watcher are numerous, game cameras offer hunters the ability to use data, collected from the field, to pinpoint game animals, there movements/patterns and target hunting times and locations that will most likely link sportsmen with the animal being hunted. In support of these valuable hunting tools, here are a few hints and suggestions I have amassed through the years.
Where & How to Place Your Game Camera: 
  1. Place game camera facing north. If faced into the sun the photos will be washed out. 
  2. Make sure there is no vegetation in front of camera, for aesthetics and to avoid false triggers. 
  3. Point at a 45 degree angle to a game trail (NOT perpendicular). 
  4. Set cameras at areas that funnel animals (edges of bodies of water, trails, etc.) 
  5. Place camera 15-20 feet from the intended photo area. - Most trail cameras can detect motion out to at least 30'. Unfortunately, some flashes don't reach out past 20'. In addition, night pictures taken at 10' or closer can experience “White Out”. 
  6. If you’re strapping your camera to a tree make sure it's large enough to not blow in the wind. 
  7. Place camera 24”-36” off the ground. - Also, attach your camera lower than 24” and you'll likely get pictures of small undesirable creatures. Higher than 36” you risk missing targeted animals. 
Hints & Suggestions for Setting Your Game Camera:  
  1. Place camera in live mode, wait for time out period to expire and trigger camera to make sure it works. This also sets a reference date and time. 
  2. Turn camera on and confirm all settings, especially date & time. 
  3. Test batteries and replace as necessary. Buy a battery tester, it will prove invaluable. 
  4. Check and verify motion detector's range. Test it out at home. 
Care of your Game Camera: 
  1. Your best defense against theft is a well hidden camera. 
  2. Place moisture absorbing packs inside camera case if necessary. 
  3. Make sure the glass in front of the lens is spotless. Small smudges show up really big in pictures. 
  4. Cold temperatures will eventually kill game cameras. 
  5. Make sure your hands are free of scent BEFORE handing the camera!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Outdoor Cooking

Photo by @TammyLeaPhoto
I offer a word of caution when working around open flames. Be sure to have a fire extinguisher, water hose and shovel handy should the flames escape the pit. Carefully remove any hazards that may cause an individual to trip or fall in the pit area. Wear fire retardant clothing that will not combust if hit by an errant spark. NO FLEECE JACKETS! Heavy welding gloves are also invaluable. Lastly use your head and think, as there will always be unforeseen hazards. 

Those uninitiated with the art of cooking anything outside need to understand that cooking in this manner is an art form. Using a difficult to regulate heating source is a skill that I have honed over the years. Some of these acquired skills I would like to share in hopes that you pass this tradition on to your family and friends.

Maybe I am a bit of a caveman, but for me there is a primitive allure associated with cooking over the open flames of a wood fueled fire that cannot be duplicated by a kitchen stove or gas grill. It stirs something deep in my soul to gather firewood, build a fire pit and organize a strategy for the food preparation. Cooking outside for me is a labor of love, this is not LOW stress cooking this is NO stress cooking, a time for relaxation and reflection.

There are several good baked bean recipes out there in cyberspace and several I have mentioned in previous blog posts including: Hot and Spicy Baked Beans and Grandmas Bake Beans Enjoyed Outdoors. What I have not until NOW blogged in any previous post is my Grandmother’s actual award winning bake bean recipe. After much consideration, I have decided that I should share so everyone can enjoy it, after all, I know Grandma would have wanted I that way.

The secret to making great baked beans on a fire pit is time and temperature. Beans cook best with a slow, constant temperature . . . not necessarily an easy task over an open fire. With practice, however, even a novice will quickly learn to tame a raging fire and make it into a valuable cooking tool. Hmmm, I think I smell future blog post. 

Grandma’s Baked Beans
2 Pounds of Kidney Beans
4 Cups of Water
2/3 Cup of Molasses
1/2 Cup of Brown Sugar
1 Large Vidalia Onion, Finely Chopped
2 Packages of Salt Pork
2 tbsp. Prepared Mustard 

Put all ingredients in a Dutch oven and slow cook for 3-4 hours.

- Soak and par-boil baked beans ahead of time. They can be frozen as well if needed.
- Adjust fire to simmer the beans and make sure they do not boil over
- For a “kick” add 1 ½ Cups of “Sweet Baby Rays” BBQ Sauce and 6 tbsp. of finely chopped chipotle chilies
- Stir and monitor bean frequently
- Monitor bean doneness by checking the consistency of the bean about every ½ hour. Beans should be soft but not to soft.
When the beans are about 45 minutes from being done, you should start preparing the bread.

Bannock Bread 
1 Cup White Flour
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/4 tsp. Salt
1/4 cup Dry Milk Powder
1 tbsp. Shortening
1/2 Cup Water

Put all ingredients in a 1 quart Ziploc bag and mix until no longer lumpy. Use a knife or scissors to cut out one corner of the Ziploc bag and squeeze the bag contents into a frying pan. Spread evenly with spoon.

- Try adding ¼ tsp. Sugar
- Coat your pan with olive oil or cooking spray for a non-stick surface
- Add water SLOWLY! Sometimes 1/2 cups is a little too much!
There is of course nothing better than washing down a hardy meal with a steaming cup of Maine guide coffee.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mule Hunting Clothes

Mule Hunting Clothes When You Care Enough To Wear The Very Best! 

"Mule Hunting Clothes” was founded more than 30 years ago by Emet Brohard of Greenville, Ohio. Emet was a beagler and serious hunter who grew tired of wading through briars and the thorny woods, tearing his clothing to ribbons. Mule Hunting Clothes grew out of Emet's desire to give back to the hunting community, by designing a line of clothing able to stand up to the rigors of the outdoors. He wished to create clothing that was puncture resistant, tear proof, waterproof and a benefit to any hunter whether they pursued rabbit, coon, hog, deer, moose or squirrel. Even those who horseback ride, ice fish, ATV or snowmobile can benefit from these reliable and rugged bibs, pants, chaps and briar proof shirts.

Seeing their ad in a local sporting magazine, I called ”Mule” and ordered a set of their hunting pants and shirt. Not knowing exactly what to expect, I was excited when the package finally arrived and anxious to check out the items. I was immediately impressed by the quality of the merchandise and determined that the first order of business would be to see how it would hold up to the rigors of a serious Maine rain storm.

Not yet being hunting season here in Maine, I decided that if the pants could stand up to the rigors of a long day on the woodlot they would likely be a valuable addition to my hunting arsenal. The test day was typical of Maine in the fall, cold and wet. While I certainly don’t mind being cold and I also don’t mind being wet, a combination of the two can make for a long day in the woods and potentially even be life threatening. Since it is a frequent occurrence in Maine to be hit by inclement weather with very or little notice, having good clothing to keep you dry is an absolute necessity. Not only did it keep me dry through several downpours but it also wears like iron. One thing that stands out with Mule clothing is that it is not clothing easily worn out, made of 1000 Denier Cordura and will last for many, many season of hard use.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Sportsman's Christmas Wish List 2012

Shopping for the Rabid Outdoorsman on your Christmas list is never an easy task. These individuals seem to have every gadget and piece of outdoor related equipment imaginable. Then when you finally do manage to miraculously find them something they like, they complain that you spent too much money on them and threaten to return it. If this sounds like anyone you might potentially know, then please look below for a few holiday suggestions for these curmudgeons.

Bear Hunting w/Eagle Mountain Guide Service: If you are looking for a that truly unique gift for that special someone, I can think of no present more thrilling or amazing than buying that person a Maine Fall Bear Hunt. Escape to the Maine wilderness, stay at a remote wilderness lodge, eat amazing food and have a chance at scoring a truly massive bruin . . . for most people this is a once in a life time opportunity. Imagine the excitement this Christmas as you tell your loved one that they are going this Fall on a Maine bear hunt! See more information including my Rabid Review of Eagle Mountain Guide Service and a direct link to Eagle Mountain Guide Service website for ordering information.
Wassookeag Moccasins: Based out of the small town of Dexter, Maine, this small shop is responsible for creating a truly amazing assortment of handmade moccasins. Each pair of moccasins made with care by proprietor Mark Wintel. Available in a huge selection of configurations, styles and fits for both men and women, it is easy to find a pair that matches your every wanton desire. Wassookeag Moccasins are truly the Rolls Royce of footwear and from the first second you put them on, you are going to immediately understand what I am talking about. See more information including my Rabid Review of Wassookeag Moccasins and a direct link to Wassookeag Moccasins website for ordering information.
Loring Indestructible Pack Baskets: Loring Pack Baskets is a small unassuming shop located just a stones throw from the Old Town Trading Post in Old Town, Maine. What the shop lacks in impressive size, it more than makes up for in the creation of a product big on quality and durability. If you are in the market for a pack basket and searching for a product that is indestructible, highly functional, comfortable and guaranteed to make you stand out slightly from the crowd, I strongly suggest dropping proprietor Wane Loring a line and ordering one of his indestructible pack baskets! See more information including my Rabid Review of Loring Pack Baskets and a direct link to Loring Pack Baskets website for ordering information.
Mule Hunting Clothing: "Mule Hunting Clothes” was founded more than 30 years ago and is the go to product for serious hunters. Puncture resistant, tear proof and waterproof, it would benefit a hunter, whether they pursued rabbit, coon, hog, deer, moose or squirrel. Even those who horseback ride, ice fish, ATV ride or snowmobile can benefit from these reliable and rugged bibs, pants, chaps and briar proof shirts. See more information including my Rabid Review of Mule Hunting Clothing and a direct link to the Mule Hunting Clothing website for ordering information.
Ammo Can Stove and Grill: What do you get when you take a regular old military ammo can and convert it into a full functioning heating and cooking wood stove? Just say the words abracadabra and magically you get a sweet, highly practical stove that is sure to serve as a great primary or back-up heating and cooking system, sure to be appreciated by any good survivalist. Don't need something quite so complicated and a tad bit more portable? They check out the Ammo can grill kit, perfect for camping and tailgating!

See more information including my Rabid Review of the ammo can grill and ammo can stove and a direct link to the ammo can website for ordering information.
Button Buck Clothing: For the junior hunters on your Christmas list you need to check out Button Buck Clothing! This small company is leading the charge, in this effort to support the introduction of women, novices and ESPECIALLY kids to our traditional outdoor pursuits. Their mission is to message, through their clothing, that hunting’s future is in our youth and must be protected! The company has a huge selection of hats and clothing but my favorites are their T-shirt’s and include: Food Chain Champion, Vegetables are for Deer and Deer Camp Guide. While obviously meant to be humorous, these shirts also send a powerful message that hunting and our other traditional outdoor pursuits are here to stay! See more information including my Rabid Review of the button buck products and a direct link to the button buck website for ordering information.
2010 Grand Laker Canoe: For that special someone on your Christmas wish list who truly has absolutely EVERYTHING this gift would make you a super hero. Imagine the titanic smile on that special someone as the tour this summer around their favorite lake in a hand made Grand Lake Canoe . . . 19 ft 6 in, mahogany stern & deck, ash thwarts, gunnels, stems & keel, fiber glassed cedar planking, hand caned seats, traditional jade green marine paint. Built on the Sprague mold under direction of a master Grand laker canoe builder. Built because it was a challenge. Used very little. Time to sell. Price INCLUDE TRAILER! Asking $3,999.00. This is a STEAL for a canoe of this quality! Calais, Maine
The Becoming an Outdoors-Woman program is co-sponsored by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife and the Friends of Maine BOW. Becoming an Outdoors-Woman means becoming more competent, more confident and more aware. Through this program women are provided the opportunity to learn about the outdoors and  about themselves. Participation in these workshops has provided countless women with life changing experiences. To support the program and scholarships to participants, we sell merchandise. Please order from our selection of T'Shirts, Orange and Camouflage Hats, Water Bottles, Gift Cards and MORE!
Rabid Reading Suggestions Prefect for the SPortsman on Your Christmas List: 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Maine in Fall

Of all the seasons, fall in Maine is the most spectacular. Sure the others seasons all have their own unique “flavor” and dedicated following of enthusiasts but for me my love has always been this unique time of year. For some fall marks an end to the playfulness and sunny times of summer, kids go back to school, the weather begins to cool and shorts and t’shirts are replaced by pants and sweatshirts.

Many grieve that the carefree days of summer are gone and soon Maine will be ice cold and blanketed in deep snow. Adopt this attitude, and what many miss is the magical time that exists between the last pleasant day at the beach and that first rugged Maine snow storm.

For me, this change means frosty cool nights, where one can finally sleep soundly under heavy goose down blankets. Hot coffee tastes sweeter on cold mornings, and you may even have to scrape frost off your window before driving to your favorite outdoor destination.

Leaves change their colors and put on a show for locals and tourists alike that is unrivaled by any other natural phenomenon. Hiking, backpacking and camping now is less challenged by the crowds of summer and those willing will be treated to seeing vacationland in one of its finest forms.

Night temperatures in the low to mid 40 degrees F and daily temps in to a high 60 degrees F, signal the perfect time for evening bonfires with family and friends, enjoying freshly squeezed hot apple cider, followed by days spent pumpkin carving, apple picking and spending a last few moments fresh water fishing.

For the sportsman, fall means hunting season and Maine offers a plethora of game species. Whether your passion is small or large game animals Maine offers everything from the diminutive woodcock to trophy size whitetailed deer and black bear.

Being a passionate waterfowl hunter, there is no place I would rather be in October than in a duck blind. Early mornings where your breath can be seen sleepily wrapping up and around your head and slowly dissipating in the first rays of morning sunshine are for me indescribable. If those moments can be shared with friends and family, they are only further enriched.

If you have never been to Maine or if you have visited the state at a time other than fall, it is my hope that perhaps I can convince you to give the state a try when the lines aren’t quite so long, the air is a bit cooler, the colors more vibrant and the experience a tad sweeter.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rangeley Photoshoot Photographs

Below are a few of my favorite photos from my recent photoshoot with Burgess Media and the Maine Department of Tourism (MDOT) in Rangeley, Maine. The MDOT is planning to organize an entire new campaign to promote tourism and small business in the state of Maine. Part of the campaign involves linking with native experts passionate (or even Rabid!) about the state of Maine and making them Maine Insiders. These people will be photographed, videoed and even write about their various adventures in Maine, in an attempt to encourage others to visit our amazing state!

My time on the project was comprised of an entire two and a half days being photographed kayaking, canoeing, flying in sea-planes, ATV riding, fly fishing, hunting and even touring the Maine heritage museum in Oquossoc, Maine . . . I also had to complete two hour long interviews! All of the pictures and video will eventually be boiled down into about 30 seconds of video! LOL!

All in all a great experience and the folks from both organizations were fantastic! Thanks again to all the fine folks in both organizations for providing me with such a unique experience! 

I was also fortunate to be joined by a very talented Brittany named "Brookie" (short for Brook Trout) for my session pretending to hunt partridge and woodcock. Good times had by all! 

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