Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Moose Lottery Festival - 2012

It was rather a last minute decision that was made this year, to attend the annual Moose Lottery Festival in Oquossoc, Maine. What had drawn me to this years event was the large number of “family” activities that were organized in Oquossoc as well as in the neighboring town of Rangeley.

It was apparent that these two towns certainly know the value of a tourist’s dollar and how to effectively put on a celebration that is sure to bring people back year after year. Though the Moose Lottery next year will be held in nearby Greenville,  I am already planning to head back to Oquossoc later this summer for some family camping and fishing on Mooselookmeguntic Lake.

Festivities included a fantastic event at the Rangeley library were kids cold enjoy a book reading, fun games outside, moose track ice cream and a HUGE selection of raffled prizes! Both the Wildman and the Savage walked away with stuffed moose toys and were absolutely THRILLED! Throw into this mix a bouncy house and rock climbing wall and the kiddos had all they could do to hold themselves together to choke down a late afternoon hotdog from the HUGE concession stand!

For the adults, there were a ton of events as well, including the world invitational moose calling championship, a ton of vendor booths (Including that most infamous and awesome of BDN Outdoors staffers Pat Lemieux - @PatrickJLemieux of the blog Manchild), fishing derby on Rangeley lake and Mooselookmeguntic, a book signing by retired game warden and author of “Suddenly The Apple Cider Didn’t Taste So Good”, John Ford and lastly the all important Moose Lottery!

If you have never been to a Moose Lottery you simply MUST go at least once. The excitement of hearing the names being read and seeing the reactions and smiles of those drawn is truly awesome. I was lucky enough to be sitting next to my Mom’s husband Leonard Lloyd when his name and his son’s names were BOTH called to participate in this fall’s hunt! Talk about EXCITEMENT! Having already had my bucket list dream fulfilled to shoot a moose, I was content to just see all of the others thrilled at being drawn for the hunt of a lifetime!

BTW, If you were picked for a Maine Moose tag, be absolutely sure to read, How to Hunt Moose.

For those participating in next years draw just remember that reading 3,723 names is going to take a little bit over 3 HOURS! So, this is not an event a small child is going to sit completely thorough easily. Plan accordingly by having a back up plan or only attending a portion of the drawing. The most exciting part of the event was the first hour (for kiddos) after that the crowd switched from rowdy to subdued depending on the frequency at which a name was drawn of an individual or family in the audience.

So my advice, go to Greenville for next years Moose lottery, bring the kiddos and I promise you will not be disappointed! Below is one of my favorite pictures from the trip. The Wildman, the Savage and I enjoying a lazy Sunday morning fishing for perch and chubs off the motel dock. Enjoy!

The Wild, Savage and Rabid Outdoorsmen - Rangeley, ME.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Parachute Cord Gun Sling

Two of my most viewed blog posts are, “The Bear Grylls Survival Bracelet” and “The Parachute Cord Duck Call Lanyard”, clearly there is a popularity associated with constructing your own unique outdoor items. Both of these projects were constructed using that most amazing of survival items, 550 parachute cord. Widely available online, as well as from any good army surplus shop, 550 cord (as it is more commonly called) is the survivalists friend. For more information on this marvelous item, please read “String Theory I and II”.

Since I had not organized any 550 cord projects in quite some time, I decided to undertake, the weaving of a sling for my AR15. The inspiration for this project came from an article published in Field and Stream magazine, written by Keith McCafferty titled, “A Shooters Lifeline”. This short “how to”, outlines the weaving of a firearm sling, constructed using two sling swivels and 550-parachute cord.

Of course as a man, it is extremely difficult to simply “follow the directions” and because of this, typically easy projects frequently mutate to an obscene level of complexity. Rather than attempt to build the predefined F&S project with the provided directions, I instead added a number of changes I feel enhance the originally published design. Bottom line, this is a VERY cool sling and I am overall pleased with the final results!

The article lists the “price” for this project at “less than 4 dollars”. This statement is of course a bald faced lie. The total cost of the project was about $20 once you purchase the Outdoor Connections – Talon Swivels ($11) and the 100 feet of 550 cord ($8) that is likely the smallest packet you will be able to find. Also the F&S project lists the amount of 550 cord need at 25-50 feet, for my modified project, you will need 100 feet. With the initial investment to of money, it is also important to plan to expend about 3 hours in labor. Still, even with the expense and time commitment, it is overall a great project and while you could buy a sling for a comparable amount of money, it would not be a custom sling made of 550 cord and built by your own hand.

The Project:
The first thing you will want to do is measure the length of one of your current rifle/shotgun slings. Remember, this “550” sling will NOT be adjustable, so whatever length you ultimately weave is going to be the final measure. The F&S article warns that the sling will stretch up to 1 inch so you should shorten this measurement appropriately. I however, made no adjustment to my version of the sling and have not noted any problems. My sling is 36 inches long.

Once you determine the correct length, drive two nails or hooks into a board at that precise measure. Slide your two swivels onto each of the two hooks and check the measurement again laying your properly adjusted sling next to the two swivels. I stress this step to make sure you did not inadvertently mis-measure. Three hours is a sizeable investment, so you want this perfect.

String your 550 cord through the sling swivels, as directed in the F&S article. Though the article suggests a 4 or a 5 strand weave, my sling uses 1 ¼ inch swivels so was constructed using a 6 strand weave . . . insert hardy man grunting. It is IMPORTANT to do as the article directs and leave 4-6 inches of extra cord for the tying of the finishing knot. Take this extra cord and tie it loosely around your hook to keep it out of the way and from accidentally pulling through the swivel.

Now this is the where my sling begins to depart from the F&S article. First make sure to START your weaving at the OPPOSITE sling end of where your 4-6 inches of extra chord is set. This will ensure that at the projects completion these two ends can be tired together in a square knot to “finish” the weave. Begin weaving left to right and over and under each of the double strands. Be sure to push down hard so that the weave properly compresses. You will be amazed how much more the weave will compress, as you continue weaving, so keep forcing it down. Take care to see that you have started the weave correctly, it is discouraging to get in 10 rows only to realize you made a mistake on the first row and you now need to undo all of your initial work . . . this is the voice of experience.

It helps in the weaving process, to wrap the 70 feet of 550 cord around your hand and to bundle it securely with a rubber band. This makes it so you are not pulling the entire length of cord through each weaving sequence. Simply slowly pull out more cord, as needed, from the bundle as you progress through the project. Once you get the weave about 20 inches in length, you are going to want to stop. Next begin wrapping the remaining 550 cord around the existing strands. Continue this wrapping all the way to the top while continuing to push down hard to really compress the wrapped weave. Once you have reached the top, tie the weave end to the 4-6 inches of extra cord you left out at the beginning of the project, using a square knot. Make sure to tie this knot securely. Cinching it by pulling on each of the two tag ends with pliers this will create a knot difficult to accidentally come undone.

NOTE: In the picture to the left, you will see that I also incorporated a "wrapped knot" before the start of my weave. This was done at the projects completion when I realized that I need to further compress the shoulder section of the weave. So basically to correct my error. Fortunately, I actually think it makes the sling look more interesting.

At the projects completion you will have remaining about 5-6 feet of 550 cord. Do NOT throw this small section of cord away! With the left over remnants you can easily construct a . . .

The continuation of the post will appear next Monday!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Moose Hunting in Central Maine (Zone 22-23)

A moose hunt in the state of Maine, is a once in a lifetime opportunity afforded a small number of lucky sportsmen. The lottery provides the dismal odds of a 3-10 percent for residents and 1-3 for non-residents of being awarded a tag, depending on their number of accumulated bonus points. Considering the percentages, the probability of being drawn, is bleak. Not even in Vegas are those odds most of us would bet on!

If you are fortunate enough to be drawn, no assurance exists of being picked for the select moose hunting areas, unless specific reference was made on the initial application. An extremely lucky hunter will not only be drawn for a moose tag BUT it will be a bull / cow tag, timed to occur during the rut and in one of the favorable northern areas of the state. These sportsmen typically enjoy high rates of success.

Success Rate - For the remaining hunters, their chances diminish rapidly when assigned to the central and southern areas of the state with low moose densities. In addition, the southern zone moose season occurs mostly outside of the moose rut and at a time when moose hunters will be in direct competition with deer hunters. These variables add more complexity to an already difficult hunt. While statewide moose hunters boast an impressive 85 percent success rate, hunters in more centralized zones like 23 and 22 see only a limited 13-15 percent chance of success. Unless these hunters are willing to invest serious time in the woods scouting or hire a Maine guide familiar with their assigned area, their chance of failure is great.

Hunting Options - While there are moose in the Central portion of the state, they are neither prevalent nor easy to find. Where northern Maine hunters have the opportunity to ride an extensive network of logging roads and hunt massive clear cuts that is simply not possible in central Maine. Moose hunters should expect to cover serious miles either on foot or via ATV scouting and spotting for moose. ATVs will allow you to cover a lot of territory but not some of the less accessible and isolated areas that hold larger moose populations. Sportsmen shouldn’t be afraid to stray far from the roads and trails and conduct hunts deep in the woods, a considerable distance from population centers. Towns such as Montville, Freedom, Palermo, Unity and Burnham contain such “moosy” areas and have higher than average yearly success rates, making them well worth exploring.

The option to hunt from a canoe is a clever way for moose hunters to travel into the backcountry with minimal effort. Canoes also make extraction of a moose a manageable chore, rather than a backbreaking endeavor. Canoes facilitate exploration of large waters like Dresden bog in zone 22 and Kingdom bog in Zone 23. These water based trips are best taken in the early morning or late evening and best accomplished slowly, hugging the shoreline, with one person paddling and the other in the bow carefully scanning the shoreline with a quality set of binoculars.

Calling Moose - While hiking, ATVing or paddling hunters should incorporate calling sequences, followed by intent and careful listening for replies. Cow calling, bull grunting, shaking branches and the old trick of pouring water out of a large container (like a rubber boot) to simulate a moose urinating are all effective means of locating and/or drawing a moose into shooting range. Electronic calls in this situation are excellent, as many of the quality devices produce a decent level of volume. With practice, a metal coffee can and a cotton or leather shoestring are as effective as these electronic devices and cost mere pennies to construct. Many guides are able to vocalize moose calls using their mouths or with perhaps the assistance of a birch bark cone to increase the volume like an old school megaphone.

Making Sense of Moose Scents - Most hunters do not realize that moose, like deer, can be lured by sexual as well as curiosity scents. Moose are inquisitive creatures and will frequently investigate the smells of other moose or strange smells that are not perceived as dangerous. On many occasion, I have watched moose stick their heads in bear baits and sniff heavily, taking in the intoxicating smell of doughnuts. Hunters can use this trait to their distinct advantage, by using scents to pull them out of the deep woods and into shooting range. While I don’t recommend jelly doughnut as you scent spray, there are many other commercially available moose scents that are extremely effective.

Several companies make different moose lures but my personal favorite is the type that is ignited and burns like an incense stick. A trick is to take a 5 gallon bucket and drill 8-10 ½ inch holes in the sides about 1 inch up from the bottom. Take a shovel and clear a patch of earth down to bare earth in an area slightly bigger than the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket. This “clearing” is to ensure that nothing catches fire while the incense sticks burn. Next take 2 or 3 sticks and poke them into the ground, light them and place the bucket over the top. The bucket will protect the slowly burning sticks from any potential rain or strong winds that could extinguish them, while still allowing the smoke to slowly escape. This set-up creates a huge scent cloud that will saturate the entire target area. Once allowed to burn all night, it is sometimes a simple matter of arriving early the next morning and shooting your moose as he drools over the smoldering bucket.


Tracking and Finding Moose - If you can manage to find moose sign it is preferable that you stay with it. Moose maintain a "home territory" of around one or two square miles. This does change a bit during the fall when bulls tend to wanderer, traveling up to 4 miles from their "home" area, in search of a suitable mate. Still compared to the travel patterns of other large game animals, this limited region allows the hunter to stake out prime travel areas in preparation of an encounter.

Though a truly monstrous size animal with bulls nudging over 1200 pounds, they are still very difficult to locate in central Maine. Low numbers create the proverbial “needle in the hay sack” scenario, creating much difficulty in finding these titanic creatures. To locate a moose, you first need to find appropriate moose habitat. This can be done by studying your Gazeteer or using Google earth to virtually scout areas with limited human access, swamps and areas bordering small lily pad ponds.

Of course, what can’t be seen using these “virtual” sources, is what land is and is not posted. Often hunting locations, identified on a map, turn into wasted scouting trips when you get there and realize they are gated and/or completely covered with posted signs. Even more disheartening is to scout a spot open to hunting, only to return a month later to find it posted as no trespassing. Trust me this happens all the time. Ultimately, your best alternative is to scout these areas early and find open areas, secure permission or know a local individual (or Maine Guide) who is very familiar with the area.

Once you locate one of these prime spots, you next need to thoroughly scout the area and attempt to locate sign. Moose sign is typically found by identifying fresh tracks, scat and/or noted feeding activity. 

*Moose Tracks - The main part of a moose track is about 6-1/2 inches long, with cows and young bulls have pointier tracks than adult bulls or deer. Track strides should measure 30" to 40" long. Because cow moose give birth they have a wider pelvic girdle than males. Therefore the rear leg spread (the distance between the legs) will be wider than that of a male.  The tracks left behind by the female will show the rear foot as being set to the outside of the front foot, whereas the male footprint will be set in line with or slightly to the inside. In other words, when looking at the right hand side moose tracks the rear print will be (from a cow moose) on top of and to the right of the front track. This method is of course riddled with inaccuracies.


*Moose Scat - Due to seasonal variety in a diet, moose scat tends to come in a number of different “flavors”, in accordance with what it has been eating. Scat varies widely between a meal of pond lilies and that of fir bow tips. The best way to see this difference is through pictures of moose scat linked below.

*Moose Browse and Feeding Sign - Moose are notorious grazers, like cows they slowly munch along through the wilderness snacking on willow, alder and fir bows. Moose will strip bark off willow and alders trunks to get to the nutrient rich cambium layer. These types of disturbances can look like giant deer rubbing areas with dozens of trees affected. Moose will also create rubs on trees much like a deer to work the velvet off their antlers. Fir bows will be clipped cleanly off like a pair of hedge clippers cut them. Sap oozing from these cuts can help to determine if an area has seen recent activity.

Moose can frequently be found, during early mornings and late evenings, patrolling shallow ponds and dipping their heads under the water to uproot their favorite food, the common water lily. These salt rich plants are a moose favorite. Hunters finding small ponds filled with these treats would be well served to stake out these spots in early morning and late evenings.

Conclusion - As a hunter, harvesting a moose is the pinnacle of an outdoorsman’s hunting career. To be fortunate enough to be chosen to pursue and potentially harvest the largest game animal in North America is truly a unique experience. I like nothing better than to help facilitate a sportsman successfully harvesting a moose, as their excitement in the endeavor is always infectious. Anyone is planning a central Maine moose hunt, please contact me and ask questions, I would be happy to assist.
Additional Moose Resource Links from Inland Fisheries and Wildlife:

Monday, June 11, 2012

Your smart phone is making you stupid!

There was a time not long ago when people were bored. I mean kids and adults would literally be bored out of their minds and practically to tears. This psychological condition most likely occurred during periods of time when you were involved in an activity that you did not want to attend. It could also potentially occur when you are not necessarily attending or involved in any particular activity and were simply lounging around with nothing specific to do. I guess more precisely what I mean to say, is that there existed a time just a short while ago, when a person couldn't expect to have every single moment of their existence filled with Facebook, Twitter, Blogger and a billion other mental distractions. Strange as it may sound, there was actually a time when a man could be alone with his thoughts and just reflect, plan and think.

It is comical to me to now be holding in my hands a "smart" phone that makes me feel anything but "smart". I no longer remember anyone's phone number, trivial facts and figures or a hundred other minute details, I used to store in my cranium. Though in a couple keystrokes, I can tell you practically any piece of trivial information on a wide variety of mundane subjects, including the entire history of the shalalie (yes I actually loaded this up at a bar during St. Patrick’s Day to settle a bet!). Though I am sure the original plan for the “smart” phone was well meaning, it unfortunately appears that my "smart" phone has made me kind of well . . . stupid. I note that even my attention span seems to be waning. Activities that once I relished for their peace and quiet now seem . . . quite frankly mundane.

To determine just how badly I have been affected by the advent of technology, this past deer hunting season I decided to conduct an experiment. I forced myself to sit in my tree stand for 8 to 10 hours without my smart phone and guess what happened, I was fantastically BORED! My research determined, that I was only able to sit for approximately 2 hours before I got the nagging impulse to check my e-mail, tweet or read the latest weather report. By 5 hours I was sweating profusely and at 7 hours, attempted to construct a smart phone out of birch bark and duct tape. Shame on me!

While guiding last season, I observed that many of my bear hunting clients went a field carrying their smart phones. While many in the smart phone crew shot bears, many others did not. They would tell me in the evening, that they never even saw a bear but I had to wonder if they were "playing games" on their phones at the critical moment when Mr. Bear was nosing around the bait site?!?!

With a pursuit of a game animal, you owe it to the creature you are pursuing to devote to the hunt your attention or at least cut back on the number of unnecessary distractions. This will not only increase your chances of taking game, it will ultimately make you a better hunter, one more connected to the environment and your natural surroundings. Tune in this turkey season and refuse to tune out!

For a similar posting please see:

Monday, June 4, 2012

Have the Woods Become Unsafe?

The Wildman in Full Bug Suit!
Have the woods and waters become unsafe? At what point did the human race decide it would be a good idea to vilify the outdoors and stir up national panic? Where did the days go of unstructured play, riding bikes, kicking the can and building dams? Have we as a society finally decided that these activities are considered dangerous? With everything that parents must now do to "protect" their kids, are we instead doing them a disservice and creating unnatural fear?

Like little soldiers preparing for chemical warfare, my children go outside in bug suits, bathed in Deet, carrying Thermacells and wearing helmets. Even gloves protect their little hands from biting insects and poison ivy and upon entering the house those bodies are thoroughly inspected for ticks and little hands are scrubbed with antibacterial soap.

With just a few moments thought, I created a list of everything I now (must to be considered a good parent) worry about whenever my kids partake in exploring our natural world. Please feel free to follow my links or plug any of these concerns into Google to receive a full and complete warning of the impending dangers associated with each item. If I have missed something, please make sure to comment, lest I forget some critical danger or unseen hazards as of yet unlisted.

I guess the only safe activity left is sitting on the couch playing video games. Oh wait, I forgot about childhood obesity, carpal tunnel, diabetes and heart disease!

The Savage in Full Bug Suit

We as a society are most certainly creating innate fears in our off spring based on what could at best be described as lies and innuendo. This remains and unfortunate trend that seems to be quickly building a following. 

As more and more of us distance or even remove ourselves from the natural world and traditional outdoor pursuits, we begin to develop unnatural fears of the great outdoors. These fears are then passed on to our offspring and the entire cycle perpetuates. 

Don’t foolishly ignore the hazards of the outdoors but also don’t let them rule your existence and scare you into living a life devoid of a more "natural" world!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...