Monday, March 25, 2013

Reaper Outdoors - Interview

August 2012, I had the distinct honor of being introduced to the impressive "Reaper Outdoors" team, during their Maine Guided Bear Hunt. The shows host, active duty Navy SEAL Ronald Bellan, also know as "Reaper 01", is a true American hero. Just standing next to this guy is something else and knowing that he could likely kill me with a contact lens ripped from my own eyelid, instantly demands respect. All kidding aside, Ron is a true patriot, highly skilled outdoorsman and one heck of a freaking nice guy. 

I was thrilled when Ron agreed to sit down with me an answer a few questions I had about military based weapons and their integration into civilian sporting uses. The following is an outline of that conversation.

Rabid - Military weapons like the M1 Garand and M16 have a long history of being modified and used by outdoorsmen for hunting and other outdoor sporting pursuits. As a Navy Seal, you have an extensive knowledge of the latest and greatest tactical gear and accessories, what do you see as the next “big” advancement in the evolution of sporting/hunting firearms?

Reaper 01 - I am a firm believer in the basics of weapons for functionality, durability and use. Today we live in a technological world. The future of weapons is leading down the path of technology. There are weapons and optics out there that have a lot of wiz bang gadgets on them, lights, lasers, grips, mounts, just to name a few. As long as they make sense and more importantly, WORK, they are a big asset. The sporting, hunting and military arms race work hand and hand. Each develops weapons for the purpose of killing. Whether it’s an animal or a human, the results are the same, Point of Aim, Point of Impact. I see the M-4 platform becoming an even bigger part of hunting now. Laws are being changed for magazine fed weapons with long range capabilities. Current gun law proposals aside, you see a lot of people hunting with these platforms and many more folks going to the range knocking down targets.

Rabid - What do you think the next generation of gun owners is going to have? 

Reaper 01 - They will have what they are brought up on. There are a few things on the horizon for big changes. Suppressors are now being looked at and even used for hunting to keep the noise down on ranges and in the field. Smart optics is advancement in their infancy. Shooters want to shoot further and more accurate. Not everyone can go to sniper school.

Rabid - How about an optic that pins the target, calculates the distance, and adjusts for wind drift and all you have to do is squeeze the trigger? 

Reaper 01 - It’ coming, in fact it’s here. It cost a butt ton of money but when the price is brought down people will be flocking to the gun stores. Muzzle breaks are becoming more popular and the advancements are taking hold in the hunting and shooter world. The development of deflecting the muzzle blast for better follow through and better accuracy is becoming a norm on weapons. The weapons and optics we currently use in the military will be on the hunting grounds and on the ranges. Light weight stocks, heavy barrels, bolt action, semi auto, night vision, muzzle breaks, lasers, and smart optics all have their place on the hunting grounds. As long as the industry isn’t compromising our protectors (law enforcement, military) and people are using them right, the shooting world is in for some amazing range time ahead. The Reaper Outdoors Team hunts game in some very remote and challenging locales. Because of the stresses on equipment your gear and firearms must be “battle hardened” to withstand the rigors place against them in the field.

Rabid - Do you have a preferred hunting firearm, optics and ammunition that have proven effective in these conditions? 

Reaper 01 - Our equipment has to withstand harsh environmental conditions from deserts, high mountains, and plains, cold and hot. It also has to work in all weather conditions. I currently reach for my trusted .308 Remington Model 700 varmint rifle. The Remington Model 700’s have been proven on the hunting grounds and the battlefield. I had mine modified from a 26” barrel cut down to 20”s and threaded a PWS (Primary Weapons System) muzzle break on the end. The PWS M216 7.62, is a semi automatic weapon I use when the laws allow it for hunting.

Hornady ammo is our store bought ammo of choice. The consistency of the rounds has proven to be spot on. I have had nothing but good tight groups at long range and my cold bore shot, 2nd and 3rd round impacts are always grouped and accurate at long ranges. We use Hornady for all our ammo needs. I use various optics from, scopes to ACOGS. I will tell you which handled the toughest of terrain, weather and dings. On my weapons to list a few, Aimpoint, Trijicon, Night Force, and Bushnell (waterproof scopes).

Rabid - Most modern military firearms are based on the 9mm, .308 and .223 calibers what is your preferred caliber for hunting large game (Moose, Deer, Bear, Etc) and for hunting small game (Coyotes, Bobcats, Mt. Lion)? 

Reaper 01 - I like having an all around caliber that will take down most big game animals. This is why I choose the .308. It has a wide range of ballistics that allow a short or long distance shot that will still maintain the kinetic energy to make a clean kill. The .308 round has a wide range of loads, very common accessible bullet and accurate. I also like the 300 win mag for it even further reach and punch.

For varmint and small game, I go right to the battle tested .223 for its accuracy and small caliber punch. Again, a very common and accessible round that doesn’t leave big holes if I want to use the hide. Another round we use is the 22-250. This round is a fast, flat shooter that, allows a load for small game to larger game such as the Whitetail deer. This is actually Reaper 03’s weapon of choice for a lot of hunting.

Rabid - During your adventures afield, do you carry a side arm? Type and caliber? 

Reaper 01 - I do carry a side arm. The pistol I carry depends on the animal I am going after and the state hunting regulations. The main weapon of choice for hunting is my 357 magnum Smith and Wesson 686 revolver. It has great punching power and takes the abuse of living in the wilderness. The other pistol I carry is a Sig P226 9mm. I enjoy having that on my side for protection and the amount of rounds it holds.

Rabid - Military based camouflage is based on a basic digital model of concealment, while civilian camouflage is typically more complicated and centered regional and sporting pursuits. What is your preferred camouflage pattern? 

Reaper 01 - Military camouflage is developed not only for concealment from human eyes, but around an array of counter technology detections. Military camouflage doesn’t always work for hunting animals, mainly because of how it is broken up in straight lines. MultiCam is the preferred Reaper Teams camouflage of choice. It gives a wide range of environmental concealment. We’ve tested it in desert, grasslands, and woodland. The results were amazing on how it blends in and how it beats out the commercial patterns that are on the market today. The technology on how the pattern with the materials is impressive.

Rabid - You recently came to Maine hunting black bear, what did you think of the Maine wilderness? 

Reaper 01 - The Maine wilderness was surreal, wild and beautiful. We canoed into our layup site (base camp), and then our hunting area every day. We experienced the thickness of the woods, bogs and waterways. We also encounter moose, bear, grouse, rabbits, and of course fish. The wilderness is vast, challenging, tranquil, and down right incredible. The environmental challenge for the Team was the survival and navigation front. We were able to utilize a wide range of the terrain and different landscapes and waterways to navigate and survive. Our main food source came from the water with the bounty of fish and vegetation.

Rabid - Was your operation a success and all that you had hoped it would be? When will the Maine episode air and will it be available later on youtube? 

Reaper 01 - Our mission was to infiltrate the Maine wilderness, survive, and hunt down the great Black bear with a bow. We accomplished our mission. We ate fish, lily pad bulbs and wouldn’t you know it, got a nice Black bear with a bow. The experience was all we had hoped it would be and beyond. Our good friend and guide Matt from, Eagle Mountain Guide Service set up the operation and let us do our thing.

The show will air on the Pursuit channel starting April 1st. Direct TV channel 604 and Dish Network channel 240 show times Mondays 1830, Tuesdays 1100 and Saturdays 1230.

 **All shows will be loaded on our website after the show has aired that week. We will also be loading up video’s, gear lists and reviews as the hunts air. Make sure to sign into our Website and become part of REAPER Nation.

Thank you for taking the time to read this,

Reaper 01 Out

Monday, March 11, 2013

Wildlife Quiz - Ticks

Ticks share similar traits with scorpions, spiders and mites, thus classifying them as arachnids. Simple, yet elegant creatures, ticks have bodies divided into an anterior, containing the head and mouthparts; and a posterior containing the eight legs, digestive tract and reproductive organs. A testament to their highly efficient design, fossil records indicate ticks have roamed the earth for at least 90 million years.

Throughout the world there exist over 800 different types of ticks, separated into two main families, Ixodidae (hard ticks) and Argasidae (soft ticks). As the name suggests, hard ticks have a rigid shield on their posterior body segment. While both hard and soft ticks transmit a wide spectrum of diseases, in Maine the most notorious of the species being the Lyme carrying Blacklegged or Deer tick (Ixodes scapularis).

Unlike its relative the agile spider, ticks wait in ambush on low growing vegetation, patiently locating prey and then slowly and methodically crawling onto host animals. Once attached to a human or animal, ticks survive strictly on a diet of blood.

Maine’s deer tick has a two-year life cycle, with larvae hatching from eggs in the spring and then molting into pinhead-sized nymphs the following spring. In fall, they become adults, spending the long winter buried deep under leaf litter on the forest floor. Shortly after the spring thaw, mature females lay eggs and the life cycle begins anew. All phases of the tick life cycle require blood meals.

Wildlife Quiz Questions: 
1. How many eggs can a female tick lay?
2. What is the best way to remove a tick?
3. What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?
4. What is the best prevention against ticks in your yard?
5. What is the best prevention against ticks in your home?
6. What is the best body protection against ticks?

Wildlife Quiz Answers: 
1. Female ticks can lay up to 2000 eggs.
2. The best way to remove a tick is by grasping it with tweezers close to the skin and detaching it without leaving behind its mouthparts. Disinfect the bite area after removal.
3. The symptoms of lyme disease include a bulls eyes type rash or unexplained illness.
4. To prevent ticks from invading your yard, regularly cut your grass. Ticks do not thrive in short vegetation and are seldom a problem in well-mowed lawns. Guineafowl also consumes mass quantities of ticks.
 5. To protect your home from ticks, make sure to thoroughly inspect animals and make sure they are current on their repellents such as Frontline and Advantix.
 6. To protect your body against ticks, wear long-sleeved shirts, trousers, boots and a head covering. Apply insect repellents containing DEET and Permethrin

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Kicking Bass and Taking Names!

Braving near blizzard conditions, Rhon Bell AKA @BackwoodsPlaid ( and I decided to try out luck chasing “trash” fish on a unnamed pond in a uncharted section of central, Maine. Our intended targets were pickerel, yellow perch, black crappie and of course largemouth bass.

Well aware of the predicted weather, we were still bent on spending a day in wild pursuit of fish, rather than hiding inside, watching life pass by through the glass of a window pane. In Maine its best to you plan your adventures, oft with little care about what Mother Natures plans might be for to worry about what might happen is futile.

Having fished this water dozens of times, during both the summer and winter seasons, I was prepared with a head full of detailed information on where the best fishing could be found.

We barely had let the bait soak for 30 minutes, when the flags started popping, providing us with hardly any respite throughout the entire morning and into the early afternoon.

With small hooks, light lines and diminutive shiners, we were successful in catching countless pickerel and yellow perch and even several award winning bass through the ice.

Uncharacteristic for this time of year, the bass fought with ferocity, uncommon during the winter season and provided Rhon and I a lot of late season fishing fun.

We returned all of the big bass to the lake, only keeping a few of the smaller “trash” fish for the fry pan and fish chowder . . . DELICIOUS!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Washington County Report – March

The Maine Sportsman - New England's Largest Outdoor Publication – Has assigned me as the writer for the magazines monthly Washington County Report. The column will highlight seasonal hunting, fishing and outdoor activities in Washington County, Maine. The copy below is the originally submitted unedited version. Enjoy! 

For more information on the Maine Sportsman Magazine or to order a subscription click this link: and

Last Minute Ice Fishing 
By March, winter’s icy grip on Washington County begins slowly loosening and snow covered landscapes begin springing back to life. This final conclusion, at the end of a long cold winter, always seems to renew my passion to get back into the wilds. Historically warmer days and longer amounts of daylight make all outdoor activities more enjoyable. Gardner Lake Salmon and Monster Pickerel March starts with most waterways ice covered and safe to travel, however, as the month progresses, ice anglers must use extreme care and monitor the ice thickness frequently. This period of transition differs wildly each year, sometimes occurring at a snail’s pace and sometimes happening rapidly and with little warning.

Those still ice fishing this month, will typically enjoy some absolutely amazing days on the ice. Past trips, have yielded anglers in t-shirts, as lunchtime temperatures push almost 60 degrees F. Days like these, spent throwing the pigskin around the ice, make glorious memories even when few fish are caught. For the college crowd, at my alma mater the University of Maine at Machias, these types of days meant skipping classes and chasing salmon on Gardner Lake in East Machias. Access to Gardner Lake is easy thanks to a fine-looking boat launch just a few miles outside of the town of East Machias. After the intersection of Route 191 and Route 1, follow Route 1 for an additional 1.5 mi until you see the Chases Mill road on your left. Drive down Chases Mill road until it crosses Chase Mill stream. The landing is immediately after the bridge on the right. Park at the landing and you will see that a short walk to the north, sits a large island that over the years has provided countless ice anglers a base of operations for their day of lazy angling enjoyment. Use care when approaching and especially leaving the island, to stay on the northwestern island shore and walk straight back to the landing. This time of year, the ice on the eastern side of the island can begin losing stability, due to the shallow water and current created by Chase Mill stream.

Salmon populations on Gardner Lake are not what they have been in years past; in the 1960’s 4.5-pound fish were always a possibility. Nowadays, typical salmon run about 16 inches or less, with the lake still producing larger specimens from time to time. Anglers should expect slow fishing for salmon and fairly regular flags triggered by small mouth bass and pickerel. While salmon populations seem to be dropping, chain pickerel populations have been on the rise and it is not unusual to pull one through the ice 20 inches or larger. Look for Gardner Lake on DeLorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 26, B-4.

Coyotes Desperate but not STUPID
By winter’s conclusion, coyotes get a little more daring, as their fat reserves dwindle and access to easy meals diminish. This scenario provides the perfect opportunity to hunt these wily predators, as occasionally growling stomachs can short circuit their survival instincts and provide hunters with a small advantage. This does not mean that hunters should not continue practice good scent control and use wind direction and positioning to their advantage. Even a hungry coyote is extremely cautious and hunters who think otherwise will go home without firing a shot. The individual who hunts coyotes and despite best efforts continues to come up empty handed, needs to honestly review their hunting practices and determine what they are doing wrong. Coyote hunters primarily fail because they do not pay enough attention to wind direction and proper positioning. Plan to encounter difficulties when hunting unfamiliar areas or locations. With no previous understanding of the topography, setting up for that “good” shot becomes difficult or impossible.

Pre-scouting to become familiar with an area and understanding the predominant wind direction makes it infinitely easier to arrive at a hunting location and not waste time setting up and making unnecessary noise. Spots visited frequently can even be brushed out ahead of time with available cover materials or canvas camouflage cloth. Tag teaming coyotes with another hunter is more fun, safer than hunting alone and makes for better averages. With one person carrying a rifle for long-distance shots and the other a shotgun any reasonable distance the coyote appears, will be in optimal shooting range. Also, while one hunter manages the calling, the other can always be prepared to discharge their firearm should Wiley appear!

Dog Gone Snowshoe Hare
My Grandfather thoroughly enjoyed tracking hare on snowshoes during the month of March. Armed with a .22 Colt Woodsman pistol, instead of the more popular scatter gun, he always surprised us by coming home with a hare or two. The old man had a secret tied to this success, endless amounts of patience. Without the assistance of man’s best friend, to chase hares from their hiding places, hunters must walk and stop frequently to make hares nervous enough to bolt into the open. Slowly and methodically walking ten steps and then pausing for thirty second to one minute, usually makes them run for the hills! While stopped, hunters should carefully examine every small detail of their surroundings, looking for anything that appears out of place. A nose twitching, round black eyes or an off colored patch of snow, all can betray a bunny’s camouflage IF a hunter remains vigilant. Keep an eye on your back trail, as often hares that do not immediately run, will attempt escape after passing.

Hunting for rabbits is typically more fun and successful if done with a partner. Just remember that when hunting in tandem that you will be hunting thick covers and determining each other’s exact position is often difficult. Always wear a florescent orange hat and vest! Not everyone has the time or the resources to manage a pack of beagles but that should not disappoint hunters from trying to walk a few snowshoe hare out of the woods this month!
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