Spring Turkey Season was a lot of fun this year and I was fortunate enough to harvest two nice birds. The first a 20 pounder with a 9 inch beard and 1 inch spurs, shot on May 4th. The second bird was a 14.5 pounder with a 9.5 inch beard and 1/2 inch spurs shot May 11th.
Its raining, the kind of wind driven rain that comes at you sideways, tearing at you in an attempt to find chinks in your suit of waterproof armor. It’s a cold, penetrating, wetness desperate to succeed in its mission to drench and chill you to the bone.
Early spring in Maine has reached its climax and mud season is in full swing. Pleasantly warm days quick digress as nighttime temperatures still threaten frost and a person cold, wet and unprepared in the wilds could easily slip into a life-threatening situation. It is exactly this time of year that outdoorsmen underestimate, often leading into serious trouble.
It is critically important to stay dry and certainly preferable to be comfortable in Maine’s unforgiving and fickle weather conditions and doing so successfully, requires high quality clothing. Clothing designed thoughtfully, with care and capable of shrugging off even the most horrific of weather conditions.
Enter onto the scene, the new Bad Axe Jacket from Carhartt EXTREME. This is the kind of gear you want to have on when you need to punch Mother Nature in the mouth to get the job done. The lightweight, rugged, rainproof nylon shell and high strength nylon reinforced cuffs wrap you in a veritable coating of waterproofing. Stretchable inserts at the elbows and back enhance ease of movement, and full-length side zips allow heat venting for active hikers and backpackers.
The Bad Axe is LOADED with practical features that guarantee it will be your “go to” jacket when the weather turns gnarly. Zippers feature rubber seams similar to a dry suit, making them impervious to anything Mother Nature can throw at it. The breast pocket allows you to throw in your MP3 player and snake your headphones through an interior hole, making it easy to continue listening to your favorite tunes, in even the most inclement of weather!
When you need to rely on a product built for the ultimate in outdoor performance, this jacket needs to be on your list! Stay tuned as I continue to test the Bad Axe jacket throughout the summer and fall, putting it through the most rabid of Maine's changing and challenging environments!
Muskrats (Ondatra Zibethicus) spend most of their lives living a semi-aquatic existence. Marshes, ponds and streams filled with cattails and other favored vegetation such as water lilies, pondweeds, wild rice and pickerelweed are almost guaranteed to hold healthy populations of this omnivorous rodent.
Telltale signs of muskrats inhabiting these biomes include dozens of small domed houses constructed of mud, small sticks and vegetation. Though the muskrat is famous for this unique structure, closely resembling a small beaver lodge, they also inhabit burrows dug into the banks of the water bodies in which they are living.
Evolution has provided the muskrat with the unique ability to close off its ears to keep out water and they can hold their breath underwater for approximately 15 minutes. A scaly laterally pressed tail and partially-webbed hind feet make them efficient swimmers and well adapted to watery environments.
Including its 9-inch tail, an average adult muskrat is 20 inches long and weighs up to about 5 pounds.
A muskrat’s body is primarily reddish or dark brown while its underbelly is a lighter brown to gray brown on more mature animals.
Predominantly nocturnal, muskrat activity peaks at night, when the cover of darkness best protects them from their many natural predators, such as birds of prey, otter and mink.
Prolific breeders, muskrats are capable of producing two to three litters of 6-8 young each every spring and summer. Breeding begins in April and young are born only a month later, after a gestation period of only 30 days.
Muskrat young called “kits” and grow amazingly fast, able to live on their own in a little over one month.
The soft and warm pelts of muskrats remain a valued commodity in the fur trade. The Maine trapping season for muskrat runs statewide from the end of October till the end of December.
Wildlife Quiz Questions:
1. What are muskrat young called?
2. How long can a muskrat hold its breath underwater?
3. Counting its tail, how long is a mature muskrat?
4. How old does a muskrat have to be before it can live on its own in the wild?
5. Are muskrats omnivores, carnivores or herbivores?
6. How long is the muskrat gestation period?
7. How many litters do muskrats typically have in a year?
8. When is the trapping season on muskrats?
Wildlife Quiz Answers:
1. Muskrat young are called kits.
2. A muskrat can hold its breath underwater for approximately 15 minutes.
3. Counting its tail, a mature muskrat is approximately 20 inches long.
4. A muskrat only needs to be about a month old before it can live on its own.
5. Muskrats are omnivores as their diet is comprised of both plants and small creatures such as frogs, crayfish and baby turtles.
6. The muskrat gestation period is only 30 days.
7. Muskrats typically have two to three litters of 6-8 young every spring and summer.
8. The muskrat trapping season runs statewide from October until the end of December.
Looking out across my front yard are 1/2 a dozen small specialty boats. From aluminum and fiberglass canoes, to porta-boats, kayaks and sculling floats these various watercraft all fit very specific purposes. A few months ago I came to the realization that some individuals may be interested in learning more about small boating options and so I drafted a story that was accepted by the Maine Sportsman. I also prepared a short 1 minute video on the assembly of my porta-boat that I think many will find very interesting for individuals unfamiliar with this type of watercraft.
Any sportsman knows that to be successful you need the right tool for the job. You don’t hunt deer with #8 shot shells and you typically don’t take a small boat out on the Atlantic. In choosing a small boat it is important to remember that only when used within their limitations are they safe. Careful attention must always be paid to a number of concerns including; maximum horsepower ratings, carrying capacities and anticipated weather conditions. Ignoring any of these details can prove life threatening.
Porta-Boat Assembly Video Actual Process takes 5 minutes but in this FF version you can see the entire assembly process in 1 minute.
The fine folks at Duluth Trading Company have gone and done it again, creating yet another fantastic product. This latest creation is a microscopic jade embedded, ultralight weight wicking fabric that actually lowers skin temperature!
The clothing containing this space age technology, that I do not even attempt to comprehend, comes in a huge selection of pants, shirts, shorts and even hats, all designed to make working through the heat of summer more comfortable and enjoyable.
This exciting heat taming line of clothing is called the Armachillo work wear series and the ad boasts that it will “stand up to Texas sized heat”.
Well, that might be good and all but what I want to know is how do these clothes stand up to Maine blackflies, mudseason, bass fishing, piling a couple chord of wood and shielding my arm from the misguided blade of a chainsaw!?! To answer all these questions, I formulated a series of tests, of their khaki long sleeve Armachillo shirt, designed to push the shirt beyond its limits in the oppressive Maine wilderness.
Sliding on this shirt reminds me of naked margarita night . . . instantly cool, refreshing and extremely unrestricting. Loaded with bellowed pockets and features like UPF 40 protection, an antimicrobial finish for fighting odor and buttons on the sleeves to keep them rolled up, make the shirt more functional than a Swiss army knife.
The arrival of spring brings with it mud season and the annual migration of Maine’s state bird, the blackfly. This sloppy season and nasty little biting insect work together to make Maine’s spring season a challenge for even the most well equipped sportsman, however, they were no match for my Armachillo shirt. The 100% nylon construction means it is basically impervious to dirt, grime and of course MUD. The long sleeves, high collar and long back kept me tucked in, covered and protected from the angry hoards of rampant blackflies and even while cutting, splitting and stacking wood the shirt allowed for a full range of movement without becoming untucked or sleeves unrolled!!
Unfortunately, the Armachillo shirt will not stop the rapidly spinning blade of a chainsaw, so I suggest that while cutting wood care is taken to ensure you do not get your arms or torso near the dangerous end.
While Duluth markets this shirt as “work wear”, it should also be noted that these clothes would be perfect for hiking, backpacking, fishing, canoeing or enjoying any and all of your favorite Summertime sporting pursuits. Be sure to follow along with my Duluth shirt and me this summer as we explore Maine’s wilderness and waters in cool comfort!
Disclaimer: I don't know what makes me write stuff like this, I will most likely grow-up to be one of those really old guys who always wants to talk to you about his colon. I hope those of you reading will sympathize with my plight and maybe even a few of you will be in the "been there done that" club. Ok, enough talk! Hope you enjoy the story!
Sitting quietly in the turkey blind, watching the woods awaken on a beautiful spring morning, the peaceful solitude is suddenly disturbed. Out of the darkness, you hear a low rumbling sound, as if a freight train is hurtling toward your position. As you strain your senses, to hear and determine the cause of this rude interruption, you realize against all your worst fears, that the sound is coming from your lower intestines.
This predicament causes you much angst as you realize that a trip outside of the turkey blind now will most certainly spook the entire field for the remainder of the morning. As you fight back the growing discomfort, you know that your time is limited. Checking your watch you think, I can hold it 6 more hours. As beads of sweat break out on your forehead and goosebumps appear on your arms, you realize that you are totally lying to yourself. The cinqo de mayo celebrations, consisting of 4 jalapeno laced burritos, 5 spoonfuls of spicy salsa, 4 hot wing appetizers and 6 Coronas will sadly have their revenge. With a heavy heart, you come to the conclusion that the rebel uprising will not be quelled lest the Mexican invasion be eradicated.
Searching your pockets, all you manage to find is dryer lint and the powered remains of what, may at one time have been paper towel. Frantically, you rummage through your turkey vest finding only spare shells, Redman chaw, a box call and the dried mummified remains of something that may have once been a ham sandwich. Cursing now with displeasure, discomfort and distaste at your complete failure to prepare for this catastrophe, you begin to eyeball the upper two thirds of your brand new smart wool socks. Remembering that they cost you 20 bucks you quickly make the decision to find an alternative. Staring out of the blind window, you try to remember exactly what poison ivy looks like, while at the same time trying to forget that you badly failed botany in college.
Now completely and utterly on the verge of total collapse, you quietly squeeze under the blind wall and fumble for a handful of nearby shrubbery. As thorns tear into the softest part of you palm, you let out a soft whimper and speedily search for a plant less likely to leave your bottom permanently mutilated. With frightening clarity, your mind projects a picture of the Canadian flag and you remember something about a maple leaf. Seeing a tree now with a similar adornment of photosynthesizing projections, you grab an entire handful.
With all of these delays, you have now reached terror alert level red! Tearing at your belt buckle, like you have lobster claws for hands, you somehow manage to drop your drawers. Your mind screams NOW and in seconds, you are overcome with happiness, the battle for intestinal tranquility is won!
While doing what you can to clean up the crime scene, you note a large double beard tom slide quietly back into the woods and you realize that in all wars there are survivors and there are casualties, to the victor goes the spoils so to speak. You have won today Mr. Turkey but watch out for me tomorrow, for I come armed with Imodium and cheese!!
Have you ever had to hike a couple miles out of the woods carrying a big Tom turkey over your shoulder? By the time you get back to the truck with your poultry prize, your wrist can feel like it was gnawed upon by rabid gray squirrels. Rather than suffer the wrath of carpal tunnel syndrome, this simple device can be constructed in minutes and greatly assist in transporting your turkey out of the woods.
Please see the short video below, detailing how with a short piece of 550 paracord and a piece of dowel or pcv pipe one can early transform these simple items into a handy turkey carry lanyard.