Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Wildlife Quiz - Chain Pickerel

The chain pickerel ranks as the most aggressive of all game fish. Though primarily fish eaters, pickerel they will take just about any kind of food, including frogs, crayfish and mice. Their explosive strikes and desire to attack just about any kind of lured offered to them, make them a favorite of young and old anglers alike.

While native to Maine, the home range of the pickerel stretches far beyond our state boundaries, to far into the Midwest and southern United States. According to Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologists, most pickerel caught in Maine range from 14-19 inches and average 2-3 pounds. The state record, caught in 1992 in Androscroggin Lake weighed 6 pounds, 13 ounces. The largest pickerel ever caught was a 9-pound 6-ounce fish caught in Georgia in 1961.

Members of the Esocidae family of fishes, pickerel are closely related to Muskellunge and Northern Pike. Pickerel have scaled gill covers and green bodies marked by yellow-green areas broken by dark, interconnecting lines resembling the links of a chain. This unusual color pattern provides this ambush predator with excellent camouflage for staking out edges of weed beds where it prefers to lay silently in wait for prey.

Pickerel posses a mouth full of razor sharp teeth that serve to both protect the fish from predators and provide unsuspecting anglers with an unpleasant surprise. When water temperatures begin to rise in the spring, pickerel move into the shallows to spawn. Females lay gelatinous strings of eggs up to 3 feet long over vegetation, sticks and logs which are then fertilized by the males. After fertilization, the parents abandon the eggs, forcing the fry to fend for themselves. In the wild, pickerel live approximately 7-9 years.

Wildlife Quiz Questions:
1. What do pickerel prefer to eat?
2. Are pickerel native to Maine?
3. What is the home range of the pickerel?
4. What is the average length and weight of an adult pickerel?
5. What was the biggest pickerel caught in Maine?
6. How can a pickerel be identified?
7. What feature of the pickerel must anglers be very careful to avoid?
8. How long do pickerel live in the wild?

Wildlife Quiz Answers:
1. Pickerel prefer to eat fish but will also eat frogs, crayfish and mice.
2. Pickerel are native to Maine.
3. Pickerel range far into the Midwest and southern United States.
4. An average adult pickerel is 14-19 inches long and average 2-3 pounds.
5. The largest pickerel caught in Maine weighed 6 pounds, 13 ounces.
6. Pickerel can be identified by their scaled gill covers and green bodies marked by yellow-green areas broken by dark, interconnecting lines resembling the links of a chain.
7. Pickerel posses a mouth full of razor sharp teeth that can inflict bad wounds on unsuspecting anglers.
8. In the wild, pickerel live approximately 7-9 years.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Killing Animals for Sport

I admit I sometimes struggle with the thought of killing an animal that I don’t intend to eat. I typically overcome these feelings when I know that the harvested animal will be used for some practical purpose. Bobcat, coyote and fox are all furbearing animals, killed mainly for the purposes of population control, furs for clothing or hunting for sport. In hunting there is no catch and release and when a sportsman wants to pursue an animal that is a challenge to stalk and kill, success in this endeavor occurs with the death of that animal. Sure, I could photograph these animals but for me, it just isn’t the same . . . it is like eating a delicious meal but not being allowed to swallow.

Hunting bobcats, coyotes and fox is an extremely challenging endeavor, typically with 100 hours of time invested before a hunter is even presented with a CHANCE to see one of these wily and elusive creatures. The season under which these animals are typically hunted is winter where hunters must sit motionless for hours, in extreme cold, sometimes in the dead of night for that minuscule 1% chance at success. Harvesting one of these furbearers is the ultimate test of a sportsmans skill, perseverance, patience and mental fortitude. It the achievement of this monumental challenge that is the ultimate reward. The last bobcat I harvested was in 2010 and that amazingly beautiful creature adorns a wall in my house. A permanent taxidermied trophy, my mind replays every moment of that hunt, every time I gaze upon it. The skins of several other fur bearing animals adorn the walls of my house and the number of taxidermied mounts I own is approaching the level of obsession.

My 2014 bobcat (Pictured Above) will be made into a very expensive rug that will never see a muddy boot tread upon it and will cost me more money than I make in two months of writing. It is the price I am willing to pay to ensue my trophies are remembered and honored in some special way.

 Lastly, I have mixed feelings about the obligatory photo of a hunter posed over a game animal that they have just harvested. This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy pictures of young hunters smiling, posed next to their first deer or a proud hunter sitting beside that animal of a lifetime. I am not opposed to these photographs, I just tend to shy away from them, choosing to instead attempt to capture the animals end in the most respectful and picturesque way possible. Even with this statement, however, comes the fact that for an outdoor writer it is extremely difficult to build credibility, in the outdoor community, without proof of some level of hunting success and hunter success is typically documented with a picture of that sportsman posed next to their fallen quarry. In other words, if I write a story on shooting bobcats, I better have a picture of me sitting next to a bobcat as it is truly the only way to add credibility to a story.

 Thank you for listening to my short explanation. While it doesn’t throughly explain all the reasons why I hunt, I hope that for non-hunters my words help to better explain how the mind of this hunter works. No doubt some will look upon the killing of any animal that is not intended to be eaten as wasteful and the thought of pursuing animals for trophies just shy of obscene. Other people wear fancy shoes, flash expensive watches, dress in thousand dollar suits, drive sports cars and adorn themselves with diamonds and gold . . . I ask, are these “trophies” and “symbols of status” any more or less destructive than my collection of a few wild animals?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Woodsman's Pal

The Woodsman’s Pal is more than just the outdoorsman’s best friend; it is also perhaps the most versatile tool a man could even dream of owning. Instantly upgrade your “Man Factor” by getting a Woodsman’s Pal. Nothing gets the testosterone pumping quite like a man ready to unleash rampant destruction at a moments notice. Astonish friends, frighten the neighbors and impress the old lady with 16.5 inches of cold, hard, steel dangling haphazardly from your tool belt.

Be amazed as the Woodsman Pal chops effortlessly through 4 inches of rock solid hardwood! 

While this elegant tool is designed for the uncharted wilds, I wonder how it will fare in a test under the rigors of suburbia. Oh sure, any man could wander into the wilderness, equipped only with his Woodsman’s Pal and emerge weeks later clean shaven, well fed and dressed in animal skins but how well does the Woodsman’s Pal thrive in the battlefield of America’s backyards, patios, garages and kitchens? Would it not be the ultimate test of this stylish “man tool”, were it subjected to the trials and tribulations of the urban jungle?

To better explore this “challenge”, I have devised a series of tests designed to push the woodsman’s pal to its breaking point and determine if this is truly the right tool for the job. Man law eloquently states that there be no more divine trinity than bacon, beer and boobies . . . BUT since this is a PG rated show, we are going to eliminate boobies. Given my devout and undying respect for the man trinity, the Woodsman’s Pal will be subjected to two tests of its functionality, based on these, the most holy of holy.

Test one BACON: Ummm, nothing is quite more intoxicating than the smell of bacon cooked over the open flame. Unfortunately, you already demolished the old ladies frying pans and the gas grill looks like it hasn’t been cleaned since the birth of Jesus. Fear not, for your need for fried pork belly will not go unanswered for, on this day, you have your Woodsman’s Pal.

Challenge one PASSED! 

Test two BEER: Hanging out around the fire and find you have misplaced your bottle opener? Have no fear; the Woodsman’s Pal comes fully equipped with a bottle opener.

Challenge two PASSED! 

Slash more than prices this holiday season, slice, split and cut away to your hearts content and remember, whether your trimming St. Nicks beard, carving the holiday season Turduckin, hacking down O’Tannenbaum, flipping reindeer burgers, cutting wrapping paper or even popping the top off a bottle Christmas ale the best tool for the job will always be the Woodsman’s Pal!

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Tradition of Hunting

This short article was recently published int he Sportsman Alliance of Maine (SAM) November/December 2014 Newsletter . . . enjoy! 

The Wildman and Savage at Rangeley Lake
Bedtime this past Saturday evening was highlighted by my 6 year old confidently pronouncing, "Daddy today was the best day evah!" Considering the achieved levels of decadence of his past birthday parties and how badly he was spoiled at Christmas, I considered this an extraordinarily bold statement.

So, one might ask, what life-altering event could be so incredibly spectacular as to spur my young son to utter such a statement? To the dedicated sportsman, it should come as no surprise that this proclamation came on the heels of his first day duck hunting.

For me, starting to hunt was a relatively easy endeavor, having grandfathers, father, and an uncle who were all registered Maine guides and passionate about the outdoors. From a time shortly after I began walking, they helped me take the steps in my outdoors training that eventually led me to become interested in hunting. What most people don’t understand is that hunting is much more then handing a young boy a rifle and pointing him in the direction of the woods.

A hunter is someone who has undergone years of instruction and guidance, developing an understanding a large number of individual skills and eventually building to the mastery of a diverse set of abilities. Most importantly, before venturing forth into the wilds, one need to learn to be safe and comfortable in the woods, how to use a map and compass and know what to do should they become lost or injured. A hunter knows how to properly dress for the bitter north winds and how to start a fire in the wettest and direst of circumstances.

Hopeful Duck Hunters Scan the Horizon
These are fundamental skills that should be learned early by all outdoorsmen. To hunt game ethically and well, one must understand the animal they are pursuing, know its tracks, behaviors and where it is likely to bed, habituate and feed. A hunter must know how to shoot from a variety of stances, understand the inner workings of firearms, including how to clean and care for them. To humanely kill game, a hunter must know the animal’s anatomy and where to place a shot to quickly dispatch it. A hunter must know what to do should that bullet not be perfectly placed and an animal need to be tracked. A hunter must understand how to field dress, butcher and properly care for a killed animal, so the meat is not wasted. Lastly, it is the best of hunters who know how to properly cook game and prepare it for the dinner table.

All of these lessons are important as they’re the basic building blocks of creating an understanding and respect of the outdoors and the animals we as hunters pursue. Most people go to a supermarket, pickup a piece of meat, secured in plastic and don’t think: “Where did this meat come from? Did the animal suffer? Was it raised in captivity?” When a hunter shoots a deer, he has a pretty good understanding where that meat came from, whether the deer was taken humanely and know that the meat he is harvesting is completely organic. Hunters understand what hard work it is to take an animal from the field, clean it, butcher it, package it and make it ready for the dinner table.

Spring Turkey Hunters Ready to do Battle
We as a society aren’t passing this connection on to the next generation and teaching the importance of these skills. Our society reeks of trouble, too many things vie for our attentions, frequently removing us from the natural world and keeping us inside. Videogames, movies, the Internet, smart phones . . . we’re always connected, absorbed, distracted, multitasking and whether we know it or not, overwhelmed. Kids simply aren’t bored anymore; they always need to be entertained. And when those kids are put in an educational setting, unless the teacher is jumping on the desk or standing on their head, they just can’t hold the students’ attention long enough to teach them anything. That’s unfortunate.

The education side of introducing women, kids and people who have never had a chance to hunt has come full circle for me now that I have kids. I have 6 and 8 year old boys, and while I would like them to grow up sharing my passion for hunting and fishing, I’ve always said it’s their choice and I’d never force it on them. I provide all of the entry points, but if they don’t want to take it up, that’s up to them.

Their “wild” education started out identifying animal tracks in the winter, chasing rabbits and squirrels through the spruce thickets. Now they’re of an age where I take them hunting with me. This past October they joined me in the duck blind and on frequent walks hunting gray squirrels, rabbits and partridge, sometimes during these outings there is whining, often they struggle to be quiet and typically we arrive back home empty handed, having invested hours in the wilds with not a game animal to show for our exhaustive efforts. However, hunting is so much more than harvesting a game animal; hunting at its roots is all about bringing family and friends together, connecting to the food eaten, having respect for animals and working to preserve this heritage for future generations. Hunting is ultimately only 10 percent about harvesting an animal. The remaining 90 percent is about hanging out with family and friends, spending time afield enjoying Mother Nature, and the frequent quiet, self-reflective moments.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sportsman's Christmas Wish List 2014

Shopping for that 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.

The Byer Manufacturing Company has been creating what I like to call "The Goud Stuff” since 1880. This Maine based company has reinvented itself numerous times over the decades in order to keep pace with the American market place and a rapidly evolving global economy. Currently, Byer of Maine produces a wide assortment of products, most interesting perhaps its furniture and equipment specifically designed to make summah days wick’d comfortable and relaxing. Be sure to check out these gift ideas for the Slacker, Swinger, Napper or Chief Cook and Bottle Washer on your Christmas list!

The WOODMAN'S PAL® machete is described as "A Machete with the Power of an Axe". Designed to trim, prune, chop, split, blaze trails, clear campsites, chop firewood, split kindling, build hunting blinds or lean-to-shelters, it is THE tool preferred by Surveyors, Foresters, Fire & Rescue, Hunters, Campers, Hikers, Survivalists, Pilots, Land Managers, Gardeners, Farmers and Highway Crews. The multipurpose Woodman''s Pal® machete can efficiently perform the tasks of many tools including machetes, axes, hatchets, pruning saws, pruning shears, pruning knives, bow saws, loppers, Bowie knives and for certain jobs, even chain saws. Handcrafted in Pennsylvania with all American made raw materials.Unsurpassed quality since 1941.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Foul Weather Fowl, Biddies, Wabbits and Rainbow Trout

December Ducks 
Duck hunting in December is wrought with challenges and only the heartiest of sporting men and women brave the frigid north winds in an effort to perhaps get lucky enough to bring home a late season mallard or black duck for the stew pot. With inland waters rapidly freezing, waterfowlers head Down East where the regions salty bays and inlets typically take longer to freeze. In years past, some of my most memorable outdoors adventures have occurred during these late season hunts, fighting extreme cold, battling against spitting snow squalls and struggling to stay dry in showers of freezing rain. This type of hunting builds determination, strength and character.

A thin layer of ice creaked under the weight of my kayak as it slid through the water, questioning the sanity of my actions and causing me to ponder how long a person could dwell in these frigid waters before losing consciousness and succumbing to eternal sleep. I estimated the life would drain from a body in less than 10 minutes and considering my distance from shore, my lifejacket would serve only as a body recovery device, a thought that made me shiver. I needed to concentrate and make each paddle stroke with care, no mistakes. After a tentative few minutes, I managed to find a secluded spot in the bay, below the intertidal zone, on the end of a small island. Hidden behind the roughly fractured granite boulders and rockweed, I was buffeted against the wind and confident in the location, I awaited the time of legal shooting with unbridled excitement.

A slow morning dragged along, thankfully made considerably more enjoyable with hot coffee, hand warmers and the scattering of ducks flying just out of lethal range that kept my heart-pounding heavy in my chest. Finally after many hours, cold fingers and frosty toes dictated it was time to return to civilization. Though not a duck fell that morning, hunting in this environment is always a triumph . . . a win in the classic battle of man against the elements and against his own perceived capacities. This positive outlook in the face of the impossible seems a trait of most hunters but even more so in waterfowlers who always manage to find their glasses half full despite the adversities they may face and understand that it is always better to try and fail then never to have tried at all.

Sportsmen and women feeling they possess the intestinal fortitude to join the ranks of this brave group of late season salty hunters, calling themselves foul weather fowlers, would be well served to dress warm, pack heavy loads of shot to penetrate the thick down of late season ducks and head Down East to try their luck on Maine’s rugged coast. Areas such as the mouth of the Machias River (Delorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 26, C-4) and Chandler River (Map 25 B-5) both offer protection from the icy north winds while still providing opportunities to harvest ducks late into December. A majority of the hunting done in these locations is accomplished by pass shooting, a practice of hunting requiring no decoys and no calling; it is simply about being in the right place at the right time so choose your set-up locations wisely, using pinch points, ledges and sheltered coves to your advantage.

The Publication, “Public Shoreline Access in Maine A Citizen’s Guide to Ocean and Coastal Law”, produced by the Marine Law Institute, states that Maine law allows public access to the intertidal zone as long as the access is related to the purposes of fishing, fowling, and navigation. Unfortunately, this law does precious little to stop a landowner from filing unfounded complaints with the local authorities or disrupting a hunt in progress with their screaming curses of displeasures. Having lived though past encounters with these individuals, as much as one would like to teach them a lesson in the letter of the law, it is frequently more advantageous to simply walk away and find a different area to hunt.

The South Zone is open from November 3 - December 23, 2014 while the Coastal Zone is open from November 14, 2014 to January 3, 2015. Please see IFW law book for daily bag limits and species information.

Last chance Hunters looking to chase ruffed grouse, gray squirrel and snowshoe hare rather than ducks will be excited to note that many woods roads throughout Washington Conty remain open throughout December as global warming takes its toll on Maine’s early season snowfall totals. Typically there’s not a lot of snow this month so there’s good access to some fantastic late season hunting spots for small game. Maine’s primary wilderness artery the Stud Mill Road provides easy access to prime hunting areas but is hit hard by hunters in October and November, this late in the hunting season hunters should explore areas well off this main thoroughfare. Consider heading north by Brandy Pond (Map 34, D-3) and Upper Oxhead Pond (Map 34, C-3) and continuing to Spring Lake (Map 34, B-4). Hunters may harvest ruffed grouse and gray squirrel until December 31st, 2014 and snowshoe hare until March 31st, 2014

Jones Pond Rainbows 
Anglers looking for excitement should head over to chase rainbow trout in Jones Pond in Gouldsboro (Map 17, A-1). This 467-acre pond is primarily populated with brown trout, smallmouth bass and chain pickerel but last fall IFW stocked the lake with 930 rainbow trout, averaging 13 inches in length. Though Jones Pond is open throughout December to catch and release fishing with artificial lures only, starting January 1, anglers will be able to fish with live bait and keep rainbows in accordance with general law, stating 2 fish over 12 inches. IFW fisheries biologist Greg Burr states that “fishing through the ice for rainbows is extremely difficult and that they don’t respond well to shiners.” The best way to fish for rainbows is by jigging with worms, maggots or mealworms on diminutive hooks rigged with lightweight lines. Any angler landing a rainbow through the ice has managed to achieve a trophy catch and should be pleased with their efforts at pursuing this crafty species of trout. Anglers that do not achieve success through the ice will be well served to return to Jones Pond shortly after ice out when rainbows feed more actively. Spring time Rainbows can be caught, employing the same trolling techniques used for salmon.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Wildlife Quiz - Harbor Pollock

The American “Harbor” Pollock The American “Harbor” Pollock (Pollachius virens) inhabits the cool continental waters on both sides of the North Atlantic, spanning from Nova Scotia to Chesapeake Bay and throughout the North Sea, English Channel, and even into the Bay of Biscay.

In the Gulf of Maine, fishermen catch large numbers of Pollock to be used both for bait as well as human consumption. Pollock meat has a sweet, mild fish taste reminiscent of haddock, thus making it a favorite among fishermen.

 Pollock posses plump bodies, pointed noses, projected lower jaws, forked tails, and a handsome greenish hue that fades to smoky gray on each side below the lateral line. In the open ocean, Pollock routinely grow to a length of two and a half feet and an average weight of 20 pounds, with some individuals reaching mammoth proportions in excess of 40 pounds. Immature Pollock inhabit the shallow more sheltered areas around docks, piers and other natural and manmade structures to escape predators. These smaller juveniles rarely exceed 10 inches and tend to stay in the more confined habitat of Maine’s local harbors till they are large enough to survive the rigors of the open ocean.

Pollock tend to use its keen sight rather than scent to capture its prey and fishermen target Pollock with shinny silver lures to monopolize on this fact. Pollock feed chiefly on shrimp and small fish, such as Cod, Haddock and Halibut. Voracious feeders, biologists once examined a nine inch long Pollock and found its stomach contained seventy-seven herring averaging two and a half inches long!

Wildlife Quiz Questions: 
1. What is the primary habitat of the Pollock?
2. Are Pollock a game species pursued by fishermen for food?
3. What are the distinguishing features of a Pollock?
4. What is the average length and weight of a Pollock inhabiting the open ocean?
5. How big do “harbor” Pollock tend to grow?
6. Which do Pollock tend to use more when hunting for food, their sense of sight or smell?
7. What do Pollock mostly feed on?
8. How many two and a half inch long herring were once found in the stomach of a nine-inch long Pollock?

Wildlife Quiz Answers:
1. The Pollock prefers to inhabit the cool continental waters on both sides of the North Atlantic, spanning from Nova Scotia to Chesapeake Bay and throughout the North Sea, English Channel, and even into the Bay of Biscay.
2. Yes, Pollock meat has a sweet, mild fish taste reminiscent of haddock, thus making it a favorite among fishermen.
3. Pollock posses plump bodies, pointed noses, projected lower jaws, forked tails, and a handsome greenish hue that fades to smoky gray on each side below the lateral line.
4. In the open ocean, Pollock routinely grow to two and a half feet in length and an average weight of 20 pounds.
5. Harbor Pollock rarely exceed 10 inches, tending to stay in the more confined habitat of Maine’s local harbors until they reach a size where then can survive the rigors of the open ocean.
6. When hunting for food, Pollock tend to rely more on their sense of sight than their sense of smell.
7. Pollock feed chiefly on shrimp and small fish, such as Cod, Haddock and Halibut.
8. Seventy-seven two and a half inch long herring were once found in the stomach of a nine-inch long Pollock.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Food Plot Construction for Deer and Turkey

In the publication, “Living on the Edge, An Overview of Deer Management in Maine”, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) strongly discourages individuals from providing supplemental feed (corn and hay) to deer. State biologists have proven that this long standing and previously accepted practice is actually detrimental to deer populations, having been proven to ultimately lead to malnutrition, increase predatation and contribute to the spread of chronic wasting disease. Instead of supplemental feeding, IFW offers other ways to help support Maine’s dwindling deer herd. One of these ideas, centers on the importance of landowners creating and maintaining food plots as a healthy alternative supplemental feeding method.

Maine landowners growing food plots can provide deer with a natural and sustainable food source that nurtures local deer herds while also providing a prime area to attract and hunt deer. While Maine law prohibits the placement of “bait” to attract deer, food plots, apple trees and even gardens provide natural forage are therefore not defined as bait in accordance with Maine law and are legal to hunt over. Food plot construction is a relatively straight forward procedure, accomplished with minimal time and effort. While large scale food plots often require heavy equipment to plant and maintain, small scale food plots can be easily created and managed with a chainsaw, rototiller, rake and a good amount of determination. These half and quarter acre food plots are capable of offering thousands of pounds of supplemental feed to help support Maine’s struggling deer populations. Individuals without land large enough to host a food plot can, with permission, ask neighbors if they would find it acceptable to plant a small food plot on their property.

Some hunters feel that hunting deer over food plots is an unsportsmanlike behavior; however, these same individuals hunt over apple orchards, use deer calls, scents or decoys. Man made food plots, natural food sources, calls, lures or decoys are all methods of luring or “baiting” deer into close proximity so a hunter can take an ethical shot. Even now, scoped weapons, compound bows, deer attractants and electronic calls are viewed by some hunters as against the intrinsic values of “fair chase” and the high tech “toys” of those hunters lacking true hunting skills. Ultimately, hunters degrading other hunters for employing these tactics or tools, only damages us as sporting men and women. To we all need to be accepting of an individuals law abiding choices, ultimately support our hunting heritage and traditions.

Planting a food plot in the Maine wildlands requires an understanding of a few horticultural basics. Location, soil and seed are of utmost importance and must be carefully considered before planting. Food plot growth issues can almost always be traced back to a failure in one or more of these big three. As in real estate, location is king and with food plots this same axiom holds true. Potential plots should be examined to determine the amount of sunlight the area receives daily, as well as how well or poorly the soil drains. Taking time and carefully selecting a location is a key component to success. In Maine’s acrid soil, it’s a safe bet plots will need plenty of fertilizer and lime, lime and more lime to ensure plants thrive. The budget conscious, will want to consider growing plots comprised of clover and brassica, as these perennial mixes thrive well in Maine’s short growing season, do not require annual replanting and produce forage from early spring till late fall.

Obviously, not all deer hunters have access to sufficient land or the time needed to bring a food plot to fruition. If deer cannot be lured into sight then sights must be placed on the deer. For those hunters not “luring” deer, Downeast offers a myriad of choices for spot and stalk hunters. Spot and stalk is a time tested and extremely effective hunting method to employ in Washington County where the woods are dark, thick and deep and deer densities extremely low. Unless a perfect ambush location is scouted and predetermined, a hunter could sit for weeks or more in the woods and never see a shootable deer. To combat this, hunters need to be mobile and know how to tread softly in the woods. Moving through the woods after or during a heavy rain, using rushing streams or accessing prime area via canoe all work to help mask the sound of a hunters foot falls. Following by canoe, the course of the Machias (Map 25 B-5) or the Narraguagus River (Map 25 C-1) hunters are provided with an effective means of accessing the backcountry without disturbing finicky whitetails. A personal favorite is an early morning paddle into Maine’s Public Reserve Lands or “The Great Heath”, accessible via the Pleasant River (Map 25 C-

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Wildlife Quiz - Red-Tailed Hawk

The most common hawk in North America, the Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) occupies an impressive diversity of habitats, including deserts, roadsides, fields, parks, urban areas and woodlands. The home range of this highly adaptable avian stretches from Alaska to as far south as Central America.

Red-tailed hawks plumage varies widely depending on subspecies and region. Typical adults exhibit the characteristic brick-colored tail feathers along with whitish underbellies, hooked shaped bills, broad tails, yellow legs and feet and a small head seemingly disproportionately sized in comparison to their large muscular bodies.

Red-tailed hawks communicate using a piercing, high-pitched scream, used to warning other raptors or as a means of talking between mates. Sharp-eyed and efficient hunters, red-tailed hawks prefer high perching places near wide open spaces where they can spot and seize their favorite prey of mice, voles, squirrels, small snakes and rabbits.

 Breeding season kicks off a spectacular sequence of aerial acrobatics with red-tailed hawks putting on an impressive courtship display. The mated pair will sometimes clasp talons, plummeting toward the ground at a high rate of speed, only pulling away from each other and returning to normal flight seconds before impact. Monogamous creatures, red-tailed hawks typically mate for life. Females lay one to five eggs each year, with both parents taking turns incubating the eggs. Eggs hatch in four to five weeks with young leaving the nest in about six weeks and juveniles attain maturity at around 4 years. Red-tailed hawks have been recorded to live to the ripe old age of 29 years.

Wildlife Quiz Questions: 
1. What is the home range of the red-tailed hawk?
2. What is the most distinguishing characteristic of the red-tailed hawk?
3. What method of auditory communication is used between red-tailed hawks?
4. What do red-tailed hawks prefer to eat?
5. What is spectacular about the courtship ritual displayed by red-tailed hawks?
6. Are red-tailed hawks monogamous?
7. How many eggs are laid by female red-tailed hawks?
8. How old do red-tailed hawks live?

 Wildlife Quiz Answers: 
1. The home range of the red-tailed hawk stretches from Alaska to northern Central America.
2. The most distinguishing characteristic of the red-tailed hawk is the red or brick colored tail feathers. 3. Red-tailed hawks communicate using a piercing, high-pitched shrill scream.
4. Red-tailed hawks prefer to eat mice, voles, squirrels, small snakes and occasionally rabbits.
5. Mated pairs of red-tailed hawks will sometimes clasp talons, plummeting toward the ground at a high rate of speed, pulling away from each other and returning to normal flight only seconds before impact. 6. Red-tailed hawks are monogamous creatures, typically mating for life.
7. Red-tailed hawks lay one to five eggs per year.
8. Red-tailed hawks have been recorded to live to be approximately 29 years old.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Camping, Fishing, Hunting . . . Deer Lake, Maine has it ALL!

October in Maine is the outdoors person’s paradise. The bugs finally disappear, the weather becomes blissfully cool and hunting season begins in earnest! When I was a much younger man, attending school at the University of Maine at Machias, my fraternity brothers and I would camp at Deer Lake every Columbus Day weekend to hunt woodcock and partridge and enjoy what was typically the last long weekend of good weather before old man winter descended upon the land.

Camping at Deer Lake 
Deer Lake campground (Delorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 34, E-5) provides visitors with the perfect base camp from which to launch hunting, fishing and ATVing expeditions into the surrounding hinterlands. Deer Lake campsite manager, Arthur Keenan highly recommends Deer Lake to ATV riders, as its centralized location in the Sunrise Trail System offers the best access to numerous trail riding and options. While the campsite does not have treated water for drinking, flush toilets or showers it does have outhouses, eight waterfront and twelve off lake well-maintained tent and RV sites. If reserving a site make sure to pick site number 1. This site is provides a beautiful view of the water is semi-private and offers a large lot that is RV accessible.

Trailered boats cannot be launched at Deer Lake but watercraft can be hand carried over a small beach making small boat access possible. Due to the lakes miniscule size motor driven watercraft are unnecessary and a canoe or kayak is perfect for exploring and fishing its waters. Those interested in exploring Deer Lake or staying at the campground, the directions are relatively simple. The area is accessible via the 3000 road that leaves Rt. 9 (the "Airline") in Devereaux Township (Map 24, A-1) and follows the Naraguagus River for a distance of approximately 15 miles. If driving from Bangor toward Calais, a great landmark is the Airline snack bar and the northern terminus of Rt. 193. Drive approximately 1 mile further this point and turn left onto the 3000 road at the Ranger Station. If the Narraguagus River is crossed, turn around. While this road is bumpy and not as well maintained as the typical 4500 to 3100 to Studmill to 3200 road more direct route, the 3000 road will allow bird hunters to drive through several great covers on their way to Deer Lake. Be sure to drive slowly, always keeping a keen eye on the road edging for early morning or late evening partridge. Deer Lake campground has tent/RV sites but no hook ups for electricity or water. Costs are $20 for the first night and $10 per night after. A primetime Friday/Saturday night stay costs $45. For reservations, please contact Lois Keenan (546-3828) or for additional information Arthur Keenan (664-3198). Lois and Arthur also maintain the Lower Sabao Lake (Map 35, E-1) and Cranberry Lake (Map 35, E-2) campgrounds. All three campgrounds are open Memorial Day and close when the snow flies.

Fishing Deer Lake and the Surrounding Area 
At 38 acres and a maximum depth of 21 feet, the waters of Deer Lake support warm water game species only, providing anglers with opportunities to fish yellow perch, chain pickerel and hornpout. Cold-water game species like brook trout have little chance of survival and as such, stocking of the lake does not occur. Anglers looking to catch brook trout would be better served to fish the nearby Narraguagus river (Map 34, E-5) or Mopang Stream (Map 25, A-2) that will hold ravenous trout spurred into feeding by the season’s dropping temperatures. A public boat landing at Nicatous Lake (Map 35, D-5) additionally allows anglers with larger watercraft to access salmon waters.

Hunting for Partridge at Deer Lake
Deer Lake is surrounded by a network of dirt roads that provide hunters with plenty of access to bird hunting opportunities. While some will enjoy riding these roads and “heater hunting”, know that hunters typically hit these roadways hard and shot opportunities are often sparse. Even when birds do present themselves they are often skittish and by the time hunters get out of the vehicle and load their weapon the bird has typically flown to the next county. Hunters can achieve a higher level of success by getting out and walking some of the harder to get to sections of forest via roads that have been rendered impassable by washed out culverts or blow downs. Speed need not be employed when hunting early morning and late afternoon birds, slow and steady walking while carefully scanning and searching through the roadside underbrush is a much more likely method of putting birds in the bean pot. The unimproved roads and trails around Indian Brook (Map 34, D-4) and off the Morrison Ridge Road (Map 34, D-5) contain excellent spots where hunters who wish to beat the brush can break away from the heavily traveled main roads and pursue birds in relative peace and quiet.

Start Scouting Deer Now 
Hearty souls, unafraid of cold weather and wishing to return to this area in November to hunt deer would be well served to spend some time while hunting and driving in October paying special attention to any perceivable deer sign. Making careful note of rub lines, scrapes, dropping and tracks and marking these locations with GPS coordinates will save time later and allow individuals to invest a majority of their time hunting and not scouting when deer season begins. Lightweight climbing stands are fantastic hunting tools but they are only effective when a prime location has been preselected. The Maine woods are vast and a hunter can sit for a long time and never even see a deer if a spot is not wisely chosen. It makes little sense to stumble blindly into the woods, in the early morning light, with no idea of what exists in the area for deer or even if a suitable tree exists that will effective hold a climbing stand. Then once sufficient deer sign and a suitable tree are both selected, what view will be achieved once that tree is climbed? Finding these answers and accomplishing these tasks before the season begins will pay big dividends later by putting a person at least a day ahead of their hunting brethren.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Wildlife Quiz - The Eastern Phoebe

In 1804, the Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) became the first bird in North America to be banded. John James Audubon attached a short-silvered thread to an Eastern Phoebe's leg, in order to track its return the following season, to its nesting site. Phoebes inhabits an impressive range stretching across most of North America.

Phoebes breed in the northern United States, migrate south for the winter in September and early October and typically arrive back in Maine during mid-late March. Phoebes possess heads appearing much too large for a bird of its relatively diminutive size. Evolution blessed the Phoebe with a short thin bill, perfectly adapted for catching their favorite food of insects and grubs. The head, typically the darkest part of the small birds body, lightens to a brownish-gray colored body that fades into a dirty gray breast and white throat.

The Phoebe lacks distinct eye rings and wingbars making it easy to distinguish from other flycatchers. Phoebes also wag their tails up and down when perching on a prominent perches, making they easy for novice birdwatchers to identify. The Phoebe's gets its name, from its sharp fee-bee chirp that frequently echoes through the Maine woods.

Phoebe’s are adaptable and through prefer open woodland and farmland will occasional invade suburbia and nest on buildings and bridges. Nests are comprised of mud and grass and usually located in protected nooks. Both the male and female phoebes care and feed newly hatched chicks and often raise two broods of 2-6 eggs every year. If successful at avoiding predators, Phoebes can live to be 10 years old.

1. In what year did John James Audubon band the first bird in North America?
2. When do phoebes migrate south for the winter?
3. What is the favorite food of the phoebe?
4. What distinguishes phoebes from other flycatchers?
5. What do phoebes do while perching that makes them easy to identify by novice bird watchers?
6. What sound or call does the phoebe make?
7. What materials do phoebes use to construct their nests?
8. How many broods do phoebes typically raise every year?
9. How long can a phoebe live?

1. John James Audubon banded the first bird in North America in 1804.
2. Phoebes migrate south for the winter in September and early October.
3. Phoebes favorite food is grubs and insects.
4. Phoebes can be distinguished from other flycatchers by their lack of distinct eye rings and wingbars. 5. Phoebes wag their tails up and down while perching, making them easy to identify by novice bird watchers.
6. The phoebe makes a sharp fee-bee chirp.
7. Phoebes use grass and mud to construct their nests.
8. Phoebes typically raise 2 broods per year.
9. A phoebe can live up to 10 years.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Canada Geese and Island Camping

If you have never been to Maine in September, 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. Enjoy mornings a field where your breath can be seen sleepily wrapping up and around your head then slowly dissipating in the first rays of morning sunshine. If these moments can be shared with friends and family, they are only further enriched.

Canada Goose Hunting 
Being a passionate waterfowl hunter, there is no place I would rather be in September than in pursuit of resident Canada geese. Waking up well before dawn to set-up decoys in a productive field or on a small farm pond and waiting patiently for geese to arrive is a thrilling experience. Sitting in absolute silence, sipping rugged coffee and anticipating the moment when the calmness of the morning will be ruptured by that first echoing “honk”, indicating approaching geese. Hunting geese tends to be a mixture of about luck and location. Even when scouting and investing considerable time in locating productive feeding areas, sometimes the geese still refuse to show-up. Other times, what appears to be a terrible location will by mornings end, yield close to a limit of geese.

A majority of goose hunting occurs in fields but getting permission to hunt these prime locations can often be a hassle. A knock on a farmer’s door can be met with pleasantries and permission but also rude distain despite your best efforts. A long time ago, I simply stopped asking permission and started primarily hunting water-based locations, such as lakes, ponds and streams residing in close proximity to these feeding and afternoon resting areas. Good luck can happen on the water and both morning and evening hunts can be productive. Around 9-10:00 in the morning and about 30 minutes before the end of legal in the evening are exceptional times to hunt as geese look for drinking water after a morning feeding or a secure place to sleep for the evening. The sheer size of a goose makes it in flight appear deceptively slow. Do not be fooled, however, as geese are fast flyers and many a goose has escaped being dinner by hunters shooting behind their target. To be successful, don’t rush, keep the end of your barrel moving after the shot and always be prepared for a quick follow-up shot should the goose hit the water only wounded. Geese are powerful swimmers and can quickly disappear from view before hunters can launch a boat and retrieve.

 Geese make for fine eating and when sliced thin and fried with a little butter and salt and pepper remind me of minute steaks. For those needing a little more “spice”, lightly sprinkling the breasts with Montreal steak seasoning adds a nice zip to the taste. Combine “steaks” with a homemade thin cut french-fries fried in canola oil and a favorite micro-brew like season favorite Pumpkinhead by Shipyard brewing company and a perfect meal is created to bring conclusion to the perfect day a field. September weather can be wildly unpredictable with heavy rain and cold weather always a possibility even on mornings that start out beautiful and sunny. To be comfortable, make sure to always throw a lightweight pair rain pants and a jacket into the boat. Good luck this season and may the only precipitation encountered be geese raining from the sky!! Looking for geese? Small lakes and ponds like Fourth Machias Lake (Delorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 35, C-1), Third Machias Lake (Map 35, C-3) and Lower Sabao Lake (Map 35, E-1) have long been favorites. But remember patterns change daily so keep eyes to the skies and be prepared to quickly modify plans to stay on resident geese!

Camp on an Island
While hunting geese, it makes sense to stay close to the intended hunting location. This facilitates the early mornings and tends to make getting to prime hunting spots a bit less hectic. Camping on an island is certainly a unique experience but ultimately very similar to car camping. Gear and other heavy supplies can be transported by boat leaving less to lug on backs. While care must be taken in packing smaller watercraft like canoes, larger watercraft can easily carry the camping needs of even the most extravagant campers. Firewood on islands tends to be in limited supply, so having a small portable stove to cook meals instead relying solely on wood power is a good idea. Each of the lakes and ponds mentioned above have islands or nearby primitive campsites where intrepid waterfowlers can camp. Fourth Lake Machias (Map 35, C-1) has a beautiful primitive campsite and a very healthy population of resident geese. Use care when navigating this lake during early mornings, as this lake is notoriously rocky and replacement sheer pins a long way away. Better to take a canoe, kayak or scull boat and use the early morning fog to paddle in quietly to an unsuspecting flock and reach your limit in plenty of time to return to the campsite to enjoy a second cup of coffee and a big breakfast.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Deer Season Favorite Pictures

Thanks to everyone for supporting Saving Maine's Bear Hunt! Considering the importance this vote had on not only Maine hunters but hunting in general I thought it important enough to dedicate the blog over the last several months to defeating the "Bear Hunting Referendum". Now defeated, we can move along to postings of my inane and sarcastic ramblings.  To jump start things, here is a picture from this deer season (2015) of a 170 pound 8 pointer I shot in central Maine during the second week of deer season.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Rabid Outdoorsman "BEARS" it all on Question ONE!

This November, Maine voters will be faced with a referendum asking residents to end the three primary methods (baiting, hounding and trapping) of hunting black bears in this state. Both sides are of course passionate about ultimately being victorious and to win are embroiled in a battle using a combination of biological statistics and raw emotion to push their agendas.

I wish we could spend all the time, energy and money that will be spent on “Question One” instead working toward curing childhood diseases, improving our states educational system or combating domestic violence but unfortunately, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has decided that for the second time in a decade, Mainers need to raise and spend MILLIONS of dollars defending our wildlife management practices and prove that the black bears in Maine are being treated fairly. Now don’t get me wrong, being a Registered Maine Guide and passionate outdoors person, I certainly have a love and appreciation for wildlife but when I visit the states rural areas and see the level of abject poverty that exists, I wonder how an out-of-state special interest group has managed to push our state priorities this far out of whack. It’s plain to see that HSUS cares for wildlife but how much do they really care for their fellow man?

I realize that the folks running HSUS ”ain’t from around heah”, meaning they do not live and work in this state and as such have a real disconnect with the people and politics of Maine. If they were more “localized” maybe they would realize that Mainers are donating millions of their hard earned dollars trying to save Maine’s bear hunt from going the way of the woolly mammoth, money that could have instead been invested in our struggling state economy. Most of the people donating are comprised of Registered Maine Guides, sporting camp owners and non-profit organizations that operate barely above the poverty line and often struggle to put food on the table for their families. The people unable to give the least are once again being asked to give the most.

Now of course the state of Maine has been managing the black bear population for almost 50 years, our bear biologists are the best in the nation and with an estimated 30,000 bears in Maine; we have one of the largest and healthiest populations of black bears in the entire United States. Current management practices of baiting, hounding, trapping all serve as effective means of keeping the bear population under control, so that bears aren’t raiding garbage cans, tearing bird feeders off houses or carrying off our house pets. So given that everything is working great and has been for decades, why is it that HSUS is so adamant about wanting to end bear hunting in Maine? Well, in part, it is tied to the fact that HSUS feels that hunting is an unfair, primitive and cruel practice. Their perceived agenda is to slowly and methodically erode the tradition of hunting until it is no longer seen by society as a viable part of our heritage. It is my personal opinion that they would also probably love to end the consumption of red meat, animals in zoos, owning house pets and fishing if it was in their direct power to do so . . . but I digress.

People, myself included, certainly have a disconnect with the meat they eat and when buying a cellophane wrapped supermarket steak we often don’t take a moment to think about the animal that gave up its life, so that we can consume its flesh. Animals die so that we may eat and the way that commercial animals die is sometimes a brutal and unsettling process. I don’t like to see animals suffer and I wish that every animal killed in a slaughterhouse or shot by a hunter passed peacefully into the light . . . but that is an unrealistic and infantile view of the world. Killing things for meat is a messy business and NOBODY respects that more than a hunter, who must kill, butcher and eat the bear, deer or wild turkey they take from the Maine wilds.

No matter the rhetoric and finger pointing that comes out of HSUS, hunting over bait is not disrespectful to bear. Many other Maine animals including deer, turkey and even coyotes are also “baited” by hunters using scents, calls, decoys and even bait piles of meat to lure the animals into effective shooting range, so that a humane kill shot can be attained. HSUS states that only “lazy” sportsmen hunt bear over bait and that hunting bear over bait is against the hunters code of ethics know as “fair chase” With that line of thinking, I assume an argument could be raised that compound bows, rifle scopes, range finders and high caliber rifles are also considered “lazy” and against the hunters sacred creed of “fair chase” or the ethical pursuit of game. Maybe to be completely fair, we should all hunt naked and with pointy sticks?

I have hunted bear for over 5 years and during that time invested over 30 days in pursuit of black bears over bait. During those many evenings spent sitting in my tree stand staring through the dense woodlands at a small pile of oats and molasses, I was fortunate enough to see 5 black bears. The first bear I saw, I estimated to weigh 125 pounds. Bears are notoriously hard to estimate weight but because I was hunting over bait, I was able to study the bear for almost 15 minutes before ultimately deciding it was a small bear and not in the size class I was looking to harvest. The second, third and fourth bear I saw was a large sow with two cubs. While the sow was well over 200 pounds it was easy for me to identify it was with cubs because of my high perch in a nearby tree and their distraction caused by the pile of bait. Had I been still hunting and needed to make a quick identification and shot, I wonder if I would have been able to determine the sow had cubs before shooting. The last bear I saw was well over 300 pounds. As the monsterous bruin ambled out of the woods, I raised my rifle and upon looking through the scope noted that the available light did not allow me to place the cross hairs precisely on the bear’s vitals, ensuring a humane shot and quick death. I let that bear pass as well as the others, because as hunters we all have a code of ethics that we use to judge and control our actions. This code of ethics operates on an even stricter limit than what is allowed by the law and is driven by our love of the Maine wilderness and the animals that inhabit it. Bait sites are not the tool of lazy hunters they are the tool of law abiding, highly ethical hunters who know that in order to properly identify and harvest adult bears humanely, hunters need time to study and examine the animal they plan to shoot. In Maine’s dense woodlands, this level of study and examination is not just difficult when still hunting bears, it is practically impossible.

I wish HSUS would leave us Mainers alone, we aren’t a bunch of dumb rednecks that need to have the management of our state run by outsiders with no understanding of our state priorities. It would be my hope that in another decade I am not AGAIN watching my fellow Mainers spend millions of dollars funding yet another campaign to defend our bear hunting practices, instead I hope that money goes to supporting much more important state matters.

Monday, August 18, 2014

WIldlife Quiz - European Red (Fire) Ant

The European Red (Fire) Ant (Myrmica rubra), an invasive species in the state of Maine, can commonly be found throughout the northeastern United States. The first confirmed reports of fire ants in Maine occurred in the late 1980s. Since that time, complaints have increased steadily as fire ants have developed a stronger foothold within the state.

A majority of the initial infestations occurred in Maine’s more temperate southern coastal areas, however, humans have increased the fire ant’s dispersal inland through the transportation of infested soil, mulch, and potted plants. Fire ant’s posses shiny reddish-brown body coloration and relatively diminutive size (less than a ¼ inch), allowing them to be easily distinguished from other ants native to the state of Maine.

Fire ant nests tend to be difficult to locate and identify, as they do not construct “mounded” nests like many ant species common to Maine. Fire ants usually inhabit areas that stay relatively moist, such as the shade of shrubs, rocks, or decaying logs. When unsuspecting humans and animals disrupt nests, the fire ants deliver a painful sting capable of triggering severe allergic reactions, which in some cases has lead to death. Not only a danger to man and beast, fire ants have been know to cause a drastic decrease in the biodiversity of other insects in infected areas.

While long-term studies have not been conducted as to the exact impact this will have on an ecosystem, natural science dictates that anytime one species overwhelms all others, trouble will ensue. Thoroughly inspecting soils and destroying colonies if fire ants are detected can help control the spread of fire ants. Reduction of humid or moist areas around yards will also discourage fire ants from building colonies in close proximity to dwellings.

Fire ants have become yet another new invasive species that Maine’s people need to learn how to combat and control.

Wildlife Quiz Questions: 
1. Are fire ants a native or invasive species?
 2. When did the first confirmed infestations of fire ants occur in Maine?
3. How have humans aided the distribution of fire ants?
4. What color are fire ants?
5. How big are fire ants?
6. Do fire ants construct mounded nests like other ants?
7. Do fire ants “sting” when they feel threatened?
8. Can fire ants be controlled?

Wildlife Quiz Answers: 
1. Fire ants are an invasive species.
2. The first confirmed infestation of fire ants occurred in Maine in the 1980s.
3. Humans have aided the distribution of fire ants through transportation of infested soil.
4. Fire ants have a reddish-brow coloration.
5. Fire ants are relatively small compared to other ant species with a body length less than a ¼ inch.
6. No, fire ants do not construct mounded nests like other ants?
7. Yes, fire ants are capable of delivering a powerful sting.
8. Yes, fire ants can be controlled by stopping the transport of infected soils and decreasing humid or moist locations around yards and buildings.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Camping at Sabao Lake & ATV Riding on the Sunrise Trail System

Easily described as one of the most serene campgrounds in the state, Lower Sabao Lake campground (Delorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 35, E-1) provides visitors with the perfect rugged wilderness experience while also providing access to basic amenities.

While the campsite does not have water for drinking, flush toilets or showers it does however have two outhouses and fire rings and picnic tables at each of its well-maintained tent and RV sites.

All sites are shaded by towering red pines that sing when the wind blows through them. A spacious white sand beach beckons sun worshipers and a gentle grade from the beach and into the water, makes it perfect swimming for young children.

Lower Sabao Lake campground is accessible over the Sabao Road, which leaves Rt.9 (the "Airline") in Township 30 (Map 25, A-2). A 10-mile drive along some fairly rough dirt roads, filled with potholes, washouts, curious moose and speeding ATV riders, add hazards so drivers should exercise caution and drive slowly to prevent accidents.

Lower Sabao Lake campground has tent/RV sites but no hook ups for electricity or water. Costs are $20 for the first night stay and $10 per night after that. A primetime Friday/Saturday night stay is $45. For reservations, please contact Lois Keenan (546-3828) or for additional information Arthur Keenan (664-3198). Lois and Arthur also maintain the Deer Lake (Map 34, E-5) and Cranberry Lake (Map 35, E-2) campgrounds. All three campgrounds are open Memorial Day and close when the snow flies.

Lower Sabao Lake At 755 acres, the waters of Lower Sabao Lake provide anglers with a multitude of opportunities to fish for white perch and chain pickerel. Though the lake is listed on the IF&W website as containing brook trout, the chances of catching one in the lake is slim. Anglers looking to catch trout would be better served to exit the lake via the west branch of the Machias River and paddle the short distance to some excellent locations to catch finicky summer trout. White perch anglers prefer fishing at the end of August and into the beginning of September when the mosquitoes are on the way out and the catch rate creeps to a level slightly above average. Anglers who bring along a small fry pan and oil will be richly rewarded with a meal of succulent white perch, caught with minimal effort. Two small islands with exquisite sand beaches make opportunities for a picnic or stretch ones legs on a “private” beach an easy proposition.

Nature watchers will enjoy plenty of opportunities for moose spotting in the early morning or evening by quietly paddling and maintaining a watchful eye on the shoreline. Moose feeding in the lakes shallow waters regularly provide campers with brilliant photographic opportunities. Additional moose watching opportunities exist by following the west branch of the Machias River out of the lake. Intrepid adventures will pass by nesting bald eagles and loons and to a small meadow perfect for observing evening moose.

Access to the lake is possible via a very good boat launch for tailored boats or canoes and kayaks right from the campgrounds beach.

ATV riders can access the largest ATV trail system East of the Mississippi. Comprised of the Sunrise Trail system (North of Route 9) and the Downeast Sunrise trail system (South of Route 9) it contains over 800 miles of approved trails. Day trips from Sabao Lake campground to Grand Lake Stream, Nicataous Lake, or the blueberry barrens near Cherryfield all present fun possibilities.

During the weekend of July 26-27, 2014 ATV riders staying at Sabao should take the short ATV ride to Grand Lake Stream and attend the Grand Lake Stream Folk Art Festival (10:00 am - 5:00 pm). This very fun and well-attended event boasting over 60 folk art vendors and playing host to music performances and many different cultural exhibits. With so much to do, there is sure to be something to interest all ages!

By late summer, the ATV trails have gotten very dry and ATV riders will find that goggles and a dust mask are mandatory to ensure everyone has a fun experience. Also make sure to bring along plenty of water and dry weather gear for all group members so that a fun day ATV riding continues to be bearable if the weather turns wet or an ATV becomes disabled.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Get into the Swing of Summer with Byer of Maine

 Byer of Maine certainly is doing their part in making sure summer is an adventure in relaxation, comfort and enjoyment and to prove this point, one need only take a look at the dizzying array of hammocks and hanging chairs available on their website!

My personal pick is the Amazonas (Paradiso) Hammock. Made in Brazil from 85% recycled cotton/15% polyester, this hammock stretches and conforms to your bodies unique curves for offer exquisite comfort. At over 8 feet long and 5 and a half feet wide, the Paradiso has room for the whole family, and maybe the dog as well!

The rich, warm, hand-crafted colors will provide you and your family with endless days of fun, and relaxation! While designed for outdoor use, we recommend indoor storage between uses.

Care should also be taken to ensure that hammock strings are not tangled or chafed. When hanging, hammocks should be hung from a flexible point…a rope, a chain or carabineer to avoid chafing at the hanging point. Be extremely careful to ensure hammocks and hanging chairs are hung from a point or points suitably strong for the anticipated use. Seek professional assistance if you have any doubts as to your ability to properly judge the strength of any hanging point.

Hammocks can be hosed-off for cleaning with clear, cold water. No detergent or other chemical cleaners should be used. No machine washing. Air dry thoroughly before storage.

Currently, several hammock models, including the Barbados and Ceara are currently 20% off! 

Make sure to follow Byer of Maine on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pintrest!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Camp Comfortably and Conveniently with Byer of Maine

For over 125 years, Byer of Maine has been a leader in camping, emergency preparedness and a long list of other outdoor products designed to make your time in the wilds comfortable and convenient. This passion for creating innovative products is highlighted in the new, award winning TriLite Line.

Washing dishes, the dreaded chore that most of us try to avoid at all costs becomes even more difficult when attempted in the wilds. When camping, one attempts to awkwardly crouch by the lake or streamside frantically scraping beanie weenies off plates and hoping that in the process they do not get their feet wet. Leave it up to the innovative folks at Byer of Maine to come up with a solution that makes washing dishes in the wilds a much easier endeavor and one that can actually be enjoyed.

The convertible TriLite seat/wash basin is a lightweight, highly portable piece of equipment that should be part of every camper’s kitchen. In seconds, one can remove the small seat from the webfoot stand and install the TriLite washbasin. Boasting 4 separate compartments, the washbasin has plenty of room to wash, rinse, and dry dishes, as well as a small pocket to hold biodegradable soap and a scrub brush. This set-up allows you to sit down comfortably and leisurely wash dishes, avoiding the typical discomforts associated with this chore.

The Tri-lite stool and wash station is currently 35% off so go and get yours today and prepare to spend the rest of the Maine summer camping season impressing friends and washing dishes in style!

Sleep Comfortably Under the Stars
Summer in Maine means camping and as I get older, comfort becomes more and more critical to my enjoyment of this outdoor activity. After years of struggling with half a dozen different models of inflatable rubber mattresses, I finally gave up patching holes and battling against the exhaustive effort of inflating and transporting these unreliable beds.

For the camper looking for a much improved sleep solution they need to look no further then the cot. Cots of today come in a wide variety of styles. Byer of Maine has an impressive line of folding cots sure to fit the needs of every type of camper and outdoor enthusiast. From lightweight and compact to full size, luxurious models, all cots are built rugged, with some models capable of supporting up to 375 pounds!

Byer even have created a handy cot comparison tool to assist shoppers in choosing the cot that best fits their specific needs and budgets! 

For me the choice of cot was as easy as ordering the lightweight and easily packable TriLite model. This ultra-light weight cot (a little over 7 lbs) is designed to be packed and brought anywhere, ensuring a great sleep wherever you need it. Perfect for hiking, car camping, motorcycle touring or even a day relaxing on the beach, the TriLite cot offers a full sleep surface of 74" long by 25" wide, that folds down to a mere 27" x 3" x 8" and fits into its rip-stop polyester travel bag that has a convenient travel strap so that the entire cot can be slung over your shoulder for easy transport.

Make sure to follow Byer of Maine on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pintrest!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Functional Elegance by Byer of Maine

The Byer Manufacturing Company has been creating what I like to call "The Goud Stuff” since 1880. This Maine based company has reinvented itself numerous times over the decades in order to keep pace with the American market place and a rapidly evolving global economy. Currently, Byer of Maine produces a wide assortment of products, most interesting perhaps its furniture and equipment specifically designed to make summah days wick’d comfortable and relaxing.

To me, a trip to the beach, hanging out on the deck, or an evening relaxing around a campfire would be incomplete without my posterior resting comfortably in the Pangean Glider. More than simply a "chair", this is an essential relaxation tool, the perfect blend of elegance, class, function and practicality these gliders are as pleasing to look at as they are comfortable to sit in. The glider literally wraps you in comfort, allowing you to lean back and rest your head and neck after a long day.

Upgrade a single glider purchase a double and reap the benefits of years of happy memories with your closest someone, watching sunsets, roasting marshmallow and dipping toes in the oceans soft sand.

The trend by most outdoor companies these days seems to be moving toward creating cheap outdoor furniture and equipment made of plastic and other inferior items that end up in the trash can after one season of hard use. Though typically inexpensive, consumers quickly realize that they truly get what they pay for and landfills are filled with these worthless pieces of garbage. With a small investment, buy the best, something that will be a joy to sit in for years to come.

Though it lacks a drink holder, it more than makes up for this deficit with the Pangean Folding Table. Purchased separately, this small functional table allows "chillaxers" a firm place to set a bottle and a couple glasses of wine, lunch or if needed, ones feet after a long and tiring day.

Remember that like all works of art, furniture made of fabric and wood must be properly cared for if it is to be enjoyed for years to come. Both the table and chair come from the factory with a basic protective stain but if one plans to keep the furniture outside for an extended length of time, the chair and table would benefit from a yearly application of a flat varnish containing UV protection. This application will seal the wood to protect it from splintering and keep the stain  from fading and losing its beauty. A fabric UV protectant like Ray Block that helps fabrics resist sun fading and dry rot can also be employed to protect the chair’s cloth seat. Embers can burn holes in the fabric, so when placing chairs close to a fire pit make sure to not leave unattended.

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Wildlife Quiz - The North American Porcupine

The North American porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum), ranges from Alaska into sections of northern Mexico, where it favors woodland habitats with high densities of evergreens.

A wild porcupine can live 5 years, where it spends a majority of that time in the tops of evergreen trees in pursuit of its favorite foods. An herbivore, porcupines eat a wide variety of conifers as well as green plants, berries, seeds and nuts.

Also know simply as the porcupine, it exists as a member of the “rodent” order of animals. The porcupine is the second largest rodent in North America, losing by only a narrow margin to the beaver. Mature porcupines grow to a snout to tail length of 2 to 3 feet and weigh around 12 pounds, with some impressive specimens tipping the scale at a whopping 35-40 pounds.

Porcupines come in various shades of brown, gray, and even white. Porcupines are nocturnal and are usually found during the day lounging peacefully high up in the branches of a tree or caring for young deep underground in simple burrows.

Porcupines are perhaps most well known for their impressive coat of sharp quills that defend them from predators. Adult’s backs and tails are covered with almost 40,000 quills. When attacked, the porcupine defends itself by swinging its tail like a club and pounding quills into its hapless enemies. In the past it was believed that porcupines were capable of launching or throwing its quills, this is of course a fallacy. Each quill comes equipped with tiny barbs that slowly push the quill in even deeper, making removal necessary and extremely painful.

Despite its impressive defenses, porcupines still occasionally become meals for bobcats, coyotes and fishers who have learned to attach the porcupine’s unprotected nose and belly.

Wildlife Quiz Questions:
1. What is the range of the porcupine?
2. What is the average lifespan of a wild porcupine?
3. What is the average weight of an adult porcupine?
4. What impressive maximum weights have some adult porcupines reached?
5. How long do porcupines grow?
6. What do porcupines eat?
7. How many quills do adult porcupines have?
8. What predators eat porcupines?

Wildlife Quiz Answers:
1. The range of the porcupine stretches from Alaska and into sections of Northern Mexico.
2. The average porcupine lives 5 years in the wild.
3. The average weight of an adult porcupine is 12 pounds.
4. Some adult porcupines have grown to reach 40 pounds.
5. Porcupines grow to a snout to tail length of 2 to 3 feet.
6. An herbivore, porcupines eat a wide variety of conifers as well as green plants, berries, seeds and nuts.
7. Adult porcupines have almost 40,000 quills.
8. Despite its impressive defenses porcupines are still fed upon by bobcats, coyotes and fishers who have learned to attach the porcupine’s unprotected nose and belly.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Summer Car Camping and Fishing

Car Camping at Cranberry Lake 
I recently read a report, generated by the national forest service, stating 85% of the camping that takes place in the United States occurs within one mile or less of a paved roadway. While there is a certainly sense of serenity, peace and tranquility that one experiences when they hike miles into the backcountry, the simple truth is that many of us simply do not have the time, physical strength or know how necessary to accomplish these off the grid excursions safely and enjoyably.

Car camping affords busy families and those with physical limitations, an effective means of escaping into nature with much smaller time commitments and fewer toils wrought upon the body. With car camping, a vehicle is parked in close proximity to a camping spot, thus greatly facilitating the unloading of gear and affording the ability to bring luxurious camping items (large tents, cots, air mattresses, coolers, etc.), fun games and lots of food. While all of these items surly do not ensure that everyone will have a good time, they certainly go a long way making sure everyone stays happy, comfortable and well fed.

An army marches on its stomach and so does a family. Camping success can often be dictated by the quality and quantity of the food, so be sure to bring plenty of favorites. With my family pizza is king and this meal can easily be cooked in a Dutch oven. A Boboli pizza crust, spaghetti sauce and each camper’s choice of topping are put together and placed inside a 12 inch Dutch oven. The lid is shut and 4-5 charcoal briquettes are placed under and on top of the Dutch oven. In approximately 15-20 minutes, out comes hot pizza! Desert often consists of brownies or cookies, cooked next to a roaring evening campfire in a Sproul Baker reflector oven (http://www.campfirecookware.com).

While car camping may be considered by some camping purists as a blasphemous way to enjoy nature, be assured it is not. Vehicles provide an effective means of transporting at home comforts into some very unique and interesting sections of Maine, far removed from the hustle and bustle of the real world.

The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer lists 3 campground types. Those facilities listed simply as “campgrounds”, are members of the Maine Campground Owners Association (MCOA) and typically have posh amenities such as RV sites, showers, flush toilets, camp stores and wireless internet. “Maintained forest campsites”, usually have pit toilets, tent sites only and firewood available for purchase. The last classification “primitive campsites”, have tent sites available on a first come first served basis, firewood usually has to be scavenged and cat holes must be dug to safely dispose of human waste. Of the 3 available campground configurations, my favorites are the maintained forest campsites, as they provide a nice balance of easy vehicle access and basic facilities, while still offering a serene wilderness experience.

Cranberry Lake Campground (Delorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 35, E-2) sits just a few miles off Rt. 9 yet affords campers quiet isolation. (*A warning, that popular weekends like Memorial day, 4th of July and Labor day most campgrounds in the state can be quite boisterous, so if you wish for a quiet campground experience, avoid those weekends.) The campsite’s amenities do not include water for drinking or flush toilets and showers but it does have two outhouses, fire rings, picnic tables and well-maintained tent and RV sites. A small beach is available for swimming and a hand carry launch is accessible for those wanting to cruise the lake or go fishing. Cranberry lake campground has 11 tent/RV sites. Costs are $20 for the first night stay and $10 per night after that. A primetime Friday/Saturday night stay is $45. For reservations, please contact Lois Keenan (546-3828) or for additional information Arthur Keenan (664-3198). Lois and Arthur also maintain the Deer Lake (Map 34, E-5) and Lower Sabo Lake (Map 35, E-1) campgrounds.

Campers can ride the largest ATV trail system East of the Mississippi, fish local streams and ponds, boat, hike and moose watch. All three campgrounds are open Memorial Day and close when snow flies. A 20-minute drive from the campground is a small restaurant/general store located at the northern terminus of Rt. 193, perfect for restocking camping supplies or eating out should weather make cooking outside difficult.

Fishing the Cranberry Lakes
Cranberry Lake campground is situated on the eastern shore of Upper Cranberry Lake. Upper Cranberry flows into Lower Cranberry Lake which in-turn flows into the West Branch of the Machias River. Canoes and kayaks are perfect for exploring and fishing these lakes, as long as a watchful eye is kept on the horizon to watch for late afternoon thunderstorms. When fishing Cranberry lakes, Master Maine Guide Matt Whitegiver of Eagle Mountain Lodge suggests going somewhere else! The Cranberry Lakes are not know to be epic producers of trophy fish but they do provide entertainment for someone wanting to get out in the early morning or evening and wet a line. Upper Cranberry Lake contains mostly small pickerel, while Lower Cranberry is a decent white perch fishery. Matt suggests that anyone camping at the campground paddle north to the outlet and put into Lower Cranberry to fish for a few of the delectable white perch to put in the fry pan. Boat launches for both Upper and Lower Cranberry also exist about a ¼ mile from the Cranberry Lake campground for those with larger watercraft.
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