Monday, May 26, 2014

Wildlife Quiz - The Wild Turkey

Spurs on Mature Tom Turkey
Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) ranks as North America's largest upland game bird. An impressive fowl, adult males or “Toms” can weigh in excess of 25 pounds, while the smaller adult females or “hens” can weigh up to 12 pounds.

Both male and female turkeys posses attractive iridescent plumage but only the males have heads accentuated by red, white and blue colorations. This color pattern is critical for excited hunters to identify during Maine’s spring turkey season to ensure, as in accordance with the law, only male turkeys are harvested. Both toms and hens can grow beards or coarse hair-like feathers that protrude from the chest area. In females, this odd growth rarely exceeds an inch or two and often signifies a mature hen or capable breeder. Hunters are cautioned to use care not to misidentify and shoot these birds. On toms, beards can be quite impressive on mature birds, easily growing to a length of 12 or more inches.

When scouting areas for trophy level toms, hunters look for tracks exceeding 6 inches (length of a dollar bill) as this is usually a good indicator that a mature, trophy sized bird is frequenting the area. Wild turkey breeding season occurs during April and May. Dominant males “puff-up” their bodies, spread out their tail feather into a fan shape, then strut and gobble in an attempt to attract females. Smaller male “toms” and immature “jakes” who attempt to challenge the authority of these dominant males quickly find themselves embroiled in fierce battles for ultimate supremacy over these harems of females. Mature toms grow, on their lower legs, long sharp spurs that it effectively uses to fight off challengers. Once hens are successfully bred, hens construct nests in dense cover to protect eggs from predators.

Poults (newly hatched turkeys) usually hatch after about a month of incubating and tend to leave the nest the day they hatch. Polts grow rapidly on a diverse diet of insects, plants, berries and seeds and within 5-6 weeks become fully capable of fending for themselves. Wild Turkeys have keen eyesight, acute hearing and are agile fliers, making them a challenging and exciting big game animal to pursue. If you have not yet tried turkey hunting I strongly suggest giving it a try and learning more about this impressive avian.

Wildlife Quiz Questions:
1. What is North American’s largest upland game bird?
2. How much does a mature tom turkey weigh?
3. How much does a mature hen turkey weigh?
4. What are the three primary colors on the head of a tom turkey that easily distinguish it from a hen?
5. How can hunters determine the size of a tom turkey based solely on its’ foot print?
6. How long after hatching do turkey eggs hatch?
7. What do polts or newly hatched turkeys eat?
8. How long after hatching can polts fend for themselves?

Wildlife Quiz Answers:
1. North American’s largest upland game bird is the Eastern Wild Turkey
2. A mature tom turkey can weigh in excess of 25 pounds.
3. A mature hen turkey typically weighs about 12 pounds.
4. The three primary colors on the head of a tom turkey that easily distinguish it from a hen are red, white and blue.
5. Hunters can determine the size of a tom turkey based solely on its’ foot print by measuring it with a dollar bill. Tracks equaling or exceeding the length belong to an impressive tom.
6. Turkey eggs hatch after approximately one month of incubation.
7. Polts or newly hatched turkeys eat insects, plants, berries and seeds.
8. Polts can fend for themselves after 5-6 weeks.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Turkeys, Coastal Access and Spring Cleaning

Spring Turkey Hunting
May means only one thing to this outdoorsman and that’s spring turkey hunting! It’s hard to believe that only a few short years ago turkeys didn’t even exist in Maine and that now we have a population that is flourishing with extreme vigor! For this hunter, nothing quite stirs my blood like the early morning gobbles of a tom turkey and the chance to harvest one of these magnificent fowl.

Turkey season this year runs from April 28th, 2014 through May 31st, 2014 with the Youth Spring Wild Turkey Hunting Day (resident and nonresident) occurring on April 26, 2014. Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) have instituted a change to the 2014 turkey hunting laws, turkeys may now be hunted 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset. For more specifics on turkey hunting laws, rules and regulations please see the IFW website at: These changes provide some fantastic new hunting opportunities for those who work 8 to 5:00 or find waking before sunrise an impossible task. With legal hunting times running till 8:07 PM on opening day till 8:43 PM on closing day, hunters have plenty of time to chase old Tom, long after getting out of work.

Hunters looking to find success during this time of day can be wildly successful in the late afternoon as hens return to nests and randy old Toms haphazardly look for love. Later in the day, hunters that can also locate popular roosting trees and setup ambush spots along often used travel corridors and wait for the birds to come to them . . . decoys and calling not even necessary!

Prime turkey hunting locations exist throughout Washington County, with a fun and exciting hunt starting in Northfield (Delorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 26, B-2) and driving logging roads into Smith Landing, the beautiful Great Falls (Map 26, B-2) and continuing south, following the Machias River into Whitneyville.

Maine’s Coastal Public Access Guide
Even as a “resident” Mainer, having always lived here, I am still impressed daily by the hidden beauty that exists within our state boundaries. To help unlock these secret gems the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry has published a comprehensive three-volume guide, outlining over 700 publicly accessible shoreline access sites along the coast of Maine from Kittery to Calais. The three volumes are organized by region, Southern (South Berwick to Freeport), Midcoast (Brunswick to Hampden), and Downeast (Bangor to Calais) with each guide including descriptions, directions, parking, facilities, GPS coordinates, and more for boat launches, beaches, nature preserves, parks, hiking trails, and other scenic areas. Local and regional maps further simplify planning, greatly facilitating finding a new fishing spot, hidden beach, or seaside hike!

My favorite newly found paradise is Crowley Island (Map 26, E-1). This 300+ acre oasis is open to deer and upland bird hunting, clamming and hiking opportunities! As well as motor vehicle parking, nearby West River landing offers boaters easy water access to Crowley Island.

Coastal Public Access Guides can be ordered by printing and filling out the online form ( including a check for $8.00 plus tax per guide and mailing to the Maine Coastal Program, 93 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333. Additional questions and comments may be directed to Kathleen Leyden 287-3144.

Spring Cleaning and Organizing
May marks the final and absolute end of winter and warm days super charge my annual dance of putting away augers in exchange for outboard motors, ice traps for fishing poles and winter clothes for bug nets. It is a task I typically attempt to avoid with a vengeance but in the end, it always crashes down upon me with an unrelenting fury. During this exchange, it pays to have a plan in place to better facilitate your struggles. Years ago, I purchased large clear plastic totes to hold all my gear during the off seasons. This simple storage method saves tons of time and effort when attempting to locate critical items during the changing of the seasons. Grabbing the tote labeled, “Turkey Hunting” and I instantly have access to my turkey-hunting vest, calls, shotgun shells, Thermacell, camouflage clothes, tick spray, etc. Some of the totes even have separate compartments or clear plastic Ziploc bags that further help separate critical or smaller items. The trick obviously with employing clear plastic totes to organize is so that items can quickly be visually identified; facilitating the speed at which you can locate needed items!

Monday, May 5, 2014

Home Made Reflector Oven Outdoor Cooking

Have you always wanted to build your own reflector oven for cooking biscuits, brownies and even pizza with the use of an open fire? With just a few sticks and some aluminum foil this task can be easily accomplished! Check out Field and Stream Campfire Cooking for the direction on how this simple reflector oven can be easily constructed! Below are a pictures from my test of cooking brownies with this fun project!

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