Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Why Maine is a Hunting and Fishing Paradise

The following is a short blurb that I wrote for the Maine Department of Tourism in October of 2014, it describes why Maine is a hunting and fishing paradise. Enjoy! 

Maine’s impressive diversity of fish and game, untouched forests and pristine waters make it the dream destination for hunters and anglers. Boasting healthy populations of both large and small game species and large variety of native and stocked fish, Maine provides a rare sporting environment difficult to find anywhere else in North America. Moose, black bear, whitetail deer and wild turkey, snowshoe hare, ruffed grouse and woodcock all call the Maine woods home, while countless salmon, brook trout, smallmouth bass and lake trout inhabit the gin-clear waters.

No matter the season of the year, Maine’s abundance species and habitats, offer unique fishing and hunting opportunities, sure to match the interest and passion of every sporting man and woman. Maine’s size and low population density provide assurance that any trip taken afield is only filled with the sounds of peace and quiet. Fly fish a tranquil lake, where the only competition is a bald eagle or hunt a remote section of the backcountry devoid of the footprints of another human being. Through its vast expanses of public and private lands, both remote and accessible hunting and fishing exist, providing exciting sporting options for people of all skill levels. From extreme, rugged backcountry off the grid excursions to extravagant sporting camps and plush accommodations, Maine has an adventure to match every person’s ability, needs and budget. Whether pursuing whitetails over its jagged granite hewn mountains, fishing for striped bass on its rocky coast, chasing moose across the vast expanses of the north country or casting a dry fly into some long forgotten secluded pond, Maine’s geological features and topography are as incredible as the game animals that inhabit it.

 In Maine, hunting and fishing are more than simply outdoor pursuits; they are an integral part of our lifestyle, culture and traditions. Maine supports these ideals, by fostering a warm and welcoming environment for all sporting men and women through its network of registered guides who work tirelessly to help veteran and novice hunters and anglers alike safely enjoy their visit to Maine’s woods and waters. Maine’s exquisite natural beauty has persevered through the ages and its quiet atmosphere of relaxed splendor, nourishes the soul, enriching any outdoor experiences and making it easy to understand why sporting men and women have flocked here for generations.

Maine is truly special, the colors here are exceedingly vibrant, the smells lighter and more fragrant, the water sweeter, it is a place where the totality of success is measured not in the fish caught or animal shot but rather that one departs, from their time spent here, knowing that new friendships have been made, dreams accomplished and with the unflinching realization that they must soon return to this extraordinary place. Come to Maine and create hunting and fishing memories that will last a lifetime.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Wildlife Quiz - Cusk

The Cusk (Lota lota), also know as burbot or freshwater cod have unusual anatomies, possessing heads similar to catfish with body length swim fins, giving them an eel-like appearance. The mouth is large and wide, with a single chin barbel hanging prominently from the lower jaw. Cusk range in coloration from a muted tan to a dark brown, overlaid with contrasting dark brown to black spots.

According to Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologists, Maine cusk require almost 13 years to reach just 24 inches, making them one of the slowest growing fish species in the State. The largest recorded cusk caught in Maine was an 18 pounds 8 ounces behemoth caught by Annette Dumond, in 1986 while fishing Eagle Lake.

Cusk usually reach sexual maturity around their fourth year of life, with spawning season occurring deep under the frozen ice between the months of December and March. As broadcast spawners, male and female cusk will simultaneously release sperm and eggs into the water to be fertilized. Eggs then settle onto the sand or gravel where they stay until they hatch, a period of time stretching from 50 to 100 days depending on water temperature. Cusk have been know to live as long as 20 years.

Crepuscular hunters, cusk prefer to hunt for food in the twilight hours of dusk and dawn. Though primarily piscivores or fish eaters, cusk will also eat insects, frogs, snakes and even birds. In Maine, anglers occasionally catch cusk on deep water togue traps but more typically they are caught at night on deep water traps fished with dead fish bait.

Cusk meat when deep-fried becomes a delectable treat and many even profess that cusk has a taste and texture similar to lobster.

Wildlife Quiz Questions:
1. What are other names for the cusk?
2. What part of a cusk’s anatomy make it very different from other fish.
 3. What color are cusk?
4. How long can cusk grow in 13 years?
5. What was the largest cusk caught in Maine.
 6. What year of life do cusk reach sexual maturity?
7. How long are cusk able to live?
8. What kind of hunters are cusk?
9. What are piscivores?

Wildlife Quiz Answers: 
1. Other names for cusk include burbot or freshwater cod.
2. Cusk have body length swim fins, giving them an eel-like appearance.
3. Cusk range in coloration from a muted tan to a dark brown, overlaid with contrasting dark brown to black spots.
 4. Cusk are a notoriously slow growing species, typically growing only 24 inches in 13 years.
 5. The largest recorded cusk caught in Maine was an 18 pounds 8 ounces behemoth caught by Annette Dumond, in 1986 while fishing Eagle Lake.
6. Cusk reach sexual maturity around their 4th year of life.
7. Cusk can live to be 20 years old.
 8. Cusk are crepuscular hunters, cusk prefer to hunt for food in the twilight hours of dusk and dawn.
9. Piscivores are creatures that eat primarily fish.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Ice Fishing Salmon, Predator Hunting Coyotes

Cathance Lake, (Delorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 36, E-4) in Washington County, was one of the first Maine lakes to be artificially stocked with landlocked salmon. Occurring in 1868, using salmon eggs obtained at Grand Lake Stream, the lake has since grown into a hugely successful salmon fishery. The lake’s 2,905 acres and 75 ft watery depths provide excellent habitat for salmon, perhaps one of the most consistent salmon fisheries in eastern Maine. Salmon caught by ice anglers typically range from 17 to 19-inches with the chance to pull up a larger trophy fish always a possibility.

Brook trout are produced in several of the lakes tributaries and anglers tend to catch 10 to 12 inch fish in the lake with 14 to 16 inch trout a possibility Ice anglers on foot will park at the plowed and well maintained boat launch on route 191 and walk the 1 mile up the lake to Todd Island. Good fishing exists all around Todd Island and the island also provides shelter and a place to build a small fire should the weather turn difficult.

Anglers targeting salmon will encounter more success if they bring smelts. While salmon will bite shiners, a much larger degree of success will be managed by those willing to invest a little more expense and effort and use smelts. If unaccustomed to using these bait fish, know they are notoriously difficult to keep alive. Bait buckets equipped with small aerators will increase the chances of keeping bait actively swimming all day long.

Predator Hunting 
Sportsmen often ask me how they can become more successful at hunting coyotes. While these individuals tend to employ fairly sound hunting tactics, they fall short on a few critical details that hurt their success rate. While scent control is always an issue with coyotes, also is having camouflage well matched to the intended hunting area and seasons.

By being mindful of the anticipated hunting location and watchful of the surroundings, hunters can more easily blend into the environment and achieve greater success. Winter’s first snowfall vastly changes the visual environment and camouflage patterns useful in the spring, summer and fall are no longer effective. As bad as dark camouflage patterns are against an open snow covered field, white or snow camouflage patterns are equally bad when contrasted against dark woodland backgrounds. High contrasts create easily visible silhouettes. In the winter, exercise caution when using white camouflage in dark woodlands as the wary eyes of predators will easily see your movements. In these situations, a mixed camouflage choice consisting of white pants and a favorite woodlands pattern will break up your outline better than all white. Other good examples include, hiding in a snowy brush pile wearing Seclusion 3D winter or wearing the white and blotchy green Flecktarn pattern when hunting a snowy pine or spruce thicket. The trick to perfecting camouflage is to create less sharp lines by blending to create a more “fuzzy” silhouette.

Sportsman looking to enter into the world of winter hunting need not break the bank, a set of military surplus white nylon pants and jacket for $20 and polyester winter hat and gaiter from Walmart for $5 creates a set that allows hunters to quickly and easily adapt to different winter hunting scenarios with minimal effort. Other “thrifty” options include using white hooded painter coveralls or simply a white bed sheet (just remember that cotton will quickly absorb water and ice up).

While hunters typically understand the importance of effective camouflage, those looking to confuse the sharp eyes of predators, must also carefully examine their face, hands and feet. Always on the move, turning side to side and looking up and down, the face frequently alerts game animals to a hunter’s presence. Hunters can negate this issue by employing slow movements and choosing a facemask that fits properly. A properly fitting facemask assures a hunter will consistently wear it and that it doesn’t block ones vision at the time of the shot. I own half a dozen different facemasks. For example, one is fleece lined for late season deer; another is all mesh for June turkeys, then there is the neoprene ½ mask for January sea ducks and finally the full face fleece lined balaclava for hunting late season coyotes in brown woodlands camouflage and all white. The trick is to have a wide enough selection to allow matching facemasks to the weather and the natural hunting environment.

Ungloved hands create a lot of visual disturbance whether repositioning a firearm for a shot or scratching an itch. I have several different pairs of gloves designed to match the weather and blend with the environment. Critical with gloves, as previously mentioned with facemasks, is perfect fit. A badly fitted glove can inadvertently place pressure on a trigger and cause it to fire at an inopportune time. On the other hand, a glove that is too thin may allow better trigger feel but be ineffective in warding off the cold. Chemical heater packs and mittens with trigger openings are a great way to insulate with less “bulk”, allowing more control over a rifle’s safety and trigger.

Of all the body parts, feet are without a doubt the most often forgotten. While not nearly as critical to camouflage as head and hands, in certain situations feet can really stand out. Think hunter dressed in white camouflage standing in a snow-covered field with brown boots and YIKES you can see what I mean. What most don’t realize is that feet are incredibly easy to camouflage without buying a dozen different pairs of boots. One of the easiest things to do is to simply pull pant legs completely over the top part of the boot rather than tucking them in. This will succeed in hiding about 70% of the boots total visible area.

 Coyotes prefer to expend as little energy as possible in winter and will frequently travel snowmobile trails to more efficiently travel through areas with significant snowfall. This creates great ambush locations for hunters wanting to try out their new winter camouflage pattern. Great hunting can be accessed at the end of the Carson Road in Calais (Map 37, C-1). Following the impressive network of logging roads and well-packed snowmobile trails make walking, snowshoeing or cross-county skiing into the vast woodlands an easy endeavor. Stalking into areas such as Carson Heath (Map 37, C-1), the Flowed Lands Ponds (Map 37, C-1) and Beaver Lake (Map 37, C-1) are sure to provide hunters with an exciting afternoon.
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