Thursday, May 19, 2016


Discriminating against someone for being a hunter is a supremely unfortunate aspect running rampant within our society. I find this news disheartening. Hunters and non-hunters alike need to stand strong against those who would disparage an individual for their legal and ethical choice to harvest their own food. This is important as much of the anti-hunting rhetoric is built on a word that needs to be eliminated from our vocabulary, HATE. As a society, we need to embrace each other for our differences and not force each other into living lives based on our own personal convictions and preconceived notions of right and wrong. Anti-hunters are NOT crusaders on a mission to save animals; anti-hunters are bullies on a mission to attempt to abolish hunting while spreading hate and discontent in their wake.

I find it alarming to read stories of someone sending a HUMAN being a death threat because they killed an ANIMAL. Have these people lost their minds? When did it suddenly become okay for the life of a human being to be considered of lesser value than that of an animal? This skewed notion of right and wrong is completely unacceptable. Larger and larger segments of our society are simply losing their connection to the natural world. This departure, from the roots of our very existence, is creating a misinformed sub-culture detached from the reality of what it means to be an integral part of the circle of life.

Farmers are loathed because they till the land, killing thousands of mice, shrews and nesting birds, where crops are planted, butchers are hated for killing and processing the pigs, cows, lambs and chickens we eat, loggers are sent death threats because they cut down tree to keep houses warm throughout the cold winter months. The cowards, inspired to target these hardworking people, do so from anonymous social media accounts using threats and obscenities they would never dare utter directly to a person’s face. These types of people typically eat meat, wear leather jackets and burn wood pellets to warm their homes but are unable (or perhaps unwilling) to understand that their very existence is dependent on living things dying for them to survive. Even the strictest vegetarians and eco-conscious individuals must kill plants to eat to fuel their bodies so that they may live. Considering these facts, why have so many in our society completely lost the ability to see beyond their limited view of the world where living things are no longer seen as food? “Hunting” is at its core, the very definition of what it means to be personally and intimately connected to your food supply.

Outside of the United States, a vast majority of the world still lives a subsistence existence. Unfortunately, we here in America seem to have fallen out of sync with the rules of nature and I fear that continuing on this path will lead to the de-evolution of our species. If we hope to advance as a species, we need to reconnect with the natural world and stand up to support and defend each other for our unique differences, loves and passions. My words are not meant for anti-hunters, for it is highly likely that their minds are already set upon a path that will not be changed. Instead, I want to reach out to those non-hunting individuals who are perhaps currently sitting on the fence and wondering which way to bend. I also want to encourage large companies and small businesses alike to stand strong to support hunters, hunters who buy their products, hunters who uphold the law, hunters who pay taxes and hunters who valiantly and tirelessly work to support a traditional way of living that mankind has relied upon for survival for thousands of years.

Also, here is an older piece I wrote about killing animals for sport.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Pick Up Bow Hunting and “Expand” the Possibilities

Bow hunting has the exciting ability to open up a world of new possibilities for Maine hunters. Unlike firearms, the bow and arrow appear too many in our society to be a more “environmentally friendly” or “green” method of harvesting game animals. This is likely because compared to their modern day cousin the firearm; bows are quiet, arrows incapable of traveling great distances and the pursuit of game with the bow and arrow a sport romanticized on TV and in modern day movies. This perception allows archery to be more readily accepted by residents in urban areas, where the general population would otherwise normally disallow hunting with firearms.

While hunting opportunities exist across the state for archers looking to pursue game in residential areas, archers not wishing to compete against firearm hunters, wanting to have the ability to hunt from mid September to mid December and to potentially hunt close to home, the state of Maine’s expanded archery zones provide great deer hunting opportunities. Hunters who have a valid archery license are able to purchase multiple expanded archery antlerless permits for $12.00 each, and one expanded archery either sex permit for $32.00.

The state’s expanded archery zones were established to provide deer hunting opportunities in urban areas without negatively impacting or human safety. Most of these small parcels of land are residential developments interspersed with small woodlots and existing within city and town limits, areas unable to be hunted with firearms due to municipal ordinances.

Currently, there are 11 different expanded archery zones, including the cities and towns of: Augusta, Bangor, Bucksport, Camden, Castine, Eliot, Lewiston, Portland, Waterville, parts of WMD 24 and WMD 29.

Within these zones, a vast majority of the acreage is privately owned, almost exclusively requiring landowner permission to hunt. In addition, large sections of additional acreage is unhuntable due to sanctuaries, local ordinances or because individual landowners do not support hunting and/or trespass on their land. While this creates an added burden to archers attempting to find areas to hunt, let me stress that it is well worth the additional effort. This past hunting season, I saw no fewer than 7 deer, within the bounds of the expanded area I was hunting, including 4 does, two 6 pointers and a massive 12, that total equates to more deer than I have seen in the Maine woods in the previous 4 seasons combined! While I was unsuccessful in harvesting one of the massive brutes, I encountered, I did manage to harvest a 110lb doe, my first with the bow and arrow.

The excitement of bow hunting, along with the added thrill of being able to see so many deer has me hooked on hunting the expanded archery zones. While these areas do require considerable planning to hunt successfully, this season I was able to learn a few key elements that tip the odds in the sportsman’s favor, when hunting these zones. It should be no surprise that pre-season scouting is essential. To accomplish this successfully, good aerial maps supplemented with tax maps of the area and a GPS are essential. In the expanded zones, it is important to not only know where you are but also upon whose property. Having both maps readily accessible makes it easier to find huntable areas and immediately follow up by phoning and asking the owner for permission to access. Without a tax map, hunters will encounter a lot of signs stating, “Access by Permission Only” but with no indication on the sign who to call for permission. Once a suitable hunting location and permission is secured, get in early to scout, find an ambush location and get out. With hunting in these zones starting in September, hunters should know the property and have stands in place by July. While a majority of these properties are small and in close proximity to human habitation, the deer can still be easily spooked if their core area suddenly receives a human invader.

Expanded zones located in close proximity to areas allowing hunting with firearms can often be safe havens for deer during the November regular statewide firearms season. Hunting the expanded zone throughout October and November, I noted a spike in deer activity and the number of deer seen during this time. While some of this increase in sightings can likely be contributed to the rut, I feel that some of the increase is also due to the much lower hunting pressure that exists in the expanded archery zones. In addition, to what I learned about he expanded archery zones previous hunting season; I also learned a ton about what it take to be a successful bow hunter.

After several years of practicing with the bow and arrow, this past hunting season, I felt I finally had the confidence and skill needed to shoot my first deer with the bow. While I had the “mechanics” of shooting a bow down, what I realized is even more critical, to being a successful bow hunter, is being able to negotiate all of the unforeseen elements that occur when shooting a bow. One of the most difficult things for me to overcome was shooting with a face mask. After the first week of fighting with the masks Velcro straps, feelings of claustrophobia and eye holes that never seemed to actually fit over my eyes, I finally gave up and began using camouflage face paint. This small change changed my entire bow hunting game and I will NEVER use a facemask for deer, turkeys of ducks ever again. I had thought that the paint would be messy and hard to remove but by carrying a few baby wipes in a Ziploc bag, I was amazed at how easy it was to clean up after hunting. The second important consideration for me this season was related to overall comfort. Knowing that I would likely be spending large amounts of time high in the treetops, I invested before the season started in two pieces of new equipment that transformed my comfort. The first piece of equipment was insulated, waterproof bibs that made long sits extremely comfortable. With the extra cold protection on my legs and lower back, my feet were considerably warmer and I was even able to still wear them on even the mildest of days if paired with a lightweight jacket. The second piece of equipment was a three-section articulating bow hanger by Realtree. This simple device screws into the side of the tree and a swing arm bring the bow to any forward or side position the archer chooses. This take the bow out of ones lap and hangs it readily within reach, making it available to grasp when required, with little movement. Having the bow hanging facilitates stretching, taking a drink or relieving yourself without the worry of dropping ones bow, thereby greatly increasing the ability to be more comfortable.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Wildlife Quiz - The 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.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Shoot Coyote, Serenade Turkeys and Beat Blackflies

Coyotes Hungry
 May has long been one of my favorite times of the year to hunt for coyotes. Even nighttime temperatures creep into the low 30s, a mercury reading practically balmy after long winter nights in the shooting shack with frozen toes and fingers, my body teetering on the edge of hypothermia. Coyotes also begin becoming more active, as both parents constantly search to find food to feed new born pups. Bait sites can light up during this time of year and the call of the screaming rabbit often brings them running. Hunters can monopolize on this small chink in the armor and harvest a few song dogs with minimal effort. Those heading down east, in pursuit of coyotes, won’t be disappointed. Still evenings, shortly after sunset, are frequently fractured by the piercing howls and yips of packs of coyotes on the hunt. In order to kill more coyotes, think food and explore locations where cupboards are not quite bare.

Discussions with farmers will typically yield stories of coyotes stealing chickens, grain and other food stuffs. Hunting these properties is usually as easy as just asking and often yields lasting friendships. Route 9 running from Amherst (DeLorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 24, A-2) to Beddington (Map 24, A-1) contains many of these old farmsteads as well as Route 1 running from Topsfield (Map 45, D-5) to Danforth (Map 45, B-3).

Turkey Serenade
Turkey seasons this year, in wildlife management districts (WMDs) 7-29, runs from May 2nd to June 4th, with hunters eligible to harvest two bearded turkeys. Northern zones WMDs 1-6 will continue to be governed by a split season and a limit of one bearded turkey per hunter. In my discussions with sportsmen both young and old, many share that the single biggest reason they don’t turkey hunt, or why they have been unsuccessful in harvesting a turkey in past seasons, is they don’t properly understand how to call spring turkeys effectively. While learning the basic “yelp” is easily mastered by a majority of sportsmen, progressing to learn the complexities of the cluck, cackle, purr and gobble are lost to many. This is unfortunate, as these additional calls often make the difference between success and eating tag soup. While the Internet offers many how to videos on how to create a sweet sounding turkey serenade on a box or slate call, the truth is that most of us simply don’t have the time need to effectively learn these skills.

Electronic calling devices are legal for the hunting of turkeys in Maine and serve as a great way for those short on time or new to the sport to quickly master the calls needed to harvest a big tom turkey this season. While some of these calls easily run into the hundreds of dollars, I have had great past success using my smart phone and a small Bluetooth speaker. With this set-up, I can easily place the Bluetooth speaker 30-40 yards away and send turkey calls to it from my phone. Portable, easy to quickly deploy and with waterproof speakers available, it is a virtually problem free electronic calling solution for just about every sportsman. If investing in a Bluetooth speaker, remember it will also serve hunters well predator hunting and during deer season! Large flocks of turkeys comprised of hens, jakes and toms can frequently be found in strutting across the blueberry barrens throughout all of May. Hunters with good optics can often find these flocks and using the topography devise stocks that will bring them to within shooting distance.

Fun places to spot and stalk, or as I like to call it wish and walk, include the expanse of barrens existing to the East of Pleasant River Lake (Map 25, A-2) and stretching to just beyond the area categorized as “The Middle Grounds” (Map 25, A-3, B-3).

Beat the Blackflies Camp NOW!
Day time temperatures in May can be downright pleasant and night time lows still remain enjoyable, when spent around the pleasant glow of a roaring campfire. Add to the reasonable temperatures, the fact that blackflies and mosquitoes typically do not emerge until the third or forth week of the month and it’s easy to understand why May is my favorite month to camp. No need for reservations in early May or time spent worrying about not finding a suitable lot, as most primitive campsites will be largely deserted till Memorial Day weekend. Hadley Lakes (Map 25, A-3) and Pretty Pond (Map 25, B-3) both contain primitive campsites capable of supporting tents as well as small RVs and will additionally put hunters within easy driving distance of several prime turkey hunting areas. If traveling from Bangor to Calais, Hadley Lake is found by taking a right hand turn onto the dirt road immediately following the Wilderness Lodge. After about a mile, the road veers to the right and a small road turns left. Follow the smaller road to the campground. For those traveling from Bangor to Calais and wanting to visit Pretty Pond, take the next dirt road after the Pleasant River Lake road. The dirt road roughly parallels Mopang Stream for approximately four miles before Pretty Pond emerges on the right.
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