Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Wildlife Quiz - The Mallard Duck

The Mallard Duck (Anas platyrhynchos) distribution spreads throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia and North Africa. Mallards have also been introduced in countries all over the world, making it one of the most widely distributed and therefore well known ducks on the planet. Easily recognized, males or drakes have vibrant glossy green heads, a white neck collar and grey wings and underbelly. Females or hens have mainly brown-speckled feathers. The bill of the male is a yellowish orange tipped with black while that of the female is generally darker.

Categorized as a dabbling duck, Mallards feed by tipping their bodies forward and grazing on underwater plants. Because Mallards feed in this manner, rarely diving, they prefer to inhabit areas possessing water less than 3 feet deep. Mallards live in both fresh and saltwater wetlands where they have easy access to water plants and small invertebrates that comprise a vast majority of its diet.

Mallard pairs form long before the spring breeding season, usually during October and November. While mallard pairs are generally monogamous, paired males will pursue females other than their mates if provided an additional chance to breed. Once breeding is complete, male leaves the female alone to construct a nest and provide all care for the eggs and young. Females typically lay 8–12 eggs that are incubated for about 30 days.

Upon hatching, ducklings are fully capable of swimming a critical part of their evolution allowing them to evade predators. Ducklings instinctively stay near the mother for protection and learn how to forage for food. After 50 to 60 days, ducklings leave the safety of the nest on their first flights. If able to successfully avoid a long list of predators, including raptors, snakes, raccoons, opossums, skunks, coyotes, red fox, turtles, northern pike, bobcats and domestic dogs and cats, Mallards can live to be 27 years of age.

1. What is the distribution range of the Mallard?
2. What does the plumage of a male Mallard look like?
3. What comprises a vast majority of a Mallards diet?
4. When do Mallards breed?
5. Do male Mallards care for their young (ducklings)?
6. How many eggs do female Mallards typically lay?
7. What predators feed on Mallards?
8. How old can Mallards live?

1. The Mallard Duck distribution rage is spread throughout the Americas, Europe, Asia and North Africa.
2. Male or drake Mallards have vibrant glossy green heads, a white neck collar and grey wings and underbelly.
3. A vast majority of a Mallards diet is comprised of water plants and small invertebrates.
4. Mallards breed in the spring.
5. No, once breeding is complete, male leaves the female alone to construct a nest and provide all care for the eggs and young.
6. Female Mallards typically lay 8–12 eggs.
7. Mallards are preyed upon by a long list of predators, including raptors, snakes, raccoons, opossums, skunks, coyotes, red fox, turtles, northern pike, bobcats and domestic dogs and cats. 8. Mallards can live to be 27 years of age.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Modern Firearms Movement

The history of hunting firearms in the United States started in 1860 with the introduction of the Spencer rifle during the civil war. After the war, Spencer rifles were well know and wide spread and readily available. These elements set the stage for “military” rifles to become the hunting guns. This trend continued again in 1903 when Springfield bolt-action rifles were developed for WWI. At the conclusion of the conflict, these bolt-actions became the standard among hunting rifle and the .30-06 cartridge went on to become one of the most used hunting rounds in the world. Because of this trend of sportsmen adopting military style firearms, for hunting purposes, it should be no surprise that the AR-15 platform rifles (also known as Modern Sporting Rifles or MSRs) are slowly gaining momentum and acceptance within the hunting community.

The evolution of modern day firearms, like the AR-15, has occurred through our well developed and informed understanding about what truly makes a rifle great. First built by ArmaLite in 1959, as a small arms rifle for the US armed forces, the design was later sold to Colt who modified and redesigned the rifle, later selling it to the US military as the M16. In 1963, Colt started selling the semi-automatic version of the M16 for civilians under the name AR-15 and AR-15s even today, are refined versions of the original M16 design. Since its introduction to civilian service, the AR-15 has inherited a slew of nicknames, being called, "America's Gun", “the Black Rifle”, “Automatic Rifle” and even “Assault Rifle”. Some have even called it the “Barbie Doll” or “Lego Set” for men due to the rifle’s impressive “modular” design allowing it to be customized in a wide variety of configurations. This flexibility has spawned a huge number of aftermarket modifications, available for installation with just a few simple tools and a limited technical knowledge.

The AR-15 platform continues to evolve to advance our understandings about what a modern day rifle should look like and how it should operate. “Out of the box”, AR-15s contains many advance features that put them light years ahead of other older firearm platforms. Perhaps most impressive is the rifles straight forward and ergonomic design that places the charging handle, safety, magazine release, and bolt assembly all readily accessible by the shooter. This allows for superior fast handling, quick shots, light recoil, rapid magazine changes and makes the AR-15 unequaled by any other semiautomatic design. The almost unlimited available personalizations, along with the rifles modern design, have made the AR-15 the most popular rifle in the United States, with an estimated four million in circulation. So given the widespread distribution of the AR-15, across a vast section of the US population, why is it that the AR-15 platform has been so slow to be embraced by the hunting community. In this world where everyone wants to “update”, update to Blue Ray, update to plasma TV, update Apps, update to the new iPhone, why is it that as sportsmen we seem so unwilling to embrace the “update” available to our hunting arsenal? Part of this apprehension, to adopt the AR-15, as the next evolution of the modern day firearm, is based on the rocky road it has endured since its inception. Frequently attacked by politicians, the AR-15 has been painted by the media as a vile harbinger of death and destruction, a firearm having no place in civilized society. In part this “bad press” that has forced the AR-15 to the hunting “fridge”, viewed by many sportsmen as more of a passing fad then serious hunting tool. In surveys of AR-15 owners, across the US, it was determined that the number one reason for owning an AR-15 is self defense. The second major identified reason, for owning an AR-15, was for the pure enjoyment and participating in shooting sports and competitions.

I have to admit that the self defense capabilities inherent in the AR-15 are impressive. While defense was never my major reason for purchasing one, I can see how that would be attractive to a large section of the population, considering our societies current attraction to the “zombie apocalypse” and “doomsday” scenarios. While occasional trips to the range with friends can be entertaining, I am not interested in going to the range and firing off 1,000 rounds of ammunition, mostly because I am much too cheap but also because I find that practice boring. One can only reduce so many cans and bottles into small fragments before the need for a greater challenge emerges. I would much rather fine tune my skills at the range and then move on as quickly as possible to “live” fire targets like squirrels, ground hogs, coyotes, fox, bobcats and other small game animals.

Regardless of society’s perception, the AR-15 platform is, at its core, simply a semi-automatic rifle. Being a semi-automatic, the AR-15 fires lead down range at a rate closely matching the Browning BAR, Remington Woodsmaster 742 or Ruger Mini-14. The only difference, between each of these fine hunting firearms, being the AR-15s more modernized shooting platform and compact design. What most don’t realize is that compared to its more “antique” brethren, the AR-15 actually shares many of the same design elements only in a more updated and modern edition. The AR-15 is a good hunting rifle because of its proven history as a durable, reliable, versatile and accurate firearm. Made to handle combat, AR-15s are constructed primarily of polymer and aluminum, which is tough and corrosion resistant. In addition, few rifles shoot better with most AR-15s capable of putting three shots within an inch apart at 100 yards. Since AR uppers and lowers are easily swapped, it is common to have multiple uppers for the same lower, now hunters have the ability to transform their favorite varmint rifle into a deer rifle in less than 30 seconds. The AR-15 is available in a wide selection of calibers, including my favorites, the flat shooting .223 for predators and heavy hitting .308 for everything else. These reasons makes the AR-15 worthy of serious consideration by sportsmen as a primary hunting firearm.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Brook Trout Hot Spots and Fall Turkeys

September’s arrival brings with it a slight nip to the evening air, a marked decrease in the number of biting insects and dramatic changes in the foliage. September is also the time of year when hunters begin to develop that wild and crazy look in their eye, as the excitement of the impending arrival of hunting season builds to crescendo.

For anglers, September is the last chance to score a few trout and salmon before many rivers, streams and brooks are closed to all fishing beginning October 1st. Trout Fishing As the laws, rules and regulations, provided by Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, require a team of lawyers to interpret; here are the basics for those who don’t want to spend money on a legal team just to go fishing for an afternoon. From August 16 to September 30, fishing in rivers, streams and brooks in Washington County is restricted to the use of artificial lures or flies only, and the combined total daily bag limit for trout, landlocked salmon, and togue is 1 fish. Also, unless otherwise indicated, lakes and ponds in Washington County have a daily bag limit on brook trout is 2 fish. To help sportsmen interpret the overly complex Maine fishing laws, here is a breakdown of rules and S-codes on three of my favorite lakes to fish, in September.

Number one on my list is Keen’s Lake in Calais (DeLorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 37, C-1), ruled by four different s-codes: Closed to taking smelts (S-2), except by hook and line and tributaries closed to taking smelts codes (S-3). Also, from October 1 to November 30 anglers must use Artificial lures only (S-6) and all trout, landlocked salmon, and togue caught must be released alive at once (S-7). Fortunately, none of the listed s-codes interfere with fishermen wanting to catch trout with live bait in September. Therefore, fishermen wanting to chuck a bobber and worm into Keen’s Lake during the month of September can catch 2 brook trout for the fry pan as long as they are a minimum of 6 inches in length. IFW regularly stocks Keens Lake and in October of 2015 dumped 4,000 seven inch and one-hundred fifty, fourteen inch trout in the lake.

Number two on my list is Indian Lake (MAP 26, B-5) in Whiting, ruled by three different s-codes: No size or bag limit on bass (S-13), a daily bag limit on trout of 5 fish, (only 1 may exceed 12 inches) and from October 1 – November 30 anglers must only use artificial lures (S-6) and lastly during October and November, all trout, landlocked salmon, and togue caught must be released alive at once (S-7). Again, as with Keen’s Lake, none of the listed s-codes interfere with fishermen wanting to catch trout with live bait in September. A word of warning however to anglers, Indian Lake was stocked on 11/17/2015 with twenty-five, twenty inch brook trout. Given that many of these beauties are likely still swimming around in the lake, fishermen should after catching four fish hold out for the possibility of one of these large fish. Indian was also stocked on 4/20/2016 with six-hundred, ten inch brook trout, on 5/5/2015 with six-hundred, nine inch brook trout, 10/5/2015 with six thousand, seven inch brook trout and on 10/26/2015 with two hundred, fourteen inch brook trout.

Number three on my list is Six Mile Lake (MAP 26, B-2) in Marshfield is ruled by a daily bag limit on trout of 5 fish and three different s-codes: First, there is no size or bag limit on bass (S-13), use or possession of live fish is prohibited, however, the use of dead fish, salmon eggs, and worms is permitted (S-4), the lake also remains open to open water fishing from October 1 - November 30 to artificial lures only but all trout, landlocked salmon and togue must be released alive at once. Six Mile Lake is closed to open water fishing from December 1 - March 31 (S-10). Again, as with the other two lakes, none of the listed s-codes interfere with fishermen wanting to catch trout with live bait in September. Six Mile Lake was also stocked on 5/7/2015 with three-hundred, eleven inch brook trout, on 10/13/2015 with sixty, thirteen inch brook trout and on 10/15/2015 with one-thousand-nine-hundred-fifty, seven inch brook trout.

The Wildman Scores at Just 9 Years Old!
Fall Turkey
The fall wild turkey hunting season is open statewide to hunting with bow and arrow or shotgun and is set to coincide with the regular archery season on deer: September 29 through October 28. Those pursuing turkey this fall in Washington County (Wildlife Management Districts 27, 28, 19 and 11), depending on the district they plan to hunt, will need to understand three different sets of harvest regulations Wildlife Management District 28 is open with a two of either sex, wild turkey bag limit, while Wildlife Management District 11 and 19 are open with a one (1) of either sex, wild turkey bag limit. Wildlife Management District 27 is closed during the 2016 fall wild turkey hunting season. Typically fall hunters still have the “spring” mindset that they can only shoot a gobbler but fall hunters can also harvest hens and poults. Shooting a hen is no more wrong than shooting a doe deer, and after eating a tender hen or poult deliciously slow cooked in a crock-pot, hunters may never want to eat a gobbler again. Hunters chasing turkeys in the fall need to modify their tactics, compared to what they employed during the spring season. Unlike the spring hunt, fall turkeys are a completely different animal. One of my favorite fall turkey hunting tactics involves spot and stalk on single birds. Using binoculars, I locate a solo bird and work to intercept its path. Having a decoy and employing soft clucks and purrs helps to nudge the bird toward you if it starts to wander off track. With luck, the bird will continue on its trajectory and walk directly in the path of your awaiting gun barrel. Another favorite technique is patterning flocks and simply setting up between the roost and their food supply. Game cameras can be extremely effective tools to help pattern turkeys. By showing exactly where and when birds are walking through or visiting a particular area hunters can use this information to be precisely where the birds are, thereby maximizing hunter time and energy afield.
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