Thursday, October 27, 2016

Wildlife Quiz - The Ruffed Grouse

The Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus) exists as the most widely distributed resident game bird in North America and Canada. Due to its non-vocal courtship display, in which males rapidly beat their wings creating a “thumping” sound, they have been lovingly called “Thunder Chickens”. Even in thickly wooded timber, the drumming sound can attract mates from over a quarter mile away. During courtship rituals, males display to females their thick black ruff of neck feathers; this is where the “ruffed” grouse gets its name. Often, the grouse is mistakenly called a partridge, a name meant to identify a different species of bird.
Grouse spend a vast majority of their time on the ground, where it’s dappled; gray and black coloration makes it extremely difficult to see in mixed hardwoods. When frightened, grouse typically explode wildly into flight, beating their wings very loudly and typically giving heart palpitations to anyone within immediate earshot.
Grouse feed almost exclusively on vegetation, including buds, leaves, berries, seeds, and woody plants but will also feed on small insects. The grouse’s ability to consume foods high in cellulose allows it to feed on buds and twigs of trees and other plant species that most other animals would be incapable of digesting. Since ruffed grouse lack teeth, they frequently seek out gravel roads in the late afternoon and early mornings where they swallow small pieces of grit which pass into the gizzard and help them grind up hard food items like nuts.
Historically, ruffed grouse populations follow a 10-year cycle from high to low. The cycle occurs independent of hunter harvest numbers and scientists predict it depends on a number of various factors including, availability of feed and populations of other prey animals like the snowshoe hare.

  1. What is the range of the Ruffed Grouse?
  2. What are Ruffed Grouse lovingly called?
  3. What do male Ruffed Grouse do to attack mates?
  4. What do Ruffed Grouse do when frightened?
  5. What do Ruffed Grouse eat?
  6. Why do Ruffed Grouse eat grit?
  7. How long is the “Ruffed Grouse Cycle”?
  8. Does hunter harvest numbers predict the 10 year “grouse cycle”?
  1. The range of the Ruffed Grouse includes all of Canada and North America.
  2. Ruffed Grouse are lovingly called “Thunder Chickens”
  3. Ruffed Grouse attract mates by rapidly beating their wings creating a “thumping” sound.
  4. When frightened, Ruffed Grouse typically explode wildly into flight, beating their wings very loudly.
  5. Ruffed Grouse feed almost exclusively on vegetation, including buds, leaves, berries, seeds, and woody plants but will also feed on small insects.
  6. Ruffed Grouse swallow small pieces of grit which pass into the gizzard and help them grind up hard food items like nuts.
  7. The “Ruffed Grouse Cycle” is 10-years.
  8. No, hunter harvest numbers do not predict the 10 year “grouse cycle”, instead scientists believe it depends on a number of various factors including, availability of feed and populations of other prey animals like the snowshoe hare.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

BEST Smartphone Hunting Apps

inteliSCOPE Mounted on a 12g Shotgun
There was a time not long ago when people would actually be bored. This psychological condition most likely occurred during periods of time when an individual was not involved in a particular event or activity and they simply had to lounge around with nothing specific to do. I guess more precisely what I mean to say, is that there existed just a short while ago a time when a person couldn't possibly expect to have every single moment of their existence filled with mental stimulus and distraction. Strange as it may sound, there was actually a time when a man could be alone with his thoughts and just reflect, plan and think.
It is comical, to hold in my hand a "smart" phone that often makes me feel anything but "smart". I no longer remember phone numbers, trivial facts or a hundred other minute details that I used to store in my cranium. Now, instead of having a viable memory, I just “Google it” and instantly, I can profess to know practically any piece of trivial information, including the entire history of the shalalie (Yes, I actually looked this up!). Though I am sure the original plan for the “smart” phone was well meaning, it appears that instead my "smart" phone has made me well, kind of stupid. I note lately that even my attention span seems to be waning. Activities that I once relished for their peace and quiet now seem quite frankly mundane.
This past hunting season, I spent a lot of time sitting in trees. While I would like to say I was completely content and at peace the entire time, I must confess that quite frequently, I was extremely bored. After four hours of sitting, entertained only by watching the squirrels play, I would invariably begin to feel a little nuts.
Fortunately, I have a handheld entertainment unit called a Smartphone, which if used correctly actually holds great promise to the sporting public. This hunting season, I tried hard to use my “smart phone” in a way that enhanced rather than inhibited my hunting experience. This was accomplished by using several different apps (an abbreviation for application, specialized programs downloaded onto mobile devices, like smart phones and iPads) that allowed me to maximize my time afield by assisting me in better understanding of prime feeding times, moon phase, wind direction and navigation within the large property I was hunting. Below is a listing of the apps I used this season and their primary functions:

- GPS Tracks:  This handy navigational aid does a superior job of assisting hunters, back packers, hikers, etc. in virtually mapping out a property to allow for a better understanding of deer movements and behaviors. Sportsmen can save roads, trails scrape lines, etc. as “tracks” that can be overlaid on a satellite map of the area, providing a great aerial overview of the area in which you are hunting.
- Best Hunting: This app is a computerized version of the old solunar hunting and fishing tables. Just type in the hunting date and the program calculates moon phase, sunrise and sunset and computes the optimal hunting and fishing times. While I believe many other conditions influence deer movement, the biggest deer I saw all season was on a day picked by the app to be the most optimal day of the month.
- Deer Calls Pro: Never worry about making that perfect doe in esterous bleat, buck grunt or fawn bleat again. With a simple press of the button, hunters can pick from twelve different deer vocalizations, with sounds emanating from the phone speaker. If hunters don’t find the sound from the phone speaker loud enough, adding a small Bluetooth speaker greatly enhances the sound capabilities. Also with the remote speaker, hunters can place the speaker 10-20 yards from their hunting stand.
- Quiver: The perfect scouting tool, Quiver allows a hunter to take notes, pictures, record hunting time and enter deer sightings in a simple to use interface. By collecting all of this data, hunters are better able to remember critical hunting information that can be built upon each season.
- Instagram: An online photo/video-sharing social networking service that enables users to share photos/videos either publicly or privately, as well as through a variety of other social networking platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. All in all, a great app for connecting with other sportsmen and sharing hunting photos and videos.
-inteliSCOPE: Is an app that allows a Smartphone to be used as a targeting system for your shotgun or rifle. If impressed by the app, the company sells a mounting system that attaches a Smartphone directly to a firearm, allowing it to be used as a scope and video recording device. I used this set-up with great success with my 7 and 9 year old during the spring turkey hunt. The sighting system allowed me to make sure I was able to see the exact same shot my kids were seeing to help ensure a quick kill.
- iHunt By Ruger: App contains a number of different hunting tool, including the Solunar times, activity log, weather updates and a compass. However, what is most impressive is the number of game calls the app has available. While vocalizations from everything from Alligators to Zebras might be overkill for us Mainers, the other calls available include bobcats, coyotes, turkeys, moose, fox, crows, and 30 different whitetail deer calls.

The failure of the smart phone isn’t in the design, the failure is in the user who doesn’t understand that in some situations it is better to put the phone in their pocket. In many hunting situations the unit distracts the hunters from completely tuning into their hunting environment and enjoying the experience. With a pursuit of any game animal, sportsmen owe it to the creature they are pursuing to devote the entirety of their attention to the hunt or at least cut back on the number of unnecessary distractions. This will not only increase your chances of taking game, it will ultimately make a better hunter, one more connected to the environment and their natural surroundings. Tune in this hunting season and refuse to tune out!

Coyote Trapping During the October Early Season

           Predator control (primarily for coyotes) has an extremely positive impact on whitetail deer survival rates. As such, every sportsman should do their part to help keep this wilily invader on the retreat. While many sportsmen pursue coyotes with firearms, luring canines into range with bait sites and wounded rabbit calls, another effective means of controlling this predator is by trapping.
Traps allow for the “passive” taking of game animals, meaning that traps work while a sportsman is involved doing other tasks. For the busy sportsman, running a short trap line consisting of half a dozen traps makes sense. The only constraint on time being that Maine law stipulates that traps must be checked every 24 hours to ensure a trapped animal is not left to suffer. While technically classified as a “passive” means of catching and killing predators, a person thinking of trapping coyotes should understand that this is a challenging endeavor. I like to describe trapping as a sport simple in principle but complex in the undertaking.
            To begin with, those new to trapping should start with a good solidly build leg-hold trap. For the money, there are few traps better designed and simpler to use than the #3 Bridger dog less coil spring trap with off set jaws. This sized trap is practically guaranteed to have enough strength to hold even the largest Maine coyote. Traps need to be secured to the ground or a tree using stakes or cabling to prevent trapped coyotes from dragging the traps into the wilds and never found. Traps, connectors, stakes and/or cabling will all need to be “dipped” to prevent rust, I suggest using “full metal jacket”, as this product is easy to apply and works very well.
Prime areas to place traps include abandoned skid roads, game tails leading in and out of fields, old sandpits and dried up creek beds, all make great spots to trap coyotes. Gravel pits like the expansive pit bordering Route 9 in T31 (DeLorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 25, A-4), the roads surrounding the Great Heath (Map 25, C-3) in Columbia Falls and the extensive network of roads surrounding the blueberry barrens in T24 (Map 25, B-3) all provide almost limitless opportunities to trap coyotes.
Once a suitable location has been found, a trapper needs to make some type of “set” to lure the coyote into the jaws of the trap. While dozens of books and videos have been made showing how to trap coyotes, for me, I prefer the tried, true and simple method of constructing a dirt hole set. The dirt hole set is simply a hole in the ground with the trap positioned in front of it. The trap should be securely fastened to the ground with a stake or cabled to a nearby tree so that the animal cannot escape. Once the trap is set, it should be carefully camouflaged with sifted soil and blended into the forest floor using pine needles and leaves. Some type of bait is then placed in the hole. When the coyote comes close to investigate, SNAP, he is trapped.
The early coyote and fox trapping season runs from October 16 to October 29, 2016, while the general trapping season for coyote and fox as well as bobcat, marten, mink, muskrat, opossum, otter, raccoon, red squirrel, skunk, weasel runs from October 30 to December 31, 2016.

Scout Bobcats with Game Cameras Now, for Winter Success
Sportsmen looking for a unique challenge should try their hand at hunting bobcats. Being primarily nocturnal, sporting a well-camouflaged coat and possessing the ability to sit motionless for long periods of time, bobcats are elusive creatures and despite years in the woods, many sportsmen have never seen a bobcat in the wild. This leads some uninformed individuals to believe that bobcats are rare or endangered. Scientists, however, estimate bobcat populations to be quite large, with as many as two-thousand existing in Maine and close to one million bobcats in the United States.
Most harvested bobcats are incidentals, shot while hunting other predators like coyotes so to specifically target bobcats; hunters need to know the particular habits of these crafty and methodical felines. To be successful, hunting bobcats, hunters must identify areas where cats are concentrated. The first tactic to employ when hunting bobcats is to locate where they are hiding.
Game cameras provide a viable means of tracking the movement of bobcats and while October may seem early to begin scouting, the last two bobcats I shot were initially seen in game camera photographs taken during the early fall. While I was originally attempting to capture deer movements, seeing these capable deer killing predators on my property lead me to devise a plan to hunt them during the open season running December 1st to February 14th. While territory sizes vary widely for bobcats, measuring up to thirty-six square miles for males to about eighteen square miles for females, I knew that it would be highly probable that a bobcat seen on camera during the summer would likely be prowling nearby come December.
Bobcats have short attention spans, when it comes to erratic prey sounds, so an effective technique employed, to call them to within shooting range, is to turn on an electronic call and letting it play constantly. Popular sounds for luring bobcats into shooting range include a variety of bird and rodent distress noises with wounded woodpecker being a personal favorite. Because of this, electronic calls are superior for bobcats, over hand held calls, as they alleviate the necessity of the caller to attempt to blow on a call for long amounts of time.
Motion decoys also work well for cats as they rely on their eyesight more than their noses when stalking prey. Decoys need not be overly complicated and can be as simple as a turkey feather or tin can lid suspended from a tree branch with a piece of thread and allowed to move in the breeze.
Success at calling in a bobcat is an incredible undertaking and any sportsman able to accomplish the feat certainly deserves a pat on the back. The Stud Mill Road parallels many swampy spruce thickets that hold healthy populations of small game and are magnets for bobcats. Past favorites include the area surrounding Monroe Lake and Monroe Brook and stretching north up South Brook and the Little River (Map 25, C-4, C-5).

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