Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Ice Fishing Preparations

Ice anglers will do well this month to spend a couple hours preparing their ice fishing equipment for when the hard waters return to their favorite fishing spots. I suggest these must do items to ensure your ice fishing traps and equipment are in prime condition before the start of the ice fishing season.

1. Grease all moving parts with Frabill Sub-Zero or Blue Lube.
2. Replace any leader and backer lines that appear worn.
3. Make sure spools are tightly and evenly wound.
4. Adjust spools so they spin freely with little tension.
5. Replace hooks.
6. Startup ice auger, check for proper operation, replace spark plug if necessary.
7. Put a small first aid kit in pack basket.
8. Replace lead sinkers with a non-toxic substitute.
9. Sharpen ice chisels or hand crank augers.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Wildlife Quiz - Sea Ducks

All ducks, including sea ducks belong to the family Anatidae, more commonly known as waterfowl. Anatidae is comprised chiefly of aquatic birds having the physical characteristics of relatively heavy bodies, short legs, webbed feet, bill with toothlike ridges on the biting edges. The family also contains several different species of geese and swans.

Of the 150 species of waterfowl worldwide. Maine has 34 different species including 11 dabbling ducks, 13 diving ducks, 6 sea ducks, and 4 geese. The 6 species of sea ducks include the White Wing Scoter, Black Scoter, Surf Scoter, Long-Tailed Duck (previously known as Oldsquaw) and the Common Eider.

As the name implies, sea ducks are adapted to life at sea. With most spending a considerable portion of the year along our rocky coastline. Eiders even remain in our frigid waters during the winter. This is possible because Eiders have special adaptations for life in cold environments, such as thick fluffy down with supreme insulation properties and veins and arteries in their legs that warm the cold blood before it is returned to the body. In contrast to dabbling and even diving ducks, Sea Ducks must dive to great depths to find food in the deep ocean. Finding such food requires superb diving skills and sea ducks are among the most accomplished divers of all waterfowl, with some reportedly diving to depths of 180 feet. Sea ducks prefer animal foods to plant matter and feed on large invertebrates, including clams, mussels, shrimp, snails and small crabs.

Most sea ducks undergo an annual molt of their feathers between July and September, leaving them flightless for about one month. The birds try to conserve energy while they re-grow their feathers by seeking out safe zones well away from predators and man. Molting flocks should not be approached during this critical time as birds are already faced with significant energetic demands to grow new feathers. Researchers have documented that more than 95% of sea ducks may be predated in their first year, so it’s important to assist these birds as much as possible throughout the molting process. If able to successfully avoid exposure, starvation and predators, sea ducks have been reported living to more than 20 years of age. Sea duck populations appear to have declining worldwide and as such, biologists have been working on new guidelines to establish sustainable harvest strategies.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Deer Hunting Basics

By the time November arrives, a hunter’s dreams have turned to the pursuit of large bodied deer, to assist hunters in achieving the goal of harvesting one of these impressive animals, I am going to share the surprising number one secret to successful deer hunting, mental preparation. A positive attitude is infinitely more important to an outdoorsman than scent blocker clothing, a high end ATV or the latest fad in ballistics. Success in the field is about the ability to remain positive despite the weather, moon phase or week of the rut.  A motivated individual will hunt longer, harder and through more adverse conditions then someone who is unprepared mentally to go the distance. Hunters that truly believe “this is going to be the day”, are much more likely to be in the woods during that critical time. 
Most individuals are prone to invoke certain skills that allow them to sharpen their mental focus and attitude. For example, taking a deep breath to settle ones shooting hand, counting footfalls while climbing a steep incline or even pinching one’s self to keep from falling asleep. I even have a friend, who had been on a seven year losing streak and claims his success last deer season was due to the purchase of a rabbit’s foot! Obviously, rabbit feet have little direct connection with success in the field; however, their indirect effect is that they instill confidence, a characteristic key to filing a tag.  

Friday, October 5, 2018

Central Maine Expanded Archery

This hunting season the state’s expanded archery zones are open from September 8 to December 8, 2018. The intent of the expanded zones is to have hunting occur in areas that are not open to firearms hunting due to municipal firearms discharge ordinances. This provides deer hunting opportunities in locations in where deer populations can withstand additional hunting pressure without negatively impacting human safety. A number of these designated areas exist throughout the state of Maine but for the purpose of brevity, I am going to concentrate on the “Waterville” zone. 

The Waterville zone includes the towns of Waterville, Benton, Fairfield, Oakland, Sidney and Winslow. Like most of the towns and cities within the expanded archery zones, these areas are comprised of intensive residential development interspersed with small woodlots. As such, a majority of the land in the expanded archery hunting area is privately owned and hunters are strongly encouraged to obtain landowner permission. The City of Waterville even has in place a very strict Public Safety Ordnance stating: 

Monday, October 1, 2018

Wildlife Quiz - Harbor Seal

The Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina) of the Atlantic Ocean, inhabits the coast beaches and islands from Maine south to Massachusetts. Occasionally, Harbor Seals can be found in Connecticut, Long Island, New Jersey and even as far south as North Carolina.

Individual Harbor Seals possess widely varied brown, silvery white, tan, or gray bodies dotted with a unique pattern of dark spots. The underparts are generally lighter in color. This highly evolved color pattern, helps camouflage the Harbor Seal and allows it to be extremely adept at avoiding predators. The Harbor Seal flippers are short yet extremely powerful. The head is rounded and the muzzle nostrils appear distinctively V-shaped. Adult Harbor Seals can attain a length of 6 ft and a mass of 300 lb. Most of this weight is comprised of blubber, a fatty substance that allows the seal to stay warm in the frigid waters of the Atlantic.

In Maine, birthing of pups occurs on shore, through the months of April - June. Female Harbor Seals bear a single pup, after a nine-month gestation, which they care for alone. Pups (immature Harbor Seals) are born well developed, capable of swimming and diving within hours of birth. Young pups begin life feeding on their mother’s milk but grow rapidly and within 4 weeks wean and begin eating a diet comprised of squid, carbs, clams and fish. Harbor seals have even been seen killing and eating several different kinds of ducks.

If able to successfully avoid predators like sharks, Killer Whales and Polar Bears, Harbor Seals have been known to reach a maximum age of 36 years old.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Bear and Turkey Hunting in Central Maine

September arrives, bringing with it a marked decrease in the number of biting insects, a slight nip to the evening air and dramatic color changes in local foliage. It is also this 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 a crescendo.

One of the events I will be partaking in this hunting season is the pursuit of black bears in Central Maine! Yes, that is right folks, multiple black bear sightings have been made in the state capitol right here in Augusta. Several bears have even been sighted just a few miles from my house. While some might not like the idea of a large predator roaming around in their backyard, for me this is exciting news!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Wildlife Quiz - Common Loon

The Common Loon (Gavia immer) frequently can be heard singing it’s hauntingly beautiful call on lakes and ponds throughout its widely distributed range which includes Alaska, North America, Mexico, Europe, Africa and even rarely in Japan.

The calls of the Loon widely vary in accordance with perceived threats, territorial disputes, distress, mating and to communicate location. The most common Loon vocalization is the tremolo or “laughing” call. This call is characterized by its short wavering quality. It is comprised of 8-10 high notes and is used primarily to communicate a loons presence to other loons on a body of water.

It is also the only call Loons use during flight. Adult Loons possess exquisite plumage that includes a black-and-white checkered back, iridescent black head, black bill, red eyes, a prominent white "necklace" marking around the neck, and a much smaller white “chinstrap” marking at the throat. The sexes look alike, though males are significantly larger and heavier than females. T

he Loon has an innate and natural ability to catch fish that would make any angler jealous. Able to dive underwater as deep as 200 ft the Loon has no problem chasing, catching and eating fish as well as a wide range of other prey animals including clams, crayfish, insects and even aquatic plants. They swallow most prey underwater, where it is caught, but sometimes must surface to consume larger items. Evolution provided the Loon with powerful legs and pelvic muscles for swimming but is ungainly on land due to the legs being positioned at the rear of its body.

In early May, both the male and female Loon work to construct a large nest out of grasses along the shore. A single brood is raised each year with 1-2 chicks. Within hours of hatching, the young leave the nest with the parents, swimming close by and sometimes riding on one parent’s back. Both parents feed the chicks live prey from hatching to fledging and as they grow, they become able to feed and fend for themselves after about two months. Biologists have estimated that a pair of loons raising two chicks feed on approximately 1,000 lbs of fish during the 6 months they spend in their breeding grounds.

If able to successfully avoid predators, like snapping turtles, seagulls, bald eagles and northern pike the Loon can live up to 20 years, with the maximum recorded age being 29 years 10 months.

Wildlife Quiz Questions: 
1. What is the native range of the Loon?
2. What do the various calls of the Loon signify?
3. What is the most common Loon vocalization?
4. How can you tell the difference between a male and female Loon?
5. How deep underwater can a Loon dive?
6. What do Loons eat?
7. How much do Loons eat?
8. How long does a Loon typically live?

Wildlife Quiz Answers: 
1. The native range of the Loon includes Alaska, North America, Mexico, Europe, Africa and even rarely in Japan.
2. The various calls of the Loon signify perceived threats, territorial disputes, distress, mating and communicate location.
3. The most common Loon vocalization is the tremolo or “laughing” call.
4. The Loon sexes look alike, though males are significantly larger and heavier than females.
5. Loons are able to dive underwater as deep as 200 ft.
6. Loons eat a wide range of other prey animals including clams, crayfish, insects and even aquatic plants.
7. Biologists have estimated that a pair of loons raising two chicks feed on approximately 1,000 lbs of fish during the 6 months they spend in their breeding grounds.
8. The loon can live up to 20 years, with the maximum recorded age being 29 years 10 months.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Bear Hunting With Hounds

The echoing chorus of the pack, fractures the early morning silence and the chase is on. My heart rate quickens as the howls of the excited hounds reaches crescendo, indicating they are hot on the trail of a bruin. Early game camera pictures had indicated that a bear well in excess of 200 pounds had been a regular visitor to this particular bait site and I hoped the hounds were on his track. 

As the sounds of the hounds grow distant, I wander over to the guide to examine his handheld GPS dog tracking unit. A true marvel, the GPS unit is capable of tracking the movements of each individual dog, as well as indicating when a dog is sitting (resting) or has treed a bear. Given the massive size of the territory we are hunting, I cannot fathom how difficult hounding must have been before these units and their predecessor’s radio collar telemetry were created. How a hounds man ever recovered his dogs after chasing a bear across this expansive country must have required a Herculean effort. Watching the hounds give chase to the bear on the small screen is addictive. The track of the hounds is overlaid on top of a detailed topographical map and shows the bear following streams and crawling through cedar bogs in an effort to evade the rapidly advancing hounds. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Wildlife Quiz - Bluegills

The Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) exists as a species of freshwater fish sometimes referred to as bream or brim and is a member of the sunfish family of fishes. Native to North America, Bluegills inhabit almost every body of water in the United States. While extremely prolific and able to thrive in a wide diversity of aquatic ecosystems, Bluegills prefer to inhabit shallow waters that contain larger rocks, tree stumps, logs and other underwater structure where they can seek protection from predators such as bass, northern pike, herons, snapping turtles and otters.

Bluegills average in length from 6-12 inches and weigh from 1-4 pounds. The Bluegill is thus named, for the dark blue coloration of the sides of its head and chin. Bluegills also possess a distinctive large black spot on the edge of both its gill plates. The belly of a female bluegill is a fiery yellow, while the belly of a breeding male is typically a rusty red color. The largest Bluegill ever caught was 4 pounds, 12 ounces and 15 inches long in 1950 and still stands as the all time record.

 Breeding typically occurs in May-August in nests built by the male.  Males build nests by using their tails to create shallow depressions in shallow waters. Female crappies deposit eggs in these depressions. Males release milt to fertilize the eggs and eggs and sperm become mixed. After spawning, the male chases the female out of the area and guards the nest until the eggs hatch 5 days after initial fertilization. As fry grow into fingerlings and finally adults, they feed on a progressively larger and wider array of plankton, crustaceans, insects and small fish. Bluegills reach sexual maturity at one year, with those hatchlings fortunate enough to evade predators living for up to eight years in the wilds. 

Wildlife Quiz Questions:
  1. What is the native range of the Bluegill?
  2. By what other names are Bluegills called?
  3. What predators feed on Bluegills?
  4. How big is the average Bluegill?
  5. How big was the largest Bluegill ever caught?
  6. When does the Bluegill breeding season begin?
  7. What do Bluegills eat?
  8. How long do Bluegills live?
Wildlife Quiz Answers:
  1. The native range of the Bluegill includes most of North America.
  2. Bluegills are also called Brim, Bream and Sunfish.
  3. Bass, northern pike, herons, snapping turtles and otters all feed on Bluegills.
  4. The average Bluegill is between 6-12 inches and weighs between 1-4 pounds.
  5. The largest Bluegill ever caught weighed 4 pounds, 12 ounces and was 15 inches long.
  6. The Bluegill breeding season starts in May and runs into August.
  7. Bluegills feed on a large array of plankton, crustaceans, insects and small fish.
  8. Bluegills can live to be about 8 years old in the wild. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Surfcasting Central Maine’s Coastal Beaches

Casting a lure into turbid breakers or fishing bait off bottom, anyone who has not tried surfcasting is missing out on a truly unique fishing experience. Fortunately, Maine provides ample opportunities for sportsman, interested in trying their hand at surfcasting. Our coastline is dotted with sandy beaches, perfect for catching stripers and occasional blue fish. While it is possible to catch fish along the banks of the Kennebec up to Augusta, better fishing exists further down the coast. Anglers should focus efforts on areas such as Hills beach at the mouth of the Saco River, Parsons and Cresent Surf beach at the mouth of the Mousam River. Also as the month of July grows long, Pemaquid Beach Park, Popham Beach State Park, and Mile Beach at Reid State Park all offer excellent fishing opportunities. 

To combat crowds, focus fishing to the prime early morning and evening hours when fish are most active and beach goers most inactive. Also, keep a close eye on the fishing line to insure you don’t accidentally snag dogs or small children.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Wildlife Quiz - Bald Eagle

The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) inhabits an impressive native range that includes most of Canada and Alaska, the United States and northern Mexico. The wide spread use of the pesticide DDT nearly destroyed Maine’s Bald Eagle population. In 1965 state wildlife biologists estimate that only half a dozen nesting pairs of Bald Eagles existed in the entire state of Maine. Fortunately, large scale conservation efforts have brought Bald Eagle populations back form the point of extinction and today, Maine is home to over 600 nesting pairs of Bald Eagles. 

Bald Eagles are not “bald” as the name implies. Instead both the male and female have white feather plumed heads and tails that provide a stark contrast to their mainly brown feathered bodies. Classified as a bird of prey or raptor, Bald Eagles have keen vision for finding food, sharp talons for holding food, and a strong curved beak for tearing flesh. Bald Eagles feed primarily on fish but also consumes birds and small animals. Bald Eagles have also been known to be opportunistic, eating carrion such as road kill.  

Bald Eagles nest in large old-growth trees located in close proximity to open bodies of water possessing an abundant food source. Nests or “aeries” are the largest of any avian species, averaging 10 ft deep, 6 ft wide and weighing almost a ton. The Bald Eagle breeding season in Maine runs from February 1 through August 15. Throughout this time, mating pairs will frequently engage in impressive courtship flights. During the courting flight, the two Bald Eagles will fly high into the sky, lock talons and cartwheel spin as they fall toward the ground, breaking apart at the last possible second. Bald eagles have lifetime mates usually looking for a new mate only if its companion dies. Females lay 1-3 eggs that hatch in approximately 35 days. After the laying of eggs, both parents take turns hunting for food, incubating eggs and feeding the eaglets. Eaglets fledge at the age of 12 weeks. Bald eagles tend to build nests, when possible away from human activity. When disturbed, Bald Eagles have been known to abandon their nest.

Wildlife Quiz Questions:
  1. What is the range of the Bald Eagle?
  2. What pesticide nearly destroyed Maine’s Bald Eagle population?
  3. How many nesting pairs of Bald Eagles currently live in Maine?
  4. What do Bald Eagles eat?
  5. When is the Bald Eagle breeding season in Maine?
  6. How many eggs do female Bald Eagles typically lay?
  7. How long does it take for Bald Eagle eggs to hatch?
  8. How long after hatching does it take for eaglets to fledge?
Wildlife Quiz Answers:
  1. The Bald Eagle inhabits an impressive native range that includes most of Canada and Alaska, the United States and northern Mexico.
  2. The wide spread use of the pesticide DDT nearly destroyed Maine’s Bald Eagle population.
  3. Maine is home to over 600 nesting pairs of Bald Eagles.
  4. Bald Eagles feed primarily on fish but also consumes birds and small animals.
  5. The Bald Eagle breeding season in Maine runs from February 1 through August 15.
  6. Female Bald Eagles typically lay 1-3 eggs.
  7. Bald Eagle eggs hatch in approximately 35 days.
  8. Eaglets fledge at the age of 12 weeks.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Wormin' - Catching and Keeping Your Own

One of the simple pleasures in life is striving to be more self sufficient. I feel at times we as a society are losing this seemingly innate ability, instead being lulled into complacency. Perhaps it’s our “modern” lifestyle or perhaps something harder to define but either way, fewer and fewer people seem to be catching their own bait these days. While there is nothing wrong with buying worms from the local convenience store, those who do not at least understand how to harvest their own fishing bait are missing a vital part of the entire cycle. 
Catch Em’
As a kid, one of the most interesting parts of any fishing trip happened days before when we would grab flashlights and quietly sneak across the lawn in search of night crawlers. If it rained earlier in the day, the evening was sure to entice dozens of large crawlers to emerge from their tunnels. Contrary to popular opinion, night crawlers do not emerge from their tunnels for fear of drowning. Instead, rain and high humidity allow worms of all species to move above the ground at night without fear of drying out and dying. Above the surface, worms can move about more freely than underground to explore new territory and find food. 
While finding night crawlers is a relatively easy task, extracting them from their burrows requires practice. Night crawlers are covered in tiny bristles or setae that help them crawl as well as serving to anchor them firmly in their burrows. To pull a night crawler out of its burrow, a person must apply gentle but constant pulling pressure. Too little and the worm slips away, too much and the worm breaks in half. 
A quick search of the internet will yield many other interesting ways to catch worms, including using dish soap, car batteries and even chainsaws. While I like technology just as much as the next person, I have to say that in this case, I am just going to stick to the old methods and leave the “high tech” worm catching methods to the professionals. 

Friday, June 1, 2018

Wildlife Quiz - Brown Trout

The Brown Trout by Steve Vose
The Brown Trout (Salmo trutta), also known as German Brown Trout, Brownie, Loch Leven Trout and Saibling, exists as a game fish native to Europe but stocked throughout South America, North America, New Zealand, Australia and many other countries. The Brown Trout was first introduced into the United States in 1884 when they were released into the Baldwin River in Michigan.

Brown Trout possess light brown coloration with pronounced black spots on the back, sides and head. These black spots are ringed with a red halo. Red spots also exist all along its sides.

In Maine, Brown Trout tend to thrive in lakes, ponds and streams that would kill Brook Trout and Salmon. Because of this Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is looking at the Brown Trout to support a viable sport fishery of the future in “marginal” waters. 
Brown Trout can grow to huge sizes depending on habitat. In a small ponds, for example, a 16-inch brown is considered big, while in large lakes they can weigh 10-20 lbs depending on available feed. In Maine, the normal size for a Brown Trout is 14-20 inches and 1-2 pounds. Maine Brown Tout will occasionally reach 10 pounds.

Young Brown Trout survive on a diet of aquatic and terrestrial insects, but browns larger than 12 inches feed primarily on large prey such as other fish, crawfish and even mice. Big Brown Trout also move very little during the day light, instead preferring to hunt for food primarily at night. Scientists tracking the movements of big Brown Trout have determined that during day light hours big Brown Trout barely move from their protective hiding places but at night they will travel miles in search of food.  

Brown Trout spawn in the fall. Young Brown Trout (fry) emerge from the eggs early in the spring and immediately begin searching for food. If able to successfully avoid predators, Brown Trout may live to exceed 20 years. 

Wildlife Quiz Questions:
  1. To what other names is the Brown Trout known to be called?
  2. What is the only continent where the Brown Trout is native?
  3. When was the Brown Trout First Stocked in the United States?
  4. What is the size of an average Maine Brown Trout?
  5. What do Brown Trout larger than 12 inches primarily feed on?
  6. When do Brown Trout spawn?
  7. What are baby Brown Trout called?
  8. How long can a Brown Trout live?

Wildlife Quiz Answers:
  1. The Brown Trout is also know to be called German Brown Trout, Brownie, Loch Leven Trout and Saibling.
  2. The only continent where the Brown Trout is native is Europe.
  3. The Brown Trout was first introduced into the United States in 1884.
  4. An average Maine Brown Trout is 14-20 inches and 1-2 pounds.
  5. Browns larger than 12 inches feed primarily on large prey such as other fish, crawfish and even mice
  6. Brown Trout spawn in the Fall.
  7. Baby Brown Trout are called fry.
  8. If successful in avoiding predators, a Brown Trout can live to exceed 20 years old. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Smoked Turkey

Last turkey season, my sons, the Wildman eleven and Manimal nine years old, both harvested a tom turkey on youth day. Both birds were impressive specimensin their own right with one bird sporting a 10.5 inch beard and the other 1.5 inch spurs, each were just shy of 20 pounds, true trophies any sportsman would be happy to harvest. My youngest sat with me and shot his turkey in less than ten minutes, while my eldest sat with his Grampie and had to wait an excruciating long hour and fifty minutes. These gifts from the heavens didn’t just happen, they happened because I spent weeks scouting and tracking turkey movements with game cameras to lock down a solid knowledge of their daily patterns. I noted that these particular toms were strutting through our woodlot about every other day approximately between 7-9:00 am. 
With young kids, 2 hours is about all their attentions spans can handle, after that they are spent and the downward spiral to not having a good time begins. Note that this timeframe can be stretched with chocolate and good reading materials! Knowing that I had a small window of attention, I rolled the dice, got the kids up much later than on a normal turkey hunt and crossed my fingers. Lady luck smiled on us, however, and my son and I managed to squeeze into the blind right just before a huge gobble erupted in the woods only a dozen yard from where we were sitting. I clucked once on the slate call and the gobbler ran into the small field where we were sitting. Manimal raised his shotgun and BANG it was over. After the shot, Manimal turned, looked me in the eye and said, ummm, ummm I do love me some smoked turkey. I laughed so hard, I nearly had an asthma attack!  

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Wildlife Quiz - American Robin

The American Robin by Steve Vose
The American Robin (Turdus migratorius), a member of the “thrush” family of avian, inhabits an impressive range stretching across Alaska, Canada, the United States and Mexico. Most American Robins migrate south for the winter, returning to their native breeding grounds, shortly after the snow begins to melt. 

American Robins or just plain “Robins”, as they are more commonly called, possess a dark black head, back and wings, accentuated by a beautifully colored reddish-orange breast that stretches from the rump to the base of their neck. In flight, a white patch under the rump can easily be seen, further assisting identification. Robins can also be located by their song, a high, shrill, often sharp ki, ki, ki, ki, typically heard at the first light of dawn.

In urban areas, Robins are frequent lawn visitors, where their impressive hearing allows them to forage for subterranean earth worms, beetle grubs, grasshoppers, caterpillars and other small invertebrates. In more forested areas, Robins also feed on wild nuts and berries.

One of the earliest bird species to lay eggs, female Robins build nests and begin breeding shortly after returning to its summer range.  Females construct nests by forming dead grass, moss, paper and twigs into a cup shape, reinforced with soft mud. Females typically lay 3-5 unmarked blue-green eggs that hatch in approximately 13 days. If juveniles can grow into healthy adults and avoid predators including hawks, cats and large snakes, Robins can live to be almost 14 years of age. 

Wildlife Quiz Questions:
  1. To what family of avian do Robins belong?
  2. Do Robin’s migrate south for the winter?
  3. What color is a Robin’s breast?
  4. In flight what detail makes Robin’s easy to identify?
  5. How many eggs do Robin’s typically lay?
  6. How long after hatching do eggs hatch?
  7. What are the natural predators of the Robin?
  8. How long do Robins live?

Wildlife Quiz Answers:
  1. Robin’s belong to the thrush family of avian. 
  2. Yes, a majority but not all Robin’s migrate south for the winter.
  3. A Robin’s breast is a beautifully reddish-orange coloration.
  4. In flight Robins can be easily identified by a white patch on its rump.
  5. Robin’s typically lay 3-5 unmarked blue-green eggs.
  6. Eggs hatch approximately 13 days after being laid.
  7. Robins are preyed upon by hawks, cats and large snakes.
  8. Robins can live up to almost 14 years of age.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Wildlife Quiz - Spiders

Spiders exist within the class of arachnids, which also includes ticks, mites and scorpions. A spider’s body is divided into two sections, a cephalothorax, containing the eyes, mouthparts, and legs and an abdomen, containing the genitals, spiracles and anus. Unlike insects, spiders have eight legs and lack antennae. Spiders also have the unique ability to spin silk which is used to make webs for trapping prey or transportation/escape.
Spiders are beneficial because they feed heavily on insects, thus helping to keep global numbers in check. Some spiders (like the funnel building Grass Spider) wait for prey to get caught in their webs while others (like the Dark Fishing Spider) actively hunt for prey.
Spiders inhabit every continent except for Antarctica and have been on earth since the Triassic period, over 200 million years ago. Scientists have currently identified approximately 45,700 different species of spiders. Currently 40 different species of spiders call Maine home. 
Only a relatively small number of spiders are very poisonous and even these seldom bite humans unless provoked. Because many people have a strong aversion to spiders, they tend to be killed indiscriminately even if they are harmless. Only two spiders have been found in Maine that are dangerous to human. While not Maine natives, both the black widow and brown recluse spiders occasionally hitch hike their way into the state via shipping boxes, old furniture or luggage. For this reason, it is important when traveling or receiving clothing or furniture from southern climates that they be thoroughly inspected for possible infestation.

Wildlife Quiz - Fisher Cat

The Fisher (Pekania pennanti) exists as a member of the mustelid family. While frequently called Fisher Cat, the Fisher is not in any way related to the feline species. Instead, the Fisher shares many common traits with other mustelids such as; weasels, martens and otters.
The Fisher’s native range includes Canada and the northern United States where it thrives in these regions boreal forests. A crepuscular creature, the fisher prefers to hunt during dusk and dawn. Despite its common name, the Fisher rarely eats fish, instead it spends a majority of its time stalking small mammals, including squirrels, rabbits and its favorite prey the porcupine. The Fisher exits as one of the few animals able to effective dispatch and consume porcupines without becoming injured. 
Male and female fisher share similar features. Both possess long, thin, bodies and a sleek black coloration similar to an oversized mink. Fishers however are much larger than their comparatively diminutive mink cousins, with male averaging around 10 pounds and females averaging 5 pounds. The largest Fisher ever recorded weighed 20 pounds. Retractable claws allow the Fisher with the ability to maneuver well in trees, even possessing the ability to climb down trees head-first a trait shared by very few mammalian species.
The Fisher mating cycle starts with both males and females actively finding mates during March and April. After implantation, the pregnancy is delayed for 10 months until the following February. Female Fishers then give birth to a litter of three or four kits in the early spring. The female nurses and cares for the kits until late summer, when they are 5 months the kits set out on their own to establish new ranges.

Spectacular Brown Trout

Historically Speaking 
 Resilient and possessing an innate ability to survive in adverse conditions, the Brown Trout thrives in “marginal” waters that would likely kill other trout species. Because of this, Brown Trout will likely become the future of sport fishing in Central Maine. Since 2003, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has been studying three different strains of Brown Trout brood stock, in an effort to determine which is best to use to stock Maine waters. The study, set to conclude in 2020, will ultimately determine which of the three Brown Trout will be most successful in competing for survival in waters currently home to many aggressive fish species.

The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, “Brown Trout Management Plan” states that, “Brown trout are a well-accepted part of Maine’s fisheries management program. Their attractiveness as a sport fish and their ability to adapt to a wide range of habitats has made them invaluable in providing a sport fishery in many lakes, ponds and streams which otherwise would have none.” Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has obviously put a lot of effort into determining how the Brown Trout best fits into the Maine biome and should be commended. Brown Trout aren’t native to Maine, but they are still a challenging fish worthy of catching.

Kill Coyotes in Central Maine

Kill More Coyotes
            Regularly killing coyotes is something I equate to an art form. These wily predators are incredibly gifted in knowing and effectively avoiding danger. To consistently out smart these canines, hunters must be flexible and not afraid to try new techniques and tactics.
Baiting and Calling Coyotes
            For many years, I hunted coyotes over bait sites. While extremely effective, the hassle of securing landowner permission, setting up a shack, finding fresh bait and hunting the bait almost every night (who wants to feed coyotes!) finally all had me reaching a point where baiting was no longer fun, it was just work. I knew that there had to be a simpler way to hunt coyotes that was easier but also continued to remain extremely effective.
            Hunters who practice the art of calling coyotes not only free themselves from the burden of managing bait sites but also expose them to a whole new world of coyote hunting that bait hunters don’t get to experience. This isn’t to say anything negative about bait hunting, as I still believe this is an extremely effective way of killing coyotes and helping manage their population. Similar to the sportsman, who prefers to stand hunt rather than still hunt for deer or vice versa, running, calling and gunning for coyotes differs greatly from baiting and is a fun challenge all sportsmen should try.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Critical Ice Fishing Updates

My old Jiffy ice auger coughed, wheezed and finally sputtered to life like an asthmatic struggling for a last strained breath at a dust mite convention. Loaded with last year’s “un-stabilized” ethanol fuel and operating in an ambient temperatures just above freezing, the poor old girl’s carburetor strained to maintain a healthy purr. Despite her initial complaints, the beast to tore four impressive ten inch holes through the ice and in the process, just about rattle every filling out of my skull. Then suddenly and quite unexpectedly something inside the machine made a loud “clank”, the motor whined, bucked and then died. A quiet calm settled onto the lake, as the last echoes of the augers final belches of exhaust spewed out of its muffler. This incident marked for me the end of an era, a final goodbye salute to an old friend. It also proved to be the last time I ever picked up a gasoline powered ice auger.
ION Ice Auger ROCKS!
Years ago, I would have scoffed at the prospects of an “electric” powered ice auger but the Ion Electric Ice Auger is an amazing piece of equipment. Powerful, fast and QUIET, the 8 inch ION will drill up to 40 holes through 2 feet of ice on a single charge. At just 22 pounds, the ION is just shy of half the weight of my old gas powered ice auger and boasts special blades that create smooth breakthroughs and no jarring stops. Add the ION’s ability to reverse its blade and flush slush down the hole and it’s blatantly obvious that this auger should be on every anglers most wanted list. I purchased my ION about 4 years ago and since that time, the company has continued to make numerous updates and changes to the original ION to make it even more effective in cutting ice.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Choosing the Perfect Generator

If there is one thing that the wind storm of October 29th, 2017 taught me, it’s the importance of having a generator to run critical appliances during an extended power outage. If not for a friend allowing me to borrow his generator, 7 days without power would have caused all of the food in my freezer to spoil.

Determined never to be caught in such an awkward situation again, I recently purchased a generator of my own. Purchasing a generator was not a task I took lightly and my final selection was done after completing considerable research on several of the most popular generators on the market. The first thing anyone will notice when selecting a generator is that there are a vast number of makes and models available. Finding the perfect fit is accomplished by determining a balance between, price, weight, wattage, decibel (db) rating and fuel type.

Generators come in two main categories, stationary and portable. Stationary generators are large, powerful, expensive devices designed to run entire households, businesses and hospitals. Portable generators are relatively light, easier on the wallet and of course transportable. In this article, I will be discussing portable generators.

Determining Power Needs 
There is no question that a generator is practical during a power outage but aside from that, generators are also valuable for providing power while tailgating, at “off-grid” cabins, when RV camping or running and charging tools at construction sites. For me, I needed a generator that would provide emergency power at my home and when not needed at home, provide electrical power for a small “off-grid” cabin. Generally, higher wattage generators cost more, are heavier and consume more fuel. For these reasons, it’s important when selecting a generator to first determine how much power (wattage) is need. To answer this question, determine what electronic devices you plan to simultaneously run as well as the wattage of the largest appliance requiring power. Most electrical devices require more power to start than they do to run, so be sure to look at an appliances start-up wattage as well as its running wattage. For my situation, I only needed enough power to run a couple lights (180w), charge my cell phone (25w) and run a refrigerator (700w), coffee maker (1000w), microwave (1000w) and a selection of power tools during construction projects, circular saw (1400w) and table saw (2000w). Since it would never be necessary to run all of these appliances and tools in unison, I calculated that a 2000 watt generator would likely provide me with all of the power needed. The Internet contains charts listing the power requirements of hundreds of different appliances so when determining exact power needs be sure to conduct a Google search for “wattage calculator”.

Fuel Choices 
Generators run on a variety of different fuels including, natural gas, propane, diesel, regular gasoline, mixed gasoline and even solar. To simplify the available choices, two fuels stand out as the most viable options, propane and regular gasoline. Deciding on one or both of these fuels (some generators can run on both propane and gasoline) is really up to the individual. Dual fuel generators cost more, single fuel generators cost less. Also, how often will the generator be in operation, once a year or practically all the time? Gasoline has a shorter shelf life than propane and if planning to pull out a generator 1-2 times a year for emergency power, a consumer could potentially want a propane model. For me, running a generator practically all of the time, for a variety of different purposes, regular gasoline seemed the best option both for its widespread availability and ease of use.

Finding a Balance 
Now with an understanding of my anticipated power needs, I then began looking at the next two critical factors, weight and decibel rating. Since my generator was going to be transported between home and camp, it was important to select a model I could easily load and unload from my truck. Also, because the generator was going to be used at my cabin, I really wanted a model that was quiet, thus maintaining the serenity of the locale.

Making a Final Selection 
After compiling all of the information, I began searching the Internet for a generator that would fit all of my anticipated needs. After looking at several different brands, I finally settled on four of the mostly highly reviewed and consumer recommended models. On this list were the Honda EU2000, $899, 59 db, 51 lbs, Champion 2800, $899, 58 db, 95lbs, Yamaha EF2000isv2, $989, 51.5 db, 44.1lbs and Generac GP2200, $599, 60 db, 46.6 lbs. Given how close all of the generators were in what they were able to provide and the similarities in costs, my final decision was made by eliminating the Champion model because of weight, eliminating the Yamaha model due to price and eliminating the Generac model because it received a lower consumer recommendation than the Honda.

As such, my final decision on a generator was the Honda EU2000, a machine possessing the perfect mix of all of the key ingredients and power I needed. An important additional item is that if not concerned about a generators weight and decibel rating, a considerable amount of money can be saved. For example the Champion 3650 is a loud 68 db and heavy at 98lbs but provides well over 3500 watts at a bargain price of $319.

Cautions and Dangers 
Generators are NEVER to be operated inside an enclosed area, as they emit carbon monoxide that can kill people and pets in minutes. Care should even be taken not to run a generator in close proximity to an open door or window, as dangerous fumes can still enter interior spaces. Generator can safely provide power by either using extension chord(s) to provide power to a homes electronics or by hard wiring directly into a homes fuse box. Portable “emergency” generators (2000w and lower) tend to be used by a majority of homeowners using extension chords. Larger generators (2000w and greater) tend to be hard wired, as this is a safer and more convenient model. Homeowners wishing to hardwire their generator should have the installation completed by a certified electrician and thoroughly understand how the generator is connected to the house’s electrical system and the power grid.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Pike Fishing Primer

I am excited at having been chosen as the new Central Maine writer and I look forward to chronicling my outdoor adventures with family and friends throughout this region for many, many years to come. It is my hope that through this sharing, I am able to provide knowledge and information that enriches the outdoor experiences of my readership and helps nurture our sporting heritage and traditions. Thanks for following along!

Pike Fishing Primer 
Ask most Northern Pike enthusiasts about ice fishing and you will hear a lot of stories about catching them early and late in the hard water season. This is because both during early ice (December) and in the spring (late February), Northern Pike can be found in fairly shallow water, clustered around weed beds and the mouths of tributaries in search of food. By January, however, Pike have moved out of the shallows and into deeper waters in their relentless pursuit of food. This migration makes the job of finding pike a much more difficult endeavor. To turn the odds in your favor, anglers need to first target lakes containing Pike.

Location, Location, Location In central Maine, finding a lake containing pike is becoming an increasingly easier and easier task. This is both unfortunate to angling traditionalists and exciting to those of us who simply like to catch monstrous sized fish. When in pursuit of Pike, it is important to note that not all central Maine lakes are created equal. Some lakes simply produce larger pike than others. Lakes in central Maine that consistently produce trophy sized Pike include: Great Pond, (DeLorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 20 ,E-4) Messalonskee Lake, (Map 21 ,E-1) Long Pond, (Map 20 ,E-4) North Pond, (Map 20 ,D-4) and Annabessacook Lake (Map 12 ,C-3).

No matter what time of year, Pike are still ambush feeders. Even though pike may have departed from their classic shallow water territories, they will still congregate around some type structure where they can lay and wait for unsuspecting prey. Structure in deep water includes rock piles or steep drop offs. Study lake maps to find shelfs, corners or dips that interrupt these drop offs, as they provide places for Pike to hide as they wait for bait fish to swim along these breaklines. Spot and Stalk After selecting a promising location, start drilling holes, a lot of holes. Those who lament at this tedious chore would be well served to invest in an ION electric ice auger. Light enough to be lifted with a single finger; this amazing device really simplifies the chore of pounding holes through the ice.

I like to compare Pike fishing to deer hunting. There are stand hunters and there are spot and stalk deer hunters. By drilling only a few holes, anglers are waiting and wishing that a Pike will swim by their jig or bait. Instead of using this passive technique, I recommend actively stalking the Pike by drilling 15-20 holes in varying depths along a section of promising structure. Jig each hole for a maximum of 20-30 minutes to actively locate fish. Using modern electronics, like a flasher, can help find fish faster but anglers can still have great luck by simply being proactive in their drilling and jigging.

Pike will eat almost anything and as such, have been caught by anglers on almost every type of fishing lure imaginable. With that said, however, there are certain lures that tend to work better than others when in pursuit of big, wall hanger Pike. Vertical Spoons like the Swedish Pimple and Acme Kastmaster, are favorites and their performance can be improved by adding a piece of cut bait on one of the hooks, a killer combination. Drop the lure to the bottom, lift, drop and lift 5-6 more times then hold it still. Pike often hit the lure when it stops moving. Often I let the lure sit for a couple seconds, then proceed to give it a slight twitch before jigging again. Often that little twitch is all it takes to elicit a brutal strike. Tip-ups While jigging catches a lot of Pike, anglers should not limit themselves to only one line in the water. When done in unison, jigging and using tip-ups serve up a lethal combination of techniques that put Pike on the ice. As Pike are generally curious creatures, aggressively jigging lures, creating a disturbance around a tip-up will often increase the number of catches in a day dramatically Tip-ups are an extremely effective means of presenting big bait to big Pike.

A sturdy tip-up with a large spool capable of holding 300 feet of line and having a tension adjustment, helps to keep large bait from continually triggering the flag. Generally, the bigger the Pike being targeted the bigger the bait that should be used. A live Sucker or Golden Shiner in the 6-8 inch range will be an irresistible meal to an 18-20 pound pike. Just make sure to anchor it solidly in place, using a 1/2 ounce sinker, so that it cannot escape. Big Pike are notoriously lazy and don’t like to expend a lot of energy in pursuit of a meal. This past ice fishing season, I used dead bait and had a higher catch rate than with live bait. Often with Pike fishing, it pays dividends to mix it up now and then.

Speaking of mixing it up, Google and buy the “Quick Strike Rig for Pike” and watch your rate of successful hook-ups soar! I have checked with my contact at the Maine warden service and been assured that these devices are legal for fishing purposes as long as “both of the devices hooks penetrate a single bait, so as to catch a single fish.” When drilling holes and rigging tip-ups, I like to drill my holes parallel to promising structure and set baits at two feet off the bottom. If after a couple hours, I don’t elicit a strike, I will move the tip-ups to alternate pre-drilled holes in other promising locations. FLAG!

When a pike grabs the bait line typically flies off the spool at such a rate of speed that a roster tail of water flies off the back of the spool. I usually allow the fish to run until it stops. This is when a pike typically swallow the bait. As soon as the line again begins to spool out, immediately set the hook. In deep water this technique is usually very effective in making sure the Pike is well hooked. In shallow waters or in waters with a lot of underwater structure, it is better to simply set the line as fast as possible. Once caught, Pike will try everything they can to break off and will quickly become entangled in rocks, branches, submerged trees and any other structure so they can to escape.
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