Sunday, December 1, 2019

On Thin Ice

On Thin Ice
            On December 7th 2018, I was fishing with a friend on Togus Pond. A car drove by and asked us, “How much ice?” When I replied, “Three and a half inches.” The driver responded, “You guys are $%&* nuts!” Likely unknown to the driver was that we were only fishing in water less than 2 feet deep and ventured no further than a dozen feet from shore. When ice fishing during the early season, there is no reason to risk life and limb when brook trout are frequently found in shallow water only a few feet from shore. While nobody wants to take an icy plunge through the ice in December, if it happens in two feet of water, it’s an inconvenience and not a tragedy.
Spud Light
            Thin early season ice means little effort is required to pop in holes. Typically this task can be easily accomplished without the use of an ice auger. Ice fishermen can instead use an ice chisel or a “spud” to punch the necessary hole in the ice. This means that it’s not necessary to lug around a heavy auger, a task that as I grow older has less and less appeal.
Keep it Light
When ice fishing brookies, it pays to modify fishing outfits to match the intended target species. Success often is easier won when heavier “pike”, “salmon” or “togue” sized fishing rigs are replaced with lightweight tackle such as 4-pound leaders, BB sized split shot and miniscule number 10 sized hooks. Also using alternate baits can entice finicky brookies into tripping flags. Last season while fishing Savade Pond (MAP 13, C-3) three of us caught our limit of trout using Northern Redbelly Dace while our closest neighbors caught nothing using Common Shiners. Also, when baitfish fail to do the job, try using a small piece of earthworm an inch long, it is sometimes the light snack trout are looking for. In freezing temperatures, keep worms inside a jacket pocket to keep them from becoming unusable. Be sure to check lines frequently, keeping ice build up to a minimum and ensure bait remains fresh and active. Often the act of slowly lifting and lowering lines will “stir the bait” and elicit a strike.
A Bit of the Measure
One handy tip I picked up this ice fishing season is using a 25 foot tape measure to determine water depth. In shallow water (less than 25 ft.) this method is much faster and more accurate than the standard practice of tying a weight to the line. Additionally, by gently tapping the end of the ruler on bottom, anglers can quickly determine if the bottom is rocky, sandy or muddy. Using this method, I found that by taking along a notepad and paper I was able to drill, measure hole depths, record the information and map the entire fishing area in minutes. If wishing to set lines at a specific depth, I lay the tape measure on the ice and stretch out the fishing line along its length, this makes dropping the lines to correct depth extremely accurate.
Deeper PRO
Individuals preferring a more technical method of measuring ice hole depth would be impressed by the Deeper PRO Smart Sonar ($189) portable wireless fish finder. This cool hi-tech piece of equipment is a must for ever avid ice fisherman. The device wirelessly generates its own Wi-Fi signal, syncing with smartphones and pairing with the companies free Deeper App. The Deep PRO dual beam sonar is capable of scanning down to 260ft. Find fish, their size, suspended depth as well as underwater structure, vegetation, bottom contour, hardness, water depth and temperature.
Stocking Reports
            Several lakes and pond in the central Maine area receive generous stockings of 10 inch brook trout. As mention previously, my favorite spots include Togus Pond in Augusta and Savade Pond in Windsor. As of this printing, the stocking reports had not yet been posted, however, both these ponds historically receive hundreds of brook trout in October and November ranging from 7-18 inches.
Overcast Skies and Flags Will Fly!
Brook trout, do not bite exceptionally well for 48 hours after a low pressure system. However, fish do tend to feed aggressively 24 to 36 hours before a low pressure moves through. When the weatherman predicts temperatures in the 30’s, overcast skies and flurries, it’s going to be a good day to fish!

Thursday, October 31, 2019


I’m not a great hunter, I just have an extremely high tolerance for pain and suffering. Because of this physical malfunction, I am capable of spending hours in the extreme cold and freezing rain that would typically sends other hunters running for shelter. Statistics alone predict that the longer a person spends outside, actively hunting, the greater the chance of success. When the going gets tough, I put on a heavily insulated jacket, expedition boots and fill up my pockets with heater packs. Equipped as described, I can shiver in a tree stand for hours, bordering on the very edges of hypothermia, without actually teetering into the necessity of heading for home. No greater test of this ability was more apparent than my time spent hunting during the 2018 deer season.
            After shooting a 125 lb doe during the first week of expanded archery season, I got cocky. In my brash and boastful confidence, I had momentarily neglected to remember that deer hunting in Maine is seriously hard work. Success in the woods does not come easy, but in my quick harvest, I had mocked this critical detail. I was however soon to learn this harsh lesson and learn it well.
            The remainder of September flew by with multiple deer sightings but nothing that approached to within effective bow range. October also flew by and then came November. By November, I had given up my bow and picked up my rifle, despite the technological advantage of hunting with a firearm, the deer continued to evade me. November also rushed by too quickly and with just three days left in the season, a brutal cold front dropped temperatures into the single digits, encouraging many hunters to end their season early.
Undeterred by the low temperatures, I spent 8 hours outside on each of the two days leading up to the final day of the 2018 deer hunting rife season. On the final day, I climbed into my stand at 5:00 am. There was a chilly breeze blowing off the lake and the forest floor was covered with about 5 inches of newly fallen snow, the wind chill pushed the morning temperature to -10F.
            The carpeting of snow allowed visibility for hundreds of yards through the mixed hardwoods, the white contrasting sharply with any animals that scampered past. After about two hours of carefully scanning the woods for deer, I was shocked when 50 yards away a deer stood up on the edge of the lake, after having been bedded there all morning. I swung the rifle, placed the cross hairs on the forward shoulder, exhaled an icy breath, paused and fired. The deer ran 50 yards and collapsed. Walking to the original spot of impact a bed was melted down to bare ground and still warm. The blood trail was scant, having been almost completely absorbed by the dry, powdery snow. As I approached, I realized that the deer was much bigger than I had originally estimated, with a crown of 7 points, the deer became the second biggest of my hunting career.
What did I learn?
            A Maine hunter’s single biggest ally is patience. Deer hunting in Maine is an excruciatingly frustrating experience. Hours of stalking or sitting are typically rewarded with noisy red squirrels, rain, snow and freezing temperatures. Why I continue to hunt can only be explained by those few flickers of success that sometimes seem to occur more based on luck than skill. Most Maine hunters seem to have the innate ability to harness a high level of patience and in my experience, the best hunters always seem to be the most patience.
            Consistency kills almost as many deer as patience. Washing clothes regularly in scent eliminators, checking the rifle or bow aim point a couple times during the season, scouting on Sundays and hunting no matter what the weather conditions. The only time I have seem consistency fail is when hunters consistently sit in a stand or stalk a section of woods over and over with no viable deer sightings. Deer cannot be shot where no deer exist. If hunters are not seeing fresh sign they need to move on and change up the game plan. 
Below Freezing Deer Hunting Tactics
            When temperatures dip below freezing, regular scent wicks freeze and scent dispersal becomes limited. To keep scents working, when temperatures plummet, hunters should check out the esterous scented candles by Their Hot Scent Candle Starter Kit comes with 1 black lantern and 4 Doe-N-Heat candles for the bargain price of $31.58. Last season even as the temps dipped to single digits and the wind blew, this kit continued to pump out scent for hours.

Mom's Moose

The 2018 moose hunt was marked by a roller coaster ride of unfortunate lows mixed with the highs of success. This story starts in January of 2018, with the tragic news that my step dad Lenny Lloyd of Calais being diagnosed with bladder cancer. Though the original prognosis was good, and we all remained hopeful that he would beat the cancer, it was not meant to be.
In June, at the annual moose lottery, my Mom (Kathy Lloyd) and my Dad (Steve Vose) were both pulled for the exact same week of the September moose hunt. This obviously set-up a challenging scenario, as I wanted to join both Mom and Dad for their respective hunts. Adding further complication to the task, Mom and Dad had been picked to hunt wildlife management districts (WMD) over five hours apart. For Dads hunt, we were assigned WMD 2, and would be hunting near Portage, Mom’s hunt was WMD 19, located in the heart of Down East. This quandary forced me to decide, that as Dad had no additional support, I would join him for the beginning of the week and hopefully help him harvest a moose and then join Mom for the end of the week, if she had not yet encountered success. Mom had planned to hunt the beginning of the week with her husband Lenny and a close family friend and Maine Guide, Tim Daley of Calais. As the months passed, however, these plans rapidly changed, as Lenny’s health continued to decline. Tragically at 4:00 am on September 21st, I received an emotional phone call from Mom saying that Lenny, at just 60 years old, had succumb to the cancer and passed away. 
My initial plan had been to leave that next morning to join Dad in Portage and scout for moose, so my truck was already packed full of camping equipment and hunting gear. Instead of going through the laborious task of unpacking, I threw my suit jacket, dress shoes and necktie into the truck and headed north from Augusta to Calais. 
I arrived in Calais at Mom’s house early Friday morning where I was met by Mom and almost a dozen other family members. To say the scene was somber, would be the worst of understatements. I assisted Mom with funeral arrangements, cooked for guests, made general house repairs and generally attempted to make myself “useful”, a task that I think most bereaved would easily understand. An active mind and body has less time to become idle, think too much and become overwhelmed by grief. 
Saturday morning, Mom’s household was joined by my wife and kids, as well as my brother and his family. Having this added emotional support, Mom pulled me aside and said that she wanted me to go and help my Dad. This left me in a quandary, wanting to stay and provide support but also wanting to help Dad on his moose hunt. While even at 68 years old, I knew Dad extremely capable, disassembling a moose is not an easy task for one person to handle and it gave me an uneasy feeling. Upon Mom’s continued encouragement, Sunday morning, I headed out to meet Dad in Portage. 
Sunday afternoon, I arrived in Portage, met Dad and headed to our camping spot in the Deboullie Public Reserved Lands. On the way to our campsite, a large bull moose slowly waltzed across the road. A good sign, so we thought. The next two days were dreadful for moose hunting, high winds blew our scent in every conceivable direction and made calling a unique challenge. To further complicate matters, our inability to scout earlier in the week, lead us to expend a considerable amount of time hunting in areas that lacked fresh sign. Still undeterred by these challenging events, Dad and I gave it our all, hunting from sunrise to sunset Monday and Tuesday. By Tuesday evening, however, Dad told me he had done what he came to do and moose or no moose, I need to drive back to be with Mom.
Early Wednesday afternoon, I was headed back to Calais. The 5.5 hour ride from Portage to Down East, had me arriving at Moms only an hour and a half before Lenny’s wake on Wednesday evening at 6:30 pm. The somber event left not a dry eye in the house and at the evenings conclusion everyone was emotionally and physically drained. The Wednesday wake was followed by Lenny’s funeral on Thursday, which was attended by half of Down East, Maine. It was an overwhelming show of support for our family and a high honor paid to a man who had meant so much to his friends, family, co-workers and community.  
Thursday night, Mom’s house was packed with family. During dinner, Mom mentioned that she felt Lenny, an avid outdoorsman, would have wanted her to go on her moose hunt. Mom’s strength in the situation surprised me, however, I felt that if she was really interested in going, there was likely no other task that would be more cathartic. Mom’s assurance, after dinner, that she was deadly serious about moose hunting, lead to my brother, step brother and I to begin organizing a plan for a hunt early the next morning. All three of us growing up Down East, we had a fairly good lay of the land but still consulted with a local Maine guide to determine where we might find fresh sign.
While my brothers were checking Google maps, I helped Mom organize her hunting gear. Obviously my biggest concern, was Mom’s ability to safely and accurately discharge her firearm. While she was very familiar with her hunting rifle, complicating the situation was her current state of obvious emotional distress.
            So to ensure safety, I had Mom show me her TC Encore in .308 and walk me through the operation of the firearm. I then had her practice standing up, looking through the scope and bringing it into firing position. Evaluating Mom, she appeared relaxed, an emotional state easy to maintain not under duress, less so when being stared down by a 1,000 pound wild animal. Ultimately, I felt that with the support of the three of us, she would be capable of safely killing a moose, if the opportunity presented itself. Besides, I figured our chances of actually shooting a moose were somewhere close to zero.
I awoke early the next morning and woke everyone up. After plenty of black coffee and a hearty breakfast, we were driving two trucks down Route 9, headed for our first choice of hunting spots. Turning off Route 9, we traveled dirt roads for about 15 minutes before arriving at the edge of a large clear cut. We parked the trucks, Mom loaded her rifle and the four of us started slowly walking toward the edge of the clear cut. After about 20 yards, Mom noticed a decent sized fresh bull track but she bemoaned that it was headed in the opposite direction we were now headed. I explained to her, that bulls in heat are wanderers, looking for love and there was as much of a chance that he was now in front of us as behind us. 
Before entering the clear cut, I let out a long mournful cow mating call on my electronic game call. After 10 minutes of waiting with no response, we eased into the cut. A long dirt road divided the massive clear cut in half and large gravel berms on both sides of the road partially hid our approach through the mostly open area. Every 50 yards or so, I would stop, glass the area with my binoculars and let out another soft cow in heat call. Halfway across the cut, (about 30 min.) we all stopped behind a large berm and busied ourselves to the task of investigating every rock, stump and tree.
About halfway through my third calling sequence, my brother turned to me and whispered that he had heard a bull grunt but was unsure of the direction of distance. We continued to scan the clear cut, when suddenly I heard an odd, rapid, high pitched, squeaking noise directly behind us. Peering slowly around the edge of the berm, standing only 25 yards away was a hefty 725 pound bull moose. He had appeared so rapidly, I can only assume that he had been bedded down, out of sight, in the middle of the clear cut and had simply stood up when he heard the cow call.
Wasting no time, I withdrew around the corner of the berm and began frantically waving to Mom. Giving me a confused look, she mouthed the word, “What?”. Spreading both my hands wide and putting one on each side of my head, I whispered, “MOOOOSSSEEE!”. At that point, Mom’s eyes enlarged to the size of dinner plates and she sauntered over to my side. Mom’s “saunter” on that day, is now a point I regularly tease her about. When I frantically waved at her to hurry, she ignored my repeated requests to hurry and instead slowly walked over so that she would not to trip and fall. Even with a gun in her hands, a moose in her sights and adrenaline rushing, she still maintained a “safety first” level of composure.
Taking Mom by both shoulders, I told her to mount the rifle, keep her finger off the trigger and slowly pull back the hammer. Accomplishing these tasks, I then eased her around the edge of the berm. As soon as Mom saw the moose, she started shaking and I could feel her entire body vibrating through my fingertips. Throughout the entire process, I never took my eyes off Mom, so when the gun went off, I had to ask my step brother if the moose had in fact went down. He assured me it had dropped in its tracks. I helped Mom reload the rifle, as her arthritic fingers lacked the strength to extract the bullet. Reloaded, we both started walking together toward the downed moose. As we got closer, Mom asked, “I hit it…right?”. I replied that, “In a clear cut of this size, if you missed, where would it go?”, as I had not seen the moose go down, this statement was as much to convince myself, as it was Mom. Our fears were unfounded, however, when after only a few more feet there lie her moose. Upon verifying that the moose was dead, Mom knelt down beside the beast, looked to the heavens and said, “That one was for you Lenny.” I cannot justly describe the outpouring of emotions that then ensued, it certainly was a joyous, yet difficult time for us all.
            They say once you pull the trigger all the fun is over and after a moose is shot, this is the understatement of the century. As a light rain began to fall, I started gutting the moose, while my two brothers walked back to get the trucks. Upon their return, the rain had picked up considerably and I knew we were in for a soaking. Using ropes, pulleys, a come along and a little brute strength, the four of us managed, in just one and a half hours, to drag the moose 35 yards out of the blueberry barrens and into the back of my Toyota 4x4 Tacoma pickup truck. After loading the moose, in my tired state, all I could think to say to Mom was, “Thank God you didn’t shoot a bigger one!”.
Lenny Lloyd loved hunting, fishing, camping and all manner of outdoor pursuits, I know that he was up there in the heavens watching over us that emotional day. The sheer luck involved in all the events that occurred on September 28th, could only have only been preordained by some higher power. If ever I had any small doubt that there is a God and an ever after, this day eliminated those doubt and renewed my faith in a power beyond mere mortal man.

Alaska, Fish Batter and Late Season Bass Tactics

For many sportsmen the dream of fishing the crystal clear waters of Alaska is high on their bucket list. For me, this dream came true last summer, when I was able to join my Dad and brother on a “Once in a Lifetime” trip to the last frontier. For the sake of brevity, I won’t go into a half crazed tirade about what an amazing time was had by all. As a matter of fact, the limits of my skills as a writer wouldn’t do it justice anyway. Instead, let me share the details of one simple decadent meal that was enjoyed in the small town of Homer, AK.
             Throughout my life, I have eaten a lot of fresh fish, however, I have never experienced anything quite like the taste of caught fresh that day, never frozen halibut. Picture an enormous, heaping plate of halibut, deep fried to golden perfection. Every bite is crispy, salty goodness filled with delicious, melt in your mouth halibut. Add to the exquisite gourmet experience an ice cold Alaskan IPA and a restaurant window with a view of mountain rimed Kachemak bay and well you get the picture. If that was all to this story, I could simply slip into a gastronomic coma and be perfectly satisfied, however, there is more. Imagine, convincing one of the waitresses to provide you with the infamous, family secret batter recipe!

Alaskan Infamous Family Secret Batter Recipe   
- 2 lbs Fish (We were fortunate enough to return home with over 50 pounds of halibut but any “white” fish is perfect with this recipe including: Haddock, Northern Pike, Small and Largemouth Bass, Striped Bass, White Perch and Black Crappie and found them all to be delicious.)
- 12 ounces light beer
- ½ teaspoon Baking Soda
- ½ teaspoon Baking Powder
- ½ teaspoon Salt
- 1½ cups Flour
- 4 tablespoons Cornstarch

Place fish gently into deep fat fryer, being careful not to crowd fish. Cook till batter turns golden brown (about 3 minutes) at 375 degrees. Fish can be removed from fryer and placed on a paper towel lined plate and placed into the oven at 200 degrees to keep warm, while the remainder of the fish is cooking.
Anyone who grew up with the Schwan’s truck delivering frozen fish sticks to your front door, is sure to have choked them down with a heaping smear of Mom’s “homemade” tartar sauce. Typically this less than culinary concoction was made by combining equal parts relish and mayonnaise. Instead of relying on this old diehard of a recipe, and trust me it should die. Why not try this blissful tartar sauce recipe.

Blissful Tartar Sauce
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup finely chopped dill pickle
- 3 tablespoons chopped green onion
- 1 tablespoon drained capers
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
- 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
Whisk all ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Season with salt and pepper. Cover; chill at least 1 hour, lasts up to 2 days.

Late Season Bass Tactics
If looking for a great local “white fish”, to enjoy in the above recipe, largemouth bass is one of my favorites. For many anglers, bass fishing season ends soon after Labor Day. Committed bass fishermen know, however, that some of the best bass fishing occurs as the leaves change color and the shorter days of sunlight begin to drop water temperatures. September marks the beginning of the fall turnover, a time of year when the cooling upper layer of water becomes heavier than the water underneath. This causes the denser cold water to sink, pushing the warmer water to the surface. During this change, a majority of the lake's bass population will be drawn into the shallows to feed. In the fall, bass cover large amounts of territory in search of food as they fatten up for the long winter season. Once found, fickle late season bass are highly transitional and anglers must be prepared to move on once the bite goes cold and target new areas.
During the first part of fall turnover, top water lures like shallow water crank baits (ex. O.S.P Blitz Max in Red Claw and Bagley Honey B in Baby Bass and Red Crawdad), are king. Hungry bass, patrolling the shallows, really hammer these lures which mimic creatures of the shallows like crayfish, minnows and frogs. After the fall turnover, around the time aquatic plants begin to die, bass begin to transition into deeper water. At this time, anglers should make the switch to deep diving crank baits. Fished correctly, deep diving crank baits can break the 20 foot barrier, meaning anglers can successfully pursue big bass in deep water. Many fall anglers, fish Carolina rigs or Football jigs. Unfortunately, the biggest bass often prefer a crankbaits over rigs and jigs, as Bass Master Pro Paul Elias has seen this first hand. He noted that, while fishing deep water, he would consistently catch 2 pound fish on a Carolina rig, but nothing larger. After switching to a Mann's E-Z 30+, got fewer bites, but began consistently catching 3 to 5 pound fish.
This data is exciting, as it really cements something my grandfather always said, “If the fish ain’t biting, or you ain’t catching the fish you want, try something different.” Don’t be afraid to switch it up and try something new this fall, you may just be surprised by the results!

Tick Troubles, A Helpful Solution

Tick Troubles
The twelve states with the highest incidence of Lyme disease include Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin. These 12 states alone account for 95% of all total cases of Lyme infection in the U.S.
Ticks become infected with Lyme and other pathogens when larvae (or nymphs) take a blood meal from infectious animal hosts. Engorged larvae molt over winter and emerge in May as poppy-seed sized nymphal deer ticks. Adult-stage deer ticks become active in October and remain active throughout the winter whenever the ground is not frozen. Blood-engorged females survive the winter in the forest leaf litter and begin laying their 1,500 or more eggs around Memorial Day (late May). These eggs begin hatching in early June, peaking in early July. The risk of contracting Lyme and other tick-borne diseases is highest during this time because the nymphs (which are smaller than a sesame seed) are difficult to see and their bite is painless. In most cases, Lyme disease is transmitted from May through July, when nymphal-stage ticks are active. 
The name deer tick, tends to cause people to believe that ticks are infected with Lyme disease after biting deer. However, while it’s true that deer and other mammals can spread tick populations, they do not carry the disease. Instead, ticks mainly pick up Lyme pathogens from white-footed mice. It stands to reason then that by stopping the spread of ticks to mice to humans, the threat of Lyme disease infection can be decreased. This line of reasoning, is the science behind “Tick Tubes”.
Tick Tubes Explained
Basically, tick tubes are cardboard or plastic tubes filled with permethrin treated cotton balls. Mice collect the cotton balls to build their nests. The deer ticks that feed on the mice are exposed to the permethrin and killed. This breaks the life cycle and stops the spread of Lyme disease to human hosts.
Tubes are simply placed around your yard in areas with protective coverage (think like a mouse), such as flowerbeds, bushes, woodpiles, stone walls and sheds. To provide maximum coverage, tubes should be placed no more than 10 yards apart. To be most effective, Tick Tubes should be put out twice a year, once in spring and once in late summer. The first application kills nymphal ticks that emerge in the spring and the second application kills larval ticks that hatch in late summer. It is essential to set Tick Tubes out both times of the year to achieve best results. Spring applications should be made in May and summer applications made in late July. Scientists studying the effects of Tick Tubes on treated properties have recorded a 10 fold decrease in the presence of ticks and the risk of human exposure to an infected tick reduced by as much as 97%.
Commercially Available Tick Tubes
Two popular companies manufacture and sell tick tubes, Thermacell (maker of the popular Portable Mosquito Repeller) and Damminix. The pricing on both the Thermacell and Damminix Tick Tube are comparable, with 24 tubes (enough for 1 acre) costing approximately $75.00. Both the Thermacell ( and Damminix ( products can be purchased online.
DIY Tick Tubes
            For the individual who likes to do it yourself, Tick Tubes can also be made at home with a few simple materials.

- Toilet paper rolls and/or PVC pipe pieces; I used a mix of both.
- A bottle of Permethrin
- Cotton balls or left over dryer lint
- Disposable gloves & protective eyeglasses

Put on the gloves and safety glasses, then lay out the cotton or dryer lint and saturate it with the permethrin spray. I strongly doing this outside on a day with no wind. Allow the fibers to fully dry and then spray a second coat, again let it fully dry. Add pieces of the dry fibers to the tubes. A few pieces in each tube is enough, as you don’t want to over-stuff them. Place the tubes around your property, every 20-30 feet or so. Ticks are less likely to be in wide open lawns and are not able to travel/walk far on their own so they require something to move them, such as the mice and chipmunks they attach to.  These animals tend to have small burrows and nests in sheltered areas, like underbrush and piles of leaves.  Be sure to focus on those areas, along with anywhere you see chipmunks during the day.  Keep I mind that mice are nocturnal, so it is unlikely you will see mice during the day to know exactly where to put the tubes. 

Other Things Homeowners Can Do to Kill Ticks
            Even with Tick Tubes successfully deployed, there are still a few other things that homeowners can do to help stop the spread of ticks.

Helpful Hints
- Clear tall grasses and brush around homes and at the edge of lawns.
- Place a 3-ft wide barrier of wood chips or gravel between lawns and wooded areas and around patios and play equipment. This will restrict tick migration into recreational areas. - Mow the lawn frequently and keep leaves raked.
- Stack wood neatly and in a dry area (discourages rodents that ticks feed on).
- Keep playground equipment, decks, and patios away from yard edges and trees and place them in a sunny location, if possible.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that each year there are about 300,000 cases of Lyme disease, which is vectored by deer ticks. Do your part to keep yourself and your family safe this season with Tick Tubes and these preventative hints!

Turkeys in Central Maine as Thick as the Ticks!

Last season, my son dropped the hammer on his biggest tom turkey to date, a 20.2 pound bruiser of a bird shot during the first week. It was a long morning hunt and we had almost given up for the promise of McDonald’s breakfast sandwiches, when the woods were rocked by his impressively loud gobble. My son barely had a chance to collect his composure and get his shotgun into position before the behemoth strolled into range. Thankfully, old Tom was too transfixed and ready to pick a fight with our Avian X Strutter to worry about our erratic movements. Well, a deep breath later, my son took the shot and old tom was meat.
I have to say, after an entire season of using the Avian X Strutter this large bulky decoy is well worth the extra effort and weight and I am absolutely hooked on its effectiveness and wouldn’t dream of hunting without it. Last season, I guided my son and a family friend in harvesting two toms over 20 pounds and 18 and 19 pound birds for myself. In an open field, this decoy has the size and realism to pull in big Toms and even curious jakes (early season) from long distances. Basically if they see it, they’re coming in for a closer look. 
Turkeys Thick as Ticks!
On the heels of last year’s impressive season, now a full year later, the final hours are ticking down to one of the most productive spring turkey hunt I have ever seen. I don’t remember the last time I walked into the woods and had turkeys gobbling on every cardinal point of the compass...and them some! I had a premonition that this season was going to be great, as I watched the fields last fall and saw dozens of hens with huge broods numbering 6-7 poults. In addition to the healthy brood sizes, I also noted large flocks of turkeys inhabiting almost every field I passed. I felt at times, I would have a difficult time stepping in the woods without stepping on a turkey!
Turkey Troubles
All of the sightings and the excellent spring hunt, seem in direct contrast to the turkey numbers being reported throughout the eastern United States. Decreasing turkey populations seem to be growing to record proportions, as reported in such states as Missouri (down 30%), Mississippi (down 34%), New York (down 40%) and Arkansas (down 65%). The National Wild Turkey Federation reports that in 1973, there were approximately 1.5 million wild turkeys in North America. After 40 years of effort, that number reached a historic high of about 6.7 million turkeys. Today turkey numbers are creeping downward and are currently estimated at between 6 million birds. Wildlife biologists say these recent declines may not be long-term, but they do warrant close monitoring. Among the listed concerns, scientists feel that in some areas birds have reached carrying capacity and have declined as the capacity of the habitat to support a certain number of birds has declined. If the habitat conditions decline across multiple counties and states, then birds have no choice but to decline with it. Another factor, in the mix, is that turkeys are extremely susceptible to diseases including blackhead, avian pox and West Nile. To avoid any fears of disease transmission to humans, turkeys should be cleaned using rubber gloves and all instruments used in butchering thoroughly cleaned. Also when cooking turkey meat, the USDA recommends cooking it to an internal temperature of 165 F.
Tough Turkey
            Now I like to shoot big tom turkeys just as much as the next guy but when it comes to eating big birds they tend to be on the tough side. To combat this issue, grinding the meat before meal preparation is immensely helpful. Ground turkey meat can be used in soups, tacos, made into meatballs or my children’s favorite, ground turkey nuggets. To try them for yourself, try this simple recipe.

Ground Turkey Nuggets
1/4 cup white flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup  breadcrumbs 
1 pound ground turkey
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
1/4 cup olive oil

Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Take out three small bowls and add the flour to the first bowl. Crack the eggs into the second one. Add the breadcrumbs to the third bowl. Put the ground turkey in a large bowl and mix in the salt and Parmesan cheese. Put some flour on your hands and make a ping-pong sized ball. Set the ball on a cookie sheet and continue until all of the turkey has been made into small balls. Roll each ball in the flour, dip in the egg, and then roll in the breadcrumbs. Place back on the cookie sheet and then flatten gently. Repeat until done.
Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-low. Place the turkey pieces in the skillet and cook for 2 minutes. Flip over and cook the other side for an additional 2 minutes. After they have been slightly browned on each side, place back on the cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees for about 8 minutes or until cooked all the way through. Serve hot with honey mustard (see recipe above) for dipping!!

Winslow Park Fun For All

Winslow Memorial Park
            Just 6.1 miles away from the busy and crowed streets of downtown Freeport, exists a hidden gem, beautiful Winslow Memorial Park and Campground. I have been camping here with my friends and family for the past several years and each and every year, I can’t wait to return. The reason for my exuberance is that the facility is so well maintained and that there exists dozens of fun activities for grown-ups and kids to enjoy. As an added bonus, they even accept dogs, for the fee of only $1.00 each!
            The campgrounds facilities include a tidal beach and boat launch (perfect for anything from trailered boats to canoes & kayaks), picnic tables and grills, a fishing pier, a playground, and a volley ball court. There also exists a small cottage onsite called the “Tea House” that is loaded with games and books, perfect for entertaining the kids on those rainy days! The campground additionally hosts a Summer concert series with local bands on weekends so be sure to check out the schedule out on their website (, see Winslow Park and Campground under the “Quick Links” on the right hand side of the page).
The campground itself has 23 waterfront tent sites, boasting expansive views of Casco Bay that can be reserved for the budget price of only $14 for Maine residents and $30 for non-residents. Visitors looking for RV hookups or more secluded wooded campsites, can choose from 100 different camping locations, all uniquely beautiful. Just be warned, campsite fill up FAST! To ensure visitors secure the campsite location and dates they prefer, reservations must be made by the first week of May. (Looking at their website recently, I noted that they are switching to a new online system this year!) Additional details related to the reservation policy, application and mailing address are all available on the website (see above).
Directions to the Campground:
From the South:
* Take I-295 North and get off at Exit 17 (Yarmouth/Freeport Exit)
* At the exit ramp take Route One North. You will pass the Muddy Rudder Restaurant, Freeport Inn and Café on your right. At the top of the hill after the Casco Bay Motel, take a right at the blinking light onto South Freeport Road (if you pass the Big Indian, you've gone too far).
* Take a right onto Staples Point Road (there is a wooden sign for Winslow Park at the corner of South Freeport Road and Staples Point Road).
* Stay on Staples Point Road all the way to the end and you will come into Winslow Park.

From the North:
* Take I-295 South and get off at Exit 20 (formerly exit 19). Take a left at the end of the exit ramp. At the first traffic light after the overpass take a right onto Route One South. Stay on Route One South until you come to South Freeport Road. Take a left onto South Freeport Road (at the blinking light). Take a right onto Staples Point Road (there is a wooden sign for Winslow Park at the corner of South Freeport Road and Staples Point Road). Stay on Staples Point Road all the way to the end and you will come into Winslow Park.
Great Local Eats
It never fails that even the most beautiful summer day can quickly turn miserable with an unrelenting afternoon thunder shower. When this happens at dinner time, the ravenous hordes can get angry. Have no fear, however, only eight minutes away from Winslow Park is the Harraseeket Lunch and Lobster Company ( located at 36 Main Street, South Freeport. Here customers will find a tantalizing assortment of fresh seafood that can be enjoyed inside their dining room or outside on picnic tables. Also remember that patrons are welcome to bring along their favorite beer or wine to enjoy with their meal! If looking to take live lobsters home or back to the campground, HLCC offers packing boxes and gel packs to suit all traveling needs.
Haraseeket River Striper Fishing in Kayaks
            One of the pursuits I find most enjoyable during my stay at Winslow Park are morning paddles in my kayak fishing for Striped bass. With a watchful eye on weather and tides, kayakers can safely navigate from the Winslow Park boat ramp down to the mouth of the Harraseeket River. A few years ago, I caught the largest striper of my fishing career off the small rock island at the mouth of the Harraseeket River. If camping without a boat, still bring your salt water pole! Excellent fishing for striped bass can be had either by tossing plugs or chucking bait off the campgrounds rock pier, located by the playground, or at the boat launch on Stockbridge Point.
Squid Fishing
Anglers who just can’t get enough of fishing, can also fish these spots in the evening for squid! All that is needed to fish for squid at night is a light, regular fishing pole and a squid jig. Squid jigs can be ordered on Amazon from such popular companies as Zak Tackle, Fishcm, Croch and Toasis. All that needs to be done to fish for squid is to shine the light on the water and jig the shrimp lure at various depths. When the shrimp corporate, anglers can harvest more calamari, in just a few short hours, than they likely care to eat!

ATV Troubles

Flats the Pits
Last spring while ATV riding, my left front tire suffered a puncture. While the hole wasn’t major, it did cause the tire to rapidly loose air pressure and the only way I was able to make it back to camp was by repeatedly re-inflating the tire with a hand pump. Examining the tire at camp, I noted that a large nail was causing the issue. Unfortunately, it was a long drive to a repair shop and I had no tools available to fix the issue, so the rest of the long Patriots day weekend, I had to sit at camp while the rest of my friends enjoyed epic trail riding. Shame on me, for not having the knowledge and tools that would have allowed me to make this super easy tire repair.
Under Pressure
One of the most common breakdowns an ATV can have is a flat tire. Preventing this from happening starts even before hitting the trail, by checking tire pressures. Choosing the right ATV tire pressure is based on a combination of the manufacturer’s recommendation, terrain and load. For example, when riding on hard surfaces, such as pavement, packed dirt and hard snow, stick with recommended pressures of 7 to 8 PSI for best traction and ride comfort. On soft surfaces, such as gravel, mud or soft snow, tire pressures can be reduced to 3 to 4 PSI which improves overall traction. When transporting heavy loads, such as an additional passenger, tools or gear, tire pressures can be increased to 8 to 9 PSI (just never exceed the pressure listed on the sidewall). If readers find all of this confusing, most ATV manuals reference 5 to 6 PSI as a good compromise for normal trail riding and also a safe PSI for avoiding most tire troubles. As always, reference the owner’s manual, as with all the different designs of ATVs, these general guidelines may not work for your particular machine.
Be Proactive
Several products exist that allow ATV tires to continue to function even if they receive damage. The least expensive of these options is Slime tire sealant ( This fantastic product can be added to leaky ATV tires or simply added to tires as a preventative measure. Small tire punctures, like nails, are instantly sealed by the “slime” product and it is likely that ATV riders won’t even realize they have received damage.  Because of this, ATV riders who “slime” their tires should thoroughly inspect their tires after each ride. “Sliming” costs approximately $12 per tire.
A more expensive but ultimately more aggressive option, to protect ATV tires, are Tire Balls. This product consists of many small tough rubber balls that are placed inside each tire during the mounting process. The balls allow an ATV tire to continue to function, at nearly full speed, even with a large hole and no air pressure in the tire. Tire Balls retail for around $200 per tire and are available for most sport quads, 4x4s and UTV tire sizes. Contact Tire Balls ( for ordering information.
Trail Side Repair
Having the proper tools and knowledge will fix most tire troubles. Most critical is never leave home without a tire repair kit. While several companies make these repair kits, my favorite is made by Slime. This simple kit is comprised of only four components, a reamer for cleaning out the puncture hole, rope plugs and rubber cement for sealing the hole and a plug driver for inserting the rope plug into the hole. With this simple kit, tires even with significantly large punctures can be repaired with multiple rope plugs stacked on top of each other and sealed with rubber cement. At the very least, a big leak can be slowed enough to get home. Make sure to add to the Slime kit, a set of pliers for pulling the nail out of the tire and wire cutters for trimming the rope plug.
Central Maine Trail Riding
Despite the posting of large parcels of land in Central Maine, local ATV clubs do an excellent job of working with landowners to keep trails open. The three clubs in the general area of Central Maine, include the Central Maine ATV Club in Fairfield, the Messalonskee Trail Riders in Oakland and the China Four Seasons Club in China.
I recently had a chance to talk with Tom Rumpf, president of the China Four Seasons Club. Tom told me that due to decrease in volunteerism, dwindling land and landowner relations there has never been a more critical time for sportsmen to join an ATV club.
The China Four Season Club is an impressive facility, boasting a sizable club house, ample parking and a beautiful sand beach located on the shores of China Lake. All 40+ miles of club maintained trails are easily accessible via the club house. Tom outlined that the club has a large number of exciting activities and events scheduled to occur throughout the summer months for club members, including a club ride with a date to be determined, club booth at “China Days” the first weekend in August and a club raffle for an AR10 rifle.
If interested in learning more about the Four Season Club please call 207-416-2070, email or join one of their club meetings, held on the 2nd Thursday of every month at 7 pm at their clubhouse located across from the town office in South China, ME 04358. 

Friday, March 29, 2019

Hiking Central Maine

Last spring, my two sons informed me that it was my fatherly duty to take them up Maine’s highest peak, Katahdin. While in my 20s and 30s I had climbed Katahdin over 30 times, including 7 winter ascents, old knees, a bad back and a 47 year old cardiovascular system had me realizing that before attempting the mountain, I needed to train. (*Side note, before starting the Katahdin hike last summer, I packed a small container of Bayer aspirin in my backpack in case I had a heart attack, LOL! When I later told my wife, she didn’t find it nearly as funny as I did!)

While millions of people head to the gym to prepare their bodies for a wide variety of outdoor pursuits, I have always found that the best way to train to climb mountains is to well…climb mountains. No elliptical runner, stair stepper or tread mill ever created, can prepare muscles, ligaments and tendons to handle slippery, unstable rocks, adverse weather, airy heights and the full body workout that is required to drag oneself up Katahdin Stream Trail. Because I knew this to be true, my training regimen consisted of hiking some of the “larger” mountains in the central Maine area.

Bond Brook 
Anyone starting out on a new exercise program should first consult a doctor. It’s also a good idea that if you have not exercised in a long time to start out with something relatively easy. In Augusta, the Bond Brook Recreation Area (Map 12, C-5) is a 270 acre urban wilderness area owned by the City of Augusta. At only 270 acres individuals will be pleasantly surprised to discover a network of over 12 miles of trails here. These trails are popular during the summer with mountain bikers and hikers and in the winter enjoyed by snowshoers and Nordic skiers. The Bond Brook parking lot is located directly behind the Augusta airport. To get there from Downtown Augusta, head north on Mt Vernon Avenue and turn left onto Bond Brook Road. From Civic Center Drive, head south and turn right on Bond Brook Road. Turn left on Tall Pines Way; there is parking located before and after the bridge and more parking is available at the stadium. Follow Tall Pines Way up the hill to the Stadium Parking Lot. Parking is also available at Mt. Hope Cemetery off Winthrop Street.

Mt. Pisgah Conservation Area 
Once a new exercise program is started, it’s helpful to slowly increase the intensity of your workouts to continue to strengthen muscles and cardiovascular systems. Mt. Pisgah (Map 12, C-2) is a perfectly “moderate” hiking trail. The 0.7mile trail to the summit is up a steady grade but not oppressive. The forested summit of Mount Pisgah features the former Maine Forest Service fire tower, which was in use from 1949 to 1991. The tower provides spectacular 360 degree views and on a clear day, Mt. Washington can be seen looming on the western horizon. To get to the Mt. Pisgah Trailhead from Route 133 in Wayne, turn south onto Fairbanks Road. At the end, turn left onto the Mt. Pisgah Road. Travel south about 1.7 miles, the parking lot is on the left. From Route 202, turn onto North Main Street and go into North Monmouth. After about 0.7 mile, turn right on New Road, which becomes Mt. Pisgah Road. Continue for approximately 1.6 miles, the parking lot is on the right.

Kennebec Highlands, Hiking Kennebec County’s Highest Peak 
After maintaining a fairly steady hiking program for a couple months, most individuals will be ready to take on more challenging mountains. The Kennebec Highlands are comprised about 6,400 acres in the town of Vienna, Rome, Mount Vernon and New Sharon and is the largest contiguous block of conserved land in central Maine. Fantastic hiking opportunities, exist in the Kennebec Highlands, including Kennebec counties highest peak, McGaffey Mountain (Map 20, E-3). The summit of McGaffey Mountain (1,310 ft.) is accessible via the “A” trail, a “moderate” hike which follows a gradual uphill grade. After 3.3 miles of hiking, the trail opens up onto a beautiful overlook. Following the trail another 1.2 miles across a rocky ridge line and it terminates at the view less summit of McGaffey Mountain. The McGaffey Mountain Trail starts off Watson Pond Road, which branches from the west side of Route 27 about a mile north of the intersection of Routes 27 and 225. Several other small mountains, exceptional for hiking and well worth exploring include: the 2.9 mile loop trail up 854ft. Sanders Hill, the 4.5 mile loop trail up 1,133 ft. Round Top Mountain, the 1.3 mile loop trail up 755 ft. Mt. Phillip and the 1.5 mile trail up 665 ft. The Mountain.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Wildlife Quiz - Gray Squirrel

The Eastern Gray Squirrel’s (Sciurus carolinensis) native range stretches from northern Canada, all the way into sections of Texas and Florida. A species well adapted to survive in a wide variety of rural as well as urban environments, the gray squirrel has rapidly spread across the country, largely displacing native red squirrel populations.

Highly prolific, gray squirrels breed twice a year, once in the spring and again in late summer. Gray squirrels construct nests comprised of dry leaves and twigs called a drey, usually constructed in the crotch of a tree. Litters range in size from 1-8 young, with only one in four managing to evade predators, avoid sickness and starvation to survive to one year of age. Of those individuals fortunate enough to survive the first year, about half perish in the follow year.

In preparation for winter, gray squirrels hoard tremendous amounts of tree buds, berries, seeds, acorns and even some types of fungi in small caches for later consumption. Scientists studying the behaviors of gray squirrels have estimated a single squirrel make thousands of caches each season. To prevent other animals from retrieving cached food, squirrels will sometimes pretend to bury a food item, if they feel they are being watched. Those who have spent time watching the antics of the gray squirrel in woodlands and parks across the country will surely note this species amazing ability to descend a tree head-first.

Gray squirrels rank as one of few mammalian species that can accomplish this amazing acrobatic feat. The squirrel does so by turning its hind paws so that the claws point backwards, allowing the squirrel to easily grip the tree bark.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Ice Fishing Trout on Sheepscot Pond

Authors Son "Wildman" with a nice Sheepscot Brookie
Sheepscot Pond in Palermo (Map 13, B-4) is an expansive (1,193 acre) pond situated among the rolling, wooded hills of southeastern Waldo County. A moderately developed lake (unusual for Central Maine!) it remains an attractive setting for ice anglers. A state-owned boat ramp, located off Rt. 3 on the lake's north shore, provides access for anglers and other recreational users. While individuals can fish just off the landing, this area is typically hammered hard throughout the season. Better ice fishing is found further away, from this highly pressured area, on the western shore of Leeman Arm or eastern shore of Bald Head.  

Ice Fishing Variety
For the ice Angler who believes that variety is the spice of life, they will find no better thrill than a day spent ice fishing Sheepscot Pond. On an expedition to the lake in 2018, family, friends and I managed to pull up 7 different species of fish including, salmon, largemouth bass, pickerel, white perch, yellow perch, lake trout and brook trout. According to the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the lake additionally contains, brown trout, smallmouth bass and even splake, which were originally introduced to the lake in 1993. While we were unsuccessful in catching any of these additional species, the possibility of going to a lake and catching 10 different species of fish is exciting! As an angler who typically targets big northern pike, Sheepscot Pond is a refreshing change and a great place to take kids. It was a lot of fun showing the kids (and some adults) how to identify the different fish species pulled out of the ice holes. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Coyote Night Hunt

Author's son with his first coyote
December 17th, the coyote night hunting season begins and it remains open until August 31st. For those who have access to heated hunting shacks, the cold nights can be spent in relative comfort, peacefully reading, listening through ear buds to a ball game or playing video games on your cell phone. Whatever the choice, hunting from a heated shack isn’t nearly as physically challenging as pursuing coyotes at night, without the protection of some form of enclosure. 

I rather enjoy the extreme nature of setting up on the evening of a full moon, on the edge of a desolate and deserted frozen pond and attempting to call a coyote in close enough for a shot opportunity. Don’t expect however to see one of our crafty Maine coyotes recklessly charging into a call across the empty white expanse of ice. Instead, coyotes will creep in, 15-20 feet inside of the timber, exposing themselves to the barren lake surface only after closing to within easy striking distance of the perceived “prey”. Hunters who set-up back from the lake surface 20-30 yards in the woods will frequently enjoy more success than hunters who sit right on the lake edging. Coyotes are crafty and unwilling to give away their position unless it is absolutely necessary. 

This is where a motion decoy and remote controlled calls work wonders as they can be set out on the lake surface to draw coyotes into the open for a shot opportunity. For those using handheld calls, once a coyote is spotted working the tree edging, the hunter stops calling and allow the motion decoy to do the rest of the work. A motion decoy can be something as simple as a piece of fur or feathers tied to a stick with a short length of cordage and allowed to blow in the breeze.   

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Wildlife Quiz - Opossum

The Common Opossum or Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana), also known as simply Possum in North America, exists as the only marsupial (pouched mammal) found in the United States and Canada. Possessing a pale face, rounded ears, a pink, pointed nose and a coarse, grizzled gray overcoat the possum closely resembles a rodent. Through seemingly rat like in appearance, possums actually are closely related to the kangaroo and koala. Their adaptive nature, flexible diet, and prolific reproductive habits, make possum’s successful survivors in diverse locations and conditions. Though originally only found in South America, Possums have been steadily moving northward over the last several decades, a trend likely contributed to climate change.

The range of the Possum currently stretches across North, Central, and South America. Adapted to survive in a wide variety of rural as well as urban environments, Possum’s gather together in family groups in underground burrows or even under houses. Being nocturnal (night loving) creatures, Possum’s seek dark, secure areas to sleep during the day where they are protected from predators. The possum has a large number of natural predators including owls, eagles, dogs, coyotes, bobcats, foxes, house cats and humans who consistently kill a sizable number each year through automobile strikes. When threatened, the Possum will mimic the appearance and smell of a dead animal. This involuntary response (like fainting), causes the animal's teeth to become bared, saliva to foams around the mouth, its eyes close and a foul-smelling fluid leaks from the anal glands. The animal typically regains consciousness after a few minutes once the threat disappears. Highly prolific breeders, female possums often give birth to very large numbers of young, with as many as thirteen being birthed in a single litter. The possum lifespan is unusually short, with most living only one to two years in the wild and about four or 5 years in captivity.

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