Category Archives: Hunting & Fishing

How Maine leads as a model for black bear management

The Dept of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife discuss how hunting & trapping black bear in Maine is a vital population management tool…Maine’s bear program is a model for states with bear conflict and population control issues.

 

Follow Maine’s black bear biologist, Randy Cross, as they study the black bear population. Go with them into the forests as they trap during the summer, and follow them in the cold of winter when they visit the dens to count how many cubs enter the population. Source: Maine Dept of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife

Maine Moose Permit Deadline Fast Approaching

A reminder from the Maine Dept of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife:

Don’t miss your opportunity to apply for the 2016 Maine Moose Permit Lottery

 

Hunters who dream about the hunt of a lifetime are reminded that application deadlines are quickly approaching!

Paper applications for the 2016 Maine moose permit lottery must be postmarked by April 1, 2016, or delivered to 284 State Street in Augusta by 5:00 PM on April 1, 2016.

Paper applications are available by contacting the Department at (207) 287-8000 or from our website at www.mefishwildlife.com.

The deadline to apply online is 11:59pm on May 16, 2016. The online application process is fast and simple and provides instant confirmation. To apply online, please visit https://www5.informe.org/online/moose/.

Applicants are awarded bonus points for each consecutive year that they have applied for the lottery since 1998 without being selected and each bonus point gives the applicant an additional chance in the drawing.

Bonus points are earned at the rate of one per year for years one to five, two per year for years six to 10, three per year for years 11 to 15 and 10 per year for years 16 and beyond.

Since 2011, applicants can skip a year and not lose their bonus points. So if they applied in 2014 but not in 2015, they still have their points available if they apply in 2016.

The moose permit drawing will take place on June 11, 2016 at Kittery Trading Post in Kittery, Maine.
For more information about moose hunting in Maine and the moose permit lottery, please visit: http://www.maine.gov/ifw/licenses_permits/lotteries/moose/index.htm

IFW Commissioner Opens Fishing Season Two Weeks Early

From The Dept of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife Press Office:

DIFW Shield smallFor Immediate Release: March 16, 2016

Effective tomorrow, Thursday, March 17, the 2016 Open Water fishing season will begin, two weeks earlier than usual, per an amended rule by the Commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

The amended regulation allows bodies of water that were closed to open water fishing until April 1, 2016 to become open to open water fishing effective March 17, 2016.

Anglers throughout the state may now get a chance to enjoy the early spring by fishing on their favorite waterway earlier than usual.

Many lakes in southern and even central Maine are completely ice free. The lower than average snowfall also means that rivers and streams are at low springtime flow levels, making for easier fishing.

Anglers are likely to find more fish available in waters that were stocked last fall. Poor ice conditions meant less time for ice fishing, leaving many trout and salmon that normally would have been caught in the winter still there for spring anglers.

The early open water fishing season does not apply to waters with special season opening dates starting after April 1, 2016. This rule does not close any body of water currently open to ice fishing or open any water to ice fishing that is currently closed to ice fishing.

In addition, all waters with S-10 and “CO” designations will also be open to fishing. All other S-codes, tackle restrictions, daily bag, possession and length limits still apply as listed.

If you are fishing from a boat, the Maine Warden Service is urging boaters to wear their lifejackets. Prolonged immersion in cold water can kill, and wearing a life jacket can greatly increase your survival chances if you are in the water unexpectedly.

The beginning of the open water season also means that the department stocking trucks will be busy. The department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife begins an ambitious stocking program in mid-April and by the time ice starts to cover lakes in the fall, over 1.2 million fish will have been stocked in waterways across the state.

If you haven’t purchased your license yet, please visit www.mefishwildlife.com to purchase your license any time of the day, any day of the week

Please be sure to check the 2016 fishing law book for regulations specific to the water you wish to fish.

Want to hunt on Sundays? Here’s how to do it.

Just because the whitetail and moose seasons have long passed us by, it doesn’t mean hunters still can’t hear the call of the wild and feel a yearning for the Maine woods.

For a lot of us, small game takes center stage this time of year, but with vacation time used up, Saturdays become the only day to get afield. If you want to spend all weekend in the woods, here’s how to do it…

As we turn the page on the new year, so do we turn our focus to new hunting opportunities. Snowshoe hare, fox, bobcat & red squirrel are my pursuits when the deer rifle gets tucked away until next season and coyote are always on my radar. However, unlike my home state of Pennsylvania, in Maine we cannot hunt any game or this elusive predator on Sunday.

So what’s an outdoorsman to do when the need to breathe that crisp, fresh air and find that very special solitude that only the Maine woods can provide?

I hunt horns. Literally.

Hunt (huhnt) :  to search for; seek; endeavor to obtain or find (often followed by up or out)

Antler shed hunting is a great way to spend a Sunday long after the tree stands have come down and the ground blinds have been packed away, waiting for the spring gobbler season. Everything we love about big game hunting applies equally to shed hunting. The preparation, scouting, tracking and hopefully, the harvest, are what makes a hunt. Not necessarily the quarry we seek.

Do your preparation and scouting on Saturday as you pursue small game, noting tracks, overlapping habitats and any areas of special interest. On Sunday, leave your gun in the cabinet and enjoy a slow walk in the woods, following tracks to your harvest.

An added bonus to hunting sheds is the ability to get family members not normally involved in hunting, a chance to spend time together, strengthen bonds and rediscover the wonders the Maine woods provide us.

The best time to hunt for antler sheds is after the rut, or mating season. Dwindling levels of testosterone cause the base of antlers, called the pedicel, to dissolve and eventually, the antler falls off. Deer and moose both need to recover after the exertion of the rut and conserve energy in the coming winter months. Shedding antlers allows much needed calcium to be absorbed by the recovering buck or bull, not travelling northward to keep feeding those racks. Typically, the key window for shed dropping is late November through January.

Bedding areas, along fence lines, edges of fields and funnels are all great spots to find sheds.

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Looking for sheds while hunting small game doubles your opportunity

Where do you hunt for dropped sheds? The simple answer is to go where the deer and moose are.

If you’ve been out scouting and tracking all season, you’ll have a pretty good idea of where the travel corridors and feeding areas are. If you are not a big game hunter, fret not.

Simply identifying obstacles that can catch an antler as the animal moves through an area will get you started. Bedding areas, along fence lines, edges of fields and funnels are all great spots to find sheds. Look for antlers where deer or moose move into or out of a wood line; the branches of trees can pull at antlers, dislodging them. Fences and other obstacles that deer have to jump over can cause loose antlers to accede to gravity.

Look for blowdowns that provide concealment
Look for blowdowns that provide concealment
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Notice the outline of the back and the rear leg imprint

Perhaps one of the most overlooked locations to find sheds are in bedding areas. These spots are the hardest to find for non hunters and only slightly easier for the seasoned outdoorsman. They are secluded for a reason.

Bucks and bulls need to feel secure when they let their guard down, so bedding areas typically are well off the beaten path. Look for big blowdowns that provide concealment, especially on high ground.

As winter sets in and the snow begins to pile up, bedding areas will become easier to find. The depression made in the snow and the tracks leading in and out will be highly visible. Keep in mind that buck tracks are more square than doe tracks, with very pronounced dew claw imprints.

A dog’s sense of smell is said to be a thousand times more sensitive than that of humans. In fact, a dog has more than 220 million olfactory receptors in it’s nose.

Hunting with a dog will vastly improve your shed harvest success rate. A dog’s sense of smell is said to be a thousand times more sensitive than that of a humans. In fact, a dog has more than 220 million olfactory receptors in it’s nose.

Chuck following a deer trail into the wood line
Chuck following a deer trail into the wood line

Having a hunting dog, or even a specific breed of dog, isn’t a requirement. You’ll train your dog just as you would train for fetching. For this reason, retrievers are the popular choice for shed hunting dogs. They are eager to please, love the exercise and by their very definition, are good retrievers. My yellow lab Chuck is currently in training and he loves it. Here are some training tips.

Start by tossing a shed or shed training dummy for your dog to bring back to you. Stay consistent in your commands such as, “Get the shed” or “Find the shed”. Whatever works for you will work for your dog if you stay consistent.

Next, move on to placing the shed in the yard so it’s visible to your dog. Give your commands and have your dog retrieve it. Make sure to praise and reward your dog for every successful retrieve.

The final step is placing the shed in a hidden location such as a wood line and having your dog hunt it up. Again, praise and reward are key components here. Your dog needs to understand that by finding and retrieving the antler shed, he’s doing what you are asking of him. That makes him happy.

A lot of professional dog trainers recommend using a soft antler shed dummy trainer. I do too. If you use a real shed in the beginning, there is a chance a tine may poke your dog and may cause him to become “shed shy”. It’s much better to start out using the trainer and introduce a real shed, if available, during the final training step. The kit we use is from Dog Bone Hunter and you can read more about it here.

Moose and whitetail antler sheds make great decorations…

Now that you’ve harvested your moose or whitetail sheds, what are you going to do with them? Undoubtedly, a pair of bull moose antler sheds are the top prize; surely you have a place ready for them over the garage door or in your camp!

moose-shedMoose and whitetail antler sheds make great decorations, are often used in tooling and knife handle applications and rustic furniture design. Make a whitetail rack chandelier, dresser drawer or cabinet pulls, coat rack or accent pieces. The uses are as unlimited as your imagination.

If using antler sheds as decorative pieces just isn’t your style, there is also a lucrative market for fresh sheds. Typical rates for fresh sheds vary from $11 to $15 a pound. Websites such as mainemooseantlers.com and allagashguideservice.com both actively purchase sheds. Sporting publications like Northwoods Sporting Journal and The Maine Sportsman are also a good source for advertisers seeking to buy antler sheds.

So on the next Sunday that you are feeling the call of the outdoors or are looking for new ways to the enjoy the Maine woods, give antler shed hunting a try. No license is required and you can set your own pace.

With so many ways to hunt for sheds, it’s a sure fire way to keep you connected to nature when the pace of your hunting season slows, but your desire doesn’t.

Fishing For Togue In Deep Water? Know these tips if you plan to release them…

By IFW Fisheries Biologist Kevin Dunham

Togue and other bottom-dwelling fish often have expanded swim bladders after being pulled up rapidly from deep water. This is known as barotrauma, usually when they are caught from water deeper than 30 feet.  Barotrauma is caused by the rapid expansion of gases in the swim bladder and other tissues as fish are retrieved to the surface.

When fishing near or on the bottom, try to bring your fish to the surface slowly to allow it time to expel gases built-up from water pressure changes.barotrauma

If a fish has a normal-sized swim bladder while it is swimming 60 feet below the surface, its swim bladder could double, even triple, as a fisherman gives it a quick trip to the surface.

A ballooning swim bladder is a non-issue if the fish will be kept.  If it’s a catch-and-release kind of fish, however, its life is in jeopardy.  With the equivalent of a beach ball in its gut the fish can’t swim back down.

The first thing is to understand the signs of a fish struggling with barotrauma, or “pressure” trauma.  The physical signs of barotrauma are:

  • Bloated abdominal area,
  • Bulging eyes,
  • Balloon-like tissue protruding from the mouth or other areas of the body (sometimes).

Sometimes lake trout can be gently squeezed to help force gas out of the swim bladder.  Gently press your thumb along the stomach near the paired belly fins and move it forward a few times to remove air from the bladder.  Fish suffering from barotrauma can survive if released properly and within two minutes of surfacing.

The Best Summer Sausage

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By John Floyd

Many outdoorsman love preparing game as much as they do hunting it. I am one of them. Moira and I try to seek out new recipes and ideas to give us variety on the dinner table. Perhaps more importantly, I’m always on the lookout for the best snack ideas. I love snacks!

Enter my most recent endeavor, the venison & pork summer sausage. Sliced into thin wafers and served with a spicy hot mustard or wasabi, it will forever change any venison shy family members or friends.

Saus.SummerAs a beginner to making any kind of sausage, I decided to go with a kit that provides the casings, cure and seasonings. After much deliberation I chose the summer sausage/bologna kit in Hunter’s Blend from Hi Mountain Seasonings. This kit is a pretty good value and is relatively simple to prepare. It makes 10 3 lb sausages roughly 2″ in diameter. That’s whopping 30 lbs of delicious. Obviously, we make one at a time!

A good electric meat grinder with stuffing capabilities is a BIG plus here. I know some old school folks swear by a quality made hand grinder, and I agree with their points to a degree. But the fact is, when you start feeding the ground meat into the casing, you need to move with a purpose. Starting and stopping too much won’t help to properly fill a big summer sausage casing evenly. The meat needs to stay very cold or it will start clogging the grinder. This is where the speed of an electric unit comes into play.

Besides a grinder and stuffer (or a combo unit like we use), you’ll need the following:

  • 2 plastic* mixing bowls – 1 for the grinding output and 1 for mixing your cure & seasoning in
  • Small bowl or tray to soak the casing in (Warm water for an hour before stuffing)
  • 2 1/4 lbs venison and 1 lb of pork (We used short ribs that were on sale)
  • The kit above.

Tips: Do not use metal bowls for the ground meat or mixing. I use a little over 3 lbs of meat because you need 3 lbs IN the casing. The extra gives you wiggle room and enough left over in the stuffing tube and grinder. We pull it out after and make a patty out of it.

The kit came with very detailed instructions and was easy to understand. I’ll just give you the long and short of it here…

We started by feeding cubes of venison and pork through the grinder, aiming for a 2:1 ratio. After all the meat was ground, we mix the correct amount of cure and seasonings in the second bowl. Next we sprinkled the ground meat with the mix and added some ice water. Thoroughly mix by hand for a few minutes and your ready to get stuffing.

Remember, this is where you have to keep moving. That meat needs to stay cold. I push the casing all the way onto the stuffing funnel and hold in place with my left hand. This is a big casing compared to traditional breakfast or sandwich links. You just have to get a feel for how much is filling the casing and use you hand to help move it down while slowly letting the casing off the tube.

Fill the hopper with the ground meat and make sure you removed the grinding plate and installed the stuffing plate, if equipped. If not, just use the coarsest grinding plate on hand.

Hit the switch and keep that hopper full. DO use an implement to push meat down the hopper chute. DO NOT use your fingers to push it in. You will be tempted to and you will be sorry!

Keep working the casing slowly off the stuffing tube as it fills. Use your hand like you were using an icing funnel on a cake and fill in the casing. Don’t worry about the grinder backing up. It will keep pushing harder than you think. If it does back up and stop feeding, use the reverse switch to clear the jam and resume. If this occurs frequently, the meat is too warm. Stick it in the freezer for a few minutes to chill it and resume.

When the casing is nearly full, leave about an inch open on the end. Tie this off using string. Don’t worry too much about getting super tight. It’s only job is to keep the meat from coming out, but the mixture is stuffed well and won’t. Plus, you’ll need to slide in a meat thermometer here so you don’t have to puncture the casing. If you have a high speed internal temp sensing doohickey of a thermometer, disregard. And…I’m jealous!

Put the sausage in the fridge to cure overnight. When you remove it the next day, bring it to room temperature for an hour or so before cooking or smoking. We cook ours, so I’ll go that route here.20151204_171228_LLS

Line the bottom rack of the oven in foil to catch any drippings and lay the sausage on the top rack with the thermometer installed. I cook it at 200 deg until the internal temperature reaches 160 deg. This will take about 2 hours or so. When it’s ready, remove from the oven and rest. The casing should be very hot to the touch. After it can be handled, refrigerate overnight. It is ready the next day.

We cut ours into thirds. One goes into the fridge for snacking on and two go in the freezer as backups. Serve on a the cutting board in slices with your favorite condiment. As I mentioned earlier, spicy brown mustard and wasabi mustards are my favorites, but a horseradish would serve well here too. Enjoy!

 

The Christmas Hare

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By John Floyd

Christmas morning this year was certainly a gift. The unseasonable temps made it feel like we were back in Pennsylvania. It was a beautiful, bright morning and the air was clean and crisp. When I first met the day, the thermometer on the front porch read 32 degrees. A far cry from the norms of single digits expected this time of year.

I stoked the wood stove, then added a few logs. Moira brought her tea and a cup of coffee for me, and we settled by the tree. Our dogs Chuck and CJ were already settled, having the experience of Christmas past and knowing what was wrapped in some of those packages. You see, our dogs open their gifts themselves, with the term “open” used liberally.

After the exchanging of gifts and the calls made to family and friends wishing all a Merry Christmas, I cast an eye toward Moira and asked, “We still on?”

“You betcha!” came the reply. With only a week left, my grouse season wasn’t over just yet.

Moira grabbed her gear and ushered CJ, our Beagle, out to the Jeep. When I grabbed the 20 gauge from the gun cabinet and my vest, our Yellow Lab, Chuck, needed no ushering of any sort. He knew what that meant.

We had only recently started bringing Chuck out into the woods to flush ruffed grouse for me. His enthusiasm certainly made up for his lack of experience, as I had three times more flushes in a day than I had hunting alone. These hunts were intended to be an introduction for Chuck and just to have fun. We all could get out, get some air and exercise and hopefully put some grouse in the freezer as a bonus.

What a perfect way to spend a beautiful Christmas morning in Maine.20151209_150623

We parked at the head of a logging road I had some luck at previously and got geared up. CJ on the leash because when that ‘ol girl gets her nose down, she suddenly becomes deaf and gets out too far. Moira isn’t having that.

We moved down the trail with the sun in our eyes, Chuck working the edges like he knows what he’s doing. I suspect he does somewhat, he hails from hunting bloodlines. We just never put him under the gun back in Pennsylvania. Limited opportunities as they were.

As we climbed a hill, approaching the entrance to a clear cut on my right, I asked Moira to hold back with CJ. I knew this was prime habitat and had flushed birds there before. Chuck and I moved up into the clear cut and I put him to the right side of me, ahead about 5 yards.

“Where the birds at?” I asked him.  He bee-lined to the edge of some bramble near a log and the air exploded with the unmistakable beat of “Thunder Chicken” wings.

A big male grouse was airborne and moving from my right to left, flying low. I brought the gun up, but didn’t have a shot. Remember my inexperienced bird dog? He was jumping through the air nipping after that bird. We’ll have to work on that.

The bird cleared Chuck then did what ruffed grouse do. He hit the afterburners and like a fighter jet, made a hard right turn toward the safety of the tree line. I snapped a shot off, but knew I was behind him. Those are some fast birds.

Moira and CJ joined us in the clear cut and we formed a plan. Knowing grouse fly to safety in about a hundred yards or so, we decided to move up through the cut the rest of the way, check for any more hanging tight, then try to flush the bird again. I saw where he went and knew another skidder trail was behind the treeline.

We reached the skidder trail and once again Moira held CJ back while Chuck and I advanced. “Where the birds at Chuck?” I asked him. Once again, he turned right into the edge of the treeline off the trail and flushed that bird a second time! This time I got a shot off quickly, but that bird got into the thick stuff in the blink of an eye. I knew I was ahead of him this time, but it was pretty thick in there. Chuck and I went in to investigate.

“Find the bird. Find the bird, Chuck.” We quartered the area, but didn’t find a bird. I wasn’t too surprised, I didn’t hear the tell tale sound of the bird down “Whump” when they hit the deck. Nevertheless, I was proud of Chuck. He had a great morning. He was getting bored standing still in the woods while I marked the spot for future reference, so I sent him back out to Moira on the trail.

As I put my phone back in my vest, I saw a flash to my right front. Was that the belly of my grouse? Was it just some snow falling from an overloaded spruce?20151225_122351

Nope! It was a fast moving Snowshoe Hare that decided it was “Go time”. I brought up the gun, got in front and touched it off. The hare went down and I walked in after it.

I came out to the trail grinning. Moira asked, “Did you get that grouse?” I replied, “I got something!”

“You got a Snowshoe? It’s beautiful!” said Moira. And it was. A big beautiful male. The dogs were excited and so were we. What a way to cap off a great morning hunt.

I learned something new that Christmas morning. Always be prepared for an unexpected gift in the Maine woods.

 

 

 

The Hunt Is On..

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By John Floyd

I hit the skidder trail with a calm ease that belied my anticipation of the previous day. The cool, brisk October air in my lungs and the sun warming my way, I felt invigorated. The colors of the treetops exploded against the horizon. Reds, oranges and yellows a stark contrast to the deep blue sky.2012-09-03_13-36-02_632

The spruce and fir, with varying shades of green acted as referees in this riotous silence. The feel of the earth, the snap of a twig along the trail awakened my senses, long dulled by the humdrum of the daily grind.

I broke open my shotgun and dropped in the shells. I briefly remembered deciding on the 12 gauge, leaving my usual 20 gauge in the cabinet, my thoughts on the thick cover I’d be moving through and the bigger gun’s ability to bust through the edges of the wood line. I snapped the action closed, clicked on the safety and smiled. My grouse season has begun and the hunt was on.