The Maine Sportsman December 2023 Digital Edition

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2 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman —————————————————————————————————————————————



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State and Federal Courts Reinforce High Standards for Maine Guides Two 2023 court cases, one from Maine’s US District Court, and the second from the state’s Supreme Judicial Court, each reinforce the high standards to which registered Maine guides are held, and the authority of the Commissioner of DIF&W to enforce those standards. In the federal case, JBN v. Camuso (1:23-cv-00015-JAW), an individual applied for a guide’s license, and on his application revealed he’d been convicted of a felony in 1991 in another state, and had spent 12 years in jail. While incarcerated, he assisted other prisoners, was paroled for good behavior, graduated from New York University, and became an award-winning journalist. His application for a guide license was denied, since the Commissioner said she could not find that he had been sufficiently rehabilitated to warrant public trust necessary for issuance of a Guide license. The applicant appealed, stating that he had a First Amendment right to be a guide, based on cases decided in different states. In a May 12, 2023 decision, the court dismissed his challenge. The federal judge agreed with the Commissioner, who had pointed out that Maine guides are “entrusted with the safety and welfare of the adults and children under their charge, individuals who may have little or no experience engaging in such activities in the woods or on the waters of the State of Maine.” The federal court found that being a Maine guide is much different than being a sightseeing guide giving historic tours of Washington, DC, which was the fact pattern in one of the cases the applicant relied upon for precedent. In the state court case, D.W. vs. Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (2023 ME 61), a guide challenged the department’s decision to suspend or revoke his hunting license for three years, and his guide license for one year, following his conviction on a charge of “reckless conduct” after he shot a deer 86 yards from a residence. The guide argued that he should lose his Guide’s license only if the offense for which he was convicted, occurred while he was guiding. However, the court upheld the Commissioner’s decision, pointing out that the rules governing guides require a guide to “have experience-based judgment that helps prevent unsafe situations” and that Guides must “abide by all state and federal laws and rules involving the activities in the classifications for which the Guide is licensed.” The court said it was enough that the offense was committed while in pursuit of a wild animal, since the guide “showed poor judgment by deciding, despite his years of experience, to create a threat to the safety of others [by] shooting at a deer from a public roadway and in the direction of a residence.” While we hope that in both cases the individuals rehabilitate themselves over time so as to demonstrate their future suitability to the Commissioner, we concur that the Commissioner has the right – and indeed the responsibility – to make licensing decisions for the protection of the public.

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ISSN 0199-036 — Issue No. 613 • PUBLISHER: Jon Lund MANAGING EDITOR: Will Lund OFFICE MANAGER: Carol Lund CREATIVE DIRECTOR: Kristina Roderick ADVERTISING DIRECTOR: Nancy Carpenter DISTRIBUTION DIRECTOR: Carol Lund Second class postage paid at Scarborough, ME 04074 and additional entry offices. All editorial inquiries should be emailed to Phone: 207-622-4242 Postmaster: Send address changes to: The Maine Sportsman, 183 State Street, Suite 101,­ Augusta, ME 04330 12-Month Subscription: $30 • 24-Month Subscription: $49


Almanac by Will Lund.................................................... 12 Aroostook - “The County” by Bill Graves..................... 35 Big Game Hunting by Joe Saltalamachia.................. 24 Big Woods World by Matt Breton & Hal Blood............ 22 Downeast Region by Jim Lemieux............................... 49 Editorial.............................................................................. 4 Freshwater Fly Fishing by Lou Zambello....................... 53 Get Out There by Staci Warren.................................... 39 Jackman Region by William Sheldon.......................... 44 Jottings by Jon Lund........................................................ 9 Katahdin Country by William Sheldon......................... 41 Letters to the Editor.......................................................... 6 Maine Sportswoman by Christi Elliott........................... 40 Maine Wildlife by Tom Seymour................................... 17 Midcoast by Tom Seymour........................................... 48 Moosehead Region by Tom Seymour......................... 46 New Hampshire by Ethan Emerson.............................. 65 Nolan’s Outdoor World by Nolan Raymond............... 50 Off-Road Traveler by William Clunie............................ 42 Outdoors & Other Mistakes by Al Diamon.................. 69 Quotable Sportsman by Will Lund................................ 15 Rangeley Region by William Clunie............................. 61 Ranger on the Allagash by Tim Caverly...................... 38 Riding Shotgun by Robert Summers............................. 68 Saltwater Fishing by Bob Humphrey............................ 51 Sebago to Auburn Region by Tom Roth..................... 58 Shooter’s Bench by Col. J.C. Allard............................. 27 Smilin’ Sportsman by Will Lund...................................... 68 Snapshots in Time by Bill Pierce.................................... 11 Southern Maine by Val Marquez................................. 59 Tales from the Warden Service by Ret. Lt. Doug Tibbetts.55 Tidewater Tales by Randy Randall............................... 56 Trapping The Silent Places by David Miller.................. 57 Trading Post (Classifieds)............................................... 70 Trout Fishing by Tom Seymour....................................... 52 Vermont by Matt Breton............................................... 67 Western Maine Mountains by William Clunie.............. 63

On the Cover: Maine muzzleloader hunters who haven’t filled their antlered tag dream of chancing upon a post-Thanksgiving snowy buck. The state’s muzzleloader season runs statewide from November 27 through December 2. Hunters in WMDs 12, 13, 15-18, 20-26 and 29 (generally, the Southwestern and SouthCentral portions of the state) get an additional week, starting December 4 and ending December 9.

Deer Hunting: Modern Muzzleloaders by John LaMarca............. 18 Muzzleloading is a Gift by James Andrews............ 19 GUEST: I Never Hunt Alone by Everett Leland............. 21 Ice Fishing by Blaine Cardilli.......................................... 29 Snowmobiling by Steve Carpenteri............................. 32


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Letters To The Editor

Disagrees with our Saltwater Fishing Columnist

To the Editor: I have to take exception to Bob Humphrey’s portrayal of offshore wind energy (see “Tilting at Windmills,” Saltwater Fishing column, November 2023 issue). He opines using many ifs, mights, and falsehoods. He reports that one study showed lower lobster weights near electric cables. How far from the cables – and does this study compare against the current number of crustaceans seeking cooler water farther north, away from coastal Maine? Mr. Humphrey falsely claims that whale beaching and fish kills are related to windmills … hmm, sounds straight from Trump: “You wanna see a bird graveyard? Go under a windmill someday; you’ll see more birds than you’ve ever seen in your life.” (Washington Post, 12/23/19) Whenever I fish the Great Lakes, it’s usually around manmade structures like bridges, docks, and artificial reefs. On a recent trip to Scotland’s Faroe Islands, we fished near a salmon farm located next to a large windmill.

Perhaps Mr. Humphrey would compare his opinions to facts of the real world. The BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico destroyed millions of creatures, and fouled the seas for decades. The Exxon Valdez oil tanker painted the Alaska coast black, and caused great harm to the ecosystem for many, many years. The State of Maine has a great fishery of cold-water species – salmon, trout, and togue. What will the increasingly warm waters do to the future? Will there be a rise in biotic toxins in algae? Will our growing numbers of severalbillion-dollar disastrous storms cause dramatically higher insurance costs, such that ownership of coastal properties and boats becomes unaffordable? It’s sad to see people opposing renewable energies because of falsehoods and unfounded fears. Sure, we should do much to ensure the safety of wind power. But we cannot allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. We are blind to ignore the remarkable benefits afforded by using renewable energies. Joseph N. Weiss, Ph.D., Clarence NY —

Warming Temps Cause More Harm than Wind Power To the Editor: In his latest Saltwater Fishing column, entitled “Tilting at Windmills,”

I am a ninth generation Maine native. My new book is a true account of my hunting life throughout America, Canada, and one trip to South Africa. I discuss firearm collecting and restoration by hand methods and rust bluing. Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Bookshop.

Bob Humphrey highlights the potential risks of offshore wind development, and suggests we just don’t know enough to move forward. The reality is, we actually know quite a bit about the potential impacts of offshore wind, as well as about the risks of not acting and allowing climate change to continue on its current trajectory.

Photo credit: Maine Audubon

We know that the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than almost any water body on Earth. We know that our most treasured fisheries, including lobster, are at risk of disappearing from the Gulf, and are already being replaced by Black Sea Bass, Blue Crabs, and other species traditionally found farther south. The recent 39% drop over 3 years in the young lobster population is likely related to warming waters. Maine Audubon has been caring for Maine wildlife for more than a century, and climate change is our toughest battle yet. We strongly believe that (Continued on next page)

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appropriately-sited offshore wind is our best opportunity to protect Maine’s wildlife and our saltwater fishing heritage. Learn more on our website at Sarah Haggerty, Conservation Biologist Maine Audubon, Freeport, ME —

Gotta Love Axes To the Editor: Very interesting article by Randy Randall about axes (see “Axes Don’t Die,” Tidewater Tales, November issue) I have an old Snow & Nealley Hudson’s Bay axe that I purchased from S&N many years ago when they were USA-made.

S&N Hudson Bay Axe.

I believe S&N moved their production “off-shore” in the early 2000s; it’s difficult to determine whether they are back in Maine

currently. Many products that are labeled “Made in USA” are actually just assembled in this country of parts manufactured in other countries. I’ll be interested to learn the current status of S&N. One brand made in the US is Council Axe, down in Georgia. They are among the very few that are still made in this country. I recently “rediscovered” my Hudson’s Bay axe in an area of the shed I call “Corrosion Corner.” I carefully restored the axe and its sheath back into excellent condition. Nice article by Randy; I enjoyed reading it. Wayne Dengler, Danbury, CT —

A Doctor Weighs In on Gunshot Wounds To the Editor: As someone who saw and treated many gunshot wounds in Korea, I have to say that the advice provided in the “Treating Gunshot Wounds” piece in the October Almanac did not go far enough in preparing the reader for the magnitude of the task at hand. The author states that a patient shot in the back or neck should not be moved. That may be good advice if emergency care is right at hand. However, if you are deep in the (Continued on next page)

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Maine woods and you’ve called for help but you know it’s going to take a while, how are you going to evaluate or treat a wound if you don’t touch the victim? The writer states that there are three approaches to stop bleeding – tourniquet, direct pressure, or dressing. However, in reality there’s just one: finger pressure, either on the bleeding artery or vein itself if it’s visible, or on known “pressure points,” if you know them. And forget the “minimum of 5-10 minutes” advice. Instead, readers should continue applying pressure for as long as it takes for the bleeding to stop. This may be 5-10 minutes for a small vein or artery, but for large veins and arteries, you may have to apply pressure till you get the victim to an ER. A non-medical person should not attempt to fashion a tourniquet unless they’ve had specific training, and the necessary equipment is available. It’s far more important to continue applying direct finger pressure, and not spend time trying to figure out how to apply a tourniquet for the first time, while the patient continues to bleed. J. Birney Dibble, MD, Eau Claire, WI

To the Editor: I was fortunate enough to harvest a Biggest Buck on November 26, 2004 in China, Maine using a .44 mag. I applied for and received a cloth patch. At the time, the program did not offer a window sticker. I understand those are now available. I wish to purchase one. Enclosed is a check for $10, and proof of my 200-lb. plus buck. Donald Carter, South China, ME

were harvested long before electronics were there to assist.

The office manager responds: Congratulations on your 2004 Biggest Buck, Donald. Your window sticker is on its way. Carol Lund, Office Manager —

When Hunting, Don’t Forget to Look Around To the Editor: Thank you for running my Guest Column in the November issue (see “Using Tracking/Mapping Technology to Search for a Downed Deer”). Whatever brand of GPS-based mapping and tracking tool Maine hunters decide to use, it’s important to remember that many, many big deer

Dan’s Cornish, ME whitetail.

To demonstrate my point about not letting technology distract you from your hunting, here’s a photo of an eight-point I shot in Cornish, before the days of apps on our phones, back when our tools were a map, a compass, and tracking snow. Dan McDonnell, Oxford County


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Close Encounter with Two Deer I followed a regular routine on the morning of November 18, 2022, including a good breakfast. Then I drove to my favorite hunting area. My daughter Carol had gotten up early, and was there several hours before me, while the walking was still fairly noisy on the frosted leaves. I climbed into my treestand, and spent an hour and a half there before coming

The pair of deer stopped 25 feet away, and stared at me. I stared back at them. Problem was, I’d left my rifle out of reach. down to eat my lunch. As I was finishing my lunch, Carol came out of the woods and joined me for a bite to eat. It also gave us a chance to talk. I learned that she had experienced crunchy walking as she came in on the woods trail. She’d heard another critter

going crunch-crunch. The other critter turned out to be a buck that snorted, gave a grunt, and took off. She walked a little farther and bumped out a doe, but she did not get a shot. We separated. I planned to go back across the gravel road to the ground blind I

had set up off a walking trail. Carol headed off to her ladder stand, which was a bit farther to the north. Taking Care of Business I moseyed along,

seeing a number of fairly fresh tracks in the soft earth. The trail took a turn to the right and swung north. I had gotten about halfway down a decline when my stomach started to grumble. I took that as a sign that I should heed the call of nature. (Continued on next page)


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10 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

Jottings (Continued from page 9)

I hiked about 100 yards into the thick woods, and found a 12-inch, moss-covered log across the trail. I climbed over, and started to lower my trousers. I was wearing lined hunting pants secured with a belt and suspenders. Navigating this process while wearing suspenders requires some care and timing. Fortunately, these suspenders are attached to the trousers with front clips. I undid the clips, then shrugged the backs of the suspenders around and out of the way. Rather

than sitting on the log, I suspended myself somewhat awkwardly, with both arms behind me, braced on the log. In no time, my mission was completed. However, my arms were tired from holding myself off the log, and I was somewhat out of breath. I pulled up my longjohns and my pants and then sat there, catching my breath. Running Deer Just then, down the slope off to my right, came a pair of deer, running hard. Looking around, I realized I had moved

“Right place, wrong time,” oil on canvas painting by American wildlife artist Hayden Lambson.

well away from my rifle, as well as my field jacket and florescent vest. The two deer continued coming straight toward me, until they stopped about 25 feet away. It was a big doe and a yearling fawn. I had a doe permit in my jacket pocket. A Rifle Too Far I couldn’t reach my rifle, or even dive for it and come up firing. It was just too far away, and it was underneath my jacket and vest. Motionless, I look-

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ed at the two deer. Seeing me, they had stopped in their tracks and stared at me as I sat on the log. They no doubt wondered who or what I was. For 15 or 20 seconds, we looked at each other. Then the doe and fawn made a left turn and ambled up the slope, taking a route about 90 degrees from the direction they had come down the hill. Post-Incident Analysis In my 85 years

of deer hunting, I do not recall ever having been so close to a deer during hunting season. It was a humorous occasion. A few minutes later, my daughter Carol came walking slowly down through the woods. I asked her if she had bumped out any deer. She thought she probably pushed them toward me, and since those deer were running from something, I think she was right.

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“Snapshots in Time”

Historical Glimpses from Maine’s Sporting Past Compiled by Bill Pierce, Former Executive Director, Outdoor Heritage Museum

What follows appeared in the January 20, 1905, edition of the MAINE WOODS newspaper. It shares a “snapshot” perspective of what it was like to travel on foot in Maine’s 19th-century backcountry. Most adventurers in the 1800s traveled about by canoe. However, the party, in the account below hiked into the backwoods. Keep in mind this was long before the present-day network of log-

ging roads, so even a buckboard ride to Lobster Lake was not an option. Just think of the physical effort and skills – as well as confidence in one’s ability – this required. Truly remarkable, when measured against the convenience and technological advances we enjoy today. “Back in the day,” if you really screwed up, there would be no Warden Service to bail you out. No Life Flight to whisk you to Bangor if you were severe-

ly injured, and no search aircraft overhead if a member of your party became lost. Back then, the Big Woods truly was BIG, and it never tolerated fools without exacting a steep price. I hope you enjoyed a memorable and safe autumn and early winter hunting season with your family, as you got outside and made plenty of great outdoor history of your own.

A Road Trip

Members of Hunting Party in the Woods Have Good Luck While hunting on Lobster Lake last year with my father, I had the fun of seeing two deer drop one at a time at the crack of his rifle, one being a four-point buck, and the other a ten-point buck. The second one being the best one that he had ever shot, he felt pretty good about it. Here’s the tale of the larger buck. We left camp in the morning before daylight, and traveled along the border of the swamp for about two miles, with Father getting a shot at a doe on the run, but of course he missed. After climbing over logs and brooks for about two hours, we thought we would rest for a while, so after staying quiet for almost an hour and seeing nothing, we resumed, but before we had gone 100 yards, we jumped a doe. She ran ahead of us, and we went creeping after her, hoping to find her

standing in an open space. We soon came to the edge of a blowdown, and there

stood the doe, and about 100 feet away stood a big buck. Father was not long in bringing his rifle to

his shoulder, and as the .30-30 spoke, the buck dropped with a broken shoulder. With a wild

In this image from 1893, a Maine hunter begins the task of field-dressing a huge buck.

whoop, he sprang toward him and, getting hold of his horns, was not long in reaching the fatal spot with his hunting knife. After cutting a pole on which to carry him home, we ate our lunch and started for camp, and such a carry I never had before! When we reached camp, we were almost done up – there was no road, and sometimes we were in mud and water half-way to our knees. Two days later, we broke camp and started for home, having been in the woods for almost three weeks. The buck when weighed tipped the scales at 210 pounds. My sister, who was with us, shot several partridges with a .22 Steven’s rifle. She also caught some nice trout. She is looking forward to next fall, when she expects to down a wary buck.


12 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

Three Minutes with a Maine Guide by Lisa DeHart,

Group Dynamics Group dynamics on a canoe trip have always been something special to watch happen. As canoeists on a river, once we leave that put-in for a multi-day canoe trip, the only way out is – through. Once we run that first couple of sets of rapids, the reality of that slowly dawns on the people who have never done it before.

Paddlers on a multi-day canoe trip may start out as strangers, but very soon they become part of a community. Lisa Dehart photo

Compiled and Edited by — Will Lund —

After I give the safety talk and teach the paddle strokes, the last thing I say before we take off is, “Once we leave this landing, we are … a community.” Sometimes I see a head tilt, as someone thinks, “That was kind of odd for a Guide to say.” By the end of that day – and it only takes them one day to fully understand – they see what I mean. We hit camp, we all unload group gear first, and suddenly an empty camp with a lonely picnic table becomes a kitchen – and we did that. We all worked as a group down the river to get here. We did that. Maybe the weakest paddler who needed the most help on the river is also a nurse who helps a really good paddler figure out why they’re not feeling so well, because they got a little too dehydrated, and it’s not something more serious. That’s community. Tents go up. We all have a home and a bed now. We did that. Now everyone is hungry. Wood and water. All food gets cooked over an open fire. Guides usually get wood while tents are going up. Two reasons for this: Guides pick the good wood, and we know how much it takes to cook dinner that

night and breakfast the next morning. We don’t gather breakfast wood in the morning. Those who want to help, help. Those who need to rest, rest. Some helpers don’t have the strength or skill to cut wood, so they do equally-vital tasks of filling wash buckets and coffee pots, or filtering drinking water. Each element is important; it all has to get done by us; and once accomplished, as a group, with full bellies and the dishes done, we sit around a fire and get to know each other a little bit better for the next day. As a community. — Guide Talk by John LaMarca

Maine’s Blood-Tracking Dogs As hunters, it’s our duty to make the most ethical shots we can on the game we pursue. A reality that many don’t talk about is this – mistakes sometimes happen. If you have been hunting long enough, you know things don’t always go as planned, and you find yourself in a (Continued on next page)

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������������������������������������������� The Maine Sportsman • December 2023 • 13 (Continued from page 12)

situation where you landed a bad hit on an animal. It could have been nerves, it could have been the animal’s reaction, or it could have been equipment malfunction.

Suzanne Hamilton of UBT (United Blood Trackers), with Fritzi, a German Wirehaired Dachshund, and a recently-tracked white-tail buck. Photo: UBT

crew. Maine UBT participates in more than 500 tracks each year, and dogs and trainers spend thousands of hours honing their craft. When looking for a tracking team, I learned to ask about the tracker’s experience. It’s crucial to have a well-trained tracker and dog, to increase your odds of success. “The biggest thing we want people to know is that wounding an animal happens, but we are here to help you find closure, whether it is a recovered animal, or the knowledge that the animal will make it and you can feel good going back to the stand,” said Susanne. Added Lindsay, “It’s so much more than recovering a game animal. There is a sense of peace that comes with knowing where the animal ended up. The relief of knowing that the animal will recover or that the animal won’t die and be wasted.” The United Blood Trackers was founded in 2005, and is mainly a “by donation” service. This makes it accessible for all people in all walks of life. Be sure to treat your tracker well – they want you to find your animal as much as you do. For more information on Maine Blood Tracking, see watch?v=_0_voikuxJM

passed a new law, LD 958, enacted as Public Law Ch. 231, which will expand that prohibition to small painted jigs. The law defines “painted lead jig” as painted jigs that are one ounce or less in weight, or 2-1/2” or less in length. Starting September 1, 2024 it will be illegal for retailers to sell such jigs in Maine, and beginning two years later, on September 1, 2026, it will be against the law for anglers to use such jigs.

Many companies manufacture jigs using non-lead metals such as tungsten. Photo: Northland

This staged implementation will allow anglers time to clear their tackle boxes, and also provide retailers with an opportunity to restock their shelves and display racks with non-lead alternatives, such as tungsten jigs. —

A Pickerel is a Pickerel,

Regardless of the reason, it’s importRight? Wrong. — ant to know that such situations occur even with careful and ethical hunters, Pickerel are ubiquitous in Maine, New Law Will Restrict and it’s what you do after the shot that but when our state’s anglers make that Sale and Use of Small matters. statement, they have in mind chain Painted Lead Jigs While guiding moose hunters this (Continued on next page) year, I was fortunate to meet and work Since 2017, it’s been illegal with Susanne Hamilton and Lindsay to sell or use small-sized lead Ware, who are President and Secretary, sinkers and bare “unpainted” respectively, of the United Blood Trackjigs in Maine. ers (UBT). This year, the Legislature Susanne and Lindsay came to aid us track down a moose a hunter had shot. The moose had run into the thick woods without a very good blood trail. I’m very happy to report that Susanne, WITH THE BOSS HTX SERIES Lindsay, Fritzi (the The HTX plow RESTORES ORDER with the same features and power of German Wirehaired BOSS full-size straight-blade plows, built specifically for half-ton trucks. With business owners and homeowners in mind, the HTX line offers a strong, Dachshund) and I were durable push frame and quadrant to clean up driveways and small able to track down, disbusiness parking lots with a light-duty vehicle. When you need to RESTORE ORDER with your lighter-duty truck, BOSS is always there to BACK YOU UP. patch and recover the moose, and thus re2 YEAR LIMITED WARRANTY turn the animal to the hunter, as well as proContact Your Local BOSS Snowplow Retailer! vide the hunter with a BOWDOIN much-needed concluJ.L. Custom Fab, Inc. Come Visit Us at Our New Location Just 2 Doors Up! sion to the hunt. Now owned and operated by Gary Coleman, who has been doing Rt. 201 (North of Topsham) service work for General Appliance for 35 years – nothing has changed! Experience is the Still Here Serving Up First-Class Customer Service! 207-666-5800 name of the game for 103 Center Street, Brewer, ME • (207) 989-3714 the blood-tracking OPEN MON–FRI 9AM–4PM


14 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

Almanac (Continued from page 13)

pickerel – the long-nosed torpedo of a fish that slashes sideways at our bass lures, and which is a challenge to unhook (sharp teeth) and eat (two rows of Y-shaped pin-bones). So did you know there’s another, farless-common pickerel called the redfin pickerel? It’s so rare that redfins were added to Maine’s list of endangered species in 2006. According to Merry Gallagher, native fish conservation biologist, redfin are only known to occur in two locations, both centered in the Merrymeeting Bay area of the lower Kennebec River system. They are much smaller than chain pickerel, rarely exceeding 6–10 inches in length. They have a shorter snout, and rather than the familiar “chain” pattern on their sides, they exhibit dark, vertical bars. Not long ago, native fish activist Bob Mallard noticed an anomaly in Maine’s fishing regulations – even though the

Redfin Pickerel. Photo:

redfin had been granted endangered status under Maine law, the state’s fishing rules did not require the release of such fish if they were caught. Bob and the Native Fish Coalition met with the rule-makers at DIF&W, and soon thereafter, the state announced that the redfin pickerel would be listed in the 2024 fishing rules book (together with Sea-Run Atlantic Salmon, and the diminutive swamp-darter) under the “No Fishing for This Species” rule. “Maine is the northern extent of the native range for redfin pickerel,” Mallard told The Sportsman. “Because they are at the edge of their range, they are found in low abundance. Redfin are typically found in moving water. They also tend to be in what I call ‘cool’ water – not warm and not cold, and can overlap with brook trout. They rarely get more than

10” long, and are usually under 8 inches.” Congratulations to Emily Bastian, Bob Mallard and the rest of NFC on their success in helping shape the fishing rules to be consistent with the endangered species list. —

Have You Left Your Canoe on Public Lands? If So, Better Check It As recently mentioned on a Maine Marine Trades Association posting, the state’s Bureau of Parks and Lands is starting to crack down on boats and canoes left beside ponds that are on public lands. Recently, an angler found a notice zip-tied to his small aluminum boat that was located beside a remote pond.

Maine’s Bureau of Parks & Lands, the custodian of the state’s public lands, has declared its intention to remove boats that are left or abandoned. This note generously provides a year for the owner to contact the state offices in Ashland office to learn how to comply with the state’s public land boat storage policy. Photo: Maine Marine Trades Association

In our travels around the state, we’ve seen informal landings where 25 or more canoes or boats, many of which have not been touched for years, are flipped over or, often, are upright and sinking slowly into the ground. The lesson here is clear: If your family stores a boat on Maine’s public land, check it out and see if the boat has been “posted.” A review of the rules for public lands reveals that the Bureau is being very generous in its current policy of giving owners time to contact the agency. The bureau’s “Abandoned Property” rule (Rule 1.7) states that “any boat … that is left unattended on any public land for more than three consecutive days without prior written authorization from the Bureau shall be deemed to have been abandoned, and the Bureau may take custody of such property and dispose of the same ….” — (Continued on next page)

������������������������������������������� The Maine Sportsman • December 2023 • 15 (Continued from page 14)

Barry Gibson, Former Maine Sportsman’s “Saltwater Fishing” Columnist, Crosses the Bar Captain Barry Gibson, who authored The Maine Sportsman’s “Saltwater Fishing” column for more than 35 years, passed away on October 11, 2023 at the age of 72. A consummate professional, both as a charter boat captain and as a writer, Gibson was hired by former Maine Sportsman editor Harry Vanderweide in 1986. “Harry was writing a book in 1983,” Gibson recalled years later. “It was to be titled Secrets of Maine’s Master Anglers. He came down to the dock in Boothbay Harbor, and interviewed me on my old Shark II charter boat. Took some pictures, too. Three years later, I started writing the saltwater column. “Time sure flies when you’re having fun.” According to his obituary in the Boothbay Register, Barry obtained his



by Will Lund

“Mice peed in my stove. Make sure they don’t pee in yours.” Headline in a Boston Globe article by staffer Brooke Hauser. Hauser’s family ended up disposing of a nearly-new kitchen oven and stove because mice made a home in the appliance’s insulation, rendering the stove unusable. Their exterminator explained how quickly mice can multiply – female mice give birth several times each year, starting when they are only two months old. Several sharp-eyed readers sent the article to The Sportsman, inspired by Al Diamon’s “Attack of the Rodents” column in the November issue.

captain’s license in 1972, and started a fishing charter business with his first boat, the 25-foot Sasanoa. Several years later, he purchased a 27-footer he named Shark, as a tribute to Capt. Joe Russell, a Key West charter skipper who guided Ernest Hemingway and who had a boat named Shark that Barry fished on several times in the early ’70s. In 1977, Barry went to work for Salt Water Sportsman in downtown Boston as the associate editor. He was named the magazine’s editor in 1981, a position he held for 23 years before his retirement in 2004. Barry authored The Maine Sportsman’s “Saltwater” column for 17 years. In early 2023, when cancer treatments were sapping his energy, he contacted us. “This March submission is going to be my last regular saltwater column for Maine Sportsman,” he wrote. “I figure I’ve written close to 300 columns since 1986, so I think it’s time to let others provide a fresh perspective on the subject. It’s been a real honor to work for such a great publication, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.” Ever gracious, he recommended his replacement, Bob “It’s important that your dog avoid ill-timed leaps to or from the boat.” From the video “Take Your Dog Boating – 6 tips for a safe and happy pup,” by BoatUS. The advice: When training a dog to accompany you while boating, teach them specific commands – first to ‘stay’ while you change position ahead of them, and then a command inviting them to follow you on or off the boat. This principle is especially important if the dog is big and the boat is small.

Photo credit:

— “Never Lose an Animal Again, with the Pro-Tracker Archery Recovery System.” Advertisement for an archery game

Capt. Barry Gibson, 1951 - 2023.

Humphrey, who took over the column soon thereafter. On March 10, we delivered to Barry the Sportsman’s first-ever “Best Saltwater Writer” Award. He responded immediately: “Many thanks for the wonderful plaque,” he wrote. “I am both gratified and honored by the signed Resolution, and it will go on my office wall.” (Continued on next page)

recovery system that uses a signal emitter and receiver that is activated upon impact with game animals. The sending unit detaches from the arrow and stays in the hide of the animal, allowing the hunter to locate the fatally wounded animal. The transmitter has a range up to 2 miles. It uses the same technology as a radio tracking collar used with hunting dogs. — “A new range of ethanol-free fuels, tested by the NMMA (National Marine Manufacturers Association) with good results, may reduce your boat’s emissions.” BoatUS Magazine, discussing alternative marine fuels that are coming to market. Unlike ethanol blends, the new fuels do not attract water and do not separate. They’re produced largely from plant material such as corn, as well as waste oil and greases. Other developments include a drop-in diesel alternative made from cooking oil, animal fat, and food industry waste. Also being tested are two ethanol-free gasoline alternatives. — “6-in-1 bodywash and shampoo for men. Cleans hair, face, body, carpet, truck, and camp dishes.” Uncredited faux-advertisement, showing a man enthusiastically reading the label on a product in the health care aisle at the supermarket.

16 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

December 2023 Sunrise/Sunset Bangor, ME DATE RISE SET 1 Fri 6:50 3:57 2 Sat 6:51 3:57 3 Sun 6:52 3:56 4 Mon 6:53 3:56 5 Tue 6:54 3:56 6 Wed 6:55 3:56 7 Thu 6:56 3:56 8 Fri 6:57 3:55 9 Sat 6:58 3:55 10 Sun 6:59 3:55 11 Mon 7:00 3:55 12 Tue 7:01 3:56 13 Wed 7:02 3:56 14 Thu 7:03 3:56 15 Fri 7:03 3:56 16 Sat 7:04 3:56

DATE RISE SET 17 Sun 7:05 3:57 18 Mon 7:05 3:57 19 Tue 7:06 3:57 20 Wed 7:07 3:58 21 Thu 7:07 3:58 22 Fri 7:08 3:59 23 Sat 7:08 3:59 24 Sun 7:08 4:00 25 Mon 7:09 4:00 26 Tue 7:09 4:01 27 Wed 7:09 4:02 28 Thu 7:10 4:02 29 Fri 7:10 4:03 30 Sat 7:10 4:04 31 Sun 7:10 4:05

December 2023 Tides Portland, ME DATE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun

HIGH AM PM 1:30 1:30 2:17 2:18 3:07 3:10 3:59 4:04 4:50 4:58 5:40 5:54 6:28 6:49 7:15 7:42 7:58 8:30 8:39 9:15 9:19 9:58 10:00 10:42 10:43 11:27 11:29 — 12:13 12:17 1:01 1:07 1:54 2:02 2:50 3:02 3:50 4:06 4:49 5:12 5:50 6:19 6:49 7:25 7:46 8:26 8:39 9:21 9:29 10:11 10:16 10:59 11:01 11:43 11:44 — 12:25 12:25 1:05 1:06 1:46 1:47

LOW AM PM 7:17 8:00 8:05 8:48 8:56 9:38 9:51 10:27 10:47 11:16 11:44 — 12:05 12:40 12:53 1:32 1:39 2:19 2:22 3:02 3:04 3:44 3:46 4:27 4:29 5:12 5:15 5:58 6:02 6:46 6:53 7:36 7:47 8:30 8:47 9:27 9:51 10:25 10:57 11:24 — 12:05 12:25 1:12 1:25 2:13 2:21 3:08 3:13 3:58 4:01 4:45 4:47 5:30 5:31 6:12 6:12 6:52 6:53 7:31 7:35 8:08

Almanac (Continued from page 15)

In Barry’s honor, and in honor of his wife Jean, son Mike and the rest of his family and friends, we present this 1889 poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson: Crossing the Bar by Alfred, Lord Tennyson Sunset and evening star, and one clear call for me! And may there be no moaning of the bar, when I put out to sea, But such a tide as moving seems asleep, too full for sound and foam, When that which drew from out the boundless deep, turns again home. Twilight and evening bell, and after that the dark! And may there be no sadness of farewell, when I embark; For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place, the flood may bear me far, I hope to see my Pilot face to face, when I have crost the bar. —

State Says Limit your Campfire to Three Feet …or get a permit first The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) is implementing a new law that mandates burn permits for larger fires. The law requires permits for fires that exceed 3 feet in height and 3 feet in diameter. The new law also makes it unlawful to burn outdoors during red flag warning days. The Maine Sportsman’s team of accredited reporters, many of whom own remote camps in the northern half of the state, tried out the state’s online fire permitting system (found at, requesting permission to maintain a medium-size brush fire on a sandy area 100 feet from their remote camp during a rainy day in October. They were doing fine until they got to the signature page, in which they were required to certify to the following: • You must be 18 or older • One adult must be present • One charged garden hose, unless the ground is completely covered with snow • One backpump or five-gallon bucket

One shovel or rake Pile must be 50 feet from structure • Burning may be conducted only from 5:00 pm to 9:00 am The requirement for a “charged” garden hose may pose a challenge to the thousands of landowners in Maine who own camps without running water. However, we applaud the intent of the requirement, which is to reduce the risk that large recreational fires will get out of control and start wildfires. In addition, the list of requirements above serves as a good checklist to use for the many social, backyard fires at homes and camps around the state. • •

— Wilderness First Aid by Stacey Wheeler RN

Is It Dehydration? Did you know that when you start to feel thirsty, your body is already in a state of dehydration? Seventy percent of Mainers are dehydrated on a daily basis. Dehydration can take place in any climate or situation, and is common with Maine outdoorsmen, especially during hunting or scouting activities. Dry autumn and winter air, or bright sun, can easily dehydrate an active body.

Strenuous activity such as hunting requires increased water intake. Photo: US Army

Many symptoms arise prior to thirst that indicate the body is entering a dehydrated state. These symptoms include: • Mood changes • Headaches and brain fog • Elevated heart rate • Pallor, or paleness of the skin • Fatigue • Lack of sweat • Dry mouth, and • Decreased urination (Continued on next page)

������������������������������������������� The Maine Sportsman • December 2023 • 17

Maine Wildlife:

Chain Pickerel

by Tom Seymour

Pickerel get little respect from today’s anglers. Indeed, chain pickerel, Esox niger, rank in the “trash fish” category for most people. But at one time, pickerel were very much a soughtafter species. Pickerel were once ubiquitous throughout Southern, Central, Midcoast and Eastern Maine. I say “were” ubiquitous, because many waters that once held pickerel are now bereft of the species, thanks to both sanctioned and illegal introductions of largemouth bass. The millpond in the town next to me once contained pickerel, brown bullheads and baitfish. Pickerel grew to huge proportions – 5 pounds and more – in the dark waters of the little pond. Best times were spring and fall, before the weeds surfaced and just before they died. Casting from shore, it was possible to hook 10 or more pickerel in a morning, some of them 3-pounders. But then one year, largemouth bass showed up, and in only a short time the pickerel had all but disappeared, outcompeted by the non-native species. Early Sport In the heyday of pickerel fishing in Maine, pickerel were the first to bite in ponds and lakes once safe ice formed. This was in the days of ice chisels and packbaskets. Individuals and family groups eagerly pulled in pickerel, which they took home and ate. Today, people pull in pickerel and leave them on the ice for the eagles. This shift in culture, customs and practices seems far removed from a time when

Chain pickerel. Photo: Vermont Fish & Wildlife

natural resources such as pickerel were appreciated, rather than disparaged. But no matter how modern anglers regard them, pickerel remain a fine sportfish, and those who embrace them will find a whole new world of angling pleasure. Where they haven’t been outcompeted by bass, pickerel grow big and fight well. In spring, before the water becomes too warm, pickerel will frequently jump clear of the surface when hooked. Other factors contributing to pickerel’s fall from favor include the Northern pike (Esox Lucius) that now inhabit many Maine waters. Pike act like pickerel and are similarly-shaped, but grow to far larger sizes. And when it comes to game fish, size makes a difference in angler favorability. People will travel many miles for the chance to hook a pike weighing in the double digits, but no one (myself excepted) will cross the street to catch a 2- or 3-pound pickerel. Last Stronghold While pickerel become increasingly scarce in much of Maine, one region at least has stood the test of time. That area constitutes what I refer to as the “pickerel capital of Maine.” That place is Washington County. Warmwater ponds and lakes abound, and many of them continue to host thriving pickerel populations. Not only that, Washington County is home to countless winding, slowmoving streams and rivers, many flowing through low-lying heaths and wetlands. These rank as pickerel havens, and a half-day or so spent canoeing on one of these classic waters can easily result in practically nonstop

Almanac (Continued from page 16)

There are easy ways to prevent dehydration from occurring by following a few simple steps: • Drink plenty of water. Yes, water is the best – juice, soda or coffee won’t fit the bill. Plan to consume 6-10 ounces of water every 20 minutes. You need more water than your average daily intake. • Limit alcohol intake the night be-

fore your hunt. Alcohol can dehydrate the body, working against you. Sip slowly; don’t gulp. The body will absorb only so much at once. Drinking too much at a time can cause stomach upset. Consider using an electrolyte replacement. You lose salt and other electrolytes when sweating that rob energy stores. Rest when feeling effects, and give your body time to catch up.

action on wall-hanger-size pickerel. Here’s my method of pickerel fishing in these waters. Use a light or even ultralight spinning rod, and a small, silver-colored Mooselook Wobbler or similar wobbling lure. You might want to add a short wire leader ahead of the lure to keep those sharp, pickerel teeth from cutting the line. Cast out, and allow the lure to flutter down nearly to bottom before slowly reeling it back. Watch the line for the slightest movement as the lure settles and if you see, feel or even suspect a bite, set the lure hard. This ranks as the most effective method for taking pickerel that I have ever used. Lifetime Bests We all remember big fish that we caught and – even more so – big fish that got away. Here’s my story. While ice fishing in the early season with my grandpa, I used the largest baitfish I could find, and shortly after setting my ice-fishing trap, I got a flag. I finally landed a 27 ½- inch pickerel. The baitfish still had life in it, so I reset the trap. Again, as if it were just waiting in the wings, another obviously giant pickerel took the bait. This felt far heavier than the previous one. I finally managed to get the fish’s head into the hole. This was in the days of ice chisels, and because of some quirk of the human stance, a chiseled hole was usually narrower at the bottom than at the top. This one was just wide enough to allow passage of the first pickerel, but the second pickerel became wedged in the hole. And there I stood, pulling on the line and watching the hook straighten out. The great fish silently slid back down through the hole. Had I only dropped the line and wrapped my hands behind the fish’s head, I could probably have forced it up through the hole. I still regret it.

Extreme dehydration can cause confusion and disorientation, and can lead to permanent harm. So be smart, stay hydrated, and hunt on. —


In the “Trophy Gallery” found on page 19 of the November, 2023 issue, the correct date the two huge brook trout were caught on Moosehead Lake was August 13, 2023.

18 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

Modern Muzzleloaders – “Not Your Grandfather’s Flintlock” by John LaMarca

I am fortunate to hold the position of director of engineering for Woodman Arms, of Fremont, NH. That job has provided a great perspective on, and appreciation for, the huge changes that have occurred in recent years in the design and production of muzzleloaders. For many, the term “muzzleloader” brings mental images of “ye olde” muskets employing flintlock actions to fire round balls, and all the while the shooter has an overriding goal of “keeping the powder dry.” However, the features of the most modern muzzleloaders make them nearly as accurate and user-friendly as conventional rifles. Specifically: • Size: Older muzzleloaders were made smooth-bore, and thus were not as accurate as modern rifled firearms. To obtain the necessary accuracy with smoothbore models, the overall barrel and firearm length were increased. However, the added length meant more

The author holds the Woodman Arms “Patriot” muzzleloader – a modern, lightweight, rifled firearm manufactured in New Hampshire.

metal and wood, and thus a heavier gun. Overall, the average flintlock rifle was around 5 feet long, and weighed more than 10 lbs! Newer muzzleloaders feature rifled barrels, and they are made with modern, lightweight materials. Our newest model is about 3-1/2 feet long, and it weighs only 5-1/2 pounds. • Powder/Action: Vintage flintlock/caplock muzzleloaders work by loading the powder and projectile down the muzzle, and pouring a small charge into the “pan” on the outside of the firearm. When the flintlock/caplock hammer drops,

it sends sparks into the pan, igniting the powder. The powder in the pan then ignites the main charge, sending the projectile out of the barrel. This process is prone to failure, as the charge depends on all these other exterior processes going off correctly. The biggest issue is the problem of moisture. With the lock mechanism being exterior to the rifle, it is exposed to the elements. All it takes is one drop of water to nullify the charge of a flintlock. Modern technology has changed the whole muzzleloading platform, virtually eliminating the old is-

sues. Timmy Bulduc, Woodman Arms team member and renowned northeast whitetail hunter, told me, “It was only 25 to 30 years ago, we were all running around with firing caps, loose powder, easy-loaders and round balls. We had to deal with hang fires, wet powder, lower accuracy, and all sorts of issues. “Now, with modern powders, bullets and moving the ignition to be enclosed within the rifle, the only primary drawback is that you only get one shot. “I feel just as comfortable in the woods with my modern muzzleloader as I would with a single-shot ri-

fle.” • Materials: Vast improvements have also been made in recent years to the materials used to make the muzzleloaders. Even many so-called “modern” muzzleloaders are made from materials that can rust. Mark Woodman, owner and founder of Woodman Arms, said, “We have chosen to use materials and coatings that resist or combat the corrosion created by moisture and powder residue. We employ metals like 17-4 Stainless Steel, and melonite QPQ, and Nitride finishes. We can even treat the inside of the bore, to provide internal corrosion resistance.” So whether you use a traditional model, or a modern, rifled version, you should know that the newer firearms are more reliable and easier to carry than in earlier models. Whatever you carry, get ready to hit the woods with the “smoke pole” and get it done!

������������������������������������������� The Maine Sportsman • December 2023 • 19

— Deer Hunting in Maine —

Muzzleloading Season: A Holiday Gift to Maine Hunters by James Andrews

For those of us who are tired of climbing up into and down out of our ladder stand, and for those of us who have noticed that our ground blind has become more than a little bit claustrophobic, Maine’s DIF&W offers an early holiday gift – the muzzleloading season, which offers advantages to Maine hunters who want to stretch their legs. Long Deer Season Back in the dark ages, when Maine’s November firearms season for deer was the only real game in town, hunters focused all their energy on those few weeks. The eleventh month passed in a manic rush of balancing precious hunting time with life’s other responsibilities. By the end of Thanksgiving weekend, we were done – in many different ways. Either we had our deer hanging in the barn, stored in the freezer, or that deer was still running in the woods. But it was time to hang up our boots and start looking forward to next year. Maine’s modern deer hunt is an entirely different beast. With the expanded archery season starting in early September, plus the late muzzleloading season, the hunt has expanded into a three-month extravaganza. And with the fine-tuning of the

You’re tired of stump-sitting, trail-watching and stand-hunting – and besides, it’s too cold to sit still. So grab your muzzleloader, pick a deer track in the snow, and follow it!

With snow on the ground, it’s easy to see where the deer are browsing. Here. an observer can determine they’ve been digging up frozen acorns. Photo: James Andrews

antlerless deer permit program, the freezer can even be filled with more than one deer. Patient Predators All that extra hunting opportunity, along with increased deer populations, have encouraged us to become much more patient predators, and less-mobile hunters. We do a lot of our deer hunting from a seated position these days. And we focus on the small areas that contain our blinds and stands.

But the widespread acceptance among deer hunters – that ambush is more effective than active pursuit – is only a few decades old. Stump-sitting, trail-watching or stand-hunting were occasional tactics for hunters during Maine’s rich deer hunting history. It was almost never an all-day or season-long strategy.

may still be stuck in our patterns of ambush hunting. It’s tempting to climb right back into the ladder stand or ground blind for another all-day sit. But as we bring the muzzleloader out

of the gun safe this year, it’s worthwhile to consider changing things up. Maybe we already have a deer in the freezer. Or maybe the unheated ground blind is a bit too cold for comfort, and we just feel the urge to pull on a wool shirt and go walk some ridges like Grandad used to. There are some great reasons to choose the muzzleloading season as a time to stretch our legs. Less Hunting Pressure Despite the incredible budget value ($13 for residents) that a muzzleloading season permit represents, the number of hunters who take advantage of the extended season is relatively small. Only about 1,500 deer fell to Maine muzzleloader (Continued on next page)

Smoke-Pole Deer Hunting When muzzleloader season arrives, we

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20 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

Deer Hunting (Continued from page 19)

hunters last year, out of a total harvest of more than 42,000. That means significantly-reduced hunting pressure. Our roaming around is much less likely to disturb other hunters waiting in ambush. And we are less likely to push deer onto other hunters. But the best part of fewer hunters is that the deer will slip back into more normal feeding, bedding and traveling habits.

And because the mating season is largely over, deer are focused on food sources to fatten up for the harsh weather to come. I would never be so bold as to claim that Maine deer become predictable, but it’s certainly less of a random game of chance out there. Snow Hunting for Mortals The climate is warming quickly, and there’s no guarantee of tracking snow during

any given late-November or early-December hunt. But if there’s no snow on our back lawn, chances are we can drive to it relatively easily. Focus on traveling to higher altitude areas, rather than just heading north. Even older snow that is not ideal for tracking is advantageous to the mobile hunter. Tracks are always helpful in locating recent deer trail activity. And sign of recent feeding by deer is more apparent – think overturned oak leaves

after a snowfall. Also, spotting deer against a background of snow is infinitely easier than trying to pick them out from a bare brown scene. A Day in the Life Fresh snow gives even us mere hunting mortals the chance to pick a deer track and follow it for a day. Most of us fantasize about finding and following a huge track across remote mountainsides to a huge buck. Fellow columnist Hal Blood and his crew at Big Woods Bucks do this on a reg-

ular basis. In my aging mind, I am still Larry Benoit every time I see a buck track laid down in fresh tracking snow. But even following a fork-horn or a big doe around the local woodlot for a day can be the hunt of a lifetime. Observant hunters can learn more following a deer track around their hunting grounds for a day than if they were to read a library-full of deer hunting books. Happy hunting! Think snow!

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������������������������������������������� The Maine Sportsman • December 2023 • 21

— Guest Column —

I Never Go Hunting Alone by Everett Leland, Kittery, ME For over 30 years, a gang of us have gone to the Rangeley Region in the Western Maine Mountains to bird hunt in October. We hunt with varying degrees of ambition and success, but we all seem to have a pretty good time. Last year, my dog and I were exploring a road we hoped would have a partridge living nearby. The road was only slightly hilly, and wound through firs and poplar with water on one side, so we were thinking positive thoughts. It was one of those absolutely perfect October days when the air is so dry that, when you come to a high spot, it seems like you can see forever. The sun was out, and occasionally it went behind the puffy fair-weather clouds, making the temperature neither too hot nor too cold. The frost had hit the goldenrod during the night, so they were all brown, but the ferns are still hanging on, despite appearing very delicate. On days like this, you can end up walking a lot farther than you intend to, because the conditions and your curiosity keep dragging you around another corner just to see what’s there. We hadn’t traveled very far when we came to an old grown-over road that curved off to one side. The dog looked back at me to see which way we were going to go, and I signaled toward the old road, encouraging him to explore it. I knew there would probably be trees that had fallen across it, and sections of it that had washed out. These are just the kinds of things that cause others to avoid it; in other words, exactly why we should check it out. Initially, it didn’t look as though it would be any better than the road we’d been on, but it certainly wasn’t any worse, either. As usual, the dog was about 20 yards ahead of me and hadn’t gone far down the slightly curved road, when he stopped and seemed interested in something I couldn’t see. He wasn’t wagging his tail as he does when he recognizes someone he likes, or barking in excitement, or even growling softly as when he’s not sure – he was just looking. I have learned that his senses are better than mine, so when he focuses in

You never know what you’ll see while grouse hunting in the Maine woods. a certain direction, I tend to pay attention. It may be a partridge, or a robin, or a moose – it’s all the same to him. As I rounded the curve and caught up to him, I saw that he was watching a man sitting sideways to us on a log in an old landing. It seemed odd and rather surprising that anyone would be there, because I had seen no tracks in the mud of the dried-up puddles we had crossed, and it was a very long way from anywhere in the other direction. The man was still quite a distance off, but as I studied him, it wasn’t long before I realized, from his old felt hat, glasses, short gray hair and V-neck button sweater over broad but slightly rounded shoulders, that I was looking at my Dad. He sat comfortably in the sun, lean-

As I continued to watch, I noticed my grandfather, Bamp, emerge into the clearing, holding his broken-open shotgun, and a partridge. He joined my Dad.

ing over with his elbows on his knees, and I could see that he was looking down, doing something with his hands. I don’t know why, but I just knew he was peeling an apple as I had seen him do so many, many times before. As we walked closer, the dog was still very alert, but he was not looking at Dad. I caught a movement in the woods, and before long, another man stepped out into the landing across from Dad. The man was carrying a broken-open shotgun in one hand and a partridge in the other. The way the man approached and greeted Dad, it was obvious they knew each other. Even though the man was quartering away from me, I instantly recognized from the suspenders he was wearing and his stooped, deliberate, unhurried walk across the landing, it was my Grandfather, Bamp. Bamp joined Dad on the log, and I could see him gesturing toward the woods from which he’d emerged. His arms waved as he showed how he’d had to claw his way through a dense thicket. The age-old ritual of telling just how he had made that last shot and got the bird, was well underway. Although the shotgun was laid at his feet in the grass, he pantomimed swinging it and taking the shot, and then they both laughed. Dad handed Bamp a piece of apple, cut another piece, and turned to reach down. By now, I was close enough to notice that between them sat a black dog – my first Labrador. He was waiting patiently for the piece of apple he knew was coming. When that Lab and I were around Dad, I often wondered whose dog he really was. You can imagine how happy I was to see this group, since they had all been gone for many years. I looked down at the dog by my side when he whined softly, and when I looked back, they were no longer there. I looked around, but of course I couldn’t find them (and didn’t expect to), despite a strong feeling that they were nearby. Oh well … perhaps now you have a better understanding of what it means when I say I never go hunting alone.

22 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

Want It Less by Matt Breton & Hal Blood I sometimes think my biggest hang-up is wanting to shoot a big buck too much. Like shooting a monster will somehow make me smarter, better looking, or even a better person. I think this is a hang-up, because there’s too much anticipation. Instead of being in the moment, letting my mind and body do what they know to do, the thinking part of my head tries to control everything. It ends up being a lot like over-steering a car – hyper control makes

The goal, says the author, is not to overthink the situation. Instead, get to a mindset in which the world consists of just you, and the buck track you’re following. In athletics, it would be called “the flow state” or “being in the zone.” things herky-jerky and not smooth. This happened last year. I tracked a nice buck to his bedroom, and as I was easing in, I just knew that the shot was coming. The moment had a heart-pounding, edgeof-your-seat feel, with the pressure increasing with each step. When he blew

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out of his bed, I overthought it and consciously led him, as opposed to just shooting him. That’s why sometimes the things that surprise us – that we can’t think about – go better than when we have time to prepare. For a while, I let the pursuit define me, as if shooting a deer determined my selfworth. I like to think that I’ve continued to grow and evolve as a person (I hope I’m not the same now as I was when I was 23) and that I’m in some sort of new phase where the chase and experience are what fuel me. I had one of the best seasons in my memory last year.

I chased a couple of good bucks, got to spend a few precious hours helping drag my father’s deer out, and was with a buddy when he shot his first big woods buck. Let Go of Ego My tracking goal for this season has been to let go of my ego, and simply try to be present in the woods. I think I’ve spent enough time out there doing this to know things without having to consciously think about them all the time; now I just need to put myself in a position to let it happen. There have been occasions in the past when I’ve tracked

bucks during which I’ve felt my self-awareness disappear. Just the track in that moment. In the world of athletics, that is known as the “flow state” or “being in the zone.” Whatever it is, I feel like it is attached to just being in the process, rather than focusing on the outcome. In an ever-crazier world, keeping my mind quiet in the woods seems like a good thing. It isn’t that goals, desires and emotions are bad – they’re not. We need them to get us out there. But they are distractions. Those things pull us inward, away from the attention we should have when that buck is bedded up ahead of us. If we’re thinking, we’re less able to act decisively and react when the moment happens. Hal’s Thoughts Matt is right on! I have caught myself many times thinking too much about what the buck I’m tracking might have for a rack, or if it might not weigh 200 pounds. For me, it usually happens when I take the track of what I call an “either/ or” buck – one that I think will weigh 200 pounds, but might be 190 or 210. That’s really just splitting hairs, and the time of the season can control that more (Continued on next page)

������������������������������������������� The Maine Sportsman • December 2023 • 23 (Continued from page 22)

than anything. There are a lot of bucks that weigh 200 pounds the first week of the season that will drop 20 or 30 pounds by the end of the season. Many a time, when I have seen a buck jump I would spend too much time trying to size him up instead of just shooting and sizing him up after. Quite often, I have kicked myself after doing it. A few years ago, I shot the buck I call Master Gun. It had been a season without snow, and it was Monday of Thanksgiving week. It had rained in the night, and then snowed enough to make a skim on the leaves. I was walking through an old cut just trying to pick up a

track, and as I pushed my way around a thick winter beech, a buck bolted 20 yards from me. I saw a rack swing as he went, so my gun went up. All I could see was flicks of his tail as he was running straight away through the whips. I pulled on the tail and touched off a round, and everything went quiet. I walked over to where he’d disappeared, and he was laying there, dead. I had hit him in the back of the neck. His rack was not as big as I’d thought – just an average 8-point – and his body also did not look that big. I was a little disappointed, but thought to myself, Why? I had just walked up close to this buck in the middle of nowhere and made a great shot.

Matt Breton (right) and his father Richard, back on the road after dragging Richard’s 2022 buck out of the woods.

Then everything was good. I didn’t need the biggest buck in the woods that I’ve always told myself I did. This was the buck God wanted me to have,

and I was way happy to have him. I had thought at first the buck was a 2 ½ year-old that weighed about 165 pounds, but as it turned out he was

Trophy Gallery

a 5 ½ year-old that weighed 185 pounds. Of course I still want to shoot the biggest buck in the woods, but I don’t have to!

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You’ve been successful at the hunt, now wear your pride by entering one of The Maine Sportsman’s exclusive patch clubs! In the space of about 40 days in September and October, 2023, Erin Argraves of Mapleton qualified for The Maine Sportsman “Maine Grand Slam” patch club. Starting with a sow bear on September 6, 2023 in Mapleton, she followed up on September 25, 2023 with a huge 786-lb. moose in T13R7. She began the month of October with a whitetail buck shot with her crossbow in Mapleton (shown here), and completed the Grand Slam with a hen turkey from Mapleton on October 16, 2023.

Maine Sportsman Patch Clubs Include: Biggest Bucks in Maine, Maine Youth Deer Hunter, Maine Moose Hunters, Maine Big Game, Maine Black Bear, The One That Didn’t Get Away, Catch and Release, Maine Bowhunters, and Maine Saltwater Anglers. To enter, go to to download, print and mail your application and fee to:

The Maine Sportsman, 183 State Street, Suite 101, Augusta, ME 04330 Don’t have a computer or printer? No problem! Give us a call at (207) 622-4242 and we’ll mail you an application.

24 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

An Advantage in Being “From Away” As I approached the front door of the farmhouse, I knew the person I was looking for. I’d never asked permission to hunt this land, but I’d passed by it often in the last 32 years. A farmer no longer owned the property. A gentleman from Massachusetts had purchased the house and farm (49 acres) back in 2019. Though I’d received permission to hunt the property years ago, I’d never spoken with the new owner, so I hadn’t hunted the property in recent years. There were no visible posted signs along the road, so I surmised my

As changes in hunting access and practices come to Maine, especially those changes occurring in the more populated southern and coastal portions, they will be changes that many residents who are “from away” already experienced in their former states. chances of gaining permission were good. The house and yard had been worked on extensively. There was no doubt the home was being transformed back to its former, beautiful condition. This new owner obviously loved the home. As I stepped onto the porch and reached out to knock on the door, I heard a voice say, “Whatever you’re selling, I’m not buy-

ing.” I chuckled and blurted out, “I’m not selling a darn thing.” The gentleman was now at the door. He’d been working in the yard, and had gone in for a drink. I quickly introduced myself and asked if he was “Michael.” He replied yes, and just then, I realized, I was selling something – I was selling myself. At least I was selling myself as a hunter.

Pleasant Conversation I explained to him that I never actually hunted the property when the former owner had lived there, but that I’d sent many college students there over the years. Since there weren’t any students hunting the area anymore, I was hopeful he’d give me permission. He looked confused and said, “It’s not deer season until Novem-

ber” (this conversation took place in June). I explained that I always ask early in the year, in case people said no. “Because you asked, I’ll give you written permission,” he said, pulling a notepad from his back pocket. As he wrote out the permission note, he asked for my last name, and when I told him, he laughed. He said he’d “thrown quite a few people off the property” since he’d moved in. He said he used to hunt deer in Connecticut before moving to Maine. In Connecticut, (Continued on page 26)

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26 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

Big Game (Continued from page 24)

written permission is required for anyone hunting private land which they don’t own. He said he still hunted a bit, but these days, he “enjoys watching the deer more than hunting them.” He did still enjoy eating deer meat, but couldn’t eat a whole deer on his own anymore, because of dietary restrictions. This guy was really nice, and had a cool history. We spent nearly 30 minutes talking, before I left. I’d made a new friend, and I had a new piece of land to scout.

Being From Away Can Be an Advantage I arrived in Unity, Maine in January of 1992. In September of 1992, I purchased my first Maine hunting license. This year is my 32nd year deer hunting this state. Though I might complain from time to time, Maine deer hunting has been very good to me. Where I grew up in Central New York, there were far more deer hunters and more deer. Properties there were generally smaller – a tract of 100 acres was considered

huge. Most properties I hunted were no more than 10 or 20 acres. If a hunter was fortunate, they might get permission from an abutter or two, and have 40-50 acres to hunt. Most landowners didn’t require written permission, but they 100% required a hunter to ask permission first. I grew up learning to ask first. As time moved on, my hunting spots in NY became subdivisions. Farms went out of business, and fields filled with houses. It became more difficult to gain permission if you didn’t know someone personally or have a direct connection. Today, most of my NY friends own small 5- to 20-acre pieces of land, and that’s where they hunt. It’s nearly impossible to gain permission in some areas. I watched it happen, and I see it coming to parts of Maine.

Maine hunters, especially those in coastal and southern portions of the state, can expect to see more and more of these signs. Credit: Maine DIF&W

My advantage comes from experience in asking permission, and being okay when a landowner says no. Moving to the next landowner, to the next farm or to a piece of heavily-hunted public land was something common for me growing up. As more housing units are built (see


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Maine State Housing’s recent study showing an 84,000 housing unit shortage) and properties we hunt are no longer available, many will be faced with similar changes. As change comes to our state, especially the more populated southern and coastal portions, it will be change that many of us “from away” have already seen. Experience in asking permission, hunting so-called “urban deer,” and understanding there are still excellent opportunities, will all be keys to success. This change isn’t something we’ll all enjoy, or embrace, but as the saying goes, change is inevitable.


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A Curious Blend of Old and New Seasons change. Autumn drifts into winter. One year closes, and another opens – full of promise and potential. By December, most hunters have cleaned their guns and put away the gear in anticipation of the holidays. For others – the dedicated and stout-hearted types – many hours of good gunning remain. Deer hunting with muzzleloaders extends into the first week of December; there is late-season upland bird hunting right to the end of the month; seasons for migratory waterfowl extend well into December and, in some cases, even into early January; and duck and goose hunters have ample opportunities for making memories, as resident and late-migrating flocks converge before ice takes hold. When the faint of heart and the fair-weather shooters withdraw from the field and marshes in December, a window opens for the more committed. To outfit those determined souls, an eye-catching European import arrived this year to give a bit of a shake to the conglomeration of shotguns now on offer. Anyone considering a new shotgun for the boat or blind, or perhaps someone shopping for a special gift to place under

The three different versions of the new SL5 semiautomatic shotgun from J. P. Sauer and Sohn are well-designed firearms meant for serious waterfowlers, upland game enthusiasts, and turkey hunters.

The new SL5 semiautomatic shotgun from J. P. Sauer and Sohn. Photo credit: Sauer and Sohn-USA

the Christmas tree to thrill any novice or expert duck hunter, ought to consider the new-for-2023 SL5 from J. P. Sauer and Sohn. Established in 1751, and known for their top-quality sporting arms in the Germanic tradition, Sauer and Sohn (not to be confused with Swiss gun-maker Sig-Sauer) this year stepped off in a new direction. In business for 272 years, Sauer waited until now to launch their first semi-automatic shotgun. Wicked Waterfowler This new venture aims to grab a share

of the lucrative North American shotgun market from the likes of European competitors Benelli, Beretta, Franchi, FABARM, and CZ, as well as domestic giants like Remington and Browning. Once the tool of choice of market hunters, semi-automatic shotguns today dominate the world of waterfowling, and every year they grow more popular among upland bird hunters, as well. No longer content to sit on the semi-automatic sidelines, Sauer offers its version of an inertia-operated semi they call the SL5. From Sauer headquar-

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ters at Suhl in the central German state of Thuringia, Sauer and Sohn poured their decades of design experience into the SL5, while leaving the actual production to master Italian shotgun makers at Breda (an Italian firearms manufacturing company, not the city in the Netherlands). The SL5, in fact, uses the same recoil-driven operating system as

semi-automatics made by Benelli. The partnership with Breda takes the Sauer Company somewhere it has not previously ventured, and the result is an interesting package of features and characteristics for modern hunters or sporting clays shooters. The waterfowler mounts synthetic stocks and forearms in brown, black, or an old-school camouflage pattern named for the late, great archer, Fred Bear. Why they chose a paint pattern named for America’s most famous bow hunter seems a bit odd, and a question for the marketing department. That said, in the time of Mossy Oak and digital camouflage pat(Continued on next page)

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28 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

Shooter’s Bench (Continued from page 27)

terns, the SL5’s retro appearance is striking and even appealing, no matter whom it is named after. Marsh-Ready The waterfowler

also has a recoil pad and a padded comb to lessen the impact of heavy shotshell loads used when reaching for high fliers, or to knock down a tough

old gander. The gun may also be purchased with an optional brown Cerakote finish on the barrel and receiver. The SL5 comes with three-inch chambers; some may wish it would handle threeand-a-half inch shells, and the company may

come to that same conclusion down the road. The SL5 holds three rounds in its tubular magazine, and the price includes five Benelli Crio Plus extended length choke tubes, and a plastic padded hard case to carry the package. Buyers have the option of choosing 26-inch, 28-inch, or 30-inch barrels. Clearly, these are shotguns meant for serious sporting enthusiasts. List price for the European gun, dressed in Fred Bear’s very-American clothing, rings in about $1,700 – a sum in the middle of the road for quality shotguns these days. The walnut stocked upland version of the SL5, and the turkey-hunting version with a thumbhole stock, list for about $300 less than the wa-

terfowler. Those prices seem reasonable, given the overheated market for firearms in this country over the past few years. Mainers who shoot ducks and geese ought to look once, twice, three times at the SL5, if not to collect another shotgun, then to gain some insight into a 272-year-old European company that can offer a product exuding traditional German engineering and thoroughly modern flavor. Time remains in this hunting season. Enough time remains for getting out on either fresh or salt water, and then to come home with some birds for the oven or the grill. Imagine lugging in a Christmas goose brought down with a fine new shotgun.

Trophy Gallery

Evan Shurtleff, age 13 of Eddington, was hunting in Caribou with his grandfather, Gene Rossignol, on October 20, 2023 (the first of two Youth Deer Days this year) when he got his first-ever whitetail deer, a 130-lb. doe, with a .243. The weight was certified at DoDo’s Market, 539 Access Hwy in Caribou. Congratulations, Evan!

������������������������������������������� The Maine Sportsman • December 2023 • 29

Get Ready for Ice Fishing! by Blaine Cardilli

As temperatures drop, outdoor enthusiasts turn their attention to ice fishing. Ice fishing is permitted on many of Maine’s 6,000 lakes and ponds, especially those in the south and central portions of the state. I’ve been ice fishing since I was 10 years old, primarily for warm-water species such as bass, pickerel and perch. The sport has changed considerably since I was a youngster, with the wide range of high-tech equipment that’s now available. Years ago, we used hand-augers rather than modern battery-powered drills. We could only dream about such electronics as fish finders that sit on top of the ice, and underwater cameras designed especially for ice fishing. And since we were generally exposed to the elements, we’d wait for a nice sunny day to go fishing, whereas folks today can avoid the cold

With many new types of gear and equipment, ice fishing has gotten very complex. However, it does not have to be complicated, and those new to the sport can experience success quickly by learning the basics. Here’s how.

Several years ago, the author’s son Ryan pulled this huge largemouth through the ice. Blaine Cardilli photo

wind by getting into lightweight, portable shelters. However, especially when you are in the company of young or inexperienced anglers,

The author, complete with warm hat, bright scarf and a chunky largemouth bass. Orrin Parker photo

I think it’s important not to forget the basics, since over-reliance on modern gear may make it more difficult to remember the real reason you’re out

on the ice; namely, to have fun and spend time socializing with friends and family. The Basics I also haven’t strayed far from my

ice-fishing roots, and for that reason I use traditional tip-ups. In addition, rather than rely on an electronic depth finder, I “sound” the hole using a special weight with a rubber flap (the hook is temporarily affixed to the weight) to determine proper depth. I also use a tiny bobber that clips to the line once I’ve determined the appropriate depth. Many folks tie a knot in the line, but the knots tend to tighten, and they are difficult to remove. What brand of trap to select? Jack Traps of Monmouth, Maine is a statewide favorite, and conventional traps are also made by Heritage, Butler and Forest City. Modern, streamlined versions now compete with the heirloom brands, including those from Frabill (a company that made its name with landing nets), as well as Beaver Dam, and HT Enterprises. (Continued on next page)

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30 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

Quick-strike rigs like this “Jaw Jacker” set the hook automatically when the fish triggers the rod.

This chart provides general guidance for ice thickness safety. Source: Maine DIF&W

Ice Fishing (Continued from page 29)

For those anglers who enjoy jigging and want a place to put down their rods, several companies manufacture holders that support the handle of the jigging rod and keep the rod over the hole. A level more complex are the self-setting rigs like Jaw-Jacker, in which the fish’s initial tug on the line causes the bent rod to snap up, setting the hook into the fish’s jaw. Talk to the Experts We all have that one fishing buddy who just seems to have a knack for ice fishing. You know the one – that guy (or girl) who

not only has the most flags going up all day, but who also catches the most and the biggest fish. For me, that guy is Orrin “Mac” Parker. Orrin and I have ice fished together for years. Before going out onto the ice with him for the first time, I recall telling him what a great ice fisherman I was. He didn’t reply, but simply grinned. Then he proceeded to out-fish me all day. It wasn’t close; in fact, I wasn’t even in his league. In more than 50 ice fishing derbies, Orrin has always done well – winning many of them,

and placing within the top three contestants in most others. The rest of us can learn a lot from him. I asked him to share a few of his tips for success. Here’s what he said: 1) Consult depth maps of the water, to give you an idea of the contours of the lake’s bottom; 2) Fish off the ends of points of land, and around any submerged islands or areas where the depth changes markedly; 3) Set your bait a foot and a half off bottom for “normal” fishing. If you’re fishing for salmon, Orrin recommends setting the bait about three feet under the ice. These few basic

Here’s expert ice angler Orrin Parker with two hefty largemouth, each weighing between 3 and 5 pounds. Blaine Cardilli photo

practices have served Orrin well throughout the years, and I know they will produce for you. A Few Final Considerations • Need bait? Check out The Maine Sportsman’s baitfish directory, which appears on the next page. • Be careful before venturing out onto any frozen body of water. Drill a test hole to make certain the ice will hold you, your group, and your machines. See the “ice thickness guidelines” chart, above left. • If you have not used your gear in a few years, take it out and examine it at home before you get out on the ice. If your old green line has small

lead sinkers attached, they must be removed and replaced by nonlead weights. The use of lead sinkers less than 2.5 inches long or weighing less than an ounce, is prohibited. • Go directly to the source (www. for information on the rules for each body of water. Learn whether five traps per licensed angler are allowed, or only two. Learn what bait is allowed (hint: if the use of “live bait” is prohibited, that includes worms). Make sure you are looking at the “real” state rules, since there’s a lot of AI-generated mis-information posted on the internet.

������������������������������������������� The Maine Sportsman • December 2023 • 31






Smelt • Shiners • Suckers • Tommy Cod • Worms

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You can also call (207) 622-4242 or subscribe online at

32 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

Avoiding Winter Trail Breakdowns by Steve Carpenteri

With winter nearly upon us, Maine’s snowmobile enthusiasts anxiously await the state’s first substantial snowfall of the season. Thoughts of brilliant winter scenery, miles of well-groomed trails and endless hours of smooth riding keep operators glued to their smartphones and television monitors in hopes that the next weathercast will be “the one.” Fantasies are one

thing; realities are another, and snowmobilers shouldn’t head out on the trail without being prepared to deal with situations that don’t turn out as expected. Breaking down on a distant trail is not fun, but riders can easily equip themselves to deal with the most frequently-encountered mishaps and parts failures common to the sport.

Pre-Trip Preparations A chronic cause of snowmobile breakdowns is an obvious, simple and easily-repaired issue: a dead battery. Before heading out on a trip of any length, check the battery and be sure it is fully charged. If the battery is more than four years old, consider replacing it. Lithium ion batteries last longer than traditional acid batteries, so con-

sider making a switch to a newer battery. Many sledders have joined the legions of boaters who keep a trickle-charger on their battery when it’s not in use, so it’s ready to go when you are. Running out of gas is another common problem that can be easily prevented: Fill up with fuel every time you head out, no matter how long or short your planned trip. When the tank gets

down to about onethird full, start looking for a place to fill up. Trails are sometimes closed unexpectedly for logging operations or for rebuilding due to washouts, causing unplanned detours. There may not be another gas station open for miles, so fill up early and often. Check belts and wires before heading out on a trip. Replace any part that (Continued on next page)

Visit Your Local Ski-Doo Dealer for Current Offers!


Discover it. Share it. Repeat.

AUBURN Wallingford Equipment 2527 Turner Road 207-782-4886

JACKMAN Jackman Power Sports 549 Main Street 207-668-4442

AUGUSTA North Country Ski-doo 3099 N. Belfast Ave. 207-622-7994

LINCOLN Lincoln Power Sports - Access Auto 265 West Broadway 207-794-8100

DETROIT Huff Powersports 284 North Road 207-487-3338

LEEDS Reggie’s Kawasaki Ski-doo 255 US Hwy 202 207-933-4976

FORT KENT Fort Kent Powersports 377 Caribou Road 207-834-3659

WILTON Mountain Side Powersports 912 US Route 2 East 207-645-2985

GREENVILLE JUNCTION Moosehead Motorsports 13 Industrial Park 207-695-2020

WINDHAM Richardson’s Boat Yard 850 Roosevelt Tr, Rt 302 207-892-9664

©2023 Bombardier Recreational Products Inc. (BRP). All rights reserved. ®, ™ and the BRP logo are trademarks of BRP or its affiliates. Products in the United States (US) are distributed by BRP US Inc. Always ride responsibly and safely and wear appropriate clothing, including a helmet. Please observe applicable laws and regulations. Remember that riding and alcohol/drugs don’t mix. See your authorized BRP dealer for details and visit

������������������������������������������� The Maine Sportsman • December 2023 • 33 (Continued from page 32)

is cracked or severely worn. Signs that your snowmobile’s track may need to be replaced include excessive wear, missing or damaged lugs, or a track that no longer maintains proper tension. Check electrical connections, and use factory-recommended replacement bulbs to ensure a reliable electrical system. This will help prevent starting problems, dimming lights, and other electrical mishaps. Rusted, cracked or bare wires are a recipe for disaster. Keep your machine in optimum running condition, and make the necessary re-

pairs before the snow starts to accumulate outside. Parts to Carry While it’s not possible to pack and carry every part of a snowmobile on your trek, it is feasible to predict and prepare for most common, routine breakdowns. As many unfortunate riders have learned, it is possible to bring a damaged snowmobile home safely if the only damage is to the body, cowling, seats, lights and peripheral parts. But when wires, belts and other mechanicals become damaged or break down, riders can find themselves unable to (Continued on next page)

Snowmobile Rental & Guided Tour Directory Rockwood, ME • (207) 534-2261 Open 7 Days Heated Snowmobile Storage Non-Ethanol Gas


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34 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

Snowmobiling (Continued from page 33)

EXPLORE. DISCOVER. DOMINATE. — Visit Your Local Arctic Cat Dealer for Current Promotions — GORHAM White Rock Outboard 351 Sebago Lake Road 207-892-9606

SIDNEY Kramer’s Inc. 2400 West River Road 207-547-3345

LEBANON Northeast Motorsports 451 Carl Broggi Hwy. 207-457-2225

BERLIN, NH Jericho Outdoors 232 Jericho Rd. 603-215-6002

WARNING: Arctic Cat snowmobiles can be hazardous to operate. For your safety, all riders should read and understand their owner’s manual and safety instructions. Always wear an approved helmet and other safety apparel. Be aware of natural hazards you may encounter and don’t drink and ride. All scenes depicted or described were performed by professional riders under carefully controlled conditions. Never attempt to duplicate these maneuvers or encourage others to do so. Arctic Cat recommends that all operators take a safety training course. For safety and training information, please see your local dealer. ©2023 Arctic Cat Inc. All rights reserved.

DOMINATING TRAIL PERFORMANCE • Ferocious Acceleration • Effortless Control in Any Condition • The Most Advanced Technology on Snow

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LEWISTON Central Maine Powersports 845 Main Street 207-689-2345 Polaris recommends that all riders take a safety training course. Do not attempt maneuvers beyond your capability. Always wear a helmet and other safety apparel. Read, understand and follow your owner’s manual. Never drink and ride. Polaris is a registered trademark of Polaris Industries Inc. © 2023 Polaris Industries Inc.

Tools to Carry Most common snowmobile breakdowns can be remedied using basic tools, including a variety of wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers and Allen wrenches. Consult the owner’s manual for recommendations on tools required for basic maintenance (such as tightening a loose track). Determine whether your machine requires standard or metric tools and parts. Be sure that your parts and tool kit in-

cludes working flashlights and a serviceable tow rope or strap. Always carry spare water, food and fire-making equipment. When a breakdown occurs that’s beyond your ability to repair, immediately place a call to provide information to family, friends or law enforcement. Give rescuers your location, the cause of the breakdown, and any other information they may need to help get you on your way. Build a fire, and wait for help to arrive. Meanwhile, start working to repair the problem, but only if you know what you are doing. If you are not well versed in snowmobile repairs, don’t make matters worse by trying to solve the problem yourself. Pre-Trip Precautions The Maine Department of Inland Fish(Snowmobiling continued on page 36)

Yamaha Sidewinder L-TX-SE


JACKMAN Jackman Power Sports 549 Main Street 207-668-4442

limp home. A basic emergency repair kit includes belts, pull cords, spark plugs, light bulbs, oil and other fluids, spare gloves and a fully-charged cell phone. Know your machine, and carry the parts you are most likely to need when breakdowns occur. Meet with your snowmobile dealer or mechanic to discuss which parts are needed for your machine, and how to replace them.

The Sidewinder L‑TX SE has all the trail performance and capabilities found in our LE models but at a lower price point. The ARCS front suspension with Fox® RC adjustable shocks leads the charge with longer, lightweight forged spindles and optimized geometry. A 137” Ripsaw II track wrapped around the free‑arm, coupled SRV rear suspension with HPG shocks hooks up the industry’s most powerful engine. The race bred chassis holds you forward, at the ready to meet anything the trail throws your way.

See Your Local Yamaha Snowmobile Dealer for the Latest Promotions!

SKOWHEGAN Whittemore & Sons 257 Waterville Road • 207-474-2591 Always wear an approved helmet and eye protection. Observe all state and local laws. Respect the rights of others. Ride within your capabilities. Allow extra time and plenty of distance for maneuvering. Do not perform stunts. © 2023 Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A. All rights reserved.

������������������������������������������� The Maine Sportsman • December 2023 • 35

Aroostook’s Late-Season Options The expected snow makes it easier to track whitetails during muzzleloader season, and if – as happened last year – a warm, rainy spell occurs, you can always hunt bright white hares that show up clearly in the unexpected brown, snowless woods. For years, I’ve referred to early December as “Redemption Week,” but most folks here in the Crown of Maine call it muzzleloader season. If lastchance deer hunters happen to have friends or relatives downstate, they may even enjoy an additional week to put venison in the freezer. The terms smokepole and black powder, referring to guns and hunting, have pretty much been relegated to history, with the advent of multi-featured in-line muzzleloaders and Pyrodex smokeless powder and pellets, but fortunately, the season itself prevails. The interest and participation in muzzleloader hunting continues to grow, and in many cases, sportsmen enjoy the challenge as much as the extra few days afield. I have a handful of friends who actually use a muzzleloader all season. An even smaller cadre of whitetail hunters remain true to their heritage and shoot traditional black powder flintlock or wheel-lock long guns. Added Advantages Perhaps the greatest advantage during muzzleloader season, especially in Aroos-

took, is the greatly reduced number of hunters out and about. It’s a lot more likely you’ll discover a fresh set of tracks, and not spot human boot tracks already in pursuit. There are still a fair number of bucks in rut, so you’ll see recent scrapes, rubs and travel trails. In fact, you may have a better chance of seeing a deer than of seeing another sportsman. Despite the freak global warming trends that have altered County weather patterns the last couple of deer seasons, there’s more chance of fresh snow. A pristine blanket of white is excellent for tracking,

but even more useful in trailing and recovery after the shot. Central Aroostook hunters might want to explore what I call the “#9 Loop,” a round trip that leaves Route 1 onto the Bootfoot Road in Bridgewater, meanders out past Number Nine Lake, and swings back through Harvey’s Siding to Route 1 at Jewell’s Corner in Monticello. Second-growth fields, open meadows and cut-over woodlots abound at either end of the loop, and plenty of dense woodland and intermittent skidder trails and hauling roads offer great whitetail cover along

Cory Bouchard took full advantage of what the author calls “Redemption Season.” Depending on where a hunter lives in Maine, there’s one week or two to finally fill a deer tag using a muzzleloader. All photos provided by the author

the center portion. Peruse Delorme’s Atlas & Gazetteer, Map 59, grids C-2 and C-3 for an overview. If you prefer to be a bit farther off the beaten track, I’ve spent a lot of enjoyable and productive hunts way up north in Estcourt. Visit the two-track and forest on either side of the Little Black Riv-

The Most Remote Hunting in the North Maine Woods Wilderness

er, and explore Rocky Brook Road down by Boatlanding Mountain and Boat Landing Road. The very first deer I ever shot was an 8-point buck while hunting near Pocwoc Brook off to the west of Estcourt. It’s still very good deer habitat, and worth a visit. Map 66, B-1 and B-2 will help (Continued on next page)

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36 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

Three generations of the Palm family — Greg, Delilah and granddad Bob, all from Presque Isle -- celebrate success on the last day of late-season cow moose hunt.

Due to unusually warm conditions the last couple of years, waterfowl have stuck around Aroostook County later than usual. A December goose is a rare feat for twoand four-legged hunters.

The County (Continued from page 35)

newcomers with approach roads. Smokepole enthusiasts who live in far southern Aroostook, or those who like to travel and explore new woodland, might head down Route 2 to Silver Ridge. Lots of higher ridges and lower cedar bogs hold bucks with excellent food sources and cover as cold weather sets in, and side roads are plenti-

ful along Lake Road toward Wytopitlock Lake. Hunt hard and often – it’s a short season, but the bucks are moving. Snow Birds It still amazes me how many shooters stow the scattergun away as soon as deer season begins, and then don’t bring it back out even if they fill their deer tag. Waterfowlers have a cou-

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ple of days for ducks and over a week to shoot geese this month in the north zone. Best of all, partridge season doesn’t close until the 30th of December. I’ll be the first to admit that Mother Nature and Jack Frost exert a lot of sway on whether waterfowl are even still around Aroostook, and how easy hunting conditions are for all wildfowl. As I’ve mentioned,

Jered Young of Mars Hill took full advantage of light snow cover and a long partridge season to bag a trio of December birds.

there have been warm periods with rain that melted all snow cover for a week or more over most of the County. It was a breeze to wander field roads and logging trails for grouse and snowshoe hare. It presented a rare advantage for rabbit hunters, as the white bunnies that blend into the snow stuck out like cotton balls in a coal bin. Partridge were a bit more

Snowmobiling (Continued from page 34)

eries and Wildlife along with the Maine Warden Service recommend that all snowmobilers leave a trip plan with a reliable person that lists their destination, travel times, contact information and anything else that could aid in finding a rider whose machine breaks down, or who gets lost or injured. Inform folks at your destination of your estimated time of ar-

of a challenge, but the hungry birds tended to perch in trail or roadside trees to eat buds, and with leaves long gone, the biddies are simpler to spot. Many back roads that normally aren’t kept plowed, were open to “Heater Hunters” for drive-and-spot outings. This is a gift for older or infirm sportsmen who truly need and deserve a (Continued on next page)

rival, and notify them if you are going to be delayed. If you do not arrive on time, they can then notify local rescue authorities. This will help limit the time you are broken down and stranded on the trail. Remember, the State of Maine is vast, covering 31,000 square miles. If no one knows when you left, where you are going, or when you plan to arrive, rescuers will have a difficult time pinpointing your location.

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������������������������������������������� The Maine Sportsman • December 2023 • 37

Audrey Rooney of Easton used her single shot .410 to bag another partridge while hunting during the late season with her father, Seth.

Connor Cushman of Mars Hill stalks through the woodlots near his home to hunt partridge when December snow cover is light.

(Continued from page 36)

should too.

few extra days afield. For much of last December, bird hunters could actually wander favorite woods trails, contending with only three or four inches of snow cover. As unpredictable as these random warm spells are, who knows what this month will bode; regardless, I’ll have my 20-gauge at hand just in case, and you

To the Sea As wide an array of outdoor options as Aroostook offers, I still find it necessary to stray a bit for unique cast or blast opportunities. Across the border to New Brunswick or Quebec for a spring bear hunt or black salmon, then summer-bright Atlantic salmon. A drive to Portland for striper

fishing or largemouth bass, or a pre-Christmas weekend of sea duck gunning on the coast. Despite the chilly weather and often rough ocean conditions, few sights enthuse and excite me like a string of beautiful, big-bodied eider winging in over the decoys. Each November and December, I haul my 20-foot Lund Alaskan with its Avery

Jim Duncan and Doc Skinner traveled all the way from temperate South Carolina to hunt with writer Bill Graves. Fast shooting on eiders and scoter kept them returning for several seasons.

pop-up boat blind and several tubs of eider and scoter decoys to Bangor, Ellsworth or Portland. My wife goes holiday shopping, and I head for the coast to launch and hunt with friends for an outing or two. Every devout waterfowler should try sea duck hunting at least once, regardless of travel constraints. There are plenty of top-rate guides if you

Aroostook County

aren’t equipped, and shooting takes place from boat, ledges or islands. If you’re like I was, by the next year you’ll be rigged and ready to go with your own boat and gear, and totally enthralled by this very different and exciting style of waterfowling. Sometimes you just have to leave The County and head south to the sea.

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38 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

Know Your Maine Park Sometimes Maine citizens may feel distant from their local state park. This sense may be the result of unfamiliarity with rangers, a lack of awareness of park policies, or unanswered questions about the amount of revenue that facilities contribute to state coffers. For example, Maine has a revenue-sharing program through which a percentage of income is returned to municipalities that encompass public property. For more information about this revenue pool, call Maine State Parks at (207) 287-3821. During my 32 years with the park service, I lived in the four corners of Maine, where I learned that public employees walk a delicate balance – first, to protect the unique resources found in our outdoors; and second, to ensure the safety of visitors. With each assignment, I was directed to improve operations and build relationships with local businesses and residents. This was an obligation that resulted in new friendships. These friendships were especially joyful come holiday season. During my early years at Sebago Lake State Park, the 300-site campground filled until it became comparable to a small city. Today people can make reservations for camping. But that wasn’t always the case. In the 1960s and 70s, state campgrounds operated off a waiting list. Once the park was full, new vacationers would register to be placed on a roll-call register. The next day at 1 p.m., families gathered to hear who would be allowed to sign up for open campsites. At times, it wasn’t unusual to have over 100 people waiting in line for six open sites. With an area full of campers, rangers patrolled to monitor for law violations or disturbances.

The author in 1968 at Sebago State Park.

When the author and his wife were stationed in a remote cabin in Umsaskis, the nearest neighbor was 14 miles away. So at Christmas, they celebrated with the wildlife – deer, gorbies, nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, chick-a-dees, blue-jays, squirrels, mice and ermine. In 1972, at a much calmer Aroostook State Park, I was able to upgrade the park’s maintenance standards that had been long-neglected due to a lack of dedicated funds. With support from park neighbors and the Presque Isle community, rebuilding began. The campground doubled in size, and a new bath house was constructed. These improvements are still in use today. In 1978, Susan and I transferred to Cobscook Bay State Park, where I was to improve community relations. Due to an open-door policy, we quickly made friends as well as helpful connections. For example, during a very dry summer, the Town of Dennysville loaned a firetruck for us to keep at Cobscook. This was a time when wildfires were being set, not only in the park, but also in dry grass along the roadside of Route 1 – acts that jeopardized surrounding property, as well as the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge. In 1981, my wife and I moved into the Allagash Wilderness Waterway HQ at Umsaskis Lake. There, the park director gave me three specific assignments. First, to bring illegal oversized groups into compliance. Second, to force a rogue guide to obey State laws. And third, to stop a vandal who had plagued the area with sabotage, theft, and harassment. Holidays – A Time for Celebration Despite many challenges, the holidays were always a special time. Among festive trimmings, we celebrated friendships and shared hopes for the New Year. At Umsaskis, our relatives lived in Central Maine, and the nearest neighbors were 14 miles away at Clayton

Lake in T11R14. So, we socialized with the wildlife. Suet feeders were put out for the gorbies, nuthatches, downy woodpeckers, chick-a-dees, blue-jays and squirrels. Beneath the feeders, mice and squirrels would creep from under the camp to feed, only to be followed by a snow-white ermine, seeking its own holiday meal. Before predicted cold spells, Susan and I would snowmobile to Chisolm Brook at the head of Umsaskis. There, with snowshoes and axes, we’d traipse into a deer yard to cut cedar trees to provide whitetails with nourishment to survive minus 30 degree temperatures. Plodding through deep snow to reach a sea of snow-covered evergreen boughs, we often saw the frosty breaths of deer monitoring our presence. After our daughter was born, we relocated to Millinocket for the winter months. From there, I traveled between the Allagash and the Augusta office. Living in town allowed the convenience of phone service, opening a new communication link between myself and those who wanted to learn about the north woods. This also allowed us the opportunity to raise golden retrievers. A favorite memory is the year our dog delivered a litter of puppies just before Christmas. The litter dozed under the scent of our balsam fir Christmas tree, while family, friends, and neighbors gathered around for holiday tidings.

Puppies from Allagash Mist (aka Misty)

We at Allagash Tails send wishes for a pleasant holiday season and happy New Year. And after the celebrations, do your family a favor, and get to know your state park – you won’t be disappointed. Tim Caverly has authored twelve volumes about Maine’s northern forest.

������������������������������������������� The Maine Sportsman • December 2023 • 39

Rabbit Hunting Tips From July until the end of November, it’s been non-stop hunting. Once December arrives, however, I feel the pace slow, and we’re ready to do some rabbit hunting. By now, there is usually snow, but hopefully not so much snow that the beagles can’t chase. Our Beagles We own three beagles, varying in age from 9 months to 12 years. Fly is our oldest, and he absolutely loves to hunt, but for the last two winters it’s been difficult for him to keep up with the other dogs, and then he’d be lame for a couple of days, so this year we’ve decided to keep him home. Copper is 6 years old, and he’s an independent hunter. He doesn’t run with the other dogs, but instead finds his own tracks, and then the other dogs join him. Blue is our youngest, and this will be his first season out. We’ve started training him on rabbit scent this past summer, and he’s now collar-trained but has never been on a hunt. Understanding your dogs’ traits is important; with such a variation in age, we’ll need to be ready to adapt as needed, and to keep our expectations to a minimum. If you don’t own rabbit hounds and want to hunt, there are guides who specialize in rabbit hunts. If you are thinking about a rabbit hunt, here are a few tips to make your hunts more enjoyable. Meds and Gear If your dogs aren’t used to riding in a dog box, a non-drowsy motion sickness pill given prior to the ride can help prevent vomiting. Keep a blanket available for the dog to be warm before and after its hunt. Bring a backpack, and carry the following: a dog leash for each dog, a compass, a heat blanket, matches, water, knife, whistle, headlamp, spare pair of gloves and wool socks, paracord, a couple of plastic grocery bags to put your game in, and a winter hat. We carry an emergency signal device, and there are now options to get that same feature in dog collars, so you only have to carry one unit. Your Clothes Wear a ball cap, at the very least. Since you lose quite a bit of heat through your head, a cap is better than no hat,

The author provides a primer on all the gear you and your dogs will need for locating and bringing home the key ingredient in rabbit stew!

dition. I usually give my snowshoes a coat of varnish each spring. Snow may be only two feet deep at home, but will be five feet deep where you’re headed. It’s better to have them than trying to navigate in knee-deep snow. I highly recommend wooden snowshoes over aluminum, and the Maine Guide Snowshoe with the curved shoe makes maneuvering easy in deep snow. Be sure to use the correct technique of sliding and not stepping as you go. If you’re picking your knees up too high, you’re wasting energy, and you’ll tire more quickly. Firearms Go light on your gun. I have a 12-gauge shotgun with a sling so I can put it across my shoulder. My husband has a .410 shotgun just for rabbit hunting that weighs a fraction of what my gun weighs. He had one as a kid that belongs to his father, so when I found one at a gun shop, I had to get it for him. It also has a sling so he can carry it hands free if needed.

The author with her first rabbit. All photos by the author

but not as warm as a winter hat. Rabbit hunting can be quite physically challenging. Dress lighter and in layers than you would to deer hunt, and be sure to wear clothing that is moisture-wicking, fast-drying and not cotton. I prefer wool pants and socks, but I wear a white jacket that snow doesn’t stick to. Snowshoes, Preferably Wooden Bring snowshoes. Make sure the bindings and webbing are in good con-

Dog Gear Use GPS collars with long-distance antennas and identification tags on your dogs, especially if you’re hunting in unorganized territory. Even though we have collars, I still worry about my dogs getting lost or encountering coyotes, bobcats or lynx. Learning how to use the GPS collar isn’t hard, but I have to bring glasses to be able to see the screen. My husband has a hearing loss that prevents him from being able to determine direction of sound, so he relies on his map to keep track of the dogs. Without the GPS, he wouldn’t be able to rabbit hunt. Remember, dogs will usually end up back where they started, so don’t panic when they get out a farther distance than you’re used to. Final Hints Familiarize yourself with the area you are hunting. Be aware of bogs, or where ice may be thin, paved roads with fast traffic that dogs could potentially cross, and any posted land. Lastly and above all else, give praise to your pups when the hunt is done.

The author’s husband John, praising their dog, Fly.

40 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

The Beginner’s Guide to Deer Hunting When I began deer hunting a dozen or so years ago, I received many tips from experienced hunters. Things like: • Find the food source, find their bedding area, then set up in between the two. But what if you don’t have permission to hunt there? • Only hunt your stands when the wind is right. But what if you don’t know which way the deer will be coming from? • Hunt before a cold front. But what if you work full time, and can’t take the day off? • Be as scent-free as possible. So, no hunting after work? • Find the does, and you’ll find the bucks. But what if you can’t even find the does? At the time, these well-meaning tips were a little too advanced for me and I was overwhelmed. I was limited on time and hunting locations. Knowing I wasn’t able to implement these strategies, I felt defeated before I had even put on my orange vest. It seemed insur-

The author started out as a novice, but she finally figured it out. Six deer later, she’s ready to share her remarkably succinct three-item outline for success, in the hopes that others can learn from her experiences. mountable. I hunted sun-up to sundown every Saturday in November for six years and barely saw deer, let alone shot one; it felt hopeless. I needed a Beginner’s Guide to Deer Hunting. And now, after having six deer under my belt, I’ve put together the Guide. As you would expect, it is pretty straightforward. Here are my tips: 1. Have a good hunting spot You won’t shoot a deer if they’re not there. I hunt in Southern Maine, which has different challenges than where I grew up Down East. In Southern Maine there are lots of deer, but there are also lots of hunters, lots of development, and lots of “posted” signs. I don’t own a large parcel of land, and I don’t have many

The author with her 8-point, 176-lb. buck. Travis Elliott photo

friends who do. It has taken several years to develop relationships with farmers, but I now have a couple of good hunting spots. 2. Save your vacation time for hunting season You won’t shoot a deer if you’re not there. Much like fishing, the best time to hunt is when you’re not working. If you have a good

3. Hunt to your strengths After six years of tag soup, I needed to be honest with myself and look at my strengths and weaknesses. I learned after missing a buck, that I need a steady gun rest. I also realized I am not a stealthy walker in the woods. I look at my feet a lot (a habit engrained in me from hiking the Appalachian Trail), so I now hunt from a tree stand. I am stubborn (often confused with patience), so I can sit all day. I have learned to intentionally dehydrate myself, because peeing from a self-climber while layered up for the cold and wearing a harness is an ordeal for us women.

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The results? I implemented my strategy in 2022. I hoarded my vacation time, and clocked out of the office at 2 p.m. I changed my clothes in my car, and hunted the same stand every day, regardless of wind. I washed my hair and clothing with scentfree wash, but was coming straight from working in an office, so had some scents on me. I sat stubbornly. I listened to audiobooks and podcasts in one ear. I watched a neighbor leaf-blow his lawn through my binoculars. I saw the blaze orange of another hunter in a stand 400 yards away. I called in does with a bleat call, and passed on a crotch-horn buck. Finally, on November 10, 2022, after almost two weeks of hunting every afternoon and both Saturdays, an 8-pointer with thick brow tines walked out into the field in front of me. I was too dehydrated to produce a sound when I tried to say “Meep” to stop him, but I was ready with my shooting rest. He dropped with one shot. So if you are researching recipes for tag soup this year, don’t overthink your game plan for next year. If this beginner can do it, you can, too!

������������������������������������������� The Maine Sportsman • December 2023 • 41

Something I’ve Always Wanted to Try: Hot Tenting There’s an outdoor itch that’s needed scratching for a long time. I’m not exactly sure why I waited so long. Regardless, the deed is done. Over the years, I’ve invested in all types of camping schemes. At one time, a self-contained camper spent summers bolted to the back of my pickup truck. It navigated many of Maine’s nooks and crannies. In many ways it served its purpose well. Rarely did that self-contained unit get a weekend off. The rest of the time, my pickup truck rolled along, delivering me to those necessary evils like work and trips to the dentist. I would tell anyone I may have had the most fun with that camper. Friday nights I’d back under it, and we owned the weekends. It was an economical way to hunt, fish and navigate the roads less traveled. Camping Large My family soon outgrew my fully-equipped but small camper. My wife Denise and I made the plunge and purchased a full-sized motor home. While many good times rolled along, it had one drawback – it just wouldn’t navigate the back country as well as that four-by-four with a piggyback camper. Next up was a tow-behind pop-up

was worth every penny. Everything in that pack was as light as I could find, and when possible, served a dual purpose. Additionally, I purchased a food dehydrator, and started making my own meals. That was one of my better moves. Not only were the meals light and packable, but much tastier than the sodium-soaked commercial meals available. When you’re hiking, eating good, warm food on the trail rates as a big plus. I remember chuckling when my hiking partner pulled out a cast iron skillet while we camped at Davis Pond in BSP. He was in better shape than me. Just the same, I’ll take titanium, thank you.

The author traces his ownership history of camping shelters – from a camper bolted to the bed of his pick-up, to a motor home, and later a popup camper, and lightweight backpacking gear. But now he’s outdone himself, with a 13-foot canvas wall tent, complete with woodstove!

The author’s new Elk Mountain canvas bell tent, combined with a titanium wood stove, should make an ideal base camp nestled into the region’s various mountains. Look for a white tent with smoke rolling out the top! Bill Sheldon photo

camper. While considered a downgrade from the big motor home, it filled a unique niche. With a few amenities under its canvas roof, it combined RVing with tent camping. I was migrating toward real camping. The pop-up found itself parked at places like The Big Eddy Campground, and easily satisfied my yearning to play in the backcountry. The pop-up kept the family off the ground, warm and dry, with ease. Once we established a base camp, my pickup was free to probe Maine’s minimum-maintenance roads.

Backpacking Light The lure of real camping called. For me that meant a bunch of lightweight camping gear strapped to my back. A couple of trips to LL. Bean had me styling. Before long, Baxter State Park rated as my favorite place to pitch a tent. I worked hard to keep my pack weight down while still having enough gear to enjoy camping off-grid. Just about all camping gear has a lightweight option. What I found was the lighter the gear, the higher the price. About halfway into a Baxter State Park

(BSP) through-hike, I realized that spending the extra dough

(Katahdin Country continued on page 43)

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42 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

Off-Road Driving Skills for Maine Winters I headed out on that December day with a plan to go bird hunting. My intent was to hit remote sections of woods on plowed logging roads near the New Hampshire border in Western Maine. I had hunted this same area a few weeks earlier, and knew the roads would be plowed and accessible. What I didn’t realize was that a few days of warmer weather had built up a solid glaze of ice in certain sections of the roads that led into the prime

The author describes how to avoid getting stuck on slippery, slick, half-frozen gravel roads, and also how to get unstuck if you find that your wheels are all spinning and you’re not going anywhere. bird hunting locations. The worst part was that a recent snowstorm had covered the ice with a blanket of white. The first part of the drive off the paved road was fine … the few inches of new snow actually offered a little traction. My just-purchased snow tires dug into the fresh snow and moved the truck right along. I pumped

my brakes a little to check the traction and found it just fine, so I kept rolling. About a mile into the woods on the logging road, I felt the truck slide toward the ditch, and realized the road surface beneath the new snow had changed to solid ice. What made it even more treacherous was that when the truck slid to the side

of the road, the frozen ground beneath the wheels gave way and dropped the tires into about a foot of slick mud. Turn Around I knew I couldn’t make the next hill on that kind of ice, so I stopped and turned around. This sounds easy on paper, but I had to be very careful not to slide off

into the ditch and get completely stuck right there. I barely made it back up the hill out of the frozen section of road … my new snow tires just didn’t have enough traction on the ice. I couldn’t wait to get back home and call the tire dealership – they had told me I didn’t need studded tires, and that tire manufacturers were now making snow tires with rubber that provided a sufficient grip on ice “…as good as studded tires.” (Continued on next page)

������������������������������������������� The Maine Sportsman • December 2023 • 43 (Continued from page 42)

I’m sorry, but I don’t find this to be true, at least in my own experience. I immediately went out and purchased four studded snow tires, and was able to easily travel those same icy roads a few weeks later. The studded tires gripped the ice and provided all the traction I needed – even on the icy hills that had proven impassible on the previous trip. Now I swap out my tires each fall, putting on the studded tires as soon as the snow comes, and removing them in the spring. My non-studded tires last longer, and I feel better about driving on ice – win, win. Not Just Tires Safe driving on snow and ice isn’t just about making sure to have the correct tires mounted on your vehicle … there are also

Off-road driving in ice and snow requires studded tires and extra skills to safely navigate the hazardous, slick terrain. As the author discovered, under that layer of snow could be a coating of solid ice. William Clunie photo

certain skills to learn when traveling those remote sections of winter roads. Excessive speed is probably the number-one cause of vehicle accidents on paved roads, and I’m sure the same problem gets many folks stuck on snowy back roads. Increased speed gives the driver less time to react to the situation and, at the same time, makes it more difficult to stop quickly or maintain any kind of

Katahdin Country (Continued from page 41)

Hot Tent! So, what is the final chapter of my camping career? A hot tent, no less. I’ve purchased a 13-foot canvas bell tent from Elk Mountain Tents. And no, they are not sponsoring me in any way. I always pay for my own gear so I can freely say what I want concerning a product. The thought of a canvas wall tent heated by a crackling wood stove has always intrigued me. I selected the Elk Mountain brand because it is a hybrid canvas tent. By mixing canvas and

control when slipping and sliding occur. A lot of folks see a deep section of snow or a muddy part of the road that looks threatening, and they think speeding up will help get them through the tough spot. Problem is, accelerating makes the tires spin faster, resulting in less traction. Try to maintain a slow and steady speed to get through those rough spots, without gunning it in a panic. A similar mistake

is also made when folks actually get their vehicle stuck. When the vehicle comes to a stop, they really lay on the gas and get the wheels spinning. They slam it into reverse and do the same, usually burying the vehicle even farther, by spinning the wheels as they sit there stuck in one spot. A better proposition is to slowly attempt to back out, gently applying throttle. If the vehicle remains

polyester, they avoid some of the traditional canvas tent problems, such as shrinkage and the need to waterproof. While lighter and stronger than traditional canvas, the material has the same romantic look and feel. Selecting the bell style tent boiled down to ease of setup. With the bell style tent, I can easily complete the set up and take down by myself. The whole unit, poles and stakes included, tops the scale at 67 pounds. That puts it in the truck/ATV camping zone. The floor zips out when conditions call for it. It should be perfect for rabbit hunting this winter. Picking the mid-sized 13-foot tent

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stuck in the same position, rock the vehicle back and forth by shifting from forward to reverse. If none of this works, get out and slide something under the wheels for traction. A company called “Truck Claws” ( makes a product just for this kind of event. The traction kit comes with several “paddles” that get strapped onto the wheel, offering added support to get the vehicle out of deep mud or snow. Other companies are out there with similar products, but I choose to carry Truck Claws in my off-road driving kit. I keep it in a plastic box in the bed of the truck, along with a small snow shovel, a high-lift jack, and other assorted tow ropes and winching devices. You never know when you’ll need it.

allows me to take a few guests along and still leave room for that all-important fire. However, selecting the wood stove turned out more complicated than I anticipated. In the end, I opted for a titanium stove by Seek Outside. While weight wasn’t really the issue, I couldn’t resist its fold-up design and easy-to-carry five-pound bundle. Look for a white tent pitched near prime fishing haunts, with smoke rolling out the top. The guy inside will have a smile on his face. And no – it doesn’t always have to make sense.

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44 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

Take the Smoke-Pole Challenge Muzzleloaders are part of our history – especially for the author, who possesses the flintlock carried by his great-great grandfather in the Civil War. Maine’s statewide muzzleloader season gives Jackman Region deer hunters another shot at filling the freezer. Cynics of old looked at the extra week for smoke poles as a consolation week for hunters who couldn’t get it done during the regular firearms season. One Mainer I

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The author’s great great grandfather, David A. Sheldon, shown here in a colorized Ambrotype, headed off to the Civil War at age 16. Photo courtesy of Daniel Binder, and Military Images

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riod. Apparently, they were in short supply at times, so fresh recruits brought what(Continued on next page)

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ever was lying around the homestead. A later picture has him holding what looks like a Zouave. That’s the beauty of hunting with a black powder firearm. Hunters can select from a wide variety of guns, ranging from early-American antiques, to ultra-modern smoke poles that rival some center-fire cartridges in range and accuracy. And, of course, David Sheldon’s flintlock did not have a scope. Today’s black powder enthusiasts have the luxury of utilizing modern optics, should they so choose. Purists enjoy using those old flintlocks. They smack of an earlier era à la Daniel Boone, and my hat’s off to those who take to the woods with those beautifully-built pieces of history. Modern Smoke Poles Fast-forward 150 years, and black powder guns have modern ignition systems, fiber optic sights and plastic stocks. But at the end of the day, it’s one

shot, one opportunity. Follow-up shots with a black powder gun usually take more time than the average deer will provide. Successful muzzleloader hunting requires getting closer to deer than with a center-fire rifle. Many Maine hunters already have this skill, because of the thick nature of the Maine woods. Long shots in dense country are few and far between. That doesn’t mean that muzzleloaders can’t make long shots. My research tells me some of the newer smoke poles can reach out 200 yards with deer-killing accuracy. The key here is to practice enough to know the accuracy and range of both gun and shooter. Once that’s determined and adhered to, all shots should fall in the high percentage range. Practice, Practice Practicing at realistic ranges makes the most sense. I remember hearing that, on average, most deer in Maine catch a bullet at 75 yards or less. Odds

are that practicing at 100 yards will win the day. One often overlooked element of practice involves shooting at elevations. The Jackman Region, which has a nickname of the Swiss Alps of Maine, will offer plenty of uphill or downhill shooting. It’s important to be consistent with every detail when operating a muzzleloader. Making every load exactly the same rates big time. Mark the ramrod so every load is identically seated. Those measuring out powder need to make sure it’s always the same; not just close, but identical. Some hunters use pre-measured speed loaders. Powder burn time is another detail. Sighting in during the hot, humid summer gives one burn time. Pulling the trigger at a frigid 9 degrees F will result in a different burn time – something to be aware of. Again, the details. Constant cleaning of the barrel to battle the inevitable fowling build-up makes a huge

According to Sheldon family lore, David Sheldon went to war carrying the A.W. Spies flintlock from his home in Rhode Island. In the early phase of the war, recruits often brought their own guns. He was later issued a government standard 58-caliber Zouave. The flintlock (on the left) survived, and made it down through the generations. The Zouave (right) is a reproduction. Bill Sheldon photo

difference in accuracy. The sabot slugs coated in plastic leave traces of melted plastic in the rifling, which needs

addressing. Battling condensation in the barrel also (Jackman Region continued on page 47)


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Under the Tree The holidays are a time to give, and a time to receive. The author discusses both aspects, and comes to the conclusion that an outdoorsperson can never have too much fishing gear. Come winter, we have more time to reflect upon the past year spent in the woods and on the waters. Some of this introspection centers upon our gear, firearms and fishing tackle. It seems that no one ever has enough fishing rods and reels. The same goes for shotguns, rifles and handguns. This is as it should be, because the search for the perfect piece of outdoor equipment keeps us involved and active. As long as we remain excited over outdoor gear, our enthusiasm for our chosen sports will never wane. As for me – and though many may not believe this – I really don’t desire any more guns. Well, I can name a few that would be nice to have, but I

don’t dote on them. Fishing gear, though, however – that’s another story. As a dedicated lake troller, I have long monitored the trend toward lighter, more responsive fishing rods. Here’s the basic premise. When trolling, there usually are few, if any, obstructions to get hung up on. So why use yesterday’s over-stout rods and reels? Here’s more. Strong Yet Responsive Technological innovations have made the transition from thick and heavy to thin and light possible. Modern rods out-compete the old trolling gear, hands down. Given that, why not use lighter rods, and experience much more fun when fighting a

fish? Many anglers have yet to adopt or even accept this trend, but those who have are now reaping big benefits. One person who has bought in to lighter tackle is my friend and Moosehead area guide, Eric Holbrook. Each year, I go out on Moosehead Lake with Eric, and each year I am delighted to try out his new trolling rods. Eric says he replaces at least two rods each year, whether he needs to or not. The end result always brings happy responses. Here’s something else. I firmly believe that the chances of landing a truly large fish are better with a lighter, softer-yet-powerful rod, than with the old, stiff-and-heavy variety. Very often, big fish are only lip-hooked. I recently landed a respectable Moosehead brook trout, and the hook was only rest-

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ing on the top row of teeth. When netted, the trolling spoon fell out. With a stiffer rod, the likelihood of the fish throwing the hook becomes greater. But lighter, softer rods allow us to maintain sufficient pressure to keep the hook in place,

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without applying so much pressure that the hook eventually rips out. And that, in my mind, is a huge consideration. All this is, of course, predicated upon the expectation that you will encounter nothing that the fish can get wrapped around and lose the hook. But out on a big, deep lake such as Moosehead, that isn’t likely to happen. Stocking Stuffers This talk of new outdoor gear includes smaller items, the kind of things that (Continued on next page)

������������������������������������������� The Maine Sportsman • December 2023 • 47 (Continued from page 46)

we can give family and friends – “stocking stuffers,” in other words. The list here has no end, and it includes such things as knives, ammunition, fishing lines, GPS units, fish locators and even maps. Maps, you say? Sure. A detailed map of some area that we often frequent can become an invaluable addition to our outdoor gear. However, before purchasing any map, especially the new,

catch-all kind, it pays to look it over closely. One such offering, “Moosehead Lake Adventure Map,” Franco Maps, Ltd, appears in outdoor outlets from Rockwood to Portland. On one side is a colorful, detailed map of Moosehead Lake. Unfortunately, to my surprise, it does not depict two all-important features – the East and West outlets of the Kennebec River. The opposite side of the map shows, along with some local statistics, color drawings of fish found in Moose-

Jackman Region (Continued from page 45)

requires some diligence. Some hunters simply shoot out the load at the end of the day, swab the barrel and bring it into camp. Others leave the gun out in the same temperature as they hunt in.

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head Lake, along with “Moosehead Wildlife.” I identified 12 fish species on the list, including brown trout, rainbow trout, splake, pike, muskellunge and crappies, that do not live in Moosehead. Non-existent mammals and birds listed here include New England cottontail rabbits, and (yes) pelicans. The publisher has promised me he’ll correct these errors for the next printing, but for now, check this map, along with any others, for accuracy before you rely too heav-

ily on the information contained therein. Dependable Info Over the years, various publishing houses have offered diverse and useful maps of Maine lakes and regions. Most of these were worthwhile additions to any outdoorsman’s arsenal. But still, there remains a caveat. As my late grandfather always told me, “Don’t believe anything you hear, and only half of what you read.” Although this was delivered tongue-in-cheek, it had considerable mer-

Hunting in rain or, this time of year, snow, calls for extra caution. A popular method for keeping precipitation of any type out of the barrel involves cutting the fingers off surgical gloves and placing them over the end of the barrel. The pressure from the blast will send the

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thin rubber flying before the lead gets to the end of the barrel. Jackman Region hunters with an attention to detail can show everyone that the real losers are the folks that don’t chase bucks with smoke poles.

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So do your homework. Make sure that what you are buying is perfectly accurate. One place where you can’t go wrong is the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife (DIF&W). The DIF&W has complete, comprehensive lists of fish and wildlife species in all parts of Maine. Their publicity department offers reams of useful maps and pamphlets, in paper form and online. Start at their website,

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48 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

Arctic Blasts Will Put an End to Tom’s Open-Water Fishing When air temperatures get too cold for river- and stream-fishing, bundle up and head out looking for grouse, or go wading along coastal beaches for huge, good-eating hen clams at dead-low tide. Thanks to yearround rivers and streams, open-water fishing has no time limits. I stay afield until the bitter end, and only stop fishing when Arctic blasts create shelf ice along streamsides and cause my line to freeze fast to the guides. Contrary to what most of us thought in the past, trout do bite in winter. Not only do they bite – they fight just as hard as during warmer seasons. We always thought that if we could induce a trout to bite, the battle would resemble nothing more exciting than pulling in an old boot. How wrong we were. But then again, we had nothing to go by. Stream fishing season ended in September and resumed on April 1. No one had ever gone trout fishing in winter, because it was illegal. How things have changed. Make no mistake – winter fishing has its challenges. When temperatures near the freezing mark, even the simplest acts, such as tying a hook to the line, become difficult. Stiff, clumsy fingers impair sensitivity. Gloves help, but gloves reduce our ability to detect sensitive bites. It’s not easy, fishing

in December, but it is possible. That is until temperatures in the teens and single-numbers finally put an end to our sport. Long Shots When not fishing, Maine’s sportsmen take to the uplands, where grouse hunting remains open throughout December. It’s a whole different world now, as compared to October. The treeless, frozen woodlands and alder covers seem just a bit hostile, especially if snow has yet to cover the ground. I cannot think of a less hospitable time of year to tramp through the woods. When temperatures plunge below freezing, even the slightest breeze feels like an icy dagger, stabbing through the warmest hunting clothes. Besides that, every footfall on the crunchy, frozen ground sounds like a herd of buffalo tromping through the woods. Grouse flush farther out now, because they can see and hear you coming. The stark, treeless landscape works to our favor, though, in giving us open shots, except the obligatory tree, which grouse always manage to place between us

and them when they flush. Shot sizes need to increase, and chokes need to tighten now. Those #8 shot and improved cylinder barrels are not sufficient to ground a grouse hit at the longer ranges typical of December. A double gun of modified and full-choke, loaded with #6 shot, makes a perfect combination for winter hunting. Semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns with modified chokes will do as well, especially when fed highbrass shotshells. December Clamming Those of us who live in Midcoast Maine are never far from the shore, and that means clamming is always an option, as long as no closures are in effect. And by clamming, I don’t mean soft-shell, or “steamer” clams, but hard-shell clams, also known as surf clams and hen clams. I was never able to ferret out why these often ¾-pound clams are referred to as “hen clams,” and if anyone has the answer, I’d like to know, if only out of curiosity. Surf clams inhabit those sections of shoreland that are only accessible during

Surf clam, with adductor muscle “scallops.” Photo by Tom Seymour

an extreme low, or spring, tide. Looking at a tide table, plan to go out when the assigned depth ranges in the minus numbers. Then, beginning just at the end of an outgoing tide, walk as far out as possible, and begin hunting in places that have already dried. This makes the dime-sized airholes above the giant clams easier to locate. Then, with clam hoe, spade or even a garden trowel, dig up the clam by getting the tines or dish under it and flipping it over in one, smooth motion. Surf clams live only a few inches beneath the sand’s surface, so you needn’t dig very deep in order to tell if you have found a legitimate clam hole, or a false one created by a sand dollar. For places to go, consider the nearest seaside state park. The public is allowed to harvest clams in Maine’s state parks, again, as long as the place isn’t under closure restrictions. Call the park to check on

applicable rules before you go. To use your surf clams, open them and remove the adductor muscle – the one that holds the two halves of the shell together. This resembles, and even tastes a bit like, a scallop. I also remove the “leg,” which the clam uses to propel itself downward through the sand. The adductor muscles are cooked and eaten just as you would with scallops, and the legs are ground and used in fritters and chowders. Seabird Photography Lots of seabirds move inshore in December. One of my favorite subjects, purple sandpipers, forage among the granite blocks lining the Rockland Breakwater. Expect to find lots of other interesting, seasonable attractions, including a variety of ducks and gulls. Have fun getting outside this time of year.

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Fur and Feather Hunting Downeast Deer, grouse, hares, fresh-water ducks and sea ducks round out the hunting for 2023 in the Downeast Region. Muzzle-loading season in my neck of the woods, WMD 26, starts November 27 and ends December 9, 2023. If I haven’t tagged a deer by Thanksgiving weekend, I’ll clean the bore butter out of my Thompson/Center 50-caliber Omega black-powder rifle, and continue hunting deer for two more weeks. December allows smoke-pole carriers the possibility of hunting on snow-covered terrain. The colder weather also makes deer move more during the day, and arouses any bucks in the area to search for available does. Top-hunting areas to pursue a December whitetail are found in WMD 23, 26 and 27. Check Delorme’s Atlas and this area’s Maine’s hunting regulations for more precise details on the towns comprising these districts. Fortunately, two friends of mine have given me permission to hunt on their woodlots in Penobscot. I plan to spend many hours hunting there with my black-powder rifle, trying to fill my any-deer permit. The coastal area of WMD 27 also contains hundreds of acres of hayfields, blueberry fields and

cultivated farmlands to sustain an ever-increasing deer herd. Muzzle-loading season here is only one week, running from November 22 to December 2, 2023. Top-hunting areas to pursue whitetails are found on the outskirts in Harrington or Addison, on the edges of farmland fields. Other areas are found in WMD 27. They are much more isolated from civilization. Hunters in search of deer can walk the numerous logging roads around First Lake (Map 35, E-4) and Second, Third, and Fourth Lakes (Map 35, D-4). Prime deer habitat exists around each of these lakes. Bunny & Bird Hunting Our Downeast climate provides numerous days each December of above-freezing temperatures, offering excellent scenting conditions for beagles. Rabbit populations are on the rebound in our region. Hound hunters often report successful rabbit-hunting tales from the cedar thickets and agriculture areas found on Map 23. A good place for hound owners to expend some shells is in the Orland Region. The area surround-

ing the Cedar Swamp Road can provide some fast, fur-flying challenges. Review Map 23, E-3. Several small streams feed this low-lying landscape, creating ideal habitat for a half-dozen bunnies or more per trip. The boggy edges around the Cedar Swamp Road are a great place to release a brace of beagles. Another well-populated rabbit cover lies off Route 175 in Orland. The Gilpin Road contains cedar bogs and evergreen covers where hounds often strike a fresh rabbit track in a matter of minutes; see Map 23, E-3. According to Gilpin Road resident Stuart Grindle, rabbit sightings have been more numerous on his property than in most years. Another opportunity that keeps sports afield is partridge hunting. Grouse season continues until December 31, 2023. Gunners can find gravel-picking partridge by hunting along many of the country or camp roads in Hancock and Washington County. By traveling any of these gravel roads, feather-hunters find locations where birds are still available. An excellent area

Porcupina Island lies in the Eastern Channel of the Penobscot River, about a mile southeast of the Verona Island boat launch. It’s difficult to get to, but the island can offer fast duck hunting. Google Earth photo

to find grouse is located on the camp roads providing access to Toddy Pond, Map 23, E-4. East Orland resident Larry Hall mentioned to me that he often sees lots of roadside partridge while deer hunting in this area. There are quite a few grouse but also quite a few people living in this area yearround, so use caution when trying to bring down a partridge. Downeast Ducks The Southern Zone season for freshwater-duck hunting extends until December 25, 2023. Blacks, mergansers and mallards may still be feeding on

Downeast lakes and ponds until the ice forms. If weather conditions continue to be above normal, then freshwater duck hunters should have some exciting late-season gunning. Feather-hunters usually stick to the larger bodies of water at this time of year. Map 23 will reveal the locations of some larger bodies of water in the Coastal Zone that will provide some exhilarating wing-shooting. An isolated and less-known haunt for picking up a few sea (Downeast Region continued on next page)

50 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

Don’t Put Your Shotgun Back in the Cabinet Quite Yet Most of us will hang up our partridge-hunting hats as soon as deer season opens, not to be touched till next fall. This year, my autumn bird-hunting season consisted of only three weekends. So don’t put all of your gear away just yet. I, for one, always hope to get a deer early in the season and then get back in the bird thickets, but that never seems to happen. Partridge hunting runs all the way through the end of December for the entire state. Along with rabbit hunting, it’s one of the latest-running small game seasons. So why not get the shotgun back out for some late-season exploring? With muzzleloader season, deer hunting will be all over by December 2 or December 9, depending on your WMD. That leaves almost an entire month up for grabs. Getting Ready for Birds Personally, I would

To those who are tempted to pack their shotguns away for the season, the author has two words of advice: partridge, and rabbits.

The author’s 20-ga shotgun and a grouse, on the edge of a frozen pond in early December. Photos by the author

not let this chunk of time go to waste. Winter hunting is a blast, and can be just as action-packed (or even better) than early season. It’s going to be colder, so you should prepare for that. Wear multiple layers – once you get chasing some birds, you’ll be sweating, and you’ll want to shed some layers. A small backpack or game pouch on your vest is also handy for tucking jackets,

Downeast Region (Continued from page 49)

ducks lies within Penobscot Bay. Porcupina Island, Map 23, E-2 is found on the Eastern Channel of the Penobscot River. This island is difficult to get onto in order to set up a shore blind; however, the extra effort is often worth the challenge.

Expect cold, wintry weather if you return to the woods for birds after deer season. The conditions will require a 4x4 vehicle, layered clothing, and warm boots.

gloves, or whatever else you shed. And you’ll need a nice pair of boots. Depending on snow conditions, you might want some tall ones. Ideally, they should be warm, but breathable and waterproof. Hunting the Birds Things can really get interesting as far as techniques here – it depends entirely on the conditions in your part of the state. If there’s very little or

no snow, then driving woods roads and hiking – just like in October – might be the ticket. However, if there’s snow on the ground, it gets really exciting and quite different from any other form of hunting. You may want to walk snowed-in woods roads. Or you could try walking skidder trails. With a snow layer and snowshoes, walking becomes a lot easier on previously-impassable

Ducks, especially at high tide, fly close enough to the island to present good wing-shooting prospects. According to several salt-water duck hunters, this may be a banner year for Penobscot Bay duck hunters. Boaters gain access at the Verona Island Public Boat Landing Facility. Porcupina Island (also known as Goat Island) is to the right and about a mile from the boat landing.

terrain. Maybe you have access to a snowmobile, and want to go hunt off that (where that activity is permitted). I have found that partridge aren’t on the ground quite as much – and they’re certainly not out in the open. Look in the real thick stuff – pine thickets, cedar stands, and that sort of thing. Think rabbit hunting. Hare Hunt Which leads me to another point – rabbits. If you’re out there anyway, and in some prime snowshoe hare conditions, why not try to optimize on some of those, too? They often sit under fallen trees, and in thick fir stands. There’s a really good chance you’ll see some on your partridge pursuits. So don’t put all of your gear away just yet. Grab a set of warm socks, a knit hat, some friends, and a thermos of coffee, and hit the bird woods – it’s not too late to let some lead fly and some feathers fall.

Washington County feather-busters turn to their rocky coastline for late-season duck hunting. Two good prospects to fire off more than a few shots at fast-flying ducks include the mouth of the Machias River, Map 26, C-4, and the Chandler River, Map 25, B-5. Either one of these waters can provide excellent opportunities to harvest a limit of ducks.

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Give a Gift of an Experience This year, bestow a holiday gift the recipient will really enjoy! Ah, the holiday season, when spouses struggle to secure the perfect gifts for their outdoor-oriented other halves. Selecting the right item can be challenging, as people often have particular personal preferences. You could go the easy route and give gift certificates, but as someone once told me, it’s wiser to spend your money on experiences than stuff. Fortunately, you can do both, by giving a gift certificate for a fishing charter. Striped Bass Among the more economical options, a striped bass charter might run you somewhere between $500 and $700, depending on duration, locale and operator. Most are from 4 to 6 hours. The shorter time is an economical option, particularly if terminal tackle involves chunk bait, lures or flies. The latter, longer trip might be a better alternative for live bait, as you can burn up time finding and catching it, though that does count as fishing, too. If you prefer something out of the ordinary, there are several guides who provide specialized night charters. This is when the big bass are most active and hungry, and a night with several 40-

inch fish is a realistic possibility. Groundfish The classic Maine charter experience involves a larger group, a larger boat and a trip offshore. If the weather and fish cooperate, you could expect to go home with a cooler full of fillets; don’t forget to bring the cooler. Most charters provide the rods, bait and instruction. The most important thing is to tend the bottom. You want your bait to be bouncing but not sitting on the bottom or you’ll snag, much to the chagrin of yours (and the captain’s) mates. Be prepared for a workout, and take the Dramamine before you board. Big Game The ultimate offshore experience doesn’t come cheap, with rates ranging from $1,200 to $2,000 or more. However, you can’t put a price on battling a big bluefin. The best way to describe it is to imagine those few tense moments when you have a potential personal best bass or trout almost to the net, but in this case the battle can last for hours. It’s a true man (or woman) versus beast battle, with a fish that could outweigh you four times

over, and might break off at any moment. For the most part, all you have to do is show up and do as you’re told. The crew typically handles the gear until hook-up, then lets you do the heavy lifting, and listening. Listen well to their advice on when to reel, when not to reel, and how to reel. Commercial-sized fish (over 73”) are typically kept and sold by the boat. Anglers can keep smaller recreational fish, but even those could weigh over 100 pounds, so don’t retain them unless you’re prepared to process that much tuna. In either case, catchand-release is always an option. Many charters leave in the eve and fish overnight, so don’t expect to get much sleep, which the anticipation and adrenaline will deny you of, anyway. A more economical option with a potentially higher rate of success is a shark trip. These typically run 8-12 hours and around the lower price range of a tuna trip. If conditions are good, you can expect multiple – potentially double-digit – opportunities to battle big, toothy predators. Blue sharks are the most common and abundant, typically

Instead of material goods, considering giving an experience this holiday season – a gift certificate for a fishing charter. Bob Humphrey photo

ranging from 4 - 8 feet, but specimens of 10-12 feet do show up. Porbeagles and threshers are less common but much bigger – 200 to 300 pounds – and there’s always the possibility of a mako. These aggressive, acrobatic fish fight like marlin, often leaping entirely out of the water. Blue sharks are essentially inedible so they’re catch and release. Makos can’t be kept but ’beagles and threshers can, if you have a place for several hundred pounds of

shark steaks. There is a distinct upside to going this route for a gift, as the concept is not totally unselfish. Most charters are for multiple anglers, and while it’s certainly not implied, it is a common consideration to include the gift-giver. For more information on booking with a reliable source, contact the Maine Association of Charterboat Captains, and the Maine Professional Guides Association.

52 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

Try Tom’s Hybrid Trout Tactics In the days before spin-cast reels were widely available, the author and his chums would “strip cast” with fly rods, pulling out a length of line and then throwing the lure. The weight of lure and sinker would carry the line through the guides, allowing them to reach a ways off the stream bank. Back in 1959, I taught myself how to tie flies by looking at a book. From that point on, I fly-fished for trout off and on, until the eyes of the hooks somehow became too small for me to insert the leader. In the early days, there were few fly purists. Most of us used artificial lures, bait and flies interchangeably. I fit into that category, and remain there to this day. Spinning rods still ranked as new-fangled devices, and many people had yet to acquaint themselves with them. So for most situations, a fly rod had to serve multiple purposes. By strip casting – that is, pulling a length of fly line off the reel and then heaving out the lure – the weight of lure and sinker would carry the line through the guides, allowing us to reach pretty far out there. We used a hand retrieve to bring the lure home, which eliminated the need to pull the line from the reel with every cast. This sounds old-fashioned and clunky, but it worked. We took lots of fish by the strip-cast

method. Extreme Sensitivity In late spring, or whenever water levels lowered and fish headed for deep, still pools, fly rods enabled us to cast an earthworm or two with extreme precision. This method also allowed us to detect the slightest nibble. Using a #10 finewire hook, we would hook a lively earthworm just once, so it presented a lifelike appearance. There was no added weight, since that would defeat the purpose of trying to make a lifelike delivery. This would go on the end of a 7 ½- foot leader, which was tied to a floating fly line. Instead of strip casting, we would only let out about a rod’s length of line, and then cast upstream in one, slow arc, the earthworm slowly sinking as it was carried along the current. Trout bit this rig with relish. A person just throwing out a baited hook, along with a sinker or two, may not get a bite, but someone using the fly-rod method would almost always score. The fly line as used here, at least the very

tip of it, acted the same as a strike indicator of today. By intently monitoring the end of the fly line, it was possible to detect the slightest bite. Of course, not all bites were faint or weak. Very often, because of the natural way the earthworm was presented, strikes were fast, hard and solid. A Variation Those fortunate enough to have a spare fly reel would, after adding sufficient backing, fill the rest with leader materiel. Before the advent of 100-yard spools of monofilament line, we could buy level leader material in what I recall were 25foot lengths. Next, we would tie the leaders together using blood knots, carefully trimming leftover line. In this way, we could manufacture our own “monofilament” line in whatever lengths we wished. With a reel filled with a long length of leader material spooled over sufficient backing, we could strip-cast a lure or bait out to unheard distances. The only way to cast further was with a baitcasting rod

This Berkley Cherrywood 7 1/2-foot fly rod has a parabolic action, yet has plenty of strength to land big fish -- a good substitute for the soft actions of yesteryear. Tom Seymour photo

and reel, which was always too heavy to lend itself to trout fishing. This outfit was great for bottom-fishing with earthworms. We would cast out as far as possible, and rest the rod on a forked stick. The reel was always positioned with its handle-side up, so when a fish bit, it could take out line without the line stopping because the reel handle wouldn’t turn. Slow Rods In the early days, fly rods were often made of woven fiberglass fitted over a mandrel, and sprayed with resin. These were mostly quite soft actions, perfect for the hybrid uses described here. Heavier rods had relatively stiff butts, but still offered parabolic actions, which most of us preferred over stiffer varieties. These rods were perfect for trolling for trout and salm-

on. Since they had so much “give,” they kept the right amount of tension on the line, ensuring that the hook wouldn’t pull out of the fish’s jaw. I remember my first glass fly rod, an 8-foot Fenwick. I thought this would make just the best trolling rod. But when put to use, the stiffness of the rod resulted in losing about half of the fish hooked, because the stiffer rod tore the hook out. I couldn’t hang onto my salmon, and had to go back to an old, woven-fiberglass Kingfisher fly rod that Grandpa gave me for Christmas when I was 7 years old. Today’s high-tech gear has made these old-fashioned methods unnecessary. Nonetheless, they remain as effective now as they were back then. Why not take a walk down memory lane, and give them a try?

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Traveling West for Cutthroat Trout New England fly fishers have a fondness for our native brook trout. For some, it’s a passion. This emotional connection is well deserved. Brook trout are our true native species, swimming here since the last ice age. Northern New England is their stronghold where we still catch trophy-sized fish. Brookies are a fly-fisher’s dream. They feed aggressively and take dry flies eagerly. I would never call them dumb – let’s call them opportunistic. Our native char lives in clean and cold waters in unspoiled, beautiful places. To top it off, male brook trout colors are unchallenged by any freshwater fish in North America. Many of us spend decades fishing for Salvelinus fontinalis and it never gets old. But once in a while, we all get a hankering to hook a different fish or do a little traveling. If you have been contemplating a fishing trip, another native trout swims on the opposite side of North America. This species shares all the characteristics you love about the brook trout. I am writing about the cutthroat trout. Cutthroat Trout Cutthroats are native trout found in western river drainages: crystal-clear waters surrounded by co-

Compared to fishing for brookies in Maine, casting a fly to cutthroats in Idaho and British Columbia “felt familiar, yet different, all at the same time,” reports the author.

The Elk River flowing through Fernie, B.C. All photos by the author

nifer-lined ridges and snow-topped mountains. They rise readily to dry flies. Sound familiar? Cutthroat trout, like brook trout, also face challenges such as overfishing, climate change, pollution, and competition from introduced fish species. Cutties are a true trout and have a different coloration from brookies, but just as striking, with a golden-rose coloration, fine spots, and orange slashes under the gills (hence their name). Travel Plans I traveled west this

summer and spent two weeks fishing for these beauties. I started on the St. Joe River near Coeur d’Alene in eastern Idaho, and then hopped over the border into Canada to fish the Elk River and its tributaries in southern British Columbia near the town of Fernie. Cutthroat trout still thrive in the Bitterroot Mountains between Montana and Idaho, in the rivers and creeks that drain west. Popular fisheries are the St. Joe River, the Clearwater River (and its tribs such as Kelly Creek), and the

Lochsa River. The Elk River and its tributaries have similarities to the Idaho rivers, but flow through a wider, farmed valley with a

more dramatic mountain panorama. The Rocky Mountains are younger than the Appalachian Mountains, so the river valleys are steeper with dramatic ridgelines. Our topography around New Hampshire’s Presidential Mountains and its surrounding streams and rivers is perhaps the closest match. Of course, instead of red spruce and white pines, in the west you find spruce-fir and lodgepole pine. While fishing, I have spotted or seen signs of mule deer, elk, mountain lions, and grizzly bears. In the Bitterroot Mountains, most of the land is designated as National Forest, with abundant campgrounds and simple pull-offs along the rivers. I kept things simple, and just car-camped where I fished. My suggestion is to fly into Spokane, rent an SUV or a van, drive three hours into (Continued on next page)

54 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

Freshwater Fly Fishing (Continued from page 54)

the mountains, find a good-looking stretch of stream, and start fishing. Fernie, B.C. had the vibe of a small college town, with the Elk River running through its center. How easy is the fishing access? My wife, Lindsey, and I stayed at a hotel in town, and we walked from their back parking lot out to a gravel bar on the river. I was high-stick nymphing with a simple Prince nymph, and in just a few casts I’d landed two golden-colored cutties. On the edge of town, we parked at a bridge over the Lizard Creek confluence, and a classic eddy pool produced more nice fish. Cutthroat Tactics When fishing the smaller creeks or headwaters, you look for rises or sight-fish

This trout is about the upper limit of how big river cutthroat can grow.

This hefty trout slammed a Cosohammer (soft-hackled) streamer.

to larger trout that are visible in the pellucid water, holding inches off downed timber, undercut banks, or rocks. A big dry-fly like a grasshopper with a trailing small nymph usually results in a take. Streamers work, too, often for larger trout. Unlike the tan-

nin-stained Maine water, the transparent streams take some getting used to. Runs that looked too shallow to hold fish, turned out to be twice as deep as I thought. I fished a classic, yellow-bodied elk-hair caddis or parachute Adams, a Prince or

The author’s wife, Lindsey, releasing a nice fish from an Elk River tributary.

WD-40 nymph, and my trusted Cosohammer streamers. We hooked cutties in the same sort of spots in rivers where you would find brookies, and they rose to flies in much the same way. Fishing felt familiar, yet different, all at the

same time. Are you a brookie diehard? Go West and catch cutthroats; you won’t be disappointed. For short videos of my trip, go to, and go to the relevant blog post.

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Course I Did! One month before, I had worked at this same spot, on the Chamberlain Meeting House Road in Exeter. I had my Rambler Ambassador, and Warden Michael Ayer accompanied me. That night, the Rambler had made side trips down the ditch on both sides of the road in pursuit of night hunters, but that’s a different story. Why Am I Back Again? In earlier columns, I’ve sometimes explained why or how wardens happened to be working where they were, so I will elaborate a little on how I happened to decide on this area. Across the road from an abandoned house, there was a really nice green field on which I’d been seeing several deer during the past couple of weeks. And if I’d been seeing them, so had lots of other people. In locations like this, it’s common for wardens to pay close attention to indications that people are illuminating the field at night. One clue that arouses suspicion is tire tracks in patterns indicating that a vehicle is being maneuvered to cause the headlights to shine up the field. Sometimes, we see tire tracks heading into the field, or even locate a spent shell casing. In this case, I had observed fresh tire tracks that showed a vehicle had been turning in the road, utilizing the old driveway to the house. I had brushed out those tracks, and upon checking the next day had discovered new tracks. Those things, plus, there were no occupied homes nearby, and I had encountered illegal hunters there previously. So I decided to give the area some attention. Back, But With Norm I was back a month later, on September 6th, 1974. I was a passenger this time. The driver was Warden Norman Gilbert, and we were in his new 1974 Plymouth Fury. He wasn’t quite ready to let me drive it again, as the week before I had backed into a pile of fresh manure and got us very stuck (see August, 2022 column, “Norm’s New Car”). We were parked behind the abandoned house, out of sight from any vehicle turning in that area. We had a clear exit route around the house, except for a well casing on our right and a rough grassy area to our left. We hadn’t been there long, maybe a couple of hours, when a vehicle ap-

With its 440 cubic-inch V-8 engine (the same engine found in the Charger and Road Runner), the wardens’ 1974 Plymouth Fury patrol car was a muscle car in disguise, and could easily catch up to most passenger vehicles. Archive photo

proached from the east, stopped in the road, and backed into the driveway. I had gotten out of Norm’s car and gone to the corner of the house to peek around and see what was going on. The headlights were shining into the field across the road. I could tell it was a Ford Mustang, as the passenger door opened, and it appeared that someone had gotten out. There was no interior light on in the vehicle, so I couldn’t see much, and I wondered what they were doing. Also, I couldn’t see anything that may have been in the field, such as deer, due to being positioned at a different angle from that of the vehicle. All of a sudden, fire came out the barrel of a rifle, and I heard the sharp report of the firearm. I instinctively jerked my head back around the corner of the house as if I were being shot at, before realizing the gunshot was directed at the field area and not me. I quickly peeked back around the corner as a man got back into the vehicle. He spoke to the driver, saying “Let’s get out of here,” and they proceeded to do just that. I ran back to Norm’s car, jumped in, and just said “Go, go!” Norm pulled the car into drive and started for our planned exit, but in his haste he went a little wide to the left, and got out into the rough. There was no stopping now, as Norm stepped down on the accelerator. We heard loud thumping under the car. We made it into the road, simultaneously rolling a large boulder out into the road with us. Closing the Distance Our plan was to keep our headlights off in hopes of gaining on the fleeing

vehicle before the occupants realized someone was after them, as it was our experience that night hunters usually try to escape. Quickly, however, we realized the Mustang’s driver was serious about leaving and, as dark as it was, we had no chance of gaining ground. Norm pulled on all the lights, and floorboarded the big 440 magnum Plymouth (the same engine used in the Charger and Road Runner). We began to rapidly gain, and it became apparent to our fleeing suspects that a change in their modus operandi was in order. Subsequently, their brake lights came on, and as we closed in, the doors flew open and two occupants bailed out, one from each side of the Mustang. “Don’t Shoot, Doug – I Ain’t Going Nowhere” As we came sliding to a stop behind their car, I jumped out to pursue the guy fleeing from the passenger’s side of the car. I was chasing him up through an old gravel pit and gaining on him, but was worried that the other guy would get away from Norm, as I knew Norm couldn’t run a lick. I decided that I would holler at my guy, “Halt!” That usually makes them run faster, but I thought I would give it a try. To my surprise, the guy stopped, threw his arms in the air and said, “Don’t shoot, Doug – I ain’t going nowhere!” I realized I knew this guy and had gone to high school with him. As I came back toward the vehicles, I hollered to Norm, asking about the other guy. Norm replied, “He’s right here.” It seems the fellow had run around the front of the Mustang into the ditch, where he had stumbled and drove his face into some loose shale, cutting his forehead and breaking his glasses. Additionally, he was carrying the 6mm Remington Model 700, which had gone flying, striking a poplar tree and putting a dent in the scope. I also discovered there were two females still sitting in the back of the Mustang. After getting things sorted out and under control, I asked the fellow with the rifle, “Did you hit that deer”? He replied in a surly manner, as if I was questioning his ability, “Course I did.”

56 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

Christmas Knife Fifty-five years ago, I was in the US Navy stationed at a little PBR (Patrol Boat, River) repair base in Vinh Long on the banks of the Mekong River, and it was Christmas. The various commands “in country” tried to make sure we sailors had a nice meal and a few decorations to remind us of home and the holiday. We received holiday greetings from the President by way of secure message traffic.

I was the company clerk, and picked up the mail from the nearby helicopter base. For almost a month now, packages had been arriving from the states for guys in the crew. Open Now, or Wait? How you handled these presents from home was a dilemma. Some guys favored opening gifts as soon as they arrived, because, well you know, you could be killed tomorrow. Others were more traditional, and thought they’d wait until the 25th. But then they, too, waivered because, well you know, you could be shot before Santa got here. It was a gamble. And if the care

The author remembers what it was like to celebrate Christmas all those years ago on the Mekong Delta.

package contained food, it was important to enjoy the cookies, candy or squares soon, before they spoiled in the jungle atmosphere, and also because … well, you know. I waited, if for no other reason than it seemed to be the right thing to do. VC activity had been subdued of late, so I took a chance and waited for Christmas Eve. I figured we had a good chance of making it to Christmas Day. I remember one gift was a smoking pipe, sent by dear friends. I still have that pipe, and even though I don’t smoke any more, it reminds me of times past and of the kindness of friends back home. The Knife On Christmas Day, we celebrated by singing Christmas carols in the chow hall, and ate a turkey dinner. I opened a gift from my wife – a Buck Stockman knife. It was a nicer knife than the Camillus Navy-issue pocket knife we had in our seabags. I borrowed a sharpening stone from the cook,

Buck Stockman knife.

and tuned up the edges on the three blades. At the time, the Navy was engaged in a public relations program called “Pigs and Chickens.” The idea was to give villagers some pigs and chickens to help them improve their economy and endear them to the American sailors who brought them the animals, all with the hope that maybe later on, they wouldn’t shoot us. Seeing the live pigs inspired me to carve a wooden pig with my new knife. I found a nice piece of wood and began whittling on it during spare moments, chipping away everything that did not look like a pig. In the end, I had a little wooden sculpture that no one could mistake for anything else but a pig. But more than that, the exercise of carving at odd moments during the day or after evening chow, relaxed me and let me focus on something else besides helicop-

ters and patrol boats coming and going. I moved on, and carved the requisite chicken next. That was not a success. The grain of the wood ran the wrong way, and a slip with the knife broke the chicken’s neck. But we had dogs on our little Navy base, and I had a good time rendering one of those in a piece of wood. It came out looking like a beagle. A Symbol of Peace By then the guys knew I had a new hobby, and after a while the ensign in charge asked me to carve something for him. “Aye, Sir – glad to do it.” He and I had different opinions about the war, so I carved him a hippy peace sign. You remember the circle and upside-down “Y”? I carved him one of those. Nice piece of wood. Took me a week or more to cut out all the empty places and get the proportions just right. I’m pretty sure a

peace sign was not what the officer was expecting. For all I know, he might have left it behind when he got orders stateside, or perhaps he took it and kept it and shows it today to his grandkids as he tells them about being in the Navy and the war in Vietnam. Maybe. Looking Back I still have the Buck knife. It came home with me after my year in country was up. It turned out to be a wonderful Christmas present, because it gave me something creative to do, and took my mind off the chaos and the dangerous situation I and my fellow sailors were in. The other day I wanted to slice an apple to eat, so I went off in search of the Buck. I found it. Then I started thinking about how I got it, and what it meant to me when I was overseas. So, you never know. Almost 9,000 miles away from home in a foreign country filled with people trying to shoot you, and it’s Christmas time back home, and here comes a little package with a Buck knife. It didn’t exactly save my life, but at the very least it helped the days go by more quickly. Feeling the knife in my pocket was comforting, and it reminded me that each passing day brought me closer to home

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Homemade Scent-Lures A ready source of commercial lures and scents can be found at trapping supply dealers. However, some trappers make their own. Now, during the trapping season, is the time to collect various glands of furbearers to utilize in making your own lures. This column contains several recipes (home-brewed concoctions) provided by various trappers. NOTE: Glycerin may be used in any of the following, even where it’s not specifically listed. It acts as a preservative and antifreeze, and makes the lure last longer in wet weather. Always wear rubber gloves when handling ingredients, to eliminate contamination.

If you’ve got the raw materials and processing gear (and a good ventilation system), you can make trapping scent lures yourself that work as well or better than the store-bought versions in attracting coyote, fox, fisher, martin, bobcat and beaver.

Coyote Scent Lure #1 Coyote lure can be made by saving the anal glands from coyote. They are used fresh-chopped or ground up, or they may be completely decomposed down to a paste. Either way, the product is mixed with coyote or fox urine. Use a 1/2 pint of glands with a 1/4 pint of urine, add a 1/2 teaspoon of ground beaver castor, 1/4 cup honey, and about 6 to 8 drops of skunk essence. Old Trappers Reliable Coyote Gland & Urine Lure (Coyote Lure #2) This lure is used by many trappers. When skinning a coyote, remove the anal area surrounded by a patch of fur on the carcass. The anal glands are located on each side of the anal opening. Cut deeply all around the opening. Pull out the anal glands and about six inches of the intestine, including the droppings. If possible, remove the bladder. On females, take the outer opening and reproductive organs. Grind up all these parts, and place in a wide-mouth jar. Add enough unpreserved coyote urine to cover the mixture. Place a lid loosely on the jar so gas can escape. Put the jar in a wooden box with screen wire on one end of the box, to keep flies from laying eggs on the jar. Let the mixture age until the flesh breaks down, which could take a year or more. Later, add enough coyote urine to thin to a paste. Store in small bottles that can be carried on the trap line.

The best time to make this is late October or early November, when fly season and hot weather are over. Break approximately four dozen eggs (discard shells) into a clean gallon jar, allowing room at the top for expansion. Stir the eggs until well beaten. Cover with a lid, but do not tighten. Let sit for a couple of months. Fox Scent Lure #1 Take the fat of one skunk, and put into a two-quart jar. Add scent bags of two skunk, one tablespoon full of beaver castor, and fill the jar with muskrat glands. Seal lid loosely to prevent gas buildup and to prevent flies from getting into the jar, or bury in the ground and let it work all summer. Carefully pour off the oil for use. Fox Gland Lure #2 A fox gland lure can be made by mixing in a clean glass jar 4-6 oz. of fox urine, 4-6 oz. fox anal glands ground fine, and 2 oz. of sun-rendered fish oil. Let this age several months, then add 2 oz. of glycerin. Fox Call Lure #3 Mix 4 oz. of finely ground anal glands with 3 oz. of fox urine, and add 3-4 drops of catnip oil.

Coyote Lure #3 Place two inches of glycerin in a clean gallon jar. Add equal parts of sun-rendered fish oil and rotten eggs (see recipe below) to within one inch of the jar shoulder. To this, add 20 drops of pure skunk essence, 3 heaping tablespoons of beaver castor, and 3 teaspoons of tonquin musk. Stir well. Place lid loosely on jar so gas can escape. Put the jar in a cool dark place for six to eight weeks. From time to time, shake well. At first the ingredients will separate, but after a few weeks they will bond together. The end product is similar to a paste. Rotten Egg Lure (a component of the above lure) Rotten eggs can be used by themselves, or mixed with other ingredients.

Fox Matrix (Fox Lure #4) Add together 4 oz. of finely ground anal glands, 2 oz. of female fox in heat urine, 1/2 oz. sun-rendered fish oil, 3 drops ambergris, 2 drops lovage, 3 drops asafetida. Let this age for about 3 months, then add 2 oz. of glycerin. Fisher and Marten Lure The most common scent made to attract these two furbearers is simply made by heating up a large jar of petroleum jelly in a pan of boiling water until it is liquefied. Then pour into a glass container containing about 1/4 ounce of pure skunk essence, and stir until well-mixed. Install a cap to seal. Once it firms up, dip the jar upside down into melted wax so as to cover the lid and glass contact area. This will prevent the odor from escaping very much. (Trapping continued on page 60)

58 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

December’s the Month to Give Muzzleloaders a Try I am typically slow to pick up something new. When a new model car or truck comes out, I would rather someone else get the kinks worked out before I purchase it. I heard all the cheers when muzzleloaders became modernized, switching from traditional ignition systems to inline systems. Hunters did not need to worry about “keeping their powder dry.” Reloading was quicker, and accuracy improved. Still, I did not rush out to buy a new muzzleloader, and I am glad I waited. Fast forward to today, and I find myself living and hunting on a farm in Cum-

The author traces the recent history of marked improvements in muzzleloading technology, and also plans to make the switch to solid-copper slugs for his new in-line. berland. Cumberland allows deer hunting with shotguns and muzzleloaders, so now I had a reason to get a muzzleloader. Our field allows safe shots in excess of 100 yards, so the shotgun is not the best choice for a firearm. That, coupled with the ability to extend my season by two weeks, got me kicking muzzleloader tires. What caught my eye was a discussion in The Maine Sportsman about a muzzleloader with a self-contained powder and primer

all-in-one. I did not want to fiddle with measuring power and using wads, so when I watched a video of the relatively new Traditions Nitrofire system, I was intrigued. With this setup, you seat a bullet down the muzzle. Then you break open the breach, much like opening a single-shot shotgun, and insert a “cartridge” containing powder and primer. It looks similar to a .410 shotgun shell. At the end of the day, the powder and

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primer can safely be removed and used again. Wow, I was hooked! Copper Slugs I have been wanting to switch to copper bullets for health concerns over lead contamination of shot deer, so this was the perfect time. The Federal Firestick pairs up with their 270-grain all-copper Federal Premium Trophy bullets. Now I had it all – a gun that could reach out and touch a deer across a farm field, a quick and easy muzzleloader, and an extension of my deer season by two weeks. The Season This year, muzzleloader season starts statewide on November 27 and runs for the first week. Hunters in his region can use traditional or modern muzzleloaders the following week until December 9. Muzzleloading season does not offer any special treats like the ability to take an antlerless deer (you must use your permit for that), but it does allow you to hunt longer and a bit more accurately. My hunting buddy and I both have two antlerless deer permits, so we have some great options this month, as

do many of you. Where to hunt with your new (or existing) muzzleloader is equally important. I will be sticking close to the farm, hoping deer settle down after the woods return to their quiet state following the November rifle season. I notice that it takes the deer about a week to calm down after firearms season closes. Hunters may want to dig deeper into their deer woods to get the deer that have retreated farther from roads, houses and people. Big tracts of land are good to hunt this time of year, since they give deer a sense of security. Take to the Highway One popular tactic during muzzleloader season is to hunt close to major highways (where legal). Deer are quick to learn that hunters can’t hunt from the highway into their woods, so they tend to crowd the edges of the Maine Turnpike and Interstate 95. These highways bisect this region between Auburn and Lewiston (DeLorme Atlas, Map 5, A-5), continuing down through Portland (Map 5, E-4). It won’t take you long to get accustomed to the roar of the highway – just remain alert for deer using the highway sounds to cover their movements! (Sebago to Auburn continued on page 60)

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Quiet Times with a Muzzleloader on a Snow-Covered Ridge The flintlock Hawken muzzleloader I have been building is completed – just in time for Maine’s black powder deer season. I used a .50 caliber barrel, a walnut stock, an L&R flintlock, and Davis double set triggers. It took many hours of work to complete it. I didn’t want a shiny, new-looking gun, so I aged it so that it looks like an old and well used gun. In the mid 1800s, Hawken rifles were used by mountain men in the Rocky Mountains during the “fur trade years.” My ancestral grandfather, Henry Patch, moved to the West during that time period; however, I’m not sure he owned a Hawken – they were expensive, and the little Hawken shop in Saint Louis only built a few, compared to other gun makers at the time. Can I Kill a Deer with a Flintlock? Hunting with a muzzleloader during the winter has some drawbacks, but nothing that can’t be overcome if you adjust your hunting methods slightly. Here are a few things to consider, if this is your first season with a muzzleloader. One and Done No matter what style muzzleloader you use – either modern or traditional – generally you will only get

Muzzleloading season may seem romantic, with traditional or modern firearms, soft snow, and easy-to-spot deer. However, says the author, Maine winters can be unforgiving. What to bring with you? Enough gear to keep you warm and alive if you get stuck outside overnight, he advises.

The author’s flintlock rifle, with which he plans to hunt during Maine’s muzzleloader season that kicks off on Monday, November 27. Muzzleloader hunters need to learn to deal with black powder and wet, cold weather. Val Marquez photo

one shot opportunity at a spooky whitetail. Therefore, you’d better make it a good one. To ingrain this oneshot mentality, you will need to practice under hunting conditions, rather than just shooting from a bench at your local range. The delayed ignition involved when shooting a traditional muzzle loader can cause a mega-flinch; it takes a little getting used to. Modern style muzzleloaders’ ignition is much faster. Regardless of the style of gun you use, consider using shooting sticks or resting your rifle against a tree so it remains steady while aiming. You should practice this way while shooting at a deer target, not a circle target. If you can do this in the woods, it’s better. Also, practice tak-

ing your time and not firing off a quick shot; learn to take a slow, precise shot. When you are still-hunting, always stop near a tree. That way, you can use it to steady your gun if you see a deer. And while waiting in ambush, always sit behind a tree, or use shooting sticks. If you hunt from a treestand, buy one with a gun rail, or jury-rig one on your stand. Redneck Shooting Sticks Speaking of jury rigging, there are many commercial shooting sticks available, including push-button adjustable, and tripods. Some sell for over $100. To save money, use sticks tied together with a string – to adjust them, simply move the legs in or out. Keep a set of shooting sticks at each stand site.

Other items you should carry include a few speed-loaders. These tubes hold powder, bullet and a cap. Keep them in your pocket, in case you need to make a quick follow-up shot. Always follow the old rule – remember to load your muzzleloader once you take a shot. Sounds obvious, but during the excitement of the moment and being programmed to hunt with a rifle – things happen. Traditional folks who use ball and patch should use a bullet board – a piece of wood with holes drilled in it to fit a patched ball. You place powder in the bore, then hold the board with patched round ball over the muzzle and ram the ball down the barrel. Then you either prime or cap the rifle, and fire. With practice,

you’ll learn to make a quick second shot. Winter Wonderland, But …. December is a great time to be in the Maine woods. You’re hunting along a snow-covered ridge with snowflakes falling. The day is quiet; you can hear snow hitting the leaves. Deer are on the move, feeding on acorns. As you stalk along, you notice bits of acorn hulls and torn-up areas where deer have pawed around for food. Most of the leaves have fallen off the trees, making deer easier to see. The best hunting is near green growth, where oaks or cut off areas meet. These locations offer both cover and a food source for deer. This time of year, deer are not difficult to locate – they are feeding on either browse or acorns, and the sign they leave in snow is easy to see. Plus, the rut is likely still underway. Mornings are cold – sometimes very cold. Deer are on the move under these conditions, so you bundle up, drink hot coffee and wait. But not all conditions are good at this time of year. Snow can crust over, allowing deer to hear your steps for miles. Also, snow can be deep, and wind can be biting cold. Maine weather can turn on you quickly.

(Continued on next page)

60 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

Southern Maine (Continued from page 59)

The woods are beautiful, but can turn dangerous at times. You should always be prepared to spend

the night. When folks get into serious situations, it’s not because of weather conditions, but rather it’s because

Trapping (Continued from page 57)

Bobcat Scent Freshly ground bobcat anal glands mixed with bobcat urine and aged a few days to lightly taint, then preserve with sodium benzoate (a tablespoon per pint of mixture). Use at a trap set with fresh bait in conjunction with a loud skunky call lure (like the above petroleum jelly mixture for fisher and marten) placed above the set 5 or 6 feet on a tree.

Sebago to Auburn

(Continued from page 58)

Back in my college days at the University of Maine at Orono, we hunted a great tract of land in Alton that abutted Interstate 95. It was full of deer, and my roommate took a whopper 227-pound 14-pointer there one season.

they aren’t prepared for them. A mishap and a night in the woods during the summer makes for a great story; during the winter, however, it can be deadly. Maine’s muzzle-

loader season is a good opportunity to fill your freezer, but you need to be prepared. Become familiar with your muzzleloader, how to keep powder dry, and how to load properly. Then you need to con-

sider weather conditions and how to dress for cold weather. Most important, be prepared to spend a night in the woods, just in case.

Beaver Lure #1 A simple lure for beaver is to take castors from beaver to make your lure. All flesh and exterior membrane on castors should be trimmed off. They may be hung over wire to dry, kept frozen until needed, or used fresh. If the castors have been dried, they may be ground up in a food blender or a hand grinder. Frozen or fresh castors should be cut into very small pieces. The castor is then placed in a food blender with an amount of glycerin, and blended into a good thick paste.

Use a dab of it at castor mount sets.

As the season progressed, we hunted closer and closer to the highway. That is where the deer were – it was that simple. Bird hunters can still try to pot a grouse, and pheasant hunters may be able to locate a stocked bird that has hung on, by really pushing the thick stuff at one of the stocking sites. Goose hunters can target these large birds

until Christmas Day in this region. Nothing is as traditional as a Christmas goose – just be sure to have a backup dish on hand! Good luck if, like me, you are trying your hand at muzzleloader hunting this season. Aim steady, aim true and keep your powder dry (even if you don’t necessarily need to)!

Beaver Lure #2 Another lure is to make the same as above, then add a half teaspoon each of cinnamon and nutmeg to a half cup of the above mixture. Beaver Lure #3 Another good lure is made by mixing the oil of Sweet Flag with ground castor to make a paste, then adding 4 drops of cherry extract for every ounce of mixture.

Trophy Gallery

Wyatt Miller of Hiram recently received a Maine Sportsman Grand Slam patch for his moose, turkey, deer and bear hunting accomplishments in 2022. Seeing that smile, need we say more about this young man’s enthusiasm for the outdoors? His family is very supportive; in fact, his grandmother, Gina Sanborn, is among his biggest fans.

Gabe Williams of Sanford, age 13, earned his Youth Deer Hunter Club patch on October 20, 2023 with this 8-pt., 133.5-lb buck, which he dropped with his .243. Gabe was accompanied by Paul Williams. The buck was certified by Tim Sansoucy, a friend of The Maine Sportsman, at Tim’s Taxidermy, Whichers Mills Rd. in Alfred.

Richard Sarna, of Southampton, NY earned his Maine Sportsman moose club patch on October 13, 2023 with this 772-lb bull moose. Richard was guided by Donat Cyr. The moose was tagged in Ashland, and was certified at Gateway Trading Post. Its antlers featured a largest spread of 47”.

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Christmas Gear for the Maine Sportsman Cold-weather clothing, boots, socks, a compass, a knife sharpener, hunting dog gear, and – hey – how about a gift subscription to The Sportsman for your favorite friends and family on the gift list? As a young child, when I awoke on Christmas morning, I knew there would be some outdoorsy kind of gift awaiting me under the decorated tree. As I peeled back the wrapping paper, I’d find a box of shotgun shells, a new cap, wool gloves, or some other item that was needed for outdoor adventures. I was a lucky child … my dad loved hunting and fishing, and loved taking me and my brothers even more. While dad wore his old beat-up hunting clothes, he made sure we had exactly what we needed for the outdoors. Nothing beats the joy of seeing a loved one open a gift that will keep them comfortable and safe during their outdoor pursuits. So, what do folks

get for those friends and family who enjoy the outdoors – hunters, anglers, snowmobilers, and other lovers of the woods and waters? Good Gear The most noteworthy gear improvement I’ve seen is in the clothing department. While wool still rules the cold weather realm, some of the high-tech clothing just keeps getting better, including those items designed to keep you cool during hot, sunny days. I find that nowadays, the modern, synthetic blend material they use in fishing shirts, hats, and pants to be extremely comfortable when it gets hot. I have been enjoying the L.L. Bean line of fishing clothing, but other companies produce similar products – clothing that

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wicks the sweat and moisture right off your body and keeps you ultra cool – these are great holiday gifts. Hunting boots and wading boots have also come a long way as far as comfort goes. Spend the most you can afford to get boots that last and keep your gift recipient’s feet comfy during long forays into the woods or stream beds. This goes for waders, too. Each year they get lighter, and less likely to spring a leak. Some of the new materials they use are

Merry Christmas to all, from the author and his wife, Nancy Carpenter. William Clunie photo

just amazing … keeping the water out but also keeping the wearer warm and dry on the inside. For the best comfort, go with a good pair of socks for wading or hunting boots. I always make sure to get the best from the top-name companies, such as L.L.

Bean (, Darn Tough (, or Smartwool ( Good wool socks won’t develop any odor, and they’ll keep the feet so nice and warm. Be sure to get them sock liners also – they will never have a blister on their feet again. (Continued on next page)


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62 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

Rangeley Region (Continued from page 61)

Primo Gear Sometimes an outdoors-lover can get away with using mediocre gear. I’ve found that much of the bigbox stuff lasts for a few seasons and then falls apart. That’s fine for some, but at certain times only the best gear available will do – like when your gift recipient’s safety is concerned. I like a good compass, and I use a Silva Ranger ( to go along with my GPS unit. There are

plenty of other great compasses around, but this one helps me get around in the woods without batteries, and fits right in my pocket. I don’t go anywhere without one. Speaking of GPS, a handheld device like this really makes a great Christmas present. I like my Garmin Alpha 100 (garmin. com) – it shows a topo map on the screen, your current location, land elevation, the ability to mark hotspots along the way, directional com-

pass, where my dogs are, and it also allows me to give correction to the dogs from a distance. Folks who have hunting dogs are the easiest to buy for, since they always can use extra gear. Often, they don’t even know they need certain items. Give them something simple, and it might make the best gift ever. Bird dogs really need a bell on their collar to let the hunters know where they are located and to make them aware when the dog is on point. Gun Dog Supply ( sells dog

collar bells that are made right here in Maine by Mike Flewelling. He sent me a few to try out, and I found them to be top-notch and the perfect gift for that bird hunter in your life. He said he can hardly keep up with the orders … a good sign he’s doing something right. Other great gift ideas, knife sharpening kits, come in an array of styles. A nice set of sharpening stones would fit the bill, as would the small belt sharpeners that I’ve seen advertised on television and online lately. Ceramic

sticks also work great as a Christmas gift for the knife-owner who wants the perfect finished edge. How about gifting someone a subscription to The Maine Sportsman for an impressive Christmas present? I know I always ordered a subscription for my father each Christmas, and he loved it. My hope this Christmas is that each one of you enjoys the holidays and relishes the wonderful feeling of giving someone a gift they can cherish.

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December Readies this Writer for Next Season Black powder deer hunting in the South Zone ends December 9, so what’s a Maine Sportsman to do? Let’s take a look at the endof-the-year month, and see what’s available in the big outdoors. The ice usually hasn’t frozen up yet for ice fishing, and the snow depth typically doesn’t provide enough for snowmobiling until we’re into the new year. I hunt grouse right until the end of the month and then get right on the hare hunting. Some coyote hunt-

December is the month between deer hunting and ice fishing. So let’s get together with military veterans and tie some flies, and hunt some lateseason grouse. The author also explains why we didn’t see him out this autumn, hunting with his two dogs …. ers run their dogs all year long, while others wait for deer season to end before they put their dogs on the track. Waterfowl hunting ends before the New Year, but probably could be extended into January. There’s usually some open ice available at the beginning of the New Year. Due to the appar-

ent effects of cyclical climate change, the weather in the last decade has been pushing the winter freeze later and later. I read a journal from the town of Dixfield a while ago that told of a fellow duck hunting on open water during January sometime in the late 1700s. He claimed the weather had been

warming up over the past ten years and they had been able to hunt ducks in January. In my opinion, the recent warm winters we are having here are part of a huge, natural cycle that has always been happening – we just haven’t been around the last six-hundred years to see it take place.

Fly Tying Veterans I’ll be running a series of fly-tying events for the non-profit organization, Operation ReBoot Outdoors (operationrebootoutdoors. org) this winter. This fine organization heals veterans with emotional and physical trauma through various outdoor programs. Starting in January 2023, we will hold several fly-tying sessions at the American Legion Post 24, in Rumford, Maine, at 184 Congress Street. We provide all the (Continued on next page)

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64 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

Western Maine Mountains (Continued from page 63)

tools and materials necessary for tying flies, and have some top-notch volunteers to show the veterans how to enjoy this relaxing hobby. Getting together with other veterans provides a camaraderie like none other available. For some, this is the perfect therapy, and often leads to a life-long association with others in the sport. It was funny when we first started a fly-fishing program, we included a short fly-tying session. I thought the veterans would rather be out flailing their fly rods around rather than sitting in a classroom learning how to tie flies. I was

proved wrong, and was glad to find a strong demand for fly-tying classes. We immediately started meeting at the American Legion for the fly-tying classes. Any veterans interested in joining these fly-tying classes this winter can email Jacob Reed at reed@ to sign up. Late Season Birds This grouse season started off a little weird. The word was that with all the rain we got throughout the spring and summer, the grouse population would be diminished. Heavy rain in the spring kills young

chicks, according to most wildlife biologists. According to some, the significant amount of rain also left the woods with lots of moisture that provided plenty of mushroom growth – one of the preferred foods for grouse. So, all of October the grouse were supposedly feeding deep in the woods on mushrooms, and didn’t need to come to the roads for the gravel that helps them digest other foods like beechnuts, acorns, buds, leaves, and berries. This December should be a good month for hunting grouse if all the previous pondering turns out to be true. Usually, the wily game birds feed heavily on buds during the colder months and will

Ginger and Andro, the author’s Vizsla bird hunting dogs, looking out the kitchen window and wishing they were outdoors. William Clunie photo

need lots of grit-producing gravel to fill their crops and provide proper digestion. Dog Training Snafu My success in getting the bird dogs in the woods this year was a little underwhelming. I had focused my training so much on the new pup, seven-month-old An-

Trophy Gallery

Bianca Buel, age 16 of Hyde Park, New York earned her Maine Sportsman black bear patch with this boar, tagged on August 26, 2023 in the town of Benedicta. Bianca used a .45 Long Colt rifle. She was accompanied on the hunt by Nathan Buel.

On October 10, 2023, Bob Chadwick (left) of West Gardiner used a .308 to drop this 708-lb. bull moose, with antlers that featured a 40” spread. Rob and sub-permittee Steven Prescott (right) were hunting in Rangeley, and were guided by Bald Mountain Camps (BMC) Guide Service (Tyler Philbrick), located in Oquossoc/Rangeley.

dro, that I kind of left my four-year-old Ginger on her own. I figured she was on autopilot, and would hunt perfectly like last year. The first few times in the woods had her running wild, ranging way out there and not performing as needed. So, I had to go back to the drawing board, and this season turned out to be a training and re-education effort for both dogs. It’s not that I’m not enjoying this, but it was just unexpected. Young Andro has been allowed to “be a puppy,” and he’s mostly been working on obedience … therefore, his hunting capabilities this season are more on the level of training rather than producing birds for this hunter. This beginner’s training stuff has left Ginger on the back burner, so next season should be a good one for all. I love training the dogs, so it’s not a loss for me in any way, but my hunting buddies must be wondering, “What is William up to? We haven’t seen him all season.” Next year, fellas … next year.

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The Dos and Don’ts of Introducing Others to Hunting (Part 2) In the September 2023 edition of The Sportsman, I outlined some notes on good and bad practices when introducing newcomers to hunting. Most of those notes related to preparation and planning to go afield. Once you’ve satisfied that guidance and you have a solid plan on what, when, where and how to hunt with the newbie, you need to start considering some additional things for the execution of that hunt and your mentee’s continued enjoyment of the sport. ’Splainin’ to Do If you have a long-established hunting buddy, you may not realize how much goes unspoken between the two of you in the woods. When

How do you get a non-hunter interested in the sport? Don’t push them, the author says, and let go of the little things. After all, they are out in the woods with you, so it’s important to build on the positives, and to be patient. experienced people get together, they rely and trust that the other person has a foundational understanding of what they are doing, and how best to accomplish it. This changes when you are with a newbie. For the sake of their learning – and the hunt’s success – you’ll need to discuss some of what you are doing, and why you are doing it. Not everything needs to be explained on the first hunt, however. Having a background in teaching, I can attest that incre-

mental introduction of information is better for comprehension, especially with young people. There is a fine line between teaching, and lecturing. If you are stopping every ten seconds to impress some wisdom onto your mentee, you are just going to annoy them (just ask my wife!). Instead, build upon what they know incrementally over the course of different outings. The Little Things It is easy for experienced hunters to be overbearing about avoidable mistakes.

The new hunter is going to snap sticks, scuff their feet through the leaves, want to walk too fast, not sit still, and talk above a whisper. There are only so many times you can gently remind them, before you get annoyed by having to tell them, and then they’ll get annoyed at you telling them. At a point, you have to let it go, so that it doesn’t ruin your hunt – or your relationship. As a kid, I remember my dad constantly scolding me on our walks through the woods, with a harsh

whisper, “Ethan! Where’s the fire?” His way of saying “Slow the heck down!” After hearing it about the dozenth time when I really didn’t feel like I was going that fast, my childish mentality made me want to go even faster, just to spite him. I noticed my wife adopt the same mentality. I scolded her frequently for not picking up her feet when she walked in the woods. It didn’t take many of my harsh whispers for her to start purposefully dragging her feet through every leaf and stick pile within reach. This is all to say: Let the little things go. The best way for people to learn is to make mistakes. After a couple (dozen) jumped (Continued on next page)

Welcome to

Northern New Hampshire

66 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

New Hampshire (Continued from page 65)

deer, they will start to learn, and perhaps to understand what you are telling them. In the meantime, there’s no need to make it unnecessarily unenjoyable. Story Time Perhaps as important as the hunt itself to many people is the spinning of the yarn that goes along with it. It’s a time-honored tradition that pre-dates modern civilization, as depicted in rudimentary cave drawings. It is the hunter’s responsibility – nay, duty – to tell the story of the hunt. I share a deer camp with some of the best hunters and story-tellers around. But the best stories I’ve heard have come from new hunters. Though they usual-

ly aren’t as well-crafted or even as interesting as those that come from the veterans, the genuine wide-eyed excitement they are told with make them even more memorable. I’ve experienced situations, however, when the mentor has taken over the duty of story-telling for the mentee. Though they may spin it better, it just feels wrong. And usually the look on the face of the mentee says as much. It is their story to tell, so let them tell it! Let them be proud and enthusiastic, even if it shows how green they are. Calling it Quits Hunting isn’t for everyone. It’s a good thing that it’s not. There is enough competition as it is. But it still hurts

when someone we really want to enjoy it isn’t interested. It may be a hard pill to swallow, but we must know when to give up insisting they come. Forcing them to do something they don’t enjoy is just going to make them despise it – and probably you. It may be that it’s just not the right time in that person’s life. Not pushing the issue too hard preserves the chance that at another point in their life, they may give it another try. My wife hasn’t been the most enthusiastic about all of my attempts to get a gun in her hand and her boots in the woods. So I’ve scaled back the variety of attempts, focusing instead on the kinds of ones toward which she’s shown more acceptance and enjoyment. Now that we have

The author’s father introduced him to hunting many critters many different ways, the most influential being tracking remote whitetails. Here they are when Ethan was a teenager, with a small buck he tracked and shot under his father’s tutelage.

a daughter, she has intimated that she’d be more willing to do those other outdoor pursuits in the future as a family, including our daugh-

ter. The right time in my wife’s life hasn’t arrived yet, but I hope it’s in the future.

Trophy Gallery

Maine Sportsman subscriber Jarrett Kelly of Nashville, Ohio earned his Black Bear club patch with this sow, taken on September 5, 2023 in Waite, Maine with a .450 Bushmaster. Jarrett was guided by Tomah Mountain Outfitters, located on the Lakeville/Old Codyfield Road in Topsfield, ME. The bear was certified by the attendant at Waite General Store, on the Houlton Road in Waite.

John Ross, of West Milford, NJ was hunting on October 13, 2023 in T13R14WELS with his .338 Federal, when he tagged this 700-lb bull moose. The trophy’s antlers measured 44 1/4”. John was guided by Marsh River Outfitters, and his moose was registered by Andrew Gibbs at Gateway Trading Post, Ashland.

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Winter Wonderland No sooner had we extricated the 4WD Subaru from the deep snow on the unplowed woods road, when Uncle Ron missed a sharp turn on a different unplowed road, and we ended up on our side in a ditch. Leaving the vehicle where it was, we hunted back to camp and enjoyed a meal of Cheese Puffs and ginger ale. But a life without adventure and risk is no life at all! People like to complain. In December, it’s usually about the cold and gray, with short days. In my opinion, people who complain about winter usually don’t have anything good to do. We outdoors folks have lots to do – so much so that we often have to make choices about where to concentrate our efforts. If you find yourself with a case of December doldrums, snap out of it and find something to do outside! I feel lucky to get to chase critters around all fall, starting with ducks and grouse near home, to elk out West, then deer across northern New England, circling back to late-season grouse, and then lastly hare through the winter months. Opportunities continue to abound for a hunter who’s willing to put the time and effort in as fall transitions to winter. If you travel to visit family in December, there’s usually something you can do outside – buy a non-resident license, and go.

Opportunities The month of December has a lot of options available for hunters, anglers, and trappers in Vermont. For deer hunters, the late muzzleloader season runs from the 2nd through the 10th, with archery hunting running until the 15th. Hare hunting usually gets going this month, with the season already open. Grouse hunting is open, and lasts until the 31st. For waterfowl, VT has three zones (Lake Champlain, Interior, and CT River) that all have different seasons. Interior Zone hunters have only until the 5th to chase ducks, while the other two zones go much later in the month. While trapping for most species starts earlier in the fall, things pick up as the weather gets colder. Furs are finally coming into prime. The trapping season for mink, skunk, red & gray fox, raccoon, coyote, opossum and weasel comes to an end on the 31st. Otter, beaver and muskrat run

through the winter. Trappers who want to target bobcat only have from the 1st to the 16th; those targeting fisher have from the 1st to the 31st. On the fishing side, many bodies of water now remain open to fishing year-round. An interested angler can look up a body of water in the “Index of River and Streams” on the Vermont Fish and Wildlife website (vtfishandwildlife. com), and if there are no special regulations, it can be fished by using only artificial flies or lures, catch-and-release (trout must be immediately released where caught). Late Season Adventures Years ago, I remember hanging out with my uncle Ron during muzzleloader season. The tires on my old Ford Escort weren’t great, so we’d jump in his Subaru. The first order of business was dropping the kids off at school, then we’d be free until he had to pick them up. We’d go check his traps, where he usual-

Vermont late-season grouse hunting extends through December 31. Bring your snowshoes. Photo: Matt Breton

ly targeted beaver and fisher, then off we’d tromp into the deer woods. By then, many hunters had hung up their wool coats, and it felt like we had the entire countryside to ourselves. I remember one season where we had plenty of snow that made the driving challenging. On one day that muzzleloader week, we were bombing down an unplowed Class 4 road, when the little Subaru finally pushed up enough snow that we got high-centered, with all four wheels spinning. We knew of a sugarhouse nearby, so we borrowed a shovel and extricated ourselves. Later that day, Ron took a turn onto a different unplowed road, but missed the turn by just a little bit, and we ended up on our side in the ditch. There was no getting out of that one with a shovel, so

we hunted from there back to our hunting camp. Thankfully, our buddy Mike pulled in as we sat down to a meal of stale Cheese Puffs and a drink of slushy ginger ale. We piled into his truck, and got the Subaru pulled out of the ditch, then kept hunting. I don’t remember if we even shot a deer that day, but the adventure is what made the memory. December days are short, but can be packed with fun pursuits. There are lots of options for the intrepid adventurer. My fall fishing was subpar, so I may get suited up and find a river to fish on to round out the year. Yes, when it’s cold it can be dangerous, so take precautions and make good choices, but a life without risk is no life at all. Get good gear, check the rules, and get out there!

68 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

Smilin’ Sportsman

Sizable Response Two large men came into the local diner, talking loudly. “That’s an interesting accent,” said the waitress, politely. “Are you two gentlemen from Ireland?” “It’s Wales, you dummy!” snarled one of the men. “Oh,” she replied. “I’m so sorry. Are you two whales from Ireland?” — Rinse Cycle A man walked into a police station and announced, “My wife’s gone missing.” The police officer said, “OK, sir – we can help you. How long has she been gone?”

“About a month.” “A month! Why on earth are you coming to us only now?” “I ran out of clean clothes.” — Can I Get a Do-Over? A fellow found an old lamp in the sand, and rubbed it. A genie popped out and said, “I will grant you three wishes.” “Well,” said the fellow, “my ex-wife’s lawyer fleeced me like a sheep during our recent divorce. Therefore, for my first wish, I want a world without lawyers.” “Done!” said the genie. “And for my second and third wishes,” the fellow began, but the genie interrupted him, saying “Sorry – no more wishes.” “What?” protested the fellow. “You

told me I’d get three wishes!” Replied the genie, with a smile, “So sue me.” — Please Call Ahead Next Time The Lieutenant stuck his head into the Warden’s office. “You’re playing video games on your office computer, Johnson? Why aren’t you working?” “Sorry boss – I didn’t hear you coming.” — Painful Truth Male porcupine to female porcupine: “I do love you, Honey! It’s just that I don’t want to get hurt again.”

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Extreme Hobbying Our columnist examines the strange ways we spend our spare time I once met a guy who collected snow. He had a freezer full of little baggies stuffed with snowflakes from many years past. He didn’t do much with his collection except gaze at it once in a while. No snowball fights in July. But he was religious about adding to his stash every winter. When he and his wife split up, she defrosted the freezer and dumped out the watery remains. After he found out his irreplaceable collectables were gone, he hit the bars to cry in his beer and tell his sad tale to anyone who’d listen. I’m not insensitive. I found his story touching. Also, more than a little humorous. Still, I’m not criticizing him. As a person with a few oddball collections, I’m in no position to make fun of other people’s eccentricities. Monsters, Little Lulu, and Frogs I have an extensive assortment of plastic monsters, Godzilla and the like. My wife has a fondness for Little Lulu figurines. Somebody in our household thinks two-headed birds are funny, so we have a ceramic one and a small chicken with dual noggins. (Most common reaction from guests: “That isn’t real, is it?”

It is.) There are lots of frogs, mostly captured doing unfroglike stuff, such as playing musical instruments, gambling and carrying assorted candles. I don’t count drinking beer as one of my hobbies. It’s more of a career. As with the snow collector, there’s no reasonable explanation for any of this, just as there’s no excuse for the fanatic hobbyist who fills volumes with postal stamps from countries that no longer exist. Or the one searching through loose change for obscure pennies. Or the home decorator who thinks framed boxes full of antique muskellunge lures give the living room a bit of class. The point is, nearly all hobbies range from just a little bit weird (comic books, commemorative plates, antique bottles) to the downright creepy (golf, carnivorous fish, ex-spouses). They’re all indications somebody has too much time, too much money or too few functioning brain cells. Possibly all three. Take my friend Karl (not his real name, which is Steve). Karl collects robots. Some of these automatons are tiny and scoot around when they’re

wound up. Others are human-size, including one that sits at his kitchen table wearing an expression that could be interpreted as “Death to all meat sacks.” This doesn’t bother Karl, who continues to eat breakfast across the table from the killer bot. On the other hand, he hasn’t had a long-term relationship in a couple of decades. All Tape and No Player I know a guy who collects VHS tapes of old movies and TV shows. Oddly enough, he doesn’t own a VHS player, and even if he did, he wouldn’t use it to watch items in his collection because he never takes those tapes out of their plastic wrapping. He believes they must remain in pristine condition to meet the exacting standards of the serious hobbyist. As a result, he’s never seen either Apocalypse Now or Gilligan’s Island. This brings us to the point of hobbies, which is they have no point. If you get your jollies filling autograph books with the signatures of every guy who ever played for the New York Mets’ AA minor league affiliate, the Binghamton Rumble Ponies (the vast majority of whom never spent a day in

The author admits to having an extensive assortment of plastic Godzilla monsters. He explains that collecting them is much more fun than cleaning gutters or doing laundry.

the big leagues), that doesn’t seem any more frivolous than snowmobiling at night, hunting deer with a muzzleloader, or running for Congress. I know people who’ve done all those things, and they didn’t strike me as dangerous deviants (well, maybe the congressional candidate). At the end of the day, they seem to get a warm glow from engaging in activities that give them pleasure — even if the rest of the world thinks they’re nuts. Leaning Tower of Pisa I’m not saying the rest of the world is wrong. Judgmental, perhaps. A little snooty, maybe. But not necessarily wrong. Because anyone who’s infatuated with some obscure pursuit has to be at least a half bubble off plumb (did I mention I once met a guy who collected levels? He claimed to have one that belonged to the architect who built

the Leaning Tower of Pisa). To devote time, effort and money to activities that any objective observer might easily conclude are somewhere between frivolous and deluded requires a mental rearranging of reality. Sort of like bowling, collecting rocks or watching YouTube videos of construction cranes tipping over. The point of hobbies, even the weirdest ones, is to give the perpetrator enjoyment that can’t be derived from more pedestrian pursuits, such as doing laundry, cleaning gutters or earning a living. Rather than shunning the freakish collector, we should celebrate our recreational differences. And if you come across any two-headed birds, give me a call. Al Diamon writes the monthly column Politics & Other Mistakes for The Bollard magazine.

70 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

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Joe Saltalamachia, Realtor 143 Silver Street, Waterville, ME (207) 692-6481 • (207) 660-4012 •

Caryn Dreyfuss, Broker • (207) 233-8275

LINCOLN PLT – Year-round home 3 private pastoral acres with 400’+/- frontage on the Magalloway River and 300’+/- frontage on Alder Stream. Perched on a knoll with commanding river and mountain views, this 3 bedroom home with attached 2 car garage and detached steel barn is ideally located to enjoy all four seasons. Snowmobile from your door, launch your boat on Aziscohos Lake. This riverside gem is sure to please, inquire today! MLS #1574074 – $699,000 RANGELEY – This 7.5 acre lot offers country setting yet it’s just 2 miles to Rangeley Village. Direct access to snowmobile trails and close to nearby recreation. Lot abuts 18 acres of common land for additional privacy. Property is surveyed with 900’ of road frontage, has a completed soil test, underground power and high speed internet. Owners of these lots will have first priority with contractor for driveway, septic and foundation when it’s time to build. MLS #1573819 – $179,000 RANGELEY – Scenic 5 acre parcel with 300’ private frontage on the quiet and calm waters of Hunter Cove. Beautiful pastoral setting overlooking open fields and evergreen forest, abutting Sanctuary Farms. Build high and take in the views or low, near the water’s edge. Located half way between Rangeley and Oquossoc, enjoy 4-season recreation from your door. Loaded with wildlife - watch the deer, listen to the loons, gaze at the stars. Farm Subdivision. MLS #1567749 – $349,000

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WHY RENT When You Can Lease-to-Own One of Ed’s Sheds? Lakeville – Large cabin is unfinished on the inside and sits on a half acre of land. End of road privacy in quiet, rural location on Duck Lake. It has a one car, drive in full foundation with a 400amp underground electrical feed. $229,00

Lakeville – This cute, well-constructed cabin on a small hidden cove on Lower Dobsy Lake. Private 10 wooded acres. Light a fire and sit near thousands of acres of additional lakes and ponds of Northern Maine. $149,00

Lincoln – This large lakeside home has an oversized garage, lawn to the lake and a paved driveway right on Mattanawcook Lake. Many mechanical updates completed, leaving cosmetics up to you to make your own. $285,000

T3 R1 – Brand spanking new cabin with detached woodshed/privy. Deeded across to Bill Green Pond (across the road). Partially furnished and cute as a button. Possible owner financing. $89,900

Handcrafted in Maine

Danforth – Lot offers relaxing sunset’s views, has electricity available at the road and is level and well wooded right on Lower Hot Brook Lake. This is a beautiful, quiet part of northern Maine- ready for you. $99,000 T3 R1 – Remote. Private. Wooded and beautiful. With deeded access to Bill Green Pond, this would be a wonderful place to build your seasonal cabin right off Engstrom Road. POSSIBLE OWNER FINANCING. The driveway is shared with lot 17 and is partially installed. $24,900 Lee – Year round road with electric available on Thomas Hill Road. Well wooded. Near ATV and snowsled trails, with dozens of lakes all within an hour’s drive and being a wonderful place for your getaway cabin, home or the RV. $24,900

Bangor (207) 738-5315

207-794-2460 • 1-800-675-2460 R E A L


5 Lake Street, P.O. Box 66 LINCOLN, ME

— Call any of our brokers to work for you! — “Tate” Aylward 207-794-2460 Peter Phinney (207) 794-5466 • Kirk Ritchie (207) 290-1554

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72 • December 2023 • The Maine Sportsman ————————————————————————————————————————————

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