Did Someone Say “Deer?!”
November in Maine is deer month. No one can miss that fact.
When I was a kid, growing up in Windsor, east of Augusta, my father would run into a friend at Hussey’s General Store or on an Augusta street, and neither said, “Hello.”
Rather, one would ask the other, “Got ya’ deer yet?”
Then the story of how one or the other shot a deer or missed an opportunity would take up the next 15 minutes as the two men hashed over the recent hunt.
Another behavioral trait goes on this month, which I first noticed as a young adult in my early days as an English teacher. The superintendent of school did not shoot a deer one year, and all the teachers knew it.
So that December after the deer season had closed, one teacher – right in front of me – asked the superintendent if he had gotten his deer, confusing, because I knew the teacher asking the question knew damned well the “super” hadn’t shot a deer.
Later, after the superintendent left the room, I asked, “You knew he didn’t shoot a deer. Why’d you ask?”
“Just to see him squirm.”
“You’re a mean *******!” I said, and meant it.
It’s important to shoot a deer in Maine, and for many people, it’s even more important for them to say so. That’s Maine!
Those folks who love deer hunting often get out with best friends or family, and to them, camaraderie makes the sport even more endearing. It’s tempting to say everyone deer hunts in November, but second-season duck hunters live for the latter half of the split season. They love empty marshes after the sky-busters have done their damage in the first half of the split season in early October.
Tips of the Month
Scrape Away Leaves!
When deer hunters take a stand along a game trail or overlooking forage, they should choose a site that lies downwind to the target area and scrape away leaves to bare earth, where they’re standing, so they can shift their feet should a deer come from a direction that requires the shooter to turn around. This simple rule can make the difference between success and failure, because deer hear rustling, crunching leaves from great distances, when a hunter turns to face an approaching deer.
Where the Action Is
Two Dense Deer Populations
Maine has two regions with dense deer populations, so dense, in fact, that the State has issued an abundant number of any-deer permits for the areas in order to lower the whitetail numbers.
The first one lies southwest of Bangor and lies mostly in Wildlife Management District (WMD) 23. Check out Routes 7, 9, 143, 139, 1A, 137, 220, 2 and side roads of the major byways. These roads slice through working farm country, abandoned farm country, old orchards, new orchards, fields, timber-harvest areas, hardwood ridges, swampy bottomlands and so forth, perfect habitat for deer.
Bed and breakfasts, motels and sporting camps are few and far between, but places like Newport have accommodations close to deer cover.
The second deer region lies in WMDs 24, 20, 21 and 15 and Routes 1, 236, 91, 202, 11, 4, 102, 117, 4, 302, 160, 113 and side roads off the major highways lead hunters past ideal deer country, including abandoned and working farms, fields, overgrown fields, hardwood ridges, tangled wetlands, orchards old and new, working forests and small woodlots. The further folks get from the coast, the less development and posting.
Towns such as Sanford, Kennebunk, Biddeford and Saco have motels, and bed and breakfasts have sprouted up in towns along the Ossipee River, towns such as Cornish, South Hiram and Porter.
News and Tidbits
Bear Referendum Worries Hunter
In 2004, a referendum question aiming to end three bear-hunting practices – baiting, using hounds and trapping – lost 53 percent to 47 percent. A slim majority of residents in the bottom third of the state voted to prohibit the practices, but across the rest of the state most voters turned down the referendum in order to sustain the practices of bear baiting, dogs and trapping.
Now, a coalition by the Maine chapter of the Humane Society of the United States, called Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, is at it again to gain 80,000 signatures to place the question on the ballot in 2014. If these folks win to ban certain bear-hunting practices, it will hurt economies in rural hamlets in economically stressed areas.
Five States with No Hunter-Orange Law
Maine legislators have maintained a hunter-orange law in one form or another since the 1960s, and the legislation saved lives overnight. In the 1950s, Maine experienced upwards of 19 fatalities per year in the woods as the result of hunting with firearms! With all the statistics proving hunter-orange works, five states still allow firearms hunters to hunt in the firearms season without orange – New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Arizona and Idaho.
Glacial Retreat Proof
In Maine, eastern hemlock and red-spruce stands are common enough in lowlands. However, in the Mid-Atlantic states, hemlock and red spruce grow on mountaintops but are limited to nonexistent in lowlands. As the last glacier retreated, these two tree species inhabited lowlands in places like Tennessee, but then temperatures warmed after the glaciers were gone. These tree species survive in the modern world only in cool, temperatures. As the world gets warmer, here in Maine hemlock and red spruce forests will be replaced by oak, beech and birch.
Maine Bat Battle Calls for Nuclear Reactors
After World War II, the Cold-War era lasted nearly 40 years. During that time, the U.S. Military stored nuclear bombs in 46 bunkers in northern Maine, but after relations warmed between our country and the old Soviet Union, these concrete, cave-like storage facilities fell into disuse.
These “artificial caves” may prove to be a perfect place for brown bats to hibernate during winter, a species in serious trouble in the Northeast, including in our state. White-nosed syndrome, a fungal disease, has wiped out nearly 90 percent of brown bats in the Northeast, and federal wildlife officials feel that allowing bats to hibernate in these old bunkers may turn their population decline around.
Eastern Egg Rock Island: An Atlantic-Puffin Success Story
By 1885, egg hunters had wiped out the thriving Atlantic-puffin colonies on Eastern Egg Rock Island in Muscongus Bay off the Maine coast, a continuing story during that long ago century wherever these puffins bred in Maine. A Project Puffin program in the 1980s reestablished this puffin on Eastern Egg Rock Island, and environmentalists brought the bird back on other Maine island habitats suitable for these adorable seabirds. Now this species generates big tourism dollars along the Maine coast.
Maine Lyme Disease Third Highest in Nation
Maine has the third-highest rate of Lyme disease of all states in the nation, and in 2012 medical officials recorded 1,111 cases of this debilitating illness, caused by bacteria on tiny deer ticks. Delaware and New Hampshire beat us out for the dubious distinction of being first and second places for the number of proven Lyme-disease cases.
Desert of Maine
A passage in a regional New England magazine caught our eye lately, because it succinctly highlighted an intriguing habitat of sandy, upland landscape near Freeport close to the Maine coast:
“The Desert of Maine is a 40-acre stretch of sand created by overgrazing, erosion, and poor planning. It was originally owned by perhaps the worst farmers in history.”
New England has Indian words galore to name geographical locations, and Maine has myriad examples. However, one from New Hampshire recently captured our attention – “Kancamagus,” the highway that parallels the Swift River, a storied trout fishery. The Indian word Kancamagus means “no service.”
Brilliant Fly-fishing Definition
Page 16 in the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s (DIF&W) fishing-regulations booklet (in the first column) contains a brilliant definition for fly casting, “Casting upon water and retrieving in a manner in which the weight of the fly line propels the fly.”
The writer(s) added “and retrieving” to eliminate the possibility of anglers trolling on fly-fishing-only waters, which is illegal and definitively stated in the booklet just below the admonition against fishing more than three flies at once, but the brilliant part of the wording is the definition of fly casting itself, “…The weight of the fly line propels the fly.”
In short, the weight of the line must carry the fly through the air. If the weight of, say, a weighted fly pulls the line along behind it, it’s not fly casting. What could be more definitive and easier to understand?
Char vs. Charr!
We notice in the current Maine Open Water and Ice Fishing Laws and Rules booklet, that finally this year, the DIF&W personnel responsible for the regs spelled “char” correctly. In the past, the law-booklet authors have insisted on “charr,” which is incorrect. On the west side of the Atlantic Ocean, we spell “char” with one “r”. On the east side of the Atlantic, the British spell “charr” with two “r’s.”
Bubble and Squeak?
A common dish in 16th and 17th century colonial America, particularly in New England, went by the name “bubble and squeak,” and it consisted of four common ingredients – four to five potatoes in their jackets, 1/2-pound of sliced bacon cut into 1-inch lengths, head of cabbage cut into 1/4-inch slices, and 1/2-cup of water.
First, boil the four or five potatoes in water and then brown the bacon pieces. When done, pour off all but two tablespoons of the bacon fat and add the head of sliced cabbage along with the bacon. Cook covered over a low heat for 20 minutes. While cooking, peel the potatoes, cut them up and add them to the cabbage and bacon pot. Let the water boil down and brown a la hash.
In those bygone years, New Englanders drank tea and served bubble-and-squeak with biscuits often made from bleached whole-wheat and rye flour – a dish filled with comfort foods. The “bubble” in the “bubble-and-squeak” name referred to the early boiling before the browning, and it takes no imagination to figure out what caused the “squeak” noise. Yahoo!
Raccoon Hunting After Dark
Hunters hunting raccoons after dark must follow three guidelines to be legal:
• The hunter or hunters must be accompanied by a dog.
• They must use an electric flashlight to locate raccoons that are treed or held at bay by a dog or dogs.
• And they must use a rifle or handgun of no greater caliber that a .22 long rifle cartridge choice (and the rifle cannot be loaded until the time comes to dispatch a treed raccoon or one held at bay by a dog or dogs).
ATV Crash Near Greenville
Shortly after noon on August 22, Maine Game Wardens received a call to go to a section of ATV trail between Shirley and Greenville. Warden John Lonergan was first on scene.
He found Daniel L. Kerr of Pennsauken, New Jersey injured as the result of an ATV crash. Kerr, his wife and son were on ATVs they had rented in Greenville. While traveling off the trail and into a gravel pit, Kerr encounter some 2-inch rocks, which caused the ATV to roll on its right side. Kerr suffered extensive injuries to his shoulder and rib cage. An ambulance and Greenville Fire & Rescue assisted, and transported Kerr to the Greenville hospital, where medical personnel evaluated him.
All ATV riders were wearing helmets, and no charges were expected as a result of the accident.
Saco River a 125-Mile Jewel
The Saco River enters Maine in Fryeburg and flows 125 miles to Camp Ellis, where it empties into the Atlantic Ocean. This waterway attracts 7,000 paddlers on a summer weekend – upwards to 100,000 paddling recreationists a year. Rapids are few and far between, and it’s an ideal place for a family to paddle safely.
Bird of the Month
Common Snipe Cries, “Scape, Scape.”
And It Sounds like “Escape, Escape.”
A common or Wilson’s snipe (Gallinago delicata) cries “Scape, scape,” as it flushes away, and the call sounds like “escape,” so appropriate for a fleeing bird to yell to its buddies within their loosely-knit flock.
In The Sibley Guide to Birds of Eastern North American, Sibley said, “[Common snipe] may form loose groups of 10, but they are essentially solitary and do not mix with other shorebirds.”
While duck hunting, I’ve shot a few snipe, and a friend harvests a mess of them along a pasture brook near his home every year. Shooting proves fastest when snipe hide along the shrub line, mostly willows and alders.
Common snipe measure 10-1/2 inches long, sport an 18-inch wingspan and weigh 3.7-ounces, the latter figure less than a male woodcock at six ounces and a female timberdoodle at eight ounces.
A brace of snipe make an adequate main dish for one diner, though, unless that person happens to be a glutton. The meat tastes rich and heavy, but in this writer’s opinion, snipe are poor eating and beat sora rail by a long shot – but that isn’t saying much.
Wilson’s snipe sit tightly when danger approaches, while they’re wading bogs, their typical habitat choice, and they blend into wetland vegetation well. They’re brown with buff stripes on the back and a striped head. When this bird flies, outer tail feathers produce a low, pulsing whistle known as winnowing.
Like woodcock, they produce a spectacular aerial spring-mating display that many trout anglers watch on early season brooks meandering through bogs – a bonus to the trout action.
The song of this snipe, according to Peterson, makes a measured chip-a, chip-a, chip-a in addition to the scape sound when fleeing.
This snipe nests on a grass tussock, where the female builds a cup and lines it with grass. The female lays four pale olive-brown eggs, suggesting a high survival rate compared to species such as ruffed grouse that produce 12 to 13 eggs per brood.
Like woodcock, this snipe eats earthworms as well as insects, but the insect intake probably exceeds woodcock. (Ken Allen)
Do You Know?
Which Forests Generated the Most Income?
During May 2013 in New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, lumbering marketers valued 1,000 board feet of white ash, white birch, yellow birch, black cherry, sugar maple, red maple and red oak. Do you know which species generated the most income per thousand board feet?
Talking Mends Broken Fences
A reader once sent me a hand-written letter full of anger and hate, accusing me of trying to pass off a mule deer “picture” as a whitetail.
“Hmmm,” I whispered to myself, thinking “picture” meant photo.
At the time, I had never in my life shot a photo of a mule deer – alive or dead – so the letter baffled me. And, letter writers often don’t mention the offending article’s issue date, headline or page number, confusing unless the article writer and/or photographer decides to contact the letter’s author, which I did.
Here’s the explanation:
I had written a summary of a deer survey, and an artwork supporting the piece had a drawing of a deer with mule-deer-like antlers. …Puzzle solved. An editor screwed up on art support for my article.
More often than the general public might imagine, letters to writers often contain giant, confusing misunderstandings. For example, I neither drew nor chose the deer drawing for that deer with mule-deer-type antlers. Often enough, my polite note to the letter writer, asking for an elaboration on the complaint, gets a cordial response.
…Once again, this anecdote proves that talk between parties helps bridge gaps. It’s too bad our current Congress cannot learn that truth when they convene in the same room in Washington this fall and winter. Without a doubt, talking mends broken fences. Silence between the warring factions breeds contempt. (Ken Allen)
Holiday Festivities and Sports Aplenty
December, that dark, festive month so far from spring, keeps folks hopping for 31 straight days. Christmas and New Year’s parties including family affairs, friends gathering and coworker shindigs keep us busy enough, but waterfowl, varying hares, coyotes, foxes, muzzle-loader deer, grouse, pheasant, gray squirrels, photography, bicycling, running, hiking, walking and more offer so many options no one can do it all.
When snow flies, rabbit, coyote and fox hunters love to get out on the fresh smelling, clean snow to hunt old long ears and the two canines, and most serious hunters after rabbits use hounds and smoothbores. Fox and coyote hunters often resort to calls and sweeten the attraction with bait and even decoys.
Second-season duck-and-goose hunters live for this time when marshes have far fewer hunters to sky-bust at approaching waterfowl heading toward a spread of decoys, but make no mistake. This group is darned tiny compared to other sports like the regular firearms season on deer or even bicycling, with the latter exploding off the charts these days.
Folks love to get bird dogs out on warm late mornings to chase grouse and the odd pheasant. Open covers make grouse wary, so they explode away well ahead of hunters. It takes a well-executed driving plan or a great grouse dog for hunters to shoot many birds in the 12th month.
In fact, bird hunters driving around on roads through poplar stands, looking for perching grouse, probably shoot far more birds than hunters walking behind dogs – sad but true.
Gray squirrels hang around cornfields before farmers clean up the crops, and these rodents stay around the fields if oak or beech with mast crops grow nearby. Squirrels eat the nuts and pick up what corn remains behind after the harvest, a fun sport with lots of shooting with .22 rifles. Some folks opt for shotguns.
Those folks who didn’t tag a deer in November have the first week or two after the regular firearms season to score on a whitetail. As more people take up this black-powder sport, success will improve since the deer will be moved around. A moving deer is a vulnerable deer.
Bicycling on those warm late mornings and early afternoons offers a touch of paradise. Most of us bicycle little in January through early March and stop by mid- to late-December when sand trucks leave so much sand on the road that it ends bicycling.
Hiking on marked trails feels sinfully good in early December before snow piles up, and runners love to get in some runs before winter starts in earnest.
Days are short and nights long, ideal for cooking leisurely meals with fish and game from the great outdoors. Wine goes splendidly with game and fish, and long, dark nights feel cozy as a fine meal comes together.
Answer to “Do You Know?”
Think Maple Syrup…Maybe
The answer to the question about the most valuable wood species did not surprise me. Black cherry in Vermont generated $612 per 1,000 board feet, and sugar maple ran a close second at $608 for the same product. Both species are big these days for furniture-making.
The least valuable wood was white birch in Vermont at $187 per 1,000 feet, but all the woods held their value well in Maine. They didn’t win first place in any category in Maine except for yellow birch at $550 per 1,000 board feet, taking first place for that species, but the overall average of all species in Maine made logging and lumbering a good deal.