September a Delightful Month
September has everything to recommend it. The month begins with warm days that turn cooler and cooler as the month rushes toward the 30th. Bear hunting excites folks. The actual number of bruin hunters is small compared to deer-chasers in the regular firearms season, but bear offer something that excites folks, beginning with an animal that provides an element of danger at a time when weather strikes us as near perfect without black flies and mosquitos.
The ever-popular expanded-archery-zone deer season begins Sept. 7 and ends Dec. 14. Folks love this season in the lower part of the state where they can begin hunting the first week in September. It’s too good to be true.
Moose season also kicks off in September for folks lucky enough to be chosen in the lottery, and this sport continues into November. Check the hunting-regulations booklet for all the details.
Such delightful weather free of pesky, biting bugs makes fall fishing a great time, too. The first half of the month has hot weather aplenty, but by mid- to late month, September not only turns cool – but cold. And some days, fishing for trout and salmon can be blistering fast, but many days end without a bite. Do I dare say it again? Fall fishing is feast or famine.
Folks who know how to work jigs off drop-offs do well now with black bass, and white perch and black crappie anglers fish from 10 to 30 feet down for excellent eating fish. Bassing can be fast now, but it can also be slower than slow.
Saltwater species are still here now – stripers, mackerels and blues – and sunbathers have left the beaches for the year. Folks who like casting in surf crashing onto sand can do so well now, as can those who fish deep for cod, haddock and pollock.
The second-half of the split crow season takes place through the first two-thirds of this month, but a few people take advantage by grabbing smoothbores, decoys and calls or long-range, small-caliber rifles. This small group will also blast away at woodchucks.
Deer hunters scout now and shoot rifles to perfect trigger squeeze, while smoothbore shooters bust clay targets to practice mount and swing. Archers practice anchor point, crisp release and steady bow arm. On top of practice for ourselves, we work bird-dogs or rabbit-hounds now.
Bicyclists, runners and walkers get out now, trying to get into shape for hunting, and hikers love to roam marked trails in this cool month. Yes, September has something for everyone.
Tips of the Month
Gathering Wild Rice
If wild-food gatherers like wild rice, they can find a place where waterfowl hunters or wildlife biologists have planted this delicious grain – say the river marsh near the end on Swan Island in the Kennebec River. Gatherers float a canoe through the rice there, after covering the bottom of a canoe with a sheet or tablecloth. Then, they bend the rice plants over the canoe and whack the grain heads with a stick, knocking the rice off onto the canoe bottom.
I once did this procedure for three years, which has a built in problem. Gatherers must develop an eye to see when the rice is ready to process. If it is too green or too ripe, collectors cannot process it. Books on wild-food gathering will explain this art in detail and explain how to store the valuable food.
When I did this years ago, waterfowl hunters complained bitterly about me competing with ducks. (No kiddin’!) Harvesting rice improves the crop, though, according to everything I have read.
Fly rodders on a fall river may spend a morning or afternoon without hooking a single trout or salmon, making the casters wonder if salmonids have dropped into the river from lakes and ponds yet. A quick trick often lets folks know if there are any adipose-finned beauties at home.
The caster makes a long, long cast downstream and then feeds all the fly line out, while swinging the rod tip back and forth to have the fly swing in a tight arc back and forth in the current. Then, the trick is to retrieve the line with a steady reeling. If any fish are in the river, they often hit on this long presentation (called “long-lining”). Try this tactic, and it will make a believer out of you – the perfect tactic for finding fish.
Where the Action is
Roach River Rocks as September Waters Cool
The Roach River flows into the east side of Moosehead Lake and provides fly fishers with fun and more fun this month, catching large brook trout up to 4 pounds-plus, and 3-pound salmon if folks are lucky. Check DeLorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 41, A-3 and A-4 for location details.
In recent years, September fly fishers have routinely tangled with 2- and 3-pound brook trout and occasionally 4 pounds and larger from this small river, and landlocks run 15- to 19-inches, although bigger landlocks occasionally show up. Best yet, Greenville is but a 2-hour drive from downtown Augusta.
The pool below the dam on First Roach Pond, the Bridge Pool, and the Dump and Warden’s pools farther downstream, attract crowds now, as do the few pools down near the lake. Roach River flows seven miles from First Roach Pond to Moosehead Lake – much of it pocket water – an ideal place for a fishing organizations worth their salt to construct more holding water.
Four Silver Mines
Two hours of driving from central Maine can get anglers to four landlocked-salmon rivers that offer a bonus of brookies, but the “silver mines” bring most fly fishers there in the ninth month.
Three of the salmon rivers flow into or out of Moosehead Lake – the Moose (MAG, Map 40, A-5), East Outlet of the Kennebec (Map 40, B-5) and Roach (Map 41, B-4 and B-3). The fourth lies one hour northeast of the Roach – the West Branch of the Penobscot River below Ripogenus Dam (Map 50, D-3).
These four rivers draw huge crowds each September, and why not? Landlocked salmon and brook trout in calendar-photo settings with tumbling, rushing rapids, gravel-bottomed glides and big pools produce an undeniable appeal.
September crowds assure newcomers they can quickly decipher the rivers by observing others and asking questions. Loners can find solitude in the willy-wags.
Top flies include patterns displaying orange colors. Those choices include Wood Special, Cardinelle or Slaymaker’s Little Brook Trout. The usual array of fall flies take salmonids – Wooly Buggers, smelt imitations, Elk Hair Caddis, Soft Hackles, caddis emergers, huge nymphs, Pheasant Tail, Zug Bug, Hare’s Ear and more.
Delightful Fall Hiking
As September edges toward October and the deciduous foliage turns crimson, orange, yellow and more, a wonderful family hike begins on MAG Map 14, D-4 – Camden Hills State Park.
To reach the park’s hiking trails, drive east through Camden village on Route 1 and then turn left (north) to Mount Battie. This spot is well-marked with signs, where hikers can pick up a map. Another access point begins by going north onto Route 52 right in downtown Camden. Route 52 heads to a well-marked access point on the east side of the road.
Thirty miles of trails run slice through this mountainous terrain that rises from the Atlantic and provides splendid views of Penobscot Bay, Lake Megunticook and several nearby mountains.
News and Tidbits
Maine’s Northern Temperate Zone
Maine falls into the middle of the northern temperate zone with the 45th parallel running in across the state’s middle – halfway between the equator and the North Pole. This geographical location explains our moderate weather often at a comfortable median between 101-degrees Fahrenheit in a tropics summer and minus 39 degrees in an Arctic winter.
Male Red-Winged Blackbirds – Promiscuous Little Devils
Male red-winged blackbirds have little interest in monogamous relationships all right, and in a single breeding season, male redwings may mate with 15 females!
Female Chickadees Mess Around, Too!
Black-capped chickadees pair off, as they flock up in winter and remain with one another, almost monogamous if it were not for the fact the female chickadees may sneak off from a mate, even when laying eggs fertilized by that chosen partner. She’ll copulate with another partner.
Woodchucks Widespread on North American Continent
The ubiquitous woodchuck inhabits the North American continent from Labrador to Alabama and as far west as Kansas, Nebraska and northern tip of Idaho. They also live in Canada all the way from the southern tip of our northern neighbor to eastern Alaska. It’s little wonder this is such a popular varmint for American and Canadian hunters who want to sharpen their shooting eye in summer before the fall hunt.
New England Cottontails in Big Trouble
Since the 1960s, New England cottontails have lost 86 percent of their habitat, and Maine has only an estimated 250 to 400 of this species, which has been on the Endangered Species List since 2007. Nearby states have equally dismal statistics, as anyone can imagine when an animal loses 86 percent of its livable space.
There’s an intriguing difference between this cottontail species and varying hares. The latter is born with hair, easy to remember because of the antonyms hair-hare. Cottontails are born hairless.
Tide Table Conversion
From Eastport to York Harbor
Here’s a list of tide conversions, based on Portland tides. For Eastport add eight minutes to Portland’s tide, Calais plus 31 minutes, Lubec minus three minutes, Machias Bay minus 12 minutes, Addison dead on, Narraguagus Bay minus 23 minutes, Bar Harbor minus 22 minutes, Mount Desert minus 16 minutes, Blue Hill Bay minus nine minutes, Stonington minus 18 minutes, Vinalhaven minus 13 minutes, Bucksport minus two minutes, Belfast minus eight minutes, Camden minus 12 minutes, Rockland minus 16 minutes, Port Clyde minus 11 minutes, Pemaquid Harbor minus five minutes, Boothbay Harbor minus six minutes, Wiscasset plus 16 minutes, Sheepscot plus 20 minutes, Fort Popham plus nine minutes, Augusta (up the tidal Kennebec River) plus four hours and three minutes, Harpswell Harbor minus five minutes, Cape Porpoise plus 17 minutes, Kennebunkport plus 16 minutes and York Harbor plus three minutes. Saltwater anglers should cut this info out and save it for future years.
French Wines for Game Meals
The dry, delicate flavor of ruffed grouse cries for a French Chablis, a flinty, dry white wine that just may be the world’s finest white wine. Woodcock goes perfectly with Saint Emilion, a heavy Bordeaux red that complements the rich, faintly-liver flavor of this migratory bird. Venison fairly screams for a Chambertin, but this writer usually cannot afford Chambertin so gets by with a Saint Emilion or California red, the latter from a Pinot Noire grape, which makes the French Chambertin. The French version is just that much better, but French wines just get more and more expensive every year, like a three-digit figure, but game meals are seldom an everyday occurrence.
A Taste of Yesteryear – the 1700s
In the 1700s in New England, particularly Massachusetts, farmers grew huge fields of rye for market, so bread, pancakes and yes, rye whiskey were common in those days. An old-fashioned recipe for rye pancakes caught my eye years ago, and I seldom make pancakes without at least half rye and half wheat flour. Here’s a 1700s pancake recipe that makes two dozen:
3-cups rye flour
1-cup wheat flour
1-teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2-cup New England rum
Combine the ingredients except for the vinegar and sugar, but don’t beat the batter too long. Cook the cakes on a hot, greased griddle. If the batter is too stiff on a west-wind day, add milk. On a lowery day with wet air, the batter should be fine. Cook until golden-brown on both sides.
As the first batch cooks, put sugar and vinegar into a cereal bowl to make a spreadable mixture to use like a “hard” maple syrup. This makes for a rich breakfast dish. Maple syrup would also work – of course!
Bird of the Month
Sora Rails Once Popular Hunting Target
After the Civil War until World War I, waterfowl hunters on the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic coasts hunted sora rails with a vengeance, and they bought fancy side-by-side shotguns , exquisitely carved decoys and skiffs to pole in marshes, but these days, this species attracts few hunters.
In fact, even when the season’s scheduled opening comes around, federal decision-makers occasionally fail to officially open the season. No kidding! That’s true. In 2012, the season kicked off Sept. 1, but the federal government didn’t decide on an opening day until a few weeks later.
I remember the first sora rail that I ever shot circa 40 years ago. I dumped it with a Winchester Model 101 20 gauge with skeet barrels. Then, my partner in the bow of the canoe got excited with the paddle and propelled our craft right over – and on top of – my 63-pound chocolate Lab, which had jumped into the water for the retrieve. I could hear the Lab bumping along underwater against the hull bottom, and I remember thinking, “Please don’t breath now, little dog.”
Sora rails measure 8 3/4-inches long, shorter than a robin, sport a 24-inch wingspan and weigh 2.6-ounces, nearly half the weight of a woodcock, so they’re a rather small bird.
One distinguishing feature is a black patch of the face and throat, and the black goes up flush to the bill and back to the front of the eyes. The bill is short, yellow and stout.
They also have yellow legs and feet with a touch of light green in the primrose, and the color really shows up. In fact, a game warden in the early 1970s told me to look for the legs to aid in identification. The lower abdomen has alternating black-and-white bands, and lastly, the body is gray and brown and the tail short and cocked.
In spring, this rail makes a plaintive, whistled ker-weee, according to Peterson, and a sharp keek when something startles it in a marsh – such as a hunter throwing a rock into the grass.
The female lays six to 15 pale-yellow and buff eggs spotted with brown, a large number on the upper end, suggesting high mortality of broods. The make nests on the ground in open parts of the marsh, often in a clump of reeds. (Ken Allen)
Did you Know?
Fifty Fish Daily Limit!
Do you know which fish species has a daily bag limit of 50 fish with a minimum length limit of six inches?
Apple Month Has Arrived
Country denizens in New England know apples – period – particularly grouse hunters. Which reminds me of a quick story. A snooty woman once watched me eating a freshly picked Cortland and snapped, “Ken, you’re not supposed to eat Cortlands. They’re a cooking apple!”
“When you were a baby,” I asked politely, “did your mother drop you on your head?”
I’ve been eating Cortlands since picking them at the Haskell Dairy Farm on the Greely Road in Windsor when I was 7 years old, and in fact, it’s my second favorite apple behind the Wolf River variety. Wolf River derived from Alexanders, the latter a hardy Russian apple but not as good eating as a Wolf River that originated in Wisconsin near the Wolf River region; hence, its name.
Upland-bird hunters notice such things as ruffed grouse having a penchant for yellow transparent apples, a popular eating and cooking fruit in the 19th century, which is now difficult to find in supermarkets. In my youth, yellow-transparent trees grew everywhere but have died out in my lifetime. These are good eating apples and perfect for making pies and dumplings.
On and on it goes with the apple opinions, and it’s now apple month, a fun season to go looking for the fruits of farming labors from yesteryear – farmers who have long since passed – or hitting commercial orchards to pick our own. (Ken Allen)
October, a Darned Busy Month
Wow, October in Maine is so busy! Hunting for black bear, moose, ruffed grouse, ring-necked pheasant, bobwhite quail, American woodcock, varying hare, waterfowl, shore birds (rail and snipe); bow-hunting for white-tailed deer; fishing for trout, black-bass, striped bass, bluefish, Atlantic mackerel, blue sharks and groundfish; or exercising outdoors by running, bicycling or walking – on and on it goes.
The statewide deer archery season runs through much of October, bear hunting with dogs or fair-chase continues through much of the month, upland birds attract legions, particularly grouse, waterfowl draw folks to marshes, varying hare rules in some circles, trapping begins, raccoons excite a handful with hounds and October sports continue with too many to list them all.
Leaf-peeping draws more tourists every year, and like bicycling, these once offbeat pastimes outnumber some of the less popular hunting sports such as bear, big-game archery, waterfowl enthusiasts, muzzle-loading, rabbit hunting and the like that draw less than 20,000 participants a year.
This month, we’re shooting a lot of game, and that means we’re eating a lot of meals such as ruffed grouse with rice pilaf in fresh tomatoes and a French Chablis or woodcock and wild rice with a heavy Bordeaux red or wood duck with wild rice and a Burgundy like Chambertin. Nights are long enough for a leisurely meal all right.
Photographers go bonkers this month, shooting wildlife, colorful foliage or landscapes with stone walls and old barns. This is the month for camera nuts to go wild.
Except for mackerel, cunners and harbor pollock, we don’t eat much fish in October, because fall means straight catch-and-release fishing so near the fall spawn, particularly with salmonids. Fishing is a fun option minus blood.
Yes, falling leaves and flying footballs prove undeniable icons now, but all the above suggestions smack of truths, too.
Answers to “Do You Know?”
Anglers can catch and kill 50, 6-inch American eels daily for consumption or garden fertilizer, a generous bag limit. Can you imagine a family of four sitting down to dad’s catch of 50 eels that day? Back in the 1950s and ‘60s, it made most of us baby boomers feel we had died and gone to hell!