So Much Going On, So Little Time to Experience It All
What can Maine’s sports folks do this month?
What can’t we do?
Upland bird hunters chase grouse, woodcock, pheasant and quail, and hunting starts for ducks and geese. Waterfowl hunters probably make up a low, 5-figure number, the ones who buy a duck stamp and actually get out at dawn in the marshes or on the ledges.
Many of the more serious upland bird and waterfowl hunters in this crowd also run dogs that they’ve been working for months, and on top of that, they’ve all shot clay sports – maybe as simple as a hand trap-thrower in the back field or as sophisticated as a sporting-clay range in southern Maine. One solid group just rides back roads in northern, eastern and western Maine and hopes to catch old thunder-wings, sitting in the road edge.
All of us in our youths, the more serious ones, spent a few days hunting sora rails and snipe, and often, novice rail hunters confess that they’re a little shaky on identification. Most of us know snipe, though.
Archers chase deer in the statewide bow season, and this number of hunters totals 20,000 or fewer. It’s a dedicated group of bowhunters, though, who often live and breathe the sport. Folks living near the expanded archery zone also hunt hard from early September through early December – a true bonus hunt for those of us in Maine.
Bear hunters with hounds and baits – the latter just to draw bears to a spot for the dogs to start the chase – and folks into fair chase (for want of another name) can hunt bears all October and through the firearms season for deer, which ends the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Fair chase includes sitting over natural bait or game trails, still hunting and stalking.
Rabbit hunters with beagles have an incredibly long season, from Oct. 1 to Mar. 31, and recipes can make this meat taste mighty good.
A handful also chases gray squirrels now, good victuals and fast shooting in years when the squirrel population flourishes. Others fool with raccoons, and both seasons last through Dec. 31, as do skunk and opossum. This writer does not know one skunk or opossum hunter, but God love ’em anyway, wherever they exist.
Fox hunting kicks off in mid-October and goes through Feb. 28. A small group of predator hunters loves calling fox and coyote to long-range rifles with scopes. Bait sweetens the allure for canines, as does a decoy or two.
Trapping starts in late October and goes through December. Beaver trapping continues through winter. Check the hunting-and-trapping regulations booklet for details.
Many Mainers fish this month, particularly fly rodders, and in the first two weeks, action can be blistering – or not. As the spawn comes on, though, action slows considerably and consistently. Hatches such as blue-winged olives prove reliable now, and big, bright flies imitating baitfish and plug-ugly dark nymphs work, too.
Bassers get out now, and some folks do well while others fail miserably. With bass and salmonids, it’s a safe bet to use the old adage – feast or famine – to describe the action.
Stripers may still be around, and folks in the know chase harbor pollock, cunner and other salty panfish. October striper fishing can be fun after sunbathers have left beaches and schools of old line-sides hang around the shallows as water cools.
Folks exercise hard in the last fading warm days of October, as they walk, hike the woods, run or bicycle. At the opposite extreme, leisurely evening meals with spoils from the woods, water and garden fatten folks for winter.
Landscape photographers hit the countryside hard now to capture foliage images, and wildlife photographers know critters move plenty in the colder weather as thermometers drop.
Tips of the Month
Aluminum Foil Saves Baked Grouse
An ultra-conservative woman, who wouldn’t miss listening to Rush Limbaugh every day, once made a comment that struck me as truer than true. Men play chef when they want to; women cook when kids are hungry. In short, and as a general rule, men find their cooking times infinitely more enjoyable, because they do it when the spirit moves them. Women do it out of necessity much of the time, so they find shortcuts to ease the chore.
In short, many men – including this writer – get snotty about using browning bags, canned soup for sauces and even aluminum foil, calling tools like these “cretin” aids for cooking, but for ruffed grouse, aluminum foil for a common recipe ensures grouse breasts stay moist.
Outdoor chefs cover the bird loosely with foil and bake it at 300 degrees Fahrenheit until done (wings and legs move easily). The low heat and foil maintain moist meat. The steamed skin may look unappetizing at the end, but five minutes under a hot broiler browns it well. Crisp, golden skin and moist, succulent white meat add up to perfection.
BWOs Hatch Dependably in October
Blue-winged olives (BWOs) in sizes 20 to 24 hatch predictably in October, often at 10 a.m. or 2 p.m., depending on genera and species. Early in the month, 10 a.m. hatches prove more common, but as October slides toward November and into that dreary 11th month, 2 p.m. BWOs are the norm, because sunlight raises water temperatures the most by then.
The secret to BWO hatch matching now is this: Use an artificial emerger or dry fly in size, silhouette and color scheme, making sure to have an abdomen and thorax that duplicates the real bug’s olive exactly. Body imitating is so crucial.
Leg Warmers Important for Exercising Now
When air temperatures drop to 65 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, many walkers, bikers and joggers wear long pants to keep from getting leg cramps. Tights or sweat pants warm muscles enough on chilly outings to help make exercising a joy – not a pain. And, many people work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and must exercise on cold October mornings or evenings.
Where the Action Is
Great Deer Hunting!
One Maine region has light development and deer aplenty, according to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, when wildlife biologists are divvying out deer permits for the fall.
Please look at DeLorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 22, A-2, B-2, C-2, D-2 and E-2 and slide an index finger onto Route 7. This highway with secondary roads running off it heads through Maine’s finest deer country, with working farms and woodlots, abandoned fields and orchards, oaks and beech ridges, wetlands and conifer canopies for winter – perfect deer habitat.
Routes 7, 9, 139, 69 143 and 227, state highways, and roads off them feature plentiful habitat. Nearby Newport provides accommodations, too, and the region has bed-and-breakfast spots.
Uplander Country from a Yesteryear
Upland-bird hunters should study Maps 36 and 37 in MAG and surprisingly, begin with main highways Route 1, 9 and 191. As shocking as it may sound, classic grouse and woodcock covers dot these state roads and in fact, may offer more hunting than dirt roads, because many of the woodlands on side roads have sprung back to primary forests.
However, a few dynamite covers lie beside roads such as Nineteen (Map 36, E-2), Cooper Road (D-3), Birch Hill Road (D-1), Seavy Ridge (C-1), North Princeton (B-2), South Princeton (C-2), Ridge Road (Map 37, D-2) and Lake Road (D-2). All the roads in the region have reverting clear-cuts coming back to poplar, ideal woodcock cover that grouse also love.
Midcoast Bird Covers Titillate Shotgunners
North of the little village of Union on Route 131, the Butler Road angles west before going north and northeast. If hunters see Sennebec Pond off Route 131, they’ve driven too far and missed the somewhat-blind turn.
The Butler Road becomes the Appleton Ridge Road at the junction of Route 105 before coming back to Route 131 several miles north of there, and these rural roadways have several covers that remind us of the 1960s and ’70s, the Mid-coast and central Maine’s golden age of upland bird hunting. A jillion abandoned farms reverting to alder, poplar and rubus thickets draw grouse and woodcock, species that love such cover. Check MAG, Map 14, D-1 to C-2.
Side roads off Butler and Appleton Ridge Road also provide uplanders with more cover. Gunners find more grouse and woodcock in birdy-looking places north and south of Route 17. Please peruse Map 14, D-3 for orientation in this last large area.
News and Tidbits
Name Maine’s Six Big-game Species
Can readers name the six big-game animals in Maine? One will escape so many readers, but most readers can lead with the first three – moose, bear and deer. Knowledgeable folks can follow with bobcat and wild turkey.
Some folks might say coyote, but shockingly to me, they’d be wrong. Coyotes are not big game in Maine, but bobcat and turkey are big game – go figure. On average, coyotes are physically larger than turkeys.
The sixth big-game animal floors most folks – raccoons. Hunters need a big-game license to hunt ’coons, a law passed back in the 1980s when coon pelts were worth lots of bucks and coon hunters were trying to limit competition. When fur prices were big, I doubt the ploy worked.
One way or the other, it’s time to change raccoons back to small game.
Eurasian Collared Dove
Birdwatchers spotted a Eurasian collared dove in Falmouth, causing alarm in Maine. The first breeding pair of Eurasian-collared doves arrived in the United Kingdom in 1956, and now, this big island has 300,000 of them! It’s no laughing matter in Maine. On this side of the
Atlantic, this dove species first escaped from a breeder in the Bahamas in 1974 and made it to Florida to establish a solid population there.
Trombolo Such a Fancy Word
For a Ho-hum Geographical Feature
Maine has limited sand beaches on the coast, but where most of them exist, we can find at least one fragile trombolo – a fancy word for sandbar. Maine writer Paul Doiron brought the term to our attention recently in his “Editor’s Note” in Down East magazine.
Huge Atlantic Sturgeon
A researcher from the University of New England captured a 250-pound, 7-foot long Atlantic sturgeon from the mouth of the Saco River – impressive but leaving us with a subtle smirk. How is it that the fish had such an even weight and length, minus any ounces and inches? Coincidence, or estimate? Curious minds want to know.
Record Moose Permits
In Greenville this year, DIF&W issued a record 4,110 moose permits for the four, split seasons this year. Four hundred spectators gathered in Greenville for the lottery, showing what huge interest Maine folks have in the moose hunt.
New England Cottontails
Habitat destruction in New England has nearly eradicated cottontails, and in fact, the species has lost 86 percent of its habitat since the 1960s. Only three dozen rabbits may remain in New Hampshire, 250 to 400 in Maine. A few or perhaps none survive in Rhode Island. This animal may number in the hundreds in Massachusetts, mainly on upper Cape Cod and in the Berkshires, and Connecticut may have a few thousand. They are on the Endangered Species List.
Maine’s New England cottontails live in York County, New Hampshire’s bunnies exist on the Massachusetts border around Nashua, Massachusetts’ cottontails live on the west end of Cape Cod and in the southern part of the Commonwealth, along the New York border abutting Connecticut.
Trailer Registration in 1972!
In 1972, a season resident fishing license cost $6.50, a season nonresident fishing $15.50, a season resident hunting license $6.50, a season nonresident $42.50, and a trailer registration ran from $2 to $5.
Archers Always Pay Way
In 1972, resident archers paid $6.50 for a season license, mostly to hunt the October season, because a regular hunting license allowed them to hunt the other 11 months. Nonresidents paid $42.50 for the privilege.
In 1972, trout anglers in Maine could kill 12 brook trout, and a few years later, that limit dropped to a more sane five fish. The salmonid limit in the aggregate was five fish after the change – say five brook trout or one brookie, two landlocks and two browns, or any five combo of brookies, landlocks, togue, browns or rainbows. (Splake and bluebacks fit into the brookie limit.)
These days, the daily limit has risen to 13 fish – five brookies, two salmon, two togue, two browns and two rainbows. This increase from five to 13 salmonids daily shocks folks who lean toward quality-fishing regs.
Grammar 101 – The Old -ed and Hyphen Rule When folks write out the names of most mammals, birds and insects, they use a hyphen plus an -ed word – white-tailed deer, red-winged black bird and blue-winged olive. A nickname often combines the first word into one and drops the hyphen and -ed – whitetail, redwing and bluewing. Fish have no hyphen or -ed – blueback trout, blacknose dace or redfin shiner. One exception is “landlocked salmon,” which has an -ed but no hyphen.
Bird of Month
…Northern Bobwhites in Maine?
Please check page 29 of the 2012-13 Maine Hunting & Trapping Laws and Rules booklet, where it lists this state’s upland-bird and small-game species. Near the top, readers should note the colloquial, old-fashioned term “bobwhite quail.” Lots of folks spotting this item for the first time probably think, “What the …? Quail in Maine?”
The species is uncommon in our state, but folks like me have seen plenty of northern bobwhites (Colinus virginianus) here, because we once (or still) trained pointing dogs on planted, store-bought bobwhites – a wicked neat bird for training purposes.
Dog handlers often buy a dozen quail and put them in a recall box with heavy screening that also has two or four screen tubes that enable the birds to walk from the outdoors and freedom back into the screened enclosure to feed and sleep. The recall-box builder points the outside tubes low to the ground where the birds can see the openings to climb in, and on the inside of the box, the tubes point higher above the birds’ vision line, so they are less apt to get out. The box is large enough to hold 12 birds but small enough to carry by hand.
Here’s how the training regimen works:
A dog trainer removes six quail from the flock of 12 in the box and plants them separately in upland cover near the bird’s shelter. A pointing dog and handler work the birds, and then the dog trainer and dog go indoors for the night. At that time, the six bobwhites in the box call the separated half-dozen birds back to join them.
Why do birds that are free outdoors come back?
Instinct … pure instinct. Northern bobwhites, a coveying species, like to spend the night huddling near one another, so bird trainers can play with the birds in the afternoon and have them return to the box later to join the rest of the flock.
When I used northern bobwhites for training, I became so attached to the birds that it bothered me to occasionally lose one to mammalian or avian predators, particularly to house cats. It was almost like losing a pet parakeet.
I used to think that if I lived in the South, I wouldn’t want to hunt this delightful species. That’s what caring and training my dogs on them did for my attitude about such a magnificent game bird. I almost got so bad I was naming each one of the dozen!
Northern bobwhites, according to Peterson, are similar in size to a northern flicker. This bobwhite stands 9 3/4-inches tall, sports a 13-inch wingspan and weighs six ounces, while northern flickers (Mainer’s often call them “yellow-shafted” flickers) measure 12 1/2-inches in length, have 20-inch wingspans and weigh a tad over 4 1/2-ounces. Because of these figures, Peterson’s comparison to northern flickers falls flat for me.
Here’s why: A flicker looks longer and thinner, where a bobwhite is shorter and much chunkier, making these two an odd choice for comparison. It’s like comparing the size of a defensive nose-tackle to a split end.
Two identification points on bobwhites are crucial: the eyebrow stripe and throat patch. The stripe and patch are white on the male and buff on the female, good tips for determining gender.
This quail also has a short, dark tail and short legs. From a distance, this bird’s body looks ruddy, but with closer inspection, birdwatchers see the distinct rufous, black and white on the body.
The call is a distinct bob-white or poor bob-white, explaining the name. They also call ka-loi-kee to form coveys for the night.
These ground-nesters build crude, hollow, grass-lined nests in weeds or rough grass, where they lay 10 to 15 white eggs. Producing so many eggs for a single brood suggests survival rate is low much of the times. (Ken Allen)
Do You Know?
Specific Number of Pellets in Ounce
Do you know how many pellets an average shotshell in any gauge holds in size 6-, 7 ½- and 8-shot loads?
Confessions & Secrets of a Commercial Pin-hooker
Striperman – Confessions & Secrets of a Commercial Pin-hooker by Sherwood Lincoln crossed my desk last month and sort of caught me off guard. I expected a straight how-to book on striped bass, but I should have read the subtitle on the cover more closely – the part about “confessions and secrets.”
Granted, great how-to tips fill the pages, tips that will make folks better striper anglers, but in between the expository info and fishing anecdotes is found lots of personal stuff about Lincoln’s life.
Here’s what immediately happened as soon as I opened the book:
In the first minute of perusing the book, I was looking at the “Table of Contents” and saw the chapter “Plum Crazy: 1971-1975.” Was this about Plum Island? The chapter began with an ultra-brief explanation of the author marrying his wife in 1972 and then quitting his job to become a siding contractor with three other men – hard drinkers. This siding-job description rambled on for 1 ½ pages, leaving me scratching my head, wondering about “plum.”
Then, the chapter delved into Lincoln’s early life as a striper angler, including folks instrumental in his development as a striped-bass tactician. Good stuff.
The book had lots of personal info about Lincoln that draws the reader into the book deeply enough to care about this gonzo writer. While reading this biography, the reader finds plenty of solid how-to, and one chapter offers the most perfect example – “Live Lining” beginning on page 183.
Lincoln defines live lining and goes into detail on how to do it. In this reviewer’s humble opinion, live lining offers the most consistent action a striper angler can find day in and day out or night in and night out. Live lining works. Period.
Please listen to a digression on live lining to illustrate its effectiveness: Fly fishing – believe it or not – has a live-lining counterpart called “long lining,” and it used to be illegal for Atlantic-salmon fishing in Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, according to all my guides.
Long lining involves letting out all the fly line in the current, so the fly swings and dances in the current 100-plus feet behind the boat or downstream of a wading fly caster. Long lining is wicked effective, so consider bait anglers live lining for stripers with live bait, and readers can get the message in spades.
The chapter on “Chunking” talks about how cut-up a baitfish appeal to the striper’s sense of sight and smell, the latter a powerful part of a striped-bass’s foraging tools. Lincoln explained the method fully, and said it “[ac]counted for more trophy-sized bass than any other single approach.” Apparently, he ranks chunking above live lining.
Striperman cost $19.95, and it will entertain and instruct the reader. The book really has everything to recommend it. (Ken Allen)
Invasive Species vs. World
Virginia Barlow’s column in the summer 2013 issue of Northern Woodlands recently caught my eye in a big way, when she wrote, “You’ll not often find me singing praises of a nonnative species, but there were too many good things about black locust for me to want to cut them to throw … on the buckthorn pile. It would be like getting rid of apples or honeybees.”
I’ve been harping on this same introduced-species theme for two decades. Humans and nature have naturalized nearly 1,000 plants (mostly Eurasian) in New England as well as more wildlife species, according to National Audubon Field Guide to New England. In some places, a huge majority of plants that we can see while standing in one spot originated in Eurasia.
Barlow’s reference to apples and honeybees alludes to the fact that these two species also came here from the Old World shortly after the first white settlers arrived here. Furthermore, plants such as oxeye daisy, Queen Anne’s lace, hawkweed, dandelion, Japanese knotweed, St. John’s wort and yarrow, just to name a few of the Eurasian multitudes, have been here so long people have forgotten humans introduced them. Ring-necked pheasant, black bass (smallmouths and largemouths), house sparrows, European starlings, skippers and Japanese beetles came from away, too, and some folks adore the introduced species, and others hate them.
I once wrote a newspaper column, asking who gets to determine if plants are in the “invasive” or “introduced” category. For example, lake shorefront owners dislike variable milfoil, but some bass anglers think it makes great cover for lunkers, or farmers dislike St. John’s wort because it increases the propensity of livestock to get sunburned noses, but modern herbalist love it as a natural alternative to synthetic drugs for depression.
Worrying about invasive species may be a Chicken Little exercise, because in many instances, we have neither the revenues nor technology to eradicate invasives. We can just slow them until the inevitable or someone figures out how – such as using rotenone – to eradicate a species like black bass from our brook-trout ponds. (Ken Allen)
Deer Time Here and Now
In Maine, November is deer month is deer month is deer month, although waterfowl hunters may disagree. Also, bird hunters with dogs may run their feather-finders in selected covers this month. I never dared to compete with rifle-hunters, though, when I ran my beloved bird dogs.
Deer hunting proves so prevalent in a Maine November that fly rodders out on streams and rivers often wear hunter-orange clothing over their fishing vests and fluorescent hats on their heads – it’s never a bad idea to be ultra-visible.
Folks know how big deer hunting is in the Pine Tree State while shopping in convenience stores, getting morning coffee or meeting in streets, when they hear a greeting over and over between folks – “Got ya’ deer yet?” It’s a way of life, folks!
Some shooters dislike dealing with larger game animals so they hit the second half of the split waterfowl season in November and into December. Folks out on marshes and ledges now are truly serious about the sport to put up with the intense cold and dangers of the second season.
I used to know two separate men, who did not know one another. They both hunted gray squirrels – hard – in corn fields along Route 2 between Norridgewock and Farmington. Deer hunting interested them little, but fast shooting and good eats attracted them to these silver rodents in November.
In recent years, we’ve had warm Novembers in the bottom third of the state – did someone say, “global warming”? – so walkers, runners and bicyclers are out in force, getting a last-minute few days in before cold weather slows down exercising. Sanding after slippery storms really slows bicyclists. A layer of sand can dump a pedaler faster than someone can say, “****!”
Foliage has passed now, but landscape photographers after mood shots love working the dark, drab, 11th month with all its contrasts and textures, textures accented by shadows from a sun traveling low on the southern horizon. At noon time, we still have long shadows.
Deer hunters and other sports keep us hopping now, and at the end of it all, the Thanksgiving-Christmas-New-Years festivities add to the pressure cooker. For outdoors types, the year does end with a bang of activities.
Answer to “Do You Know?”
Shotshells Per Ounce Help Explain Load
Size 6, 7 ½- and 8-shotshells hold 225, 350 and 410 pellets respectively in a 1-ounce load, so if a size 8, 12-gauge shotshell box lists a 1 1/8-ounce load in each shotshell, that translates into 462 pellets – 410 for the first ounce and roughly (but close) 52 pellets in 1/8 ounce of shot.
In Editor Ray Camp’s old classic volume A New Hunter’s Encyclopedia, Camp said that size-8 shot was the most popular for upland bird hunting in America – little wonder when readers see the difference in shot numbers between 6-, 7 ½- and 8-shotshells. Size 8 has close to twice as many pellets as size 6.
(This writer likes size 8 for woodcock and size 7 ½ for ruffed grouse and thinks size 8 low brass in the right barrel and 7 ½ high brass in the left works perfectly in a twin-trigger side by side – classic for New England uplands.)