Maine Has Changed for Baby Boomers
During their youth, baby boomers remember when September passed as a sleepy month with a little shooting, particularly deer rifles, but a handful of folks busted clay targets. The smoothbore crowd was just as apt to blast empty beer cans, though. If someone could blister a can enough to make it spin through the air, that was good enough for hitting a pa’tridge.
…Woodcock? Back in the 1950s and ’60s, we’d ask, “What the heck is a woodcock?”
Trollers for salmonids often spent one weekend a month, fall fishing at places like Moosehead or Rangeley lakes. There were exceptions in the angling world, but that’s what they were – exceptions.
How times change!
These days, September is hopping:
• Moose hunting is the big news this month, but it involves a small percentage of hunters, because it is a lottery hunt.
• Folks fish for fall salmonids with a passion as they head to lakes, ponds, rivers, streams and brooks. Northern Maine brook trout and salmonid rivers draw angler mobs, often fly rodders.
• Bassing booms, particularly from Bangor south. Folks work bottom structure now, and the knowledgeable ones do well with jigs and deep-diving crankbaits.
• Saltwater species such as stripers, bluefish and mackerel bring folks to the coast to cast on empty beaches, hoping to tangle with feisty fish like blues and stripers.
• Hunters shoot rifles to perfect trigger squeeze, blast shotguns to polish mount, and swing and practice with bow and arrow to get the “big three” right: 1) consistent anchor point; 2) crisp release; and 3) steady bow arm.
• Photographers work hard now to take advantage of September’s sweet, clear light.
• Gardens produce root veggies such as potatoes, carrots and parsnips, winter squash, fall Brassicas like cabbage, Brussel sprouts and cauliflower – the staples.
• Hiking, auto camping, canoe tripping, kayaking, backpacking, bicycling, running and more exercise compete for attention.
Some folks go from bow-hunting for deer in the expanded archery zones to shooting shorebirds such as rail and snipe, but these sports have few participants.
Tips of the Month
Top September Salmonid Nymph
Huge nymphs tied on a size 4 or 6, 8x long weighted hook have a place in fall fishing in Maine. Two black biots or a clump of black hackle for the tail(s) and a black, fur-dubbed abdomen with copper ribbing begin this dynamite pattern. A black primary feather section for a wing case and a peacock herl thorax create an attractive mouthful for a trout or salmon. Tie six or eight peacock herl in front of the abdomen, twist them lightly on a waxed thread loop and wind on wet cement (light coating) for the thorax, before covering the herl with the wing case. Finish it with a black-hackle collar and coat the wing case and head with three coats of cement. On cold days when nothing is hatching, this fly bounced on bottom can keep a bend in the rod.
September’s sweet, pellucid light adds so much to landscape photos this month, reason enough to get a camera out to shoot the best sights that Maine offers. Before taking a photo, decide what should be perfectly exposed (a blossom, wildlife critter, rock wall, bright-green ferns) and spot meter off it to make sure it is neither too dark nor blown-out. Also, strive for texture in a photo – objects such as a stratified ledge or an old cedar shingle.
It’s a great month to be out and around, trying to shoot photos that make the photographer feel like the second coming of Ansel Adams.
Where the Action Is
September Salmonid Angling
Each September, folks find lots of landlocked-salmon and brook-trout action in the Rangeley Region in the Kennebago River (DeLorme Atlas, Map 28, D-3) and Rapid River below Middle Dam (Map 18, B-1). Dawn fishing can rock on these two rivers. They have fly-fishing-only regulations.
The Kennebago and Rapid have crowds, though. For solitude and brookies, the Cupsuptic River (Map 28, D-3) or South Bog Stream (Map 28, E-4) offer smaller (or no) crowds.
Three common access points on the Cupsuptic excite me, and my top spot is downstream of Big Falls, where brook trout often stack up in pocket water. To access Big Falls, motor along the river’s west shore through the campgrounds and past Portage Brook. Continue until arriving at a spot where the road has a 90-degree turn left. There, walk down the woodland trail to Big Falls.
News and Tidbits
North American 2014 Duck Population Strong
In 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Canadian Wildlife Service’s annual duck survey in North America covers 2 million square miles of habitat across the continent and estimated the population at 49.2 million birds, an 8 percent increase over last year’s figure of 45.6 million ducks, and 43 percent above the long-term average.
• The U.S. and Canada estimated 10.9 million mallards – similar to 2013’s 10.4 million figure.
• The blue-winged teal estimate was 8.5 million, 10 percent above 2013’s 7.7 million, and 75 percent above the long term average.
• Northern pintail was 3.2 million, close to the 3.3 million estimate from the year before.
Bean’s Hot Nymphs, Streamers
Nymphs and streamers prove effective for fall trout and salmon, and the L.L.Bean catalog offers ideas for top choices:
The first five nymphs in Bean’s 2014 nymph fly list goes in this order. 1) Sizes 16-20 Barr’s Flashback Emerger; 2) sizes 14-18 Flashback Pheasant Tail; 3) size 12-18 Barr’s Copper John; 4) size 12-18 Tungsten Hot-wired Prince; and 5) sizes 12-18 Gold Bead Prince.
The first five streamer choices lead off with two Maine creations: 1) sizes 6-10 Black Ghost; 2) sizes 6-10 Gray Ghost; 3) sizes 6 and 8 Barr’s Slump Buster; 4) size 8 McKnight’s Pig Pen Leech; and 5) size 6 Jannsen’s Minnow. A black or olive, size 6-10 Wooly Bugger came in a sixth place.
Common Meadow Vole
Meadow voles rank as one of the most – if not the most – numerous mammal species in Maine. They breed six to 17 times every year, and each time may initially produce up to nine young – a good thing. Seventy percent of them die soon after birth, and 50 percent of each litter will not live through the first year; however, up to 17 breedings with as many as nine offspring each time, amount to a lot of critters annually – a possible 153 meadow voles every 12 months!.
White-tailed Deer Size
A white-tailed deer measures much smaller than casual observers with untrained eyes may realize, because this deer looks tall at the shoulders. On average, a whitetail stands 39 inches at the shoulders, measures 72 inches (six feet) long and has a 12-inch tail. Bucks are one-third heavier than females.
A deer track imprinted in the mud or snow requires little knowledge to identify it – a split heart shape. What could be easier? One that measures as wide as four fingers on a big man’s hand is indeed a huge buck
Why White Bellies?
Why do so many mammals have white bellies? Several years ago, a tidbit in a natural-history magazine caught my eye and offered a theory that made sense. Each animal could see fleas or ticks easier against the white; hence, mammals evolved this way.
Elephant Poaching Lesson
If meat, horns, antlers or other body parts from an animal increases in value to an abnormally high price, then poaching pressure can rise astronomically. Right now, prices for ivory from African elephants have risen from $750 per kilo four years ago to $2,200 per kilo (about 2.2 pounds).
This has led to huge problems for elephants:
In 2011 alone, poachers killed 25,000 elephants for the ivory – 70 elephants per day, or an average of three an hour. Since then, an additional 45,000 have died – 10 percent of the population. How long can elephants withstand the slaughter? Will African elephants be extinct by the next generation?
In 2011, poachers killed allegedly the largest elephant in Africa, which carried 200 pounds of ivory. That translated into big bucks for the poachers of that one animal – about $250,000.
Groundnuts Crucial in Colonial America
One early spring when I was 24 years old, my best boyhood friend Dave Brann and I were running white-water on the Sheepscot River below Head Tide dam. We were drifting my old rib-and-plank, 18-foot canoe along the outside bend of a steep bank on the Route 218 side of the river, where spring flooding had washed away clumps of grass, vegetation and also rich loam, exposing strings and strings of groundnuts (Apios americana), which often grow along rich floodplains.
That was my introduction to groundnuts, thanks to Brann, an expert in wild-plant gathering. In fact, he taught a unit in school on foraging for wild foods and medicines. As we raked off little tubers with our hands, connected by veins, two or three at a time, he explained how early settlers depended on groundnuts for sustenance.
Make no mistake folks. This root veggie was crucial to some families in the 1600s. These days, most folks pay no notice to this plant.
Snapping Turtle Eggs
When snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) eggs hatch in late summer, the early emerging turtles measure 1inch long and are often a few hundred yards from mud-bottomed water from which the mother originated, because the female snapper travels a long distance from a pond or river. The tiny snappers look remarkably similar to the parents, so one who knows snappers would question the species of the newly hatched turtles.
Goldenrod Not Always ‘Golden’
Like goldenrods, silverrod (Solidago bicolor) belongs to the sunflower family, and its range stretches from southern Ontario to Nova Scotia, down to Georgia and Arkansas and west to Wisconsin. This plant inhabits dry soil – say abandoned fields – and very open woods. Silverrod is the only goldenrod species with white rather than yellow rays. It’s blooming now.
Maine Timber Rattlesnakes?
Does Maine have any timber rattlesnakes?
…A good question.
This species is scarce in New Hampshire, and several years ago in New England Monthly, a classy magazine now defunct, an article claimed all of New England had 2,500 timber rattlers, raising a question. If a rattler lived – say in Freedom, New Hampshire – would it slither up to the Maine border, stop, and think, “I can’t go there because experts say none of us live in that state.”
For Whom Do Manufacturers Develop New Cartridges?
In 1892, the .30-40 Krag came out as a military cartridge, and with a 150-grain cartridge, it stepped along at about 2,400 feet per second. Hunters quickly saw the potential for big-game hunting – say deer, moose and bear. Before World War II, this caliber was popular in Maine as a hunting cartridge.
In 1903, manufacturers introduced the .30-03, which was quickly followed in 1906 by the .30-06. In a 150-grain cartridge, this projectile flew along at about 2,800 to 2,900 feet per second – an impressive 108 years ago, and still today.
In 1920, 18 years after the .30-40 Krag introduction, Savage introduced a dynamite cartridge to the hunting public – a .300 Savage with a muzzle velocity around 2,500 feet per second in a 150-grain projectile. Hunters jumped on it.
Twenty-two years later in 1952, the .308 Winchester (7.62mm NATO) came out with a 150-grain projectile speed of 2,700 to 2,800 feet per second at the muzzle.
In those years, lots of folks questioned why this cartridge was any better than the .300 Savage. This leaves questions: Are there that many differences between a .300 Savage and .308 Winchester? We can throw velocity figures around, but they’re close. The one dominant one in the four is the .30-06 Springfield, but they’re all close enough.
However, so many gun owners are collectors, and manufacturers see the sales potential of adding new cartridges – even ones that duplicate others.
Maine’s Awful Paved Roads
Those of us who hunt and fish must travel Maine roads and won’t be surprised by recent figures from the National Transportation Research group, which claims 1) this state has the 8thworst roads in the country; and 2) nearly one in three (28 percent) of our highways are in disrepair. Avid road bicyclists with 23 mm tires know about these rough roads firsthand.
Bird of the Month
Panicked Wilson’s Snipe Cries, “’scape! ’scape!”
In the last half of the 18th century and first decades of the 19th century, hunting for shorebirds such as sora rail and Wilson’s snipe (Gallinago delicata) proved extremely popular along the Eastern Seaboard, and hunters with flat-bottomed skiffs, poles for propulsion, standing wooden decoys, and shotshells with small pellets (size 9 and smaller) chased Wilson’s snipe.
These days, few folks bother shorebirds, though they are abundant enough in Maine marshes when folks learn where to find them. A friend of mine knew he could shoot several snipe every September along a pasture brook with alders on the banks. When hunting, it was difficult not to step on a cow pie.I consider snipe a perfect quarry, because when flushed, it often calls, “’Scape! ’Scape!” Guidebooks often spell this panicky call as “scaip” and say it is a “rasping” sound. …Good description – rasping – but the spelling misses the obvious association with “escape.”
According to Peterson, this snipe has a song like this: “Chip-a, chip-a, chip-a, chip-a.”
When I was a kid, scientists called Wilson’s snipe “common snipe,” and the scientific name was (Capella gallinago). These changes become more difficult to keep up with as we grow older, and this one has another wrinkle.
Twelve years ago, a friend bought me an Audubon bird guidebook, copyright 1994, at Borders in South Portland, and the text called this bird a common snipe, too, but the scientific appellation was Gallinago gallinago. That’s at least three different Latin names in my lifetime.
A Wilson’s snipe is brownish overall with solid cream stripes on the back, barred-over whitish flanks and long bill. When it flushes away, observers can note a short orange tail.
This snipe measures 10 1/2-inches long, sports an 18-inch wingspan and weighs 3-3/4-ounces. That may sound small, but it is almost as big as a 6-ounce male woodcock or an 8-ounce female. Two male woodcock for a meal with side dishes is enough for a hungry diner. Surely, three rails should suffice.
This snipe, essentially a solitary bird, may flock into groups of up to 10, according to Sibley. Because of this solitary behavior part of the time, successful snipe hunters find hot spots that attract these birds in small groups. Without luck, it can take years to find such places, but with luck, folks can have a snipe feed or two each year.
Good spots to start are freshwater marshes with shallow water, where a hunter can push a boat or quietly walk along wetland edges – or like my friend, sneak along the right brook. This writer has hunted snipe but thinks they are poor eating – strictly a personal opinion. Some folks relish the bird.
Wilson’s snipe build a nest on tussocks in a marsh and lay four, pale-olive eggs spotted with black. This number suggests a high survival rate, and the parents are very secretive, which must help survival of the chicks. (Ken Allen)
Do You Know?
Breeding Quirk of Brown-headed Cowbird
Do you know what breeding quirk a brown-headed cowbird uses as a survival tactic to perpetuate the species?
Brook Trout Forest – Great Mood Book!
Reading Brook Trout Forest by Kathy Scott (Alder Creek, Hastings, Michigan) left two huge impressions:
First, I didn’t want the book to end; and second, Scott’s work left me with thoughts that will rattle around my head for life. What more can a reader want from a small investment in money and an outlay of time?
Here’s one example of the latter:
Scott quotes a quick scene from Jim Harrison’s Legends of the Fall. Someone asks why a young person should learn new things, and a person (Col. Ludlow) in Harrison’s novel was somewhat taken aback and said, “Why to live a richer, fuller life, of course.” Amen.
The book begins with an anecdote about a secret northern Maine brook-trout stream, and offers a little folklore about how friends and acquaintances respect a hidden trout bonanza. When someone divulges such a spot – and certainly in Scott’s life it works this way – the new knowledge remains a secret forever. Scott and her husband respected that promise as if it were in the Bible, and the stream remained just that – secret.
The scene on the stream took place on Sept. 30, cold along the Canadian border, and the fishing was slow. Finally, Scott catches a 6-inch brook trout on a fly and a “kyped-jawed marauder” grabs her fish but does not swallow it.
In short, a staunch fly rodder ends up bait fishing. We’ve all been there, and this reviewer remembers a similar incident when an Atlantic-salmon parr grabbed my fly and then a largemouth bass in the 4-pound range grabbed the little fish – bait fishing with an endangered species in Maine.
Scott’s book reminds me of Pleasant River (which I’ve read over a dozen times) by Dale Rex Coman, which takes place Down East circa the mid-1960s. Coman’s work is all about Maine Atlantic-salmon fishing but covers the setting and all that entails.
In Brook Trout Forest, Scott talks about building bamboo rods, and that keeps the good times rolling. She writes with reverence about other bamboo-rod builders.
In the last 20 years, a group of respected fly rodders in this state refer to bamboo rods as “wimpy” for casting, but bamboo rods can be powerhouses. I have an 8 1/2-foot, 9-weight that I used through the 1970s and early ’80s for Atlantic salmon on the Gaspe, and it could reach the far banks of rivers. Folks who think bamboo rods can’t reach out just don’t know, and a lot of rods that don’t cast far have great accuracy, built for close casts. Bamboo rods need great respect, and those who pooh-pooh them often just don’t know.
I once taught in the same school as Scott, and she had an upbeat personality second to none. How upbeat? If someone sent her a box of horse manure, she’d figure they just forgot to send her the horse.
As the book comes to a close, Scott talks about brook-trout fishing in Labrador, and this part of the book provides dynamite fishing scenes that offer great tension, because this province’s fishing might not offer success. It was possible. Readers will worry how the days turn out.
As a reviewer, I try not to touch upon topics that are already covered in the dust cover write-up, but suffice to say this book has lots of folks worked into the pages from start to finish. Yup, we see Maine and some of its people. (Ken Allen)
Brain Faster Than Hands – Eventually!
My two daughters are in their mid-20s and talk about writing for publications – but not as a main occupation. They’re somewhat serious and write extremely well, but they do have a problem with getting into freelance writing, a problem that I encountered in my early 20s.
My daughters are unsure of what to write about. I understand the dilemma well and say, “Write what you know about and feel comfortable covering?”
They both fly-fish but lack confidence to write about it, and in my long writing career, young outdoor writers shy away from doing how-to articles.
Many folks reading this essay in this publication are hunters, anglers and hikers, so a grand topic would be anything in the outdoors that the doer feels a sense of accomplishment in performing. For me at their age, it was fly-fishing, deer-hunting, bird-hunting and camping.
Many folks worry about what to write, and for most of us, our hands move much faster than our brains anyway – once we figure out what to write about. That’s the beginning of a long career.
At The Maine Sportsman, we have a need for “how-to” articles by new writers (for us) who know about fly-fishing, saltwater fishing (not just cunner, harbor pollock, wolffish, tommycod or any species with limited interest), deer-hunting, bear-hunting, moose-hunting, shooting, ice-fishing, snowmobiling and ATVing. In the last two categories, how-to and where-to are good.
Forget sending mood pieces unless they are superbly written, but quality how-to writers will find a place in many issues, because we need the above topics slanted toward readers who want to know more about how to enjoy outdoor sports.
Don’t send a complete article – we might already have it or worse yet, not want the topic. The professional approach begins with sending a 3-paragraph query on one page (snail mail or e-mail), and the first paragraph is the lead paragraph for the article, the second ’graph summarizes the article and the third tells the writer’s qualifications for doing the piece.
Lately, wanna’-be writers here send complete articles, many of them amateurish, and worse yet, they want “a quick answer of yes or no” so they “can send it elsewhere.” Never, ever say that. It guarantees a rejection 99.9 percent of the time. Approach an editor as if he or she is a picky customer – because they are – and the writer is a salesclerk.
It wouldn’t hurt to read a good book on getting into freelancing. I just read a jewel to recommend to new writers – Handbook of Magazine Article Writing, a Writer’s Digest publication. It lays the groundwork for at least having a semblance of professionalism. (I read a Jacob Hayes’ book in my early 20s that jumped me ahead in the freelancing business two or three years.)
I’d like to hear from you. Yes, this is a good market, and many of The Maine Sportsman writers jump from here into national publications and create a good life for themselves (Ken Allen)
It’s All Happening in October
White-tailed deer, black bear, moose, ruffed grouse, woodcock, gray squirrels, varying hares, raccoons, puddle ducks, sea ducks, Canada geese, Wilson’s snipe, common rail and more offer sport now, some of these critters far more popular targets than others.
Fishing in October attracted scant numbers in the 1950s and ’60s and in fact wasn’t legal in most places, but now brook trout, landlocked salmon, brown trout, rainbow trout, lake trout, white perch, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, chain pickerel, yellow perch, sunfish, eel and more draw attention.
October is the busy month for sportsmen, and deer hunting much of the month means bow and arrow, but guess what? – lots of folks are bending bows these days. And waterfowl and upland targets flourish in the state, so folks take advantage/
And certain sports that excited folks in the fall are getting popular. Lots of folks love bicycling this month in a kaleidoscope of color. Hikers, canoeists, kayakers and runners also love to do their sport in a land of reds, yellows, oranges and golds with smatterings of purple and brown.
Photographers are enthused about the colorful foliage, but October means critters are moving as thermometers drop and chances for wildlife images excite that crowd. September does have sweet, clear light, but so does October, so in addition to all the bright colors, folks with cameras know such perfect light helps them big time.
Gardens produce root veggies, winter squash and Brassicas (including broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts and cauliflower) in late September and early October. We live for this month with small game, upland birds and ducks to fill our bellies at dinner.
Panning or dredging for gold in rivers and streams will become more popular, thanks to the rising price of gold, and a television “reality” show promoting this pastime. (When I was a kid, gold was $35 per ounce. Now it’s a 4-digit dollar figure.) This endeavor can also raise havoc with the environment, although panning is much more benign than dredging.
Late fall camping, backpacking and canoe tripping when nights are cool, days warm enough and bugs scarce make this a perfect time of year for campers.
Answer to “Do You Know?”
Ornithologists rank brown-headed cowbirds (Molothrus ater) as brood parasites, because the females lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, so the “foster parents” will raise the hatchlings.
At first, this tactic may strike folks as questionable for cowbirds to leave chick bearing to strange birds, but brown-headed cowbirds flourish. When I was participating in the Christmas bird count in central Maine, one farm kept a partner and me counting as we tried tabulating flocks of them.
Some brood-parasitic species choose a nest that belongs to a bird with similar eggs, but not the brown-headed cowbird. The species lays eggs helter-skelter with little regard for the looks of eggs in strange nests. One documented case even showed a cowbird egg in a hummingbird nest; however, that incident did not result in a chick.
Research shows that 144 different bird species have successfully reared cowbird eggs. An Audubon guidebook theorizes that cowbirds evolved as brood parasites because they were following bison herds and had no time to stay in one spot. Now, cowbirds flock around domestic bovine herds.