Friday, July 5, 2013

Bears, Bass and Blueberry Pie

     I decided to begin the process of getting my gear in the woods in preparation for bear baiting to begin in a few weeks.  As an outfitter that year after year produces nice bears for our clients, it doesn't happen by accident.  It takes a lot of planning, preparation and hard work.  Many people the day after Independence Day are doing something other than hanging tree stands, but I decided today would be a good day to begin getting my stands out into the woods, and get a few shooting lanes cleared and bait barrels set out. 
     The area I hunt is what is termed a working forest.  The landowners make their living cutting and selling trees, and I lease hunting areas from these landowners.  Sometimes a logging operations impact my hunting areas and I need to make some adjustments.  I had to move a few bait sites this season due to some ongoing logging operations.  I located some good looking areas a few weeks ago, and went out to set my barrels in place as well as build my ground blinds, clear the shooting lanes and hang tree stands.
     I figure I have about two weeks of work to do before I will be ready for baiting to begin.  Since the temperature is close to 90 degrees during the day time, I will try to do my prep work early in the morning when the temperature is a bit easier to deal with.  A few of my bait sites are quite far off the beaten path, along old logging roads.  This past winter was hard on small trees along roads, bending many trees across the roads.  I will have to cut my way in as much as a mile in a few cases to reach the spots where we will hunt bear in a couple of months.
     What I am trying to produce is an opportunity for a hunter to take a nice bear like this one taken by Jim Balog. 
This is what I would say is a good quality Maine black bear.  Jim has hunted bears a few times, but last season was his first here at Mountain View Drifter Lodge & Outfitters.  The above bear is his largest to date, and he'll be back in the fall of 2014 to hunt again.  We are fortunate to have a great population of black bears, but it takes a lot of attention to detail to get a bear to come to a bait in the fall during day light hours when a hunter is sitting in the area.  It definitely is not easy.
     We have been providing bear hunting opportunities for our clients for over 12 years now, and I believe we just keep getting a little bit better year after year.  If you have never hunted bear over an active bait, you really should put it on your list of things to do.  When a bear comes in through the shadow filled woods, you will be hooked.  It is an amazing experience.
     During the September bear hunt the bass fishing is still very good in the area.  I have had people come a week early just to fish prior to their bear hunting week.  It is that good.  Many of my clients will fish in the morning prior to hunting in the afternoon, or after they fill their bear tag.  A good day on the river will produce dozens of bronze colored bass like this one.
Jason Balog boated quite a few bass on this trip after he tagged his first Maine black bear.  I have just a few weeks left to get everything in order so that my clients can experience world class bear hunting and bass fishing.  One of the things I do not have to worry about is the food that my amazing wife, Nancy, will prepare for our guests. 
     My responsibility lies on in the woods and on the waters, but Nancy's domain is the kitchen, and she does an outstanding job of preparing home cooked meals for our guests.  She makes a fantastic Maine wild blueberry pie that you really owe it to yourself to try.  Here is a typical meal my wife may prepare for you.
I can't wait for bear season to get here to share some of my bears, bass and blueberry pie with you.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tar Babies or Trucks?

     I thought I would write about a topic I have been thinking about for some time now, and that is the state of the U.S. auto industry and how it relates to those of us that actually use a pick-up truck to do some sort of work.  In my case that work involves riding on some of the roughest roads in the northeast.  I believe the auto makers are missing the boat in a big way when it comes to their product line of 4x4 pick-ups.  They do make a wide variety of 4x4's with any number of options.
    The truck line up that is currently available with a price point that a working man can afford does not have a strong enough suspension system to withstand the daily beating it is subjected to in my guiding business.  My current work truck was purchased new in 2002.  Since I have owned it I have replaced every shock, every spring several ball joints, all of the universals and the first thing I needed to do when it left the lot was trash the tires it came with to get some 10 ply's to withstand the rocky roads in this area.
     The truck is mechanically sound at this point, but is very tired and a new truck would be a nice tool to have, but the price point on the trucks made that have a beefed up suspension, skid plates and enhanced 4x4 system with truly locking differentials is $50-$60, 000.  Which is way more money than I am willing to spend on a truck that will be driven where few people venture.
     Part of the problem as I see it, is that the 4x4's that have the enhanced suspension, tires, and 4x4 system also are the top of the line offerings from the auto dealers.  They come with leather seats, every electronic gizmo known to man and chrome everything.  They have monickers like Rubicon or Raptor and are truly gorgeous vehicles, but they are definitely NOT work trucks.  They are Tar Babies.  These vehicles are generally purchased by someone that lives in an urban area, they never get any scratches from brush or dings from rocks, as they never get of the beaten path.  What I need in a vehicle, and I am sure I am not the only one, is a stripped down Raptor or Rubicon.  I need the guts not the glitz.  I have written to Ford about this dilemma and was told they decide what vehicles are needed by the market place and do not take suggestions from the public.  That kind of stunned me as I thought business typically looked for a need and then filled it.
     What I learned in trying to find a vehicle that has everything I need but none of what I do not need, is that you can not get it.  You can't even order a truck at a dealership without ending up with  a Tar Baby.  I believe there is a need for real trucks  made for those of us that work our trucks.  We need the guts available from some of the top of the line offerings, but  do not need all of the glitz.  I work my vehicles, they are a tool to me, not a toy.  I take care of them, but I do not baby them.  If you work your trucks as well, and think some of the points I touched on are valid, maybe you should write the auto manufactures too.  If the market place starts to rebel a bit and refuses to buy Tar Babies when we need trucks, maybe the auto dealers will start making trucks.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Maine's Fifth Season, Mud Season

     One of the things you often hear from people that live in New England is that they really enjoy the 4 seasons.  Spring with its new growth, summer with its great weather, fall with its vivid colors and winter with its snow and stark beauty.  I am no different in my opinions of the seasons, although I also enjoy the hunting and fishing opportunities that go along with the changing season.  Maine is also a place that has a fifth season which is called by locals, mud season.
     Mud season is the time when other parts of the country are enjoying spring, we are still locked in a tug of war between winter and spring.  Currently it is April 6, 2013 at my home in Millinocket.  There is still over 2 feet of snow in the woods surrounding my home, and the lake out back is still locked in ice.  Places where the sun is better able to reach are devoid of snow, but in many cases the ground is now  mud. 
    This is the time of year that people in the logging industry work on their equipment, as the logging roads and forest floors are too soft to work in.  This is mud season.  Usually it lasts 4-6 weeks, and then the ground has dried and firmed enough to be able to safely travel on a logging road without too much danger of burying your truck in the mud.  I tend to wait for mud season to pass before venturing too far from home. 
     I have the privilege of watching another indicator of mud season at my lodge.  This is the time of the year that the eagles clean up the carrion I have hunted coyotes over during the winter.  Every day here until either the ice goes out or the carrion is gone bald eagles land on the ice a short distance from my deck and feed on remains of coyotes and beaver.  Sometimes there are several eagles there at once.  A few years ago there were 13 eagles on the bait pile at one time.  So while I wait a bit for the snow to melt along the area trout streams, and the roads to firm enough to travel to some of my favorite spring fishing holes, I'll watch the eagles.  The calendar says it spring, but I know it is mud season.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Fall Paddle

     This past November I decided to spend a bit of time pursuing one of Maine's abundant resources, and that is the beaver.  Maine is blessed to have a lot of water, and in those many bodies of water reside a large population of one of North America's most prolific fur bearers, the beaver.  Beaver inhabit streams, rivers, brooks, ponds, lakes, virtually everywhere there is water and feed.  Often times this puts the beaver at odds with man.  Many times they build their dams and lodges in locations that cause roads to wash out and require time, money and labor to repair the damage.  Since the roads the beaver often damage are maintained by the same people that give me permission to hunt bears on their property, I look upon my trapping of the beaver as a service for them.  A sort of good neighborly deed.
Soldier Pond
     Beaver trapping is a solitary pursuit of mine.  A time when I can load my canoe and paddle for a bit, clearing my head.  A friend of mine who has a small cabin on a remote pond in Maine, asked me to see if I could trap a few beaver from that waterway.  I agreed to load my canoe and go for a paddle and set up any beaver colonies I found, and hope to reduce the population to a manageable level.  I loaded up my gear and headed off to his cabin where I off loaded my canoe and trapping gear and headed off to see if I could find any beaver to trap. 

     I hadn't been on the water too long, when I began to notice the tell tale sign of beaver activity.  in this case the sign was small peeled twigs on the edge of the pond in numerous locations.  A short paddle later I was greeted by a typical beaver lodge with a large feed pile of twigs in front of it.
Beaver Lodge
The group of beavers had built a large lodge on the edge of the stream connecting two small ponds.  In front of the lodge was a cache of twigs and small saplings.  This cache is the beavers stored food for when the stream is covered by ice and snow.  Beaver, during the winter, swim under the ice.  They are prevented by the ice from being able to gather any food on land, so they must plan accordingly.  Usually the month of October and early November is spent by the beaver in building or enlarging their lodge, and cutting enough food to store for the long months of winter.  This lodge probably housed between 6 and 12 beaver.  I pulled a shore and located a few spots that I could set traps to catch some of the beaver.  I placed four traps in the immediate area.  I then continued to paddle further up the stream.
     I paddled my canoe along the main channel until it became impassable.  I was seeing beaver sign so I knew there was another colony close by.  I could hear flowing water, so I paddled off in that direction on a small side channel.  I soon found a small beaver dam with another beaver house and feed pile behind it. In this particular location the best opportunities for me to set any sets was in the vicinity of the dam.
     I tend to be a minimalist when I make my beaver sets.  Some other trappers build elaborate sets, I try to pick a good location and use just enough material to make an effective set.  I am not saying this is the only way to trap beaver, but it is my method.
     After setting up this second colony of beaver I made the return trip to my truck for the trip home.  I returned to check my sets on two future paddles.  I was able to catch eight beaver and an otter from the two locations.  I am certain I can return next year and do the same.  Beaver are a sort of passion of mine.  I enjoy the solitary pursuit of this abundant fur bearer.I hope to be able to continue this for many more fall paddles.