Thursday, December 24, 2015

Old Friends Hunt for Moose

       The morning after the 2015 moose drawing, my phone rang.  I picked up and on the other end of the line was a gentleman named Arnie Clay from southern Maine.  Arnie was the fortunate recipient of a 2015 October moose permit for zone 9.  Arnie with many years in human resources was interviewing me and I with a few moose hunts under my belt was interviewing him to see if we would be a good match to hunt together in October.  I guess I passed the test as shortly after Arnie and I finished our talk, he was able to call his hunting partner of many years, John McMorrough and reach a consensus to hire me to guide them in October in search of a bull moose to fill their tag.  Arnie called back and secured me as their guide for their October moose hunt.
     Wildlife management zone 9 is a rugged zone roughly between Moosehead Lake and Millinocket.  I am located about 5 miles from one of the boundaries to the zone.  Two years prior to this hunt I had a different client fill a tag right up the street from my home, and I was in hopes we could do the same this year.  Towards the end of September I began scouting in earnest to find some areas where there was good moose sign.  What I found in the area where we filled a tag just two years prior was the cuts had been sprayed by herbacide to kill the young hardwood that moose eat.  With no food there were no moose in that area.  So I had to widen my search for a spot to fill a tag.  Many miles in my truck and several on foot, I had called a few bulls and found several areas with good sign.  So when my hunters arrived I had a plan and was looking forward to working the plan.  What was against us was the timing of the hunt.  It was late in the year and bulls were going to be less responsive to calling.
     The Sunday prior to the hunt found Arnie and John arriving at my home where they met myself, my lovely wife Nancy and our dog Ranger.  After exchanging pleasantries and showing the hunters to their accommodations, we had a fine lunch prepared by my bride.  During and after lunch we discussed my plan for Monday and the days following to find a bull for John to shoot.  We then went to the range to check the sights on John and Arnie's rifles and then returned home to swap stories about past experiences.  We all were looking forward to Monday with great expectations.
     Monday found me rising in the early morning to brew some coffee, pack some lunches and get ready to hunt some moose.  We headed out in the predawn darkness to an area where just the week before I had seen a couple of cows, lots of bull sign and had called out a pretty good bull.  We parked the truck, exited the vehicle and walked into the cut to try to call that bull out again.  We gave it our best effort, but came up empty on our first attempt.  We gathered our gear and headed off on foot.  We repeated our efforts in several locations throughout the morning and met with the same results, no responses that we could detect.  We saw some beautiful country, found plenty of new and old moose sign, but failed to call out any moose.  John, Arnie and I hunted throughout the day right to the final minutes of legal hunting and called it a day.  While heading back to the lodge I was deep in thought trying to put together a plan to find a responsive bull on Tuesday.
     Tuesday morning we arose a little earlier in the morning as we were going to drive a bit deeper into zone 9 in search of a bull.  I had been to the spot we were going to hunt the prior week and had a young bull come trotting down the road to me shortly after I had cow called while scouting.  There was lots of sign in the area of large bulls so we were going to give it a thorough hunt this day.  We parked the truck and headed off on foot along the overgrown roadway.  We made several calling attempts as we trekked further and further into the overgrown logging area.  Finally we reached an intersection of roads that had several small lakes, old cuts and heavy timber all in close proximity.  There was also lots of moose sign.  I set up my call, sprayed some cow urine, then John and I hid in the bushes where John had a pretty decent field of view.  Arnie sat a few yards away watching our backs.  I began calling to try and entice a bull to step out of the thick cover.  After 15 to 20 minutes I heard the unmistakable grunt of a bull.  I took the initiative and tapped John on the shoulder to tell him to get ready a bull was coming.  Well just seconds later John turned to tell me he could see it as it had just stepped into the road about 20 yards from our location.  John sized up the bull, decided it met his requirements, placed the cross hairs on the animal and fired his rifle.  The bull turned and John fired again, then Arnie squeezed the trigger on his rifle and finally the bull fell to the ground.
     So mid morning Tuesday we were able to help John fulfill a lifelong dream of successfully hunting a bull moose.  We spent much of the rest of the day getting the moose out of the woods, and drove it to a processing facility where the meat of this animal was professionally handled and processed into steaks, burger, sausage and more.  Moose is excellent table fare, and John and Arnie each have many meals and stories to share about hunting moose together.  Nancy and I were privileged to play a part in this as well.  Congratulations to John and Arnie.  A couple of real gentleman that have hunted together for many many years.  Our wish for you both is that you have many more years to share some other adventures together and continue to relive some of your past experiences over a fine glass of scotch and good cigar.
John and Arnie with their bull

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Second week of Bear Camp 2015

The second week of the 2015 bear season started off long before the guests arrived.  A contact in the early spring with Mike Walker about he and one of his sons possibly hunting with me.  He decided to book his first bear hunt for he and his son Damon for the second week of the 2015 bear season.  He and Damon arrived in camp where they met a veteran bear hunter and good friend Matt Miller.  It was a light week with just three guests, but we were looking forward to it.

We had our orientation, and then headed to the range to check rifle zeros and prepare for what could be a long week of sitting in the woods waiting for an opportunity to shoot a mature black bear.  After lunch on Monday we headed into the woods in one of my core bear hunting areas.  I got Mike out into his ground bling, then his son Damon and finally I got Matt to his location.   Later that afternoon My cell phone received a text from Mike letting me know he had a short wait and had shot a bear.  I headed to his location where I found him waiting for me.  His bear had dropped at the bait.  We took a couple of photos of he and his trophy on location, and then loaded it onto a litter to carry it to my truck.  We then proceeded to head close to where Damon was sitting in his blind where I had hopes of hearing the rifle shot with his dad.  Well shortly after parking the truck we were rewarded with the sound of a rifle shot followed quickly with a second shot.  Well since Damon was hunting with a single shot rifle I knew immediately it was Matt that fired.  A minute or two later a text arrived saying he had shot a BIG bear.  I was just 2 miles away so I quickly drove to the location and found the large boar dead just a few feet from the bait pile.  It was too large for the three of us so I went to pick up Damon as this bear required 4 men to carry it to the truck.  What a day.  Two nice bears in the truck and Damon had seen a bear, so 100% shot opportunity and it was only Monday.
Matt Miller and Mike Walker and Their Bears
Matt and His Boar Bear

On Tuesday Damon and I headed out to the woods.  He spent the afternoon quietly and did not shoot a bear.  I sat on a stand nearby and had a bear come within a few feet of me from behind me.  I had no shot as it was away like a rocket once it decided to leave.  I picked Damon up and we headed back to the lodge for some of Nancy's good cooking and entertaining stories from Damon about his level of nervousness sitting in the woods waiting on bears.

On Wednesday  Damon and his dad decided to sit together.  I put them on a good bait way off the beaten path.  They did see a real large sow, but she had cubs and as such is off limits to my hunters.  Then the skies opened up in a torrential downpour.  Matt and I headed in to get the duo from the  monsoon like downpour and head back to the lodge to dry off and recharge for the next day.

Thursday Damon and Mike moved to a different bait that appealed to Mike, as he had accompanied me that morning as I freshened some of my locations.  I sat at a different location and as the sun set watched two small bears feed on the bait.  Damon and his dad did not see anything this afternoon.  We headed back to the lodge and I meditated on where to put Damon for his final sit for the week.  I decided on a site with a pretty steady history of being a productive location.

Damon and I headed out on this Friday afternoon.  I placed him in his blind, went over the best bear hunting practices, and headed off to a stand to sit in while I waited for Damon.  Well here is where it gets interesting.  While I watched a small bear at my location, Damon felt tremors in the ground.  As he explained at dinner that evening, it was like a scene from the movie, Jurassic Park.  A small tremor could be scene in a puddle, and it grew larger and larger and then there it was, T-Rex.  Well T-rex wasn't at his bait site, but apparently a pretty BIG bear was.  Damon raised his rifle, settled his sights and then his hood from his jacket fell forward over his eyes and the bear that came to be known as "Ground Shaker" ran off.  Well as Damon tells the story he tried to sit still which is 1 of the three rules for successful bear hunting.  The other two rules are also, sit still.  Well anyways, he was jumping at every sound as he feared "Ground Shaker" was going to turn him into nitrogen rich humus.  As he struggled internally to try and sit still, he had almost decided it was pointless, and to gather his things and leave the stand, when a large bear appeared on the bait.  Damon made the shot and then sent me a text message.  I hurriedly left my stand and headed to the truck to go find his bear.  It took a little effort as bears do not leave much sign, but in a short time we found his 200 plus pound mature bear in a thicket.  It was a struggle for the two of us to carry it to the truck, but we managed.  I am starting to feel my age a bit though.  We made the trip back home where the successful trio of hunters gathered to admire the final bear of the week, taken in the final moments of the day.  A very successful week of hunting Maine black bear and Mountain View Drifter Lodge & Outfitters.
Damon Walker and his mature Maine Bear

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Adventures in the Maine Woods

The 2015 bear season was looking to be tremendously challenging as the natural food sources were very high.  Bears prefer to eat natural foods and come to bait site less frequently and more nocturnally as a rule during years of abundance.  I set about preparing my sites for the arrival of my hunters for the first two weeks of the fall bear baiting season. 

This year presented a few automotive challenges as my first outing with my trusty 2002 F250 guide  truck found me limping along with a stuck brake caliper.  I had to call my gracious wife on her day off and have her meet me in the woods to off load my bait onto my newer truck so I could finish setting my baits for the day.  once we had my baits out, Nancy followed me to the repair shop so I could leave my truck to have the caliper replaced.  Several days later after the shop repaired the brake, I picked it up and headed off to set another string of baits.  On the 3rd stop the truck failed to restart.  The location just happened to be 1 mile back in the woods in an area that would necessitate me walking out and coming up with a plan to retrieve my truck.  A couple hours later I managed to get the truck restarted and finished my baiting for the day.  When I got it back to the repair shop they found a neutral safety switch was the culprit which was an intermittent electrical problem.  They repaired the faulty switch and thank-fully that was the last major problem for the season.

The first week of the season arrived with 4 guests arriving to hunt with us.  One was a returning gust Dave B. from the Pittsburgh area.  One was a Maine resident Steve Vose from the Augusta area and the the final two were Alissa Stieler and Brandon Hollier from Michigan.  My wife prepared a Maine lobster dinner for the guests and then we had our hunter orientation.  I use this time to talk about ethics, bear behavior, judging bears, shot placement etc.  After orientation my two firearms hunters and I drove to a gravel pit to check the sights of their rifles and then we returned to watch Alissa and Brandon shoot their bows on my 3-D target.  We then had a bit of my wife's homemade dessert to wrap up the arrival day.

Monday found me rising early in the a.m. and Dave B. joining me to head out to rebait some of my bait sites scattered around the greater Katahdin region.  We got back in time for a great lunch and then the hunters donned their scent free clothing and gathered their gear to ride with me out to the bait sites.  It takes awhile to get everyone out to their stands, but by 3 p.m. everyone was tucked in for the afternoon.   The afternoon passed with no one shooting any bear, but everyone saw a bear or bears on their site.  So the excitement level was pretty high around the dinner table that evening.  We also celebrated Alissa's birthday with her, as she had chosen to hunt black bear on her birthday.  She made a wish as the custom dictates as she blew out the candles.  I wonder what that wish was for?

Alissa's Birthday Wish Bear
Tuesday morning Alissa joined me as we headed out to bait some of my bait sites in the morning.  I find these outings with my guest great opportunities to converse at length and get to know them all the better.   We had lunch, and we headed back to the woods in search of bear.  On the way in to Alissa’s stand I reiterated that you need to sit still and allow the bear to fully commit to the bait.  Alissa and I headed into the bait site, she climbed into her stand, I baited the bait and slipped away.  Later that afternoon I received a text message; “Bear down!  Dead 15 yards from tree”.   Well that was good news.  I responded; “who shot”, since there was no name on the text.  I received the following,”Me!”.  Well I sort of knew who shot, but I had to be certain, rather than accidently walk in on the wrong hunter.  So I wrote,”name”.  To which I received,”Alissa”.  Well now I was off and running.  I arrived at the site, Alissa pointed to the bear that had been perfectly shot laying dead just a few yards from her stand.  She climbed down and we went to admire her trophy.  After some photos Alissa assisted me in carrying the bear through the swamp to the truck.  We met up with the other hunters and headed back to the lodge for some well deserved congratulations.

The next day my remaining hunters headed back out to their sites to see if they could fill their bear tag as Alissa had done the previous night.  Although there were several bears seen this evening, no one saw a "shooter" so we returned to the lodge for some food and camaraderie.  I worked on a gameplan to try to get a few more bear for the lodge as Thursday approached.

Thursday I typically change the locations for the hunters to give them a fresh start so to speak.  i find it helps to keep their head in the game to give them some different scenery and sometimes it takes a day or two to dial in a hunter on what they need to do to be successful hunting bear over bait.  So I headed to the woods this Thursday with my 3 remaining hunters and got them all tucked in for the afternoon.  Somewhere around 6 p.m. I received a call from Brandon who had released an arrow at a bear.  He felt his shot may have been affected by a twig, so I was a bit apprehensive myself as we began the process of following the blood trail.  After about 20 minutes and 100 yards or so I spotted the bear lying dead a few yards ahead of us.  Brandon's arrow had not been off at all.  A large boar with a double lung shot was lying there for us to admire.  We took a few photos on the site, then set about getting the bear to the truck.  We gathered up the remaining hunters who had not taken any shots and headed back to the lodge.
Brandon and his Boar Bear       
Friday found me with just two hunters remaining to sit on stand for the afternoon.  It was a great day to hunt for bear, but no one else shot a bear this week.  Everyone had at least one good opportunity to fill their tag, but they didn't see the bear they were looking for.  We did have a great week filled with some laughs and friendships being kindled.  All in all it was a very good 1st week of bear hunting for the 2015 season.