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.