Friday, September 1, 2017

An increase in trespassing


Trail cameras are addicting. You buy one, get some pictures then decide that you should have another one at a certain intersection and the next thing you know, you are like us and have almost 10 out in the woods, trying to pattern your deer.  That excitement of pulling those memory cards quickly vanishes when you see things that don’t belong on your property. 


In the past couple of months, we have had lots of activity on the trail cameras; a car driving around in the newly planted clover and a man walking through a highly traveled deer intersection.  Both men had to make an effort to get where they were; this was not just an 'oops, I took a wrong turn.'  We had posted signs up already and clearly that was not enough of a deterrent to keep them away. This is when it pays to be friends with police officers.  I sent pictures of the car to a friend, who came back within minutes with the name of the car's owner.  I did the same thing with the pictures of the blonde man, baseball hat on backwards and watch on his left wrist.  Thanks to trail cameras, there are eyes in the woods even when you are not there.  As a result in this increase, we have started putting cameras out for our cameras just in case someone tries to steal the camera (or the memory card) that has their picture on it.  It is easy to hide a camera when its sole purpose is to keep another camera safe.

It is also disappointing.  It used to be that you could trust people to respect your land and their lack of access to it.  People would communicate with the landowner if they wanted to be on the land to hunt, fish, trap and/or forage.  There was a mutual understand and respect for the owner, user and land itself.  I remember hunters coming to the door and talking to Dad about hunting on our property a month before the deer season was scheduled to start.  Dad would sign their landowner permission slip and ask them to hunt in a certain region of the land and not to use four wheelers.  Everyone was happy and followed the agreed upon rules.  That is clearly not the case anymore.  I understand why more land is being posted.  Within hours of seeing the car on our trail cam photos, I added more posted signs to our property

So what happened? Why the lack of respect for landowners? and when did trespassing become a new norm?  Across the country, there is discussion around protecting public land for hunters to use.  Here in Maine, more than 95% of our land is privately owned (Maine.gov.) That is a lot of land to lose access to if trespassing continues to increase and landowners begin or continue to post their land.  A few bad apples could ruin it for everyone, so it is up to us to discourage it, report it and work to keep hunting lands available.



Friday, August 25, 2017

The most exciting hunt, you're not going on


I blame my friend Steve.  I cautiously agreed to go with him and learn how to hunt them so that I could have some first-hand experience when I write.  I would have never guessed that in agreeing to go with him, I would now look at August in a whole new way; it’s bear season!

There are roughly 10,000 of us who buy our bear permits every year.  Compared to the 180,000+ deer hunters and we basically have the woods to ourselves to hunt bear. Guess what non-bear hunters?  You are missing out on one of the most exciting hunts you could possibly go on! And that should change. 


 Why would you want to hunt bears? Easiest reason is management and keeping the population in check with the biological and social carrying capacities across our state.  None of us want to see bears or any animal, reach the point where disease and over-population cause major issues. Hunting helps to put a dent in a growing bear population and with no other predators, it’s either us or disease to keep the population numbers where they need to be.

The second reason: the meat.  Oh, bear meat! If you just made a face reading this, it’s because when you had it, it was not cooked properly.  There are so many great dishes to cook and various ways to prepare the meat. I would be happy to share a couple easy recipes or check out my friend Robin Follette and get a bunch of great recipes from her.  A well-cooked piece of bear meat will rival any cut of beef as long as you know how to cook it.

The third season: the hunt. The most exciting part.  I have sat over bait, helped set up a trap (I am a licensed trapper) and hunted using hounds. The thrill of not knowing if there is a bear watching you is unlike any other hunt.  Deer will watch you and then leave if they don’t like what they see or smell.  A bear can and will, wait you out and when you walk out at the end of legal hunting hours that bear will walk right in to the bait site and enjoy.  Thanks to trail cameras, you can figure out each bear’s habits, which direction they travel to the bait site from and if they come at a certain time.  Smaller bears will come in earlier to grab-and-go before the larger ones show up.  Hunting with dogs offers a completely different adrenaline rush and you’re listening and watching the dogs, guide (probably) and looking ahead at or for the bear.  There is no guarantee that you will even see a bear while you are out hunting but knowing that they are around and could step out at any time, keeps you on your toes.

I encourage everyone to try bear hunting once.  There are incredible guides across Maine that have the knowledge and experience to help get you started and see what it’s all about.  Or, like I did, tag along with a friend who bear hunts and find out what you’ve been missing. You won’t be sorry that you did!





Friday, August 18, 2017

Do targets really matter?



I visualize my shot every time I am in the woods.  Each spot offers different opportunities and different entry points where deer/bear/turkey typically travel. I picture the animals walking in from each side and how I can move (or not) to get the most effective shot off without blowing my cover. As someone who needs to be hunting from a blind and am usually in a tree, this helps to alleviate some of the adrenaline gitters that can creep in when an animal actually appears.

Prior to each hunting season, we spend time sighting in our guns and bows and have shot at many different targets throughout the years.  Rifles are probably the easiest; we aim at either circles drawn on a piece of paper or an old plastic jug.  They are larger targets but if we are able to group our shots and come close to whatever bullseye that we are aiming at, then we know that the rifles are good to go. A few years ago, Dad and I sat at the kitchen table and used a stuffed Rudolph the Red –Nose Reindeer that I had to go over shot placement based on where the deer may be coming into my shooting lane and where I could and should not shoot. It is an algebra equation really; if the animal comes in at “X” angle, then your placement needs to be “Y” in order to end up with a dead animal.

When Dad and I got ready for our first turkey hunt, Dad drew the neck and head of a turkey on a piece of paper and we aimed at that; the goal being to visualize where on the turkey to place that bead in order to get the tightest grouping and make the biggest impact.  This helped us figure out the spread and yardage for each shot.

As Hubs and I get into bow hunting, we have square targets, one large and one small, and a 3D deer target to work with and improve our accuracy. I like the 3D target better as it helps me visualize where on the deer to be aiming based on distance and how high I am in the tree.  For him, it doesn’t matter what he is shooting at, as long as his grouping is where he wants it to be consistently.

So do targets really matter?  Is the 3D target really any better than the circle we draw on a piece of paper or a stuffed animal? Are they more important for visualizing shot placement or are they better for sighting in your weapon? Or both? Regardless of which ones you use, they will hopefully help with the end result and lead you to have a successful hunt.


Friday, August 11, 2017

Are you my father?

I am not sure if the target in the backyard has made the deer around here more relaxed or not, but for this fawn, it wasn't sure what to make of this thing that looks like a deer but doesn't move.  If this target can fool these deer, I am wondering if we could use it as a decoy during hunting season... that is something that I will need to research!

Either way, the doe and the fawn both look incredibly healthy!  Always a good sign for the deer herd.