Thursday, March 29, 2012

Something exciting...

If all goes well, there will be an exciting new post this weekend. Anyone want to take a guess as to what it could be?

Hint: hunting related

Friday, March 23, 2012

Maine Maple Sunday

This Sunday is Maine Maple Sunday! In 2011, Maine produced 360,000 gallons of maple syrup. In order to get 1 gallon of syrup, you need an average of anywhere between 34-42 gallons of sap depending on the concentration of sugar.
For Hubby's birthday, we headed to a friend's house where he has about 5 taps going during the season. This is his set up - metal taps, plastic hoses into 5 gallon buckets.
We then headed to Brian's nephew's sugar house. This place was built in 1954 and there is a small camp right next to the sugar house where they use to sleep while collecting the sap all spring.
Brian's nephew has 700 taps. I tried to get a good picture of the web of tubes but with the sun, none of them came out great. Hopefully you can see the spider-web like set up he has. The sugar house is downhill from all of the trees so gravity helps to keep the sap running. If they need to, they also hook up a generator that creates a suction through the entire system to help get the sap out.
We have had temps in the 80's for the past week or so. Very abnormal Maine weather and because it has been staying so warm, the season has (or will be) incredibly short. Brian has already pulled his 5 taps and instead of normally making about 6 gallons of syrup, he made 2 1/2. In a normal spring, the days are in the 40's and the nights are in the 20's. Cold enough for the sap to move into the branches and then warm enough to move into the trunk and out into the taps. You can see the sap running into the bucket, like water from a tap.
The sap runs into the building, down the pipes and into a table like set up. From there, it flows into this snake set up. Sugar houses are about 110 degrees because you have to keep the fire going constantly (under the table) so that the sap can stay at a boil and the moisture can evaporate, leaving just the maple syrup.
You can see the color change (from right to left) as the sap is boiled down to sugar.
The sugar gets filtered and ready to be bottled and sold at the many festivities that are held throughout the State on Sunday.
Boom! Maine Maple Syrup!

If you are in Maine, get out and support local Sugar Houses! Especially, since they have faced a hard spring. Here is a link to all of the sugar houses that are open to the public this weekend. Go Local!

Monday, March 19, 2012

New gun folks!

This weekend, Hubby got his first real hunting gun. Its a Winchester 270 with a Bushnell 9 power scope. Last year, he was hunting with a borrowed 12-guage. So, with the weather being incredibly nice, and it being DAD's bday(!!!) we headed to the back yard to start sighting in the gun.
First Hubby shot. He took two shots into an empty plastic jug that was propped up on the wood pile at about 60 yards. One shot was a little high and to the left. The other was about 2 inches to the right.
Then Dad decided he needed to try and turned to hubby and said "Lets see if it's the gun or you" and chuckled as he took two shots. Dad's a cool lefty!!! And he was about an inch off the target.
Apparently, the trigger pulls hard so Dad gave Hubby a tip on moving his finger in more, letting the first knuckle pull the trigger instead of the finger tip. With one last shot, and taking Dad's advice into consideration, Hubby sighted in on another target and shot. In the dead center. Dead Deer.

I did not shoot the gun, just played photographer. My trigger finger can only handle one shot per year =) ha!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Me and the Commish: Part 3

This past week, Inland Fisheries and Wildlife released the numbers for the 2011 deer season. It is a perfect pick up point for the rest of my interview with Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner of IFW.

How were the deer & moose numbers compared to 2010?
Overall, about average. The numbers are down a bit but I think that is because of the animals adapting. You can't hunt moose from your truck anymore and expect to be successful. You need to actually get out and hunt; move around a little bit. Animals adapt and somehow they know when the seasons is so they travel. If you are not there when they are moving, you will miss them. The deer numbers are about 20,000 deer. We usually harvest 10% or 11% each year and have about 200,000 hunting licenses out there.

I noticed that this year, the moose lottery is a little bit different. Why?
We did a lot of changes for moose permits. First, we increased the cost from $7 a try to $15. And you can put in only once. The average that someone was spending turned out to be $14.92 so we bumped it up to $15 and called it good. I have already had someone come up to me and complain about the increase. We also changed it so that if you are picked this year 2012, you can not put in again until 2015 (3 years) BUT you can continue to get points on your license. You will fill out the form like you normally would, but you check the box that says you dont or cant get a license this year. That way, folks are keeping and gaining their points. Currently, we have about 4,000 folks at the top tier, who have never been drawn and have the maximum points available. This accounts for less than 10% of the total applicants we get, but we are able to get about 1500 of those people permits each year. With this new system, folks who are on the top tier will have a 34% chance of being picked.

Maine reduced the number of doe permits in 2011 to 26,390, a 46% reduction. Do you think it helped? Will you continue to keep the number lowered and when do you expect to see an impact in the herd?
The first two are yes and yes. We have already seen a small impact with the mild winter. We are taking a multi-pronged approach to this. We are looking at Mother Nature, deer habitat and controlling the harvest. I have heard all sorts of ideas about how we can build the herd up, but the big thing is that the woods we are hunting in now are not the same woods we were hunting 10, 20 50 plus years ago. I want to see the herd numbers back, but I think it will be 10-12 years in order to make a lasting difference. The numbers are not bad everywhere. Islands, Cumberland county and land around Portland have too many deer right now. These areas typically do not allow hunting, the winters are not as harsh and there are less predators.

I contribute directly to the 200 million that is brought in every year in connection with deer hunting. I have heard that out of State licenses are down, presumably because of the assumption that the deer herd is suffering, which means less money coming into the State. What is being done to either correct that assumption or get out of state hunters here regardless of the herd numbers?
I have had people tell me that they are never coming back to Maine to hunt, they won't come because its too expensive (license, gas, lodging etc) and that we favor residents with the Saturday hunt. But you know, we still have some of the biggest bucks around. It is hunting, there are no guarantees that you will see or shoot a deer, but if you want a chance to land a big buck... come to Maine. We had more bucks harvested this year than we projected. I also hear that people will never come back to moose hunt because of the system to get the permits (but we are fixing that) and that they have not seen any moose, so there must not be any. But, we have biologist and scientists who get out there in trucks and airplanes and find the moose. Its a matter of getting our scientific data to mesh with the public perception.

As part of IFW’s Deer Plan, a Deer Predation Advisory Group was created. In IFW’s website, that last update posted was July 26th. What has been happening since? Many people are blaming the coyote population on the deer numbers. Whats being done to fix that?
Coyotes reproduce well and their numbers are high in the State. There is no question that they have played a role in the deer herd's numbers dropping but they are not the only reason. Deer are resistant but a lot of snow make it hard for them to move around and easier to get taken by coyotes. There are clubs around Maine that are now holding coyote competitions; who can shoot the most, biggest etc. It is all helping and we are talking with the clubs and hunters to keep track of the numbers.

This hunting season, Maine had bunch of hunting accident with people and dog being shot. Is there anything IFW can do to work to prevent this? Have stiffer penalties for the hunters (know what you are shooting) and dog owners (take necessary precautions)?
Every hunter should know what they are hunting and looking at before they pull the trigger. In the past few years, it has become legal to be prosecuted for these acts which was not always the case. In the past 30 years, we have had years where 19 people were shot. In regards to the dogs, there has been a lot of talk about the coyote population and it has created an awareness that was not there before, but its not a real excuse.It is all about taking the necessary safety precautions and being smart about it when you are out in the woods.

Virginia just upheld legislation that banned hunting on Sunday and it created a huge debate among sportsman and citizens. Do you see Maine changing its regulations to allow Sunday hunting?
*Laughs* This gets brought up all the time. It is a political discussion. I hear about it at almost every town hall meeting I go to; 'New Hampshire has it, why doenst Maine?' 'Im not going to waste my money to only hunt for 1 day each weekend'. We have talked about it and a lot of landowners do not want it. They threaten to post their land which would have a severe impact on the amount of private land that is open for hunting. Landowners want a day off to not worry about hunters in the woods. And, its an additional cost to have people enforcing the hunting rules for an extra day across the State. I am sure it will keep coming up, but I dont see things changing.

What keeps you up at night?

The missing people we look for, especially the kids. I am responsible for the Warden Service and they are out there searching and searching and I want to make sure things are being done right, thoroughly and that we can find everyone. I also worry about doing the right thing. I took this job because I wanted to be a part of something that could be great. I grew up outside and took from the woods and streams. I wanted to do something to give back to those same resources.

Questions from the blogisphere:

DEDH writes: I'd be very interested in the third coastal waterfowl zone that I just did a survey on, how exactly did DIFW decide to consider this and realistically what will come of it?
Any water fowl changes we make are based on timing and balance of the populations. We know what a significant impact changes like zoning make on the season, the river and the migration numbers. I think at this point, it is just a proposal but we want to make sure we allow everyone the chance to get all of the different water fowl and not be at a disadvantage based on where they hunt or the timing of the hunt.

It is legal to bait coyotes and bear. It is legal to build food plots for deer, but is it not legal to bait deer. Why?
Thats a great question and a tough one. Its a blurry line. You can plant a corn field, build a tree stand on the edge of it and sit there and shoot your buck. But if you take 4 or 5 of those ears of corn and put them in a pile, you are baiting and breaking the law. Its a gray area. Wardens are concerned about enforcing it right now and having people use it for reason that are not right. States that allow baiting are more open usually and they have a big stand in the middle of a field that they hunt from. Maine is not designed like that. We hunt in tighter areas with more trees, more people... maybe in the future it would/could be regulated like bear and coyote but until then...

THANKS to Mr. Woodcock for letting me interview him. And thanks to all of you for reading. Here is a GREAT map of Maine and how many deer were taken per town. My deer came from one of the middle range areas, which is good, I guess. You can clearly see where the herd is strong and where we need to build it back up. Enjoy!

And - I am working on a couple more great interviews talking about hunting and fishing so keep checking back!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Me and the Commish: Part 2

Chandler Woodcock was sworn in as Commissioner as Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IF&W)a little over a year ago. I sat down with him last week and talked about his life as an outdoorsman and what he hopes to bring to IFW in the years to come. This is the first part of our conversation:

How did you get into hunting/fishing?
My grandfather. He was an outdoorsman. My father was not a big fan of the outdoors, so I looked to my grandfather. I started fishing when I was probably 3 years old. I think I started hunting when I was 8. It becomes a part of you; being outside in the woods. It’s a way to relax and unwind and it sticks with you. Folks that hunt and fish get that.

Do your kids hunt/fish?
Everyone fishes (he has 3 daughters, 1 son and 10 grandkids). My son hunts but it’s a family requirement to fish. We do have a rule that you have to be at least 2 to begin fishing because of the hook. I remember taking my son out once and we saw a nice deer, 8 or 10 points. It was big. I took a shot and I know I hit it because of the way he jumped. We sat and waited probably 20 minutes then went after it. There was deep red blood so I knew that I hit him. We searched and searched. My son was in front of me and we came up over a little knoll and there was that deer, broadside, heading up a hill. My son was young and just didnt feel comfortable taking that sort of shot and I wasnt going to shoot over him. The deer snorted and took off so I told my son to sit there and wait in case he circled back and I went after him. I probably tracked him for two miles. I was after my cancer surgery so I got tired quickly and just couldnt keep up. My son and I both agree that we could have taken that deer if I was ahead of him.

Hunters have the youth hunt and the opportunity for apprentice license. Is there anything like that for fishing?
Yes. We have the “Hooked on Fishing, Not Drugs” program and I think because there is no age requirement… you don’t have to worry about carrying a gun like you do with hunting, fishing is much more accessible and open to everyone who wants to try it.

What is IFW doing to engage new outdoorsmen (youth and people of all ages)?
We are working to manage our resources in the State and promote outdoor activities. We work in conjunction with outdoor groups across the State like the Audubon Society and sporting clubs and snowmobile clubs. The more of a partnership we can create with these groups, the stronger and better the outdoor experience will be for folks here in Maine.

Women are the largest growing population to get into hunting. What is IFW doing to capitalize on that?
IFW has a great program called the Becoming an Outdoor Woman. It is a way for women to interact with other women who are active in the outdoors and learn new skills and try new things. I know LL Bean does a lot of great workshops that give people a chance to experience different outdoor activities. In order to attract women and kids, we have to make the resource attractive. For many people, it’s a generational thing and they get into it because they have been taught by a family member. Sports Clubs also do a great job of keeping people engaged. The clubs have shooting ranges and sometimes have competitions to keep people coming back and trying new things.

What would you tell someone who wants to get into hunting/fishing?
Family engagement is best. If they have a relative or immediate family member who hunts and fishes, go with them. Ask them questions. If a person does not have anyone in their family, contact us, contact a local club, go to a sportsman show somewhere in the State and see one of the seminars that are offered there. Like-minded people come to these shows so you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions.

If someone wants to get into a sport – fishing lets say, is there a way for them to try the sport out (rent a pole and gear) before they go out and spend the money to get their own equipment?
The clubs are the best way to go or going with someone who has equipment and knows that they are doing. It can be dangerous if you go out by yourself. There is always the opportunity to hire a guide to take you out and we have great guides working in the State. Anyone who wants to get outdoors and learn about a sport can. We have great resources that should be explored and shared.

How does a winter like the one we just had impact IFW?
HA! I have made the mistake of telling people what a great winter it was. For the deer herd, it was great. We can have a say in controlling predators and working to keep the herd healthy but we cannot control the weather. A mild winter is great for the herd; they can still travel, find food and do not need to worry about the deep snow which makes them more vulnerable to coyotes. From an economic standpoint, it was a killer for Maine. Snowmobile clubs struggled and the perception was that there was no snow but after this last storm when we got a solid foot of it, there is still a decent amount of snow in the woods. Especially up north. But any business dealing with winter recreation has had a hard season.

Will Central Maine Power's expansion throughout the State (they are increasing capacity and widening the powerlines through the State. (My tree seat is on a piece of land that is being cut for the expansion) impact the deer herd and the land available for hunting?
CMP is very cautious of where they are cutting and what impact it will have. They do take into account if there are deer yards nearby and cutting can help create good choppings for the deer. It doesnt really effect the food sources; food will grow before and after they cut. They are aware of the wildlife in the areas that they are cutting through.

Land as a recourse is very important to Mainers and to the deer herd. My sister and I will inherit a lot of land from my parents. What is IF&W doing to educate and steward private land owners about the importance to protecting key habitats?
As a state agency, I don't, can't and won't tell private owners what to do with their land. We can offer conservation advice but we wait for landowners to come to us and ask. We work with foresters, agriculture experts, field managers and wildlife specialists to offer the best advice and help we can to private landowners. Our best hope is that people, like your parents, will instill the importance of conservation to their kids and it will be passed down from generation to generation. We are more than happy to work with landowners because we all agree and want to support the wildlife in Maine.

Coming up, Part 3 and details about the deer and moose hunt impact on Maine, hunting on Sundays plus, the answers to your questions.

Friday, March 9, 2012

A little homework

Perfect timing. As I am writing up Mr. Woodcock's answer to my question about the mild winter, I see this link pop up on my Twitter feed about exactly that topic.

Lets consider this a little homework for those of you who are going to read my interview with the Commissioner. Part 2 will be posted maybe Sunday (hubby's birthday) or Monday.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Me and the Commish, Part 1

There is nothing better than swapping hunting stories with another hunter. It’s a part of the Maine (and hunting) culture that connects one generation to another. A story can bond people, no matter how diverse their backgrounds are. I don’t know of any other culture in which I could strike up a conversation with someone twice my age from the backwoods of Maine and the next day compare riffles with a business owner who travels around the world. I am under 30 and female. And because I hunt, I am a part of a tradition that transcends sociopolitical, economic and physical boundaries. I belong to a club that lets anyone join and listens enthusiastically to everyone’s stories.

I revamped this blog because I was interviewed by the Rabid Outdoorsman back in October about being a woman who hunts and writes about it. Since then, I have thought about what interests me and how to keep those of you who read this blog more often than others, entertained. In a blog post from January, I set a goal to interview the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Chandler Woodcock.

I met Mr. Woodcock my freshman year of high school. He was my English teacher (Disclaimer: my spelling, grammar, punctuation etc. were bad before he got to me and many others have tried since, so please don’t hold all of my errors in this post and others against him). Fun fact about Mr. Woodcock… he use to go bowling with us. There was a group of 2 or 3 guys and me who were on a league (don’t judge, I have trophys!) and every once in a while, Mr. Woodcock would go bowling with us after school. In order to get into his head, I took a campaign bumper sticker and black electrical tape and made an “Anti-Woodcock” shirt. It worked, I won and he asked that I come into his classes throughout the next day and show them this piece of art. I obliged but had kids all day giving me a hard time because ‘how could I not like the guy???’

Fast forward some years and Mr. Woodcock is the Commissioner of IFW and took time out of his busy schedule to let me ask him a few questions about hunting in Maine for this little blog.

Over the course of the next week, I will post the great conversation Mr. Woodcock and I had about hunting, issues facing the Maine outdoors, the goals that he hopes to achieve in the next 5-10 years and what keeps him up at night.

Stay tuned... its good stuff!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I got the interview!

I am interviewing Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife tomorrow!!!

Last chance if there is a question you want me to ask him! I will break the interview into 3 blogs throughout the next week or so. So stay tuned and let me know if you have a topic you want me to address.

Thanks everyone!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Off topic: Hardy Girls

This past week, it was made official. I was elected to the board of Hardy Girls Healthy Woman. Its an organization that works to empower girls.

The organization creates successful programs that we spin out for other partner groups to use across the country and world. I have only attended one meeting (and it was online because of the massive snowstorm we got last week) but I am super excited to be working with this organization. My parents never said I couldn't do something. They asked how I was going to do it. They made me think, work hard and prove that I could accomplish anything that I set out to do. If I can do that for other girls, then I will be happy.

One program that HGHW offers is called Adventure Girls (perfect, right?!?!). Adventure Girls is described as: An interactive program for girls in grades 2-6, Adventure Girls gives girls the opportunity to meet once a month with women who are defying gender stereotypes and challenging notions of what a girl or woman “should” do or be. Adventure Girls brings girls together with college mentors and women facilitators to learn how mountaineers, race car drivers, boat captains, and other daring women chose to do what they do and how they've found the courage to follow their dreams

I think this is one of my favorites as, here I am, writing a blog about hunting in Maine.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Step 1: Cut off Antlers

I priced out having someone else mount my antlers for me and decided that Dad and I can handle it. We are independent like that. So on Saturday, we cut off the antlers to my deer to begin making the mount for them.

Leah had no idea what this was, but she was willing to go nose to nose with it. Then, Dad moved it and she took off running. Silly dog.

Dad's telling me to stop taking pictures and help hold the head.
You can see my tree seat on the left.
Action shot. One handed! and taken 3 months to the day that I shot him.

We each held up our antlers, mine from last year (we remeasured and they have a 13.25 inch spread) and Dad's from the 6-pointer the year before. He joked (I think) that the gloves are coming off next season and its every (wo)man for themselves. Hubby suggested we take a fighting photo. Don't we look mean??

I now need to figure out what step 2 is. I know I need to get the hair off the top of the scull, I just don't know how. Research!

While we were holding our antlers, we saw all sorts of common traits and couldn't help but wonder if they had some of the same genes. I will brush up on my Boone & Crockett scoring and take better pictures and we can compare in a future blog.