Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

In addition to this and my determination to find him, I have a few other goals that I am hoping to achieve in 2014!

* Take up muzzle loading.  Blog coming, but I shot my first one right before Christmas.

* Write some real thought provoking blogs for you folks.  I have a couple doozies that I am working on right now!

* Shoot a turkey.  I tried last spring, but I want to shoot one this year - spring or fall, I don't care.

That is all for now but Happy New Year! and may 2014 be fantastic.

Monday, December 30, 2013

What I learned about being a hunting mom

1. My child cries/moans in his sleep! Seriously - see #6.  Is this normal?  Who knew?

2. I needed to bring a lot of gear with me!  My hunting clothes, my 'normal clothes', his toys, his clothes, his bedding, his food... I'm glad I have an Outback!

3. Bringing the wrong "flow" bottle top could alter how quickly he goes to sleep.  Slow flow - forces him to slow down and puts him to sleep.  Rapid flow - drinks too fast and throws up.  And is not tired.

4. I had to make sure to pack enough diapers, food and clothes.

5. Don't forget the bathtub - routine is important! I forgot to bring this the first weekend and our bedtime routine was not the same.

6. You really can stay awake in a tree stand after 2-4 hours of sleep! It helped that it was so cold that I feared hypothermia.

7. Sometimes grandparents can get kids to do things moms can't - like eat all of their peas.

8. There really is guilt associated with being a hunting mom!  I didn't necessarily feel bad about leaving him (I had to deal when I started taking him to daycare) but I felt guilty having my mom watch him every time we went out.  Disclosure: Mom said she had withdrawals the first weekend after hunting was over. Still, there is guilt.

9. I can't just think about me.  I use to be able to check in with friends if I was up in the area to go hunting.  I can't run out for coffee if I have to put the baby down starting at 6:30.

10.  There is nothing better than following my Dad and knowing that in a couple of years, he will be teaching Owen the same stuff he has been teaching me!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The one who lived another year...

He may have won this year, but after Dad went scouting on the first few snow falls, we are pretty sure he is still out there.  Until next year...

Thursday, December 19, 2013

On writing and new opportunities

I have been writing this blog for about four years now.  In that time, I have gained a lot of outdoor friends and lost a couple outdoor friends (I'm better off without the drama.) I have learned about hunting issues in Maine and looked beyond deer hunting to bear, coyote and turkey. I have been able to reconnect with friends who are now working for Inland Fisheries & Wildlife as well as meet new friends who helped me get a better idea of what was going on and what the impact was, as I sat in on legislative hearings regarding new potential laws to the Maine outdoors.

In my writing, I have always strive to be unique, honest and to the point.  I don't always do a good job of editing (I am working on that, I promise!) but I am improving and growing as an outdoors woman and as a writer.

In this process, I had the opportunity to blog for a state-wide newspaper.  My excitement and willingness was short lived as I (and others) were bounced from one editor to another to another.  I would inquire about getting more promotion for my posts and try to have timely and interesting materials that would be worthy of a Facebook post or a retweet.  But after a staff writer copied three of my blogs topics and posted and promoted his work, usually done within a week of my original posts, I decided that enough was enough.  I went back and forth with my editor and was told that because we write about hunting and the Maine woods, that we were bound to have similar articles.  I struggled about how I felt about the situation and my writing integrity.  I asked friends and fellow bloggers about it.  I wanted people to read my work because it was a reflection on my thoughts, experiences and feeling towards hunting and Maine. One week later, I gave my notice.

But, when one door closes...

I had been contacted by the editor of a hunting magazine back in January about writing for him because he wanted more women's voices.  I couldn't follow through then because I was four months pregnant and trying to stay awake past 5pm and function as a human was a daily challenge. 

Fast forward ten months and at a sportsman's show in October, I reconnected with the editor and we once again started talking about me writing for him.  After a few emails and an official query, I am the newest writer for the Northwoods Sporting Journal!

Beginning with the January issue, I will write a monthly column called "Woman in the Woods."  I am excited to reach a new group of outdoor folks and look forward to them stopping by Coffee to join in on our conversations!

I want to send a huge THANK YOU to each and every one of you who read this blog and comment on my adventures.  I really appreciate you supporting me as I grow as a writer and as an outdoors woman.  I hope you will keep reading and sharing this adventure with me!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Back to the beginning

Our first tree house.

During the last two weekends of hunting season, we headed over to the spot where it all started!


While Hubby and Dad decided to still hunt on the mountain, I needed a place to sit.  Dad said that our original tree house was still safe if I wanted to go there.  He advised me that the roof (made of canvas) had caved in a bit and that could pose an issue.  I hate to be on the ground and trying to hunt, so I figured I would take my chances.

When I approached the stand the first time, it looked good.  Not as good as it did when we first built it seven years ago, but stable and strong.

When Dad and I built it, (this was our first attempt at a tree stand), we haphazardly nailed boards to the tree to make steps.  They were not even distances apart nor did they have any extra room for larger boots. Climbing up them again had me wondering what kind of limber monkeys we thought we were back then.  It was a sketchy climb up but I made it.

Once I wiggled my way inside and got my gun in, I realized how slanted the box had become. From the start, it slanted forward a bit but this was more than I remembered.  I moved the stool as close to the tree as possible so that I was on the highest - and most stable- part of the stand.

The roof was usually propped up with a wooden stake.  I remember one morning, I hit the stick and the roof collapsed on us.  Even though it had partially collapsed, I realized that we had put in a good effort to keep up.  Wood and metal combined to prop the wooden stake up but age and weather had jammed the stake sideways.

Either way, as I sat in the upper most corner, the roof created a block from the wind, which was great, but it also blocked my vision if any deer were moving away from Dad or Hubby.  I couldnt rely on sound since the wind was still gusting pretty good.

Looking past the block to my right
Looking past the block to my left

View in front of the Tree Stand
View in front of the Tree Stand
Each time the wind blew, the stand would shift and creek and I would lean against the tree a little more.  It was nice to be blocked by the canvas and still have somewhat of a good view.

Between gusts, I heard footsteps.  Definitely footsteps.  They were coming from my right but I could not see any deer.  I was afraid that they had walked in but turned and walked up the mountain instead of walking through the gap in front of me.  I kept an eye and ear out as best I could and waited.

It was a great spot!  Half way down the mountain, surrounded by oak and beach trees with a stream running off to my left.  I shot my first deer from this stand - and being back in it, made me realize how impressive it was that Dad and I both fit into it and had room to get my gun into position to shoot.  But, this is where it all began.  This was the spot where I became a successful hunter.  This is where Dad and I spent hours during my first real season, talking about hunting and the deer herd in the area.

A few hours after climbing into the stand, Dad came to get me.  It had been him who I had heard walking and not a deer.  We reminisced about my first hunt, where the spikehorn had come in from, where I had shot him and where he had died.  I told Dad that I wanted to rebuild the stand and make it more sturdy for us to hunt from next year.

I dont know if we will or not, but the memories from this spot are wonderful. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Well played, Bambi. Well played.

This is what 7* looks like
7 degrees.  7 flippin degrees is what the thermometer read when we headed outside on Friday morning. I was as bundled up as possible with hand and toe warmers.  Hubby headed to the Sky Condo with instructions to start walking around 7:30am.  Dad dropped me off at our newest tree seat and he took off to make a loop around me.  The plan was for Hubby to come from the right, Dad from the left and me, in the middle, shooting any deer that happened to get jumped.  If it had antlers, it was going down.

When it is this cold, I go into owl mode where I really don't move much more than my eyes.  Plus, I had on so many layers, I could barely move.  Ready for this: 3 pairs of socks with toe warmers, snowmobile boots, 3 layers of long johns under my wool pants and 7 layers on top including my awesome red and black plaid wool jacket.  Plus my neck warmer and hat.  When it wasn't breezy, it actually wasn't too bad.

There were gray squirrels, a red squirrel, chick-a-dees and nuthatches all hanging out with me as the dawn broke and more and more area became visible.  There were no shots early but an hour after legal hunting hours, a shot rang out in front of me.  It was in about the same area as where Dad shot the coyote last year.  It had to have been Dad!!!

The view from my seat, waiting for movement
I uncovered my fingers and dug out my cell phone waiting for the call to come.  2 minutes... 5 minutes... 17 minutes and nothing.  Crap!  I went back to owl mode and waited for the sun to reach me.  Around 8:30 or 9, Dad emerged from the woods.   He was carrying his wool jacket and his orange hat sat high on his head.

Was that you?

Yeah. That doe and pair of lambs were out eating corn. You could tell they have never been shot at because the lambs never moved.

What happened?

I dunno.  I missed.  He shook his head and I could tell he was mad at himself.  We met up with Hubby and headed to a new spot.   I sat again and got cold again.  Even the walking didn't totally warm we up.  But I went to a new spot and sat while the guys went walking.

Lunch came and went.  Dad and Hubby saw a few deer either running from them or blowing in thick spots where they could not not make out a good shot.   It got up to 28* when we went in for lunch and I made sure I was bundled back up for the night hunt. 

We went over to the mountain for the first part of the afternoon.  I dropped Dad off along the roadway for him to walk up the east side of the mountain.  I drove the truck a little further and dropped Hubby off so he could walk up the front of the mountain, then drove another mile or two into the woods and parked the truck, loaded up and headed up to the original tree house.

It was nice to sit up there and be out of the wind.  I waited for a couple of hours before Dad appeared.  We headed back down and picked Hubby up.  When he got into the truck, he said that two hunters had followed him up the mountain.  Awesome! Two men with guns, trespassing!!!!  Hubby had quickly gotten to the top of the mountain and waited for Dad to meet up with him.  If it had been me, I would have marched towards them (I know, I know) and asked them if they had landowner permission.  Since I knew they did not, I would assume they would say yes or there would be an awkward pause, at which point, I would have said, "You know, Bob.  Tall guy with blonde hair who owns this land" and when they agreed with me, I would tell them that my Dad (who NO ONE would describe like that) owns the land and they needed to go.  My willingness to fight is why Dad wouldn't let me go yell at the guy last year who trespassed.

We ended the day back where we started and headed out when it was dark.  Nothing.

The view from the Sky Condo
When I woke up Saturday, I immediately went to the thermometer.  4*!  It was colder than the morning before.  It was the last day of rifle season so not going out was not an option. When Dad got up, I announced that I would be sitting in the Sky Condo with the heater. 

The ground was frosted and it was loud walking in.  It was actually so cold that the trees were snapping themselves and faking us out, thinking that there were deer coming.  As the morning went on, I hugged the heater more and more.

The sun had just started to hit the back portion of the field when Dad stepped out of the woods and headed towards me.   He stood at the bottom of the stand and talked with me, waiting for Hubby to show up.  He had not seen any deer but had seen a couple new stands and saw a few more hunters.  We waited a little longer before I sent Hubby a text to find him and get him to come back to the Sky Condo.   When the group was together, Dad jestered to have us get going to another spot.

No way!  Im sitting here with this heater!

The guys left and headed to the next spot to hunt.  The sun was still trying to inch its way across the field and onto the SC.  I huddled around the heater and rattled the set of antlers we had there.  Nothing.  I tried the bleet.  Nothing.   Then, poof! My heater ran out of propane.

For the next two hours, I used an extra pair of toe warmers to keep my hands cold.  My nostrils and eyelashes were freezing and I could feel the condensation melt when I closed my eyes.  As much as I tried to say it was just the cold air, my nose began to plug - but just one nostril.  I wasn't getting sick!

The minute I saw Dad appear again, I was down from the Sky Condo and in the sun!  It felt good to get some warmth on me.  Dad and I did a bit of scouting at the back of the clearing where deer usually traveled.  There were lots of signs, hooking on a few bushes and a clear trail.  Just no deer.  We waited for Hubby to meet up with us (he is new to the hunting area and still learning how to not get lost when we give him directions like 'follow the skidder trail' or 'stay on the old snowmobile trail til...' or even 'when you hit an old choppin' that looks like a jungle, stay right'.)

 After lunch (which we didn't get to until 1pm) we headed back over to the mountain.  At this point, my 'frozen' nostril was not thawing very well and my throat was a little dry.

A shot looking at the path that takes me down off the mountain.
I told Dad that I wanted to sit back in the SC after we hunted on the mountain.  Hubby and Dad dropped me off and I walked up the mountain to my tree house.  They took a new (old) hauling road and were going to come out above me and walk down to get me. 

The afternoon wore on and the sun started to go down. I figured we were going to be done soon and not go sit.   I was ok with it because I was eating Vit C drops non stop. My nostril was stuffed now and I could feel the drain of getting up early (and having a baby sleep in the same room with you) throughout the season.  Bambi had bested us.

The sun had just dropped below the trees when I heard crunching.  I tightened my hands around my gun and moved to look... it was Dad.

He had jumped 5 deer on the slope but they ran in the wrong direction.  He had run along a side road in an attempt to make enough noise and force the deer down towards me, but they outran him and were not going to be easily swayed by one man.  Dad had instructed Hubby to go back down the way he came up and meet us at the bottom.   Dad showed me a few fresh tracks that had gone right past the tree house and we walked over to the spot where I had shot my first deer.  There were deer around but we were not meant to get one this year.  Mother Nature was keeping us humble.

Although we had a third person join us, Dad and I ended the season the same way we started it.  Together, walking in the woods.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

How to hunt with three people

For the past 10 1/2 seasons, we have been a two hunter show.  I sit, Dad walks and we either find deer or move to a new spot. This time Hubby came along and it added new challenges for us.

Dad and I have three seats up and decided that we would each get a spot to sit during the first few hours of Saturday morning.  We put Hubby in the Sky Condo because he has not hunted/shot from a tree seat and we have some tiny/slanted seats that Dad and I are used to.  It seemed a little awkward to try and get everyone in place early enough so that the last person was sitting at an early enough time to beat the deer moving.

At 5 am, we were out the door and heading into the woods.  The wind was flipping COLD!!! I was my normal, bundled up self and I was comfortable as we walked in.   Dad dropped me off in my tree seat, dropped Hubby off at the Condo and headed up to our third spot.  Dad said I could head out of the woods around 10, get Hubby and meet him at the truck around 11.  I was settled in and bundled up.  The wind was so bad that you could not hear anything. 

The weekend before, I had made an unwlecomed friend in the neighborhood red squirrel.  He was chirping on the tree next to me and when I made an attempt to scare him off, it only made him more curious and he climbed my tree, chirped and made weird guttural noises at me.  When he was eye level on the side of the tree, I stood and rattled my tree seat's bar.  It made me blow any and all hope of having a deer come in, but at that point, I wanted him gone.  On Saturday, the little 'friend' was back but he apparently knew it was me and didn't bother me.

I knew Hubby was not really dressed to sit for hours so at 9 am, I walked up to the Sky Condo to share my hand warmers.  Hubby was frozen!  At 9:45, Dad was at the Sky Condo.  Two hunters had walked right past him and never saw him.  Knowing that if there were deer in the area, they would have jumped them on to him, Dad got down and headed towards my seat.  He found a hunter standing in the trail, just below the furthest point I can see down a shooting lane.  Too many hunters, too close to where we were... so we headed to a new, old spot that let Hubby and Dad walk while I sat.

The afternoon past quickly and Hubby and I sat in the Sky Condo while Dad went back to where he started.  No deer.

We are seeing SO many scrapes and rubs - some of which are new or being worked on a regular basis.  From the pictures on our cameras, the deer are still moving around at night and not in the early morning or early afternoons.  I really hope that something snaps and the rut starts soon so that we can get some meat in the freezer.

Hubby, Dad and I are going out again this weekend - and maybe Thursday afternoon.  Dad has a doe permit so as much as he didnt want to shoot a doe by the Sky Condo (to keep the bucks coming), I think we have reached the point where if its a deer, it's going to be shot.

Wish us luck!!! 

And HAPPY THANKSGIVING ALL!!!  I am so thankful that you stop by to read my blog, comment and share your hunting experiences with me.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanks for the company

It was definitely not the best day of hunting we have ever had.  We had planned to skip Friday afternoon so that Hubby could come up with me, but thanks to an illness, he didn't come and I missed the opportunity to catch the last couple of hours with Dad in the woods.

With the moon almost full, Dad and I figured that we would walk in extra early on Saturday and get set up before the deer started moving.  My 4 am wake up call (Mom coming to wake me up so an alarm does not wake the baby up) came at 4:26.  I have never jumped out of bed and dressed so fast!  The problem is that I sit when I hunt, so I dress in many, many... many! layers.  It also means that it takes me more than 30 minutes to get dressed so that I dont get over heated and sweaty before I leave the house.  Not that Saturday.  I was sweating and rushed.  A bad combo.

The moon had disappeared behind thick clouds by the time we started along the roadway.  We got the flashlight out and rounded the corner.


Leaves crunched off to our right.  My mind raced.  If we could get to the Sky Condo, then we could get ahead of this deer. Dad stopped. We listed and heard more steps.  We continued on our path towards the Sky Condo then stopped again.  More steps in the leaves to our right.  It was as though this deer was walking with us to the Sky Condo.  We continued on and as quietly as we could, climbed into the Sky Condo and waited to see if the deer would appear.

Dad walking from one stand to another
He never did.  The rest of the day was spent dealing with some surprising guests and looking for a good buck.   We found a lot!! of scrapes and some rubs. It is very clear that there are a handful of bucks around and marking their scent in as many locations as possible.

Three trees with varying levels of rub marks

A scrape and rub probably belonging to the spike

Saturday was a perfect day to be out in the woods because it was so quiet.  A deer could have stepped out at any moment, but none did.  We ended the weekend without seeing any meat to bring home.  We know there are plenty of deer around, we just need to figure out how to be in the right place at the right time.

Monday, November 18, 2013

So much for respectable stand placement

Dad has hunted on the land that houses the Sky Condo for the better part of his life. About six years ago, we built the SC and started hunting there full time.   At that time, there were no other hunters near by.  A few years ago, a hunter bought a bordering piece of property, re-did the old camp that was there and brought his buddies along. 

We haven't had a lot of incidents with them (trespassing last year, putting pink ribbon on my tree seat and lying to us when we asked them what they shot - a search through the list at the tagging station said an 8-point buck). 

Two years ago, Dad bought a piece of land that is separated from the Sky Condo property by a powerline and a driveway that is privately owned by our hunting neighbor.  The land was bought in May and once October came, our neighbor put a treestand up along the edge of the powerline, facing our new piece of property and right next to our traveling path.  We were cautious from that point on, making sure we were not seen as we crossed from the powerline and into the woods.  We never saw anyone actually sit in the stand.  Until this year.

After reviewing the pictures on our trail cameras, Dad and I figured we would head down to my tree seat mid-morning.  As we made our way down our path, Dad stopped suddenly and pointed to the treestand.  A blob of orange sat there.  We backtracked and went elsewhere.

In the afternoon, we were prepared to walk right past the stand, hunter or no hunter, and go immediately into the woods and then travel to where my seat is.  But, no one was there.  Still, from now on, we will have to strategize how we get from point A to my tree seat.  Our hunting neighbor has other treestands along the powerline and we are polite and stay clear of them.  It is how you hunt; have courtesy for those around you. Apparently, they did not get that memo.

Next weekend, I will be walking down the powerline in the dark so that I am settled in my seat before sun up.  It's unsettling to think that there could be someone so close to where I will be walking. I will make sure that I have a very bright flashlight and I may even talk to myself or sing so there is no question that I am not a deer.

So, what is your take on this?  How disrespectful is our neighbor?  Would you put a stand up where you knew other hunters travel?  Am I totally blowing this out of proportion? 

Friday, November 15, 2013

This Moment

A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Half a deer just won't cut it

The minute my mom got home and could watch the baby, Dad and I were in the woods.  That morning, Dad had pulled the chips from the cameras so we could see what was still around after week 1.  The group of 5 does were still around and coming to the apple trees on a regular basis.  There was one picture of what looked like the small crotch horn and then... that 8 point buck! For the entire week, he would come back to his scrape every other night.  He checked it around 6 pm, ate for about 30 minutes and would come back around 4:30 am to check the scrape again.  He was the most frequent deer on the camera!!!

When Dad and I headed into the woods, I could only think about that deer. 

"When he comes out, just say its him and I'll get him" I told Dad.

We got settled in the Sky Condo and waited...waited...waited.  We were checking all of the possible trails as it changed from bright and colorful to black, white and gray.  A small wind kept things just noisy enough that we could not rely on our ears to hear anything coming in.  I leaned forward to look beyond Dad.

"There is a deer!" I whispered.  "It's coming this way.  I just saw the back end of him"

Dad lifted his binoculars and started looking for movement in the trees.  I shifted and brought my gun up to rest on the window ledge of the Condo.

"I don't see anything"  Dad kept looking into the woods for movement but could not find the deer.  If there really was a deer, it never showed itself.

We hit the end of legal hunting time and headed back empty handed.

The next morning, I was up early and ready to go.  I wanted to make sure that the minute we hit legal hunting time, I would be ready for that deer to check his scrape again.  There was a small breeze still but we were hopeful that a snap would still be heard.  It was the first weekend back in the woods since we turned our clocks back, so it felt like it took a long time for the sun to come up.

Just before dawn, I saw a deer! Just a quick flash of the white antlers as he put his head down to graze. They looked small, maybe the spike or crotch horn again. I slapped Dad's knee

"Deer! Right up against the tree line!"

Dad got his binoculars out and I got in position, lifted my gun, looked through the scope and aimed at the spot where the deer would step out.  I wanted to be ready if I decided to take him.  I could see the brown body and the outline of his tail.  I kept looking through my scope.  My heart was pounding and I tried to take deep breaths without making noise to calm myself down and steady my shot.  He still had not stepped out.

"Where is he?"

"I think he walked up into the woods"

"Should I try my bleet?"

Three calls on the bleet and nothing.  The deer never stepped out beyond the tree but had turned and calmly walked into the woods.   We waited another hour and then headed to a new spot.  Dad left me and made a big loop trying to catch up with the deer we had seen earlier.  He jumped one deer but the cool thing he found was a rub.  A rub on a tree that he could barely get his hands around.  A monster rub that I can only assume belongs to my monster buck.  Dad finds a lot of cool things when he walks.  Some day, I will ask him to take a camera with him and document all of these things!

But, our day went on and ended quietly.  No deer in the afternoon or evening.  We ended week 2 empty-handed but still hopeful that a cold snap or the onset of the rut could get that 8 pointer moving more frequently. 

This weekend, we will only hunt on Saturday instead of Friday afternoon due to some scheduling issues and the fact that for the first time EVER, we are bringing along a 3rd person!  Hubby is coming hunting with us.  I told him he was not allowed to shoot that 8 pointer this weekend and he just laughed. Dad and I need to figure out the logistics for a 3 person hunt; Hubby has not hunted from a tree stand and one of mine is too small for him.  I would stick him in the Sky Condo and go sit in another seat but with him as eager to land that 8 pointer as I am, I dont think I want to share that potential good spot.  It's game on!


Thursday, November 7, 2013

New Season, New Challenges

I was so worried about my son waking up in the middle of the night and subsequently waking up my parents, that I barely slept. This was our first overnight and every little whimper had me ready to jump out of bed and make him a bottle. When I got up at 4:30 it seemed as though I had just gone to bed. But it was opening day and there were deer to find!

Dad and I had looked over the memory cards from our cameras the night before. Dad asked me to keep track of how many bucks I saw in the photos. One spike, one crotch horn, another spike, a small six (maybe) pointer, two more crotch horns, a NICE, wide six-pointer and a bunch of does. More does. The same does. Turkeys. Grass. Grass. A coyote (boo!) and then... a perfect, beautiful, thick 8-point buck eating grass in front of the Sky Condo. I think he is my ghost deer! I will grab camera photos next week, but he was incredible. His antlers are symmetrical, he has thick shoulders and I want to shoot him very badly! I have my target all picked out.

So, Saturday morning, Dad and I headed to the Sky Condo in the dark. There was only one problem. Dad was sick. To quote Mom, this was probably the "second time in twenty-five years" that he has been sick. Exhausted, coughing, congested and with a runny nose, Dad walked into the woods with me. The smell of cherry would linger in the wind with each new cough drop he ate.

We waited for first light. The sun started to come up but there was no movement in the woods. The does that we had been seeing were the same group from last year (I think) and we knew the area that they stayed in. Instead of moving to my tree seat, I opted to go to the stand that we put up last year. It's narrow and the bar is a lot lower than what I am use to, but I hada feeling that if those deer are not by the Condo, they were up there. I was right! We jump them as we crested the hill. They snorted, blow and bounced away from us. Dad has a doe permit and could shoot one, but he said that he wants to leave them so the bucks stay around. I can only shoot a buck.

Scrape at the bottom of my tree stand
It was slow moving and warm in the sun. Dad drooped me off and pointed out a scrape less than 10 feet from the bottom rung of the seat.

I climbed up and started the watch.

There were a group of turkeys that came in for a few minutes and I got reeducated on how loud a single grey squirrel can be.   Finally, I saw a spike horn but he was just walking through the small gap at the end of my shooting lane.  I didn't want to shoot him but it was nice to know that the deer were still where we thought they were.

I heard Dad cough before I saw him.  He was walking back from where the spike was, but he never saw him.  He did jump a doe and a crotch horn.  He said that he would have shot him but then remembered that I wanted the big deer. 

I was (and am) torn about that.  As much as I really want that 8-pointer, or even that wide 6-pointer, I want meat in the freezer first and foremost.  I told Dad that he could have shot him. Maybe next time.

At lunch, Dad ate half of what he normally eats so I know that he still doesn't feel good.  It was really warm when we headed out after lunch.  I sat while Dad walked a bit.  Our goal was to get back to the Sky Condo in enough time to be settled as the light started to fade.  There was rain coming and we were hoping for some movement. 

On our way back, Dad had to stop more often to rest.  When we made it, he draped himself over the edge and tried to take a nap.  He would have laid down on the floor, but it was wet from rain the night before.  I wanted to called it.

Dad, lets just go in

No, it's a good night.  I will be ok.

Thirty-minutes later.

Dad, this is stupid.  We are going in.  It is just the first weekend.  You need to be healthy to drag my deer out of the woods!


We were home by 3pm.  Dad is recovering and should be better for this weekend.  I was able to get home and get my son to bed at his normal bedtime, which was a plus for all of us.

It was not a great opening day, but we saw deer.  This week, we will be out Friday afternoon and all day Saturday.  I am hoping for that 8 pointer, but I will take the wide 6.  My goal is to have a complete set of (even) racks; I have a spike horn (my first), a 10-pointer and the crotch horn that I shot last year.  I need a 6 and 8 point rack to complete the set.  If I shoot the 8-pointer, any of those crotch horns could be 6 pointers next year =) 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Maine's Deer Herd in 2013

I recently sat down with Kyle Ravana, the state’s deer biologist, to talk about what his goals are for the deer herd, what challenges he sees ahead and he answers the question: “Would you rather have a warm winter that is easy on deer or a harsh winter that kills off a lot of deer ticks?”

Maine Biologist, Kyle Ravana

You took over this position in February. What are your goals for your first year on the job?

I really want to get familiar with the job, the materials that we have and the current deer data. I’m diving into the management systems that we have and looking at what our strengths and weaknesses are. I have been researching how other states work with their deer herds and what works or doesn’t work for them in terms of management. Places like New York and Vermont as well as Canadian providence’ like New Brunswick all face the same climate challenges that we face here in Maine.

I have also been talking to regional biologists and hearing their opinions and suggestions on what they want to see in their areas of the state. I want to make myself available to the public and really get out there and talk to stake holders and hear what their issues and concerns are. We are all invested in a healthy deer herd and I want to hear about it.

What about your five year plan?

In 2015, we will be in our planning phase of the deer work plan. The last time we did this was in 2000 and we put together a comprehensive plan on where we wanted the herd to be in 15 years. Now, it is time to look at where we are and where we want to be in another 15 years. The public is a critical part of the plan and I want to learn about the goals and issues that people have when it comes to hunting, viewing and the overall total of deer in their area. When the plan is done, it will lay out how we want to shape the deer herd in terms of health, harvest numbers, and goals for each wildlife management district. I want to make sure that I have as much knowledge and partnerships in place as possible so that we can design a successful new system to meet the needs of the herd over the next 15 years.

What is the current health of the deer herd?

The herd is rebounding really nicely. We have not had a bad winter in a few years, so the population is really coming back. Our buck kill index for the 2012 hunting season is almost above our ten year average. Zones 3 and 6 had their highest buck harvest since 1963.

Maine deer biologist Kyle Ravana and his 2012 buck
I want to get a deer study going (like IFW currently has for the bear population in Maine) and look at the survival percentages for does and fawns, as well as get some regional specific information on our deer. It would be the first time in 30 years that this has been done, but it could really help us to see if there some issues that we might not be aware of right now.

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to keeping the herd healthy and growing?

Weather is a big one. If we have a harsh winter, there is nothing I can do about it but it can have a big impact. Also the loss of habitat has played its part in hurting the well being of local herds or driving them out of the areas where habit loss is an issue. We are constantly working with logging companies and land owners to manage habitat.

Winter is always a variable. Would you rather have a warm winter that is easy on deer or a harsh winter that kills off a lot of deer ticks?

(laughs) Huh. I think I would rather have a mild winter to help the deer. You can always control the population if it gets to be too strong, through more permits being issued or control culls. By controlling the number of deer, you can also control the concentration of ticks.

Anything else that you want the readers to know?

I am glad that people are so passionate about the deer because we can turn that passion into action to help grow a healthy deer herd. What we need to stop doing, is talking about how there are no deer here. I have had people come up to me and talk about how they are seeing deer or more deer on their property than they have in the past three or four years. We need to stop being negative when it comes to our deer population; we went though a normal ebb and flow in our numbers and deer are resilient and bounce back quickly. If we want people from out of state to come back to Maine to hunt, we need to stop talking about the lack of deer and realize that they are coming back stronger than before. It is a great time to get into the woods and hunt deer!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Better to have seen and lost or to never see at all?

Deer season starts tomorrow!!!  Dad and I have had the cameras up seriously for about a month or so.  The excitement of bringing the memory cards home, waiting to see if there are new pictures and then of what... it's almost like Christmas morning for us.  We have three cameras out, two by the Sky Condo and one by my tree seat. One of this year's photos (the last one, below) got Dad and I talking.  Is it better to know what you have out there, even if you never see it? or is the element of surprise better?

For example, here are some photos that we have taken from the trail camera of deer that came, got their photo taken and disappeared.

This buck is right below the Sky Condo

A different buck (look at the tines and width of the rack), 10 minutes later, also at the Sky Condo

This photo was taken near the tree house that Dad and I first built in 2007.

This is the same deer as above
This year's photo.  This is the only photo we have of our ghost deer and he is walking away from the Sky Condo.  He is approx. where I dropped my deer in 2012.

So what is your preference?  Would you rather get some great photos of awesome deer but never see them again or would you rather be surprised when you are out there hunting and a big deer steps out?  I realize that before trail cams, the later was the norm but now that we are spoiled, which do you prefer?

Dad and I start season #11 this year and it will be a totally new experience as we juggle a baby with our hunting schedule.  It should be a great season!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Grand Falls for lunch

After we went to find some Epic Moose, Brian, Robin and I went to have lunch at Grand Falls.  It was a perfect Maine fall day.  The sky was blue, the fall leaves were vibrant colors of orange and red and yellow and the Dead River was pristine.  Brian made us partridge sandwiches with cranberries and walnuts and moose stew.  We washed them down with a beer an soaked up the sun. We could not have picked a more perfect day!

Spencer Stream joining the Dead River

Spencer Stream

Why I love Maine!

The trail to Grand Falls

Grand Falls
Grand Falls

Friday, October 25, 2013

This Moment

{this moment}

A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

A walk in the woods

Thursday, October 24, 2013

More Moose Sarfari photos

Here are a few more photos that I couldn't quite get to fit into my blog.  Enjoy!!!

Robin and Brian

Brian was able to get urine from a bull moose that one of his clients shot the week before.  This is straight moose pee!

Walking into the choppin's

Brian with a call in his pocket and camera set up

Brian racking the trees to sound like a bull

My first moose seen in the woods!

He was a young bull but I would have shot him

Checking out another spot

Moose tracks!

Fall colors

Sunday, October 20, 2013

My Epic Moose

Here is the blog about my trip with Robin and Brian to find moose.  I posted this at my BDN blog about a week or so ago.

Last week, I told you that Robin and I were going with our friend Brian from Epic Adventures, to find moose for a photo safari.  It turned out to be one of the best days I have ever spent in the woods. Brian picked us up at 4:30am and we headed north.  We had coffee and cameras, memory cards, batteries and binoculars. Brian had brought along some snacks and had made us an incredible moose stew and sandwiches for lunch!  We were all set.

I had never seen a moose in its element before.  I have seen them randomly running through fields or one runs through my parents back yard once every five years or so, but I have never seen a moose in the woods.  I was already excited about our adventure, but when we turned off onto a dirt road and came upon a cow and calf, I knew this was going to be a great day!  As daylight broke, we unloaded the truck, grabbed some gear – which included a bottle of actual moose urine, a handmade racking tool that Brian made out of moose scapula, and a modified funnel that Brian uses for calls, and got on our way.
A panoramic view during one of our stops.
From where we were in this photo, we can hear 2 cows and a bull calling back to us.  One cow was calling from our left, towards the pond and 
the other was coming from the direction that we were heading.  The bull was paired up with the first cow in the swamp. 

The temperature was 34 degrees as the three of us began walking down the road and into a chopping.  Brian knows this area well and had been there the night before scouting.  When we made our first call, we heard a cow call back within seconds.  We were in a good spot!  We called a bit, walked a bit and called a bit more. Before too long, we had two cows calling back to us.  Then, we heard a bull!  The short grunts were a welcomed sound and the three of us couldn’t wait to see him.  The longer we listened and called, the more sure Brian became that the bull was paired up with one of our cows.  In order for us to get a good look at him, we needed to move into the woods and challenge him.

We turned and headed into the woods and closer to a small pond, where Brian was sure the moose were hanging out.  We got settled and Brian began calling again. Within minutes, we heard the grunts.  They got closer and closer and before long, Robin and I could see the trees and bushes moving as a small bull came up from the pond.  When he paused trying to smell us, Brian had Robin spray some urine into the air in the direction of the moose to help cover our scent.  As we tried to get some better looks at this bull, there was a loud snap behind us and another moose came towards us!!! They were all around us. We could still hear the cows bellowing and as the first bull moved off, the second bull came into view.

This bull came within 15 yards of us! We could see the whites of his eyes.
I have never seen a moose in the woods.  I have seen cows running through fields and I had one run across my family’s back yard, but I have never seen them in their natural habitat. I was in awe!
Our bull moose coming in closer

Close enough to see his eye

A couple more glances before heading back into the woods

Brian called and racked the bushes.  He sprayed some urine and racked some more.  No one moved.  The bulls swayed his head a little bit and kept walking towards us.  These photos simply do not convey how close this moose was to us!  He would have continued to get closer, but Brian made sure we stayed safe and started talking and waving his arms to get the moose to leave.  When I turned to Robin, I couldn’t tell which of us had the bigger smile on our face.

Brian called a little longer and we continued to hear cows and bulls responding to us. We were in moose mecca!  We heard lots of crashing and slashing in front of us and at one point, even had a cow come charging out of the woods, run right past us and head back down into the bog.  We hoped that there would be a bull behind her, but no such luck.

With smiles on our faces, we headed back out to the truck for a snack and to move on to our next spot.  The sun was shining, the sky was blue and we were alone in the woods with the moose.  It truly was an Epic Moose Adventure!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Live deer camera

I know that I owe you all a couple blog posts, esp one about my epic moose sight seeing adventure... But until then, check out this live deer camera! I would LOVE to see some of these big bucks while I'm in the woods.  Deer season starts for rifles in Maine in just a couple of weeks so I am using this cam as a sort of prep work for me.  Ha!  Enjoy: http://thecrush.tv/deer-cam

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A letter to my non-hunting friends about bear hunting

Hello to all of my non-hunting friends!

I am writing this letter to you because I want to encourage you to become educated on one very important topic that you will be seeing and hearing more about.  It is the issue of bear hunting in Maine.  In the upcoming months, there will be a lot of political spin on the bear issue in Maine.  I want you to feel as though you are getting a real picture of what the issue is before you cast that ballot next November. 

Am I biased?  Yes.  I do not bear hunt but I know enough about it to have a very strong opinion about this issue.  I am hoping that as my friend, you will grant me a few minutes to hear me out on the issue.

First, when you are hunting, there is no guarantee that you will shoot the animal that you are after.  No matter what you do.  When it comes to bear hunting, Maine is the only state that allows three different types of hunting; hounds (you must train dogs to find and then tree a bear), trapping (imagine a circle that you step into and it tightens around you. It only tightens if you pull on it but will not cut into you.  It also loosens up if you don’t pull at it or if you pick at it like you would a knot in your shoe lace.  Legally, you must check on these types of traps daily and each hunter is only allowed one of these traps) and baiting (you leave a barrel of sweets in the woods and hope the bear finds it and keeps coming back).  All of these methods only work if there are bears around and you are in the right place at the right time and choose to shoot the animal.  You are not going to find a bear hunter who will shoot a cub or a sow with cubs.  You won’t.  And if you do, they should not be allowed to hunt.  Period.  

Second, Maine has some of the BEST state biologist around.  Randy Cross is the bear biologist in Maine.  I went with Randy one spring to tag bear cubs and I can assure you that he lives and breathes bears.  He has been working with the bear population in Maine for more than 30 years! He has been studying and learning about the bears here for as long as I have been alive.  Think about that for a minute – that is A LOT of first-hand knowledge on a single population.  When the state biologist tells you that you need to harvest (aka kill) ‘x’ number of bear to keep the population healthy and in check, I believe him.  I trust him. I encourage you to learn more about what Inland Fisheries & Wildlife and the biologists have to say about this issue.

Third, bear hunting is a population management issue that the Humane Society of the United States wants to turn into something different. In some states, it’s legal to shoot deer over bait (like a pile of apples) because they need to keep the population numbers in check. It’s the same thing here for bears.  No one (especially hunters) wants to see an animal be wounded or injured instead of killed quickly when we are out hunting.  It may sound odd but it is true.  A person who wants to see an animal suffer is a not a hunter, they are a sociopath. 

Lastly, trust us! Trust the hunters, outdoors-women and men, Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the biologists and owners of the hunting camps that all rely on a healthy animal population to keep the Maine outdoors as we know and love it.  We are the people who walk the Maine woods and see and love these animals.  We are not an outside interest group who is trying to bully people into voting for their agenda.  Talk to us!  Ask us questions so you can learn more about the topic.  I am more than happy to share with you some great blogs from bear hunters, like my friend Robin, who have first hand knowledge of what is it like to bear hunt.  If you run into someone who is working on the campaign to ban these hunting practices, ask them if they have first-hand knowledge of using these tools.  Ask them to explain their side of the issue to you so that you can be an educated voter when this issue hits the ballot next year.

Thank you for reading my letter and I hope in some ways, it has helped.