Friday, March 27, 2015

Turkey, fish and bone



Finally, after the cold winter it is time to be back in the woods.  I am eager to shake off the winter and get back into the sunshine, nicer temperatures and even play in the mud a little bit. This year spring means turkey hunting, fishing and looking for some sheds on the hunting property.   

This will be my third turkey hunting season and I am hoping that the third time is the charm.  The first year, we called one tom and three jakes in but didn’t bring any meat home.  Last year, I went out with a guide and blew my shot by sitting in a spot that prevented me from shooting to my right.  I did get to see the tom drumming and strutting right towards me but I couldn’t finish the job.  This year will be different; I have all of my camo ready including gloves that I purchased this year, a ThermaCELL ready to go and a few different places and people that I will be going out with in hopes of bringing home one (or maybe two if I am really lucky) turkey.  I will do it this year!

I am also returning to Chet’s Camps in Grand Lake Stream to do some fishing.  It was a great trip last year and I caught a small salmon while trolling with a fly rod.  I am not even close to being a fisherman yet, but feeling the fish bite and the fly rod in my hands… I have to be cautious or I could get sucked into this sport with no hopes of turning back.  Until I am ready for that, fishing trips are the safest way to go.  And who can beat the views from a camp on the water far away from the city and traffic.  Last year I could not get the Wi-Fi to work and it was fantastic.  I am eager to get back there and unwind, relax, visit with Sue and Al and just be in the great Maine outdoors.  Catching a few fish would be a bonus. 



I will find a shed this season.  I have been reading up on tips and what to do and not do.  I would love to find one or the set from either of those big eight pointers that are on the trail cameras.  It would be a great scouting tool and it would be great to see how healthy and big those deer are.  Even the six pointers looked pretty thick through ‘em last fall.  I also want to get a dog at some point this year and begin to train it to find sheds.  There are training kits to buy and Jeremy Moore has a great one that Mark Kenyon spent an entire ‘Wired to Hunt’ podcast talking about.  I hope that by next spring, I have a dog ready to go help me find some sheds. Until then, it’s all me.




 It should be a busy spring for me and I hope the weather is nice enough to get outside and be productive.  It would be great to report back to all of you that I got a turkey, some fish and a few pieces of bone.  Plus, Dad and I have a treehouse to build in preparation for deer season (you can read more about T3 on my blog).  There are so many great things to be doing outside that I am sure that we will be busy!


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Honest Kitchen: When you don't have a garden

Honest Kitchen: Honest, whole food cooked from scratch. Simple, delicious and sometimes from the wild side. Robin, Erin and Michelle often prepare wild game, mushrooms, berries and other foods they harvest, grow or buy locally. Regardless - come cook with us. Copy this paragraph (please leave the links) into your blog and leave your link in comments each Wednesday so everyone can visit.

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My first Honest Kitchen is already a little off.  I am not publishing a recipe although I have a couple ready to go.  Instead, I want to write a little bit about getting prepared for those wonderful local meals when you don't have a garden.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is one of the best and easiest ways to get local produce for your honest kitchen. There are a few things to take into consideration when you are buying into a CSA: how much are you ready to spend? How much food will you need and for me, is it convenient to get each week? 
Partridge nuggets
The cost and amount of food vary with most CGAs and it is based on how much you will get.  I typically get half shares because it give me enough fresh produce for a week with two adults. My son eats a lot but, still under two, he is not knocking off a whole head of broccoli per sitting. And the last thing I want to do it throw away good food.  The first CSA that I got was from Ryan Parker's farm in Newport.  Veggies and fresh eggs every week were heavenly. And I got hooked.

This year, I will be going to Deri Farm and getting my half share.  I can't wait to get fresh veggies and cook 'em up with some venison, turkey (assuming I shoot one) or bear.   Honest kitchen means that there is a commitment to real food with real ingredients. The fewer ingredients a dish has the better and the healthier it is for everyone.

Fresh produce grown by a farmer that you know and can talk to plus meat that I have harvested myself... this Honest Kitchen will be ready to go very shortly!



Tuesday, March 24, 2015

T3 is standing!

No matter what animal I hunt, I always come back to deer.  Hunting predators like bear and coyote are great and I'm eager to check off turkey and moose but I plan my vacations around deer season. 

After getting yelled at last season, we decided to build a permanent structure a little further into woods and close to the same property line.  It was hard to visualize what it would look like and Dad had great plans for our third permanent deer stand. 

He built it in the barn and we tested out sizes, wall height and visibility.  We were going to put it up in late January but time got away from us and February hit bringing about five feet of snow in four weeks.   So instead, Dad used the snowmobile to bring pieces of the stand over to our build spot.
T3 before the roof
Then, a couple of weeks ago, Dad started building. He needed help with the roof so Hubby, Dad and I took the snowmobiles over and lifting it into place.  The stand is a little wobbly but when the snow melts and the ground hardens, we will set some pins and stabilize it.

With the roof!
Roof, porch... what more could you want?
Let me really brag: I will have some shelves, a sun porch, a roof that sticks far enough out in the front to keep any rain away and we will put a heater in there.  Before it's done, we will have gaps plugged, canvas down and carpeting on the back walls to keep it hard inside and keep some heat in. Basically, once we climb into this stand in November, there won't be a need to climb out until we either shoot a deer or the season ends.

The first shooting lane that is open.  There will be a few once we are done.

I am a happy, spoiled deer hunter! 



Friday, March 20, 2015

Part 2: Gimmie the bears!

So we made it to King's den.  Now the fun starts.

Once King was sedated and out, Jake and Mitch got ready to pull the cubs out.  We stood closer to where they were in a semi-circle and watched.  Lisa explained what was happening and the fact that this was more than likely, the first time the cubs had ever seen day light.

Mitch taking the first cub out of the den.
Mitch put the first cub against his chest and let go.  The cub stuck to the wool jacket with it's claws, like Velcro.  Jake handed him the second cub  and Lisa stepped in to help.  As Jake got King ready to come out of the den, Mitch tagged the cubs in each ear, weighed and measured them and described them for Lisa to write down.

Lisa and Mitch holding the cubs.

Mitch weighing the cub as Jake begins to get King out of the den.
Cub tagged 501: male, 5 1/2lbs, white blaze on chest
Cub tagged 502: female, 5 lbs, small white patches on chest, larger patch on right side.

Once the cubs were tagged, they were passed around.  They smelled like dirt and were soft and cuddly like a puppy.  They were both trying to snuggle and get warm again but were not opposed to climbing onto our shoulders to look around and be in a higher position.




 Finally, King was taken out of the den.  Mitch and Lisa weighed her (152lbs) and took hair samples, checked her teeth and her measurements.  They also replaced her collar so that she would have fresh batteries for the next year.  Jake gathered soft wood branches to help insulate and clean the den a little bit before we had to put the bears back.

Biologists doing what they love.
King looked healthy.  She had thick, long hair like my bear did and she had a beautiful white blaze on her chest.  I couldn't wait to get my photo taken with her.  I had to maneuver my snowshoes so that I wouldn't bump King while I got behind her.  I was struck by how powerful she seemed as I held her head and paw.  Every time I sat there in awe of her, my thoughts were broken by her inhales and exhales. 

King
Even when they talked about the bears acting up when they check the dens, it is clear that all three of them love their job.  Lisa was able to name generations and generations of bears throughout the study areas with such enthusiasm and passion.  It was hard not to be just as excited.

King
At one point, Lisa brought up a conversation that she had with a friend of hers who asked how she could hunt an animal that she works so closely with.  Lisa explained that she has seen bears that have been killed by other bears, have been hit by cars, had horrible cases of mange and were dying of starvation.  For her (and me) letting a bear live a full, healthy and complete life and then die a quick, sudden death - and feed a family - is much better than suffering.  I couldn't agree more!

Jake mentioned that King was moving her eyes and we all knew that it was time to pack it up and head home.  We got our things and started down towards the snowmobiles while Jake, Mitch and Lisa put the bears back in the den and covered the hole up.  The trip from the snowmobiles and back to the truck seemed to go twice as fast as it took us to get into the woods.

It was an incredible day out in the woods and we were able to do something that few people do.  As a new bear hunter, it meant even more to me.  I am lucky to have had the opportunity and be able to spend the day in the Maine woods with some of the best bear biologists in the Nation.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Part 1: Getting to the Bear's Den

Mount Katahdin from Route 11 in Maine.
I had been awake for five hours when we pulled into the IFW office in Ashland at 8am.  It was deceivingly beautiful out with the bright sun and deep blue sky but the wind kept the temperatures close to single digits.  Still, we knew once we were in the woods, we wouldn't be thinking about the temps.

Our group was fortunate enough to be going out with bear biologists Mitch Jackman, Jake Feener and one of the most well known biologists, Lisa Bates.  It was a 17 mile truck ride into the woods from the office followed by a two mile bushwacking snowmobile ride to the den. 

This particular den had been marked in January when the biologists had shown up expecting to see mom and two yearlings.  Instead, they heard cub cries and immediately left to come back in March.  The bear, named King, is seven years old.  Her mom BB (for Bartlett Bear) had been denning in this same area until she was harvested during the hunting season a few years ago.  After that, King moved back into the are and started denning there herself.

When we arrived near the den, Lisa took a reading to make sure that the collar was working and that they could get a signal helping them confirm the location of the bear.
Lisa checking for a signal from King's collar.
As we got off of the snowmobiles and prepared to hike to the den, Jake and Mitch headed up the hill ahead of us and got to work opening the den and giving King the drugs that would allow them to get information on her and the cubs' health.  We could not wait to find out how many cubs and how healthy each bear was, especially after finding out that the last set of cubs did not make it to be yearlings.  There are a lot of unknowns when you start opening up a bear's den.

Jake and Mitch at the mouth of the den.
We waited half way down the hill with Lisa while the drugs to take their affect.  We talked about being a bear biologist and how you never know what will happen.  The day before, Mitch had been the one to administer the drugs to the bear and when he went to do it, she bluffed charged him.  Both parties were stunned when her nose actually hit him in the forehead.  Neither of them had expected it and shocked them.

The bear study areas in Maine have been going on for years and years.  Once the bears become a member of the study group, they become aware of the biologist yearly trip and they know what is coming.  Lisa talked about times in which the bears would bite or swipe at the needle coming at them, even though they could easily bite or swipe at the arm reaching in. 

Finally, we got the ok and walked up to where Jake and Mitch were.  They had pulled down sleeping bags from their packs and laid them on the snow in preparation for King and her cubs to be taken out of their den.  Jake asked if any of us wanted to look into the den before any bears were removed.  I jumped at the chance.

The den's opening.
There is King!
King in her den.
When we were done with the up close look at the den, it was time to take the cubs out...

Monday, March 9, 2015

Cleaning my deer skull

I was cleaning up pictures and came across these two from a few years ago.  The smell was horrible but after a while I got used to it.  I don't know if it was the (lack of) quality pot that I used or the fact that I did this on my grill and then stove when I ran out of propane, but I had to throw it all away when I was done.  At least I got a cool mount!




Saturday, March 7, 2015

Majestic Bald Eagle

It is always fun to see a Bald Eagle, especially when you least expect it.  I found this bird sitting in a tree, being carefully watched by two crows.

It was a cold morning - around 5 degrees, so when I rolled my window down the heat from inside the car escaped and created a blurry look to the pictures.  I wasn't willing to get out of the car in case the bird flew.




Monday, March 2, 2015

Turkeys in winter

We had just gotten back from snowmobiling when Dad said that there was a turkey outside.  We watched as more and more birds flew down and started pecking at the dirt spots on the ground.  At their closest, they were about 10 feet from the back steps.  I kept waiting for one to land on the snowmobile, but none did.





We counted 14 in all.  The spent about an hour pecking at the dirt and roaming around the yard.  From there, they headed onto the mountain.  A few of them stayed near a water spot for the rest of the afternoon.  I am not sure if they were enjoying the block from the wind or if they were actually spending that much time pecking and drinking.  Either way, they were around and in no hurry.



I am hoping that this flock hangs around until the spring season.  I want to get a turkey this year!