Friday, September 25, 2015

More exciting trail camera pictures

It is like Christmas every time you check the cameras... will the same buck be around? are there new bucks? what about the coyote? how is the fawn? Then, you get a glimpse into the woodland word.

I am surprised that this little ones still has its spots but it is healthy! Look at that belly. We have quite a few pictures of this fawn with its mom.  It is the only baby around and I would love to get a chance to watch them while I am hunting.

Look how wide those spikes are! No brow tines on this guy.  When you zoom in on the second picture, this looks like a crotch horn. He has a decent body too, which would provide us with some excellent meat this winter.

I usually end up squealing when I see these pictures.  I can't help it.  I have never shot a large deer like this.  Dad has not shot a large deer like this since I started hunting with him but we have seen them on the cameras. They are big for a reason and once the rut kicks in, we have found that they stay nocturnal.  Maybe this is our year!

Monday, September 21, 2015

I am a trapper! (hopefully)

By the time this post goes 'live' I hope that I can announce that I have passed my trapping education class!  Over the past few years, I have been trying new things in the outdoor world (hello bear hunting) and one of the things that I wanted to know more about was trapping.  I may never actually set a trap myself, but I think that in order for me to write authentically about it, I should know how to do it or have at least tried it.

I plan to go out with a few friends this winter and see how they run their trap lines.  I would love to come back with a martin or fisher but I want to know about it first.  As a renewable resource that provides people with income in the winter months, trapping is one of those lost arts that people forget about because it's what our ancestors used to do. But, I don't think it is lost.

I really want a fox pelt and maybe I will be able to work up enough courage to try and trap a fox (live, foothold trap) but I am still stuck on having to look the animal in the eye before I kill it.  We will see. I also said that I had no desire to hunt bear and look where that got me.

If I am successful and get my permit to go trapping, I will buy some gear and start writing about my adventures and if I do catch something... we will see how that goes.

Friday, September 18, 2015

A new partnership to help get women outdoors

A recent article in Petersen’sHunting online stated that the percentage of women who are hunting rose from 11% in 2011 to 19% in 2013.  Almost doubling in two years!  Here in Maine, more women are taking to the fields, woods and streams.  It is exciting as an outdoors woman to see this happening and watch as more women feel comfortable going out on an early morning turkey hunt or sitting in that bear blind by themselves.  Yet, there is more that can be done to help women get outside and learn these new skills.

 In an effort to help more women and girls get outside and continue the growing trend here in Maine, a group of women have come together to create Women of the Maine Outdoors, a non-profit organization that will help to provide information on educational opportunities and funding possibilities for all fellow Maine women who want to try their hand at any outdoor activity.   Any woman or girl who is interested in camping, ATVing, fishing, trapping, hunting etc. is eligible to apply for a scholarship to cover the cost of these classes.  Women of the Maine Outdoors’ goal is to help provide scholarships to classes like those offered by Women and our Woods, Becoming an Outdoors-Woman and the National Turkey Foundation.  But, it goes beyond introductory classes to courses like Wilderness First Aid, Hand gun safety and Conservation camp for young girls.  Perhaps one of the coolest opportunities is for women to go for their Maine Guide’s License with a scholarship from the group.

Along with this new group comes a fantastic partnership!  Women of the Maine Outdoors has partnered with the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to become the go-to resource for women interested in the outdoors.  This state-wide partnership will allow women to get connected with the programs, events and learning opportunities offered through SAM and their partners while having the funding support of Women of the Maine Outdoors.  Cathy DeMerchant, chair of the SAM board couldn’t be more excited, "The SAM Board is incredibly pleased to be partnering with Women of the Maine Outdoors!  This is a natural fit for our organization, and will enable us to further strengthen our core mission by providing educational opportunities to what is now the fastest growing segment of our membership. In addition, the new partnership will allow us to strengthen the American heritage and tradition of hunting, trapping and fishing.  We look forward to a long and mutually beneficial partnership!”

Businesses like Langtown Outfitters ( are also stepping up to help Women in the Maine Outdoors get started and work to get more women comfortable with any and all activities in the outdoors. 

Here is how you can help: As a non-profit organization, Women of the Maine Outdoors will rely on funding from outfitters, rod & gun clubs, businesses and individuals to offer scholarships from $5 - $500.  If you would like to help, please contact the board at  Beginning in January scholarships will be available to all interested women and girls so please spread the word to anyone that you know who may benefit from a scholarship!

It is the goal of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and Women of the Maine Outdoors, to allow any girl or woman the opportunity to join that 19% and feel comfortable in the great Maine outdoors.  Please join us!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Honest Kitchen: Kale chips

Honest Kitchen: Honest, whole food cooked from scratch. Simple, delicious and sometimes from the wild side. Robin and Erin 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.

What has the crunch of a potato chip and is salty like a potato chip but is not a potato chip? A kale chip! I didnt believe it either until a friend of mine made them for me and I was hooked.  They take maybe 10 minutes to make and are incredibly yummy.

Here is what you need:
EVOO or cooking spray
toping: salt, garlic powder... any seasoning that you want!

Step 1:
Rip the kale into pieces.  You dont need to be fancy, just get them into pieces.

Step 2: Space the pieces out on a cookie sheet

Step 3: brush with EVOO or spray with cooking spray
Step 4: Season.  I used salt
Step 5: Put over on 300 and put kale in.  You are going to want to stay close.  These things take maybe 5 minutes to cook.
Step 6: Remove from over when the pieces are dried.

Step 7: Eat all of the good ones and serve the rest ;) The brown spots are fine.  They just dried quicker than the others - possibly because they didnt get coated.

These things really do take like potato chips and are incredibly healthy for you.  They are great if you want the crunch of a chip.  I dare you to try them!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Women's hunting camp

In the Northern Maine woods, down a long dirt road surrounded by a beaver bog and thick, dense forests there was a small cabin without electricity, a phone or any sort of cell service.  In that cabin, five outdoors women sat with their guns ready to kill Maine black bears. 

The swollen stream flowed past us at bear camp. The rain would start and stop during my time at camp and we would hold out breathe to find out if we would go out and hunt again or if we would be rained out and the bears that we came to hunt will continue to roam the woods and fields.

Five of us were at bear camp and while we lead very different lives, our love of the outdoors and desire to hunt black bear have brought us together for these few days.  Some have been bear hunting for years and for others, this is their first time.  There is something about breaking out of your comfort zone that makes for an exciting time at camp.

"I'm terrified of them," Sue says when I ask her if she has enjoyed camp even though she never saw a bear, "I came here to conquer my fear of black bears and if I haven't, I've come close."  There are about 30,000 bear in Maine and yet each year hunters usually take only 2800 bear. These animals are smart, quiet and keenly aware of their surroundings.  Each night, we would split up and go to our stands or blinds and wait for it to get dark or for a bear to come in.  I had a sitting buddy each night because we all know how I am about sitting in blinds plus I was in a new, unfamiliar location.

Sue and Tammy ended up sitting in ground blinds that were really pieces of cloth hung up on a couple of trees to block them from being in direct view of the bait.  NO way was I doing that! I had a double tree stand that I shared with Robin one night and her daughter Taylor the next.

Taylor and I before we headed into the woods. 
We didn't see a single bear while I was there.  There were signs of them coming into the area but more to rip apart logs and stumps to get at the bugs inside.  There is so much natural food that it is hard at this point in the season to get bears to come to the bait. 

During the day, we explored the area and found mushrooms.  I spotted a lobster mushroom that I was confident in what it was and the fact that it was edible.  Robin cleaned them as we sat around the table and I took pictures to learn.  Did you know that just using the back of a knife will clean the stems faster than anything I have ever tried!?

I have never been to a hunting camp before and I only had a couple of days to get in and relax.  We made incredible food (steak, Guinness Mac n Cheese,  7-layer salad, pulled-beef sandwiches...) drank wine and coffee and talked about hunting stories, our preferred guns and scopes and played a few games.  We talked, laughed and caught up on life.

It was a great break from the world but too short of a stay! Maybe next year we will head out again and be successful in our hunt for a black bear.

Friday, September 11, 2015

No more skulls

I have bad luck with skulls. It started with my bear and will end with my coyote because I have learned which taxidermists (and butchers) are not worth the convenience.

I shot a 457lb bear last October and went with my guide to bring it to the butcher.  I had decided that I wanted the skull saved and would have the hide made into a rug.  I didn’t have the room or the desire for a mount.  The butcher got his knives out and began hacking away at the bear.  I watched but didn’t really know what I was looking at.  He hooked the bear by its hind legs, lifting it off the ground and started peeling away the hide.  It seemed to come off quickly and my guide made sure that he kept the paws intact with pads and nails included.  When it came time to cut the head off, it took him a couple of attempts before my guide’s eyes got wide and he stepped in to help get the cut where it needed to be.  By that point, it was too late.  The back of the skull had been cut off and a separate cut had almost cut the skull in half by the cheek sockets.  I delivered the head in two parts: one connected to the hide and one in a plastic bag.  Lori and Jim Geib at New FrontierTaxidermy in Solon were up to the challenge.  A month later, I had a bear skull completely intact except for one cheek bone. It might not be the best looking skull, but it was fixed.

My bear skull
My bear skull minus the cheek.
Then, I went coyote hunting and shot a beautiful 37lb male that came into our rabbit call.  Again, I wanted a clean skull and hide.  I got a recommendation and took the coyote to a taxidermist nearby.  The animal had been dead for less than 18 hours when I dropped it off, still totally intact.  I described what I wanted done and was told that it would be three to four months because he would send out the hide and send the skull out to have it beetled.  Four months later, I called and was told that it would be another two months.  Eight months after I dropped of the coyote, I called again and was told that the skull was back but that the hide would need another few weeks.  Grateful to have something back, I went to get the skull.  At first glance, it looked great: sharp teeth, clean with no breaks and the top jaw sat perfectly onto the bottom jaw.  The taxidermist wrapped it up and I was on my way.  When I got home later, I unwrapped the skull and nearly fell over.  The stench was horrible.  I started looking closer at the top jaw and saw dead beetles. Two were stuck in the nasal cavity behind the cartilage, one was stuck at the front of the skull near the eye sockets and pieces of dead bugs were stuck everywhere there was cartilage. I immediately started asking friends what to do and ended up on the phone with Jared Delaite of Delaite’s Taxidermy in Woodville.  Jared took the time to talk me through what I could do to get the beetles out of the skull and fix the smell coming from it.  He was more than happy to help me and make sure that I would be able to get the skull that I want.

My coyote skull complete with odor, beetles and ink marks
The black spots at the top of the nasal cavity are the beetles.
Both of these skulls mark successful hunts but without the knowledge of Jared to fix the coyote and the incredible work of Lori and Jim to piece together an almost ruined bear skull, I would not be able to save them as mementos from my hunts.  Unless I shoot a monster buck and get it mounted, I am now done keeping skulls.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Raising meat for winter

Earlier in the summer, Robin mentioned that she would be raising chickens for meat over the winter.  I know nothing about raising chickens so I asked if she would raise a few for me.  Luckily, she agreed. Now, the plan is to help out with butchering day in October and walk away with about 10 whole chickens (or maybe parts of) for meat over the winter.

Growing up, my family raised two pigs each summer and we would enjoy fresh bacon, ham and pork chops over the winter.  There is something comforting about knowing where your food was raised and who was doing the raising.  There is an added appreciation and understanding that comes every time you sit down to eat a meal.

This is what the chickens looked like a couple of weeks ago. In a couple more weeks, we will be heading north to Robin's to help with butchering.  It will be an experience that is out of my comfort zone but something that we will need to experience to truly understand the butchering process of raising meat.

(c) Robin Follette 2015

Monday, September 7, 2015

I survived my first solo bear hunt

Everything was going just fine until I realized that I had the wrong gun. I had packed everything that I would need and was getting comfortable with the idea of sitting by myself in the tree blind.

It was 90 degrees.  The odds of a bear coming in were really not good. Plus, when Steve dropped me off and checked the cameras, there were no pictures and the bait had not been touched.  I was a little more relaxed about it but I was still weirded out about having the wrong gun.

Me, my awesome Kryptek Helios top and the wrong 30-06

I'm couldn't believe that it happened. I had assumed that my gun was in my gun bag and switched it with the gun sitting right next to it. The different strap never registered when I grabbed the guns. I didn't think anything of it again until I took the gun out of the case and noticed that the shock pad was sticker than normal.  I assumed that it was due to the heat.  When I reached up to automatically slide the safety back, the safety wasn't there. I stared at the gun trying to figure out what was going on. I turned the gun and saw the safety switch on the side. I looked at the scope and it was a big round circle and not the oval of my Dads gun. I tried not to panic. Steve watched me with uncertainly and a little uneasiness. I didn't want to let on that I hadn't shot that gun in more than six years. I tried to reassure Steve that it was all right and that I was fine.  I grabbed three bullets and tried to load them into the chamber.  The first two jammed and I pulled them out, took a deep breath and reloaded the gun without any issues.  Steve watched me and I tried again to convince him that I was ok with the gun.  Still a 30-06, still 180 grain bullets. It was nothing to worry about.  But in my head, I was panicking.

I was a little bummed about the temperature, wrong gun and lack of bears but I kept telling myself that it would be a good exercise in sitting and getting use to the tree stand and being alone in it.

I'm not sure when I realized that there was rustling in the bushes off to my right.  The blind was totally in closed except for a small triangular window that was maybe 12 inches tall and 7 inches wide. The window next to me would have been a great way to peak out but the zipper was in an awkward spot and I could not reach it without really making a lot of noise.

Looking down at the bait site
 There were a lot of birds and squirrels in the woods so I assumed that I was listening to that allusive 200lb squirrel that every deer hunter hears while hunting.  But after a few minutes, I realized that the noise had more weight behind it.  It wasn't a 1lb squirrel but something heavier. Maybe a raccoon. Maybe a moose. I kept half listening and watching for a bear to come to the bait.  The noise off to my right started getting more frequent and louder, like it was getting closer.  I stared at the window and wished that I could get a sneak peak of whatever was hanging out nearby.  The hardest part for me was being unable to see what was around me. Over the next hour, the critter stayed nearby and continued to make noise. It wasn't a moose - they would have walked on by now. This was staying close. 

Then, it all changed.  The rustling came really close and I looked through the wire floor of the tree stand to see if I could see what it was.  Instead, I just heard breathing; heavy, raspy breathing. I panicked.  It sounded like a bear but I had nothing to compare it to.  Last year's hunt did not involve me spending a lot of time with my bear while it was alive. Would a bear really just hang out this long in one spot? Why wasn't he going to the bait? The breathing continued for four breathes (yes, I actually counted) and then stopped.  I kept looking down for movement below me. 

From the bait, looking up at the blinds.  I was in the one in the tree.
I didn't move. I just listened - and sent Steve a text saying that I was pretty sure there was a bear here (I got a text back telling me to get off my phone!)  The bear went back to doing whatever he was doing in the bushes and I continued to listen, hoping that he would come into the opening.  Once more, it came close enough for me to hear it breathing.  During that time, more noise in the bushes behind me added to my awareness of the fact that I could not see what was happening around me.  Hearing, what I thought were two separate bears, I made the assumption that it was the two yearlings who we had on the trail camera and neither would be worth taking so early in the season. I wasn't going to worry about taking a shot.

As I listened to them around me, it continued to get darker and darker.  Steve was going to come in a get me when legal hours were over. I text'd him and asked for an eta at 7:42pm - one minute after legal hours. Before he responded,  I heard his keys or something clink together and I heard the bears run off.  He was still quiet as he helped me get out of the stand and hold onto my gun as I climbed down.  I was a little more loud.  I wanted those bears to know that I was around so they would stay away.  It was an unnerving experience but I successfully sat in a blind by myself while bear hunting and I had at least one bear there with me. 

Steve checked out the area behind the stand the following day and said that a tree stump was ripped apart.  It had definitely been a bear who was grubbing for food.  Natural food.  Yesterday morning, Steve checked the cameras and big bears had come into each site.  One of them ripped the cable that was holding the 55 gallon drum, off the tree and out of the drum.  For my own mental health and willingness to go back into the stand alone, I am going to say that it was these guys and not a huge bear, that was hanging out with me in the woods.

Maybe it was these guys?



Friday, September 4, 2015

Here goes a second season

With these trail camera photos becoming a common occurrence, I am excited and still a little nervous for bear season.  I have developed a very healthy respect for these animals and there is still some caution when I head into the woods to hunt one.

Even if I do not get one, these photos are a clear indication that the bear population in Maine is healthy and thriving.  These are not small bears and by the time we head into the woods, they will have had a few more weeks to put on weight.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Honest Kitchen: Blackberry Muffins

Honest Kitchen: Honest, whole food cooked from scratch. Simple, delicious and sometimes from the wild side. Robin and Erin 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.

Fresh blackberries
When we were out refilling bear bait sites, we took a few minutes to pick blackberries. They were small and delicious.  I knew that whatever I picked, I wanted to make it into something yummy.

First up, blackberry muffins!

I tweaked a blueberry muffin recipe and added a few extra ingredients in order to make these awesome muffins.

Here is what you will need:
3/4 c. milk
1/4 c. vegetable oil (I used sunflower)
1 egg
2 c. flour (I used whole wheat)
1/2 c. sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c. fresh blackberries

1. Preheat oven to 400. Line muffin tin with paper baking cups.
2. Beat milk, oil and egg in bowl.  Stir in flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  I also added some flax seed.
3. Fold berries into mixture.
4. Pour into muffin tin trying to make the muffins as even as possible.
5. I sprinkled them with some cinnamon and sugar

6. Bake for 20-25 min or until brown.  Remove and set on cooling rack.