Friday, June 24, 2016

Spring Black Bear Management

In Maine, it is easy to brag about our bear biologists.  I did some quick math and with conservative estimates, Maine's bear biologist Randy Cross has spent more than 72,000 hours studying and working with our black bears.  That blows Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 hour rule out of the water.  I was lucky enough to tag along with Randy and his bear crew, including Lisa Bates, as they started running their trap lines to check the health of our bears.  

I met Randy and two of his team mates, Preacher and Roach, as they headed out on day 3 of the 2016 trapping season. Their goal during the six week season is to collar as many females as possible while also getting the stats (weight, length, canine tooth size etc) of all of the bears caught.  Starting off slow, they continue to add traps until they have about 100 spread across the study area. 

We had a list of places that we needed to check. We headed into a system of dirt roads to begin checking the traps that the teams had set the day before.  In Maine, all traps must be checks every 24 hours, so the bear crew breaks into groups to cover as much ground as possible. Having done this for so long, Randy knew the bears in the area and what he hoped to see at each location; be it a sow with yearlings/cubs or some big males that had been trapped before.  He also knew how they would be acting; hungry and anxious to make up for the weight lost over the winter but not hungry enough to be walking the roads to eat plants like wild strawberries.

The first three traps that we checked were empty.  There were signs that ravens had found the bait at one site and of bears passing through but not stepping on the trap itself in others.  On the fourth site, we had our first bear of the day!

Young Male Black Bear
It was a yearling who was laying down and watched us as we approached. Randy walked towards the bear to get it on its feet while Roach walked along the edge of the trap circle and found the perfect spot to jab the bear with the sedative. Once that was done, we left the bear’s line of sight and waited for 7 minutes before we went back.

Preacher removed the cable from the bear’s front paw and helped to get him flat so that they could begin to get measurements; 61 pounds with canines measuring 14mm. His ear was ripped, which they marked down as a distinguishing characteristic along with the number tattoo’d on his upper lip.  The crew worked fast and were always checking to make sure that the bear was not overheating.  His fur was still thick with his winter coat but he was a beautiful, healthy bear.  I took a few photos and they moved the bear away from the trap to wake up and continue on his way.  The crew would come back later to reset the trap.

Measuring the bear's canine teeth
Taking body measurements
Noting the tattoo on his upper gum.
The next site that we went to also had a male yearling.  Like the first bear, he was laying down and watching us approach.  Repeating the process and checking the tag numbers in the bear’s ear, this was the first repeat catch of the season.  Randy explained how, although it was earlier than normal, yearlings were being cast off by their moms and these young males were now traveling miles to find food and new territory.  In the first three days of their trapping season, Randy said that 8 out of 10 had been male yearlings.  We met Lisa and her team after all of the traps had been checked.  They had caught a two year old, 64lb male on their line and were now strategizing over which trap lines to add to their system over the weekend. 

Second yearling caught that day.
As Mainer’s, we know how lucky we are to have such dedicated and passionate biologists working for our wildlife.  Being able to watch them work in their element, gives you a whole new appreciation for all that they do and the amount of knowledge that they have. You can tell why they are the best in the country!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

In the woods: Mourning Dove

This mourning dove would not move from my flower bed. I flushed her mate but she refused to budge. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Typical turkey

I think overall, I was excited for turkey season.  I really was.  Then May came and we went fishing, celebrated Mother's Day and found ourselves busy.  Dad and I had one morning to head into the woods to hunt.

We had moved the blind closer into the woods and the path that  I had seen the turkeys on when I was deer hunting. We set up the decoys and waited for it to get lighter before I started calling.  I had a box call, slate call, electronic call and a couple of apps on my phone.

We called and listened.

Called and listened.

Called and listened.

After a few hours, we made our way to the fields to see if there were birds around.

It was quiet as we walked but that didn't stop us from jumping at least three deer and a pair of Mallards who were swimming in a large puddle.   We snuck into the field as best we could and crept along the ridge to see if there were any turkeys eating in the corn fields. Nothing.

We called and listened.  Nothing.

We thought of a couple other locations that we could try and headed there.  The fog was starting to lift and we could feel the sun and impending heat working to break through.

We walked a couple of miles into the woods and called. Still nothing.  It was as though all of the turkeys that we had seen on the trail cameras had totally disappeared.  A little discouraged to not even hear a gobble, we walked further into the woods before coming upon another hunter's truck and turning around.

We tried another two fields nearby before heading home for lunch.

The sun was out now and it was getting warmer.  I opened up the trunk of my car and put a few layers inside.  As soon as I shut the trunk, we heard a gobble.  I had gotten a bird to shock gobble! and that bird was close.

I reloaded the shotgun, put the safety on and we headed in the direction of the bird.  We listed as we got closer but couldn't hear the bird moving.  We called and heard nothing.  A swarm of black flies engulfed my face and I swatted at them in a failed effort to be free of them.   I called more and continued to hear nothing.

Dad and I looked at each other.  This perfectly described our career as turkey hunters.  It was fun being in the woods with Dad but we were absolutely OK at that point to call it a season and we did.

Maybe this fall we will get lucky and be able to take a bird!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

When fishing: Men do that?

My friend Staci and I went fishing recently.  The water was down, the air wasn't too hot and the fish were jumping! It was the third time we had attempted to fish this spot and we arrived early enough to be the first in.

We had the luxury of being able to enjoy the nature around us and try out a few different flies to see what the fish were biting.  A pair of Mergansers flew overhead and then swam past us while we stood waist-deep in the current.

We would cast, change flies and then change spots on the stream.  It was great.  Eventually, a man parked on the edge of the road and started walking down to the stream to fish as well.  I wasn't the least bit concerned because I had just had a great experience in GLS with Greg.

I stopped watching him when Staci yelled to point to the fish jumping in front of her and then we watched as her fly rod created an arc back into the water and she started fighting the fish at the other end.

I left my spot in the water and walked over to offer any help and to snap photos.  While we were taking pictures and admiring her beautiful salmon, the man congratulated her and then walked right past us to fish in the spot where Staci had just been standing.  I was in shock. Who does that?  We didn't look like we were packing things up and we were far from our two fish per day limit.

Staci explained that it happens A LOT to her.  But only when she is fishing by herself or with female friends.  It never happens when she is fishing with her husband.  WHAT??!!

I was shocked at the clear lack of respect and sportsmanship that this guy was demonstrating.  Not since dealing with my hippies have I been so dumbfounded over people's actions.

But, we had a couple things going for us that he didn't have:
1. We were in waders and could get a lot furthur out into the water than he could.
2. We are not women who will be pushed around.

I snapped this picture, knowing that I would post it to demonstrate the rudeness, and then changed my fly to the one Staci was using and proceeded to walk back out to where she had been standing and make him move to a new location.   I worked on my casting and watched as a fish jumped a few times in front of me.

We fished for another hour or so then called it a day and moved on.  Staci was able to take home dinner and I chalked up a few more hours of fly fishing practice.  Disrespectful fishermen or not, we had a great time fishing the hidden streams in Maine.