Sunday, April 1, 2018

Bear Snaring 2017

Bear Trapping has been an ongoing adventure for me.  If you haven't been following along, you might want to take a minute and read the background stories of the last couple of years at the links below:

Bear Trapping 2015

Bear Trapping 2016

If you have been following along, we will jump right into it.

The 2017 bait season had me worried from the start.  I wasn't able to get bait delivered prior to the opening day of baiting and it took me almost a week past the baiting opener to get my bait sites baited.  Apparently that had given enough time for the bears to concentrate on other food sources as the first week went by without a bear visit.  Still plenty of raccoon kicking around, but a few less than last year as I had trapped several the fall before to enjoy their beautiful pelts.  Week two I was starting to get worried as there had still been no activity at the bait, but there was bear sign in the area, so I knew I was probably competing with other baiters as well as natural foods.  By week three I started panicking that I wouldn't get a bear to come in, but as the week progressed I reminded myself that it is a long season and I resigned myself to be patient.

The next week I had mixed emotions as bear showed up, but it was a sow with cubs, which for me is a scenario where I don't set my snare.  Then just as quickly as they had appeared they vanished and much to my relief two boars showed up.  One a young boar which wasn't really a target for me, but would have been an okay catch, and one beautiful boar that looked to me to be every bit of 250 pounds.  Much rejuvenated I readied my snare equipment and made sure everything was in order.  I had decided not to snare the first of the season since the weather was so warm, and the thought of processing a bear in that heat was not appealing.

The day came when I setup the snare like I had done all those many times for the last couple years before and walked away with hope.  The next day as I crept up over the ridge, I could see the bait was gone and the snare was fired, but I didn't see any black fur.  Sure enough, upon closer inspection the bear had triggered the snare but the loop had missed it's mark and hadn't gone onto it's foot.  Somewhat dejected as I had dealt with this in years past, I added some additional sticks in an attempt to guide the bears foot exactly where I wanted it.  For anyone saying it is easy, keep in mind I need to get that bear to step exactly on a spot only slightly larger than a coffee cup.  Night two I was eager with anticipation, but as I snuck up over the ridge the same scenario as the day before had played out, so I added a few more sticks and rocks to get him to step where I wanted.  As I approached the next morning to see the snare fired again, but no bear in sight, I decided I needed to step back a bit and rethink my strategy.  Looking at the trail I had so many little sticks and stones in an attempt to guide his every footstep, I decided a change was in order and I cleaned the trail back to wide open to simplify things.  I then found four sticks, two slightly bigger than the other two and placed the bigger two perpendicular to the trail and the two smaller sticks parallel to the trail to create a box of sorts and put the snare on the box.

On Friday morning I swung the rifle onto my shoulder, grabbed the bait buckets and headed up the ridge.  About 100 yards away from the bait, I thought I heard something, but pausing momentarily I chalked it up to a squirrel, seeing as how it was the third season and had to be the 100th time I had checked an empty snare, I continued in.  Then at about 50 yards out I caught a glimpse of movement and my heart nearly jumped out of my chest as I spotted black fur.  Dropping the bait pails, I finally realized I was looking at an ear and I swung the rifle off the sling to the ready position and took another step closer.  This must have caught the bear's attention, as it was laying down and abruptly stood up, as I stared in shock and disbelief that I had finally caught him, he came to realize what I was and that he didn't care for my presence.  He started making a noise, that I would put in between a growl and a bark.  Not sure what to expect, I quickly put the trusty .30-.30 into action and fired the lethal shot.  As the bear expired and I approached, I had to put my hand onto the thick, luxurious, black fur to tell myself this was real.  I had been after it so long that it seemed surreal that it could actually have happened.  I excitedly rounded up a couple of friends and coworkers to help me get the bear to the pickup and as I hefted his big melon of a head and picked up his wide paws, I knew I had gotten the bear I was after and he would be over the 200 pound mark.  I wasn't quite sure how much he was over until I got down to the local tagging station at Up North Outdoors and we lifted him onto the scale.  As his legs cleared the bed of the truck, I saw the scale break 300 and I couldn't help but let a grin pass across my lips.  When everything settled he weighed in at a respectable 319 pounds.  He had a gorgeous hide, a melon of a skull and some of the sweetest bear meat I have ever tasted, and I finally achieved a life long dream of trapping a bear.  Stay tuned for other outdoor adventures coming up soon!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Muskie Derby 2017

This years muskie derby was an impressive year with huge fish showing up all over the place!  On the second and third days we were releasing 40"+ fish because they wouldn't even make the board.  The derby pays 15 places and the smallest fish was 42 1/2"!  See the full results below:

Final Results from the 2017 Muskie Derby
1. Chuck Cabaniss 45 7/8" 23.36#
2. Dan Dionne 45 7/8" 23.25#
3. Del Harrington 44 1/4" 25.15#

4. Ben Bouchard 44" 21.53#
5. Shane Wishart 44" 18.98#
6. Kevin Deschaine 43 7/8" 21.45#
7. Dan Paradis 43 1/2" 18.84#
8. Chris Huston 43 1/8" 22.24 #
9. Cody Yberrondo 43 1/8" 20.12#
10. Luc Daigle 43" 21.56#
11. Debbie Cabaniss 43" 21.34#
12. Peter Daigle 42 7/8" 20.31#
13. Brian Stoliker 42 3/4" 21.53#
14. Shane Wishart 42 5/8" 16.57#
15. Jeff Mitchell 42 1/2" 20.63#

Youth Division 
1. Ethan Lavigne 43 1/8" 22.33#
2. Tucker O' Brien 38 5/8" 12.69#

1. Bruce Bouley 21 1/4" 5.09#
2. Andy Davis 20 7/8" 5.0#
3. Dave Kelso 201/2" 5.0#

As you can see, we ended the 2017 derby with an 8th place finish for me and unfortunately Brent was on the leaderboard, but got bumped off by one fish.  We logged a lot of hours over the three days from dawn to dusk, landed 9 muskies and lost several others so it was a successful weekend in my book! I will let the pictures do the rest of the talking, but if you remember my goals for 2017, 20 pound muskie was on the list at number 2, so I was able to check number 2 off multiple times this year!


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Tagged Muskie

For those folks out fishing on the St. John River watershed who have not heard, the State of Maine is tagging Smallmouth Bass and Muskellunge for research on how they are existing in the ecosystem, by monitoring things such as growth rates, population estimates and movement patterns.  We have caught several tagged bass over the last couple of years, but we were able to catch our first tagged muskie this past summer.  It wasn't large, but the tag protruding from it's back made it a very neat catch.  An interesting note was that this fish had not traveled very far from it's tagged location and it's growth was pretty much stagnant from the year before.  This brings to light an important fact for people who are interested in bringing these fish home, in that these fish take years to get to trophy size.  A 3 1/2 -4 pound smallmouth could be 10 years old and most likely a 40" muskie is at least 10 years old if not 12 or 15 years old.  This makes these species much more susceptible to fishing pressure than a shorter lived species such as a brook trout.  If a 40" muskie is killed, it takes 10 years to grow it's replacement, so keep that in the back of your mind as you are catching these fish.  Back to the tags, please support the research if you catch a tagged fish and call the number to report it.  Just write down the tag number and you can send the fish on it's way.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Heather's First Muskie

My wife Heather is very patient and tolerant of my addiction that people call fishing.  She has enjoyed many a fishing trip and has caught her fair share of fish, even out-fishing me at times, but had been unable to land a muskellunge.  I told her that 2017 was the year that we would change that, and in true romantic fashion to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary I loaded up the canoe and we went muskie fishing! (I am not joking that we went fishing on our 10th anniversary, even though in hind-site, it might not win me any husband of the year awards!) . We hadn't been on the water long when a cast of Heather's suddenly fetched up solid and started streaking upstream.  From the bend of the rod and the screaming of the drag this was obviously a good fish, which was confirmed when it came to the surface and rolled showing off it's 40"+ length.  Excitedly she played the fish, but despite her best efforts it managed to throw the hook after a few minutes.  The look on her face showed disappointment, but hinted at something else, a look that might signify the start of an addiction!  "Did you see how big that was?!", she exclaimed again.  Nodding my head in agreement, I knew that might be our only shot for the day at a fish, but yet we continued.  Continuing our casts, we covered quite a bit more water and were almost ready to call it a day and go have supper (I did take her out for a nice meal after!) when her rod locked up again, and while the drag wasn't screaming this time the fish was giving the road a workout.  Excitement built as she played the fish expertly, and finally I slipped the net under it and scooped it up.  She had caught her first muskie!  It was a beautiful 28" fish that was a perfect first fish and helped to get her big by the muskie bug.  A couple quick photos and we released it to continue growing to be caught again in a few years.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2017 Maine Turkey Hunt

As I met George the day before the turkey opener and we headed south for our annual turkey hunt, hopes were high that we would be connecting on some longbeards.  As we traveled, discussing past hunts and spotting an occasional turkey along the road only fueled the anticipation and after a quick stop at the camp to drop some things off we were off to scouting in an attempt to roost some birds.  We hadn't gone far when we spotted turkeys.  There were strutting toms in the middle of the field!  After closer inspection with the binoculars it was confirmed that there were two big longbeards and two jakes in full strut and another half dozen jakes and hens concentrated on this nice little knoll in the middle of a field.  We do a DIY type hunt so we have to secure landowner access as well, so the door knocking started.  We took a good guess and went to the closest house, and we lucked out as it was the landowner for the field.  He politely declined our request to hunt there citing he had a friend that aimed to do the same.  Only slightly dejected we took off for "greener" fields.  We hadn't showed up without doing some of our homework, so we headed to check some locations we had already secured landowner permission for and sure enough we started seeing turkeys.  A hen here and a couple jakes there, then a nice tom over there.  We were feeling good and made a plan.  That plan quickly changed as when we went back to check our Plan A, some other hunters were setting up their blind.  On to Plan B, which I have found it to be an absolute necessity to have multiple plans when hunting around other people.  As darkness enveloped everything and the turkeys were roosted snugly in their trees we set up our blind and headed back to camp for a late supper and some shut eye to dream of those gobbles.  Just as we awoke a light rain started on the camp roof and by the time the coffee was ready it was a downpour.  Let's just say day 1 was a wash!  Long, cold hours in the blind, distant toms in the field that probably couldn't even hear our calls and we were far from rustling a feather.  We had made a mid day stop to secure access to a piece of prime turkey real estate and were lucky enough to get permission.  As we shifted tactics and blinds to the new locale our hopes were high.  As we settled in for the evening, way across the field we noticed a bright red head that was headed our way.  Anticipation built as he came from 200 yards to 150, then to 100, but just as he got inside 100 yards he shifted and started feeding away.  He completely ignored our calls and his ground dragging beard was out of our lives as quickly as he had entered.  As darkness settled, we were discouraged but hopeful for the next day.  As we made our way back to the pickup we spooked 8-10 turkeys off their roost right beside our truck, indicating we were in a good spot!  The next morning we pulled up in pitch blackness and while the rain had slowed it was still overcast and windy.  The first hour was quiet, devoid of turkey activity, but then the clouds started to break and the sun started to peak out and didn't the gobblers start thundering their gobbles.  We had two close gobbles and a couple other more distant calls, when one of the gobbles sound noticeably closer and closer.  Sure enough we had one coming like he was on a string.  I watched as the big red head poked out from the tree line and he and his longbeard were headed right for us.  Going to a 3/4 strut as he came closer I put the bead of the shotgun on his neck and let him keep coming.  He was well within range, but he was committed and it was neat to watch.  As I tracked him across the window I noticed I was running out of window before I would have to switch to the other window and didn't want to risk the movement so I squeezed the trigger.  The 3.5" turkey load flopped him on the spot and the grin on my face couldn't have been slapped off.  While he was a few ounces shy of the 20 pound mark, his 1" spurs and 9" beard were everything I had hoped of.  That was a textbook hunt and I must thank George for all of his help on getting this beautiful bird.  Unfortunately, George was not able to connect on this hunt, but would get his own longbeard, definitely not his first, a couple weeks later.

Enjoy the pictures and stay tuned for the next adventure coming soon!

Monday, December 25, 2017

2017 Goals

I had high hopes and expectations for the calendar year of 2017!  I challenged myself with 4 goals knowing full well that if I could fulfill any one of the four I could chalk the year up as a success.  The goals I had for 2017 were:

1. Shoot a Tom Turkey (I was fortunate enough to harvest my first turkey with a jake in 2015, but was still waiting on a big old long beard)

2.  Catch a Muskie over 20 pounds ( Kind of my self imposed "trophy" size fish)

3.  Trap a Bear over 200 pounds (Trapping a bear has been on my bucket list for a long time and after a couple of unsuccessful seasons I wanted to close the deal, but added the 200 number to insure I was still after a good bear)

4.  Shoot a Buck over 200 pounds ( The legendary "Big Buck" club had thus far eluded me)

*Spoiler Alert*

I was successful on three of the four!!!  Stay tuned to see which ones were a home run and where I fell short!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Ice Fishing 2017

The winter hard water expeditions were fun and productive without a huge amount of impressive fish, but there were a few highlights of note. A three pound brookie was icing on the cake on one trip. 

As our group walked towards the bright orange flag pointed to the sky the spool made several promising turns signaling the bait thief was still present. My brother Tony carefully lifted the trap free and set it off to the side of the hole.  The started to make a run and his hand quickly set the hook starting an epic tug of war.  Finally after a minute of so playing the fish he was able to get the fish headed up the hole and with a quick swing he intended to fling the fish free of the watery hole that was it's retreat.  As he did our stomachs sank as the line came free from the fish and it flopped back into the hole.  Tony tried a frantic grab, but it was futile as the fish was quickly headed down.  Completely dejected he sank back and I leaned forward to peer down the hole.  There to my surprise lay the tired fish in the 6 inches of water below the two feet of ice.  Without thinking I shot my arm into the hole and about the time I had my whole arm under water my fingers felt a different texture and I worked to pin the fish against the ice.  Keeping pressure on the fish I slid him up the side of the hole and flung him through the air to put distance between him and the hole.  After a minute it sunk in that the last ditch effort had actually worked and we went to admire the fish.  All 19 inches and 3 pounds of brookie was absolutely beautiful and stunning.  The colors were truly awe inspiring and it dwarfed the rest of fish we had been fortunate enough to land.  It was the perfect cap to a great day!

Here's hoping that 2018 will be filled with big fish!  I have talked to some guys who have shacks out on a couple of the smaller lakes and the smelt are already hitting, so stay tuned, but please use caution as no fish is worth risking your life on thin ice!