Sunday, October 30, 2011

Moose Scouting on the First Day of Deer Deason

Nothing used to evoke more anticipation than the thought of the first day of deer season.  Due to a multitude of factors, the deer population is severely diminished from its historical size.  That is a whole other topic, that will keep me rambling for a long time, so I will put that into a separate post.  Due to the lesser deer densities, I decided that my morning was better spent scouting for moose, for my moose tag that I have next week(stay tuned for that story!).  Heather and I left the house way before daylight, and arrived at the chosen destination just as the light was starting to brighten the sky.  As we eased along checking trail after trail and clearing after clearing, I was starting to worry a little, but finally an hour later, I caught sight of the tell-tale "dark spot".  A glimpse through my Barska binoculars confirmed it was a swamp donkey.  As we got closer, a second one appeared, and it turned out to be a cow and a calf.  They weren't overly impressed with us interrupting their breakfast, and they moved off into a pocket of young maples.  On the way home, we managed to shoot a ruffed grouse, and saw a lone cow moose in an agricultural field. 
Cow and Calf

To close out the opening day of deer season, my dad, my uncle Dick and I decided to ride around some of the country that I have been hunting since I could walk.   This was the first time we had deer hunted this ground without my grandfather.  He was deeply missed, but we will continue the deer hunting legacy that he left behind.   I had little hope of seeing anything, but I had to go for tradition if nothing else.  As we rode, we were spending more time reminiscing of times past than actually looking for deer, but that didn’t stop us from seeing a doe standing at 30 yards broadside.  Dad slammed the brakes on, and I grabbed the binoculars to scour the bushes behind her for any sign of a buck.  After a few minutes, we decided she was alone, and continued down the road.  A quarter mile later, the story telling on hold while we all were on high alert from our last sighting, Dad locked up the brakes and said, “There’s one!”  As I turned to see where he was looking, I caught sight of something moving.  Dad already had binoculars on it, and just as I got mine focused, he exclaimed, “It’s got antlers!”  Dad got out and loaded his rifle, as I watched through the binoculars.  I watched tensely, waiting for the loud crack of the .270 firing.  Instead, all I heard was a whisper.  “I can’t see him through the scope,” Dad said.  I explained the deer’s location to him, so he could use a tree as a reference.  He still couldn’t see and told me to get out and grab the gun.  I got out and pulled the gun up to where the buck was standing.  I couldn’t see anything through it either.  It was getting dark, but there were still a few minutes of legal shooting time left.  Talk about frustrating, I could see the buck through binoculars, but couldn’t see a thing through the scope.  I jockeyed for a better position, when a truck came over the hill, and put his headlights right in my face.  Then I really couldn’t see and by the time the truck left, I only had about a minute of legal time left.  I couldn’t find the deer in the binoculars anymore and I assumed he had left.  I started easing closer to where I had last seen him.  When I got within 70 yards of where I had last seen him, he jumped and started running right in front of me.  It was past legal time by now, so no shot was possible.  It was a complete surprise to see that deer, and it did feel good to get the old buck fever going!  The buck wasn’t a monster, but it was a good solid deer.  I could see what I thought were three points on one side, but I couldn’t tell if it had brow tines, which would have made it an eight point, so either it was a six or an eight, but it got away, so it had to be an eight!  I have now already seen more antlered deer this year than I expected, so I will have to keep my eyes open!

Bird Hunting Trip

Last Saturday, 4:15 shown brightly on the alarm clock when my eyes squinted to read the green blur.  It was set for 4:30, but I was already awake, so I figured I might as well get up.  Quietly I got ready and headed out to meet up with a couple of friends, Justin Dubois and Dave Saucier.  We were leaving town at 5 to try and beat the other hunting parties to the woods that lie along the Northwestern border of Maine.  Truly a beautiful spot, and once you get off the main logging road, people are a scarcity.  An hour and a half later, we had gone through the North Maine Woods gate, and were sitting at the mouth of a branch road that in the past has produced large quantities of birds.  We hadn't gone far when we saw our first bird, but we were still half asleep, and almost ran over him before seeing him, so we were unsuccessful on our first sighting.  It wasn't long before I happened to catch sight of another one feeding along on the bank that ran along the road.  That one did not manage to sneak away, and some of the pressure was relieved that at the very least we would not be skunked!  That was the end of the birds on that road, so it was on to the next road, and we hadn't gone far before Dave and I both spotted a bird at the same time, but it took us a second to realize we weren't looking at the same bird, and we were in pursuit of a double.  I managed to scare both myself and the bird I went after.  I had walked right up to him without realizing it, until I stepped around a tree and there he was a mere 10 feet away.  Let's just say his reflexes were a little slower than mine, and bird number two was in the truck.  As the day continued, we saw several more birds and Justin was able to pick up two, and Dave snagged one.  All in all we had a great day, and saw 14 birds total.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Addtion of a Photo Album

I just wanted to let everyone know that I have added a page for photos.  After reading through my posts, it makes it sound like I haven't been very successful, but I have had some success at times.  The proof is in the photos, so don't forget to check it out.

Hunting Escapades

I apologize for the time it has taken me to update a post.  I have been very busy trying to get all of my projects completed before winter hits, and cutting firewood in between rain showers.  All of this hasn't left me much time to pursue our feathered friends, but I can say I have at last shot my first grouse of the season.  Last week on a perfect "bird morning", with a heavy frost, and the sun coming over the tops of the trees, I was driving down a logging road.  As I drove through a spot where an alder patch grew close to road, my peripheral vision picked up a head moving among the leaves.  Instantly I perked up, but made no change in my driving until I was well past its location.  After 100 yards, I stopped and got out.  After loading the shotgun, I eased back towards where I had last seen the grouse.  As I got close, I saw the bird jump onto an alder limb and begin its distinctive chirping that indicated its uneasiness of my presence.  The year that had past since I last shot a grouse did not seem to hurt my shooting as the gun swung instinctively to my shoulder and the bead came to rest on the top of his head.  A gentle squeeze of the trigger and it was grouse for supper!
     I work with a serious waterfowler, Peter Gagne, and finally this Friday night, our schedules lined up, and I got to go waterfowling with him.  As we drove into the field we were going to set up in, we spotted around 50 geese feeding complacently.  We quickly got ready for a stalk, but hadn't gained more than 30 yards on them when they decided that we were closer than they wanted and flew.  At this point we decided to go and get our blinds setup with the decoys.  We were hunting a waterhole in the middle of an agricultural field, that was bordered by the St. John River.  This was my first time hunting out of a layout blind, and let me recommend that you try one if you never have.  They are a great tool to have, and I am hooked on them now.  We hadn't been setup long when the first flock appeared.  They showed no inclination of decoying, but the next ducks that came were a pair of black ducks coming in low and fast.  A quick blat on the call and they looped around and committed.  As soon as they flared into the committed position, Pete called "take em", and we both popped up and each fired at the duck on our respective sides.  Both folded perfectly and thudded to the ground.  As Pete got up to retrieve our ducks, another flock appeared over the far tree line.  We quickly scrambled into our blinds and started calling.  These ones showed no signs of coming anywhere near us, and after they passed Pete retrieved our birds.  We had two other ducks land on the puddle right under our nose, and when I popped up to shoot, I shoot three rounds and had nary a feather for it.  I guess I will have to stick to the harder shots, because I really messed up the easy ones!  Those were the last ducks we were able to decoy, but we had a lot of fun, and saw lots of birds flying.  If you have never tried waterfowl, I would strongly recommend it, but remember that you need both a state permit and a federal stamp.  See the picture of our ducks below.
A pair of Black Ducks - One of Pete's and One of Mine

Sunday, October 2, 2011

First Day of Bird Season

Bird Season opened on Saturday, being the first of October, and true to form I went out hunting.  I have a good friend Blake whose birthday falls on October 1.  So as a form of a birthday gift, I offered to take Blake out to try and bring home a few "thunder chickens".  His wife Sarah and one of their friends were going to tag along as well.  Saturday, I awoke to a rainy dreary day, which I don't particularly mind for chasing birds, but the wind was blowing quite hard which I don't particularly like.  On the way to meet them, I went by one road that looked particularly habitable for birds, so I couldn't drive by it and took a quick spin in.  Right as the alders started to close in at the end of the road, I could see a bird fly across the road a hundred yards ahead.  I quickly grabbed the shotgun, and bailed out of the pickup stuffing shells into the chamber as fast as my fingers would work.  I loaded three shells and then worked the pump action to load the chamber.  I fought through the alders, and was drenched in about three seconds, as each leaf seemed to hold a gallon of water.  I pushed back into the fir stand where I last saw him disappear, but after still hunting through, I had not seen him again when I hit a flooded portion where the beavers had been busy.  Now I was running behind schedule, and I didn't feel like wading this early in the day, so I headed back to the truck.  I picked up the other three and headed for another road.  It wasn't long, before we saw another bird that was very skittish, and flew as soon as we saw him.  Blake and I went in after it, but due to my previous experience, I wasn't feeling hopeful.  We slowly worked through a fir thicket, and had all but given up, when it flushed from 10 feet away.  The regenerating fir blocked it from our vision, but the thunderous noise that the wings create on takeoff is unmistakable.  We trudged back to the truck, to continue our tour of the woods.  We rode a lot of country before I finally spotted a dark spot about a quarter of a mile up the road, and a quick glimpse through the binoculars confirmed it was a bird.  As I hurried to get closer, we didn't make it much closer before it decided to fly.  We hunted through the woods for a while, but we could not seem to find it.  That was the last bird we saw for the day, and we reverted to shooting a couple of soda cans to practice our aim.  Please remember to pick up any cans or targets you use, because we all want to enjoy the woods without junk scattered everywhere!  Below are a few pictures from the can shooting excursion.

Blake Setting Up a Can

Decision - Shotgun or Pistol?

Blake's Trophy for the Day!

Latest fishing trip.

Well, to call my last fishing adventure successful might be a slight overstatement, but I still enjoyed it.  Friday, with the weather as nice as it was, Heather and I couldn't resist another trip on the river with the canoe.  After rounding up all of our gear, we headed to a favored location along the mighty St. John River.  We pushed the canoe off the mud bank that I call a boat launch, and set off with high hopes of hooking into a monster fall muskie.  As we drifted slowly along probing the depths of the river bottom with a myriad of lures, I decided that I should have tried to start the motor before drifting this far from where the pickup was parked.  With reluctance, I set my fishing pole down (I was scared Heather was going to catch a fish before me and up the score even higher), and attempted to start the motor.  For a little background, I run an Old Town XL Tripper canoe with a side mounted 6 h.p. Johnson.  The motor is a 1979, and although it has left me paddling a couple of times, it runs quite well considering its rough life.  A few cranks later, and me starting to worry just slightly, I heard it kick over, and one more pull roared it to life, which calmed my fears of having to paddle the canoe back up stream.  Now the worrying was over and it was time to fish.  We cruised up the river stopping at all of our traditional spots, trying to hook into a fish, and as we continued along, I began to fear I might be experiencing my first "skunked" trip of the season.  As the hours passed, I tried all kinds of different lures that I hoped would provoke a response, and fished the holes in every way I could think of.  We trolled current lines of deep pools, cast countless times in every direction, and no matter what we tried, we could not seem to entice a fish.  The day was far from a loss, as Heather and I got to spend a beautiful fall day on the river, and got to see a multitude of birds including a Great Blue Heron which seemed to be investigating all of the same areas we were.  It also takes some unsuccessful days to make you really appreciate what you have when you are successful.  We will just have to get back out there and try again!