Browsed by
Tag: Hunting

Deer Hunting Season Ends – wins and losses

Deer Hunting Season Ends – wins and losses

Deer Hunting Season

Deer hunting season is over for me. It’s my least favorite, least productive hunting season. I get cold easily, though this year it was unusually warm for the first four weeks and I wasn’t cold until the end. There aren’t a lot of deer around so we can shoot only bucks. I hunted almost every day and saw one buck right here on our land. I heard him crunch dry leaves and snap a branch on his way to an apple tree behind my right shoulder. Big bodied and four points, one of three bucks we have pictures of on the game cameras. He ate the apples on the ground and walked away from me. I watched his antlers over raspberry bushes and then his wide rump disappear into the woods. He had no interest in my bleats. His ears didn’t even twitch.

Food Plot

Steve built a food plot in the spring. I cut down a few trees but he really did all the work. He built it and they came. A ten point and two four point bucks, a lone doe, a doe with one fawn, and a doe with twins. Last year we had two bucks, the lone doe and a doe with one fawn. Progress. The ten point disappeared after being on the camera at the end of the second week of deer hunting season. Neighbors a quarter-mile down the road have a doe with quadruplets at their apple tree on a regular basis, and they’ve put mineral blocks out for them. They look great, strong and healthy. Seven fawns in a quarter-mile section of road. That’s encouraging. With our food plot and their mineral blocks and a major decrease in logging in the area for an extended period of time, our deer herd has some time to increase.

Decreased Logging

The major land owner that won’t be logging in the near future has blocked access to side roads. They’ve lined boulders up across the roads’ entrances and dug up culverts. When there weren’t culverts or boulders they dumped large piles of gravel or dug out the road. The number of heater hunters (they drive the back roads and don’t get out of the warm truck until they see a deer) dropped drastically. The folks who got out and walked harvested some big bucks. We saw a ten point with a drop tine being registered at Waite General Store. Five years from now we should see more and bigger deer. It’s encouraging.

Wins and Losses

Neither of us harvested a deer so that’s a loss. The wins for the deer and their habitat are huge and far outweigh venison in the freezer. Winter is here with single digit temperatures and a little snow here. Five miles from here the ground is still bare. Another easy winter seems unlikely but an average winter will be just fine. Survival of the fittest keeps the wildlife healthiest. deer hunting season, splay
deer hunting season, 10 point buck
deer hunting season, doe with twin fawns
deer hunting season, doe and twins
four point buck, low antlers, deer hunting season,
deer hunting season, four point buck, high antlers

Save

Save

Snow Cover – last day of November

Snow Cover – last day of November

Snow Cover

Enough snow fell last night to bring out the plow and sand truck. We were going to get up at 3 am to drive to Molunkus Stream Camps, hunt our way to the blind at Big Field, and wait for deer. I’ve had a feeling of gloom and doom for five days and willed the alarm to remain silent. And it did, through no fault of mine. Steve woke at 6 am, unusually late for us. We got up at 3:30 Tuesday morning to hunt and were more tired than we realized. I looked out the window to beautiful snow cover, rolled over and snuggled in. Hunting this morning? No thanks.

I’m not ready for snow. Three cords of firewood still need to be moved into the high tunnel. It’s the three of the what ended up being six cords of firewood I wasn’t planning on, wasn’t prepared for, didn’t have time to deal with. But here it is and there it sits. It might still be there in the spring. The lawnmower is still sitting in front of the barn, uncovered. The bear bait barrels too heavy for me to move are still in front of the barn. We’ll get them taken care of Sunday with help from the tractor. Until then, I’m enjoying the snow cover while hoping it melts.

There are still quite a few apples for the deer. They’ve been coming every night for the apples that drop during the day. They’re also eating turnip and forage radish tops (bottom photo) in the food plot in the orchard. When muzzleloading season ends Saturday I’ll put pumpkins in the new food plot. Zoey wasn’t thrilled by the snow first thing this morning but it didn’t take long to get excited. Zomobile ran circles around Ava. Ava seems to almost not notice Zoey’s antics. Waking up to snow cover was a reminder that like it or not, winter is coming.

Healing

I’m working out a recipe for a healing salve. I took a horrid fall down a flight of stairs about two years ago. Breaking my tailbone and pelvis, tearing both rotor cuffs, and doing other damage left me aching most of the time (a major contributor to cutting back). I’m working on a salve that might help my joints. I’ll have the crockpot out today to get the steeping started. Any natural healing suggestions for aching joints and muscles?

Today’s Work

Today’s work consists of tidying up an article for a new “project.” I’ve been asked to write for a publication based in Ireland. The article has been written for a week but I’m not happy with it. The editor is wonderful. She’ll read it and pass it back to me for a rewrite. She’ll make me a better writer as she helps me slide into her publication’s style. My first article will be published in December. I’ll give you the link when it’s live. Later on I’ll be hunter in the snow cover, looking for a track to follow, one that brings me to a buck. ha  That won’t happen but I’m going to try anyway! What are you doing today?

snow cover, firewood
snow cover, crab apples,
snow cover, wild yellow apples
snow-cover-ava-zoey
snow-cover-pond
snow-cover-fence-post
snow-cover-forage-radish-food-plot

Save

Save

November First on the Homestead

November First on the Homestead

November First on the Homestead

The kitchen is cool, almost cold in the morning now. November first dawned in the 20°s, feeling more like December. Sourdough bread spent the night in its first rise in the coldest corner of the kitchen. Poke poke poke. I dumped the flattening dough from the bowl into a bread pan and pushed it aside to rise for the day.

After coffee, chores, and then a breakfast of homemade bread toasted on cast iron, an Autumn spiced bear sausage patty and a duck egg, I spent a little time preparing the rest of supper. Butternut squash soup with Linguica sausage and the sourdough white wheat bread. Peeled, cut up, chicken stock, pan fried the sausage to release some fat and improve flavor, tossed together in the crock pot to simmer. And then off to lunch with a dear friend I’ve missed.

november first, homestead, butternut squash soup, linguicahomemade bread, november first, deer huntingDeer season (rifle) opened Saturday, a few days earlier than what used to be November first. Steve and I spent the morning and evening on a ridge looking for a buck we chased on closing day last year. He wasn’t registered so unless Mother Nature got him, or the hunter who fired a shot that echoed between two ridges and down into a valley found him, he’s out there. You couldn’t prove it by us. We found tracks big enough to be a buck but that’s all we saw.

ridge, deer hunting, november first, autumn colorsNovember first, birch trees, autumn, foliage, November, deer hunting

Butchering Day

Sunday was on of those days I dread and look forward to. I dread the killing and butchering of the meat chickens but I look forward to excellent meat from happy, well-raised chickens, and to having the job done. Chicken wise it was the worst year ever. More mortality than ten years normally put together. Started with 32 chickens, butchered 21, couldn’t use the meat from one because it had some sort of yuck of which I’ll spare you the details. The turkeys’ day comes this Sunday.

Loss

Steve put down an injured runner duck. She was seven or eight or nine years old and still in excellent health but mortally wounded. She was already shivering in the cold. Can’t have her freeze to death this winter. She survived a bobcat attack many years ago. She didn’t lay many eggs anymore and she absolutely didn’t want to be touch but she was still a valuable part of our homestead. She made us smile. Her two sisters spent November first looking for and quacking to her.

new moon, november firstCoyote Problems

I’m distracted early in the morning and again late in the afternoon each day but Sunday by coyotes. They’ve been in the backyard, around the hen house and meat chicken pen, and even on the porch. Finding their wet paw prints on the porch is annoying and uncomfortable. They shouldn’t be this comfortable being close to the house with us and two dogs here. I’ve been sitting in a popup ground blind, calling like a screaming jack rabbit (which makes me want to shoot the speaker after 30 seconds) and a howling coyote. So far no good. They show up a half hour before and after legal shooting time. We can’t night hunt them again until mid-December when the last deer hunting season closes.

I’m hoping the November first new moon brings change in deer movement and opportunities to rid the neighborhood of the coyotes. It’s time they went back into the woods and away from the few homes on our road.

November first already. Where did this year go?

Harvesting a Black Bear

Harvesting a Black Bear

Harvesting a black bear

It was a long bear season. I spent 60 hours at two sites, in a tree stand and two ground blinds. Steve spent at least that much time baiting; he did the majority of the work while I literally sat on my butt most of the time. It paid off in harvesting a black bear on September 16. (A plugin is acting up with photos.)

There were days I had to dig deep to stay seated while it poured. None of the downpours lasted more than an hour but still, I despise sitting in the rain. “How bad do you want it,” I asked myself. My Prois hunting apparel kept me warm and dry. If it weren’t for that gear I’d have been back in the truck and heading home in the first few minutes. When I took this pic I’d lost a battle with the rain. Sit and wait it out or walk the half mile to the truck in the down pour. I chose the walk. It stopped raining before I got there so I went back to the tree stand.

harvesting a black bear, Prois

Behind the Bait Barrel

harvesting a black bear, ground blind
harvesting a black bear, bear hunting, MaineThe light on my phone was flashing so I picked it up to see who’d left a message. It was Tammy; there was a huge bull moose headed her way. I looked up in time to see a glimpse of Three following the trail behind the barrel. I pushed my Browning .308 BAR’s safety off and lifted the rifle off my lap. “Bear” I texted to Steve. She disappeared to the right of the barrel. I knew where she’d come into the site – on the right, about three feet in front of the barrel. I waited. Thirty seconds passed. A minute. Ninety seconds. Where did she go? Two minutes. Was she simply passing through?

I lifted the rifle up and pulled it snugly into my clavicle in anticipation of harvesting a black bear.

She stepped into the edge of the shooting lane exactly where I expected her. I study game camera pictures like an over-achieving high school senior studies for the SAT. Where does each bear come in? What direction does it go as it’s leaving? Does it ever stand sideways to give me a broadside shot? I knew where she’d come in because it’s the same spot she used each time she appeared this week.

Over in a flash

The bear walked six feet into the shooting lane, stood in front of the barrel as I knew she would, and looked up the lane at the ground blind. I wasn’t expecting that; she typically looked at the camera, probably because she heard the click as it snapped each picture. One. Two. Three. She turned her head to look straight ahead. Squeezing the trigger slowly and firmly, pulse normal, breathing normal, no excitement at all. I was the most confident I’ve ever been while hunting.

She went down hard and fast, landing on her left side. It wasn’t an instant death but it didn’t take long.

She started to get up so I took aim and squeezed the trigger again, this time seeing the flames fly from the barrel. I hit her the second time, squarely, and she rolled to the left. “Bear down,” was the second text to Steve, this time at 6:29 pm. From start to finish it took less than three minutes to kill the bear. The first shot, through both lungs, would have been enough but I didn’t want a repeat of my 2014 bear. I didn’t want to look for this bear for hours, spend the night tossing and turning, and wondering if it was still suffering. No suffering. Death should be swift.

I waited and listened, hoping to hear it to be sure she was dead but the death moan didn’t come. I stood, took the safety off again and walked to the right. Death throes are hard to watch no matter how many times I’ve seen it happen. This is the first time I’d watched a bear die. I walked 15 feet to the left and looked through the red pines. She was in the dip but I could see her well enough. No movement, she wasn’t breathing now, but no death moan. I returned to the blind and called Steve. “It’s already dead.”

harvesting a black bear, black bear hunting, bear hunting, bait barrel
harvesting a black bear, Robin Follette, Prois, bear hunting
harvesting a black bear, bear in pickup
Black bears are known as the black ghost of the woods. Heavily furred and padded feet keep their footsteps quiet and their prints minimal unless they’re in mud. You might hear branches snap as they break under the bear’s weight or rotting stumps and logs giving way to their long claws, but you’re unlikely to hear footsteps.
black bear foot,

Confident choice in a small bear

I wanted to harvest Chubby. He’s been a challenge from the start. He came in at 9:30 pm and then sometimes, though not usually, later during the night. On Thursday night he was there at 8:15 pm. I studied the game cam pictures to find out more about the small bear from the night before.  I had four hunting days left. Hunting on Thursday night was out of the question in case I made a shot but had to go back in the morning to get the bear. I’d be on a plane to Texas in the morning.

If a small bear and a big bear walked in together and stood broadside I would most definitely shoot the big bear to harvest more meat. But do I refuse a bear that will feed and nourish myself and family because it’s not a “trophy” animal? Hell no. Maine’s bear population is too high. My bait site has been visited by ten bears. That’s far too many bears in a small area right outside town.

Small bears are tender, especially when death is swift. I had no hesitation at all. No regrets. She provided 36 meals.

No High Fives

I took down the bear in three minutes but there was nothing to celebrate. There were no high fives, whooping or hollering, or anything else when Steve, Peter and Chris arrived. Harvesting a black bear is a huge thing and I’m proud of our work but killing wasn’t something I could celebrate that way.

Sitting with the bear’s head at my knee, I stroked her fur. “Thank you, bear. Thank you for feeding us. I prayed before I left the house today for a swift death for you and that’s what you got.” She walked 15 feet and was dead in 60 seconds. I had more to say but that’s between me and the bear.

Have you heard the saying “don’t shoot anything on closing day that you wouldn’t shoot on opening day?” Hogwash. That lumps all animals and situations into one inconvenient package. I hunt to put meat on the table. I have a big buck, larger bear and big turkey mounts on the walls. And I have a small bear that’s going to be delicious. I’ll never shoot an animal I am ashamed of because of its size. Goodness knows I love to talk about hunting. If I were too ashamed to tell everyone then I’d implode and that’s just too messy.

We worked hard and long for this bear. Better a small bear close to the end of the season than no bear when all is said and done. That’s not a blanket statement about harvesting a black bear that will fit all situations. It’s what works for me. I am grateful for this meat, food on the table and an opportunity to share recipes with you.

Thanks to Tana at Floyd Family Homestead for inviting me to join this week’s blog hop!

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Catching Up. Where did September go?

Catching Up. Where did September go?

Catching Up

Oh my goodness did September ever get away from me. I feel like nothing got done even though I’m on the move from the time I get out of bed until I fall back in, worn out but excited for the next day. Hunting seasons are all-consuming. Most everything I normally do still has to be done, and done in considerably less time. I have a little catching up to do.

Meet the Neighbors

piggies

Uncle Harold stopped in to ask if I knew who in the area has piggies, specifically 14 to 16 week old piggies. Wayne and Joe have pigs but I think only one might be that young, and they’re a half-mile through the woods and across the main road into and out of our little community in the middle of no where. I called to be sure and no, not their pigs, but Joe came up to see if he could help. The animal control officer called around and nobody seemed to know who owned these happy, friendly champion rooters. Turns out they belong to the people whose garden, flower garden and lawn they were uprooting when we found them. I met Mr. Neighbor and Son Neighbor and they’re good folk. Son raised the pigs and delivered them to Mr.’s house a day or two earlier. He grabbed two by one back leg each and wheelbarrow walked them back to their pen with the other two pigs following right behind. Nice pigs.

High Tunnel

I’ve decided to uncover the high tunnel for the winter rather than use it. Steve, as he sometimes needs to, had a talk with me. “Just because you want to do something doesn’t mean you have time, and when you don’t get everything done that you think you should…well…then I have to live with you.” (I don’t know WHAT that means… okay, maybe I do.) He’s right. When he gives me these little chat-slash-mini-lectures in three sentences or less he’s always right. So no high tunnel this winter. We’ll uncover it in two or three weeks and re-cover it in the spring as soon as we can get to the wiggle wire channel on the baseboards.

We had two family days at camp this month, one larger, one smaller, both lovely. The garden has kept me busy. A few days tending bear sites alone plus going with Steve to do it on Saturdays had me out and about and away from work at home.

catching up
The view from my tree stand

Bear Hunting

This happened on September 16 after spending 60 hours in two sites, in one tree stand and two ground blinds. I’ll tell you about it soon, maybe even tomorrow or Friday if I get a chance to do some more catching up. I planned to have this story shared by Monday but decided I would process the bear myself once it was field dressed, skinned and cut into manageable pieces. It took longer than I expected. Taking this bear was nothing at all like the first.

catching up, bear hunting, robin follette, maine

I’m leaving on a jet plane (did you sing that?) on Friday morning and will be in the wee hours of Monday. I’m going to spend the weekend with friends who are hunt and pro staff with Prois. We’ll be dove hunting and hanging out. I can’t explain how excited I am to get to meet these women face to face. They’re a special breed, these women who hunt, some on levels much higher than mine, and all to put food on a lot of tables.

For now, the meat chicks, laying hens, turkeys and ducks must be put up for the night because we have two raccoons hanging around, and I have some catching up to do in the kitchen.

Deer Blowing, Skunk Waddling, No Bear

Deer Blowing, Skunk Waddling, No Bear

Deer Blowing

It was a good day to be seated in a mini chair behind the pile of trees I use as a ground blind. After sitting in the rain at two sites on Wednesday my boots were soaking wet, and I’d forgotten to dry them in the sun and breeze. A middle-aged brain cramp left me sitting in the shade, in a breeze, with cold, wet feet. Cold feet make the rest of me cold. You’d think I’d learn. A deer blowing took my mind off the chill.

Rustling through woods behind me and to the right alerted me to the largest of three skunks on its way in. It always stops at the base of the same tree to potty or mark its territory, I’m not sure which. It stopped, not noticing me as usual, and then went about its merry way. A yellow bellied sapsucker drummed up a racket as it flew tree to tree to tree in search of supper. Red squirrels chased each other in another cops and robbers getaway scene.

The Doe

The doe usually walks through the woods to my left or right in the late afternoon. I waited, listening for her footsteps in the crunchy leaves and the occasional snapping of a twig. A little before 5 pm I heard her. She walks back and forth on the same trail. The ground is bare other than the duff; no grass or even ferns so I can’t imagine why she’s there so often.

I’m getting good practice at sitting stone still with this doe around. I challenge myself to let her get as close as possible before she discovers me by sight or scent or because I move. Yesterday she was 20 feet behind me before she found me. Have you ever heard a deer blowing at you? She startled me again even though I knew it was coming at some point. The combination of blowing and the sound of her hooves trampling the ground as she whirled around to storm out made me jump. I listened to her a few minutes, grinning as I thought about how close she’d gotten this time and how much progress I’ve made in this little game of mine. And then I remembered my phone and turned on the camera. You can’t see her but if you turn up the volume and listen closely you’ll hear a deer blowing.

Doe Deer Blowing

Tree Stand Life – what happens around me

Tree Stand Life – what happens around me

Tree Stand Life

Bear hunting isn’t going well. Remember when I had so many bears coming to the barrel? Except for one bear, they are gone. Blackberries are abundant but starting to dwindle as they ripen and fall off, are picked by people, and eaten by the bears and other animals. There were substantially more mushrooms than usual after decent rain in September. If hyperphagia has started the bears aren’t coming to our bait barrels to gorge on food. Chubby shows up off and on now, often walking past the barrel on his way to somewhere else. I’m living a tree stand life these days and loving it most of the time. This leaves me with a lot of time to think, plan, and observe the natural world around me.

tree stand life, observe nature, nature notes

Turkeys

I was able to watch Eastern Wild turkeys the first two days of tree stand life but after being “busted” on day two, they haven’t been back. Turkeys have excellent vision and the biggest tom spotted me in no time. One alarm call and they were off, not to be seen again so far.

Whitetail Does and Fawn

When the wind isn’t blowing I can hear what’s going on for miles around me. Early in the season I listened to two deer walking slowly up the gravel road behind me. Ten minutes later I heard cracking in the woods and feet scuffling in the dry leaves this time inside the tree line. The deer slowed its pace as it approached stand. It came out of the dense woods into a clearing that’s filling in with wild hazelnuts. Deer stomp when they’re alarmed or angry. It stood 20 feet from my stand and stomped non-stop for two or three minutes, and then blew so hard I was startled. I laughed to myself. It’s like knowing the toaster is going to pop up and jumping when it does.

A big doe, so big that if she were a buck people would say “nice buck,” blew 103 times in the first 15 or 20 minutes. She startled me twice because I thought she was done. Listening closely, I could follow her movements without seeing it. Eventually I knew she was far enough away that I could slowly turn my head to the left and strain my eyes in her direction. After bursts of 17 to 20 blows at a time, she gave up on finding what (me) she knew was there but couldn’t see. She “got” me on Monday when I was looking for a bear at the barrel instead of paying attention to all that was around me. A sudden noise made me think a bear huffed at me, and it took a second to realize it was her blowing as she ran away.

Two days later, while sitting behind the ground blind, cracking in the woods to my right caught my attention. A doe and yearling browsed 100 feet away on grass and raspberry leaves. I could see parts of them but never their entire bodies at once. This time, the deer didn’t know anything was “off.” It was easy to watch them, and good to know I could sit so still they didn’t know I existed.

Owls

Barred owls start hooting each afternoon at 4:30, give or take a few minutes. I can almost tell the time based on the owls. Steve can do the same from his stand. One or two barred owls start hooting there at 6 pm. Some days it’s only one, other days there are two. And one day, a great horned owl started to hoot leisurely at first, then frantically for quite a while. I wanted to know why but of course, sitting on the side of a tree no where near the owl, I’ll never know.

Mobbed by Birds

Chickadees mobbed me many times. Dozens of chickadees surround an offender, flying between trees and hopping among branches until their curiosity is satisfied or they’re convinced the threat is over. The mob got me in the first week of the season. It started with noisy blue jays and grew to chickadees and other small songbirds I couldn’t see without turning my head. Were bears close enough to hear the ruckus? mmmm…I don’t know. After a while I moved enough to use my phone and record the racket.

Skunks & Squirrels

tree stand life, skunkThe Three Skunkseteers keep me amused part of most days. Each skunk is different. Three sizes, three stripe patterns, three personalities, three feeding patterns. The largest skunk balls up something with its front paws and then scrambles backward, rolling whatever it is it has across the forest floor. I can’t tell what it has even after inspecting the ground where this happens.

Red squirrels are a big part of tree stand life whether you’re hunting bear, deer or something else. I’ve watched chase scenes that would make Hollywood envious, fights that make bar room brawls look like child’s play, and a little sex, too.

Imaginary Bears

Bears do show up while I’m living the tree stand life. They’re imaginary. As the sun drops and moves to the west the shadows change. I strain to see the large black spot behind the barrel, the black space that appears for a few minutes as the sun is behind a large balsam tree. As the sun fades the black space grows. Movement? A bear? No, just the breeze blowing a hazelnut bush to the right of the barrel, along the trail Chubby uses when he shows up a7 9:30 pm and again after midnight. By the time I have to climb down and make my way through the woods to gravel road the imaginary bears are gone, too dark to exist.

 

Save

Bear Bait Barrel

Bear Bait Barrel

How to Make a Bear Bait Barrel

Making a bear bait barrel isn’t difficult. I’m using an old plastic barrel the girls had for barrel racing their horses and pony. Steve cut a hole in it with the chainsaw. The size of the hole isn’t particularly important to me. I’ve seen large holes bears can stick their heads into and small holes they have to reach into with a paw. One doesn’t seem to work any better than the other.

bear bait barrel, how to makeThe hole should be large enough for a bear to reach in and grab bait.

You need two holes in the back of the barrel. I watched two seven and a half month old cubs work together to turn a barrel on its side so they could get in easily. It took them less than 60 seconds to accomplish the job so we place the holes at the top third of the bear bait barrel. The barrel should be chained or otherwise attached to and anchor the bears can’t drag away such as large trees or stumps. Run the chain through the holes, around your anchor and secure the chain tightly using a padlock.

bear bait barrel, logs

Securing Your Bear Bait Barrel

We chain our bear bait barrel to tall stumps or strong trees to keep the bears from rolling them away. Keep the chain tight enough to keep it from moving away from the tree. If you use a five gallon bucket as a bait barrel you can drill holes on two sides and run the chain through the bucket. Don’t reply on the handle, it’ll make the raccoons laugh as they roll your bucket into the woods.

Bears will approach the barrel, sniff around, and then take time pulling the logs out. Logs give extra time to assess the bear. Is it a shooter? Is it a sow with cubs that will come tumbling in behind her? When my adrenaline rush settles in two minutes will the bear really be as big as it seemed when it first cautiously approached the barrel? Judge the size of the bear compared to the size of the barrel.

Bears! So Many Bears! – Bear Hunting 2016

Bears! So Many Bears! – Bear Hunting 2016

Bears! So many bears!

There are so many bears on Bait 2 this year that it’s a little overwhelming. We have more bears at that site already this year than three sites combined in 2015. I name and study the bears for the same reason I name the livestock we eat – to keep them straight in my mind. I’m going to call them something. “The smallest bear” can change when a smaller bear shows up. The current smallest bear is Patches because he has patches of fur missing.

If you missed why we need to bait bears in Maine you can read the first entry for the bear hunting season.

Note: Brain cramps caused me to set the camera dates off by a month. When the date shows up as July it’s really August unless I’ve edited the photo.

Bait 1

Site 1, large black bear

The sow and cub that visited in the first few days haven’t been back. There’s only one bear at the barrel now and she’s there every night but seldom, once if I remember correctly, during legal shooting time. She’s my first choice for two reasons. She’ll put a lot of meat in the freezer, and because, as you’ve noticed, I refer to the bear as “she.” I’m reasonably sure this is a sow and think it’s the bear I wanted when I took a much smaller bear in 2014. Taking her is a management choice that will help with population control. Nuisance bears have been trapped nearby and relocated. I call this bear Tail because when she’s standing up her tail sticks out further than normal. It’s unlikely she’ll change her habits from night to day. I don’t expect to harvest this bear.

many bears, black bear, big bear

Site 2

It started with Dibs and eight bears later, nine have been to the site in the first three weeks of baiting. They don’t all come back. Dibs hasn’t been around in close to two weeks. Patches and Chubby are there nightly and sometimes during legal shooting time. Smarty and Pima (pain in my ass) are there two or three times a week. You can bring them food but you can’t make them eat. And eat they do. I picked up a 50 gallon drum of mixed nuts yesterday because there are so many more bears than prior years we were caught unprepared.

Flagging shows us the bears’ height. This is Patches.

many bears, bear hunting in Maine, bear baiting

Chubby, for obvious reason.

many bears, chubby bear

Smarty is long and lanky. He looks like Pima but is a bit heavier and has a wider head.

many bears, bear hunting season, black bear, bait 2

Pima

many bears, bear hunting, bear baiting

Instinct and gut feelings are tools we use to keep ourselves safe. I got the creeps one afternoon as I approached the blind. Something wasn’t right. It felt similar to knowing you’re being watched. Steve tended the barrel while I switched cards in the camera, and then I did some investigating but couldn’t turn up anything reliable. Reasonably sure a bear was walking too close to the blind, we put up a camera. I was right.

That’s Pima walking down the trail about a foot from where I planned to sit behind the blind, and in the feature photo for this entry. (Note: different camera, date is correct.) This bear is a pain in my ass because it walks a foot from where I planned to sit behind the blind. I prefer ground blinds over tree stands even when bear hunting. We have a stack of softwood trees as a blind.

All was well and good until Pima showed up, crossing the road behind the site, following the trail we use to get to the barrel, and brushing up against the end of the blind as she passed. We did a little work to discourage it from following the trail. I dragged a fallen tree into the way, added softwood branches as obstacles and other work to encourage this bear to go out and around the blind. It went out alright but swung a hard right and walked parallel to the blind. In the picture above it’s about a foot from where I planned to sit. We put a tree stand up the next day.

Pima and Smarty are the largest bears at 2. Smarty is a little taller than Pima, and Pima’s head is narrower.

Where to Sit on Opening Day

My best chance at harvesting a bear as of today is at this site. Everything can change quickly. Dogs ruined another hunter’s site. As of now, every bear at 2 is large enough to harvest. I’m guesstimating Patches at around 125 pounds and Pima and Smarty are probably around 225 pounds. Don’t hold me to these weights, they’re guesstimates.

What Are the Bears Eating?

Their weight will continue to increase rapidly as they feast on huge amounts of raspberries, blackberries, sarsaparilla, apples and other wild foods as well as the three or four gallons of food we bring them almost daily. There are so many bears sharing the food we bring, as well as skunks and raccoons that are also eating, that it isn’t making a huge difference in how much weight they gain.
bear scat, many bears, what do bears eatScat (poop) tells us what they’re eating and it’s almost completely berries right now. The scat is full of raspberry and blackberry seeds. This bear ate raspberries, blackberries and sarsaparilla. It caught my attention because it looks like it should glow in the dark thanks to sarsaparilla.

So here we are, three weeks into baiting and one week from opening day. Two bears do show up at 2 during legal time, and I’ll most likely take the first one I see.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Bear Hunting Season 2016 – work begins

Bear Hunting Season 2016 – work begins

Bear Hunting Season 2016

Bear hunting season, my favorite of all the seasons we use to put meat on the table, has started. This isn’t going to become a hunting blog anymore than it’s solely a gardening blog, fishing blog or foraging blog. Hunting is one of the first methods homesteaders used to put meat on the table way back when. It isn’t nearly as common for modern-day homesteaders to hunt but some of us still do. I promise, this won’t become unbalanced overall.

Hunting opens August 29 but the work began a week ago. We set up three bait sites on July 30. Bait 1 is in its third year and is the bait where I harvested my first and only bear. The game camera dates are off by a month due to a temporary brain cramp I haven’t adjusted. On August 1 a sow and cub came in early in the morning. The sow came first and was followed two and a half minutes later by a cub.

Can you even eat bear meat?

You can! Bear meat is similar to 100% pastured beef but a little darker and more flavorful. When harvested, field dressed and butchered well the meat isn’t gamey. Bear Stew and Bear Chops are a couple of our favorite dishes.

Is this Fair Chase?

Is baiting bears fair chase? Fair question. There isn’t any spot and stalk involved in baiting when it comes to deer or bear, the two most baited big game animals I’m familiar with. There isn’t any fair chase in this method. But is it necessary? Yes, here in Maine it is. Our bear population is too high, a problem for humans as well as the bears. Baiting produces more harvested bears than hounding, snaring and by-chance numbers combined. Biologists would like us to harvest 5,400 bears during bear hunting season but we’re harvesting less than 50%. We’re going to reach social carrying capacity soon.

Is Bear Baiting Necessary?

I’ve already answered the question. Did you recognize what I said? “The sow came first and was followed two and a half minutes later by a cub.” Maine is about 90% forested. Unless you’re in a new logging harvest or a plantation your view is harshly limited in distance. You can’t see the forest for the trees, literally. If a sow wanders through without a reason to stop and give me a good look at her, I might make a quick decision on her size and take her. It’s very hard to tell a sow from a boar. Bait gives hunters time to make an accurate assessment, and time for the cub(s) to show up. Sows with cubs are off limits for me and Steve. It’s not illegal to harvest either but for us it’s a choice we’ve made based on our personal ethics.

Bear baiting is oddly questioned often but baiting deer is common in many states (not in Maine) and nobody bats an eye. It’s really not that different than putting food in a trough in front of cows, pigs and chickens. Livestock has no choice.  The difference? Bears can walk away, and I’ll show you that in a moment.

The bears weren’t the first out to breakfast.
skunk, bear baiting, fair chase, maine bear hunt
black bear sow, bear baiting, bear hunting season
bear hunting season, sow's head
bear hunting season, bait 1

These bears walked away without eating from the barrel. They have a choice.

What’s This?

This critter wandered through. It’s not a bear, raccoon, skunk, hare or porcupine. Beaver? What do you think? This is the only picture on the camera.

bear hunting season, unidentified animal

Over on bait 2, things are hopping. This is the second year at this site. We moved the barrel about 100 feet because a bear knew I was sitting behind the blind last year. It showed up on the camera five to 15 minutes after I left every evening it came to the site. I need a better place to sit this year.
bear hunting season, snowshoe hareI named this bear Dibs, as in “I call dibs!” The names I give bears during the season help me keep them straight when I’m talking about them and probably will you too. Dibs showed up on July 3 and stayed only a minute before he left. He didn’t approach the bait.
bear hunting season, first bear at bait

Note the logs in the barrel. They haven’t been moved. Dibs came back on August 3.  You can offer up bait but you can’t make them eat. There are a lot of raspberries right now and the blackberries are going to be the biggest crop I’ve seen in 32 years (I remember because I was hugely pregnant while picking).
bear hunting season, bait site 2, Maine
This time Dibs is hungry and figures out how to get to the food, but he scares himself (herself? I don’t know.) when he tips over the barrel. He came back two minutes later. He’s tipped it over two more times and reacted the same way.
bear hunting season, dibs spills the barrel

We’re off to a good start this bear hunting season. Site 3 will be a separate entry. There’s a bear I’d like to harvest at bait 2 but a lot can happen in the three weeks until the hunting season opens. He might disappear or more bears might appear, like last year’s bear.

Last Year’s Bear

Last year’s bear has entered this year’s bear hunting season. He came in late at night on August 5 and again very early on the sixth. This is Smarty. I had to pull up last year’s pictures to make comparisons to be sure it’s him. This clearly is a boar as evidenced by the anatomy on some of the pictures. There are pictures of him clacking his teeth at whatever it is he’s looking at in this photo. He continued to look in that direction between bites. There was probably another bear nearby.
bear hunting season, black bear, bait 2
One more thing. I know this is long. Thanks for sticking with me. Note the times on the pics below. When I went back today I beeped the horn as I pulled up and repeated “hey bear” as I walked through the woods. Dibs came back 90 minutes after we left and spent a while sniffing around to figure out what scared him before he went to the barrel.

(Ѝâ@½è‡

bear hunting season, steve on cameraIf this wasn’t already too long I’d show you great pics of a bear sleeping and a skunk… It’s bear hunting season, lots to talk about. I’m sure they’ll pop into a post soon.

The next update tells you about some of the many bears coming to Site 2.

Save

Save

Save

Save