Posts Tagged ‘Independence’
I get a lot of enjoyment out of putting out my game cam and seeing what I can catch on film. I’ll save left over food from home to put out to see what predators come in, and recently, my friend Peter had a great idea for a do it yourself long term game feeder. Like all good ideas it’s simple and easy to do. Just take a PVC pipe and cut it to a desired length – the one Peter made that I tried was about 5 feet in length and will hold a 50 pound bag of grain or more. You could increase the length to be able to add more grain and save yourself trips out to the feeder. The key is to place the bottom of the tube at ground level or just a millimeter or two above – that way the grain isn’t all over the ground in the elements, and critters can paw at the bottom to get more food taking advantage of gravity flow. It works a lot better, in my opinion, than the timed broadcast feeder I bought a number of years ago from Cabelas – with the broadcast feeder it’s spewing out food that is not being eaten and I would often arrive to fill the feeder to find the entire contents had been emptied onto the ground without being eaten. With this much simpler and cheaper method, the food stays put – dry and protected until something actually comes by to eat it. You can see in the pictures below that I attached the pipe to the tree with just a ratchet strap, you could also use duct tape or a number of other methods. You can also paint the PVC pipe if you feel so inclined. For the top you can use any number of items that can cover the hole to keep the elements out – I cut the top off a plastic whiskey bottle and put it over the top and it worked great. Peter made a few of these, and I put one out for a week – I set it up quickly with just the ratchet strap and there wasn’t a feed store open on the Sunday that I put it out, so I simply put in 10 pounds of guinea pig feed I grabbed at Wal Mart. Corn or sweet feed for horses or any type of grain will work. In a weeks time I had 69 pictures, the guinea pig feed was completely gone and the ground at the bottom of the feeder was pawed and dug up. Here are some of the best pics that I got, taken on a wildgame camera – reasonably priced as far as game cameras go, and takes good pictures -
I also wanted to add a disclaimer that feeding wildlife, especially deer over the long term is not a good idea. I have witness several deer over the years that have died from malnutrition in the winter because of “good samaritans” that thought they were helping by putting out food. There are some very good reasons listed here. It should only be done on a limited short term basis.
Maine’s people have always been a fiercely independent group. It’s still possible here to buy a piece of land and live self dependently. The epitome of how a tried and true Mainer thinks is beautifully represented in the film Dead River Rough Cut, following Walter Lane and Bob Wagg and documenting their way of life, trapping beavers, cutting trees, and reflections on life.
If you live in Maine you should see it because it will remind you of someone you know or knew – if you don’t live in Maine you should see it because it will give you an understanding of life in the Maine Woods, and although it is disappearing, there are still people who live this lifestyle. Ironically, the film has the distinction of being the most requested film in the Maine Prison system. Why? My opinion is because the lifestyle in the movie represents what it truly means to be “free”. I have known plenty of people just like Walter and Bob over the years, and I have at least one friend that lives similar to this today.
The film is a reality film made long before reality movies and TV were in vogue, and the Maine accents are priceless. One of the more striking parts of the film is the recitation of Robert Service’s poem The Cremation of Sam Mcgee by Walter in front of the fire, who recites it by memory.
The Cremation of Sam McGee
There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.
Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
Why he left his home in the South to roam ’round the Pole, God only knows.
He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
Though he’d often say in his homely way that “he’d sooner live in hell.”
On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
Talk of your cold! through the parka’s fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
If our eyes we’d close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn’t see;
It wasn’t much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.
And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
And the dogs were fed, and the stars o’erhead were dancing heel and toe,
He turned to me, and “Cap,” says he, “I’ll cash in this trip, I guess;
And if I do, I’m asking that you won’t refuse my last request.”
Well, he seemed so low that I couldn’t say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
“It’s the cursèd cold, and it’s got right hold, till I’m chilled clean through to the bone.
Yet ’tain’t being dead — it’s my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you’ll cremate my last remains.”
A pal’s last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.
There wasn’t a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
With a corpse half hid that I couldn’t get rid, because of a promise given;
It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: “You may tax your brawn and brains,
But you promised true, and it’s up to you, to cremate those last remains.”
Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
Howled out their woes to the homeless snows — Oh God! how I loathed the thing.
And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
And I’d often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.
Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the “Alice May.”
And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
Then “Here,” said I, with a sudden cry, “is my cre-ma-tor-eum.”
Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
The flames just soared, and the furnace roared — such a blaze you seldom see;
And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.
Then I made a hike, for I didn’t like to hear him sizzle so;
And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don’t know why;
And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.
I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: “I’ll just take a peep inside.
I guess he’s cooked, and it’s time I looked”; … then the door I opened wide.
And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and said: “Please close that door.
It’s fine in here, but I greatly fear, you’ll let in the cold and storm —
Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it’s the first time I’ve been warm.”
There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.
I was reminded too of the bastardized names that seem so prevalent here – in the film when Walter is feeding a bird out of his hand he calls it a “pisspot”. A couple of others I can think of are “shitpoke” for Great Blue Heron, and “shag” for a comorant.
All in all it’s good film. Representing the ingenuity, work ethic, ruggedism, individuality and independence that was and still is present here in the great state of Maine.
I gently slid my hand over the photograph and stood in awe as I looked around, excited to be in the same building as my Great Uncle Felix Fernald had been during the romantic era of the Maine Northwoods Lumbermen. Ok, he was actually a time-keeper there, but to my young imagination he was a river runner, riding down the rivers on the log drives of the spring and living the high life of a Maine woodsman and he had worked in the very building I was now standing in.
I was on a Boy Scout canoeing and camping trip,it was my first time exploring the North Woods of Maine, and we were at Seboomook High Adventure Base at Pittston Farm which is now a motel, restaurant and camping area. But back then, it was my gateway to the Maine woods, and as we paddled down the west branch of the Penobscot River and went over Roll dam in just a lifejacket, the lure of Northern Maine was born in me, and that week we explored the river I was a river driver on the spring freshet.
I have explored a lot of Northern Maine since that day, and one of the things I have always enjoyed is looking for bits of it’s history, especially it’s logging history. I was fascinated with the locomotives and the tramway on the Allagash River and I especially enjoyed reading about the hermit on Chesuncook Lake, which I wrote about in The Chesuncook Lake Gun. Northern Maine is timeless history…it is the same as it always was.
What images does Northern Maine conjure up for you? Maine has always been a state of rough wilderness with people known for their self reliance, individuality, ruggedness, and a sense of independence. People come here to experience the rougher end of wilderness living. The adventures people have in Maine are chronicled in countless books and magazines. A wilderness experience is what Northern Maine is all about, and that experience for most includes some sort of “traditional use”.
When it comes to the people of Maine, you hear the words “traditional use” a lot. But what does traditional use really mean? For me, it has it’s origins from an unwritten Wilderness code of ethics among early woodsmen which basically stated that – my cabin is unlocked. Should you find yourself in need of it for the night, please use it. Replace the firewood that you use. Leave food if you can, and leave it in as good or better condition than you found it. Those were the beginnings of traditional use. And to some extent it still exists today. It’s funny, when I bought property in Greenbush, there were 9 lots that were for sale, about 40 acres each. Within a short amount of time, 7 lots had no trespassing signs on them, and two did not. Guess which lots were purchased by Mainers. My property there will, as long as I live, remain unposted, and it made me happy a few years ago to hear a brace of beagles in the cedar bog on the lower end of the property chasing a rabbit. Also, Maine still has the rather unique rule that if property is not posted, then a person has the right to access it, unless asked to leave by the landowner. Folks not from here sometimes have a problem grasping that. Traditional use also means access for hunting, fishing,trapping, and in later years snowmobiling.
The paper companies including Great Northern understood the woodsman rules and traditional access and left there land open to it. You could do pretty much whatever you wanted, as long as you stayed out of the way of the logging trucks. I have a picture somewhere of me standing under the trailer of one of the Great Northern tandem wood haulers on the Golden Road – truly a leviathan of the woods.
Lately I fear for Maine and the changes that people are trying to make here to further their own agendas. Maine has been dividing for some time across North and South boundaries….and the phrase The Two Maines is more meaningful than ever. So, if you are reading this from a place south of Bangor, and have never visited Northern Maine I challenge you to take a road trip – Visit the Allagash and St John – take the woods roads from Portage to Madawaska and see for yourself the vastness of the region. Find out for yourself that it is open for everyone to use, whether you are a hunter, or a cross country skiier.
One of the changes that has been proposed off and on since the 193o’s is a Northern Maine National Park. Northern Maine doesn’t need a National Park – why? Because they already HAVE one – it’s called The North Maine Woods Inc. Imagine! Landowners working together to allow traditional access and traditional use – biking, hiking, skiing, hunting, ITS snowmobile trails, leases for your very own cabin, fishing, trapping, or just hanging out doing what you want. THAT my friend is Democracy at it’s finest. Landowners working together for the greater good of everybody. Reasonable fees, maintained roads, boat launches. It’s almost a utopia. And it WORKS. If you haven’t been, you should visit before you ever make a decision in your mind about a National Park there. Speaking of which, think about it -would you really want the increased regulation, increased law enforcement, and closure of traditional use and access?? Why would anybody want to change to that??
The latest person to want to change that is Roxanne Quimby, who has proposed a National Park on her property abutting Baxter State Park, which most people feel, as do I, should she be successful it will be a toe hold for the 3.2 million acre park that Restore has proposed. Roxanne herself describes the approximately 60,000 acre parcel as a “seed”. And yes, I at one time sported the bumper sticker that said Restore Boston – Leave Our Maine Way of Life Alone! I think those stickers should, and probably will be making a comeback here shortly.
And, I have a little secret to share with you that most people do not know about Baxter – One of the reasons Governor Percival Baxter created Baxter State Park was to STOP IT FROM BECOMING A NATIONAL PARK. Governor Baxter had the vision to know back in the 30′s that a National Park in that region was not the right thing to do. Baxter Park is for the people of Maine. And, if you are from Maine it is FREE TO ACCESS!! Camping of course is a small fee per night. I think I would be waiting a long time at the Acadia National Park tollbooth arguing that I should get in for free because I’m local.
And you know, I probably wouldn’t have a problem if Roxanne donated her parcel to Baxter Park – in fact, I would urge her to consider it if she is intent on preserving her piece of property. Baxter is self sufficient, they do not take money from the state. And guess what – Baxter State Park understands Traditonal Use. That’s right, you are allowed to hunt in the north end of the Park. Personally, I could live with the changes that giving her parcel of land to Baxter would bring, and I would urge Roxanne to consider it, but she won’t because her goal is the 3.2 million acre National Park.
Why? To use her words; “I feel like my reason for being put on this earth will have been fulfilled because this ( a National Park in Maine) will live on after me. A park is a demonstration that there is something in America that I can love.”
That is why she wants a National Park – to be famous and to be remembered. Another George Dorr if you will. She wants a legacy which sadly will only be the division and turmoil that she has brought to the people of Maine with this issue, whether she succeeds or not.
Further – I find it extremely ironic that, to use her words, “To me, ownership and private property were the beginning of the end in this country. Once the Europeans came in, drawing lines and dividing things up, things started getting exploited and over-consumed. But a park takes away the whole issue of ownership. It’s off the table; we all own it and we all share it. It’s so democratic.”
Seriously??? No really… Seriously??? From where I’m sitting, the North Maine Woods is open to me any time I want to visit, and to do whatever I want to do by a group of landowners working together..in DEMOCRACY. The only person I see dividing lines, dividing things up, and closing access is Roxanne herself. You can see what some of her property closure looks like here, And a lot more information regarding Roxanne here.
A National Park in no way takes away the issue of ownership. It means the Federal government owns it. The Federal Government that can’t run any program successfully, that is mired in debt, and can’t even balance a budget. That’s who you want owning more land in Maine? I surely don’t.
Briefly, here are the reasons I think that another National Park in Maine is a ludicrous idea;
-first and foremost, traditional uses would be eliminated. Snowmobiling alone added 300 million + in sales tax revenue to the state. From the Bangor Daily News 11/23/11;
Bob Meyers, executive director of the Maine Snowmobile Association, said snowmobiling in Maine is a $300 million to $350 million business responsible for 23,000 jobs statewide.
That doesn’t include the tax figures on hunting supplies and income from other traditional access. Any income generated by a National Park will go out of state to the Feds, just like in Acadia.
- The tax base. Putting that land into the hands of the Feds means taxes are going to go up for Piscataquis county, and more counties if the larger National Park is successful.
- Lost Economy from the woods industry. Personally I don’t believe Millinocket is down and out yet. In the current economy we’re all suffering, and I think an interested buyer will eventually get the mills up there running again, and profitable. (Note that since first writing this post, someone has bought the mills and put them back in operation). To use the statistics from the Maine Woods Coalition website;
Maine Department of Conservation Commissioner Ron Lovaglio stated at the Maine Woods Conservation Easement Forum that the wood products extracted from the 3.2 million acres of forestland in the Maine North Woods adds approximately $986,000,000 to the Maine economy each year through wages and sales of products and services. According to the Maine Office of Tourism, the typical overnight visitor to our region spends $85/day. To make up for the loss of productivity of locking up 3.2 million acres of forestland, a National Park would have to bring 11.6 million ADDITIONAL tourists to the region. Nothing the woods industry has ever done would have a greater impact to the rural character of Piscataquis County (population roughly 17,000) than such an increase in tourism. Commissioner Lovaglio wondered aloud how big the tollbooth would have to be in Kittery. In Greenville, we wonder how big the mound of trash will be each day at the rest area just outside of Town).
And I wonder how on earth you would get that many tourists to come to the region. Acadia attracts only 3 million per year and is one of the top visited Parks in the Nation. And lets face it, in the area Roxanne has proposed, what exactly is there that a tourist may want to see? I’ve lived a stone’s throw from Acadia National Park for most of my life, and it’s ACADIA – there are the carriage roads, vistas, Cadillac Mountain, Thunder Hole, lobsters, Bar Harbor…the tourist draw list for the region is endless. Acadia would be an attraction for tourists whether there was a Park here on not. Bar Harbor would be successful just like Camden or Rockland because of what we have here. Baxter is successful because of it’s uniqueness too – Katahdin of course being the biggest draw and the other unique mountains. What does Roxanne’s property, a working forest, have to offer that anyone would want to come see? People come there to hunt, fish and snowmobile…and use as timberland. Which a National Park would stop. In addition, Baxter Park and The Allagash have been showing a decline in users for some time now. A National Park isn’t going to stop that trend when there is nothing unusual or unique. There is certainly nothing there to compete with Baxter or Acadia.
And lets face it – any jobs brought to the area will be seasonal, just like they are here in Acadia. There are plenty of people here that struggle in the winter. Hence the old Bar Harbor joke – I landed here a number of years ago and never made enough money to leave.
In addition – the State Legislature has adopted a resolution against a feasibility study;
JOINT RESOLUTION MEMORIALIZING THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, THE UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR AND THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS TO OPPOSE THE CREATION OF A NATIONAL PARK IN MAINE’S NORTH WOODS
WE, your Memorialists, the Members of the One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Legislature of the State of Maine now assembled in the First Regular Session, most respectfully present and petition the President of the United States, the United States Secretary of the Interior and the United States Congress as follows: WHEREAS, Maine residents and visitors enjoy the privilege of using large tracts of private land in the north woods for recreational uses such as snowmobiling, hunting, hiking, fishing, bird watching and other activities; and WHEREAS, the future of that private land is of great importance to the people of Maine and their outdoor heritage; and WHEREAS, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and many of the large landowners have entered or are entering into cooperative wildlife management agreements that ensure the future of deer yards and other critical wildlife habitat in the north woods; and WHEREAS, state agencies, private landowners and nonprofit organizations are cooperating in an unprecedented effort to secure permanent rights of access to the north woods and keep valuable recreational property and natural habitat undeveloped through conservation easements; and WHEREAS, federal ownership or control of the north woods would create many problems including limitations on timber supply to the forest products industry, reduced recreational access and loss of local and state control of these areas; now, therefore, be it RESOLVED: That We, your Memorialists, oppose the creation of a national park in Maine’s north woods and request that the President of the United States and Secretary of the Interior Kenneth Salazar deny requests to conduct a feasibility study concerning establishing a national park in Maine’s north woods; and be it further RESOLVED: That suitable copies of this resolution, duly authenticated by the Secretary of State, be transmitted to the Honorable Barack H. Obama, President of the United States, to the Secretary of the Interior, Kenneth Salazar, to the President of the United States Senate, to the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives and to each Member of the Maine Congressional Delegation.
And the Millinocket Town council has weighed in as well;
WHEREAS, Maine’s working forest has been the major economic force in northern Maine for over 400 years and is Maine’s leading industry; and,
WHEREAS, the creation of a national park in this part of the State would effectively eliminate a large portion of the forest products industry, cause a major collapse of the area’s economic base, and force the relocation of thousands of people needing new employment; and,
WHEREAS, Baxter State Park was created by former Governor Percival Baxter in part to thwart efforts in the 1930s to develop a national park in the area and his park has served this area well without the undue intrusion a national park and its regulations would cause; and,
WHEREAS, there are no outstanding characteristics or unique attractions outside Baxter to justify creation of a national park here; and,
WHEREAS, the private ownership of land and the public use of land is a Maine tradition and way of life worthy of preserving; and,
WHEREAS, the vast majority of people in this area clearly do not support such a national park;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Millinocket Town Council officially re-affirms the Town’s opposition to the creation of a new national park in northern Maine, and,
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Millinocket Town Council requests the Governor of Maine to affirm and the Members of the Maine Congressional Delegation to re-affirm their opposition to such a national park.
In my mind no means no. But this issue is not going to go away you can be sure of that, and outside interests along with outside money will be here soon to champion it.
There is a lot to the National Park proposal story that you may not have thought about – educate yourself – please. Join or at least investigate the Maine Woods Coalition – look at their links page. Think about who has made statements against a National Park and why – what are their motivations? What is Roxanne’s motivation? Why wouldn’t she consider giving the land to Baxter? Who do you think really has Maine’s best interest at heart? Certainly Governor Baxter did.
Sign up for Dont fence me in. Read about Percival Baxter’s wild and free vision and realize he had the vision to know a National Park was a bad idea. Support the idea that those who close access to their property should pay higher taxes. Don’t fall for a narcissists’ agenda, or the minions that have. Look at Roxanne’s past actions including taking her business and jobs out of state. We can and will weather this, just as we as Mainers, have since the 30′s. Seriously think about it, and think about who has Maine’s best interest in mind.
Update 11/9/11 – I’m not sure how much clearer it can get than this;
EAST MILLINOCKET, Maine — Voters overwhelmingly opposed a National Park Service feasibility study of Roxanne Quimby’s proposed 70,000-acre national park, voting 513-132 against the idea in unofficial totals compiled late Tuesday, Town Clerk Erica Ingalls said.
I think Maine is especially unique, and that uniqueness has always been what has drawn me to this state and instilled my desire to live here. Maine has always been a state of rough wilderness with people known for their self reliance, individuality, ruggedness, and a sense of independence. Over the years however, Maine has become increasingly divided along many avenues. I tried to put forth some of it, or at least a microcosm of it in PO Box 311 but I’m not sure how successful I was in getting the point across.
I like that things are different here, and that we don’t fit into any of the big box thinking that happens in more urban areas. It makes me feel unique. For example, when the Federal Government mandated reservoir water filtration in the early 1990′s, the town I live in got a waiver because in all seriousness..having an expensive filtration system was just not necessary here. I like that Maine by and large still represents individual freedoms, one example being that despite threats from the Federal Government to withdraw funding for certain things, Maine still extends the middle finger their way when it comes to motorcycle helmet laws. I’m not going into citing all of them here, but the statistics back up that a large percentage of motorcycle accidents happen during the first year one has a license. Therefore Maine has a mandatory helmet law while on a learners permit, and for the first year you have your license. And while when I had a motorcycle I often chose to wear a helmet, I dearly loved those sultry July nights riding with the wind in my hair and no one else on the road but me and I’m so thankful that I had the freedom to experience it.
Maine has been slowly dividing for some time and there is always the occasional smattering of secession brought up here and there. If you took a random sampling of Mainers, and asked them where the dividing line was I’ll bet that the general consensus would be Bangor. Therefore most people would already be in agreement as to how to divide up the state along north and south lines – which I would think would be a major issue already overcome. I doubt that it will ever happen, but sometimes it’s fun to think about. I don’t think someone from Portland has any business at all voting on something that will effect someone that lives in the Allagash, and vice versa. I would suspect that a good percentage of the Southern Maine folks are originally from another state and carry with them the big box thinking they were brought up with. The dilemma is spelled out eloquently and beautifully in essay form, in a series of books beginning with First Person Rural by Noel Perrin.
It details the dilemma of folks from away moving into rural Vermont for the “charm” and then trying to change everything because they don’t like the smell of the neighbors pigs and some of the other finer details of rural life. As Noel says you should have to live here for 10 years before you’re even allowed to vote…amen. I’ve never been much of a political person, other than voting for who I wanted, but that all changed over an issue that divided Maine along it’s Bangor North/South boundary in 2004. That issue was the bear referendum. Funny thing is, I didn’t and don’t even hunt bears (other than trying for two seasons when the referendum came up)…I just don’t really have any interest. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, and it is extremely emotional on both ends of the spectrum, hear me out, and let me tell you from experience that it isn’t easy. The specific issue was hunting over bait, with hounds, and trapping. This incensed me because by and large, voters would be voting on emotion, and not common sense and the opposition, which was largely from out of state, played on that emotion at every opportunity. This is an exact parallel to what Noel Perrin was talking about in his essays. When the referendum came up I had never tried to harvest a bear before, by any method. But, when I realized that I may lose the freedom to chose whether or not I could, I bought my license, and the proper gear and tried to trap one before I couldn’t anymore. Now this wasn’t just some half cocked plan. Although I don’t go much anymore, I do have almost 10 years experience as a trapper, and I do know what I’m doing. I contacted some folks that do go, and learned their techniques. I gave it a shot…and I failed. Two seasons in a row. So, if perhaps part of the issue for you is unfair advantage, it’s just not true.
In any event, I was incensed that a group of people and outside interests wanted to take away something from the people of Maine. Something that makes us special. In my opinion, and I suspect Noel Perrin would agree with me, if you disagree or have a problem with hunting methods – live in a state that caters to your beliefs. Against trapping? Massachusetts and Colorado agree with you. Why can’t there be just one place left where you can do those things? Why is it some people always want to try to take away something from others just because they personally have a problem with it? I got involved in the process as much as I could including writing the following letter to the director of the Sportman’s Alliance of Maine.
My beloved grandfather instilled in me the desire to live and love the outdoor life, back when a woodsman and a hunter were considered to be a special person. I guess I can’t put it into words better than “special person” but I think you may know what I’m talking about. Hunting, fishing, trapping, camping and canoeing stories were always being told in the garage, where my grandfather went to get away from everyone, smoke, and drink “apple juice” (whiskey). Everybody loved him and he was what you would call a character here in Maine. My grandfather grew up in a time in this state when there was little work and if you did not get a deer in the fall you did not eat well, and for some, a fur check meant whether you had christmas or not. Unfortunately he was too old to take me hunting but his stories and my imagination took me afield as a boy. He died shortly before my seventeenth birthday and I recieved his present in the mail – a new mackinaw plaid hunting jacket, with $20 bills in each of the pockets. I inheritited his Winchester lever action .30-.30 and when I was able to get a hunting license I took it aflield. I had to learn a lot by trial and error, but eventually the day came when I was on the track of a big buck. I tracked him for hours and I knew I was close, and I asked my grandfather for help to get my first deer. Shortly thereafter, he broke from cover on my left. Had he gone left I never would have seen him but he went to my right in a semi-circle around me and I had time to steady myself aim and fire. When I realized he was down I began to shake uncontrollably from the excitement and I thanked the deer for his life and my grandfather for his help. He was 8 points, and 230 pounds. I will never forget that day. I saved the shell and in the spring, buried it at my grandfathers headstone.
I always believed the media when it came to trapping- I thought it was cruel as they told me it was, yet one day I decided to give it a try to see for myself. I got a trapping license, joined the Maine Trappers Association, and learned how to trap, and immediately learned that the media was wrong. The reason I am writing this to you is I am terrified of the upcoming referendeum. I have never previously had the desire to hunt or trap for bear but I understand the implications should this referendum pass. I have given as much as I can afford to the coalition, and explained the facts to those that want to listen. I wish the general public realized that the foot snares used on bears is the same device used by the state to perform research studies and does not harm the bear. In closing, I read in today’s paper about the possibility of a constitutional amendment that any voter initiatives related to hunting, fishing, or trapping must pass by a 2/3 supermajority, and I think regardless of what happens with the referendum Maine needs that amendment.
I still shake my head to think there are actually people in Maine that want to take my rights away as a hunter. I wonder what my grandfather would think.
There are a few things left out, but essentially that’s the brunt of it. I received a nice reply from their office, asking for permission to put it in the newsletter, and that I had made them cry in the office. Thankfully the referendum did not pass, and the amendment requiring issues surrounding hunting, fishing, and trapping never made it anywhere either which is too bad. Most people these days live so far outside of the “basics” that they have no idea what it would take to survive on their own any more.
There are some great thoughts on the issue of bear baiting here.
Things have calmed down since then, and the outside interests have moved on. I know this because after a certain op-ed appeared in the local newspaper I searched for the author and had a lengthy email discussion with them. The person moved here specifically for championing the referendum, and left shortly after it was not passed, as did the others. Particularly infuriating, and thankfully most of Maine voted on the science. However, this is just one issue. There will be others coming down the line you can be sure of that. And I think something needs to change – Portland has such a high population of people, folks in Northern Maine can be easily outvoted on issues that are important to them. Northern Maine retains the self reliance, individuality, ruggedness, and a sense of independence, whereas Southern Maine has only vestiges of its former history, and neither Northern or Southern should be voting on issues that are regionally specific to one another….The two Maines.
Game Cameras (Cams) come in many different choices these days, and have a big range in cost. Many excel in one area but under-perform in another. I’ve had a lot of fun with mine, and you never really know what you’ve captured on film while you were away. It’s exciting to run up to the camera to see how many pictures it’s taken and of what. There are a few things you have to think about when you’re shopping around for a camera – first being this day and age digital is the only way to go. I’ve used the old 35mm film cameras when digital was still expensive, and between the incandescent flash and the film advance you’re spooking critters left and right, some of whom won’t return. Some digital cameras have an incandescent flash so you can get color pictures at night, but I prefer the infrared (IR) flash because the creature you are taking a picture of never even knows it. It does give a more “ghosty” appearance to your images, but it looks fine, if not better, to me. Generally the faster the trigger time the higher quality (and price) of the camera. However, if you’re on a feeder or bait as I am, trigger time doesn’t matter all that much because the animal is hanging around having their picture taken. If you are interested in a game trail or security though, you’ll need a fast trigger time. The detection zone of a camera is comprised of the width and the range. Cameras vary in ranges from 30 feet to 100 feet, and widths of 5 to 90 degrees. Each camera will have their own specs, and if possible it’s best to see pictures that it’s taken at various lighting and distance to see if it will work for what you want it to, and most camera manufacturers will have pictures available to view. The other factor is recovery time – the time it takes to take and store a picture to be ready to take another. Some take only half a second, which would be good on a game trail, and some take 60 seconds or longer, which is ok if you’re on a feed station. Obviously the faster the time the more expensive the camera.
I like to set mine up over bait – typically I’ll put out something interesting (usually table scraps and leftovers) and I’ll spread it around a small area. This keeps whatever is interested hunting around for each tasty morsel, and therefore more likely to have a good picture taken. I then set up the camera within close range of the bait. You can test whether the camera will work in it’s location by turning it on and walking around the area with the bait – the camera will flash a red light when it is picking up a signal from your movement, and a small green light when the picture is actually taken. The images in this post are taken with a Wildgame camera -
For the price it’s been a great camera, and I’ve got some memorable shots with it. When combined with some enhancing software which you can do online for free at Picnik, you can get some pretty good pictures out of it. For these images, we had cooked two racks of baby back ribs over the fire, and as we were eating I was tossing the bones out into a small area of the woods in front of camp, and when we left in the morning I set up the camera overlooking them at ground level. That night this red fox appeared and stayed for almost 48 hours finding what I had thrown out there. In the second to last picture you can see him with one of them in his mouth. So, if you have a place where you’d like to know what’s visiting or what’s nearby that you can lure in, think about getting a trail cam – they’re a lot of fun.
Some amazing bobcat footage.
Keeping chickens for eggs and meat is not only fun, it’s easy and cheap too. And, if you manage things right you only have to buy them once. The first thing you need is housing for your chickens. Chickens will thrive in almost any coop, and there are a myriad of options and plans available out there. I used a fast framer kit which allows someone without a lot of carpentry skills to build a building without having to worry about cutting angles properly.
There are also lots of ideas on square footage per chicken – the coop I built was about 56 square feet, and typically chickens need about 3-5 square feet per bird to be comfortable, so technically my coop should hold about 10-18 birds comfortably, although over the winter I kept about 6 for my needs, and 25 for the summer months. Murray McMurray hatchery is what I used to buy my chickens and equipment to feed and water them. You have to order 25 birds at at time and they come through the mail. Murray McMurray also usually sends you a free gift exotic bird as well. There are special feeders for the baby chicks so they don’t stand or poop in the food bin, and they need to have a heat lamp without a draft over them. The lamp has to be placed so that they can move under it to get warm, and be able to move away from it if they get hot. After about 4 weeks, they’re ready to move into the coop. Baby chicks get medicated chick starter for food in the beginning. I keep mine on it for a couple of weeks, and then switch over to chick starter until they are old enough for laying pellets.
Here is a pretty good video on setting up a brooder, I like the plastic tote idea.
Murray McMurray’s website has lots of useful free information for the beginner, and there is lots of good information here. There are several breeds of chickens that work well for both meat and eggs, my favorite is Rhode Island Reds. If you order 25 straight run (straight run is unsexed, cheaper, and about 50% male and female) and keep one of the roosters, in the spring you can hatch your eggs using a incubator or a broody hen, and raise them for the summer for the freezer in the fall, recycling your laying hens from the previous year. Here is how my coop looked;
There is a window on the side and the back, where it gets the most sun each day. In books you may find that people “light” chickens to keep them at 14 hours of light per day after natural light drops below that point, but I never have, and although egg production slows during the winter months it never stops. The door for the chickens is on the left side of the coop – just a small door for them to come out each morning. Your chicken door needs a good latch though – raccoons are excellent at figuring out how to open things. On the front door there is a piece of wood that can be lifted off and underneath it is hardware cloth for ventilation during the summer months. As long as your coop is well built, and does not have any drafts it does not need to be insulated. Here in Maine the winters get pretty cold, and my chickens survive just fine. If you feel that you really want insulation, it needs to be inside a wall, chickens will pick it all apart. My chickens were free range, that is to say I did not have them fenced in and they were free to forage for the day, returning to the coop at dark, where I would latch them in for the night. You need roosts in your coop – I used 2×4′s across the top. Chickens eat absolutely everything and enjoy table scraps too. I use layer pellets from the local feed store, along with scratch corn and leftovers from the table as well. Your local feed store will have shells (such as oyster or clam) too – chickens need them to keep their eggs hard. Chickens also need grit to help digest their food – if they are free range you don’t really have to worry about it, but if you have them penned you may want to throw some grit in once in a while. Chickens are perfect if you are a gardener too as their feces are fantastic fertilizer and full of nitrogen. It may be hard to see in the picture, but to the left of the coop is a run that I built that is about 8 feet long, and fenced in. You can put a few chickens in there and place them between the rows of your crops, and not only will they weed your garden for you, but they will fertilize it as well. Putting poop directly on plants will burn them, but between the rows it works great. The perfect recycler. For the floor of the coop I use wood shavings, making sure in the morning to shovel out the nights poop from under the roosts – doing it that way lets the wood shaving last for a while before you have to clear them out and replace them with fresh. There are lots of descriptions about particular sizes and shapes for nest boxes, I used a couple of old horse tack boxes – they were not very big, enough for a chicken to get into and turn around, and enough for them to feel hidden. A good trick to get them using the nest box is to put a wooden egg in them, you can get one at any craft store. It’s fun to watch chickens in the yard, and listen to their various calls. Some days they seem really intelligent, and some days the opposite. They are hardy and easy critters to keep.
The act of killing a chicken to eat can be a difficult one for anybody, and some people can’t do it. It is a fact of life, that something dies so that you can live. Celebrate the fact that you are providing for yourself, that you chicken had a much better life than a commercial chicken did, and that there are no chemicals or hormones in the meat you are going to eat. Here are a couple of videos on how to do it correctly. For me personally, I didn’t bother scalding and plucking, rather I just took the skin off and quartered. There is also some good information in slaughtering day for the meat chickens.
When I first decided to keep chickens, the book below was very helpful to me. Give it a try – it’s fun and easy, and there’s nothing like watching a rooster strutting his stuff.
Oh for a wish I once wished
Yes I remember distinctly
Lying in a field the sun and sky above
The whisper of the trees
The softness of the meadow
I had not a care in the world
But the world had cares for me.
It seems there’s much more than just lying in a meadow
Though you spend all your days just wanting the
Time to go
Yes but its not right to just lie in a meadown
But the meadow is always there
The world had big plans and I met them full steam
But the world had something uncannily keen
Yes the world could be beaten but it wouldn’t lose
And I still hear the echo of its mirth.
And the meadow is still there though less frequently I lie
And as I lie in it now I think of the wish of a scatterbrained
Boy. And as the leaves blow about and the clouds move across
I lie in the meadow a rebel not beaten
Nay tis I who have won
For my wish came true.
As I approached the lip of the falls I had second thoughts about going over them, but it was too late for that. Suddenly I was thrown into the maelstrom and tossed about as if in a washing machine. I felt myself moving forward and opened my eyes briefly to see the rocks on the walls of the trench I was in whizzing by, and quickly closed them again. Then the current slowed, and my lifejacket popped me to the surface of the river. I grabbed the rescue rope and pulled myself to shore to join the others.
We were starting a Boy Scout trip down the West Branch of the Penobscot River, and one of the rights of passage to beginning the trip was going over the washed out Roll Dam in nothing but a lifejacket and a helmet. How fearful and exhilarating it was to swim out into the water above the falls, and feel the strong current grab you and pull you to the brink. Better than any amusement ride out there. This was my first long canoe camping trip, and I was quickly hooked. I remember a couple of highlights of camping on an island in the river and feeding fallfish we had caught to a nearby soaring osprey. One evening I went out for a paddle up a stream next to where we were camping, and on the way back down a huge moose crossed the stream just in front of me. It was amazing for me to watch, and I so wanted to move to Maine and see this every day.
The upper west branch that we were paddling drains into Chesuncook Lake, a reservoir formed by Ripogenous dam. It’s about 22 miles long and 1-4 miles wide, with a maximum depth of 150 feet. I’ll never forget coming around the corner into Chesuncook and seeing the Chesuncook Lake House, smack dab in the middle of nowhere it seemed so big. We pulled in to the grassy shore and went up to the house to check it out. They rent rooms and cabins, and at the time I was there, had a small store where we bought homemade root beer and homemade bread. We sprawled out on the grassy lawn overlooking Chesuncook and ate and drank our root beer. My Dad as a joke mentioned to be careful drinking the root beer, as it contained a tiny bit of alcohol, and after that one of the kids in our troop started acting like he was a little drunk. It was pretty funny. Chesuncook Lake House has a webcam that you can see here – this is the view we had while on the grass that day. Chesuncook is a crossroads of sorts, you can head down past Ripogenous gorge ( where they whitewater raft) into the Penobscot River, you can head north to Umbazookus Lake into Mud Pond , carry to Chamberlain and then down the Allagash, or you can head up to Black Pond, into Caucomgomoc Lake and then up stream to Round Pond which is what we did. I remember climbing the firetower overlooking Allagash Lake and picking fresh strawberries to put in the pancakes for breakfast. I paddled way up one of the brooks in the area, dragging over rocks and pulling upstream for a long ways. Suddenly, perched on a rock in the middle of nowhere was an old rusty lamp, probably from the logging days. It was magical almost, as if I was drawn to it somehow.
On the way back down from Round Pond to Chesuncook the wind was behind us, and we lashed the canoes together and raised a large tarp and sailed the 22 miles down the length of Chesuncook. This was one of my first encounters with the region, and the north woods with its adventures and secrets still calls out to me. Those of you who hear it know what I’m talking about.
The region is full of rich history, tales and characters, most notably Hiram Johnson.
The following story was printed in the Bangor Daily News on 12/19/2005, written by Wayne Reilly;
Mainers never cease to be fascinated by hermits. There have been an abundance of them immortalized in local histories or in the minds of older residents in nearly every community in the state. Most of these folks were harmless eccentrics, as was Hiram Johnson until one day in 1959 he shot and killed the logging contractor who had employed him near the bank of Chesuncook Lake, northwest of Mount Katahdin. Then he killed himself after setting his shack on fire.
Howard Collins knew Johnson when he was a boy growing up in Chesuncook Village. He recently discovered what is believed to be the only photograph of the hermit in existence. Johnson is displaying an auger, the device he used to bore holes in the ends of boom logs that were chained together and used to corral floating logs on their way to market. Why this stubborn, solitary man allowed his picture to be taken seems as much a mystery as the rampage that ended his life some years later.
Johnson was 70 years old and reportedly hard of hearing when he killed Leslie E. Spear after the logging contractor tried to enter the “horse hovel” he occupied. Spear was accompanied by two deputy sheriffs and an employee, according to the contemporary report in the Bangor Daily News on Sept. 22, 1959. The dispute, said the newspaper, was over pay, apparently aggravated by a second disagreement about whether Spear could take his logging equipment past Johnson’s squatter’s dwelling, located on land owned by Great Northern Paper Company. Today it is impossible to sort out all the nuances of this emotional dispute.
Howard Collins remembers Johnson well from when his father used to take him fishing near the hermit’s hovel, which was across the lake from Chesuncook Village, behind Gero Island. He lived in a clearing beside the lake in what is called the Cuxabexis region after a stream that flows into Chesuncook from a smaller lake by the same name. Collins recalls a man far different from the crazed “elderly woods recluse” portrayed in the newspapers in 1959.
“Hiram was not a bad guy. Some who didn’t know him just painted him that way because of the murder. All of the so-called ‘old timers’ at Chesuncook Village liked Hiram,” recalled Collins, who worked for Great Northern Paper Company for 32 years and still owns a camp in the area. “He lived in a small cabin at the south end of the village. Shortly after the end of World War II, perhaps 1948 or 1949, he moved to Cuxabexis. … The reason Hiram left the village was he felt it was becoming too crowded for him. … His cabin at the village burned and, needing a place to live, he knew of the horse hovel at Cuxabexis.”
“He was to say the least a very stubborn man,” said Collins, recounting a story about a large pile of scrap iron that Johnson had collected and piled by the side of the lake in the hopes of making some money. He built an enormous raft from 28-foot-long boom logs and piled the tons of iron on the raft. He poled and paddled the craft all the way down the lake, taking a week or more to get to Chesuncook Dam. Someone had called ahead to a junk dealer from Greenville. Johnson rejected the dealer’s offer and laboriously propelled the load back up the lake, unloading it on the shore.
Collins was surprised to run across the photograph of Johnson. It was strange that Hiram would pose for someone to take a picture of him, Collins said. But a viewer can interpret things differently. Perhaps Johnson did not consider the picture to be of him exactly, but of the tool that he was extending in a mittened hand at the end of his rigid right arm toward the camera, as if indicating the photographer should keep his distance. This photographer may have surprised him, saying, “Hiram, let me take a snapshot of that auger you use so well.” Johnson’s first impulse being pride, he posed stiffly, perhaps before he had a chance to think too much about it.
You can see that only photo of Hiram here.
I delved into the story a little further, and found the account from 1959. It appears there are numerous accounts as to what really happened, for instance some stories say it was a shotgun, some say a rifle. Nevertheless, apparently Leslie Spear hired a deputy to fly him out via seaplane to Hiram’s cabin to talk to him about money the old hermit said that Spear owed him. Hiram warned them away from his cabin and then fired a shot at Spear, killing him instantly. The deputy ran back to the plane and radioed Greenville, where more deputies, fire wardens, and woodsmen formed a posse and flew in. A doctor got close enough to Spear’s body to determine he was dead under covering fire, and amidst threats from the hermit. Gunfire was exchanged throughout the morning, and then they lobbed tear gas into the cabin, prompting Hiram to run for another shack 100 yards away to take refuge. The posse waited for nightfall to close in on the shack but in the meantime it caught fire. They found Hiram in the remains of the shack, with a self inflicted gun shot wound.
Hiram was known for his feats of strength , often hiking to Greenville through the woods some 40 miles in distance for supplies. He was said to have hauled 1100 pounds of grain up the ice on the lake “just like a horse”. One of Maine’s many interesting characters.
Dad and I returned to Chesuncook some years later to do some camping and fishing. The summer had been very dry, and the lake was extremely low. You could see on the rocks where the water level usually was way up on shore. We encountered a strange phenomenon while fishing there one day. The Lake was very calm, and we were some distance from shore, when suddenly large waves appeared out of nowhere, almost as if a large boat had gone by and left a wake. We rode out the waves successfully and talked about where they could have possibly come from. Much later, after returning home, we learned that it was a phenomenon called Seiche, which can happen on large lakes when one side of the lake has a different atmospheric pressure than the other. The phenomenon is described well here.
The next day we were on the opposite shore of the lake paddling and trolling for fish. I was absent-mindedly staring at the bottom as it went by, bottom that would usually not be visible except that the lake was so low, when I spied something. I shouted to my dad to look, and he saw it too. We back-paddled and hovered over it trying to figure out what it was. It looked like a gun case. With paddles and fishing poles, we managed to fish it out, and not only was it a gun case, it had a gun in it. A 30.06 rifle. There was a barely visible name on the case that slowly faded from view as I read it. The gun was quite rusty, and had been on the bottom for quite some time. We brought it back to camp with us. Later that evening we heard a motorboat out on the lake, and it was headed in our direction. The man landed at the campsite, and talked with us about how the fishing was, the weather, and the lake level. After some time, he introduced himself, and it was the same name that was on the gun. I was just a kid at the time, and immediately told him that we found a gun with his name on it. He picked up the gun and looked at it, and thanked us for finding it, and said that he had lost it while duck hunting the previous fall. Despite being young, it seemed that the gun had been there longer than that, and I knew that you do not use a rifle to hunt ducks, you use a shotgun. After getting the gun back, he shortly hopped back in the boat and left. Dad and I thought about when we found the gun and realized that we had been within sight distance of a camp on the shore when we picked up the gun, although it was some distance away. I’ll never know the true story behind that gun, dropped into the water at a depth where we wouldn’t have ever seen it, except the water level was low that year. Another North Maine Woods secret that will never be told.
Early in the year 2000 I had an epiphany that changed everything. It took every facet of my life up to that point and combined it into a single focus. It forever changed the way I viewed the world, how I think, and how I react to the physical world. It took the small picture I had been seeing all those years and blew it up to the “big picture”. It allowed me to see sights that I never would have imagined seeing before. It got me in shape, toughened my body, and sharpened my mind with what I learned, and had to figure out. It brought me into the woods of Maine, back to basics, made me free, and instilled a kindred historical spirit in me that I cannot put into words. A friend once told me the reason he enjoyed it so much was instead of waiting for things to happen, he was making things happen and that makes all the difference in the world. Indeed it does. He also said that doing it made every day like Christmas. And you know what’s funny? I used to hate it. When I came across the subject in a magazine or catalog I would immediately turn the page. I thought it was wrong. And you know what else? At one point in your life you’ve probably done it on a small scale. What is it you ask? First, let me back up for a second.
The history of our country is ripe with exploitation and romanticism. From the moment the Europeans hit shore they exploited the Native Americans the land and all of its resources. Our nations wildlife was no exception. We hunted and trapped many animals to the brink of extinction for greed. Over the years since our exploitive days we’ve turned things around. Don’t forget that there are a myriad of other reasons besides hunting and trapping that have hurt our animal populations including pollution and habitat destruction. But we’ve come a long long way towards repairing some or even most of that damage. Unfortunately a lot of what people and the media believe today comes from the stories from our exploitive past, and I think at least some of it has to do with our culture today being far removed from our food and clothing sources, instead we let other people do the dirty work for us. I’m sure at some point in your life you have heard of the success stories of wildlife re-introduction to habitat where they once thrived, but because of habitat destruction, pollution, and exploitation no longer lived there. One of the best reintroduction stories are the river otter in Ohio, a detailed description of which you can find here.
So let me ask you this – How do you think they caught them for reintroduction? (hint: the linked research article above describes how)
To answer the question above, in a seemingly ironic twist animals intended for reintroduction are caught in foothold traps. The most misaligned and misunderstood wildlife management tool.
And to answer the first question above, in 2000 I started on my journey as a trapper.
It evolved very slowly. As a kid I would plead with my Dad to let the fish go we had just caught instead of taking them home. I once swam out to a float to rescue a grasshopper that I thought would die if I didn’t. But over time as I matured I realized that things, including us, die. And that each day, for us to survive something has expired for us to do so. Whether you do that deed yourself, or whether you have someone else do it for you, something expired. Being self-sufficient and independent , by the time I got to college I tried hunting, and over the years I got better at it. I liked being outside, exploring, and occasionally getting my own food. Then, one day while deer hunting in 1999 I sat down for a break on a big beaver dam. It was a beautiful fall day..the kind where the leaves are aglow, some floating on the brownish water of the beaver pond, the sun was warm, and the air had a hint of cool to it. I sat there lost in thought, and then I started looking at the beaver house, the dam, and the runways on the bottom they had created. And I started thinking to myself, you know, one of these days you might want to try trapping. Here on the coast of Maine they had just come up with stringent new rules making it almost impossible to get into the lobster industry, and at the time I was upset that I didn’t have the foresight to buy a license when I could have. I had a recreation license to trap lobsters for a while, and I enjoyed it, but the new rules would have made it very difficult for me to get a commercial one. I thought what if they do that with trapping and someday I want to go and I can’t? I thought about it, and decided to look into it when I got home. I grabbed a law book from the town hall and pored it over, and then bought some books on the subject, and I began to get excited about it. The state makes you take an education class to get a license application and I went to one over the winter, and got my license. Now that I had it, I might as well try to go and see if I could catch anything. I bought a couple of traps, and decided to see if I could catch one of the beavers at the dam I had been sitting on the year before, using the knowledge I had read about in books. I eagerly checked them for a couple of weeks, with no catch at all. Turns out trapping is a lot harder to do then I thought. I do think when it comes to trapping, people for some reason think it’s easy. It’s not. You have to be intimately familiar with everything there is to know about the creature you are after. Where it lives, how it travels, why and when it travels, how it thinks, and a whole host of other criteria. It’s hard to do. But now I can tell you when a stream looks “minky”, or when a beaver house is active, or notice the signs that point to a bachelor beaver den upstream. And believe it or not, most sets that trappers set are blind sets – that is to say they are not baited with anything. You have to know a lot to get a creature in the vast forests and streams, to know where they are going to step on less than a square inch spot. So, the first time I went after beaver I caught nothing. The first time I tried to catch a fox he dug the trap up and pooed on it. But I was undaunted and challenged. This was going to be hard, but I was going to learn how. I attended the Trappers weekend that the MTA put on the next fall, and attended all the demos. That fall, everything came together. My love for being outside, canoeing, backpacking,exploring, and learning were all focused. I went hard-core, and old school. Snowshoeing miles in to backcountry beaver flowages, backpacking 60+ pound beavers back out, and cutting ice with a chisel that I packed in. It was unbelievable. For several years when it was clear I saw the sun rise each morning. I learned to skin, flesh and stretch fur. I learned as much as I could about each creatures habits, and how they thought. When I look at a map these days, I instinctively pick out otter routes (an otter typically has a 20-80 mile circuit they run) , and look for crossover trails in the woods. I can’t drive by a pond without scanning it for beaver houses. I saw huge bobcats. One night miles from anywhere,standing in the frigid and still January air, I watched a small plume of steam rising up from a beaver house silhouetted by the moon. I met some incredible, down to earth, and trusting people. I had a “ghost” cat following me one year and visiting all my sets. I felt such a connection with history it’s hard to describe. Trapping is akin to a chess game, except who you are playing against has more pieces than you do. You are on their turf and in their “home”, and just like you would know if someone had been in your house, they know that someone has been in theirs. There is truth behind the cliche “outfox a fox”, and on the days when that happened it was great. I enjoyed the peace of the woods and the freedom. After a day in the woods things smell better, taste better, and there are always the wonderful and rich stories that come with the adventure, like falling through the ice on a wind chill advisory day. I had so many rich adventures that first year, that I wrote a story about them. “Tales of a First Year Trapline” appeared in the Jan/Feb edition of Trapper’s World magazine.
There is a little bit of trapper in each of us. As a nuisance trapper I had interesting clients including a Park Ranger. He came out to watch the sets be made, and was always ready and waiting when I showed up to check them. His wife said it was the highlight of his winter to check sets with me. If my stories have piqued your interest at all I linked two books below, they are both valuable resources that can get you started, along with your states Association.