Posts Tagged ‘Trapping’
One of my favorite beaver flowages to trap was first found on a satellite map. It’s a two mile ride on a bicycle followed by a 1 mile walk through the woods to get there, and it takes about two hours to get in and out with gear. I enjoy the time spent in the woods and noticing all the subtle changes that occur from year to year as I make the annual trips in there. Free from competition from other trappers I can manage the flowage by only taking a couple of beavers and ensure that each year the area will have beaver to harvest. The flowage has produced some really big beavers over the years and should continue too as long as the aspen keeps growing…a true backwoods beaver.
Another backwoods flowage;
Here’s an example of the work involved once you get the beaver out of the woods;
The cool air hit my face and blew through my sweater as I took the bike off the back of the truck and started the long trek into the woods. With two weeks off of work I was running a trapline on a large tract of gated land near my house. The landowner allows access for recreational pursuits and I like getting away from any potential competition so I was looking at a 6 mile round trip, often times done with a very heavy load. My friend Peter this year suggested I try using a baby carrier towed behind the bike to help take the load off my back and it has worked out well despite probably looking a little funny. That was my thought at least this morning when I saw a truck come around the corner ahead of me – he’s seeing someone on a bike wearing hip boots and towing a baby carrier out in the middle of nowhere, and for me I wondering who he is since he obviously has a key to the gate. As is customary on a Maine woods road during the deer hunting season we stopped to talk it over and I was reminded about why I love Maine. Our conversation went like this;
Hows that rig working out for you?
No – fresh crossing just up the way though, but I’m not hunting – I’m trapping.
What are you trapping?
Beaver – just caught two up there where the road is washed out -might still be one more in there. Want to see them? One of them is huge…beaver in a baby carriage (laughing)
Sure!! (hops out of truck)
That’s awesome! Good for you coming out here getting some exercise – I’m the forester for this area and I’ve had to replace that culvert three times over the past few years – that’s awesome you’re in there catching them. You know, the landowner has this really funny rule about not allowing bicycles in here…
really? I had no idea – I thought everyone was bike friendly -
It’s fine, not something I agree with (pulls out a map) let me show you on here where there is some other beaver….
I believe that’s how things are supposed to work – In an increasingly black and white world we need more gray. I love that most people from Maine get that and embrace it. You can check out more stories like this in The Two Maines and PO Box 311.
I have now been forty-two years in this country. For twenty-four of those years I was a light canoeman. I required but little sleep, but sometimes got less than I required. No portage was too long for me; all portages were alike. My end of the canoe never touched the ground till I saw the end of it. Fifty songs a day were nothing to me. I could carry, paddle, walk and sing with any man I ever saw. I pushed on – over rapids, over cascades, over chutes; all were the same to me. No water, no weather ever stopped the paddle or the song. I was once possessed of five horses and six running dogs trimmed in the first style. I was then like a bourgeois, rich and happy. I wanted for nothing. Five hundred pounds twice told have passed through my hands, although now I have not a spare shirt to my back nor a penny to buy one. Yet, were I young I should glory in commencing the same career. I would spend another half-century in the same fields of enjoyment. There is no life so happy as a voyageur’s life; none so independent; no place where a man enjoys so much variety and freedom as in the Indian country. Huzza, huzza! Pour le pays sauvage!
(As told to a Hudson Bay interviewer)
A poem by Robert Service
And when I come to the dim trail-end,
I who have been Life’s rover,
This is all I would ask, my friend,
Over and over and over:
A little space on a stony hill
With never another near me,
Sky o’ the North that’s vast and still,
With a single star to cheer me;
Star that gleams on a moss-gray stone
Graven by those who love me –
There would I lie alone, alone,
With a single pine above me;
Pine that the north wind whinnies through –
Oh, I have been Life’s rover!
But there I’d lie and listen to
Eternity passing over.
A poem written by Robert Service.
There’s a race of men that don’t fit in,
A race that can’t stay still;
So they break the hearts of kith and kin,
And they roam the world at will.
They range the field and they rove the flood,
And they climb the mountain’s crest;
Theirs is the curse of the gypsy blood,
And they don’t know how to rest.
If they just went straight they might go far;
They are strong and brave and true;
But they’re always tired of the things that are,
And they want the strange and new.
They say: “Could I find my proper groove,
What a deep mark I would make!”
So they chop and change, and each fresh move
Is only a fresh mistake.
And each forgets, as he strips and runs
With a brilliant, fitful pace,
It’s the steady, quiet, plodding ones
Who win in the lifelong race.
And each forgets that his youth has fled,
Forgets that his prime is past,
Till he stands one day, with a hope that’s dead,
In the glare of the truth at last.
He has failed, he has failed; he has missed his chance;
He has just done things by half.
Life’s been a jolly good joke on him,
And now is the time to laugh.
Ha, ha! He is one of the Legion Lost;
He was never meant to win;
He’s a rolling stone, and it’s bred in the bone;
He’s a man who won’t fit in.
Robert Service – 1874 – 1958
Another one of my favorite Robert Service poems;
There was Claw-fingered Kitty and Windy Ike living the life of shame,
When unto them in the Long, Long Night came the man-who-had-no-name;
Bearing his prize of a black fox pelt, out of the Wild he came.
His cheeks were blanched as the flume-head foam when the brown spring freshets flow;
Deep in their dark, sin-calcined pits were his sombre eyes aglow;
They knew him far for the fitful man who spat forth blood on the snow.
“Did ever you see such a skin?” quoth he; “there’s nought in the world so fine–
Such fullness of fur as black as the night, such lustre, such size, such shine;
It’s life to a one-lunged man like me; it’s London, it’s women, it’s wine.
“The Moose-hides called it the devil-fox, and swore that no man could kill;
That he who hunted it, soon or late, must surely suffer some ill;
But I laughed at them and their old squaw-tales.
Ha! Ha! I’m laughing still.
“For look ye, the skin–it’s as smooth as sin, and black as the core of the Pit.
By gun or by trap, whatever the hap, I swore I would capture it;
By star and by star afield and afar, I hunted and would not quit.
“For the devil-fox, it was swift and sly, and it seemed to fleer at me;
I would wake in fright by the camp-fire light, hearing its evil glee;
Into my dream its eyes would gleam, and its shadow would I see.
“It sniffed and ran from the ptarmigan I had poisoned to excess;
Unharmed it sped from my wrathful lead (’twas as if I shot by guess);
Yet it came by night in the stark moonlight to mock at my weariness.
“I tracked it up where the mountains hunch like the vertebrae of the world;
I tracked it down to the death-still pits where the avalanche is hurled;
From the glooms to the sacerdotal snows, where the carded clouds are curled.
“From the vastitudes where the world protrudes through clouds like seas up-shoaled,
I held its track till it led me back to the land I had left of old–
The land I had looted many moons. I was weary and sick and cold.
“I was sick, soul-sick, of the futile chase, and there and then I swore
The foul fiend fox might scathless go, for I would hunt no more;
Then I rubbed mine eyes in a vast surprise–it stood by my cabin door.
“A rifle raised in the wraith-like gloom, and a vengeful shot that sped;
A howl that would thrill a cream-faced corpse–and the demon fox lay dead. . . .
Yet there was never a sign of wound, and never a drop he bled.
“So that was the end of the great black fox, and here is the prize I’ve won;
And now for a drink to cheer me up–I’ve mushed since the early sun;
We’ll drink a toast to the sorry ghost of the fox whose race is run.”
Now Claw-fingered Kitty and Windy Ike, bad as the worst were they;
In their road-house down by the river-trail they waited and watched for prey;
With wine and song they joyed night long, and they slept like swine by day.
For things were done in the Midnight Sun that no tongue will ever tell;
And men there be who walk earth-free, but whose names are writ in hell–
Are writ in flames with the guilty names of Fournier and Labelle.
Put not your trust in a poke of dust would ye sleep the sleep of sin;
For there be those who would rob your clothes ere yet the dawn comes in;
And a prize likewise in a woman’s eyes is a peerless black fox skin.
Put your faith in the mountain cat if you lie within his lair;
Trust the fangs of the mother-wolf, and the claws of the lead-ripped bear;
But oh, of the wiles and the gold-tooth smiles of a dance-hall wench beware!
Wherefore it was beyond all laws that lusts of man restrain,
A man drank deep and sank to sleep never to wake again;
And the Yukon swallowed through a hole the cold corpse of the slain.
The black fox skin a shadow cast from the roof nigh to the floor;
And sleek it seemed and soft it gleamed, and the woman stroked it o’er;
And the man stood by with a brooding eye, and gnashed his teeth and swore.
When thieves and thugs fall out and fight there’s fell arrears to pay;
And soon or late sin meets its fate, and so it fell one day
That Claw-fingered Kitty and Windy Ike fanged up like dogs at bay.
“The skin is mine, all mine,” she cried; “I did the deed alone.”
“It’s share and share with a guilt-yoked pair”, he hissed in a pregnant tone;
And so they snarled like malamutes over a mildewed bone.
And so they fought, by fear untaught, till haply it befell
One dawn of day she slipped away to Dawson town to sell
The fruit of sin, this black fox skin that had made their lives a hell.
She slipped away as still he lay, she clutched the wondrous fur;
Her pulses beat, her foot was fleet, her fear was as a spur;
She laughed with glee, she did not see him rise and follow her.
The bluffs uprear and grimly peer far over Dawson town;
They see its lights a blaze o’ nights and harshly they look down;
They mock the plan and plot of man with grim, ironic frown.
The trail was steep; ’twas at the time when swiftly sinks the snow;
All honey-combed, the river ice was rotting down below;
The river chafed beneath its rind with many a mighty throe.
And up the swift and oozy drift a woman climbed in fear,
Clutching to her a black fox fur as if she held it dear;
And hard she pressed it to her breast–then Windy Ike drew near.
She made no moan–her heart was stone–she read his smiling face,
And like a dream flashed all her life’s dark horror and disgrace;
A moment only–with a snarl he hurled her into space.
She rolled for nigh an hundred feet; she bounded like a ball;
From crag to crag she carromed down through snow and timber fall; . . .
A hole gaped in the river ice; the spray flashed–that was all.
A bird sang for the joy of spring, so piercing sweet and frail;
And blinding bright the land was dight in gay and glittering mail;
And with a wondrous black fox skin a man slid down the trail.
A wedge-faced man there was who ran along the river bank,
Who stumbled through each drift and slough, and ever slipped and sank,
And ever cursed his Maker’s name, and ever “hooch” he drank.
He travelled like a hunted thing, hard harried, sore distrest;
The old grandmother moon crept out from her cloud-quilted nest;
The aged mountains mocked at him in their primeval rest.
Grim shadows diapered the snow; the air was strangely mild;
The valley’s girth was dumb with mirth, the laughter of the wild;
The still, sardonic laughter of an ogre o’er a child.
The river writhed beneath the ice; it groaned like one in pain,
And yawning chasms opened wide, and closed and yawned again;
And sheets of silver heaved on high until they split in twain.
From out the road-house by the trail they saw a man afar
Make for the narrow river-reach where the swift cross-currents are;
Where, frail and worn, the ice is torn and the angry waters jar.
But they did not see him crash and sink into the icy flow;
They did not see him clinging there, gripped by the undertow,
Clawing with bleeding finger-nails at the jagged ice and snow.
They found a note beside the hole where he had stumbled in:
“Here met his fate by evil luck a man who lived in sin,
And to the one who loves me least I leave this black fox skin.”
And strange it is; for, though they searched the river all around,
No trace or sign of black fox skin was ever after found;
Though one man said he saw the tread of HOOFS deep in the ground.
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.
It was a wind chill advisory day in Maine and I was a mile from the truck standing in front of a beaver house with my friend Peter. Wind chill advisories are issued when the temperature with the wind chill is expected to fall between approximately -15 to -24 degrees farenheight. I’m not sure if the wind chill had frosted my brain a little that day, for I knew better than to be standing in front of an active beaver house. Beaver movement in and out of the entrance, creates weak ice or even worse, shell ice which does not have much strength, and as luck would have it I was standing directly over the channel of the entrance. The ice gave way with really little warning at all, and I looked down to see the black of the water coming at me. I reached out and caught myself with my hands leaving me very briefly waist deep in the frigid water, before I leaned back and rolled out of the hole, and rolled on the ice to Peter. We rubbed snow, which absorbs moisture, all over my legs and I stood up and brushed it off. It was so cold that the outer layer I was wearing quickly froze solid. So quickly in fact that the other three layers I was wearing never even got wet from the whole experience. I was able to finish out the day, and it wasn’t until I got into the truck with the heater on, that my pants began to melt and I got wet and cold for the ride home.
Beavers flourish in Maine for a a number of reasons, foremost being because there is a lot of habitat for them here – in fact there are 37,000 linear miles of beaver habitat here in the state which has the capacity to support 45,000 to 68,000 beavers, of which annually about 10,000 are harvested. A few years ago due to an increased number of landowner complaints, the state made the season more liberal in hopes that more beavers would be harvested. A fair amount of Maine is covered by dirt roads, and they are easily washed out by beaver activity on the myriad of streams and rivers that criss cross the state. Maine at least gets it – I find it hard to fathom other states that have reduced or severely restricted methods of trapping, or trapping altogether. For example, in the years since Massachusetts banned almost all trapping in ’05, their budget for beaver problems has grown to $1,208,000 which is paid for by taxpayer dollars. Why on earth would you do that when there are people that will do it for free? I did some damage control trapping for a while and I always asked if the client could wait until the fur was marketable (about late October thru April) for me to do the job, and I would do it for free. When they would profusely thank me for fixing their problem I would tell them to remember it if there was ever a vote here to ban trapping. There is an in depth Beaver Assessment of Maine paper which you can see here. There is a really interesting chart in the paper showing the average price per pelt, number harvested, and number of license holders. Trapping and the beaver used to be so tied to our society and way of life it is amazing to me. Beaver pelts or plews, were as good as currency, Manhatten Island is what it is today because it used to be the place where furs were traded, bought, and sold, and the canoe races here in Maine I believe had there start with the fur trade – the faster you could get your fur to market, the more you got paid. Beaver trapping here in the state is quite regulated and the Commissioner can and does close areas to the taking of beaver. Each pelt has to be tagged by a Game Warden, who sends the information of where and when it was caught to the State, so that populations can be monitored.
Over the years I’ve noticed that bobcats love to stand on beaver houses, and I’ve often imagined what a beaver must feel like hearing the cat walk on the house, and hearing it sniff at the top. Beaver do have a distinctive smell from their castor which was used for earaches, deafness, headaches, and loss of memory back in the day and the beavers use it for territorial purposes using castor mounds, which are large globs of mud deposited on the stream bank with castor deposited on it. Apparently it all smells uniquely different for them , as it’s an effective method to use castor from another colony to illicit a territorial response in the beaver. It’s often possible to smell a well established colony on a stream long before you get there. One year walking down the fragile ice of a stream, Peter and I came across blood on the ice, followed by a blood smear on the snow into some evergreens. After poking around some, we found where a patient cat had laid in wait overlooking a patch of open water, melting the snow some where it waited. It appeared that a beaver had came up into the open water and the cat had killed him, dragging him across the ice and into some privacy to enjoy his meal. ‘Cats seem to love beaver meat, and we had one following us one year – investigating all of the sets, and getting a free meal when we had a catch. One time after it had snowed just enough to show a print, I realized when I got back to the truck that I had forgotten something on the beaver flowage, we had been gone maybe 15 minutes, and when we got back to the ice the cat had been there, and visited all the places we did. It was a bit eerie to know that he had likely been in a position to be watching us while we were there.
During one winter there was a railroad line I had to walk several miles on, and along the way a red squirrel had dug a hole under the tracks and I would stop and talk to him, which of course he wasn’t very happy with and would scold me from inside his hole. Then one day it had snowed just a dusting, and as I walked by the squirrel hole, he was no longer scolding me, and there were no tracks on the snow like there always were previous. I then noticed the track on the rail itself. It was a bobcat track, and it extended as far as I could see – just on the rail – ending at the squirrel hole. He must have stood waiting for the squirrel to come out and grabbed a quick meal. I followed his track on the rail for just over a mile, where they came from, and went back to, a dense thicket of fur and spruce. On the way back through later that day, all the evidence had disappeared – the sun had melted the snow off the tracks.
We had discovered a small flowage near an abandoned bridge which had an old culvert running underneath of it. The beavers had plugged both ends of the culvert and created a pond for themselves behind it, with a decent size house, and we decided to come back the following weekend. It rained for the next few days, and then turned off cold again, and upon returning to the house, the ice had collapsed. The large amount of rain had pushed through the stuff in the culvert, and the beavers would be unable to fix it from under the ice, the water drained from the pond, and the ice collapsed, leaving the beavers without water or access to their food supply. I returned that spring to look things over, and it didn’t appear they made it through the winter.
It is common practice not catch all the beavers out of a particular house to leave some for the following year, and trappers generally leave subtle clues for others that the particular flowage has been trapped. Maine law says that you have to be a certain distance from the house, and generally the further away you are is the best way to just take the older and bigger ones. I missed my opportunity to take a great picture one year, I was checking sets one cold night, about 10 degrees or so and the air was very still. Coming over the rise to look onto the flowage the moon was hanging in the air behind the house and the conditions were just right to see the steam from the house rising across the moon into the cold night air, and I didn’t have the camera. Maybe someday I’ll be able to paint a picture of what it was like, which was beautiful, as are all the sights and memories of the times I spent in the woods of Maine on the trapline.
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.