George Smith's blog

Ice Shack Contest Scheduled for Friday

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Who can build the best ice shack in Maine?

We’ll find out on Friday when the Maine Chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors hosts its first annual Maine Super Shack Build at the Augusta Civic Center.

ABC Maine President James Cote reports that five competitors have put their reputations on the line:  RJ Grondin & Sons, Coutts Bros., IRC Industrial Roofing Companies, Cianbro, and Storey Brothers Excavation.

I’ll be one of the judges and will looking for ice shacks that are comfortable and fishable. Size matters, too, although James has restricted the competition to shacks no larger than 8 feet by 8 feet. 

The shacks will be entirely constructed at the Civic Center, starting at 9 am, while judging begins at 3 pm. The event is open to the public. Bring you cameras.

Woodcock to Brief Governor on Reorganization Plan

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Commissioner Chandler Woodcock will brief Governor Paul LePage on Friday (November 18) about Woodcock’s major reorganization plan for his Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

“The plan is very progressive,” Woodcock said. “We tried to create a balance” between the department’s divisions and programs, he reported.

He also hinted that some positions that were eliminated in the past, such as wildlife biologists dedicated to deer, will be restored, and a greater focus on fisheries can be expected.

Maine hunters: Identify your target!

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Deirdre Fleming’s Sunday Telegram article yesterday (November 12) was very interesting, reporting that “of the nine states that issue large numbers of deer and other big-game hunting licenses, Maine had among the fewest fatalities from 2001 to 2010, with four.”

However, “Maine’s rate of hunting-related firearms accidents per 100,000 licensed hunters, compared with six of the… states, fell about in the middle of the pack at about 42 incidents per 100,000.”

Maine's Splendid Scenic Drives

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We returned from a September visit to Bethel to find a book in our mailbox, sent to us to review by its publisher, Down East.

When we opened the book to the first chapter of Maine’s Most Scenic Roads written by John Gibson and republished recently by Down East in a revised an updated version from the original that was published in 1998, we were astonished to find a description of Route 113 from Gilead to Fryeburg. We thought on that trip to Bethel that we’d discovered this drive! Turns out John Gibson was there ahead of us.

In fact, Gibson has been to a lot of our favorite places. Linda and I are working on a travel column about the drive from Rockland to Port Clyde, one of our all-time favorites, and sure enough, Gibson’s got it.

Paul Fournier's Misery Ridge Tales Are Mighty Fine

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Paul Fournier hooked me with his first sentence: “I was fifteen that summer when first love struck.” His first love was a 17 foot long Old Town canoe.

On the third page of Paul’s new book, Tales from Misery Ridge, (Islandport Press, 2011) he started to reel me in when he purchased his second canoe – at age 17 – from Leon Prince of North Monmouth.

Leon was my wife’s grandfather, and when I read Paul’s words describing her grandfather to her, Lin said he had captured her twice-widowed grandfather exactly. Paul noted that Leon was “a small, genial, lonesome gentleman in oversize overalls. Contrary to the stereotype of taciturn rural Maine folk, he was downright garrulous.”

Deer Dying in the Dakotas

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Pheasant hunting in North Dakota each October has been one of my favorite activities over the past half-dozen years. Pheasant populations go up and down, mostly due to the severity of the winter, but there always seems to be plenty of birds. Some years we see a thousand birds a day. Other years a few hundred.

We also see lots of whitetail and mule deer. But this year, most of our whitetail deer sightings were of dead deer. On one farm, I saw eight freshly dead deer in four days of pheasant hunting, including the biggest whitetail I’ve ever seen in North Dakota.

I did some research into the problem while I was there and more since returning home. Here’s the sad story.

First, the whitetails are dying of EHD, epizootic hemorrhagic disease. Whitetails die within 96 hours of being bitten by a midge. The virus doesn’t impact Mule deer, and has been present in North Dakota for more than 40 years.

Legislature's IFW Committee Gets Few Bills

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While the Maine legislature as a whole grapples with many key conservation and environmental issues in 2012, the members of the Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife may wrap up their committee work quickly, with very few issues and bills assigned to them.

The committee will hear a bunch of reports, some of which may include recommendations, reconsider a few bills carried over from the 2011 session, and take up a scant two bills that the Legislative Council allowed to be submitted in this session that is supposed to be limited to emergency measures.

The two bills that the Council considered to be emergencies are these:

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