George's Outdoor News

George’s new outdoor issues blog. He goes all over the state. He listens. And he reports on issues of concern to sportsmen, conservationists, and environmentalists.

Shooting Lesson With Brad Varney Was An Amazing Experience

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After fifty years of no better than modest shooting success during our fall bird hunting seasons, I got a lesson yesterday from one of Maine’s top teachers, Brad Varney at Varney’s Clay Sports in Richmond.

It was an amazing experience.

Brad began by assessing my “dominant eye.” For years I have closed my left eye when shooting. Turns out that’s wrong. After figuring out that my two eyes were fighting for dominance, using a simple exercise in which I peered through a piece of plastic piping, Brad said, “It is amazing that you can hit anything!”

Precisely my problem.

When he said he could fix the problem, I feared surgery. But it turned out to be the simplest of solutions.

Latti Not Coming Late to Landowner Relations Issues

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On September 16, 1956, the Maine Fish and Game Association adopted a new set of bylaws listing 10 objectives. One was “to work for a better relationship between landowners and organized sportsmen.”

Fifty five years later, Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries has its first full-time landowner relations specialist – better late than never, I guess.

Mark Latti was named the department’s new Recreational Access and Landowner Relations Coordinator on October 7, and is expected to be on the job by the end of the month.

Latti served in DIF&W’s Information and Education Division for nine years, much of it as the department’s spokesman, before leaving for a similar position at the Department of Transportation.

Robbins Family Good Forest Stewards

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In the early days of my career as a sportsmen’s advocate, I knew all of the principles in Maine’s forest industry. Paper companies owned most of our North Woods aand their woods managers were Mainers who were readily accessible (and accountable) to us.

That’s all changed, or course, with the most recent purchases by billionaire TV-mogul John Malone, bringing his ownership up over one million acres, only the latest example of the trend to out-of-state owners who are neither accessible nor accountable to the citizens of Maine.

Throughout it all, the Robbins family in Searsmont has maintained its key place in the state’s forest industry, demonstrating a keen sense of appreciation for our hunting and fishing heritage, good stewardship of their forestlands, and a commitment to their workers.

Landowner Any-Deer Permits Plummet

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Many landowners who have traditionally won an any-deer permit in the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s lottery were disappointed this year – including me.

The legislature created a special any-deer lottery category for landowners who provide hunting access, to encourage landowners to continue to provide access to Maine’s deer hunters. The permits are only distributed in Wildlife Management Districts that offer any-deer permits.

Landowner applicants must own 25 acres and allow the public to hunt on that land with permission.

Two years ago, after hearing complaints that landowners in a few districts were not getting permits, the legislature increased the percentage of permits going to landowners from 20 percent of all the permits offered to 25 percent. In 2010, 92 percent of the 8,329 landowner applicants received any-deer permits.

Wolf Hybrid Prowls Bristol Neighborhood

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Wolf hybrids were once totally unregulated in Maine. I submitted the first legislative bill, on behalf of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, that required wolf hybrids to be registered and vaccinated against rabies.

The animals are now regulated by the Department of Agriculture and treated like domestic dogs. But they are not dogs. In fact, most of them are nearly 100 percent wolf. And wolves are dangerous animals.

This year, Jim Doughty of Bristol caused an uproar when he proposed to establish a refuge for wolf hybrids at his home. Neighbors were alarmed and took their concerns to their Senator, David Trahan.

Dave successfully sponsored legislation that tightened regulations on wolf hybrid kennels.

But Doughty was still able to establish his refuge, now licensed for up to 18 wolf hybrids.

Fisheries Study Yields Disappointing Results

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Today we begin a four-part series that will be posted over the next few weeks. This first column reports on the findings in a new fisheries study commissioned by Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The second column reviews the recommendations for Maine’s fisheries program issued in 2002 by the Management Assistance Team of the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. The third column consists of interviews with Brett Levin, who with his wife Jen authored the new study, John Boland, DIF&W’s Director of Fisheries and Wildlife Divisions, and DIF&W Commissioner Chandler Woodcock. The fourth column pulls all of this together and includes my own recommendations to improve the state’s fisheries and our fishing experiences in Maine. Buckle your wading belts!

Talking Fishing While Fishing

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The large brook trout cradled by DIF&W Commissioner Chandler Woodcock in the photo above is only part of the story. It was my pleasure to organize an opportunity for the Commissioner and John Boland, DIF&W’s Director of the Fisheries and Wildlife Divisions, to visit the Rangeley area to talk fisheries issues with local folks and to experience some of the great fishing offered in that area of the state.

Joining us was Bill Pierce, former marketing director for DIF&W and now Development Director for the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust, the lead group in establishing an astonishing amount of conservation land and projects in the region.

Bill Pierce's Brookie

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