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.

Great information for grouse hunters

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 A 3 year study of Maine’s Ruffed Grouse is delivering a lot of interesting and helpful information. At the recent annual meeting of the Maine Woodland Owners (formerly the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine), Eric Blomberg told us all about their project’s findings to date.

Blomberg is a University of Maine at Orono staffer who leads the grouse research project, working with wildlife biologists at the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. They are now 2 ½ years into the 3 year study, using tagged grouse in two areas including off the Stud Mill Road.

Eric said that only 13% of their tagged birds were harvested by hunters in 2015. This year they are focusing on research of predation. And no surprise, winter is tough on these birds. 32% of adult grouse and 47% of juvenile birds died last winter, and according to Blomberg, predation is “almost exclusively” the cause of death.

Turkeys and Fiddleheads are up for legislative hearings on January 31

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 The legislature has scheduled public hearings on two of my bills on Tuesday, January 31.

LD 98, my turkey bill, will be heard by the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee at 1 pm in Room 206 of the Cross Building (next to the Capitol).

LD 128, my bill to require permission to pick wild crops on private land, will be heard by the Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Committee, also at 1 pm on January 31, in Room 214 of the Cross Building. That bill is listed third on the afternoon’s public hearing schedule, so we’ll be able to get to both hearings.

LD 128 is sponsored by Senator Tom Saviello. I have spent much of my life advocating for more respect for private landowners, and better relationships between those of us who recreate on private land and the owners of that land. We’ve made a lot of progress, but still have constant complaints and problems.

My favorite fishing adventures

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I’ve been blessed with many great fishing adventures, primarily in Montana, Alaska, Quebec and Labrador. Of course, most of my fishing time is spent in Maine, where I began as a young boy hauling home buckets of white perch, eventually moving on to catch great brook trout and landlocked salmon in the rivers in the Rangeley region, and, after we purchased our camp on Sourdnahunk Lake, focusing on our native and wild trout in and around Baxter Park, while catching lots of smallmouth bass in waters around our home in Mount Vernon.

Montana

In this column, I’m going to tell you about my favorite fishing adventures, starting in Montana, where Maine native Joe Sowerby owns Montana Fly Fishing Connection. Joe is my favorite fishing guide, and anytime I could sign up for a conference in Montana, I did it, staying after the conference concluded to fish with Joe.

Turkeys are bigger problems than geese

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 The Big Game Steering Committee joins me in thinking we need to harvest a lot more turkeys. At the January 5 Steering Committee meeting, Don Kleiner of the Maine Professional Guides Associatoin said, “I worry that this (plan) is not enough – that the turkey population will continue to increase and be like the goose problem.”

Tom Doak of the Maine Woodland Owners quickly responded, “We’re already at the goose problem level with turkeys!”

And while DIF&W debates how to increase the number of turkey hunters, Doak asked, “If we want to reduce the population why don’t we increase the bag limit. That’s easier and more likely than increasing the number of hunters.”

Spring bear hunt may be restored in Maine

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 PHOTO: Jen Vashon, DIF&W wildlife biologist. John Holyoke photo, Bangor Daily News.

There are lots of issues – and some controversial decisions – in the new management plans for deer, bear, moose, and turkeys. A Big Game Steering Committee is working actively with DIF&W’s Wildlife Division staff to complete draft plans which will then go to the public for comment. DIF&W’s Commissioner has final authority to approve the plans.

Here’s a look at some of the issues with the new bear management plan discussed at the January 4 Steering Committee meeting. I will also post report soon on the discussion and issues in the deer, moose, and turkey plans.

Bears

Fisheries Steering Committee frustrated with process to date

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Members of DIF&W’s Fisheries Steering Committee are frustrated with the lack of progress in preparation of new fisheries management plans. While the new big game management plans are nearing completion, the Fisheries Division staff has not even completed the initial assessments of each species, never mind the new 15-year management plans.

From my point of view, the fisheries planning process is deeply flawed. For each big game animal, a special steering committee of individuals representing a variety of groups was organized to work with the Wildlife Division staff in preparation of draft management plans. Both the initial assessments and the draft management plans then went to a larger Steering Committee, which has been actively engaged in the preparation of the final plans.

Moose hunters compared to gangs with guns in Somalia

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 It’s often helpful to take a look back, before moving forward. In April of 1998, Roberta Scruggs, at that time the outdoor writer for the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, wrote this story, titled Law Clarified, and Hunters Ride in Peace.

It wasn’t his 30 years as a Maine master guide that earned Greig “Butch” Barker of Medway his spot in Maine hunting history. And he certainly didn’t seek or enjoy his moment of fame.

“I am very bitter,” Barker said last week. “And you can quote me on that.”

But Barker and nine others – I think of them as the Aroostook 10 – did Maine hunters a real service. Because of them, an important law was recently clarified. It’s now safe for hunters to ride the roads again – as long as their weapons are unloaded.

“It’s illegal to have a loaded firearm in a vehicle. Period,” said Senator Marge Kilkelly, D-Wiscasset.

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