Upland hunters across the state have been visiting their favorite spots over the past two weeks, hoping to find a few ruffed grouse or woodcock.
Some have stayed close to home. Others have ventured far afield.
And as I’ve come to learn over the past few years, those who have headed north — way up north — during the beginning of Maine’s bird season are likely to enjoy some pretty productive hunts.
One such hunter, Larry Ferrell of Newport, touches base periodically to let me know how his trips afield have been going.
At this time of year, I’ve come to expect, I’ll receive an e-mail from him detailing his annual trip to the North Maine Woods.
I recently received the e-mail, and as expected, it provided some interesting reading. It also prompted me to move “North woods bird hunt” to the top of my to-do list.
Here’s some of what Ferrell had to say:
“I have been going up to the area where I got a moose permit four years ago [Wildlife Management District 1] for the last several years,” Ferrell wrote. “While we were moose hunting, everyone in the moose camp was having great success with the birds. So I have been going back just to hunt birds, sightsee and scout for moose.
“The drive in along the [American Realty Road] toward the Allagash in the fall scenery at this time of year [is] as beautiful as I have seen anywhere in the country, and worth the drive by itself,” he wrote. “I have been going bird hunting in early October, in the week between the moose-hunting weeks, and there are not usually very many other hunters there. The area is 100 miles into the woods from Ashland, too far for a day trip.”
Ferrell said he didn’t know what to expect on his trip, but learned — again — that he needn’t have worried.
“I had not heard a bird report and was worried that the wet spring had limited the bird reproduction,” Ferrell wrote. “But it has not hurt them at all where I go. In three days hunting we saw a total of 60 birds, 30 in the rain on Wednesday. When I say ‘saw,’ I mean on the side of the road, flying across the road or anyplace where we could get out of the truck and walk into the woods after them.
“Our success ratio is not very good. We shot an average of one bird for four seen/hunted. On the drive in on Monday, we saw nine, shot three. Tuesday we saw 12, shot four. Wednesday we saw about 30 (lost count), shot seven. On the drive out Thursday we saw seven, shot two,” he wrote.
If you’re a regular reader of this space, Ferrell and his hunting partner used a tactic that may sound familiar to you. On Tuesday, I told you about using a similar tactic on a recent trip with a pal.
“We worked out a good game plan where one guy goes into the woods 25 yards or so to the side and about 25 yards deep of where the bird went in and the other guy follows the bird in,” Ferrell said. “The guy pushing in would flush the bird a lot of the time so that the person in deep would get a shot.
“We saw mostly singles, a few doubles and one group of six,” Ferrell wrote. “Other years I have jumped mostly groups of birds where if there was one and it flew [you should] pull the gun up ready to shoot because there would always be a second or a third. On the group of six, one flew back toward me. He is now in the freezer.”
Ferrell has put in a lot of time and legwork figuring out the spots he likes to hunt, and is open with advice for those looking to enjoy some fun in the woods. Want to know what kind of shells to use? He’ll tell you his opinion. Want to know how to prepare your birds for the table? Well, he’s got an idea on that, too.
“I have also found that 12 gauge, modified choke, shooting low brass No. 8’s is plenty, if not too much, for the partridge out to about 30 yards,” Ferrell wrote. “I cooked up some the first night camping by wrapping them in tinfoil, stuffed with apples, [with] bacon wrapped around them. Very good eating.”
Sounds just about perfect to me.
Sugarloaf welcomes the snow
Tuesday’s mixed bag of precipitation in the Bangor area reminded us that winter isn’t too far off. If you’re looking for a bit more evidence, you need look no farther than the mountains to our west.
At the Sugarloaf resort in Carrabassett Valley, the public relations staff wasted no time in sending out an upbeat news release on Tuesday afternoon
The PR staff announced that the resort received six to seven inches of snow — its first significant accumulation of the season — on a day when temperatures held in the mid and upper 20s.
“It’s been snowing all day long and has actually started to get pretty deep at the summit,” Sugarloaf communications manager Ethan Austin said in the release. “We typically get one or two early season storms like this. Several years ago we had an October storm that buried us in four feet of snow, so these kinds of storms certainly aren’t unheard of.”
While the snow is likely encouraging to diehard skiers, lifts aren’t running and it’s not time to load up the gear and head to Carrabassett Valley quite yet.
If the weather stays cold this week, resort staffers will fire up the snowmaking system to test its operation.
The resort is scheduled to open for the season on Nov. 20.