A few weeks ago, Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologist Randy Cross said he thought bear hunters might have a hard time luring bears to their bait sites early in the season because the bruins would have plenty of other options to snack on.
Last week — after a week and a half of the four-week bait season — Cross said it appeared that he had been correct.
“I’m hearing some mixed reviews,” Cross said. “Some reports are very positive but most of them are just as I suspected. It’s been a slow bait year for most people.”
Cross explained that when natural foods are abundant, bears are less likely to visit bait sites they associate with human activity. And there’s plenty of old-fashioned bear chow in the woods this year.
Fears Hurricane Irene might put a damper on the opening day or two of the season were apparently unfounded, however. The storm did most of its damage on the Sunday, before the season opened and before hunters headed into the woods.
“The weather hasn’t been absolutely terrible, so that’s a good thing,” Cross said.
Still, Cross said a slow start to the season would likely be noticeable when the final tally of bears tagged is studied.
“My suspicion is that the harvest is going to be low because we’re going through the second week here and I’m hearing mostly negative reports,” Cross said last week. “The first two weeks kind of carry the season as far as the numbers go.”
Bear hunting will continue after the baiting season wraps up on Sept. 24: Those hunting with dogs can legally hunt until Oct. 28, trapping season ends Oct. 31 and general hunting without dogs or bait will take place until Nov. 26.
“I’m hopeful that the late-season harvest will mediate [the slow start] some and it probably will,” Cross said. “The October harvest will be higher, most likely, and the November harvest as well will be higher than the average year, but [hunters] just tend not to shoot as many [late in the season].”
Got a bear tale to tell?
Biologists always caution against assuming that an anecdotal report of hunting success — or failure — represents anything other than a snapshot of one hunter’s one trip afield. Biologists are all about the data, you see.
Me? I’m all about stories. Anecdotes, if you will. And my anecdotal analysis of the bear season we’re experiencing is simple: People aren’t telling me their bear tales … so (anecdotally, of course) I have no anecdotes to share. Therefore, when Cross tells me that bear season seems to have started slowly, I’m inclined to believe him.
Still, I’m sure there are some good bear stories out there, and I’d love to share a few of them. Maybe you bagged a big bear. Maybe the big bear sniffed you out and you’re left with nothing but a tale of woe. Either way, I’m interested in hearing what you have to say. As they say, the phone lines are open … and I’ll be checking my email regularly.
Salmon still returning to Penobscot
With fall rapidly approaching, some Atlantic salmon are still arriving at the Veazie Dam after their long return trips to the Penobscot River.
According to biologist Oliver Cox of the Maine Department of Marine Resources’ Bureau of Sea-Run Fisheries and Habitat, a total of 3,065 salmon have been trapped in Veazie thus far this year.
“In the last 10 days we have handled 20 new Atlantic salmon and 11 recaptured salmon (salmon previously counted and released),” Cox wrote in his regular trap report on Monday. “We typically see an increase in the numbers of recaptures we handle at the trap as the season progresses.”
Cox said that grilse — smaller salmon that have spent just a single winter at sea before returning to the Penobscot, make up 24 percent of the run.
Also of interest: According to Cox’s report 23 Atlantic salmon have been caught per day this season. During the decade of the 1980s, 25 salmon were trapped per day. In the 1990s that rate dropped to 23, and during the 2000s it fell even more precipitously, to just 13 fish per day.
As you might expect, Atlantic salmon aren’t the only fish that wind up in the Veazie fish trap. Cox’s report also includes totals for all the other species that have been trapped and released over the course of the summer. The most recent season totals for those other species: 2,125 sea lamprey, 2,039 river herring, 164 smallmouth bass, 6 fallfish (chubs), 5 landlocked salmon, 4 American eel, 2 brook trout and 1 American shad have been caught.
Trappers plan fall rendezvous
Pete Tinker of Searsmont touched base earlier this week with word that the Maine Trappers Association is gearing up for its annual Fall Rendezvous, which will be held Friday through Sunday at the Silver Spur Riding Club in Sidney.
Admission is $5 per adult. Tailgaters will pay $15 for the weekend. Camping is available for $30 for the weekend.
A wide variety of demonstrations are on tap, with experts on hand to talk about trapping techniques for mink, coyote, fisher, beaver and others. An eight-hour state trapper education course will be held on Saturday and kids events including an eel race and a junior mountain man contest are on tap.
For more information, call Peter Gerard at 582-6303 or Butch Tripp at 582-7775.