Outdoor News

November 2018
Edited by V. Paul Reynolds

November. Dwindling daylight, frosty mornings, acorns bouncing on the camp's tin roof, clear vistas across the hard wood ridges. For the deer hunter, this is the best time of the year, period!

Rifle season for deer is upon us. Thousands of hunters from all over New England and beyond will take to the woods in search of their prize - a whitetail deer.

Our senses, overloaded as November approaches, tell us that this is the time to fill the freezer and prepare for winter. Though the law book dictates when we can hunt, without it we would still know. Following the path laid before us, we will continue the tradition, proving food for our families and solace for our souls.

Club News

If your club or outdoor organization has news or photos that warrant publication in the Northwoods Sporting Journal, send them to: Club News, NWSJ, P.O. Box 195, W. Enfield, ME 04493, or e-mail news to: info@sportingjournal.com

Maine - Bald Eagle’s Thriving

Maine’s bald eagle population continues to soar, increasing by 101 nesting pairs to a total of 733, an increase of 16% since the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife conducted the last bald eagle survey five years ago in 2013.

Maine’s bald eagle population continues to grow in numbers across the entire state, affirming the remarkable rebound from the brink for this once-endangered species. MDIFW, working with private landowners, municipalities and other partners achieved exceptional results with the population rebounding from just 21 nesting pairs in 1967 to the 733 nesting pairs now.

“We documented increases statewide in all 16 counties, but the highest population growth rates continue a recent shift westward and northward across the state,” said MDIFW’s Charlie Todd, the endangered and threatened species coordinator who has been instrumental in guiding bald eagle recovery in Maine since the late 1970s. The aerial survey costs during 2018 were supported by Wildlife and Sportfish Restoration funds and the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund.

“Nine counties across central, southern, western, and northern Maine have eagle populations growing faster than the statewide average,” said Todd. “Downeast Maine remains the state’s stronghold and boasts the highest density of breeding eagles in any region between the Chesapeake Bay area and Nova Scotia.”

A crew of four warden pilots and 17 wildlife biologists logged 240 hours in MDIFW aircraft documenting nests throughout the state. Late season snowstorms in March forced many eagles off their eggs, delayed egg-laying for others, and destroyed or damaged many more nests than normal. The count was completed late this summer.

The survey was timed throughout the state to match periods in the breeding cycle when eagles are mostly at nests. Nesting dates can vary by six weeks among neighboring eagle pairs. Egg-laying dates range from February 25 to May 7 across Maine. and an adult eagle must incubate its eggs nearly full time for a five-week period. Nestling eaglets remain in the nest for at least three months before they can fly. Most pairs make only one breeding attempt each year.

MDIFW checked more than 1,800 traditional sites over an eight-week period, checking all nest locations documented since 1962. Eagles are usually very loyal to nests. They relocate only out of necessity.  A nest in Blue Hill (Hancock County) now holds the record for continuous use, 41 years (and counting) since 1978. Searches occur in other areas that offer potential eagle habitat not previously used by nesting eagles along lakes, rivers, and coastal waters. Crews found 270 new nests this year in Maine or in neighboring New Hampshire, New Brunswick, and Quebec where eagles can move freely across boundary waters.

“Eagles spend less time near nests if they are not tending eggs or nestlings. The severe snowstorms in early-March caused widespread breeding failures that complicated the survey,” said Todd. Along with the tally of 733 nesting pairs, the crews noted single adults at 54 other nests and no eagle activity in 90 former nesting territories. Todd estimated that they may have missed as many as forty pairs, which is the highest count of nesting eagles ever in Maine.

Generations of bald eagles will use the same nesting territory sequentially over decades. In fact, the same nest is often reused if its ever enlarging size does not harm the tree. A nest in the Swan Island Wildlife Management Area in Sagadahoc County measured 20 feet vertically when it was first found in 1964; biologists conservatively estimate it had been in use for at least 60 years.

The so-called “great nest” nearly vanished (as did Maine’s eagle population) when it sat vacant for 27 years starting in 1973. As the population rebounded, eagles returned and repaired a remnant nest of the “great nest.” Fourteen eagles fledged from it during annual monitoring from 2000 to 2013. The old nest still stands but was damaged and unused in 2018, however resident eagles have built a new one 150 yards away. Regardless, that pine tree has endured for decades that saw the near demise and then the full recovery of bald eagles. The white pine, Maine’s state tree, is favored by eagles nesting across Maine.

Bald eagles were removed from the State endangered and threatened list in 2009. They were originally listed as endangered in 1978.  The low point for bald eagles in Maine occurred in 1967 when only 21 nesting pairs were found and they raised only 4 fledgling eaglets. The bald eagle has long been revered as a majestic bird, our national symbol, and an indicator of environmental quality. Now it’s one of the premiere examples of conservation success.

Maine - MDIFW News

Lebanon, Maine – September 28, 2018 - The body of missing skydiver 41-year-old Brett Bickford was located Sept. 28 by ground searchers. The search team comprised of four game wardens, a State Trooper and two members of MASAR located Bickford’s body about 750 feet southwest of the Lebanon Airport runway shortly before 5:30. The team located Bickford while completing one of the few remaining grid searches for the day. The investigation continues to determine what caused this fatal skydiving incident. The family and first responders wish to thank all those involved and who offered their support during this difficult recovery operation.

Lebanon, Maine – September 28, 2018 - Media covering this incident now has a designated area at Skydive New England at the facility parking lot at the end of Skydive Lane. Responding media will need to call PIO Game Warden Corporal John MacDonald 207-557-0818 to be escorted into the designated media parking area.

The search continues for a man presumed dead after a skydiving incident yesterday afternoon in Lebanon. Missing is Brett Bickford, 41, from Rochester, New Hampshire. Bickford is a skydive instructor. Searching continued last night with resources from the Maine State Police and Maine Warden Service. This morning, Maine State Police, Maine Warden Service and members from Dirigo SAR and Maine Association of Search and Rescue (MASAR) will be searching areas of highest probability based on witness statements.

T6-R7 (northern Penobscot County) - September 26, 2018 - Game wardens rescue stranded duck hunter overnight in northern Penobscot County. Game wardens say a good trip plan may have saved the man’s life. 

Just after 11:00 last evening, Joan Thibodeau reported that her husband, Bruce Thibodeau, 57, from Silver Ridge, had not returned home from a duck hunting trip. Joan stated her husband planned to hunt a few areas that spanned from Herseytown to T6-R7 WELS. Game wardens soon began looking for Bruce’s vehicle and located it at Sawtelle Deadwater in T6-R7 WELS in northern Penobscot County.

A short time after finding the vehicle, voice contact was made with Bruce Thibodeau. Game wardens used a watercraft to travel about one mile up the deadwater to Thibodeau’s location. Game wardens found Thibodeau standing on top of his submerged boat in waist deep water at approximately 2:00 this morning. Thibodeau stated that his small flat bottom boat had flipped while hunting and he had been standing in the water since 2:00 o’clock yesterday afternoon, September 25th.

Thibodeau explained to game wardens that he had not been able to swim to shore due to thick water vegetation and deep mud. Thibodeau refused medical attention and was able to drive himself home after being brought back to his vehicle. Bruce Thibodeau has plans to retrieve his boat and hunting equipment later this week.

John MacDonald
ame Warden Corporal
Maine Dept of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife
Bureau of Warden Service
15 Game Farm Road
Gray, Maine 04039

Maine Moose Season

AUGUSTA, Maine -- On Monday, September 24th, over 800 moose hunters are expected to enter the Maine woods pursuing Maine’s most majestic mammal. This is the 38th year of Maine’s modern moose hunt, a hunt which resumed in 1980 after being closed since 1936.

While Monday marks the first day of moose season in northern and eastern Maine, the moose season continues through the fall and is divided into four segments which also includes the weeks of October 8-13 in the northern two thirds of the state, October 22-27 in northern and eastern Maine, and October 27 – November 24 in central Maine. In all, 2,500 permits were issued to hunt moose in Maine this year.

Regulated hunting seasons are how the department manages Maine’s moose population. The number of permits issued for each moose hunting district varies depending on moose population density in the district and publicly derived population objectives.

"Everyone in Maine loves moose," said Lee Kantar, IFW’s moose biologist. “So we manage the moose population by adjusting the number of permits issued to provide opportunities for both hunting and viewing.”

Last year, 1,518 hunters, or 73% of the permitted hunters, harvested a moose. The 73% success rate is in stark contrast to bear, turkey or deer hunting, where success rates range historically from 18 to 30 percent. Moose hunting in Maine continues to be extremely popular, with over 54,000 hunters applying to the moose lottery for a chance to hunt moose.

All successful moose hunters are required to register their moose at the nearest tagging station. At these stations, IFW wildlife biologists collect data that provides insight into moose population health.  A tooth is removed in order to determine the age of the moose. Antler spread (width) is measured on bulls. Ticks are counted on four different areas of the moose to compare numbers to years past. In later weeks, moose hunters who shoot a female moose are required to bring the ovaries, which are later examined to determine reproductive success.

This biological data is combined with data from the ongoing moose GPS collar study, as well as the aerial moose population and composition surveys to give biologists a clearer picture of the health and status of Maine’s moose herd.

The Department is in the midst of the fifth year of Maine Moose Study which is providing important insight into factors impacting moose reproduction and survival. The research focuses on moose calves and adult female moose in a study area in northern Maine east of the Allagash River and another study area located west of Moosehead Lake.

Over the past five years, the department has captured, collared and tracked over 375 moose, providing unique insight into moose survival and reproduction. Calf survival this past winter in the western study unit was the highest it has been at 55% survival rate, 13% better than the previous year. In the northern study unit, over 70% of the calves survived the winter. Adult survival was extremely high as well, with all but one cow surviving the winter in both districts.

Maine - Hunters, Agents, and MDIFW Benefit
From New, Web-Based Registration System

AUGUSTA, Maine -- A new, web based game registration system is up and running at tagging stations statewide, providing hunters, stations and the department with an efficient, easy to use system that benefits all.

“This new system will quickly allow tagging stations and hunters to register their animal, and also provide our biologists and game wardens with real-time harvest data,” said Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. 

The new web-based system became operational the opening day of bear season, August 27, and has been providing instant data to department personnel about the progress of bear season.

Opening week of bear season, hunters registered 1,141 bears. Hunters have now registered a total of 2,826 bears for the season.

The system replaces the old game registration booklets, where agents used to fill in the data by hand. The books would be in possession of the agents until the end of the hunting seasons in December, and then shipped to Augusta where all data was entered by hand.

The new web based system is simpler and faster, and provides the department with real-time data concerning the harvest of animals. This allows the department to provide customers with information about deer or moose harvest numbers more quickly, as well as provide its biologists the information they need to make decisions on seasons and permit numbers in a much more timely manner.

The new system is a result of an intensive effort by the department’s Bureau of Resource Management, the Division of Licensing and Registration and the Bureau of the Warden Service collaborating with InforME to develop an online application that ensures reliable data while remaining easy to use for registration agents. MDIFW staff has been training the more than 300 stations on how to use the new system. For a complete list of tagging stations, please visit: https://www.maine.gov/ifw/hunting-trapping/tagging-stations.html.

“With any new system, there’s always a few bumps, but we’ve had staff available to assist with this transition to the new system as well as a help line for agents provided by InforME,” said Woodcock. “We are also looking for feedback from our customers on how to improve the system.

The electronic registration program is the latest step in automating more of the services that MDIFW provides, which includes online applications for deer and moose permits, online licensing, electronic lawbooks and the electronic game registration program. These are designed to be provide customers with the information and services they need via simple and efficient access from almost anywhere.

This new system will be in place for game registration, and beginning next year, will be available for fur tagging as well.

Currently Maine is in the midst of bear season, which continues through November 24, 2018. The first week of moose season begins September 24 and the archery season for deer begins September 29. Maine has 215,000 licensed hunters. To obtain a license online or to learn more about hunting in Maine, visit www.mefishwildlife.com.

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