Edited by V. Paul Reynolds
April is – depending upon whether you are an optimist or a pessimist – the month of the Seasonal Awakening or the month of the Big Mud. Even the pessimist can take heart that at least in April there is light at the end of the tunnel. For our hard-pressed deer population and other wild critters, April can be a make or break month. An early green up can make the difference for them between survival or death. Most outdoor folks take enjoyment in the slow but inexorable coming of spring – the budding, the smell of damp earth, and the formations of geese winging north. Fishing can be slow, especially when winter ice still hugs the stream banks and the biting north wind discourages all but the heartiest boat anglers. There are some good things in Maine in April, though: turkey season is near and camps can be opened without bugs to deal with. So bring on April, and then we can embrace May with all of the real blessings of spring in Maine.
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NH Wildlife Rule Proposals
2018 is a biennial season-setting year at NH Fish and Game. Data from New Hampshire's hunting seasons are reviewed every year to monitor the status of game species, but, unless otherwise necessary, changes are recommended every two years to make sure that season dates and bag limits are in line with population goals reflected in the state's ten-year Game Management Plan. Proposed revisions are based on a review of field data and other scientific information.
The initial hunting season proposals were approved by the NH Fish and Game Commission in February. The rule notice is expected to be published in the NH Register in March. When the rule is available, the complete rulemaking notice will be published on the Fish and Game Proposed Rules page at www.wildnh.com/legislative/proposed-rules.html.
Three public hearings on the season-setting proposals have tentatively been scheduled for:
March 30, 2018 -- Fish and Game Region 1 Office in Lancaster;
April 2, 2018 -- Keene High School, LGIA Room;
April 3, 2018 -- N.H. Fish and Game Department, Concord.
Following are some highlights of the initial proposed 2018 wildlife rule package being put forth by NH Fish and Game; please note that it is a synopsis and is not all-inclusive:
New Hampshire’s regional deer, bear, and turkey populations are stable or increasing. As a consequence, Fish and Game is in a position to propose additional hunting opportunity in various regions of the state. Hunting season recommendations are science-based; they maximize hunting opportunity while safeguarding the broad ecological, recreational, and economic values that wildlife represents to our diverse citizenry, consistent with long-term wildlife population goals and objectives spelled out in the Department’s existing game management plan.
Deer: New Hampshire’s 2017 deer seasons resulted in our 5th highest deer harvest and highest antlered buck take in 95 years. The Wildlife Division’s 2018 deer rule proposals call for enhanced hunting opportunity in 11 of the 20 Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) in our state. These opportunities include additional either-sex hunting opportunities in 9 WMUs (C2, D2W, E, F, G1, G2, I1, I2, J1); the provision of 2,000 antlerless-only permits for use in WMU L (permits to be issued via an online lottery); and allowance for the use of crossbows during the archery season in WMU M only.
The proposal package also includes establishment of a Deer Management Assistance Program to support special deer management needs at the town level for areas with documented impacts associated with overabundant deer populations. It also fulfills a statutory obligation to create regulations pertaining to the feeding of deer. In a nutshell, the regulations give the Department the authority to regulate deer feeding when evidence indicates that said feeding is causing deer mortality or is threatening public safety.
Bear: New Hampshire’s bear population is thriving. Bear populations have recently grown above goal in two of our state’s six bear management regions: the White Mountains Region and the Central Region. As a consequence, the Wildlife Division has proposed adding 7 days of bait hunting and 9 days of still hunting to the existing bear season in the White Mountains and Central regions. In addition, the Department is proposing to add 14 days of still hunting in the Southwest-2 and Southeast Regions. Even with this addition, the bear seasons in these regions will still constitute the most conservative in the state.
Turkey: The Wildlife Division’s wild turkey proposals call for a spring season that runs from May 1 through May 31 beginning in 2019. This constitutes a proposed departure from our longstanding May 3 opening day. Also beginning in 2019, the proposal package allows for the taking of a second spring gobbler in our six strongest turkey Wildlife Management Units (H1, H2, J2, K, L, and M). The annual bag limit would remain at two birds; if you took a second gobbler in the spring, you would not be able to take a bird in the fall. Turkey hunters are again reminded that if these proposals are adopted, they would not go into effect until the spring of 2019!
Moose: Upon careful review of our moose data, and consistent with our existing moose management plan, the Wildlife Division is recommending the issuance of 51 either-sex moose permits for the Fall 2018 moose season. In addition, 1 permit will be allocated for use by New Hampshire’s Hunt of a Lifetime program and 1 permit will be allocated for use by the New Hampshire Wildlife Heritage Foundation. This allocation of permits is the same as was issued in 2017. The 2018 rule proposal package also calls for a 1-month expansion of our gray squirrel and cottontail rabbit seasons by adding the month of January, and reductions in the length of our fisher and red and gray fox hunting and trapping seasons.
Maine - Double Snowsled Fatality
A Hermon man and his son died last month as a result of a snowmobile crash in Hermon. Jason Tracy (33) of Hermon and his 10-year-old son were killed when the snowmobile they were driving struck a tree on the edge of a field. The incident occurred at approximately 1:00 AM on a Sunday morning. Maine Game Wardens, State Police Troopers and Penobscot County Deputies investigated the crash scene. Tracy’s son was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, but Tracy himself was not. Warden Lt. Dan Scott cited speed and alcohol as contributing factors to the crash and indicated wardens continue to investigate the incident.
Scott added, “EMS units from Hermon Fire and Rescue, Levant Fire and Rescue and Capital Ambulance all assisted and were very helpful with the incident.”
Maine - Togue Bonanza at Sebago (Pictured Above)
Thanks to a frigid start to the ice fishing season, many of Maine’s lakes have had the chance to accumulate a solid base of ice. While ice can never be considered completely safe without careful consideration, especially given changing ice conditions due to recent warm weather, many anglers have found that this season has provided plenty of opportunity to find thick ice and get in some quality fishing time. That includes MDIFW staff who also enjoy fishing on their days off!
Even the largest lake in southern Maine, Sebago Lake, has proven to be a hot spot for many local anglers. In more sheltered areas like Jordan Bay and the Lower Bay on Sebago, ice shacks dot the horizon, as if anglers decided to start a town solely on the principle of fish, and plenty of them. It’s no wonder, either, given reports of action on lake trout (referred to as togue in Maine) often running steadily through a whole day on the ice. Some parties of only three or four anglers have reported catching well above 50 togue in one day. As togue tend to stay in the deep waters of the lake, many successful anglers have found that jigging flashy spoons or lures just off the bottom has been an especially effective strategy, and has provided an exciting and long fight as fish are hauled all the way back to the surface.
Togue fishing on Sebago Lake has been so good recently that some MDIFW game wardens and fisheries biologists (myself included), have been getting in on the action on our days off. If I needed extra proof of the number of anglers that have been frequenting Sebago this winter, I didn’t have to look much further than the lost jig pole that I happened to snag when fishing in about 120 feet of water. As if that wasn’t enough of a surprise, after hand-lining in the abandoned rod, I found that a healthy and somewhat angry 26-inch togue was still attached to the other end. To top it off, a name inscribed on the jig pole provided enough information to see the safe return of the pole to its happy, and very surprised, owner. While my experience may not match a typical day on Sebago Lake, it goes to show that the togue are biting, and it pays to watch your rod tip carefully. You never know how or when the next fish might strike.
By Assistant Regional Fisheries Biologist Nick Kalejs
The Maine Moose Harvest
Despite warm spells during both the September and October moose seasons, 73% of all moose hunters harvested a moose last season.
With 2,080 moose permits issued, 1,518 hunters were successful in getting their moose. Hunter success rates varied throughout different regions of the state with over 80 percent of the hunters getting moose in Wildlife Management Districts 1-3 and 5 and 6 in Aroostook County. For success rates in all Wildlife Management Districts and in each season, please visit the 2017 Maine Moose Harvest Summary.
“Weather impacted many hunters, particularly the first week,” said IFW’s moose biologist Lee Kantar. “Moose tend to travel less and spend more time in cover when it’s hot. Hunter effort also declines.”
The 73% success rate for hunters is consistent with the 71% success rate for moose hunters over the past five years. Success rate for turkey hunters generally is over 30%, bear hunters in Maine are successful 25% of the time and deer hunters in Maine are successful 15-20% of the time.
Maine’s moose season is split into three segments with six-day seasons in September and October. Temperatures were above 80 degrees on the first few days of the season in September, and some warmer weather in the 70s prevailed during the early part of the October season.
“High success rates for moose hunters in northern Maine are consistent with what we are seeing with our moose survival study,” stated Kantar. “Adult survival rates are consistently high in our study areas, and calf survival rates are higher in our northern Maine study area compared to our western Maine study area.”
The radio collar study is just one component of the research that IFW conducts on moose.
IFW also utilizes aerial flights to assess population abundance and the composition of the moose herd. During the moose hunting season, biologists also examine teeth to determine a moose’s age, measure antler spread, monitor the number of ticks a moose carries, and examine cow ovaries in late fall to determine reproductive rates.
Biologists are preparing to recommend moose permit numbers for the fall 2018 moose season. The number of available moose permits is based upon population numbers and the composition of the moose population in wildlife management districts, as well as the population goals and objectives for that district.
Maine - Another Snowsled Fatality
Game wardens are investigating the death of a Greenville man found dead this morning in Moosehead Lake. The body of Matthew Dubien, age 46, was found in open water this morning near Hartford’s Point. Dubien had been missing since 11:00 last evening after leaving a local restaurant on his 1995 Polaris Indy 500 snowmobile. Game wardens were notified this morning by Dubien’s family when they realized he had not made it home. An intensive search began this morning using snowmobiles and a Warden Service aircraft.
At around 9:00 this morning, game wardens searched the west shore of Moosehead Lake, an area known to have open water near Hartford’s Point. A game warden first discovered Dubien’s snowmobile helmet and soon found the body of Matthew Dubien nearby in open water. Game wardens recovered Dubien’s body with a Maine Warden Service airboat later this morning. The investigation continues to help determine contributing factors that may have played a role in this incident.
Many of Maine’s lakes, to include Moosehead Lake, now have several open areas of water that just a few weeks ago, were covered in ice. Anyone accessing Maine’s waterways must be certain of ice conditions, especially at night. In addition, many lakes have formed pressure ridges. With the recent warm temperatures, open water areas have become larger and more prevalent and will likely worsen with the anticipated heavy snowfall. This latest incident is Maine’s sixth snowmobiling related fatality this season.
This seasons snowmobile related deaths:
December 13, 2017-Rockwood: A 55-year-old North Carolina man died as a result of his snowmobile rolling onto him.
February 10, 2018-Corinna: A 44-year-old Sangerville, Maine was killed when he collided with a tree.
February 17, 2018-Smithfield: A 53-year-old Smithfield, Maine was killed when he collided with a tree.
February 18, 2018-Hermon: A 33-year-old man and his 10-year-old son were both killed when their snowmobile collided with a tree.
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