Places We Hunt: "Heeth" or "Hayth," Bog or Logan, Swamp or Swale?
By V. Paul Reynolds

From all reports, the legendary Maine Guide, like so many of our institutions, is undergoing profound change. The Maine Guide of yore was simply a woods-savvy individual who had hunted and fished enough to know how to show others the way for a few bucks a day. The early Maine Guides never took a test. Most of them got their licenses after a Maine Game Warden decided, from a short chat, that an applicant was fit to be a Maine Guide.Today, more and more of our Registered Maine Guides get their guide's license by taking formal instruction and then passing a series of written and oral tests administered by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

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Now this is not altogether bad and is in keeping with the times. Veteran guides have been known to scoff while making the observation that many of these new "school-taught" guides just wanted to get a guide's patch for their wool jackets and have no plans to guide for a living. So? It does take some smarts and commitment to pass the test, and anyone who makes the grade has a reason to be proud of his or her accomplishment.

It does strike me, though, that there is a conspicuous and glaring gap in the curriculum of most of the new training programs for aspiring Maine Guides. These new Maine Guide's, especially those who grew up in Newark or White Plains, all mispronounce a critical word used by all Maine Guides. The word is "heath." Regardless of what Webster may say, all Maine woodsman and seasoned Maine Guides pronounce this word "hayth," not "heeth" as far too many newly licensed Maine Guides seem to be doing.

If you are a newly licensed Maine Guide, you would be advised to practice the proper Maine pronounciation of this word until it becomes a natural part of your guide lexicon. Say again," Joe, you work your way slowly around the south side of that "hayth" and I'll meet you at about noon on the north end of the hummock."

Speaking of a Maine Guide's lexicon, any guide worth his salt will always use, not only the Maine pronounciation, but also know the subtle distinctions in the definitions of unique geological locales. Here are some must-know woods places that all Maine Guides should be familiar with:

Swale: A swale is a slight depression that runs along the contour of the land. That is to say, it is level all along its length. It can be deep or shallow, or even hidden (a ditch filled with gravel and capped with topsoil), and the dirt from digging the swale is usually used to make a berm on the downhill side. A common sized swale is two or three feet wide. Of course, you can make them any size you want. An important distinction is that a swale is not a drain. It is a water collection device. The cheapest way to store water is in the soil. And of course, by stopping the run-off, it prevents erosion as well.

Heath: A heath or heathland is a dwarf-shrub habitat found on mainly infertile acidic soils, characterised by open, low growing woody vegetation, often dominated by plants of the Ericaceae. It is similar to moorland, but is generally warmer and drier.

Bog: So what the heck is a bog anyway? Is it a lake? A swamp? A marsh? A farm? Or just a funny sounding word we made up? Actually, a bog is an area of soft, marshy ground, usually near wetlands, where cranberries love to grow. During the harvest, water is pumped in and out so it gets really wet. Which explains why we like to wear waders. It's also what makes the cranberry such a unique fruit.

Logan: Swamp or a bog

Hummock: A knoll or tract of land higher than a surrounding marshy area.

Of course, these are just the rudimentary usages that newly licensed guides should master. Most truly dedicated and conscientious Maine Guides never stop expanding their lexicon when it comes to naming and describing the infinite and disparate topography that comprises the fabled Maine north woods.

To this end, accomplished Maine Guide Randy Spencer has made a valubale contribution in a chapter on this subject in his delightful new book Where Cool Waters Flow. Here are some that are guaranteed to salt the vocabulary of the most experienced and venerated Registered Maine Guide.

Swallett: A place in the woods where a small, gurgling brook suddenly disappears and runs underground.

Chiminage: A fee charged for using the Maine woods.

Gnarr: A bulbous, sinewy area on a tree.

Zuckle: A stump that is cut close to the ground.

Grike: An opening in a fence that will allow a person but not an animal to get through.

Eyot: Pronounced "ite", this is a small island located in a river or lake,

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal and has wriiten his first book, A Maine Deer Hunter's Logbook. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program "Maine Outdoors" heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is

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