The Hunt Has Just Begun. [A Reflection of Bear Camp]

The Hunt Has Just Begun.

[A Reflection of Bear Camp]

By Ryan McKinney

EvoOutdoors, ProStaff

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Bear Lane Guide Service is located in Wesley, Maine and has been family owned and operated business for over twenty years. Frank Perkowsky, a registered Maine Master Guide is at the helm of this outfitter. Along with two other registered guides, Frank tirelessly devotes his time to bringing clients the best guide service that Maine has to offer. That being said, I’m quite bias. Bear Lane happens to be my family business, and I’am fortunate to be a part of it. I don’t write this article to promote Bear Lane, but to reflect on my time there.

I won’t speak of other outfitters, rather explain how our guide service operates. In Maine, bear season lasts four weeks, in the fall, opening the last Monday in August. Furthermore, Bear Lane legally hunts two ways, over bait and with hounds. When clients book with Bear Lane, they get a package that includes food, lodging for five days and guide service. So what exactly is guide service? If you are not familiar, becoming a guide is no easy feat in Maine. You can research the guidelines here. In short, the guides responsibility is the client. Period. Frank and his team are an established outfit, with countless bait sites and thousands of acres of hunting land. They work to maintain bait sites, maintain a continuous rotation of trail cameras, transporting clients, tracking and processing harvests and most importantly, ensure the safety and success of their clients. While the guides do everything they can to ensure you’re successful, you’re left with the responsibility to eat like a king, sleep and hunt. Moving forward, let me clear that Bear Lane and it’s staff have an impressive track record and are a very successful outfitter, this article is under no circumstances is a reflection of them.

bear 1I have been fortunate enough to be able to hunt bear in Maine for a couple of years. At this point, I have yet to harvest a bear, and that has been the best experience I could ask for. The woods in Maine are a relentless place, thicker than I’ve ever experienced. So imagine that you’re in your tree stand, and all you can see is the shooting alley that you have to the bait site. You’re lucky if you can see anything else, or any further. That being said, bear are very sensitive to movement, so that means, you need to sit painfully still. This is where I struggled the most.

When I hunt whitetail, I can basically do jumping jacks in my tree stand and still be successful. It’s very difficult to stay engaged when bear hunting; you end up staring at the same site, for hours, without moving, at all, for five days.

Process that for a second. Most people can’t sit still for 10 minutes, let alone several hours. If I were to be totally honest here, I would say I contemplated quitting several times and I didn’t want to bear hunt anymore. I found myself going through a whirlwind of emotion, starting excited, engaged, focused, and as the hours passed, you couldn’t get me out of the woods fast enough. I was frustrated. And it’s for this reason that I wrote this article. As the week passed, the desire to quit grew. I hunted hard for five days, I was mentally exhausted. Any avid hunter will tell you, sitting for several hours, and remaining hyper alert, is taxing. I was done.

Another year passed without a bear harvest. This year was especially difficult because I felt the pressure to perform from various avenues. Even on a less formal level, my friends and family eagerly awaited my call or a photo on social media boasting my success. I received an overwhelming amount of support, and for that, I am grateful. However, It didn’t happen. I couldn’t get over this overwhelming feeling of failure and disappointment. Oddly enough, this is where my greatest success seemed to be. I was better for it. The lessons I learned from NOT being successful is where I grew the most. If I were immediately successful, then I’m not sure I would have gotten much out of it, other than a mount on the wall and some classic harvest photos. I really feel strongly that this is where the hunting industry falls short. Up-and-coming hunters see nothing but Boone and Crockett bucks, Pope and Young black bears, and various giant animals harvested on TV. Of course no one wants to see a hunter sit in a tree stand for hours on TV and not see a thing, but I don’t think the industry is doing anyone any favors here – But that’s another article. I vividly remember watching Bill Dance catch giant bass after giant bass on TV when I was a kid. It was fun to watch, but it made my expectations unrealistic when I was fishing with my dad.Bear 4

 

As I sit in my comfy chair a week after my hunt, I am able to think a bit more clearly and really look back on this hunt. Im a better hunter and outdoorsman than I was two weeks ago. Hopefully, I’m a better example to my family, friends, and outdoor community from these experiences. I will hunt black bear again.

This article is my mount on the wall.

I want people to see the other side of hunting. You’re not always going to harvest an animal, but you can always be successful. I continue to grow, learn patience, perseverance, and gain experience. When I began this journey in the outdoor industry, it was immediately important to me to teach my boys, and anyone else who wanted to learn, the things that were taught to me by my mentors. This is a chapter in that book.

“A hunt based only on trophies taken falls far short of what the ultimate goal should be.”~Fred Bear

Ryan McKinney

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MORE THAN JUST BEARS

MORE THAN JUST BEARS

By Erin Merrill, EvoOutdoors ProStaff

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Kryptek Camo from EvoOutdoors

Seven miles down a narrow dirt road, into the back woods of Maine, away from towns, pavement, electricity and cell service, five Maine outdoors women of varying ages and backgrounds are at camp for the same reasons:

We love the outdoors and we want to hunt black bears.

For some of us, we want to keep pushing the boundaries of our comfort zone and become better outdoors women.

Estimates put Maine’s bear population at around 30,000 and with successful hunters taking an average of 2800 bears over the 16-week season. The Maine Black Bear is thriving if not over-populating species in the dense woods. However, these animals are incredibly smart and keenly aware of their surroundings which makes successfully hunting one a great accomplishment.

Robin and I have each shot a bear before; her’s over bait and mine using hounds. Tammy is a professional photographer and has been bear hunting for a handful of years now. Taylor is an incredible biologist by trade and while she was at camp, the bear she wanted is at a different bait site closer to her house.  Sue is a trauma nurse and active leaders in the outdoor women’s movement in Maine.  Robin enjoyed silencing critics who questioned if, as women, we could handle bears by ourselves in the woods alone by pointing out,

“We are five women who have and know how to use high powered rifles.  No person or animal is going to mess with us.”

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Since it was early in the season, we were sitting over baited sites waiting for the bears to hit hyperphagia and begin to come into the sites before dark.  Each morning Robin would get the bait together and with a truck and 4-wheelers, we would check the sites to see if they had been hit and add more bait and smells to lure the bears in.  It is no easy task to get the bears to steadily come to the sites when there is so much natural food around.

‘I’m terrified of them,”

Sue said when I asked if she enjoyed her week in camp so far even though she had not yet seen a bear, “I came here to conquer my fear and if I haven’t done it, I’ve come close.” For Sue, conquering her fear meant sitting on a metal chair placed behind a piece of camo fabric tied between two trees and looking between the trees towards the bait site.  For a beginner with a healthy fear of bears, sitting on the ground and waiting for one to come in is about as bad ass as you can get. Bears are silent in the woods which is how they earned their nickname the black ghost. It tests your mental and physical limits as you sit, listen and watch – without moving and giving your location away.  As night sets in and new sounds emerge, you need to be on your game and ready for a bear to stroll in.  Every sound you hear may be a bear or it could be a moose, deer or coyote or fisher.  Hunters know how many other animals are roaming the woods with us.IMG_6501

Hunting and her relationship with Robin helped Tammy become more independent and grow her confidence in her outdoor skills.  She sat in a treestand as the winds from an incoming storm steadily increased and decided to build herself a ground blind when the swaying of the tree got to be too much. Using fallen branches, leaves and a piece of canvas, she created a small blind that she sat behind until dark.  Just a few years ago, she would not have had enough confidence to get down alone from her stand, let alone build one on the ground.

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Taylor and I

I am not nearly as courageous as Sue or Tammy when it comes to conquering the mental piece of hunting.  I sat in a treestand with Robin and tried to become familiar with the sounds of the Canada Jays, ducks in the bog and tree frogs.  I watched a Northern Flicker land on a branch 15 feet from us and preen for a few minutes, totally unaware that we were in the tree.  A Snowshoe Hare came in and out of the site a couple of times before disappearing into the thick underbrush.

During the entire week, we saw signs that bears had been around and were eating grubs from tree stumps and fallen logs but none of us saw a bear.  We spent time hiking, foraging for mushrooms, exploring the fields, talking about our favorite guns and scopes and drank lots of coffee and wine as we shared stories and our love of the Maine woods.

Bear camp is about more than just the bears.

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Erin is actively involved with local organizations that promote women in the outdoors and has taught classes on writing, campfire cooking and white-tail deer basics. You can find Erin’s writing about the challenges facing women hunters, life in the Maine woods and her hunting and outdoor adventures on her blog www.andastrongcupofcoffee.com as well as in her monthly magazine column “Women in the Wood” featured in the Northwoods Sporting Journal.

Simply Delicious: Pan Seared Dove

Simply Delicious:

Pan Seared Dove

 Kristin Parma, EvoOutdoors Media Coordinator

Recipe from Adam Parma, EvoOutdoors ProStaff

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Depending on where and what you hunt with (November is dedicated to falconry) dove season spans almost all of the fall period in Texas. While perhaps simpler than waterfowl or upland bird hunting, dove hunting does actually require being a good shot with your shotgun. Dove, especially Mourning dove, are fast little birds of quick deception. They can easily be coming in one direction and change their flight pattern quicker than a blink of an eye. Often times they will fly right past your head coming from behind or fall quickly behind the tree line.

Side note: The dragon fly is to dove season what the squirrel is to deer season. 

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My first dove!

460September 2014 was my first dove season. I shot my first white-wing less than 100 yards from my doorstep. For a girl who grew up in the suburbs of Eugene, Oregon I felt so very thankful to be living my dream on acreage in Texas. It felt better than Christmas morning. The emotion of providing my own food in my own “backyard” is more exciting than anything I could have ever hoped for. Non-hunting organizations will have you believe that hunters do not eat the dove they harvest. However, like other wild game birds, the dove is absolutely DELICIOUS .

Dove vs. Squab

In the culinary world a squab is referred to as a young domesticated pigeon. From what I gather though a squab can be referred to as a young dove, wild or domestic. According to Texas Parks & Wildlife there are five different types of dove/pigeon that can legally be hunted in the state. It is important to be able to identify migratory birds as there are several species of dove that are protected. For instance the protected Inca dove shares our home with us at the ranch. These dove are much slower, smaller and mostly ground dwelling. For more information on dove identification visit Texas Parks & Wildlife: Know Your Doves.

So, you ask- why is dove so tasty? Dove has VERY little fat and unlike a chicken, dove is a tasty flavor nugget of all dark meat. This gives it, to me, a beef-like quality.

Ah-ha! These are the “chicken nuggets” our future children will eat every fall in their homemade happy-meals.

According to Genuine Aide Natural Healthy blog the nutrients of one squab are packed with Vitamins A, B and C. Along with other essentials like protein, iron, calcium, potassium and Omega 3 fatty acids. These improve brain function, immune system, healthy skin and nails among other many beneficial attributes.

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My teacher, Mr. Parma!

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Dove Season 2015

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Our collie Jane enjoys dove hunting

Most Southerners opt to take the dove and bacon wrap it with a slice of jalapeño on the grill. I am NOT, I repeat not, in any way putting down bacon…But really? Is it necessary? Dove meat is tender if cooked properly and adding bacon is not needed for flavor or moistening purposes. In addition, there are many fancy “foodie” type recipes out there for wild game birds like duck, dove and pheasant. Any Google search on the internet will make you assume you have to soak, smother or baste an itty bitty dove for extreme hours. A turn off for many.  My husband Adam, A.K.A. “Boots” is my culinary hero. In my eyes he is an innovator in simple, delicious wild game cooking. It must be the beard that gives him those powers. While many of the recipes found online are no doubt delicious sometimes I think we have lost track of the simpler, equally tasty recipes that our grandparents and furthermore, pioneer relatives grew up with. After all, people have been eating wild game for a long time without fancy sauces…

At the ranch I like to think we live like pioneers- 21st century style of course. Currently, we live with very limited indoor space and do majority of our cooking in one very reliable and well-loved cast iron skillet. This year Adam’s first haul of dove inspired this bread crumb and pan seared dove recipe that had my taste buds tingling.

Ingredients (serving size for two):

8 deboned and breasted dove

Bread crumbs (We used store bought spicy breadcrumbs but you could make your own)

1 fresh farm egg

Sea salt to taste

Oil of your choice (We only use olive oil)

Steps:

  1. Remove the breast meat from the dove.

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    Adam teaching friend Melanie how to clean a dove

  2. Place cracked egg and breadcrumbs into shallow bowls. Add any other spices you would like to the breadcrumbs. Dredge the dove breasts into the egg and then into the breadcrumb mixture.

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    When I asked Adam about the egg wash his response was, “You take an egg, wash it and put it in the bowl- egg wash!” *smirk*

  3. Pour about 1/4 inch or less of olive oil to the bottom of a cast iron skillet and bring to 350 degrees.1905
  4. Sear the dove breasts in batches for about 2 minutes turning once during frying. You are looking for a good exterior crust. Remove the dove to a platter and lightly sprinkle with sea salt to taste.1906
  5. Serve with your favorite side dishes and ENJOY natures gift!

Adam and Kristin share their homesteading adventures on their Czech Out Ranch Facebook page as a way to honor all the people in their lives that aided them in following their dreams. They enjoy sharing their story with others to perpetuate the notion that if you dream it, it can happen.

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Dove season 2015