The shadows are getting longer, the crickets and lightening bugs put on a symphonic laser light show in the evening and the leaves are beginning to change color and fall. Summer has slowly come to a close and fall is just around the corner. The dance between the two seasons is something to see as one fades into the other.
As I sit here on the porch of the cabin with a steaming cup of coffee in hand, I look out over the lake as the loons are singing and know that I have to be the luckiest hunter in the world. I am in Maine again.
I didn’t think September would ever get here this year for our annual trek to the north woods of Shin Pond Maine. This year we are hunting with Ryan and Jennifer Shepard owners of Camp Wapiti. We met them last year and felt an instant connection with them; it was as if we had known them for years. They have operated Camp Wapiti for 5 years where they guide for black bear, moose and whitetail. They are both registered Maine Guides.
This year Jim and I decided to add a few days to the beginning or our trip so we would have time to explore Maine and its many wonders. This would also give us an opportunity to eat our way up the coast and enjoy the great seafood Maine has to offer.
Jim and I left on the Wednesday before Labor Day on the heels of hurricane Irene headed to Hershey Pennsylvania. On Thursday we arrived in Kittery Maine which is one of our favorite stops. We ate the most amazing seafood at Bob’s Clam Hut on route 1 and then walked it off at the famous Kittery Trading Post.
Friday we headed on up the coast toward Freeport, Maine and spent most of the day at the Portland Head Lighthouse and Fort Williams. I have never seen the coast of Maine and I must admit I am in love with its rocky coast line. We also experienced our first Lobster Roll while we were there and it’s now our new favorite food. Oh my, where have these delicious morsels been all my life!
After our adventure at the lighthouse we headed back to Kittery for one more great meal at Bob’s Clam Hunt and then took route 1 to Freeport. Route 1 of course is the coastal highway and it goes through quaint towns of older New England style homes and businesses. We enjoyed the drive and the slower pace, we even saw a little boy selling lemonade by the road. We arrived in Freeport, checked in to our hotel and had plenty of time to go visit L.L.Bean, they are open for business 24 – 7 – 365. It was great going later in the evening, parking was easy to find and the store was not crowed.
Saturday morning we headed to Main Street in downtown Freeport to have a look around in some of the local stores. We are always looking for items from the states we visit and we like unusual things. We were shopping in the Mangy Moose when I say Jim’s eyes glazed over, he had spied something he had been looking for years for. They had vintage snowshoes made of sinew, wood and leather and they were in great shape. We have found snowshoes in the past but they were busted or missing the webbing and he wanted a pair that was intact. They had several pairs to choose from so we bought a pair of Tubbs which are made in Vermont and a pair of Fabers which are made in Canada. They will look awesome hanging on the wall of our trophy room.
After our big adventure in town we headed to the wharf to eat at Harrseeket Lunch and Lobster, which is another of our favorite places to eat. We had Lobster rolls for lunch, do you see a pattern here. After we ate we were going to walk around the wharf and look at the boats. Jim pointed at one and said “look there is an Atlantic Seal cruise let’s go see what time it leaves.” I had researched some of the cruises before we left, I really wanted to go on a Puffin cruise but they are over at the end of August. We walked down to the captain and he said he had plenty of seats open, it was a 3 hour tour and that the cruise took you to Eagle Island which was the home of Admiral Perry who discovered the North Pole. We boarded the boat and were off on an ocean adventure.
We were loaded and on the road early Sunday morning, we planned to stop in the states capital of Augusta to eat at the Red Barn, we had heard they had the best lobster roll in Maine and I can’t argue with that statement, it was delicious.
We arrived at Camp Wapiti around 2:00pm and were warmly met by Jennifer Shepard and shown to our cabin. The cabins and main lodge are celebrating their 100th year and they are beautiful. We were told to unpack and get settled in and all the hunters in camp would meet at the range at 4:00pm to shoot and make sure their sights were on and get to know each other. There were pistol hunters, rifle hunter, muzzle load hunters and bow hunters in camp so we all took turns shooting and even shot each others equipment, we all had a great time on the range.
Dinner was at 6:00 and after everyone completed their divine meal Ryan told us how the hunt would go, to make sure that you were shooting at dry sows without cubs or boars. He explained that if a bear comes in alone that it would be a boar or a dry sow which is what they want you to shoot. They ask you to be patient and not shoot sows with cubs. He told us how to judge the size of the bear, how they would take us out and pick us up and all the details of the hunt. We all drew cards to see where we would be hunting. We had a choice of either ground blind or tree stand some of us said that we would hunt either. Jim drew a tree stand and I drew a ground blind. The other hunters drew and we were all set for Monday morning and our first trip to the bear woods.
In bear camp you don’t go out to hunt till after lunch. Breakfast, if you want it is served at 8:00am and lunch was at 12:00. The meals were amazing to say the least. No doubt the best food we have ever had in a hunting camp. Supper was waiting for us each night when they got everyone out of the woods and back to camp which was usually late.
Monday afternoon we were set and ready to go. I was with Ryan and Jim was with Jen. They also had several other guides in camp, Darren Hurlburt aka Kudzu, Preacher, and Mr. Shepard, Ryan’s Dad. Each guide had between 3 and 4 hunters and they lease thousand of acres of hunting property so there is no over hunting an area. Each guide has a certain area for their hunters.
Ryan dropped me off at my ground blind and I loved the location. All their ground blinds are natural brushed in blinds around a dead fall or a thick stand of trees. My blind was 20 yards from the bait slightly up hill. It was in thick timber and was perfect for a bow hunter. I quickly got set up and settled in and was ready for an evening of up close and personal encounters with Mr. Black Bear.
I leaned my Mathews Z-7 Magnum up against the log that was in front of me, loaded a 100grain Muzzy M-X 3 tipped Carbon Express Maxima Hunter on the string and set the QAD Ultra-Rest in the capture position. All I had to do was slowly raise it up to be ready to shoot.
As the afternoon wore on it began to sprinkle the rain, not a problem, I am the Gore-Tex queen and was ready for whatever Mother Nature had to offer. Well she had a lot to offer; the rain got harder and then was all but a down pour.
Ryan told us on the first night to stay in your stand or blind they would come back in and get you. They would not come early unless you radioed in that you wanted them to in the case of rain. If there was lightening they would get everyone out ASAP. This was only a rain event and I had no problem with staying.
When it started getting dark all was well until, over the pouring rain, I kept hearing something that sounded like growling. I was sure it was my imagination but I unzipped my pack and was going to get my pistol out just in case. It was well past seeing the pins on my bow and in Maine you can carry a side arm for protection, which I always do.
When I reached in my pack for my pistol there was a problem, it wasn’t there. My pistol was in the truck back at the lodge, I had forgot to put it in my pack. Over the pounding rain the growling got louder so I unzipped the back pocket on my pack and pulled out my Outdoor Edge Kodi Skinner knife, which I never leave home without and my flashlight.
Not only did the growling get louder but it was getting closer. The growl was low and guttural, I thought it was a sow bear. I did not want to turn on my light if I didn’t have to, but it was too dark to see and the rain was deafening. I stood there straining my eyes to try to see what was making the noise and I finally spotted movement. There was a huge raccoon about 8 feet from me in front of the blind and there was something in front of him that was growling. The coon wanted no part of it but I could not make it out. It was not a bear.
I watched as the dance continued and finally the growling beast moved and I could make out a shape, it was a huge fisher cat. I would have never believed a sound like that would come out of that size of animal. They continued their bob and weave as they slowly worked their way up the right side of my blind and then kept going until they were out of hearing distance. After it was all over I had to chuckle at myself. There I stood flashlight in one hand my trusty knife in the other. I had made up my mind if they came in the blind walking they would leave limping.
Ryan came and got me not long after that. He had already retrieved the other 3 hunters that were with us. No one had any luck that night but they all enjoyed my evening’s excitement. The hunters told me I was crazy for wanting to sit in a ground blind, maybe so but I think it’s way to cool to be that close.
Tuesday was a great day. The highs were in the 50’s and the bears were up moving. I was back in my ground blind and had a nice 200lb bear come in. He was a little spooky and put on a real show. The only problem was he did not offer me a shot. He stayed about 10 minutes, climbed a tree and rolled around on the ground but never would commit to the bait. He finally ran off through the woods and never came back. I was hoping there was a bigger bear in there and that was why he was so nervous but nothing else ever showed itself.
Wednesday the highs were in the lower 60’s with a gentle rain. I was still hunting my ground blind which had a great canopy so I did not get wet at all. The wind was perfect every day in the blind. I am a firm believer in Wildlife Research Center Scent Killer Products so being at 20 yards on the ground I was not worried about scent either. No bear were harvested today but the experience of being out in the middle of nowhere is a thrill within itself.
Thursday is move day. You hunt where you draw the first three days and then after talking with the guide’s everyday they decided where to put you for the next three days. It’s still up to you whether you want to hunt a ground blind or tree stand but they learn how you hunt over the first three days and put you where they think you will be successful.
Ryan, being my guide had two places picked out for me, one was an established ground blind that had been successful in the past and one was a new site that they had started five weeks prior, no one had hunted this area before. This is where he decided I needed to be.
It was a very remote area in very dark timber. He told me I would be the first hunter to lose light. Ryan suggested that I take my rifle just in case. So I took both my Mathews Z-7 Magnum and “The Precious” which is my 25-06 Thompson Center Encore Pro Hunter so if I did lose light with my bow I might still have an opportunity with my rifle. I have learned over the years that when you travel that far from home and you are on a guided hunt you have to trust your guide. I have also learned that even though I am a bow hunter that if it comes down to the last few days and you have an opportunity to hunt with either rifle or bow you increase your odds of going home with meat. In this economy it is much easier to make a connection than go home empty handed.
Next up: Lobstah and Beah – Part 2
Mathews Danner Boot Manzella Gloves
Real Tree Camo Leupold Optics Limbsaver
Tru-Ball QAD Ultra Rest Carbon Express Arrows
Sure-Loc Muzzy Products