Fall is creeping in on us rather subtly and with little fanfare. I’ve traveled around the state quite a bit in recent days and have seen splashes of color here and there and nighttime temperatures ranging anywhere from the 50s to the 80s! Near Baxter State Park it was hot enough for air-conditioning one night last week – the air was heavy and humid and none too conducive to a good night’s sleep.
I fished the East Branch Penobscot River at Matagamon and found it to be quite low, warm and slow-moving except near the various falls below the lake. I caught several chubs, a smallmouth bass that was two inches long (cute but not necessarily a lunker), a 4-inch bluegill and an 8-inch salmon in a day of fishing.
The lake shores and ponds were covered in weeds and algae, making it difficult to fish from shore. If I paddled out to the center of the pond and fished deep I caught some bass in the 2-pound class, but they were few and far between.
The bear hunting was good to excellent. One camp had taken nine bears in a week and another had taken a dozen including three that were over 300 pounds. Most hunters reported seeing a lot of small bears or sows with cubs, which are of little interest to trophy hunters. Everyone wants to kill a bear that weighs 300 pounds or more but those are the exceptions. Overall, everyone was happy with the bear hunting but no one was happy with the weather (too hot and humid) or the fishing.
For those who are still bear hunting it may be of interest to know that nearly every bear that was tagged last week “up north” was full of acorns, not pastries, pies or donuts. I’ve often wondered how many acorns it would take to fill a 300-pound bear; one had nearly 5 gallons of acorn “mash” in its stomach!
I had been driving around the area for a few days just to look things over. There were, quite honestly, few signs of fall even that far north, just the usual splashes of color here and there with the occasional bright-red maple in the lowest elevations. If not for the dead, brown ferns lining the roads you’d think it was still mid-summer. Predictions are that things will begin to cool down shortly but for now it’s definitely still summer with just a twinge of fall in the air.
I will say that this must be a banner year for gray squirrels. I counted over 100 of them on I-95, which is not known as a squirrel migration corridor. The back roads were also littered with squirrel carcasses, suggesting that the squirrel population is quite high. I saw (and heard) several gray squirrels in every place I stopped for gas or food, and one even swam across the pond while I was fishing!
For many years I have been urging the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to open our squirrel hunting season on Sept. 1 (all of our neighboring states allow squirrel hunting in September). It’s a good way to get into the hunting frame of mind, allows hunters to hone their skills while bringing home some excellent stew fixin’s plus a nice tail that can be made into trout flies (the Mosquito pattern comes to mind). Most would probably consider a September squirrel season as a primer for the fall deer seasons but what harm could come of that? Certainly from the number of dead squirrels I’m seeing on the roads we have enough to waste as road kills; why not allow us to hunt them and get some use out of them?
For the record, in my few days in the North Country I saw no moose, no deer, no hares, three grouse and one fisher. Interestingly enough, every bear hunter I talked to said he’d seen several fishers at the bait bucket but, oddly, no martens. Ravens, crows and squirrels were plentiful and even a few hares were reported. One hunter claimed that he saw a lynx, but after much debate, deliberation and discussion he admitted that it could have been a bobcat – both species are common in the region.
Closer to home the name of the game is raccoons and porcupines, both of which raided my garden with glee while I was on the road. There are no tomatoes remaining (just half-chewed remnants) and the few ears of corn I’d left behind to mature were also gone. I have not quite figured out what has been eating my sunflower heads but they are all but gone as well. The parts lay scattered all around the yard in big chunks so I doubt that goldfinches are to blame. I may set a trail camera up to find out who is responsible but right now I’m guessing raccoons or porkies are the culprits. Either way there are few sunflower heads left, but feeding the critters is the reason I plant them in the first place.
I checked the trail cameras that I have set up around the corners of the property and saw that a bear, two foxes, a coyote and a troop of raccoons had been traveling through. Any one of them could be responsible for the sunflower damage but I have cameras in the yard as well and nothing showed up on those SD cards. The great backyard mystery continues.
Because fall seems to be taking its own sweet time in getting here I’m going to leave the garden alone for another few weeks just to see what comes in to feast on the last of it. There are squash and cucumbers left but normally I don’t have many problems with scavengers.
Sometime this month or next I’ll spend a Sunday tearing the garden down and rototilling it one last time. In the interim I’ll clean the chimney, get some firewood in, pile some kindling and put the hoses and garden tools away. The signs may say that it is not fall just yet but I’m not taking anything for granted!