Kittery Trading Post

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I hit one of my favorite outdoor retail stores earlier this week – Kittery Trading Post in Kittery, ME.  This fine Southern Maine retailer has been serving the needs of New England’s outdoor sports enthusiasts for over 75 years and they’re still going strong today.

Kittery Trading Post, otherwise known as KTP, has something for everyone.  When I say they’ve got it all, they’ve got it all.  Hunting gear, guns, ammo, reloading supplies, archery gear and accessories, camping gear, casual clothing, shoes & boots, skis and winter weather apparel, fishing gear, and the list goes on.  KTP has a department to serve anything you’re looking to do outdoors and these guys definitely have it all.

I can spend hours poking around KTP, and on this particular day I did just that.  I enjoyed checking out the latest bows from the many manufacturers that KTP carries.  Always appreciated by this lefty archer is that there are several different left-handed bows always in stock at KTP.  I perused the gun inventory, both new and used, and fantasized about the autoloading shotgun that I will someday acquire.  I spent a good amount of time in the fishing section checking out all the newest fly fishing gear and I also looked at their vast array of knives, turkey calls, tree stands and ammunition.

Any visit to KTP is a success as it stimulates the senses with many thoughts of outdoor adventure.  On this particular day I’m proud to say that I kept my expense in check and I only purchased four items:  A Quaker Boy box turkey call, a pack of Thingamamobber strike indicators, a Simms wader bag and a Silva Huntsman compass.

If you are ever driving through Southern Maine, a visit to KTP is a definite must-stop destination.  Enjoy!

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International Bowhunter Education Program

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Last Saturday I attended a full-day bowhunter education course that was administered by the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game.  Now I’ve had a bow in my hands for 27 of my 44 years on this earth; with that much experience what do I need with a bowhunter education course?

The primary answer boils down to this: Thus far in my bowhunting career I have hunted in only three states – Michigan, Massachusetts and Colorado.  None of these states require a dedicated bowhunter education course in order to obtain an archery hunting license.  By contrast, any person who wishes to bow hunt in the following states is required to have a bowhunter education certificate: Alaska, Connecticut, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Vermont.  Additionally, the Canadian Provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Quebec have similar requirements.

The course I attended was the International Bowhunter Education Program.  This curriculum is recognized in all 50 states, 10 Canadian provinces, 3 Northwest Territories, Mexico and 13 additional foreign countries.  The class was administered by volunteer instructors from the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game, with primary points of emphasis as follows:

  • Wildlife conservation
  • Safe and responsible bowhunting techniques
  • Equipment knowledge and maintenance
  • Proper shot placement and game recovery techniques
  • Outdoor preparedness

Despite entering the class with mixed expectations, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  It’s always nice to have an opportunity to gather with people who share a passion for the outdoors, and from my perspective it’s even better when it’s focused on archery and bowhunting.  The only piece of anxiety was the test at the end of the day; I can’t remember the last time I actually had to take a test!  I passed with flying colors and I’ll receive my certification card in about two weeks.  After that I’ll begin wondering when and where I’ll plan a hunt with my newly-expanded bowhunting options.  Will it be whitetail deer in upstate New York?  Maybe black bear in New Brunswick?  Perhaps moose in New Hampshire or Maine?  How about all of the above?!?!?!

Thoughts on hunting and fishing licenses

Today I got off my rear end and purchased my 2015 hunting and fishing licenses.  Typically I buy them in early January but I’ve been behind this year and just finally got to it.  I always enjoy buying my licenses; the primary reasons are as follows:

  1. The excitement and anticipation of the adventures that lie ahead.  A hunting and fishing license is the equivalent of a passport to adventure.  The licenses are purchased at a time when I’m not typically engaged in any fishing or hunting pursuits, yet having them in my possession gets me thinking about it.  I see the license and the harvest tags, and I begin pondering questions with unknown answers.  How many times will I get out to hunt and fish?  Where will I go?  What will the weather be like?  How many fish will I catch this year?  Will I get to fill out that turkey tag or finally tag a deer this year…or am I destined to eat “tag soup”?  Who will I share these experiences with?  The questions go on and on.
  2. I take pride in generating revenue for habitat, conservation and wildlife preservation.  Every dollar that I spend on hunting and fishing licenses goes directly to a State agency that invests those dollars right where I want them to go.  Unlike taxes, these funds do not go into a governmental abyss where they are subject to misuse and waste, and for that I am grateful.  In order to maximize the dollars I contribute to these conservation efforts, I buy every license that is available for purchase whether I intend to use it or not.  This year, as I do every year, I purchased the following licenses: freshwater fishing, saltwater fishing, basic hunting license, turkey permit, bear permit, waterfowl permit, archery permit, primitive firearms permit and a whitetail doe permit.  All of that totals up to almost 90 bucks and it’s money very well spent.
  3. License purchases register me among a minority of United States citizens who take to the field and engage in hunting and fishing activity.  According to survey data produced by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the percentage of the U.S. population participating in hunting and fishing continues to decline.  The most recent comparison data reveals that in 1991, 40 million Americans were recorded as active sportspersons who participated in hunting and/or fishing activity.  Twenty years later in 2011, the number declined by 2.6 million people to 37.4 million.  Upon initial examination those numbers might not seem alarming, especially if you do the math and say “it’s only a 6.5% decline over a two decades.”  In order to put those numbers into better perspective, one must consider the population growth that the country has seen during that same time period.  In 1991 the U.S. population was 253 million; in 2011 it had expanded by 23% to 312 million.  What’s troubling is this: in the early 90’s 16% of the U.S. population was hunting and fishing.  Twenty years later that number has declined to 12%.  Today, if you put 100 people in a room, on average only 12 of them are likely to hunt or fish.  Needless to say, that’s an alarming fact and perhaps a subject for another post.

For these reasons, as well as many others, I love having hunting and fishing licenses in my pocket.  I’ve made a financial contribution to conservation, I have a permission slip for future adventures, and I register myself in the small segment of our population who seeks the challenge, enjoyment and solitude that can only be experienced in the great outdoors.  If you haven’t purchased your licenses yet this year, please join me and go get ’em!

A day at the spa

This past Friday I was presented with an opportunity to grab a day off from work.  What should I do with this gift of time?  I decided to do what a lot of people do to recharge their batteries … I’ll make a visit to the spa.  The difference, however, is that I set out to visit a spa of a different nature than most.  In fact, my spa is nature.

Eager to take advantage of the historic snowfall that we’ve experienced and to try out a new pair of snowshoes I recently purchased, I set out on my mission.  The plan was to enjoy some fresh air while hiking and scouting for deer activity.  I’ve been concerned about the deer throughout the entirety of this brutal winter and I was eager to see some sign that they are alive and well.

I planned two hikes for the day; the first one got underway at 9:45 am.  The weather was crystal clear skies, 15* temperature with a reported windchill of 7*.  Perfect weather to throw on a pair of snowshoes and get after it; there certainly was no worry about getting overheated!

snowshoes

I hiked a loop through mostly hardwood forest and encountered some deer sign, but not a lot.  Total distance of this hike was 2.1 miles and it took me 1 hour and 11 minutes.  For the majority of this hike I was off trail and I found blazing my own trail quite easy with the new snowshoes.  It was a beautiful hike.

deer tracks 1st spotcreekSunny pic

The second hike began at 11:30 am with a temp of 19* and no wind whatsoever.  This hike was far more productive in terms of deer sign.  This was a 1.6 mile hike in a new location; total time spent hiking was 1 hour and 4 minutes.  This hike was at a much slower pace because I encountered a lot more deer activity.  At one point I decided to follow the deer sign and it took me on an adventure through some incredibly thick underbrush.  I’m glad I stuck it out and inched my way through it; as a reward for my efforts I discovered a deer bedding area that I was previously unaware of.

deer tracksdeer beddeer bed 2

I had a great day.  I encountered promising deer sign, I found a new deer bedding area and I saw plenty of other wildlife activity including that from coyote and raccoon.   It was a perfect say at the spa, one that left a big wide grin on my face!

Hike pic of me

There are many like it, but this one is mine

“There are many like it, but this one is mine” is an excerpt from the Marine Corps Rifleman’s Creed that all enlisted Marines learn during recruit training.  The Rifleman’s Creed has serious meaning that goes far beyond the analogy I’m about to use; I certainly must acknowledge that before moving on.

So what I am I applying this phrase to?  My bow, of course!  Options for today’s archers have never been better.  There are hundreds of different bows out there that people can choose from.  It’s fantastic to have such a diverse selection, but at the same time it can be overwhelming.  Unless you are one of those people who get a new bow every year (I envy you folks!), when you choose a bow you’re making a long term investment.  Bows aren’t cheap so you want to take your time and make sure you get the one that fits you best.

My current bow was purchased in 2012.  I spent a considerable amount of time doing research before making my decision, and the process was a lot of fun.  Despite being right handed, I have a dominant left eye and thus I shoot left handed.  It’s not a big deal to shoot left handed, however finding lefty bows in stock to test shoot proved to be a challenge.  As a result, I put on many miles traveling around to archery shops to find a sufficient number of lefty bows that I could evaluate and shoot.  The process of figuring out what I wanted took a little over two months to complete and I really enjoyed it.

What was I looking for?  My top priority was the feel of the bow.  I wanted a comfortable draw cycle that was smooth, not jumpy.  I wanted a bow with a solid back wall so I could confidently hold at full draw for extended time periods in a hunting situation.  I wanted it to be quiet and I wanted it to have minimal vibration after releasing the arrow.  I wanted a comfortable anchor point and I discovered that the biggest variable in this area was a bow’s axle-to-axle length.  In terms of my personal preference, I found that short axle-to-axle length bows (30 inches or less) created a tighter sting angle at full draw and that did not provide me with a comfortable anchor position.

What did I end up with?  After an exhaustive search I found a handful of bows that I didn’t like at all, many bows that felt good, and one that jumped out as my clear favorite.  My bow is a 2012 Hoyt Vector 32; it is set at a 60 lbs with a draw length of 29″.  I really love this bow and after thousands of shots I enjoy shooting it now as much as the day I got it.  If you’re curious to see a professional opinion on the Vector 32 you can check out a review from Petersen’s Bowhunting Magazine by clicking here.

Despite the enormous temptation to go try out and perhaps buy one of the latest and greatest new bows on the market, I know that my Vector 32 will serve me quite well for many years to come.  I’ve attached a photo below.  This is my bow, there are many like it but this one is mine!

Hoyt Vector 32 w viscosity strings