George's Outdoor News

George’s new outdoor issues blog. He goes all over the state. He listens. And he reports on issues of concern to sportsmen, conservationists, and environmentalists.

Your cuddly cat is a ferocious killer

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 Every cat lover should read Cat Wars by Peter Marra and Chris Santella. Turns out that cuddly cat of yours is a devastating killer of birds and other critters. OK, Linda and I have a cat too, so we’re with you on this.

One well-researched and professionally reviewed study reported that “cats killed between 1.3 and 4 billion birds per year, with unowned (feral) cats causing the majority of the mortality (69 percent).”

“Annual mortality for amphibians and reptiles was in the hundreds of millions,” according to that study.

Our cat seems to be killing less birds as he gets older. This summer he did quite a job on chipmunks, though. In the past he’s brought two birds into the house and released them alive. One morning Linda got up and noticed a chickadee sitting on her computer!

Abandoned boat tops list of garbage picked up this week

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 It’s too bad the “Most Unusual Item” monthly contest of the Keep Maine Clean statewide program isn’t in place yet, because I would surely win.

This week, in addition to filling a bag with things the road slobs left on my road-side woodlot, I’m dealing with a boat that floated down from Lake Minnehonk into the brook behind my house last spring. The left side of the boat got stove in on the rocks.

I assume the owner looked for the boat, saw that it was wrecked, and decided to leave it for someone else to deal with. Local game warden Ethan Buuck checked it out for me, but was unable to identify an owner. I did appreciate his effort though.

Oscar Cronk is a legendary sportsman

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Oscar and Edie Cronk have been important people in my life, so it was great to be there at SAM’s annual banquet for DIF&W Commissioner Chandler Woodcock’s presentation of a Lifetime Outdoor Achievement award to Oscar. Oscar is Maine’s best known trapper, a true legend, and his wife Edie is right there beside him. In fact, Edie followed me as SAM’s President in the early 1980s and later came back for more terms as President during my tenure as executive director. And Oscar was one of the founders of SAM.

From 1964 to 1978 Oscar also served as president of the Maine Trappers Association. He’s hunted bobcats with hounds for more than 65 years, and is still at it. But he’s best known for his lifelong love of trapping and his work, with Edie, in the trapping supplies business. He’s written great books on hunting and trapping, including biographies of two other trapping icons, V.E Lynch and Pete Rickard. And – of course – Oscar is in the Trappers Hall of Fame.

Has Maine changed in your lifetime?

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That’s the primary topic on the new edition of our TV Talk Show, Wildfire, cohosted by James Cote and me. Our guest is Shawn Moody, an amazing entrepreneur and business/community leader.

Moody Collision Centers is a major sponsor of Wildfire, and I have admired Shawn’s commitment to Maine since I met him during his campaign for governor 6 years ago. I’ve mentioned him often in my talks, including the fact that he is the only Mainer to serve on the Boards of both the Community Colleges and the University of Southern Maine – and he didn’t go to college. That tells you a lot about the man.

I spoke to the Portland Rotary in July, in a speech focused on how our outdoor activities, including hunting and fishing, have changed in my lifetime. We talked with Shawn about that, but expanded the topic to include a lot of other things that have changed in Maine in the last 65 years. I think you will really enjoy this show.

Hunting in Italy is a lot different than in Maine

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 I heard him yelling, every few minutes, as he came up the hill through the grape vines. And then, there he was, in a field below our apartment in the small family winery, Il Santo, in Greve, Italy.

He was wearing camo clothing and carrying a very long gun, which I assumed was a rifle. Halfway across the field, he called someone on his phone, who I assumed were his hunting buddies. I also assumed they were hunting wild boar, because Tuscany is overrun with them, and expanded the hunt and bag limit to reduce the population of boars this year.

As an aside, I can tell you that pappardelle pasta with wild board sauce is my favorite Italian dish.

Oh, the hunting mistakes I’ve made!

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 When I started to build a list of all the mistakes I’ve made while hunting, well, it turns out I made a lot more mistakes than I remembered! I guess that’s the trail we take to become successful hunters. For me, the trail was long and sometimes frustrating.

I started off on the wrong foot, when, at the age of 9, I snuck up to a robin, perched on a tree in our front yard, and shot it with my BB gun. Dad explained, quickly, how wrong that was! Seems appropriate that today I am an avid birder! With binoculars, not a shotgun!

About a half century later, I was hunting woodcock with my friend Jimmy Robbins in Searsmont, when we moved into a grow-over apple orchard. Jimmy told me to stand near an old apple tree on a knoll, while he took the dog and hunted down through the thick brush off to our right. He pointed to the far end of that piece and said to watch that spot, because that’s where the woodcock would fly out.

Awesome mounted fish – and fishing stories – at Rangeley B&B

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                 I first met Rob Welch at the annual meeting of the Maine Woods Consortium, a group that works to improve the rural Maine economy. We hit it off immediately, because Rob is an avid angler in one of my favorite regions, Rangeley, where I’ve spent a lot of time fishing over the years.

                So Linda and I scheduled a travel column visit to the Pleasant Street Inn B&B owned by Rob and his wife Jan. The 5 room B&B is wonderful, as is the hospitality. Rob’s a retired school principal and Jan teaches fourth grade math at the Rangeley school.

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