I did not grow up in a hunting family, so I had to hone my hunting skills on my own and by reading books and magazines. I made lots of mistakes in those early years and failed to cash in on my opportunities on a regular basis. I didn’t shoot my first deer until I was 24 years old, but after that, I became a pretty good hunter and shot a deer every year for quite a few years in a row.
My father was a great dad, but he was more interested in teaching us about baseball than hunting and fishing. As a kid, I excelled in baseball, but as I got older, my brother Mark and I wanted to learn how to hunt. The extent of our hunting training was following dad around in the woods for a couple of hours, watching him miss a pheasant and him handing Mark the shotgun and saying, “Don’t shoot anything you’re not going to eat.” Mark and I followed each other around behind our house in southern Maine, taking turns using that old 12 gauge single-shot. It was education through trial and error. I did manage to shoot a nice big cock pheasant that year, but those flighty ruffed grouse and wily whitetails were a little too difficult for either of us to bag. I can remember coming home from school all excited about the grouse I had seen the day before and planning how I would get that bird today. I never did shoot that bird, but I had a great time trying!
Fast forward a few years. While at the University of Maine, I secured a paid internship with North Maine Woods in the Town of Allagash. I got college credit for time worked and didn’t have to take calculus. What a deal! The ruffed grouse of Maine’s North Woods seemed to be a totally different bird than those that lived behind my house growing up. The birds that lived behind my house seemed to spook when you closed the door, and these northern Maine birds would sit on the side of a gravel road and let you shoot them. What a difference a couple of hundred miles makes! [full article]