Thursday, August 30, 2007

N.H. Gray Squirrel Season Opens Sept. 1

New Hampshire's gray squirrel season opens this Saturday, Sept. 1, and will run through Dec. 31 (five daily limit; no season limit; no hunting in WMUs A, B or C1, nor in parks or cemetaries). The arrival of this season (offered early in NH to encourage so-called "youth hunting" opportunities before others commence) always brings to mind my native north-central Pennsylvania squirrel hunting.

It's a pleasant game of sitting ("stand hunting") near available food sources (oak or hickory stands), with your back to a broad-trunked tree (an oak maybe), and waiting there for your quarry to appear at the top of a tree where it hid on your approach (um, say in an oak or hickory) before making its way down to the ground, and hopefully in range. Also they simply bound by during their feeding forays.

As a result, you can also "still hunt" squirrels successfully by padding along game trails and listening and watching for nut-cutting activity, which by the way is fully underway on my three acres of southern Maine (hickories in this case).

Daybreak and before dusk activity is often steady. There are plenty of recipes available in game cookbooks, even early editions of The Joy of Cooking. And no, it doesn't taste like chicken. It is edible, especially in Brunswick stews or the like . . .

--Steve Hickoff

(Courtesy photo)

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Seminar: Fall and Winter Turkey Hunting

Though it hit 95 degrees F. in southern Maine this afternoon, I'm signing copies of my new turkey book, Fall & Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook (Stackpole), and talking about fall and winter turkey hunting on Friday, September 7 & Sunday, September 9.

The times:
Friday: 1:45 p.m.-2:45 p.m.
Sunday: 12:30 p.m.-1:30 p.m.

The talk will include wild turkey behavior and vocalizations, locating, scouting, and calling along with tips for patterning birds and identifying changing flock composition.

The ONLY downside of the whole deal is that I won't be able to meet up with our Steelers crowd at the Scoreboard Lounge on Lafayette Road in Portsmouth, N.H. until halftime or so of the opening day game with the Browns . . . hope to see you at either venue!

--Steve Hickoff

Friday, August 24, 2007

Turkey Dogging Officially Legalized in Maine

Maine has finally included language on their website regarding fall turkey regulations that affirms that dogs are indeed legal. New Hampshire previously posted the legalization of dogs for fall turkey hunting--for the sake of flushing flocks--this summer. Here in New England's deer, bear, and moose country, the turkey hunting tradition is still emerging and evolving, especially as fall hunts go. Maine's 6-day fall firearms turkey season (Oct. 13; Oct. 15-19) will be the first of its kind in modern times.

On a related note, turkey hatches "here" (being Maine and New Hampshire) have ranged from late May (the earliest hen and poults I saw) to the third week of July (the latest I've noted). Contacts in New York State, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and even Virginia confirm multiple brood sightings, and that their sense is we've had a decent hatch.

Now while it's true generalizing in terms of good and bad hatches is difficult, it's pretty clear we'll have turkeys out there to hunt this fall. Add to this group all those jakes you saw in the spring, birds that now wear 5- to 7-inch beards. These super jakes are always fun to hunt, often responsive to calling, and yes you'll even hear them gobble and see them strut when afield. This pecking order behavior will let you witness fights as male turkeys attempt to establish dominance. Let's not forget about broodless hen flocks, which in my experience, are sometimes among the most difficult turkeys you'll hunt.

--Steve Hickoff

(Photo Steve Hickoff)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Writing Life

One of the realities of writing as a specialist on a particular subject is that you craft a lot of material in the off-season--true for the generalist with a specific advance assignment too, but the volume of output is likely much less. Magazine editorial calendars are set in place in advance of issue appearances, a fact that readers don't likely meditate on all that much. They buy the mag and read it. Period. No complaints here as any of this goes. I'm happy to think and write about wild turkeys year-round.

As an example of this, I ordered my New York State small game and turkey permit online this morning as the Oct. 1 season approaches, and also began a spring feature article for a turkey magazine. I'm planning for the fall of '07 as a hunter, and the spring of '08 as a writer. On Monday, I sent a different turkey feature (spring emphasis) to a different national magazine. You get the idea. I'm also currently working on a book manuscript (Turkey Calls and Calling) due to the publisher by May 1, 2008 . . .

One of the realities of being a so-called specialist is that one often has generalist markets as well. As a longtime content producer for several different Sunday newspapers, I write about both mallard and monarch butterfly migrations. That's cool too, as the audience is often broad, composed of hardcore hunters and those who don't.

My newspaper page subjects this year have included ice angling, fly tying, porcupines, bird dogs, bowhunting deer, waterfowling, and in one column I'm writing now, books and websites worth checking out.

Every now and again a student or reader will ask me if I think they have what it takes to become a writer. Depends on whether you want to publish at a casual pace, or write and sell magazine articles, newspaper columns, books and photographs on a steady basis. I do the latter. You might want to opt for the former. It's the best kind of life possible for me, but I doubt it is for everyone.

Are you obsessive-compulsive about your desire to craft words into sentences? Do you love the language, and enjoy the revision process? Do you have a passion about something (i.e. wild turkeys, etc.), so much so that your television viewing is limited to just sports in the evening and on weekends as a way to unwind? (Note my Steelers schedule posting.) Are you thick-skinned and also immune to inflated forms of flattery? In any one day as a full-time freelancer I am both knocked down and picked up, email depending. The truth is somewhere in the middle.

--Steve Hickoff

Friday, August 10, 2007

Buy This Magazine!

I've got a turkey dogging feature in the Fall '07 issue of Turkey & Turkey Hunting magazine, pictured here--found on newsstands everywhere . . .

Proposed New Hampshire Waterfowl Seasons


CONCORD, N.H. - The New Hampshire Fish and Game Department will hold a public meeting on proposed season dates and bag limits for the 2007 waterfowl hunting season on Tuesday, August 28, at 6:30 p.m., at Fish and Game headquarters on Hazen Drive in Concord. Comments at the meeting will be considered in finalizing New Hampshire's 2007 waterfowl season dates. 

"Across the continental, duck populations had a good year for most species, so liberal seasons will be allowed again this year," said Edward Robinson, a waterfowl biologist with N.H. Fish and Game. "Migrant Canada goose populations continue to do well, but a late spring in the Arctic will result in below-average production, so seasons will stay the same as last year."

Robinson noted that in New Hampshire, Fish and Game's spring surveys showed good numbers of breeding mallards, wood ducks and Canada geese. The breeding number of black ducks was at an all-time low. Waterfowl production is anticipated to be average or slightly below average this year because of heavy rain and cool temperatures that occurred during the hatch, especially in southern areas.

New Hampshire's proposed waterfowl season is very much like last year's. N.H. Fish and Game is proposing a 60-day duck season with a six-bird daily limit for the 2007 season. Fish and Game also recommends continuing split seasons, including both ducks and Canada geese, in both the inland and coastal zones to allow early and late hunting opportunities: 

* The Inland Zone season (ducks, mergansers, coots, Canada geese) would open on October 3 and run through November 11; then reopen from November 21 through December 10.

* The Coastal Zone season would open on October 4 and run through October 14; then reopen November 21 through January 8.

* Proposed bag limits will include: mallards - 4; wood ducks - 2; Canada geese - 2; hooded mergansers - 2; black ducks - 1; as well as other species restrictions.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Fall and Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook

Stackpole Books has just issued my Fall and Winter Turkey Hunter's Handbook (6 x 9 softcover; 240 pages; 150 color photos). Here you'll find in-depth information on the rich history of our tradition, wild turkey vocalizations, turkey calls and calling, scouting, using dogs to find and flush autumn flocks, plus my take on archery tackle, firearms, ammo, safety sense, youth hunting, and the future of fall and winter turkey hunting. End matter suggests additional readings, and outdoor industry information. For more details, please contact me here by email, or directly at 207.439.9119.

--Steve Hickoff

(Book cover photo John Hafner)

Maine Turkey Hatch Update

Locally, the first Pine Tree State turkey hatch I noted came off the nest the last week of the Maine spring gobbler season (May 28 or so, while I was still pursuing the longbeard that eventually beat me), and most recently a reader sent a trail-cam pic of birds that appeared to be just several weeks old, hatched in mid July by the looks of it. There's a group up the road that seems to haunt a shady roadside creek near a new housing development, that is when the flock isn't on land I call "The Back 40." All of this is the usual indication that brood hens in one particular geographical area nest over a broad period of time . . .

--Steve Hickoff

Pittsburgh Steelers Schedule

Date, Opponent, & Time--
8/5: New Orleans, 8 p.m.
8/11: Green Bay, 7:30 p.m.
8/18: @ Washington, 8 p.m.
8/26: Philadelphia, 8 p.m.
8/30: @Carolina, 8 p.m.

Date, Opponent & Time--
9/9: @Cleveland, 1 p.m.
9/16: Buffalo, 1 p.m.
9/23: San Francisco, 1 p.m.
9/30: @ Arizona, 4:15 p.m.
10/7: Seattle, 1 p.m.
10/14: Bye Week
10/21: @ Denver, 8:15 p.m.
10/28: @ Cincinnati, 1 p.m.
11/5: Baltimore, 8:30 p.m. (MNF)
11/11: Cleveland, 1 p.m.
11/18: @ New York Jets, 1 p.m.
11/26: Miami, 8:30 p.m. (MNF)
12/2: Cincinnati, 8:15 p.m.
12/9: @ New England, 1 p.m.
12/16: Jacksonville, 1 p.m.
12/20: @ St. Louis, 8:15 p.m.
12/30: @ Baltimore, 1 p.m.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Maine's Fall Wild Turkey Hunting Season

Several of you have asked, and here's what information the state sent me just yesterday on the Maine fall wild turkey hunting zones, regulations, and so on:

Zone 1 (Archery Only*): (WMD's 15, 16, 17, 20, 24, 25, 26) - October 6, 2007 through October 20, 2007
Zone 2 (Archery Only*): (WMD's 21, 22, 23) - September 27, 2007 through October 26, 2007
Zone 3 (Shotgun Only**): (WMD's 15, 16, 17, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25) - October 13, 2007 through October 19, 2007

Bag and Possession Limit: One Wild Turkey either sex, any age.

Hunting Hours: 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hours after sunset.

Note: A Fall Wild Turkey Hunting Permit is required in addition to a hunting license that allows hunting of big game or an archery license.

*Archery Only - An archery license is required to hunt during the Fall Wild Turkey season in Zones 1 and 2.
**Shotgun Only - A hunting license that allows hunting of big game with firearms is required to hunt during the fall Wild Turkey season in Zone 3. Only shotgun gauges 10 through 20 using shot sizes 4 through 6 may be used to hunt Wild Turkey in Zone 3.

Resident Fall Wild Turkey Permit - $20.00*
Nonresident Fall Wild Turkey Permit - $47.00*
*Plus agent fee.

Legal Hunting Time: 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset.

For you inquiring turkey doggers--likely nonresidents, with the exception of this blogger who road trips to New York and Vermont annually with his dogs--there's still no official word on legalizing that strategy in Maine, though it was in the mix of discussion heading into this change.

I'll keep you posted.

--Steve Hickoff

(Steve Hickoff photo)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

First Shot

New Hampshire's fall turkey season begins Sept. 15. Last night I tinkered with and tweaked my new Hoyt Vectrix XL bow. This morning I annointed it with a nock point, fetched the Black Hole archery target from the garage, and had at it. If this first shot at 20 yards is a hint of things to come, bring it on.

--Steve Hickoff

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

August, Looking Ahead

In about a half hour Kevin Garnett--just acquired by the Celts in an unprecedented 7-player deal, and newly appointed by the media and fan base as the savior of a once-floundering franchise--will throw out the first pitch during the Sox-O's game down at Fenway.

But if that isn't crazy enough, all the wild turkey contacts I talk to here in Maine, and across the board in NH, VT, and NY State, are speaking in terms of a super hatch. Fifteen turkeys and three hens. Ten poults and a hen. Etc. Etc. For the fall turkey man, that's all the news you want going into September and beyond . . . The spring '09 season ought to be exceptional as well as longbeards go . . . even '08 if you don't think twice about taking a spring jake.

From what I've seen locally, that's absolutely true, as I found yet another southern Maine flock as recently as this morning. Ironically, my buds down south are talking just the opposite: rainy nesting periods yielding poor results.

For me it'll be New Hampshire, New York, Maine and Vermont, just five tags (not counting hunts with buddies as they try to get birds--it's all good!), but the inclusive time period--if you count NH's bow-only opportunities that I hunt every year--is Sept. 15-Dec. 15. No complaints here as that 101-day season goes . . . factor in the hatch--and the possibility that three proven gunners (Pierce, Allen, and Garnett) will actually concentrate on playing the kind of solid fundamental team basketball the NCAA still puts out (and the, ahem, Spurs)--this ought to be an interesting fall . . .

--Steve Hickoff

(N.W.T.F. photo)