Sunrise over First Roach Pond
“This is the perfect backdrop,” said my good ol’ buddy Brad as we descended towards the Bangor International Airport. We had been planning this trip to Maine since spring, and it was to be my very first hunting experience with my new Browning BPS shotgun. Actually, it would be a lot of firsts for me: first time hunting birds and rabbits, first time hunting on this HEMISPHERE even, first time to set foot in Maine, and first time to eat duck for dinner. The hilly landscape in Maine was covered in vibrant fall foliage, and we had a great view from the jet.
In the midwest you really don’t hear much about Maine. Other New England states get a lot more attention. I feel ignorant for saying this, but I didn’t even realize there was any “wilderness” at all on the East Coast. Every time I’ve been out east it has been to crowded places like New York City, Washington D.C., etc., but Maine is the most heavily forested US state. It’s 90% trees! So it’s understandable that it has some great hunting grounds too.
Brad was writing an article about hunting grouse and hare in Maine, and I came to take photos for it. But I think I did more hunting than shooting, if you know what I mean.
The forest floor covered in moss.
We arrived at the Northern Pride Lodge on Friday afternoon around 3 – just enough time for a short grouse hunt. Our guide Wayne found a suitable spot. I don’t think I was mentally prepared for just how dense the trees really were. When I looked at the edge of the forest I thought, “I can’t fit in there!” but I looked over and my companions were already inside, so I closed up and plunged in. It was really hard to weave through the poplars and deciduous tamarack trees with a big heavy gun and a big heavy camera. Besides the density of the plant life, the ground was also very rough. Big rocks, tree stumps, fallen trees, and even streams all laid under a thick, fluffy bed of moss. At one point I stepped through the moss into a stream. As I walked, my shoe came off and my next socked step was into ANOTHER stream. Wayne graciously offered to carry my camera which I gladly accepted.
Being without my camera I realized that now, instead of following the action and taking photos, I WAS the action. How do I take photos of that? In sporting magazines I see a lot of photos with hunters and their dead animals, but not a lot of photos of the actual hunt. This is where I try to be different with Brad’s articles. I don’t think many journalists get to have a photographer follow them around while they hunt. But since I was hunting too, I couldn’t get a lot of those action shots.
On Saturday morning we were ready to hunt some snowshoe hares. Wayne roused the five beagles, and we headed back into the woods. The dogs chased bunnies around the woods all morning, and after hiking all throughout a 1.5-mile radius I hadn’t gotten a single glimpse of a rabbit. Finally, at about 2:00 in the afternoon I saw one hop over the brush. The next hop was met with a well-timed BANG! I eagerly approached my first-ever rabbit, but the dogs were more eager than I. Before we knew it, all five dogs were divvying up the quarry. Eventually we were able to harness all the dogs, and gather the parts of the rabbit. After 6 hours of hunting, and only one rabbit, the hunting party couldn’t help but laugh with resignation. Brad wasn’t laughing though. He was very concerned because we really needed a photo of a rabbit, otherwise he couldn’t sell the article! He was able to hold all the pieces together though, and I got a photo that worked with very little Photoshop clean-up. I saved a foot.
We ate a very late, very delicious lunch. The dogs were completely worn out after their long run, so a continuation of the rabbit hunt was out of the question. We spent the rest of the afternoon hunting more ruffed grouse.
By Saturday night, I had bagged two ruffed grouse and one snowshoe hare. The sun was setting over the picturesque mountains as we headed back to the lodge. Miraculously, my lens was without a scratch, which is more than I can say for my Browning BPS.