April 07, 2020
Sports Column

Landowner makes hunt a success for Bangor teen

Early Monday morning, 1,705 moose hunters (along with their designated sub-permittees, family members and guides) will head into the woods to open the state’s second session in the split-season moose hunt.

In places like Ashland and Greenville, spectators will flock to tagging stations, some to spy a trophy moose, others to listen to the tales of dozens of successful hunters.

There are more than 30 tagging stations open around the state, but in certain moose hotspots – like Greenville – a carnival atmosphere prevails.

Food is often sold at concessions stands there, and parking spaces are at a premium.

Two weeks ago, during the first one-week moose season, another 1,120 hunters headed afield for their hunts. In recent hunts, about 80 percent of the state’s permitted hunters successfully bag a moose each year.

Hunters like Travis Smith.

Smith, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at William S. Cohen School in Bangor, shot his first moose on Sept. 27. He was hunting with his grandfather, Dick Smith of Glenburn, and Don Kimball of Bangor.

Dick Smith said Travis lay on his belly to line up the perfect shot on a young bull that stood 250 yards across a farm field in Connor Township, north of Caribou.

Smith dropped the bull with a shot from a .338 magnum rifle.

Across the state, more hunters will bag their first moose on Monday … or later … and all could take a lesson from Travis.

Upon his return to Bangor, the young hunter and his grandfather were eager to talk about the 559-pound bull.

But they were equally eager to thank Mark Damboise, a stranger they met in a store while preparing to hunt.

Damboise invited them to hunt on his land, and even let the hunting party set up their camper there.

After Travis shot the moose, Dick Smith reported, their priority became clear: Get the moose cooled down and back to town before the meat spoiled.

In their haste, they didn’t get a chance to thank their host.

On behalf of the Smiths, I’m happy to pass along that message. And to all of you landowners who let us hunters access your land in our outdoor endeavors, thanks to you as well.

Hunters breakfast? Let us know

Bow hunters have been targeting deer for the past week or so, but for those of us who use firearms in the quest to fill our deer tag, we’ve got a few weeks left to prepare.

The residents-only opening day of deer season is Oct. 28, and the season runs through Nov. 25.

First on our preparations list, I figure, ought to be a pretty easy chore. If you’re going to wake up in the middle of the night to get into the woods bright and early, you might as well eat well.

As always, there will be a full slate of hunters breakfasts on tap across the state … and that’s where you can help.

If you’re helping to organize a hunters breakfast (or any hunters meal), please fax or e-mail us the details, and we’ll be sure to let our readers know.

Each year I hear plenty of comments from folks wondering why their own hometown breakfast hasn’t been included in our listing. The reason is simple: We didn’t hear a word about it.

This year, I hope our list is more complete, and that no hungry hunter goes unfed.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Old Pat’s Society gets ink

Four years ago, guide Lance Wheaton of Forest City invited me to town for a gathering he said I’d enjoy.

That yearly event, he explained, sometimes takes place in Maine, but in other years, Minnesota or Wisconsin might be on the group’s agenda instead.

Intrigued, I hopped in my truck, headed to Washington County, and met The Old Pat’s Society.

The Old Pat’s Society is an group of friends – more a fraternity than a club, really -who share a passion for bird hunting behind skilled dogs. Once a year, they go … somewhere … to enjoy the outdoors, and the special camaraderie of like-minded sportsmen.

Art Wheaton – Lance’s brother – is one of the group’s driving forces, and he and I talked at length about the Old Pat’s Society, and what the group is all about.

“If you go through life and you’re able to count on two hands the number of friends you’ve got, you’ve really accomplished something,” Art Wheaton told me on that beautiful October evening, gesturing at all the close friends who had traveled to Maine just to spend a week together. “Most people never get one.”

Members of The Old Pat’s Society (The “Pat” is shorthand for “Pat-ridge”) embrace tradition, and spending two days with them was enjoyable … even though I didn’t raise a shotgun the entire time.

And with a distinguished list of members – Art Wheaton is a former vice president of Remington Arms, and National Rifle Association execs and business leaders are also Old Pat’s regulars – it was just a matter of time before the group got a bit of national press.

In the most recent quarterly publication of Ruffed Grouse Society magazine, Art Wheaton himself tells the story of the Old Pat’s Society in a four-page story.

Wheaton explains the group’s origin and talks about the special bond each member of the Old Pat’s Society feels for others in the group.

Having witnessed that bond on a two-day trip four years ago, I savored Wheaton’s story.

By the time I was done reading, I could nearly smell the gunpowder (as well as the lobsters and pie) that highlighted the first night’s festivities.

And I found myself longing for another trip into the Maine woods.

Congratulations to the Old Pat’s Society. I hope this year’s trip is as memorable as those you’ve taken over the past 30 or so years.

Warner’s work valuable

H. Kendall Warner was a quiet man who was content to let his research speak for him. On Sept. 29, the state lost one of its premier fisheries scientists when Warner died at the age of 78.

You may have never met Warner, but every Mainer who enjoys trolling or casting for landlocked salmon owes him a debt of gratitude.

For 50 years, Warner was a research biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, and over that span he became known as one of the world’s foremost experts on landlocked salmon management and biology.

You might even say he wrote the book on the topic; three books, in fact.

Warner was a mentor to a new generation of biologists who will carry on as stewards of the state’s fishery resources, and even during his retirement, he continued to work on fisheries issues.

As fishing season winds down on even those bodies of water with extended catch-and-release seasons, it’s a perfect time to remember all the work Warner did for the rest of us.

Before you cast a fly, before you release that final shiny salmon of the season, take a moment … think of Ken Warner … and do something few of us probably ever thought of doing while he did all that thankless work for the state.

Just say thanks.

John Holyoke can be reached at jholyoke@bangordailynews.net or by calling 990-8214 or 1-800-310-8600.

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