|With winter not even over yet it may be difficult to think about next fall, but that's what you have to do if you want to get in on the 2006 Maine moose hunt. Applications for the hunt must be received by April 3, and a chance drawing will be held in June. You may apply for a moose permit if you are eligible to obtain a Maine big game hunting license or will be eligible to obtain a Maine big game hunting license by the opening day of the moose hunting season. Although a junior hunting license can be pre-issued before the holder is 10 years old, applicants are advised that the license and permit cannot be used until the youngster is 10 years old.
You may apply for a 2006 permit only if you were not drawn for a permit in 2004 or 2005. Application fees vary by residence and number of chances purchased.
A permit fee of $52 (resident) or $477 (non-resident) will apply if you are drawn. For more information on all the ins and out of applying for a 2006 Maine moose permit, log onto http://www.informe.org/ifw/moosepermit.html and get started.
There are also doe permits to apply for, bear permits and a variety of hunting, archery and fishing licenses to purchase (the open water fishing season opens April 1, so you'll need to renew your license for that as well). All of this can be done online by accessing the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries' Web site, http://www.state.me.us/ifw.
The month of March is a good time to get such busy work done. We discussed getting your ice shack off the lake last week (and I'm sure everyone ran out to get that done!). Of course, procrastination is the most favorite game of all, and with more cold and snow around us it's easy to say that there is plenty of winter left so all this stuff can be put off. Perhaps for a while, but we all know that spring is right around the corner and it won't be denied. If you enjoy the stress and anxiety of being late for everything, by all means don't get you license now, don't get the shack off the ice and don't do the dozen other things you can take care of now because, as we keep telling ourselves, “it can wait.”
I have my own little battle with duck stamps. I have been buying and collecting state and federal waterfowl hunting stamps since the early 1960s and, so far, have all of the stamps issued since then in Maine and elsewhere. The problem now is that I buy my licenses online and the ones that include waterfowl hunting privileges simply state it on the license - no stamp is included. Well, a license with the words “waterfowl hunting included” is worthless to a collector. It's the stamp, dummy! So, I have to make the extra trip to the post office or town clerk's office to buy the stamp, which somehow slips my mind till the very end of the year. In fact, I have to buy TWO federal duck stamps because to hunt with the stamp you must sign it, reducing its value as a collectible. I suppose if I were someone famous like, oh, president or governor whoever, the value of the signed duck stamp would be infinitely higher, but being plain old Steve doesn't get it. The second, clean stamp goes in my collection of “good” stamps, and the signed version goes in my personal collection, pretty much valuable only to me as proof that I bought a stamp, hunted ducks and contributed to the cause of waterfowl management.
For some reason I don't see bear permits, archery or blackpowder hunting stamps to be quite as valuable (plain and often nothing more than a number, I doubt that the collectible world will give much for them down the road, either). Many states offer trout stamps, pheasant stamps, saltwater stamps and the like and these may have some value someday, but it's the artwork involved that makes them collectible. Today's penchant for “point of sale” licensing has turned the stamp collectible market upside down. One exception to this might be a first-issue Maine Supersport license, which was something of an artsy design and memorable for being the first such license of its type. I have one, and maybe 100 years from now it will be worth a dollar or two more than I paid for it!
If you can't find anything to collect, have purchased all your permits and licenses for the year, have your ice shack safely back behind the barn and are all ready for the open water fishing season, consider getting out for a few hours to see what's new in the woods around us. I received a call from an avid (rabid?) reader recently to report a sighting of an American woodcock on a patch of open ground. Woodcock in Maine in February? Hmmm . . . if so, we can probably attribute the phenomenon to a milder winter than normal, an early migration and a variety of weather-related things.
This reader, however, thinks it proves once and for all that woodcock winter in Maine, which sounds just a tad over the top considering that woodcock eat earthworms almost exclusively and they'd be hard pressed to poke that long, flexible beak into frost-hardened soil at minus 10 degrees! Small land snails are eaten too, especially in early March and April when the birds hang around open seeps waiting for balmier weather to arrive, few woodcock burrow under the snow to find such treats, and the 10 percent of a woodcock's diet in the “other” category consists of insects, a few seeds and a tender fern or two. Not much of this can be found in winter in Maine, so my guess is that the bird showed up early and may have embarrassed itself by doing so! Woodcock act that way, anyway - jump one in an alder thicket and it will fly up and away for a short distance, as if apologizing for getting into your path. It's not that the woodcock is lazy or slow (they fly across Chesapeake Bay and other large waterways on their way south each fall and back in spring). He just doesn't need the hassle!
Anyway, slip on your high rubber boots and go out there in search of the new, the remarkable and the unexplainable. Or, I suppose you could spend this wild and woolly march reorganizing the basement instead!