Hunter’s Corner: When camping, be careful not to lure bears

  • Bob Washburn (right) and grandson Johnathan (left) hold up their catches after a trip to Lake Winnipesaukee. Courtesy photo

For the Monitor
Published: 8/21/2016 12:00:59 AM

Much has been written about bear-human conflict. In New Hampshire, this usually happens in June and July flowing over on to August. This year’s drought has made matters much worse, owing to the damage the drought has wrought against soft mast crops.

Camp sites with odor-producing grills and improperly stored food stuffs serve as magnets for hungry black bears whose normal food supply is in short supply. If you take a serious look at the black bear you will notice a prodigious snout. This means the black bear has an incredible sense of smell and is determined to learn the source of the aroma.

Clearly, according to Fish and Game Bear Project Leader Andy Timmins, the major cause of bear-human conflicts (approximately 60 percent) is birdfeeders, garbage and inadequately secured chickens; is this code for free range chickens?

Campers and hikers can avoid conflicts with bears by maintaining a clean camp site and storing food, garbage and aromatic items, like toothpaste and other toiletries, out of reach of bears (not in your tent).

If car camping, keep all food and coolers in a building or vehicle with the windows closed. If camping at a remote site, bring rope to properly hang all items, or use bear-resistant food canisters, available for tents at no charge at all White Mountain National Forest Ranger Districts offices.

I don’t recommend packing a .44 magnum, but there are a few non-lethal options that will effectively reduce a bear nuisance. First off is a Falcon Wildlife safety horn. Black bears are generally more afraid of you, and by sounding a safety horn, that should scare off a bear.

The other item is bear spray. This is basically a pepper spray on steroids. Out west, the major problem is with grizzles, and bear bells are in current vogue. However, when you in your sleeping bag in your tent and a hungry bear is checking things out, a safety horn or bear spray may be a better option.

This past week we have enjoyed the company of our grandson Johnathan. Wednesday we took him to the Wright WWII museum in Wolfboro. It was an interesting and educational experience for all.

I was particularly intrigued by the DUKW display. The DUKW was designed to resupply troops ashore and remove wounded troops. It was a reconfigured 2½ ton truck designed to be amphibious with a 6½ mph speed on water and a 45 mph speed on land. Over 21,000 were produced during WWII. If you get an off-weather day, a trip to the Wright museum would be a good investment of your time.

The real highlight of the week was a fishing trip to Lake Winnipesaukee. Johnathan’s younger brother Andrew had stayed with us in July and had caught a rainbow trout.

The lake conditions were conducive to catching fish. The thermal incline was well established at 35 feet, and the surface water temperature was 77 degrees. We trolled hardware and streamer flies. Both serve two purposes – they either resemble bait fish whole or wounded, or the color combination virtually insults the fish and prompts it to strike out and bite.

We started out using William’s Wablers with a chartreuse and silver color and a gold color. We were at the mouth of Wolfeboro Bay and I had eight colors of lead core out, which placed my lure at 40 feet, and got a strike. It turned out that it was a smallmouth bass, which had us amazed that smallies would be at 80 feet.

I eventually replaced the Williams with a blue and silver dimpled Top Gun and then the fun began. Another strike hit and Johnathan began to real in the eight colors of lead core. It was quite the challenge, but it was mission accomplished when Robb netted Johnathan’s 16-inch rainbow. Johnathan had another strike and it was salmon with its brilliant silver color. Unfortunately, it spit the hook 10 feet from the boat, but it looked undersized anyway.

Later on in the afternoon I switched to a Guide Series GS 22. The Guide Series have a slightly narrower width and length when compared to the DB Smelt, but their color schemes are more radical. The coloration of the spoon seemed to be a perfect irritant to a salmon or rainbow trout.

On our last trolling run, I had a huge strike. This fish had serious shoulders to it, and it fought me every inch in retrieving the seven colors of lead core.

The only difference was the reel was a level wind Penn real. What had me curious was that there was no surface activity, and if it were a lake trout it would have fought briefly and then acquiesced to being caught.

As it turned out, it was a chunky 2½ pound rainbow. I cooked the two rainbows on the grill that night. There is nothing better than fresh-caught trout.

Your best bet in fishing Winnie is to go during weekdays in the early-morning hours. This way, you do not have to contend with weekend pleasure boaters.

Your best chance of hooking up with a salmon, lake trout or rainbow trout is to head for Rattlesnake Island and the run between Rattlesnake and Sleeper. There is plenty of quality fishing in August on Winnie, and it would be a shame not to take advantage of it.

Hunting seasons are now coming into to play. The crow season opened Aug. 15 and will run to Nov. 30. Hunting crows is an effective way to improve your wing shooting skills. The crow population has no natural enemies, and their numbers approach a nuisance level.

The next season to open up is the gray squirrel season, which will open Sept. 1. There is a statewide hunting ban in parks and cemeteries. Squirrel hunting imparts all of the hunting skills to the youthful hunter that they will need for deer season, and they are tasty on the dinner table. I brine them for 24 hours and pop them into a crock pot with an onion and some mild seasoning, and the meat falls of the bones.

Sept. 1 also marks the beginning of the black bear season, which includes the general season and baiting season. There are estimated to be 6,000 black bears in New Hampshire, and mast conditions will determine the outcome of the season. I suspect with fewer mast crops available, bears will have to travel greater distances to bulk up for winter.

This additional travel will provide for enhanced hunter contact. Chocolate and coca products have been banned from baiting sites. Check with Fish and Game’s for the exact WMU season restrictions.

(Bob Washburn can be reached at hunterscorner@aol.com.)




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