Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A deer hunter in the woods

Yesterday on my noon-ish walk in the woods back of the house I came upon a hunter with a shotgun who was after deer. Although I’ve posted the land it is to discourage people from away from hunting here; I’m happy to let the locals do it as long as they respect the land and the people and take care not to shoot in the direction of houses or when people are out and about nearby. For several years this policy has worked well. This hunter was someone I hadn’t seen before, so I inquired where he was from and learned that he lived in a house a couple of miles away—not quite a neighbor, but on the island.

By the end of our conversation we were closer to being neighbors. I learned some interesting things from him. He made his living, as so many around here do, from lobster fishing. This past year was a very good year for the fisherman as there were plenty of lobsters around, which he confirmed. He sets out 800 traps and works about 200 per day. The number of lobsters has been higher than normal for several years, which is a mystery to most around here. He thinks it’s because the fishermen are “feeding” them. I asked him what he meant, and he said it was because so often the fisherman had to throw the lobsters caught in the traps back into the ocean because they were too small, or they were “eggers” (females with eggs). The young ones kept eating the mackerel bait and getting caught again and again after being thrown back. This is the “feeding” that he meant. Of course once they get to be legal size they are not returned to the ocean. Instead, their claws are pegged and they are brought ashore, sold to one of the local lobster co-ops, and then distributed to markets and restaurants hereabouts and all over the world.

He said he’d had it hard growing up; his mother had died when the oldest child was 15, and he and his nine brothers and sisters were raised the rest of the way by his father and his father’s parents. His own daughter was at the University of Maine now, studying to be a doctor; she wanted to be a neurosurgeon and was doing well in her pre-med studies. Lobster fishermen can make a good living in a good year, like this year, but not enough over all to pay for college and medical school—she will need scholarships and is already on some, he said.

We parted and wished each other well. He continued his search for bucks—there are plenty of does and fawns around, but very few bucks—and I continued on my way. I’d asked if he’d been out at dusk or dawn in season—it was almost the end of the month when you can take deer with a gun legally hereabouts—and he said he had but that, again, all he’d seen were does.

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