Let’s go shopping. A sportsman can always find a diversion.
Every once in awhile the Duchess of Graves’ manor will inform this lowly lord that the time has arrived for a trip to a larger metropolis to resupply clothing, cosmetics and possibly bejeweled commodities.
Over years I’ve learned the most productive reaction response is to quash down all skeptical looks and feelings of anguish, dread and disinterest with a sallow smile and the retort, “Where, when, and how long, Dearest?” I learned a crucial adage early on in married life: Happy wife, happy life.”
What I also learned was that, as an avid outdoorsman, regardless of what city we visit or in what month, there was some cast or blast season in progress to occupy my time. Almost any pastime is better than driver, shopping assistant and large package porter! Bangor, Augusta, Waterville, Freeport and Portland are all likely shopping destinations and many have a store or two that can pique the interest of a sportsman for an evening outing. The big-name sporting goods stores all offer lots of outdoor gear and there are a dozen or more gun shops, fly tying stores and fishing gear markets spread out amongst these communities.
During the days there are many diverse rod, gun and boating options to be enjoyed; several aren’t even available in Aroostook County while others offer far higher numbers of finned, furred and feathered quarry. Summer months offer the chance to fish lakes and ponds with topwater baits for largemouth bass, a larger relative of the smallmouth and one only found in the lower half of the state. Like their bronzeback cousin, largies are very acrobatic and aerobatic once hooked. Unlike most fish species, bass become more active in warmer water and 6- to 8-pound largemouth are fairly common.
Northern pike are another southern Maine denizen, very similar to our St. John Valley muskie, but more popular and easier to hook. The Belgrade region is popular for pike fishing and these toothy critters often top 10 pounds with a few monsters reaching 20 pounds. It’s not uncommon to catch both species of bass and pike from the same river or lake using the identical fishing tactics, equipment and baits.
My personal favorite Down East gamefish for fun and food is striped bass; fished in the ocean or saltwater tributaries from beaches, ledge promontories or a boat, even the smaller schoolies offer a furious fight. Hook, play and land a striper 36 inches or larger and you will have a lifetime memory. Best of all, the same rods and reels used locally for trout and salmon will work for saltwater casting. A handful of different flies, lures and plastic baits will be needed however.
It’s possible to successfully fish for all these species from shoreline banks or with chest waders, but if you have an easy-to-transport boat, canoe or kayak, a lot more water can be explored. To save time and effort, there are plenty of locations that rent every size and shape of watercraft by the hour or the week, and there are also many top-rate guides for fresh and saltwater outings. These experienced men and women reasonably price their services and provide equipment needed for various species of fish and methods of fishing — and even the boat and motors. I initially used a guide for my first few striped bass outings to learn the hows, wheres and whens down south, then ventured out on my own.
There’s spring and fall turkey hunting with so many more gobblers than we have here in the Crown of Maine that they are a nuisance to farmers down south. During November and December I actually look forward to taking my wife Christmas shopping. I’ve become addicted to the thrilling sport of sea duck gunning, a different style of waterfowling with several unique ocean-oriented species found on coastal saltwater regions.
There’s also pheasant hunting downstate and far more woodcock occupy the fields and forest edges than we have locally. And don’t even get me started on the deer population; for years land hunters have been taking advantage of the large number of doe permits available to drive south and hunt with friends and relatives. If you’re into target shooting, some cities offer indoor ranges, and several towns have very long-range outdoor paper, metal and silhouette target setups. There are also some top rate skeet, trap and sporting clay courses to help pass a couple of fun hours.
I used to dread shopping trips downstate, but thanks to some outdoor diversions involving fish, fowl and game animals not common to Aroostook, and more familiar quarry but in far greater numbers, now I endure.
Truth be told, once in awhile I might even be the one to instigate a road trip. My better half seems to enjoy her shopping more now, too; I wonder if it has anything to do with me being occupied somewhere else? Which brings me to another old but very important piece of advice for married couples: when Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.