Depending on whose statistics you use, hunter numbers are stable or declining. There are multiple reasons for that, not the least of which is that folks just seem to have less free time for recreation. Even experienced hunters are having a harder time finding places to hunt and for casual or new hunters it could be enough disincentive to seek another outlet. They may also be intimidated by the learning curve and the time necessary to become proficient. Fortunately there’s a solution to all. Whether you’re traveling from another state or merely a few hours from home, there are some sound reasons to consider enlisting the services of a registered Maine guide.

Registered Maine guides are among the nation’s most qualified. To become one, individuals must meet rigorous standards. Just to apply you need to show a clean criminal history. Next, applicants must pass written and oral exams. The written exam requires extensive knowledge of rules and regulations, wildlife identification and familiarity with the discipline. Prior to that you must first pass an oral exam before a board of experts who grill prospective guides on their competence with map and compass, and a lost client scenario, among other things. The process is challenging enough that many applicants attend a guide school before applying.

Preparing for a hunt sometimes requires considerable resources, and bear hunting provides a prime example. Last year more than a quarter of Maine residents and 90 percent of non-resident bear hunters who were successful enlisted the aid of a Maine guide. That’s understandable when you consider that 96 percent of the harvest is taken with the use of bait, hounds or traps. Average hunters don’t have the time, ways and means to locate, establish and maintain bait sites or train dogs.

Another significant advantage to hiring a guide is local knowledge. Deer hunters tend to be more self reliant, particularly those who hunt close to home. But those who travel any distance, even within the state, could be at a distinct disadvantage if they’re not familiar with their destination. You may only have a week or two to hunt, and could burn up a considerable amount of that time just locating deer and learning their patterns. By the time you decide where to hang your stand, you’re left with only have a few days to hunt from it.

Much the same is true for turkey and upland bird hunters as well. Grouse and woodcock hunters know the type of cover that holds the most birds but like deer hunters, could waste considerable time looking for it. Guides know where to find it because they hunt the same covers year after year. They also have the most recent information on when and where the flight birds show up.

Turkey hunters know the importance of locating roost sites and learning the patterns of birds that use them. Even the most experienced hunters sometimes spend several days scouting and learning these things before an opportunity presents itself. A guide will do that for you so you can dedicate all your precious time to hunting.

When it comes to the type of services you want or need from a guide, you have plenty of options. Some hunters may merely want to be put on a piece of ground with a map and compass, and directions on the best places to explore, or led to a stand or blind and left to their own devices until a predetermined pickup time. Others may want a guide at their side at all times. You may want to camp and cook or stay in a motel and eat out, meeting your guide each morning for the day’s hunt. Or you may want to stay in a lodge and let your guide do the cooking while you swap hunting stories with others in camp. Regardless of your motivation, experience or residence, if you want to get the most out of your Maine hunting experience, consider hiring a guide.

Bob Humphrey is a freelance writer and registered Maine guide who lives in Pownal. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

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