Hunting is still popular in Maine — but certainly not as popular as it was when I was growing up. I started hunting at a very young age and feel very lucky to have hunted with my dad for 56 years. Today most parents are too busy to spend a lot of time hunting and fishing with their kids. And that is very sad.

On Oct. 1, I was on Maine Public’s Maine Calling show, which focused on how things have changed for kids today compared to when I grew up in the 1950s and ’60s. A lot of the show was about hunting and fishing.

As a kid I loved hunting rabbits with our beagles. Dad and I hunted rabbits all winter long. In the fall in high school I’d bring my shotgun and leave it up at the back of the room because after school I’d hunt in the orchard behind school. Today bringing a gun to school is a felony.

Fall is when most hunting happens — for grouse, woodcock, turkeys, ducks, geese, deer, moose and bear. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is very concerned about our high population of bears, which they estimate to be 45,000. They’re trying to come up with a way to get more hunters to shoot more bears, but I think most hunters, once they have shot a bear, won’t be interested in shooting a second one.

I’ve recently written five outdoor news columns about my deer hunting adventures. I started posting them on Friday, Oct. 11, and will continue posting them each Friday until I run out of stories. I’m not sure that will ever happen! You can access those stories on my website,

Today I want to share some of my bird hunting stories with you. I think I was 13 when I started hunting pheasants with my dad. Dad’s sportsman’s club in Wayne would grow the pheasants and distribute them around the area.

The first pheasant I shot was in a cornfield at the north end of Maranacook Lake. I can still see it all in my mind. Our English setter pointed the bird and it took off flying up through the corn. When it appeared above the corn Dad did not even raise his shotgun. He just told me to shoot. So I raised my shotgun and shot the bird, which dropped back into the corn, and our dog retrieved it quickly. And in the exact spot where I shot, there is now a house.

Dad also got me out duck hunting at a young age. And I can still see that first flock of black ducks flying by us. We were on the shore of a small stream that flows out of a bog and into Androscoggin Lake. Dad and I both stood up, and I waited for him to shoot until he turned to me and told me to shoot. So I did and down went one of the black ducks. And then Dad shot and down went another duck. That black duck was my very first.

I did not start hunting grouse and woodcock until much later in life, but I really enjoyed hunting grouse up in the north woods, and woodcock hunting with my friend Jimmy Robbins was always special. We hunted near his house in Searsmont.

My first woodcock on my first hunt with Jimmy flew up about 10 feet in front of me and I quickly shot and it dropped to the ground. Jim stepped over and looked down at the bird. There wasn’t much left of it and he told me that next time, I needed to let the bird get a little farther away!

My favorite grouse hunting story occurred when I was hunting with my friend, Ed Pineau, up above Moosehead Lake. We would drive along the road and take turns shooting at the grouse we spotted.

It was my turn to shoot when Ed saw a grouse in the woods to our right. He stopped the vehicle a short ways away and we walked up the road to where the grouse was. I couldn’t see it, so Ed told me to give him my gun and he’d shoot it. But I said, no way — it was my turn to shoot.

Ed pointed into the woods to a big stump and said the grouse was right at the bottom of that stump. I still couldn’t see it but I aimed at the bottom of the stump and shot. When I walked out into the woods to the stump, I was astonished to see that I had shot two grouse. I did not see one grouse but I shot two!

And finally, when the fish and wildlife department introduced turkeys to Maine, Dad and I had many memorable hunts with my friend Harry Vanderweide. One morning, Harry, Dad and I had just set out our decoys and sat down when a coyote jumped out of the bushes right onto a decoy. It was very surprised it wasn’t a real turkey, and it raced back into the bushes.

I’m helping two guys right now whose books about their hunting and fishing adventures are going to be fabulous. If you hunt, I encourage you to write your own hunting and fishing stories, even if it’s just for your family and friends.

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at

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