You don’t have to travel to Haiti to find families in need. The present economic situation we have here in Maine and in the rest of the country is placing increasing demands on local help agencies and food pantries.

Food pantries are seeing a tremendous increase in demand as individuals and families, who have never had the need in the past, are seeking help in feeding themselves and their families. Individuals who are more fortunate can help these pantries with donations of food and cash.

Hunters are in a unique position to help by donating wild game they have harvested. Many hunters have perfectly good venison and moose meat that would be welcomed by many food pantries and their clients.

Take a look in your freezer. If you have properly packaged, frozen venison or moose meat, it is excellent table fare even after a year or two. Did you get a moose last year or the year before? Are you able to eat that entire deer you harvested last season or the season before? Why not consider donating some to a food pantry that participates in the Hunters for the Hungry Program.

Hunters for the Hungry is a cooperative program between Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the state’s Food Assistance Program. It provides a means for hunters to donate all or a portion of their hunt to a local food pantry.

This program has been a boon to many Maine citizens by providing meat to those who may no longer be able to hunt, to those who have a medical necessity of having natural, low-fat meat and to others who visit their local emergency feeding organization.

For more information on this program, call toll free 1-888-4DEER-ME (433-3763).
Thin Blue Line

During the 2009 deer season, the owners of Thin Blue Line Meats in Rockland — through the generosity of their customers (all hunters) — donated 150 pounds of venison to Maine’s Hunters for the Hungry program.

Don Finnegan, one of the co-owners of Thin Blue Line, said he was pleased that so many hunters donated to these local programs.

“I just love to see some positive press for hunters who are helping their neighbors,” said Finnegan.

The donated meat from Thin Blue Line was ground, packaged, frozen and delivered to two local food pantries: the Area Interfaith Outreach Pantry in Rockland (596-1043); and the Thomaston Interchurch Fellowship Pantry (354-6411). They take donations from individual hunters as well.

The Camden Area Christian Food Pantry, open Tuesdays from 8 to 11 a.m. and Thursdays from 4 to 6 p.m., also accepts venison and moose meat from hunters. For more information, call 236-9790.

Donated meat must be labeled with the hunter’s name and license number.
So, if you have more meat than you can use this coming year, why not consider donating some to those in need.

Bonus turkeys this year

Because wild turkey numbers have expanded well beyond the state’s original expectations, there will be opportunities for hunters to take more birds in 2010.

Just a few short years ago, the turkey season was limited to a certain number of birds and you were selected by a lottery. Today, anyone with a valid Maine hunting license, can purchase a turkey permit. Spring turkey hunting is allowed in Wildlife Management Districts 7, 10 through 18 and 20 through 26. The fall turkey hunting zones are different.

Turkey hunters will have expanded hunting opportunities this year, with the option of taking up to three turkeys. The new spring/fall turkey hunting permit ($20) allows one bearded male turkey during the spring season and one turkey of either sex during the fall season. If you purchase one of the spring/fall permits, you can also purchase ($20) a permit for a second bearded male turkey during the spring season.

If you truly enjoy spring turkey hunting — which includes getting up around 3 a.m. — the state is giving you plenty of new opportunity.

Ice fishing

Now that most local lakes and ponds have improved ice conditions (you still need to be careful), ice-fishing activity has picked up. Trout are showing up in better numbers than in past years thanks in part to the state’s fall stocking program.

Perch and bass fishermen are also enjoying faster-than-average action.
I was out on Megunticook Lake Feb. 13 and some perch fishermen were enjoying feeding their catch to a group of bald eagles that had gathered around them to enjoy the feast.

Both mature and juvenile eagles are spending time on Megunticook and other lakes and ponds this winter looking for handouts from fishermen. These offerings are key to some of the eagles’ survival during the winter.

The Hope-Appleton-Lincolnville (HAL) wrestling team held their first-ever ice fishing outing recently on Norton Pond in Lincolnville. Team members enjoyed a great day on the ice and caught some nice fish.

Tracy Tuttle of Albion was fishing on Damariscotta Lake recently and landed a 9.25-pound brown trout. The monster trout was 26 inches long, and took a smelt that was offered just 12 inches below the ice over 40 feet of water.

Knox County Fishing Derby

The Knox County Fishing Derby is set for Sunday, Feb. 28, and is open to all legal waters within a 50-mile radius of Beaver Lodge. You need a ticket to enter a fish and to take part in the raffle. Tickets are available from members of the Knox County Fish and Game Association and local stores (Pushaw’s, Mic-Mac, Johnson’s Sporting Goods and Lincoln’s).

The grand raffle prize is an ice house donated by Prock Marine, and the prize for the largest fish of the day is $100 in cash. There is also a special large-fish prize for children (at least four years of age).

The weigh-in will be at Beaver Lodge on the shores of Alford Lake, and you have to be in line with your entry no later than 5 p.m.

Have a safe week in your part of the great outdoors.