By: Andrew Pelletier
Welcome to the fourth edition of the CT Sportsman’s Journal, until recently called The Upper Farmington Sportsman’s Journal. December – and the holiday season – is upon us. A gift suggestion for anyone who is looking for that special stocking stuffer for their avid sportsman? Simple: A gift certificate to their favorite sporting goods retailer, whether it’s UpCountry Sportfishing in New Hartford, McAllister’s Fly Shoppe in Pleasant Valley, or Cabela’s in East Hartford, or any number of sporting goods stores. Because a sportsman’s interests and needs vary from season to season, a gift card offers the hunter or fisherman the flexibility to purchase something they really want and need. It’s easy on the shopper and will be greatly appreciated by the special sportsman in your life.
I hope many of you have filled a tag this year, as time is running out to put some venison in the freezer. A chance at redemption comes in the form of muzzleloader season this month. It’s a great way to extend your season and enjoy the beauty of our state forests in the winter. This month, we’ll take a look at hare hunting in Rangeley, Maine with beagles and offer up a delicious recipe for a traditional German Hassenpfeffer. Hopefully the article and recipe will inspire some with time off this winter to head north and expand their hunting experiences. Starting with this month’s edition we’ll begin tying flies for the upcoming trout season and we’ll start this month with the “usual”, tied with snowshoe hare foot. A highly buoyant fly that is deadly during the Sulphur hatches of late May through the middle of June. Go get another armload of oak and put another log in the stove, we’re heading north in the Holiday edition of the CT Sportsman’s Journal.
Hare And There – Rangeley, Maine
“Ol’ Man Winter” has a knack of making sportsmen think that once he’s settled in, they’re better off dreaming of spring and warmer days ahead. Don’t put those pumps and doubles away just yet. Try a snowshoe hare hunt for some hot action on the “Ol’ Man’s” turf. For very little money, you can arrange a hare hunt with a guide, beagles and snowmobile transport that will get you to the best snowshoe haunts.
On our first hare hunt, my brother, Don, and I hunted the Rangeley region of Maine. The weather was a bit odd and we had the pleasure of hunting in 30-40 degree temperatures without the need for snowshoes. Our subsequent trip found us hunting in bitter cold and snowshoes were a must. Bring more clothes than you need and always bring snowshoes. An initial layer of thermal underwear, followed by fleece, topped off with wool bibs and a wool coat are ideal not only for warmth, but for silent movement. Bring a warm hat that covers the ears and never wear anything cotton. When you perspire while wearing cotton it will stay wet, and wet equals cold. Silk long johns will wick away perspiration from your skin when you are active. Waterproof, thermal insulated boots and wool socks will keep your feet dry and comfortable.
When hunting hare, an animal that is on the menu of every predator, be as quiet as possible. Their ears and eyes are innately tuned to pick up the slightest hint of danger. When beagles get on the scent, the hares will lead the beagles on a circular chase of their territory and are usually 1 to 3 minutes ahead of the hounds. The trick is to set up on the fringe of the chase. As you hear the beagles bawling and heading back to you, this is when you must not make any sound or quick movements. The hare will pause to hear if the hounds are still on its trail. They also watch and listen for any danger that may lie ahead. Crunching snow under your snowshoes will send the hare into a new chase pattern. Stand with gun at the ready and try to anticipate where the hare will reveal itself as it nears your position. You will catch movement as the hare runs in front of dark spruce trunks or dark green boughs of balsam. As the hare nears your position, try to pick a lane or window to get a clean shot as the hare sneaks through. If the hare doesn’t give a shot opportunity, wait. The beagles will be by in a couple minutes and the chase will continue. Quietly set up on a better intercept lane and be ready for the hare to be pushed through again. Sometimes the chase will traverse logging roads. The shots on the logging road are more open and the hares will wait at the edge for a second or two before darting across. That slight hesitation at the edge of the logging road has put many hares in the game bag. It doesn’t take much to take down a hare and I’ve had good results with a 20 gauge double. My brother uses a 20 gauge pump and usually takes a hare for each shell he uses. Standard 2-3/4” shells loaded with number 6 shot will more than suffice.
Ever wondered what the phrase, “Crazy as a March Hare” means? Around the end of March is mating season for the snowshoe hare. The males, whose range was once limited to a small territory, will now travel far and wide in search of females, sometimes as much as 3 miles. When a beagle gets on the scent of one of these rogues, a long chase back to their territory, often miles away, ensues. When this happens, hunting turns into a beagle recovery mission.
If you’re feeling crazier than a March hare because cabin fever is setting in, try a snowshoe hare hunt. Once you hear those beagles start bawling as they get on the scent, you’ll warm right up. Rates can be as low as $150 per day, lodging and meals included with discounts for children. It’s a great opportunity to extend your hunting season and introduce your kids to hunting if they’re ready. A good place to search for a guide is on the Maine Professional Guides Association website.
What’s In Season For December?
For current Licensing, Tagging & Reporting, permits, bag limits, hunting areas and special conditions go to www.ct.gov/dep/hunting.
Deer Hunting Muzzleloader: Season Begins On December 7.*
Archery Deer REOPENS on December 21st and continues until December 31st in state land that offers firearms deer hunting. Private Land and State Land DEER BOWHUNTING ONLY areas remain open through December 31st
Free Landowner Deer Season remains open until December 31st. Revolver Deer endorsement is required for hunting with a revolver/handgun.
Private Land Shotgun/Rifle remains open until December 6th. Revolver Deer endorsement is required for hunting with a revolver/handgun. Private Land Consent Forms must be filled out by the Landowner.
State Land No-Lottery, Lottery and Controlled Hunting. B SEASON remains open until December 6th. Only one permit type may be bought each year. Lottery and Controlled Area hunting permits applications were due on June 1st. Hunters wishing to hunt deer may hunt in NO LOTTERY AREAS if they didn’t get their applications in by June 1st.
*Private Land Muzzleloader Season opens on December 7th and continues through December 31st. Private Land Consent Forms must be filled out by the Landowner a permit to hunt deer with a muzzleloader on private land is required.
*State Land Muzzleloader Season opens on December 7th and continues through December 20th. Muzzleloader Season is open in all areas where Deer Hunting with Muzzleloader is permitted without need for lottery applications and allows hunters to hunt the entire state. a permit to hunt deer with a muzzleloader on state land is required.
Upland Bird Hunting
Pheasant continues through December and ends on December 31st (a series of pheasant tags are required to hunt pheasants)
Chukar Partridge continues through December and ends on December 31st
Crow continues through December and ends on December 31st.
(Season dates are relative to the AP unit local for NewHartfordPlus waterfowl hunters)
Requires a Valid Federal and State Waterfowl stamp as well as a CT H.I.P. Permit.
For more Waterfowling info go to the Hunting & Trapping section of the DEP website.
Ducks, Merganzers and Coots: Late season continues through December and ends on January 5th
Canadian Geese: Late season continues through December and ends on January 5th
Snow and Blue Geese: Continues through December and ends on January 14th. Late season starts on February 22nd and ends on March 10th
Woodcock and Snipe: Ends on December 10th.
Small Game Hunting
Grey Squirrel: Continues through December and ends on December 31st
Cottontail Rabbit: Continues through December and ends on December 31st
Snowshoe Hare: Continues through December and ends on December 31st
European Hare: Continues through December and ends on December 31st.
Fox And Coyote Hunting
Red and Grey Fox: Season continues through December and ends on December 31st
Coyote: Season continues through December and ends on December 31st.
Raccoon And Opossum Hunting
Raccoon: Season continues through December and ends on December 31st
Opossum Season continues through December and ends on December 31st.
Know and completely understand all hunting regulations BEFORE you head out!!!! Questions? Go to www.ct.gov/dep/hunting.
Local Hunting Areas
(Maps for most of these areas can be found at www.ct.gov/dep/hunting)
- State Land:
- People’s State Forest – Barkhamsted (2942 acres)
- American Legion State Forest – Barkhamsted (1037 acres)
- Nepaug State Forest – New Hartford (1367 acres)
- Tunxis State Forest – Hartland (9518 acres)
- Wildlife Management Areas:
- Cedar Swamp WMA – New Hartford/Torrington (278 acres)
- Roraback WMA – Harwinton (1975 acres)
- State Leased and Public Access Areas:
- MDC – Greenwoods Pond – New Hartford (400 acres)
- MDC -Colebrook Reservoir/ Hogback Dam – Colebrook/Hartland, etc. (4159 acres)
CT Sportsman’s Wild Game Cookery
Hasenpfeffer (Rabbit Stew) is a delicious, traditional German recipe, and a comforting meal you’re sure to enjoy just as much as the hunt itself. It’s a perfect culmination of the chase… recalling the crisp winter air, the sound of the Bawlin Beagles and the beautiful white hares that came to hand. There are numerous ways to prepare Hasenpfeffer, probably as many variations as there are towns in Germany. Here’s one that the family really enjoyed with homemade Spaetzel (egg noodles in a pinch) and red cabbage.
4 pounds of hare
1 pt. red wine
2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 diced onion
one whole clove
one bay leaf
1 cup flour
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 cup oil
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup marinade
1 cup sour cream
In a large glass bowl combine the red wine, vinegar, onion and spices. quarter the hare and marinade in this liquid in the refrigerator overnight. In a separate bowl combine the flour, salt and pepper and coat the hares quarters in the flour mixture. Heat a large skillet and add the oil and get it to a medium high temperature. Brown the hare quarters on both sides in the hot oil, then add one cup of the retained marinade and the chicken broth to the skillet. Bring everything to a boil, then cover and place in a preheated 350-degree oven and cook for 1.5 hours. Remove from the oven and add the sour cream to get the desired consistency (don’t boil after the sour cream has been added).
Another method is to add bacon and, using the bacon fat in place of the oil, to brown the hare and then add crumbled bacon, mushrooms or pearl onions. Try this recipe and you’ll find yourself heading to Rangeley, Maine as an annual hunting tradition!
Fishing And the Fly Tyer’s Bench
For the winter months we’ll demonstrate how to tie some simple fly patterns that are deadly on the Farmington River. This month’s pattern is dubbed the “Usual” and is a sulphur imitation that is quite effective from late May to the middle of June. As I always advocate that you should never waste any part of any animal you harvest, this pattern uses the waterproof hairs from the illusive Snowshoe hare’s foot.
- Snowshoe Hare foot
- 6/0 Fire Orange Thread
- hooks from 18 – 22
- light grey dubbin material
- head cement
1.) Start of by laying a foundation of fire orange thread starting from 1/3 the distance from eye to hook bend.
2.) Tie on a tail of Snowshoe hair fibers wrapping back toward the hook bend.
3.) Next, wax the thread and use either light grey dubbin material or the downy, inner hair from the hare’s foot and dub the fur onto the thread and form a tapering body, getting thicker towards the eye. Stop 2/3rds the hook’s length from the eye.
4.) Now use the outer hairs from the hare’s foot to create a wing. Trim the excess hair.
5.) Wax the thread again and dub more dubbin material to form the rest of the body, then whip finish the head and cement.
6.) Finished sulphur imitation, waiting to be pounced on by a hungry Farmington River trout!
A body of cinnamon or brown can can be tied to imitate a rusty sulphur variant. This is a must tie over the winter so you’ll be ready for the sulphur hatches of late spring/early summer.
Photos at right by Andrew Pelletier.
Share Your Photos And Experiences With Us!
We encourage those who hunt, fish or observe wildlife to share their pictures and stories with us and other readers. Please send your photos and stories to NewHartfordPlus@gmail.com and we’ll be happy to post them in future editions of CT Sportsman’s Journal.
We wish all of you a safe and successful season!