I’ve been recreationally fishing for as long as I can remember. My father would go trout fishing in Pennsylvania and I think I was about five or six when I started tagging along with him, so that’s pretty close to 40 years. With hunting, I would walk along with my dad and do stuff with him, but I could not actually carry a gun until I turned 12.
I started breeding Labs and Vizslas, and I had a hunting guide that bought two puppies from me, and he wanted to use my dogs too. I told him, “You don’t get the dogs without me,” and he said, “Well, get your guide license and I’ll put you to work.”
I did 20 years in the Navy and then I retired and started working for L.L. Bean, doing maintenance around the facilities for three years. Then, when the opportunity came to guide full-time, I jumped at it.
How do you think your Navy service helps your guiding?
Whenever you’re in the military, you are part of a group made up of people from all over and put together. Even in my later years, I was helping do some training with people in Africa and places, so you always had to deal with different people. I’ve hunted all over the United States and I did some stuff overseas with people who hunted over there, so I learned a lot.
What is the best part of your job?
I love meeting people. Last year, I had a father and son and it was their first time ever fishing, and just seeing the excitement in their eyes, of them having a great time, and teaching them about the outdoors, about fish, the history of Maine, that’s one of the best things. Even a first time duck hunter, seeing their eyes light up whenever the birds are coming in or a grouse takes off for the first time, that’s the fun part and almost makes it better than hunting myself, just seeing them have fun and enjoy their day.
There have been some strange ones.
Last year we were sitting in the duck blind and I watched a young buck chase a doe out across the lake. It was during November, and you could tell the doe was in season, but she didn’t want anything to do with that young buck. They swam circles around the lake: she would swim one way, the buck would catch up with her and she would turn, and swim the other way. There were ducks swimming everywhere, but we just sat there – it was a father and son – and watched those deer for an hour or so until the doe finally made it back onshore and ran off into the woods.
What is one sure-fire way or tip to catch a fish?
There’s never a sure-fire way. A lot of times, one of the best things to use for catching a fish is live bait and it’s knowing where they’re at and what they’re looking for at certain times of the year and what they’re going to be feeding on during that time.
I had an older gentleman that had hunted all his life for deer but had never duck hunted. We were in the blind and had a group of Ring-necks, which are very fast ducks. I was wanting them to land in with the decoys but after the third time they flew right over our heads my client said, “You know, I shoot skeet man, I can shoot ducks.” I said, “All right, the next time coming through, shoot them.” And he stood up and started shooting those ducks and they flew over our heads so fast that with his last shot, he fell back over the canoe. He looked up at me and said, “Man, those things are fast!”
And you just saw the light click. Now, he never deer hunts anymore, he went out and bought a dog, all the decoys, and everything, and he is hooked on it.
What’s the secret to a great day of hunting?
It’s the experience, making sure that people have fun. I tell a lot of them, it’s not all about the game, it’s about coming here and learning, getting out in the outdoors and enjoying them. I had a guy this year that came up from Maryland. We spent the day hunting, and didn’t get a lot of birds, and I told him a bunch of stories about Merrymeeting Bay, about how they used to build the boats and more. We saw a deer, we had an otter run right up to us while we were sitting in the blind, and we walked up on a duck’s nest.
He said, “Man, this was great, I learned so much. I didn’t get my bird, but this is the best time I’ve ever had turkey hunting. I learned so much about this area and we saw so many different things.”
My one short hair (dog), she’s kinda shy around people, once you get back to the lodge. This year, she’s started coming out of it a lot more, we’re trying to work on it, but whenever we get back to the lodge, she usually just goes off in her own little kennel or wherever, away from everybody.
As an experienced guide yourself, can you explain to our readers what the benefits of hiring a guide are?
You’re going to get somebody that’s got knowledge of the local area. Especially in the area where we are, if you don’t know it or how to use a compass, you can get lost. Maine is a very rugged wilderness type of area. And it’s very valuable to have the knowledge of where to catch fish or where to find game. The guide test that I had to take was one of the toughest tests I have ever had and with that, you get a lot of knowledge to help you with your adventure.
In your view, what makes a good fishing and hunting guide?
Knowing the area, basically making sure all the clients’ needs are taken care of, and they’re happy and you’ve given them an enjoyable experience.