Chandler Woodcock was sworn in as Commissioner as Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IF&W)a little over a year ago. I sat down with him last week and talked about his life as an outdoorsman and what he hopes to bring to IFW in the years to come. This is the first part of our conversation:
How did you get into hunting/fishing?
My grandfather. He was an outdoorsman. My father was not a big fan of the outdoors, so I looked to my grandfather. I started fishing when I was probably 3 years old. I think I started hunting when I was 8. It becomes a part of you; being outside in the woods. It’s a way to relax and unwind and it sticks with you. Folks that hunt and fish get that.
Do your kids hunt/fish?
Everyone fishes (he has 3 daughters, 1 son and 10 grandkids). My son hunts but it’s a family requirement to fish. We do have a rule that you have to be at least 2 to begin fishing because of the hook. I remember taking my son out once and we saw a nice deer, 8 or 10 points. It was big. I took a shot and I know I hit it because of the way he jumped. We sat and waited probably 20 minutes then went after it. There was deep red blood so I knew that I hit him. We searched and searched. My son was in front of me and we came up over a little knoll and there was that deer, broadside, heading up a hill. My son was young and just didnt feel comfortable taking that sort of shot and I wasnt going to shoot over him. The deer snorted and took off so I told my son to sit there and wait in case he circled back and I went after him. I probably tracked him for two miles. I was after my cancer surgery so I got tired quickly and just couldnt keep up. My son and I both agree that we could have taken that deer if I was ahead of him.
Hunters have the youth hunt and the opportunity for apprentice license. Is there anything like that for fishing?
Yes. We have the “Hooked on Fishing, Not Drugs” program and I think because there is no age requirement… you don’t have to worry about carrying a gun like you do with hunting, fishing is much more accessible and open to everyone who wants to try it.
What is IFW doing to engage new outdoorsmen (youth and people of all ages)?
We are working to manage our resources in the State and promote outdoor activities. We work in conjunction with outdoor groups across the State like the Audubon Society and sporting clubs and snowmobile clubs. The more of a partnership we can create with these groups, the stronger and better the outdoor experience will be for folks here in Maine.
Women are the largest growing population to get into hunting. What is IFW doing to capitalize on that?
IFW has a great program called the Becoming an Outdoor Woman. It is a way for women to interact with other women who are active in the outdoors and learn new skills and try new things. I know LL Bean does a lot of great workshops that give people a chance to experience different outdoor activities. In order to attract women and kids, we have to make the resource attractive. For many people, it’s a generational thing and they get into it because they have been taught by a family member. Sports Clubs also do a great job of keeping people engaged. The clubs have shooting ranges and sometimes have competitions to keep people coming back and trying new things.
What would you tell someone who wants to get into hunting/fishing?
Family engagement is best. If they have a relative or immediate family member who hunts and fishes, go with them. Ask them questions. If a person does not have anyone in their family, contact us, contact a local club, go to a sportsman show somewhere in the State and see one of the seminars that are offered there. Like-minded people come to these shows so you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions.
If someone wants to get into a sport – fishing lets say, is there a way for them to try the sport out (rent a pole and gear) before they go out and spend the money to get their own equipment?
The clubs are the best way to go or going with someone who has equipment and knows that they are doing. It can be dangerous if you go out by yourself. There is always the opportunity to hire a guide to take you out and we have great guides working in the State. Anyone who wants to get outdoors and learn about a sport can. We have great resources that should be explored and shared.
How does a winter like the one we just had impact IFW?
HA! I have made the mistake of telling people what a great winter it was. For the deer herd, it was great. We can have a say in controlling predators and working to keep the herd healthy but we cannot control the weather. A mild winter is great for the herd; they can still travel, find food and do not need to worry about the deep snow which makes them more vulnerable to coyotes. From an economic standpoint, it was a killer for Maine. Snowmobile clubs struggled and the perception was that there was no snow but after this last storm when we got a solid foot of it, there is still a decent amount of snow in the woods. Especially up north. But any business dealing with winter recreation has had a hard season.
Will Central Maine Power’s expansion throughout the State (they are increasing capacity and widening the powerlines through the State. (My tree seat is on a piece of land that is being cut for the expansion) impact the deer herd and the land available for hunting?
CMP is very cautious of where they are cutting and what impact it will have. They do take into account if there are deer yards nearby and cutting can help create good choppings for the deer. It doesnt really effect the food sources; food will grow before and after they cut. They are aware of the wildlife in the areas that they are cutting through.
Land as a recourse is very important to Mainers and to the deer herd. My sister and I will inherit a lot of land from my parents. What is IF&W doing to educate and steward private land owners about the importance to protecting key habitats?
As a state agency, I don’t, can’t and won’t tell private owners what to do with their land. We can offer conservation advice but we wait for landowners to come to us and ask. We work with foresters, agriculture experts, field managers and wildlife specialists to offer the best advice and help we can to private landowners. Our best hope is that people, like your parents, will instill the importance of conservation to their kids and it will be passed down from generation to generation. We are more than happy to work with landowners because we all agree and want to support the wildlife in Maine.
Coming up, Part 3 and details about the deer and moose hunt impact on Maine, hunting on Sundays plus, the answers to your questions.