Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Maine Guide Exam Experience

I had been checking the mail quite often as the potential date for the Maine Guides Exam awaited my near future. However, each day came and went as I began to realize that taking the test this summer must just become a day off from the grinds of teaching (school starts September 7th). It did say on the application that it could take anywhere from six months to a year for a scheduled test, but my buddy Rabid of The Maine Outdoorsman had his entire application and exam transpire within a two month window. Nevertheless, I felt the intensity of my study which had diminished over the summer as the lobster season encompassed my mind, body, and soul. I did try to study whenever possible, usually in bed as my exhausted frame began to recharge for the gear that awaited by daybreak. Then as I least expected, the date came in the mail as I had not checked the mail in a couple of days.

We had planned a major family outing at a camping resort three hours away last weekend and I went to the mail just one hour before we left. The day was August 20th, my date for the exam was August 24th. To put it mildly, things hit me all at once. There would be no way to even consider any type of studying while on this trip, four girls paired up at 4 and 6 years of age, two wives, and an old school buddy would be the focus of my weekend. So I proudly displayed the letter to my wife and explained to her that I needed to figure out how to 1) cram for the test, and 2) figure out how on earth was I to get my gear done and still get to Augusta (3 hour drive) in order to pass the test. The ride, I figured, would be my planning agent as their were no other possibilities.

Rabid and I had figured that I would come the night before in order to go over the oral part of the exam, map & compass, lost person, and interview, so naturally I called him to inform him of my timely situation. He was also on a camping trip in the Moosehead Lake region, but eagerly suggested that I get down to his neck of the woods as soon as I returned from the camping trip. So we put a plan into motion that would require me to drive three hours home Sunday, get things unpacked, and then bolt another three hours to his home. That would give me almost 48 hours including sleep to prepare for the big show.

The family weekend went so well and that may have been the first unexpected means of self-readiness. While there I began to put myself into a greater sense of guide logic and started thinking about the variety of areas of expertise that would allow me to pass the test. Never once did I bring it up, however I maintained and allowed for an absolutely enjoyable time while decompressing from the daily grinds of my seasonal lobster fishing career.

My family on our camping trip

The return back to central Maine excluded my family, but did include my MacBook with my friend Alex the robotic literature reader who chimed in for the next two hours going over every word of the Maine state law books on ATV, Snowmobile, & Boating rules and regulations. It wasn't perfect, but it did help as I continued my full immersion into everything Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife. By 8:30 p.m., I rolled into the driveway only to met my good buddy eagerly waiting to see me. My guess is that he was as excited as me, if not more. We took some time to hang out, talk about some basics and then retired for the night.

After a gut filling breakfast of eggs, bacon, hash, toast, coffee, and other helpings, I went into the basement to embark on some more reading while Rabid did the dad thing and readied for the day. After all seemed satisfactory, he came down and quizzed me on some of the finer points such as orienteering, gear readiness, and laws. By ten a.m., we concluded our study and chose to hit a local pond for some largemouth bass action. This had been previously planned, but I did my best to convince my wife that my five day hiatus from lobstering would not be for a fishing trip. On any account, I loaded my gear into Rabid's canoe and we began wetting lines. Before I knew it, four fish had entered the canoe for me and none for Rabid. Five more bass came my way before Rabid politely asked to use my gear, and before it was all said and done we had landed over forty bass in 1.5 hours time to coincide with some severely torn up baits.

Once aided, Rabid didn't do so badly either and landed this nice largemouth.


To highlight the morning, I nailed two bucket mouths over four pounds each and one behemoth monster which must have been over six pounds. Twenty four bass was my personal tally and I was quite impressed with our success. We chose to call it a morning and hit lunch in full force. After that we would plan on some more studying.

The Terminator did the trick for this largemouth!!!

I had called the day before to see how I could take the written exam if my oral exam began at four o'clock. The woman I spoke to said she would make the exception and allow me to take the written test between 1 and 2 in order to best accommodate all hands involved.

We studied for another two hours until the lure of the pond began to buzz our minds and after a quick stop to a local sporting goods store, the freshwater found us there firing at the bass. My goal was to crack 50 bass if I could and it didn't take long to land another quick ten largemouth. But the early afternoon provided a greater variety of fish as the yellow perch opted in for the action. As my baits continued to get hammered by the fish, it became apparent that my confidence baits may not last the trek to fifty. But perseverance paid off and while Rabid was numbing the fish on his borrowed bait, I slowly reached the milestone. We ended the early afternoon with a day total of 87 landed bass, a number of large yellow perch, three chain pickerel, and countless hook sets that might have pushed our total to above 150 bass. That night, I continued my study basically reading and going over my personal study guide. It became apparent that I was right back to where I left off in June in terms of readiness.

The next day I would go to work with Rabid and spend the morning in the cafeteria in preparation of my 4 o'clock date.With that, Rabid dropped me off at noontime so that I could take care of all matters. For my extreme early arrival, everything else fell into play.

By 12:15 I was taking my written test and by 1 p.m., I was filling in for a cancellation. The two gentlemen who were in charge of the test effectively hit me full on with the exam while maintaining a true sense of professionalism and expectation at the same time. I quickly passed the map and compass, and found myself in quite a grinder with the lost person scenario. Every move I made was quickly and decisively countered with their true expertise and understanding. An answer led to another question as the process continued, I honestly felt confident but not convinced I met their expectations. There was no concession from my efforts, I had put far too much into this to go home. When it was all said and done, I returned after their deliberation and had achieved the second part of the exam.

The interview was difficult, but I firmly believe my preparation saved this portion. Barraged by a variety of questions ranging from capsized canoe rescues, health issues & treatment, laws, ethics, etc., I knocked the questions down or at least did my very best. I was dismissed the final time and it was here that I called Rabid to come get me, judgement time was near. My final return yielded two extended hands that congratulated me on my fine effort, never had I felt so challenged and rewarded at the same time. With my final opportunity to share my experience with the two gentlemen, I explained to them that the guiding process never ends, no one is an expert, and that I considered a true honor to have had this experience with them.

It didn't take long for Rabid to arrive as I presented to him my license and patch, you could see the excitement in his eyes as this was as important to him as it was for me. He was the instrumental factor in my desire to apply, study, and become a Registered Maine Guide. Without his continual support and encouragement, this may not have been realized.

So what's next for me? I need to take my hunting & fishing written examination in addition to the U.S. Coast Guard Captains License Exam. So with so much attained, I've not yet begun to fight.

I'd like to give a special thanks to my wife who has wholeheartedly supported my efforts in each and every endeavor I tackle for each one will pay dividends down the road, Maine Guide Dennis Perry of Rising Sun Outfitters who endlessly wrote emails with input or answers to questions, and my family who is very proud of their Registered Maine Guide.

The Ka-Bar Becker BK7, a whole lot of knife!!!
Next up for the DEDH, the BK2...


  1. Congrats to you on reaching your goal! You should be proud that you met your challenge with hard work and the right attitude! If I ever come to Maine I'll let you guide me. Especially if you take me to that fishing hole of yours!

  2. My congrats go out to you once again. That is a fine achievement to have under ones belts, and you worked hard at it so be proud.

    Also great job tellin' us the story. This post read like a dream!


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