As the son and grandson of Registered Maine Guides, Jerry Packard naturally became one himself.
He grew up on Sebec Lake in Willimantic immersed in outdoor activities and the sporting camps culture. Packard has dedicated his life to sharing his knowledge and passion for the outdoors.
Packard’s commitment to excellence in guiding, and his efforts to promote conservation and serve his community, have set him apart. Those were the reasons he was honored with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s Wiggie Robinson Legendary Maine Guide Award.
With his family at his side, the 77-year-old Packard was recognized as part of the Maine Professional Guides Association annual banquet held on April 15 at Jeff’s Catering in Brewer. It’s an evening he won’t soon forget.
“It’s a big honor to be recognized,” Packard said. “It’s really quite a nice thing to know that people notice all the things you do well. That means a lot to me.”
Packard, a lifelong angler, hunter and trapper, takes special pride in having known Robinson, the man for whom the award was established.
“I knew him pretty well, so that makes it even more meaningful to me,” said Packard, who had served with Robinson on the Registered Maine Guide Licensing Board.
Packard was born to be a guide and sporting camp owner. It was a tradition passed down to him by his great-grandfather, his grandfather and his parents. Packard’s Camps on Sebec Lake were established in 1894 and operated until they were sold about 25 years ago.
The family still has homes and property there, including cabins that it rents out. Packard is able to dabble in a variety of outdoor activities on and around the lake, including guiding some fishing outings.
“I take a few people out fishing. I still keep active,” said Packard, who admits that spending his entire life working seven days and 100 hours per week in Maine’s woods and waters have taken a toll.
He now has two artificial hips, a pair of artificial shoulders and has had six back operations.
“I still work every day. I just can’t do much anymore,” said Packard, who has been an active guide for 59 years.
Numerous people nominated Packard for the award. He is known as an expert hunting and fishing guide and is respected by those who witnessed his work.
People spoke of Packard as a man who has stressed ethical behavior while conserving wildlife and fisheries. His efforts were recognized among game wardens and biologists.
“I have had many interactions with him, from search and rescue of people in need in and around Sebec Lake, to information about possible violators of fish and game laws,” said retired game warden Donald Annis, who has known Packard for more than 40 years.
Packard, who earned a degree in hospitality from Paul Smith’s College in New York, for many years was a licensed pilot, which cut down on travel time to hunting and fishing locations. He also has provided time and expertise for conservation-related causes, such as facilitating a land purchase for the construction of a boat launch on Sebec Lake.
He also has worked with DIF&W biologists in their fisheries management efforts on the lake.
“He is an extremely generous individual. In addition to providing this property to the state for public access, each winter Jerry has maintained an area for anglers to park and unload sleds to access the lake for ice fishing,” said DIF&W fisheries resource specialist Tim Obrey.
Packard served in several positions in the community. He was among the founding members and a former president of the Maine Sporting Camps Association, served as a town selectman and chair of the school board in Willimantic, and was a member of the board of directors at Mayo Regional Hospital in Dover-Foxcroft.
Packard has been described as competent, dependable, knowledgeable and practical. However, those who know Packard admire for more than his outdoors expertise.
“He has that ever so rare quality of kindness. Oh, and of course there is that sense of humor,” retired district court Judge Kevin Stitham said in his nomination letter.
Packard offered guiding services for fishing and hunting, including deer and moose. Among his favorite outings were guiding moose hunts around property he owned at Lobster Lake near Northeast Carry.
“We hunted by boat around the water and bogs and things,” he said. “As a result, we were rarely around other hunters. I thought it was a unique way of doing it, so I was kind of proud of that.”
Looking back on his life outdoors, Packard has seen tremendous change. Perhaps the most significant is the amount of land that has been opened up to the public.
“The access is much different. You can go places now that you never could,” Packard said, noting more and better roads and the proliferation of all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles.
He also has witnessed the transition to technology, which means people are constantly yearning for a cell phone signal or internet access.
“I don’t know if it’s good or bad. But especially for a guy that’s my age, I never got adjusted to this new thing,” Packard said.
Packard lives with his wife, Tish Dutson, and near his daughter, Laura Feaga, her husband, Chuck, and their twin daughters, Dorinda and Vivian Feaga. He keeps himself busy with projects around the compound and at the lake.
For him, guiding and being outdoors is a way of life.
“I never knew anything else and that was what I always wanted to do,” Packard said. “I always enjoyed where I lived and what I did. I never regretted it. I never felt like I worked. I was very lucky.”
Correction: The story has been updated to correctly spell Packard’s first name.