The North Maine Woods (NMW) has, for a long time, been a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
It encompasses over 3.5 million acres and is visited by over 100,000 travelers each year. Within the northernmost tip of the NMW lies Aroostook County, and within this county is the area of some 84,000 acres known as “The Allagash.”
The town of Allagash itself has a population of just over 200 folks and rests along the Allagash River, where it joins the St. John’s River, which is part of the border between northern Maine and Canada. The Allagash River Waterway is one of the premier destinations on the bucket list of many canoe enthusiasts. It is tightly regulated to maintain its pristine beauty as it traverses through lakes and streams.
Over the years, as I have heard about and daydreamed about visiting The Allagash, the attraction for me was the heavy timber of the NMW that is inhabited by an intriguing array of wildlife. It is the home of lynx, fishers, martins, as well as grouse and woodcock. But, particularly interesting to me are the whitetail deer, the moose, and the black bears. Within the deep, expansive timber of northern Maine, the population of whitetail deer is few in numbers, but the bucks tend to be large in body and sport a heavy, beamed, and impressive rack. The moose in some areas are more prevalent than whitetail deer, and a moose is always a thrill to encounter in the wild.
But, it was the black bear population that interested me the most. Throughout the northernmost part of Maine, particularly in Aroostook County and The Allagash region, the number of black bears has remained high, and some of the larger bears reach 500-600 pounds as they gorge themselves in the fall with beechnuts and hazelnuts in preparation for the winter months ahead.
Oddly enough, it was on a recent hunting trip to Saskatchewan that I met a fellow Pennsylvania hunter who had a passion for black bear hunting and had hunted in Maine for several years and each year returned to the same area and hunted with the same outfitter — Track ‘Em Down Lodge and Cabins, operated by Maine native and Master Guide and Trapper Joel Guimond. Ray had nothing but high praises for the outfitter, the guides, the kitchen staff, and the entire hunting experience. Whenever a dedicated hunter has such a great experience that they return year after year to a particular outfitter or location, it is worth paying attention to and doing further investigation. With that in mind, I met up with Joel Guimond in February at the Harrisburg Great American Outdoor Show and was instantly impressed with both Joel and his guides. Based on what Ray had told me, as well as what Joel had to say, I enthusiastically booked a hunt for the second week of the four-week season, which starts at the end of August.
If you have ever had the experience of booking a hunting or fishing trip to a place you have never been before, you understand that the fun doesn’t begin once you arrive in camp — it really begins as you find yourself daydreaming each day after the plans are made and the countdown to the adventure begins! Daily thoughts turn to the upcoming trip, and it’s never too soon to begin checking your equipment, making a list of necessities, and ordering replacements or a few new gadgets for the new destination. A few follow-up calls to Ray and to Joel helped answer a few questions and relieve any concerns, but the truth is that I really want to leave a few things unanswered, so there will be some (hopefully) pleasant surprises upon arrival and as the trip unfolds! While black bear hunting here in Pennsylvania is a popular pursuit, many days can be uneventful since the season is only a few days long, and bears can be very elusive within the Commonwealth. With the large population of bears throughout the big woods of northern Maine, there would be a greater chance of multiple sightings and, hopefully, an increased opportunity to “bring home the bacon!”
Next week — the hunt begins!