Saturday, March 8, 2014

Maine Road Trip: Rough It For Grouse

Article by Lawrence Pyne

To experience the best "pa'tridge" country left, just drive northeast.

Good ruffed grouse covers are getting harder and harder to find, which is why my brother and I make a point of annually heading up to northern Maine. Thanks to large-scale forest management, there is so much productive habitat here that the biggest challenge is simply deciding where to jump in.

Northern Maine encompasses more than 10 million acres of mostly working timberland—almost all of which is potential grouse cover. Much of the best is found in the 3.5-million-acre North Maine Woods (NMW), managed by a consortium of private landowners, which is open to the public for a modest fee. Because it is commercially logged, the NMW has hundreds of thousands of acres of young, regenerating forest that provides great habitat for grouse as well as woodcock. Its 5,000 or so miles of gravel and dirt logging roads weave through more cover than you can hunt in a lifetime. If that wasn't enough, scattered throughout the NMW are more than 300 campsites and a dozen sporting camps. It's an ideal destination for both D.I.Y. hunters and those looking for more luxurious accommodations and perhaps a guide.

Access to the NMW is via 15 checkpoints on primary entry roads. Although it's possible to hunt there on a day-trip basis from gateway towns like Greenville and Millinocket, the farther in you go, the less pressure you'll find—and the more birds you'll encounter. Getting 30 or more miles back in and camping is the best way to get the most out of a trip and save wear and tear on your vehicle.

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