The Allagash Wilderness Waterway is a great place to take a young or inexperienced hunter grouse hunting — or as I like to say, “bird hunting.” There is nothing quite as encouraging to a young hunter as bringing home something to eat.

I think it satisfies a primeval desire to provide food for the family. The odds of success for a young hunter are pretty good in the North Maine Woods.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to go hunting after school. I would race home and head out behind the house with my dad’s old Harrington Richardson single-shot 12-gauge shotgun in search of old thunder wings. As hard as I tried, I was never successful at grouse hunting, until I went to the Allagash.

I grew up in Lisbon Falls, and the grouse behind my house would usually flush well before I ever laid an eye on them. In fact, they were so flighty that I sometimes thought they knew I was hunting the minute I stepped out the back door.

When I started work in the Allagash, I couldn’t believe the difference in the grouse.

Were these even the same birds? The birds in the Allagash would sit on the side of the road while you got out of the truck, loaded your gun, took aim and fired. Not only that, where there was one bird, there was usually more!

I came up with a saying that highlights the difference between the grouse in northern and southern Maine. What’s the difference between a smart partridge and a dumb partridge? The answer: 100 miles.

If you want to teach a kid how to hunt and actually take a few birds, the North Maine Woods is the place to do it. I have seen plenty of birds in the area around the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. I can almost guarantee you will not be disappointed with the bird population!

The north woods covers 3.5 million acres of private and public land that surround the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. There are literally thousands of miles of logging roads to ride and countless miles of old logging roads to walk in search of birds. I like an old road with grass growing in the middle, plenty of aspen growing along the roadside, and understory of spruce and fir.

The north woods is open to hunting, except in areas that are posted where timber harvesting is taking place, around camps, and other administrative areas. Firearms and archery equipment are prohibited within the restricted zone of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway from May 1 through Sept. 30. After Sept. 30, the waterway is open to hunting except within 300 feet of any designated trail, campsite, parking area, building, boat launch, or other developed area.

Here are a couple of suggestions for teaching a kid how to hunt and handle a firearm. First, when buying a shotgun for a youngster, buy a single shot. With a single shot, there is rarely a mistake about whether or not the gun is loaded. When the gun has been fired, another round is not chambered with the safety off.

My good friend, Ray Rinaldi, always told me to have my son walk in front of me when hunting. This was the best advice anyone ever gave me for teaching a kid how to hunt. When the student is in front, the teacher can keep an eye on their every move and the odds of getting shot are greatly reduced.

I can still remember Levi’s first bird. We had hunted all afternoon in the Moosehead Lake area; we had seen a few birds, but none that held long enough for a 10-year-old boy to get a shot. On the way home we came upon a dumb bird on the side of the road. Levi quietly stalked the bird off the side of the road and then, when within shotgun range, edged back to the roadside. The bird held during the whole time, it seemed like an eternity to me. He made a nice shot and proudly picked up his first bird. That was one proud boy and thrilled dad!

Do you have a son or daughter who wants to go hunting? Do you know a kid or someone who has never been hunting but wants to go? Bring them up north bird hunting, where their chances of success are high. They might just turn into a lifelong recreational hunter.

The Allagash Wilderness Waterway is managed by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Bureau of Parks and Lands. For an information packet or general information on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, go to, call 207-941-4014, email or write to the Bureau of Parks and Public Lands, 106 Hogan Road, Bangor, ME 04401.

Matthew LaRoche is superintendent of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway.