Matt LaRoche (from left), Gabe LaRoche and Mark LaRoche haul out a small buck.  Credit: Courtesy of Ted Wolfertz

What is the difference between a successful deer hunt and the frustration of almost connecting with a big buck? Often times, it is the little things that make a big difference in deer hunting. “If I would have done this or that” becomes the talk of hunting camp instead of a buck hanging on the game pole.

I have been hunting with the same bunch of guys at a camp in the North Maine Woods for more than 25 years. The deer herd has not recovered from those two severe winters in 2008 and 2009. Deer are a little scarce, so when you get a chance at a nice buck, you had better make it count.

I like to track deer when we have a fresh snow. Tracking is actually easier when there are fewer deer around to confuse the hunter. When there are lots of tracks, it takes more than an occasional glance to figure out where the deer you are pursuing is headed. If the deer tracks you are following get mingled in with a bunch of other tracks, it takes time to figure out where your deer went. If the tracks are fresh, I have found that it might be best to get off to the side of the tracks in a place where you can see and take a break. You might even give a couple grunts or bleats on your deer call.

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When still hunting on bare ground, it takes an experienced eye to tell how old a deer track is or when a scrape was last tended. Usually when you think to yourself, “That deer a was just here,” then he probably was. Stop and look around carefully. You need to find a place where you can see, but if you spend too much time looking for that perfect spot, you can spook the deer without even knowing it. These are all small decisions that can lead to either a big mistake or success.

If there is one theme that is consistent when tracking or still hunting, it is go slow and stop at good vantage points to take a break. I have seen a lot of deer by just taking a break in the right spot. This is especially true if there are other hunters around that might bump deer. I like to use my deer call and have found that it makes me sit tight for an extra 15 minutes after I use it. It could be the extra time sitting still or the actual call that makes a difference, but it has paid off for me on several occasions.

When tracking deer, you will find that they take you through miserable thickets and some nice open spots. You can learn a lot about their habits and travel routes by tracking deer. If you hunt the same area year after year, you can use this past experience to your advantage. Deer like to travel in the same areas year after year. I gravitate to places where I have seen deer or signs of them in the past.

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You might follow a deer all day and not get an opportunity for a good shot, or a deer might spook the minute you get up from your stand. That’s hunting. It ends this way more often than not.

A North Maine Woods deer hunt is not easy, but if you like a vast area to hunt with few other hunters and big deer, it might be the place for you.

The Allagash Wilderness Waterway allows camping in the parking lot at Chamberlain Bridge during the months of October and November. There is a public drinking water supply, vault toilets and ranger assistance available at Chamberlain Ranger Station. By Northwoods standards, there is actually pretty good deer hunting available in the Chamberlain/Telos area.

The Allagash Wilderness Waterway is managed by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Bureau of Parks and Lands.

Matt LaRoche is Superintendent of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, a Registered Maine Guide, and an avid outdoorsman. He can be reached at 695-2169 or at