Larry Gardner and his daughter, Libby Gardner, walk down a dirt road in the North Maine Woods while moose hunting together in 2018. Credit: Pete Warner / BDN

This story was originally published in September 2022.

With Maine’s moose hunting season underway, hunters are descending on the North Maine Woods, a tract of 3.5 million acres of privately owned commercial forest land.

That’s because four of the state’s Wildlife Management Districts are located within its boundaries.

Since access to the land is gated, and because the entity has special rules governing its use, it is important for hunters and other visitors to know what activities are allowed during their visit.

“We’re one of the only places in the country that allows the extent of recreational use that we do here in Maine on private land and we ask that people be respectful of that,” said Tom Pelletier, the executive director of North Maine Woods Inc.

Logging gets the right of way

Perhaps the No. 1 rule in NMW is that trucks and other harvesting equipment have the right of way on the roads. Commercial logging operations are active in the area and those trucks can sometimes move fast.

Visitors should drive slowly, under 45 mph, and be prepared to pull over to the side of the road when encountering a logging truck or other piece of harvesting equipment. Hunters also should not block any side roads and if stopped should park well off the road.

Hunters can take advantage of a MURS radio like the ones used by loggers to monitor activity and call out mile markers to oncoming truck traffic.

“If you encounter a logging truck, pull over and stop,” Pelletier said.

ATVs are forbidden

One of the most important things to know about the North Maine Woods in regard to hunting is that all-terrain vehicles are not allowed. That means hunters who shoot a moose must be able to extract the animal using their vehicles and other equipment.

Should visitors arrive at one of the entry points with an ATV in tow, they will be required to leave it behind.

There also are restrictions on the size of vehicles allowed into the North Maine Woods. Only vehicles less than 28 feet in length, or that have a combined length of less than 44 feet when towing a trailer, are permitted. Mobile homes are not allowed.

Fire permits

Fires may only be built in the authorized steel fire rings provided at campsites. Any fire outside one of those rings requires a written permit from the Maine Forest Service.

“Our North Maine Woods campsites are very well taken care of and our folks that maintain them take a lot of pride in making sure that they are presentable,” Pelletier said.

Hunters who wish to camp elsewhere in NMW also may use gravel pits that are not being used, some of which have been equipped with outhouses, along with other yards and open areas that are off the road and do not interfere with work crews or traffic.

You’re not allowed to park vehicles in any way that blocks a road or prohibits anyone from getting from one place to another.

“Don’t be blocking off 4 miles of prime hunting area just because you saw a moose down that road,” said Pelletier, who said the Maine Warden Service will be notified in such cases.

Know the conditions

Visitors should take note of two bridge closures in the North Maine Woods. The bridge crossing Ross Stream at Mile 63 on the Realty Road will be closed from Sept. 13 to Oct. 1.

Also, the bridge leading to the East Shore Road/OP1 Road (off of the Sias Hill Rd) along Ragged Lake is washed out and not passable.

Be prepared to pay

Access to the North Maine Woods is not free. You can find the entire rate schedule here, but these are the basics:

— Visitors who are Maine residents pay $11 per day of use, while the cost is $16 for nonresidents.

— There is an additional fee for camping of $12 per night (residents) or $15 per night (nonresidents).

— Regardless of residence, anyone under the age of 18 may use the North Maine Woods for free, along with anyone 70 and over.

— Only cash and checks are accepted at checkpoints.

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...