October in Maine is the outdoors person’s paradise. The bugs finally disappear, the weather becomes blissfully cool and hunting season begins in earnest! When I was a much younger man, attending school at the University of Maine at Machias, my fraternity brothers and I would camp at Deer Lake every Columbus Day weekend to hunt woodcock and partridge and enjoy what was typically the last long weekend of good weather before old man winter descended upon the land.
Camping at Deer Lake
Deer Lake campground (Delorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 34, E-5) provides visitors with the perfect base camp from which to launch hunting, fishing and ATVing expeditions into the surrounding hinterlands. Deer Lake campsite manager, Arthur Keenan highly recommends Deer Lake to ATV riders, as its centralized location in the Sunrise Trail System offers the best access to numerous trail riding and options.
While the campsite does not have treated water for drinking, flush toilets or showers it does have outhouses, eight waterfront and twelve off lake well-maintained tent and RV sites. If reserving a site make sure to pick site number 1. This site is provides a beautiful view of the water is semi-private and offers a large lot that is RV accessible.
Trailered boats cannot be launched at Deer Lake but watercraft can be hand carried over a small beach making small boat access possible. Due to the lakes miniscule size motor driven watercraft are unnecessary and a canoe or kayak is perfect for exploring and fishing its waters.
Those interested in exploring Deer Lake or staying at the campground, the directions are relatively simple. The area is accessible via the 3000 road that leaves Rt. 9 (the "Airline") in Devereaux Township (Map 24, A-1) and follows the Naraguagus River for a distance of approximately 15 miles. If driving from Bangor toward Calais, a great landmark is the Airline snack bar and the northern terminus of Rt. 193. Drive approximately 1 mile further this point and turn left onto the 3000 road at the Ranger Station. If the Narraguagus River is crossed, turn around. While this road is bumpy and not as well maintained as the typical 4500 to 3100 to Studmill to 3200 road more direct route, the 3000 road will allow bird hunters to drive through several great covers on their way to Deer Lake. Be sure to drive slowly, always keeping a keen eye on the road edging for early morning or late evening partridge.
Deer Lake campground has tent/RV sites but no hook ups for electricity or water. Costs are $20 for the first night and $10 per night after. A primetime Friday/Saturday night stay costs $45. For reservations, please contact Lois Keenan (546-3828) or for additional information Arthur Keenan (664-3198). Lois and Arthur also maintain the Lower Sabao Lake (Map 35, E-1) and Cranberry Lake (Map 35, E-2) campgrounds. All three campgrounds are open Memorial Day and close when the snow flies.
Fishing Deer Lake and the Surrounding Area
At 38 acres and a maximum depth of 21 feet, the waters of Deer Lake support warm water game species only, providing anglers with opportunities to fish yellow perch, chain pickerel and hornpout. Cold-water game species like brook trout have little chance of survival and as such, stocking of the lake does not occur. Anglers looking to catch brook trout would be better served to fish the nearby Narraguagus river (Map 34, E-5) or Mopang Stream (Map 25, A-2) that will hold ravenous trout spurred into feeding by the season’s dropping temperatures. A public boat landing at Nicatous Lake (Map 35, D-5) additionally allows anglers with larger watercraft to access salmon waters.
Hunting for Partridge at Deer Lake
Deer Lake is surrounded by a network of dirt roads that provide hunters with plenty of access to bird hunting opportunities. While some will enjoy riding these roads and “heater hunting”, know that hunters typically hit these roadways hard and shot opportunities are often sparse. Even when birds do present themselves they are often skittish and by the time hunters get out of the vehicle and load their weapon the bird has typically flown to the next county. Hunters can achieve a higher level of success by getting out and walking some of the harder to get to sections of forest via roads that have been rendered impassable by washed out culverts or blow downs. Speed need not be employed when hunting early morning and late afternoon birds, slow and steady walking while carefully scanning and searching through the roadside underbrush is a much more likely method of putting birds in the bean pot.
The unimproved roads and trails around Indian Brook (Map 34, D-4) and off the Morrison Ridge Road (Map 34, D-5) contain excellent spots where hunters who wish to beat the brush can break away from the heavily traveled main roads and pursue birds in relative peace and quiet.
Start Scouting Deer Now
Hearty souls, unafraid of cold weather and wishing to return to this area in November to hunt deer would be well served to spend some time while hunting and driving in October paying special attention to any perceivable deer sign. Making careful note of rub lines, scrapes, dropping and tracks and marking these locations with GPS coordinates will save time later and allow individuals to invest a majority of their time hunting and not scouting when deer season begins. Lightweight climbing stands are fantastic hunting tools but they are only effective when a prime location has been preselected. The Maine woods are vast and a hunter can sit for a long time and never even see a deer if a spot is not wisely chosen. It makes little sense to stumble blindly into the woods, in the early morning light, with no idea of what exists in the area for deer or even if a suitable tree exists that will effective hold a climbing stand. Then once sufficient deer sign and a suitable tree are both selected, what view will be achieved once that tree is climbed? Finding these answers and accomplishing these tasks before the season begins will pay big dividends later by putting a person at least a day ahead of their hunting brethren.