There are deer hunters, and then there are Big Buck Hunters. Most of us are deer hunters. In Maine, there are just a few truly Big Buck Hunters. From what I have seen, you can count the consistent trophy whitetail slayers on one hand. Because I am one of the former, and I write about the outdoors as well, these deer hunters who excel at their craft have always aroused my curiosity. I talk to them. I read their books.

Hal Blood, a guide and outfitter who owns Cedar Ridge Outfitters, is one of these accomplished buck hunters. He has earned his notoriety in the deer hunting community by consistently bagging big bruiser bucks year after year.

During a radio interview recently, on my Sunday night radio program, Maine Outdoors, I talked with Hal.

“What makes a big buck hunter,” I asked. “How,” I inquired, “do your hunting tactics or general approach to the hunt differ from the rest of us who call ourselves deer hunters?”

Hal answered my question with a deer story. Last fall he tracked a big buck in the snow. Shortly thereafter he came upon the boot print of another hunter tracking the same buck. Hal knew from experience that the majority of hunters will stay on a track just so long. Either they run out of steam or they decide that the buck is taking them into the deep woods too far or into a boggy hellhole they want no part of. Sure enough, Hal’s fellow tracker decided the better of it and left the track. Hal stayed with it, and three hours later he got his shot at the many-antlered whitetail and put it down for good.

Persistence paid dividends. Not rocket science, just perseverance, determination and a will to win. Of course, other important abilities must be factored in: knowing how to read a track, how to play the wind, and anticipating the buck’s behavior are all part of the equation that leads to success. Still, the overarching ingredient for most consistently successful big buck hunters is always the same: persistence. Never giving up.

Quick reflexes and marksmanship at the moment of truth help to close the deal.

In our interview, Hal emphasized that neither weather, terrain, or remoteness of the track deters him when there is a wall-hanger eluding him just over the brow of the next ridge. “Darkness is the only thing that stops my tracking efforts,” said the Jackman guide. (Often, if the snow lasts, he will get back on the track the next day).

An experienced woodsman as well, Hal has some strong opinions and observations about big game management in Maine.

The Blood perspective goes something like this:

1. Historically, Maine biologists and wildlife researchers just don’t spend enough time in the woods, the real world. Recently, during a chat with Lee Kantar and Kyle Ravana – Maine’s moose and deer biologists respectively – Hal told them that one of the state’s designated deer yards near Jackman hasn’t seen a wintering deer in 20 years! The active deer yards are not even on the state’s research radar!

2. Maine’s important moose population has been mismanaged for years precisely because there has never been reliable population data. He argues that an excess of moose can be blamed for the winter tick outbreak that took so many animals a few years back. ( He argues that we had many more moose than we figured and could have been operating with much higher harvest quotas.)

3. Kantar is starting to get a handle on true moose numbers with his winter aerial surveys. If, indeed, we do have a statewide population of 76,000 moose then our fall harvest quota should be double what it is. He notes that we customarily take 10 percent of our deer and bear annually with no concurrent deleterious effect on populations. So why not harvest 10 per cent of our moose?

Hal is trying to convince moose biologist Lee Kantar that Maine’s moose hunting season should be spread out over four weeks, not only to better distribute the hunting pressure, but to minimize friction between moose hunters and bird hunters during October.


The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He isalso a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected] and his new book is “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook.”

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