In the Northeast, big deer are remote deer. Draw a line on a map from the Appalachian Mountains in eastern West Virginia and western Maryland up through the central highlands of Pennsylvania and on into New York’s Adirondacks, and you’ll see where to find the biggest bucks. Continue across the northern Green Mountains in Vermont into northern New Hampshire and on to Maine’s Great North Woods. That’s where big starts at 230 pounds dressed weight.
Recently, I hunted with Frank Santos and a group of friends in western Maine looking for my own big deer. We drove to a fishing camp that kept the help’s dormitory open for us to hunt from. They fed us like kings; they needed to, as we climbed mountains and forded streams, sweated hard and froze cold. “Stump jumping,” it’s called up here. The deer, big as they are, are spread wide and you have to seek them out.
And I did see him once, a huge deer with bulky ivory-tipped tines, ghosting across the top of a rock outcrop. He stopped and looked down on me, snorted disdainfully as I raised my .30/06, and was gone before I could find him in the scope. He was the only deer I saw in a week of hard hunting.
When that week in the mountains of Maine ended, I drove down to the foothills of Vermont on opening day and admired the two bucks that were already hanging in deer camp. They whetted my appetite for stand-hunting and for picking a good freezer specimen. I chose a fork-horn on my third day and was happy to have him.
That’s typical deer hunting in the Northeast, where many will chase their wall-hanger for a time, then turn to surer spots for the larder. You don’t have to go far, either. In West Virginia, big bucks come out of the Monongahela National Forest, but nearby Upshur County produces over 16 deer per square mile in all seasons. In Pennsylvania, maybe you can find a big buck in Rothrock or Bald Eagle state forests, south and east of State College, respectively. Hunt the rift valleys between the ridges to fill your tag. In New York, if you want the biggest bucks in the state, head for the High Peaks Region of Adirondack Park, Deer Management Region 5F, then resort to the Hudson River Valley east of the river in Washington County, regions 5K and 5N.
Vermont’s biggest bucks come from the Northeast Kingdom and from the spine of the Green Mountains, but the state’s highest deer kill are in the lower Champlain Valley or, across the mountains, in the central Connecticut River valley. Hunt New Hampshire’s White Mountain National Forest and the expansive forests of Pittsburgh for bragging-sized bucks, but come west of the mountains to Grafton County for ample deer. And in Maine the northern two-thirds of the state, particularly north of Baxter State Park, is big buck country, while the entire southern tier is prime deer-raising country. Give Somerset County and the Kennebec River valley a shot.
Big is the operative word for anglers in autumn, too. On the coast, the stripers have been gorging all summer. Maine’s Kennebec and Saco River estuaries and bays are hotspots, as is New Hampshire’s Piscataqua River. In Massachusetts, the Cape Cod National Seashore is abandoned after Labor Day, except for devoted surfmen. Try Nauset Beach, which is famed for its huge stripers. Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay will attract and hold stripers all autumn with its abundant forage, particularly off Newport and Point Judith. And Long Island and the Sound hold stripers well into the cold weather. You might even find room now out on Montauk Point.
As autumn progresses, fish become denser along New Jersey’s coast and on into Delaware Bay, so bounce some eels or chunkbait on the bottom just past the surf line or off the jetties. And hold on: This is the time of 40- and 50-pound fish.
There are big spawning landlocked salmon and brook trout to contend with, too, in northern New England and New York. And largemouth bass are feeding throughout the region, as are northern pike and crappies. It’s a time rife with the largest fish and the biggest game of the year, so trophies should be your goal.
For more regional information, go to www.outdoorlife.com/regional
Tom Fuller has hunted and fished in the Northeast for over 50 years and written about it for over 30.