2015 Maine Bear Hunt - Turnpike Ridge - The HuntingPA.com Outdoor Community
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post #1 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-30-2015, 02:30 PM Thread Starter
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2015 Maine Bear Hunt - Turnpike Ridge

Two years ago one of my cousins and I started discussing our interest in going to Canada bear hunting. We ended up with the two of us and three of our relatives that had never killed bear. I've wanted to go since I was very young. In the mid 80s to mid 90s, my dad went to North Bay Ontario bow hunting for black bear. He was fortunate to tag 3 bear over that time frame with his bow ranging from 125-325 lbs. They tented out at first then eventually bought a pop up camper just for bear hunting. So this has always been a goal of mine to do what my dad did. One year (I'd guess I was about 7), I was dead set on going with them so I hid myself in the camper right before they pulled out to travel north. Unfortunately they found me before they left...

So doing our research we felt it would be easier to go to Maine. Looking at so many different outfitters, making phone calls to them, calling references...the search kept coming back to Turnpike Ridge Outfitters in Salmon Pool, ME...

Not realizing exactly what we were getting into we packed waaaaay too much. The five of us took an enclosed trailer behind a Toyota Tundra. Plenty of room in that truck. We drove 14 hours to Bangor, ME on Saturday September 12th. Stayed there and did not have to be in camp until dinner time at 6 pm Sunday night. We took our time and pulled in around 3:30 pm.

We did not want to be staying in anything fancy so this place fit us like a glove. We couldn't have been happier with the accommodations. We stayed in a 6 man cabin, there were 3 other cabins that slept 4 hunters then two guides cabins, the owners, Don and Gail Helstrom, had a cabin beside ours. Plus the mess hall out front against the river.

There were a total of 15 hunters for the third week. The first week they had 12 hunters and killed 10 bear, the second week Don had 15 hunters that took 12 bear. All seemed promising and we were eager to get started.

Dinner that night were steaks and potatoes. Afterwards we had orientation. Don has had his guides license for 55 years. He runs a well oiled machine. I cant explain how impressed the five of us were with the whole operation from top to bottom.

The guides included Don and his assistant George. Plus they had a helper name Sim. He was not a guide but just gave Don and George a hand around camp.

We retired to our cabins around 8 pm and discussed our excitement.

Monday morning we got up for breakfast at 7:30 am. Breakfasts included eggs, toast, bacon, sausage, pancakes, French toast, fruit, juice and coffee. At breakfast, the five of us got to sit with the guides in the one room of the mess hall. Afterwards, myself and one of my cousins were talking with Don and asked if we wanted to go for a ride. We jumped and said heck yes. So we grabbed another one of our cousins that was also hunting with a bow and got in Dons truck just to ride around with him while he checked baits. The stories, knowledge and jokes Don cannot be explained. We loved every minute of it. Our other two cousins meanwhile were hunting a couple hours away so them with 6 other hunters and George loaded up the guides trucks with a grille and coolers and their hunting gear and took off at 9 am.

Myself, Todd and John were hunting stands within 10 miles of the camps. So we drove ourselves each night which was not a problem at all to us. We got soaked the first night but Todd saw a bear.

The three of us came back and hung up our clothes inside and I started a fire in the stove to dry everything out.

It was dark by 7:05 pm to where you coudnt see your pins. But when you walked out of the woods it was still daylight it seemed. Shooting hours that week were over by 7:15 pm.

Around 11 pm, our other two cousins, Mike and Joe came back with 2 bear. Another guy also killed that night.

The next night, Todd and John both shot bear.

[img]<a href="http://i437.photobucket.com/albums/qq93/gschnur18/IMG_0545_zpskmr6j4dm.jpg" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">http://i437.photobucket.com/albums/qq93/gschnur18/IMG_0545_zpskmr6j4dm.jpg[/img]</a>

Todd hit his a little back so we left it go until morning. At 6 am, me, Todd and Don took off to go look. We tracked it for a half mile down into this bog. We got to a point where the bear laid down 4-5 times so you knew he was hurting. In some water. Then no blood. We all know that feeling. Sickening. I could see it in Todds eyes. He had given up. Don was walking up the hill to make a loop. But I could smell an animal. I started sniffing and Todd turned around and looked at me. Weve tracked enough deer in our lives from the time we could walk. Im sure some of you know the smell of a deer when youre getting close...

So I started doing some circles in thick stuff and walking this old skidder road, the same one we walked 2-3 times already. I was looking into the dark stuff when I thought I saw a bear laying there...I starred for a few seconds and yep that's it! I was going to go try to be cool and tell Todd to come look this way...but I was waay too excited. I basically ran 40 yards back to him jumping up and down...he followed me back and I'll never forget that face..."is he dead!!?!?!" "is he breathing!??!"...think what you want but then hugged and jumped up and down. Don was pretty proud too.

Every morning after the first day we got up for pictures at 6 am, then skinning and boning your bear. Breakfast then followed. And to your stands by 1-1:30 pm.

The four of those guys were on vacation the rest of the week at that point.

They fished, kayaked, road around the logging roads looking for game, rode around with Don for more education and became the entertainment in camp, in a good way.

I hadn't seen any bear through Thursday night. Don asked if I wanted to move and I said yes, not that I didn't like my stand because my bait was hit every night but you can only look at the same stump for so long...
[img]<a href="http://i437.photobucket.com/albums/qq93/gschnur18/IMG_0431_zps6jnaxywv.jpg" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">http://i437.photobucket.com/albums/qq93/gschnur18/IMG_0431_zps6jnaxywv.jpg[/img]</a>
[img]<a href="http://i437.photobucket.com/albums/qq93/gschnur18/IMG_0431_zps6jnaxywv.jpg" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">http://i437.photobucket.com/albums/qq93/gschnur18/IMG_0431_zps6jnaxywv.jpg[/img]</a>

He and Todd and John put a stand in for me about 30 miles away Friday morning. I hunted it that night. Totally different terrain this time, lots of birch and more mountainous. No bear.

On the way home a cow moose tried to jump into the pick up with us though...

We had planned to leave Saturday night at 9 pm if I had not killed anything by Saturday and drive straight through or 3 am if I would kill something.

Through Friday, we had taken 11/15 bear. One guy left Thursday to drive a couple amish guys back to Ohio. So that left 3 of us Saturday night.

And by the way, you couldn't have asked for a better group of guys in camp. Sometimes you worry there are going to be a couple that are going to be trouble but everyone was awesome.

So I pondered Friday night about what to do Saturday. I was slightly disappointed, not that I didn't harvest a bear but because I didn't get to spend all the time together the other 4 guys did. I enjoyed being in a different set of woods, seeing new things, Ive never seen so many stars in my life and Don and Gail were so accommodating it was unreal.

Saturday night the guys dropped me off and in I went.

The helper Sim, his wife was there also, Marie. She helped Gail do all the cooking. The meals were more than we could have asked for. Steaks, the biggest chicken breasts Ive ever seen, burgers, hot dogs, I cant even remember everything but it was different every day. Then dinners were cold cuts when everyone got back to camp at night.

Marie, Sims wife, told me Friday she was going to give me black licorice, I asked for what. She said it was good luck, eat a piece and then rub some on the trees on the way in.

So I sat in my stand again Saturday night. 34 hours that week and no bear but I was content. The weather was great all week except Monday but we still hunted.

At 5:43 pm I checked the time, then looked up to see black coming down the old skidder road toward the bait. He was facing me looking at the bait, then turned and started smelling where Todd had rubbed the licorice on the maples. I felt like a 12 year trying to shoot his first deer and all I could think of was LICORICE!!!!!

I shot, he looked like a bowling ball when he took off and plowed the cedar trees...

I texted my wife and my dad. My stand and Todds were the only ones that had cell service. That was pretty nice not hearing my phone for a whole week. I was ecstatic at this point. 5 for 5 in our cabin! I couldn't wait to see the other 4. I texted them hoping maybe they were still in town getting their bear meat and hides from the freezer where they had service even though they were an hour and a half from me. No response. I figured they were at camp and they would be coming to get me around 6-6:30 like every night they would sit out a half mile down the road and await my story. I heard the bear do the death moan. So I waited a half hour and got down, snuck out to the road even though I felt like I was running. I could have ran through those cedars and white pines like the bear did. When I got out to the bend where I should see the guys at the truck no one was there! I was slightly disappointed lol. So I paced around for 15 minutes until Don and one of the guys that runs dogs for him from Uniontown pulled up and asked if I had got one. I jumped in the truck and we drove back. I pointed in the direction I heard him moaning. We walked in that direction and came across him piled up in some brush! Before I could say much Don had him gutted and congratulated me. He had a big smile on his face.

2F for a while...
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post #2 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-30-2015, 02:45 PM Thread Starter
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Re: 2015 Maine Bear Hunt - Turnpike Ridge

So we drug him out on a sled and headed back to camp where I couldn't wait to see the guys.

On the way back another moose crossed in front of us..

We pulled into camp around 7:30 pm. Its dark. We backed up passed our cabin and Im waiting for the guys to be making some noise but nothing. So then I thought they were all maybe sleeping since they thought we'd be leaving soon. I looked out the window to see them and the others who were left walking around the front of the mess hall from the fire with flash lights and no one is saying anything...they didn't want to whoop and holler if there was nothing in the bed of the truck. Then they flashed a light in the bed as we got close to the game pole...WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO we all started screaming and jumping up and down. Such a good feeling to share this stuff with a bunch of guys you've known your whole life and ones you just met that enjoy hunting the same as you. We skun him out right then and boned the meat, listened to more of Dons stories and laughed. Around 9 pm the other trucks were coming back the road and turned around to back in...this usually meant theres a bear on the truck...the power steering was out of Georges truck so he did a 52 point turn and started back the lane toward us...

We all waited quietly I guess as they did to me also...there laid 2 more bears! That made 3 more that night and 14 out of 15 guys! So much excitement and happiness all around. George and Don were both smiling. You could tell how happy they were for everyone that got bears. It was nice to see that.

So we set out what we wanted to do. Be in the middle of nowhere, staying in cabins and hunting new territory with each other. Don and Gail couldn't have been more welcoming to us.

I cant thank them enough. Some of the reviews you read are negative because "you have to carry your own water and heat it up for a shower". HA! This is awesome!

Or split your own wood! We're all hard working people. Didn't bother us one bit. There was a bunch of wood already split, you would just have to make some kindling if needed. No big deal.

Take me back to the North Woods...

2F for a while...
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post #3 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-30-2015, 03:12 PM
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Re: 2015 Maine Bear Hunt - Turnpike Ridge

Looks great. I am thinking about getting a group together and head to Maine. Might have to check this place out.
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post #4 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-30-2015, 04:46 PM
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Re: 2015 Maine Bear Hunt - Turnpike Ridge

Looks like you guys had a great time. We did a hunt to Ontario a few years back and believe me you will never forget this hunt! Congrats again.
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post #5 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-30-2015, 05:11 PM
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Re: 2015 Maine Bear Hunt - Turnpike Ridge

Awesome hunt Q2! Looks like beautiful country up there and a very nice camp; awesome story and pics.

Congrats to all of you on some really nice bears!
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post #6 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-30-2015, 05:11 PM
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Re: 2015 Maine Bear Hunt - Turnpike Ridge

Great write up and congrats on the success! I hunted with Don 13 years ago and what an operation. I wouldn't want to bear hunt with anyone else. He does absolutely everything in his power to make sure that every hunter has had at least a chance. Glad to see that he is still running the operation exactly the same.
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post #7 of 22 (permalink) Old 09-30-2015, 06:14 PM
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Re: 2015 Maine Bear Hunt - Turnpike Ridge

Excellent story of an awesome hunt! Congrats to you and your buddies!

Shoot straight

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post #8 of 22 (permalink) Old 10-01-2015, 04:13 AM
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Re: 2015 Maine Bear Hunt - Turnpike Ridge

Don, Gail, and George are top notch for sure. I have been blessed to hunt Salmon Pool three times. Tagging out on each trip with the biggest being 400 pounds. I put in for a moose tag each year with the hope of hunting with the Maine Legion Don again. Won't hold my breathe on getting a moose tag but I sure want to smell that mountain air again soon. Especially after seeing those pictures and remembering all the memories with friends and family at the wonderful place. Congrats on your awesome trophies and adventure". Good huntin'
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post #9 of 22 (permalink) Old 10-01-2015, 11:49 AM
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Re: 2015 Maine Bear Hunt - Turnpike Ridge

Todd here,
One of the 5 that went in the original post. Q did an excellent job telling the story of our week. But you guys have been to Turnpike, know it really doesnt do it justice. the whole experience was just amazing, and the memories and stories will live on for ever. Not knowing what to expect, it was exactly what we were hoping for. To find a camp like that in the remoteness of Salmon Pool is just crazy. When the kitchen generator shuts off at night, there is not a sound to be heard other than the brook flowing into the river, with the ever growing canopy of stars right above your head. As was stating we road along with Don several days and those of you who know him or have a chance to meet him know what we are talking about. He is top notch, and really loves what he does. at age 73 and a few years removed from hip surgery and a guide or two short, he was lugging bait everyday and you really couldnt tell he was 1/2 that age, unless your started adding up all the stories and jokes. But i just wanted to 2nd Q's original post and say what an absolutely great trip we had.

"I'm going to catch it in the coat... and smack it with the hammer" - Chevy Chase
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post #10 of 22 (permalink) Old 10-02-2015, 01:32 AM
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Re: 2015 Maine Bear Hunt - Turnpike Ridge

Looks like a great place. That is a true Hunt!! congrats!!
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