ANTICOSTI ISLAND ADVENTURE
by Gerry Rightmyer (Forever Wild Outdoors)
It’s been a little more than two weeks since returning home from Anticosti Island, Quebec. I’ve returned to work, busy as usual, trying to take care of family duties, work obligations, and the myriad of items required to keep a television show on track and ready to air for 2018. It’s the never-ending continuum, balancing my day job, my family, and a nationally recognized television show. It’s a lot of work, but heck… I’m not complaining. It’s still archery season here in Western New York, and I’ll be heading to Southern Ohio in one week chasing whitetails, and a week later, spotting and stalking Sitka blacktails on Kodiak Island, Alaska. There are worse things a man can do!
I’ve thought a lot about my whitetail hunt with Sepaq Anticosti… a true adventure. I have to admit though, going into this hunt, I expected deer to be running around the island like rabbits. The legend of Anticosti Island has been spun many a time. It was up to me to sift through the fact and the fiction of this much sought after hunting destination.
We arrived at Port Menier after several flight delays and finally stepped onto the Island in the late afternoon of October 10th. We met our guide, Yves Lafrance, and after meeting our hunting party, we hopped into the Ford Super Duty, picked up some groceries for the week, and endured a three-hour drive to our final destination… Martin La Mer hunting camp.
Martin La Mer, like most of the varied hunting lodges at Sepaq Anticosti, overlooks the Atlantic Ocean on the southern shore of the island. It was commonplace to observe seals, sea ducks, fox, and other wildlife from the front porch of the cabin. This was markedly different than any hunting lodge I’d ever experienced. Hunting near the ocean was an entirely unique situation. In fact, many whitetails on the island take advantage of the shoreline. Miles of sandy beach were strewn with kelp, a favorite food source for the island-dwelling whitetail. In fact, when winter snows hit the island, island whitetail migrate to the shoreline to take advantage of this mineral-rich food source.
Day one of our hunt would employ a different style of hunting… spot and stalk. When I mean spot and stalk, I’m referring to a slow, methodical approach to hunting whitetail in huge tracts of spruce forest. This form of hunting was something new to me. I felt like I was hunting in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. The objective was to walk as quietly and stealthy along “four wheeler sized” trails, in the hopes that a whitetail would either be feeding on the trail or walking across the trail. Either way, it would be an “up close” shot opportunity at the least, or a “snap shooting chance” at an unsuspecting whitetail. I soon realized that this form of hunting would be very challenging, but at the same time, very exciting if a shot presented itself. The first day we jumped a mature doe bedded amongst some “blow downs”, but no legitimate chance was realized, but hey… it was only day one!
We began day two much the same way… walking trails slowly and quietly, hoping for a glimpse at any deer. We decided to switch things up a bit for the afternoon hunt. The winds were picking up, so we opted to hunt a “swamp”. My hunting partner, Steve Doudt, would be hunting deer from a makeshift blind with his bow, while I, on the other hand, would be hunting from a carefully built shooting hut nestled on the edge of the swamp. I did manage to see a doe and fawn during the mid-morning, but that was it for day two… three deer in two days… it was looking like it would be a tough hunt unless lady luck changed things up a bit.
On day three, our guide suggested we try a “hidden swamp”. He was confident the swamp would pay dividends if we could only get there. The swamp was “off the beaten path”, and only accessible if we decided to use our GPS (and map), and hike in for an “all day” vigil. We found the swamp close to 11:00 am and decided to sit and glass the marshy bog for the rest of the day. At around 3:00 pm, we had a doe sneak up behind us, and she proceeded to “blow” for a couple of minutes until she decided she’d had enough. We never saw another deer that day. Three days and no shot opportunities… we were discouraged, but still optimistic. No one could blame us for lack of effort. We hunted each day from sunrise to sunset… things just weren’t happening for us.
It was Saturday, October 14th… day four of our six-day hunt. We decided to hunt a different area, one highly recommended by our cabin mates, Richard and Manon, both of whom have hunted the island for 15 consecutive years. The trail was more “open” than other trails, and was bordered on one side by a large ravine. The winds were perfect for this trek, so we decided to give this new hunting area a chance.
As soon as I hit the trail, I immediately liked what I saw. Widely spaced spruce trees made “spotting” deer much easier and the overall terrain allowed for a clearer shot opportunity. The road was a little gravelly, so I focused on walking along the trail as quietly as possible. The other concern I had was making sure I concentrated on the “open areas”. If an opportunity did present itself, I wanted to make darn sure I had time enough to make a good, clean shot. We walked a while and I could feel my body beginning to sweat a little so my hunting partner and I decided to “shed some clothes”, re-hydrate ourselves, and continue down the trail to our final destination.
As we turned a corner on the trail, I began walking up a slight incline. Scanning the trail in front of me, I immediately saw a whitetail doe standing on the edge, staring right at me. With one step to the right, I knew the deer would be out of sight, so I shouldered the Mauser .25-06, aimed, and fired. The beefy doe crashed into some blow-downs and lie dead within seconds. My first Anticosti Island whitetail!I couldn’t have been happier. We hunted as hard as we could for three and a half days, and it finally paid off! Now it was time to focus on filling my second tag.
The afternoon of the fourth day went uneventful. I handed the rifle to my hunting partner and ran the video for him the rest of the afternoon. Shot opportunities were fleeting, and the fifth day was much the same. We had a brief encounter with a doe standing on a ridge-top, but an off-handed shot missed the mark, and we continued on with our hunt. We decided to hunt the shoreline during the afternoon. We saw many trails, piles of droppings, and plenty of sign, but the rains flared-up and we trudged home a little wet, but not discouraged. We still had one day left to hunt!Day six… up at 4:00 am, out the door by 5:00 am, hoping to get a crack at either a doe or buck. The morning hunt was much the same as the previous mornings… no shots fired. We planned on meeting our friends and staff members, Steve and Sarah Byers, for lunch around midday. After a wonderful lunch of fresh salmon, we headed back to camp for an afternoon sit. As we drove back to camp, our guide noticed a doe standing in some brush, not far from our location. Yves quickly stopped the truck; I got out and quickly positioned myself for an off-hand shot. The shot rang out, and the stocky doe dropped in her tracks. We loaded the doe into the truck and headed out for our final afternoon hunt.
I saw five deer just before dark… four doe and one buck. No shots fired, but a good solid hunt all the same. Looking back on this adventure, many might say it was failure… two doe in six full days of hunting. To the contrary… I felt a great sense of accomplishment knowing that I put every ounce of skill, effort, and woodsmanship into this hunt. I got the chance to hunt Anticosti Island, Quebec! I experienced a beautiful island with fantastic scenery, varied and unique wildlife, and met some new and interesting people. That’s what a true adventure is all about!
- Gerry Rightmyer, Forever Wild Outdoors