Bulldog Camps Review - Maine Ruffed Grouse Trip
Updated: Jan 26
“Well hell, I’m sure I’ll recognize one when I see one right? I mean I’ve seen enough pictures and watched enough hunting shows to know what they look like, right? Where will they be? How do I find them? How do I hunt them? Will Traveller, my young Boykin Spaniel, pick up the scent?” As we drove up the interstate, all these thoughts crossed my mind. I was heading to Maine, trying my chance at a ruffed grouse. I’d never hunted these birds before, let alone seen one in person. All I knew was that they were supposed to be in Maine, and that they were the “King” of game birds.
A simple and quick search on the internet led me to Bulldog Camps in Jackman, Maine. Completely blind, I went ahead and put down my deposit. We know that could go either way, right? I knew for sure I didn’t want a guided hunt, at least not for my first bird with Traveller, my young Boykin Spaniel. I wanted to have to work for our first, to be able to take pride in those first flushes; insert my big ego. While Bulldog Camps does offer guided grouse hunts, along with moose and deer hunting, I chose to just pay for the lodge and meals. It was not a bad deal at all, $150 per person, per day for the lodge and all 3 meals. Bulldog Camps is surrounded by over several million acres of timber company land that is open to hunting. As a salesman, I told my girlfriend that I’d found us some remote cabins away from our busy lives to stay at for a few days right on a lake with beautiful scenery all around. It also helped that Bulldog Camps has hiking trails on these millions of acres and we could possibly see a moose. I personally feel that it is just a matter of semantics that I happen to enjoy wearing blaze orange and carrying my shotgun while going on these hikes.
We pulled up to Bulldog Camps after turning off the hard-top onto a dirt road, and then followed the wooden signs all the way to camp. Immediately, we saw the main building or lodge where meals are served and guests get together for food, drinks, and camaraderie. Looking beyond the main lodge house we saw a few cabins for guests and just beyond that was Enchanted Pond. The pond is extremely deep, at just over 200ft, and is a great place to fish or swim in the summer. We had arrived later than I’d hoped, in the early afternoon. We checked in with Sam, and moved our stuff into the cabin. The cabins were awesome! They have a stovetop, oven, shower (with hot water), sink, wood burning stove (which was plenty to heat our cabin up), and gas lighting. The staff ensured we had plenty of firewood throughout the visit.
Obviously excited to finally be there, as it’s a long drive from Virginia, we decided to take a walk up one of the ATV roads close by to the camp. It was early afternoon, a little later than I planned on arriving. I quickly threw on the vest, put the collar on Traveller, and headed up the trail. Within about 20 minutes Traveller started heading into the grass on my right and I could hear his nose start grunting. He kind of sounds like a pig snorting. A few seconds after that a blur shot up from the grass and flew across the road in front of me. A pure rocket, like a gray ghost, a mirage that I was transfixed by. My eyes saw the bird get up, but my body did not react, I watched as it accelerated towards the opposite tree line. There it was, my first opportunity at a ruffed grouse. I was slow to get my gun up but took the shot as it passed through some tree limbs. Slightly dejected, knowing I’d missed my first chance for a grouse, I tried to focus on the fact that Traveller was able to find and flush one for me. Somehow he knew what he was supposed to be looking for. Traveller had shot after the bird, as he’s not completely steady to the shot and I heard a rustle in the grass in front of me. There came Traveller with a bird in his mouth, as proud as can be. I tried to take in every moment of that retrieve, looking at the barring on its gray breast, the surprisingly softness of the feathers in my hand. Naturally there was a photo op done and I tried to soak in the moment. I’d read so many of Burton Spiller’s, George Bird Evan’s, or one of the other great grouse writers, that this moment had been built up. After our first bird we decided that was good enough for the day, turned back and took a leisurely stroll back to camp to rest and get ready for dinner.
Dinner was amazing. Darren, the owner of Bulldog Camps, was cooking in the kitchen by the bar while us guests swapped stories and had a few libations. We were given appetizers, a main meal, and dessert. Our first night there for our main course we were served a delicious pork ribeye, stuffing, corn, and a cranberry sauce. For dessert we have bread pudding with vanilla ice cream. Not once did I ever have to ask for seconds. Darren and Sam were very respectful and made accommodations for special dietary requirements as well. We finished off the night meeting some of the other guests, swapping hunting stories, and partaking in a few more beverages at the bar in the main lodge.
“What would you like for breakfast tomorrow?” Sam asked. Typically, I don’t eat breakfast on the way to hunt; if anything, it’s a Snickers bar and coffee. Instead, Darren cooked me eggs, bacon, sausage, and possibly the biggest pancake I’ve ever had in my life. We talked to a few of the other guests and I picked Darren’s head on to venture for the morning to help our chances in finding more grouse. We were easily able to navigate to an area where he’d seen some birds and in turn, had a successful morning in the woods and bagged two more birds. After returning to camp and eating lunch, we decided that we’d go check out some of the hiking trails Darren and Sam had told us about. We ended up following one up to a waterfall and wouldn’t you know it, Traveller flushed a grouse right off of it!
We ended up staying for only three nights, but I absolutely intend on going back next hunting season and staying longer. The cabins are rustic but have enough modern amenities that you’re still comfortable. Somewhere in the middle between “roughing it” and “glamping”. From the waterfall, to the mountains, to Enchanted Pond there are plenty of great opportunities for photography. During the summer there are also kayaks and boats for rent that guests can use in the pond as well. Whether it’s a summer family trip or a fall hunting trip there is more than plenty to do for non-hunters and hunters/anglers alike. If you’re looking to head up north to get away from the busy everyday life, maybe chase a few birds with your pup, wet a line in the lake, try your chances at a deer, or just looking for a fun family trip, I would highly recommend looking into Bulldog Camps.
Bulldog Camps & Lodge
PO Box 152
Jackman, ME 04945