I knew I was going to have a good week deer hunting on Anticosti Island when a deer ran across the firing line as our group was checking the zero on our rifles at the local shooting range. That’s not something you see every day. And I was right. Our group of four each tagged out with two bucks each.
Many American deer hunters have heard of Anticosti Island, but may not know much about it. Anticosti Island is an island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence about the size of Jamaica. It is part of the Province of Quebec. The main hunting outfitter on the island is Sepaq Anticosti, an agency of the Quebec government, but there are also a number of smaller private outfitters, including Safari Anticosti.
Anticosti Island was purchased by Henri Menier, a wealthy French chocolatier, in 1894 as his personal hunting and fishing preserve. In 1896, he introduced some 200 whitetailed deer to the island. That small population has grown to over 160,000 whitetails today, with a density of over 40 per square mile — making for perhaps the best whitetail hunting anywhere.
To give you an idea of what these numbers mean:
- There are so many deer on the island that their waste has polluted the island’s water table, making the water supply unsafe to drink.
- Deer are a near-constant site in the island’s only village, Port Menier (no hunting allowed in town, of course).
- The town tavern has photos on the wall of one of the town’s bucks standing on his hind legs with his front hooves up on the bar; he is such a frequent visitor that they even keep a big bag of cracked corn for him at the back door.
The real beauty of hunting deer on Anticosti is that you can do it just about any way you like. The deer are so numerous, and relatively lightly hunted, that some have never even seen a human (there are only a couple hundred residents). There are also no large predators on the island, so these deer are active during the day rather than being nocturnal. So if you want to hunt from a tree stand or a ground blind, you can do that, but you can also call and rattle them in. But perhaps the most fun way to hunt them is by still hunting.
The island has basically one main road that runs from one end to the other. This road has numerous secondary roads branching off it, each of which spawns countless trails used for hunting. A common scenario is for your guide to drop you off at the head of one of these trails at the start of the day, and then pick you up at the other end at a pre-determined time, hopefully along with your deer. If you walk slowly and quietly down one of these trails, with your eyes and ears peeled, you will see deer, hopefully before they see you. This is a great place to teach a young hunter how to hunt. But be warned, they could become spoiled and think deer hunting is like that everywhere.
The island’s forage is almost exclusively spruce, which is not the most nutritious food source (but it does give the venison a delicate flavor). Owing partly to this, and also to their sheer numbers, Anticosti’s whitetails are smaller in body and antler than most areas of North America. In fact, Safari Club International has now recognized them as a distinct sub-species.
The island hosts about 4,000 deer hunters per year, with a two-deer limit. Outfitters offer lots of different packages and options, including ones as short as two days. They tend to be very reasonably priced, especially for groups and families. And if you are wondering, the outfitters and guides all speak English, and there is lots of English spoken in town as well.
Simply put, you will have more close encounters on a single hunting trip to Anticosti Island than most hunters will have in a decade of deer hunting elsewhere. Every deer hunter should visit this whitetail heaven at least once.