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Outfitter Review - Turnpike Ridge Outfitters

Submit Date: Oct 28, 2009

Outfitter Information

Outfitter Name: Turnpike Ridge Outfitters

Outfitter / Contact: Don Helstrom

Location: Maine, USA

Hunt Information

Animals Hunted: Black Bear

Game Quality: Good

Game Quantity: Very Good

Accomodations: Fair

Camp Condition: Good

Food Quality: Good

Guide Experience: Outstanding

Other Personal Experience: Very Good

Review Information

Hunter: George Harpole

Phone: 870 247-4595


Would Recommend: Conditionally

Overall Impression: Good

I hunted black bear with Turnpike Ridge Outfitters in September 2009. The camp is located at Salmon Pool in the North Maine Woods near Ashland, ME. The camp is rustic and nice; however, there is no running water available for hunters use. The only water source available to hunters is the Aroostook River and a small PVC pipe providing a trickle of water from a spring. There is a makeshift shower available that requires hunters to carry water from the spring, pour it into a wood fired boiler, heat to temperature and manually pour the heated water into a shower tank for showering. A time consuming camp chore that camp workers should be doing, not the hunters. Restroom facilities consist of a simple double privy with barrel type urinals which is about what would be expected by most hunters at a remote camp. The small PVC spring pipe is the only source for appropriate hand washing. The cabins are heated with wood, lighted with gas lights and are comfortable; however, hunters must split and carry fire wood to the cabins. This is another chore that camp workers should be doing. The cook house is very nice and well organized. There are three meals daily, consisting of breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast consists of bacon, pancakes, french toast, etc. The lunch meal is balanced, consisting of chicken, beef, vegetables, etc. The dinner meal consists of mainly cold cuts and chips and is served after hunters return in the evening toward midnight for some. The ladies that run the kitchen are very efficient although one of them seemed rude at times. There are hidden costs with this outfitter, especially if you have a vehicle in camp. There were approximately 4 guides for about 20 hunters. It was not possible for all hunters to be placed on stands each day using only guide vehicles. Some hunters were required to drive their own vehicles and this was not known up front. Beware of this! The roads are very rocky, destroy standard passenger tires and are very hard on vehicles. Some hunters driving their own vehicles had to purchase new tires to continue hunting. To my knowledge, the guide service never offered to pick up the cost of tire replacement or to defray the cost of gasoline for those using their own vehicles. A big financial plus for the guide service at the cost of the hunters, especially when you consider that some stands were located in excess of 50 miles from the camp. The area has lots of bears with the average running less than 200 lbs. Our hunters took bears weighing less than 100 lbs to in excess of 400 lbs. The three stands that I hunted were well prepared with two having been recently hit. The third showed no evidence of recent activity. This guide service has stringent rules and hunters are expected to comply at all times. Some rules were not safety related and seemed to be odd as I have never experienced this with other bear guides. The guide seems very comfortable with berating hunters with inappropriate language if for some reason a rule is not complied with. Guides also seem comfortable with making fun of some hunters, especially if they in some way do not seem to fit in. Success with this outfitter during my hunt was high with success ratio running at approximately 85 percent. These people have been bear hunting for a long time and are good at what they do. This outfitter in my view is out-of-line with it's tip policy. The outfitter requires all tips to be put into a pool which is apparently split between workers. I offered tips to individual workers that were not accepted. I feel it is up to the hunter to tip however he feels inclined to do so without being regulated in this personal matter by the guide service. I would not unconditionally recommend this outfitter to others. I would not do so mainly because:(1)In my opinion all hunters were not always treated equally and with the respect that a paying guest should receive and (2)Utilizing your own vehicle to the cost of $20.00 - $40.00 a day, not to mention wear and tear is unreasonable. If the negatives are not a significant problem for you, the many positives could make Turnpike Ridge Outfitters what you are looking for in your pursuit of taking a black bear in the beautiful North Maine Woods.

Outfitter Response: I have personally hunted with TPRO 9 times in the past 20 years. I have been in the Daquamm camp in Quebec,Salmon Pool camp which he refers to, and Prays Camps on the Golden Road. Though nothing he describes, in the camp he was in, is incorrect, HE is incorrect. I have have copies of Dons mailing brochures going back for decades. I have stood and listened to him talk for hours at sportsman shows to people I have taken to see him and to many others. He is quite forward and honest in print and in person about the conditions of each camp. The odds of getting a flat tire while hunting with him, or doing a DIY trout fishing trip in the same area are the same. Don tells all his hunters that the roads are shale surfaces and you should have GOOD tires when you get there. I saw enough people ,including the guides, have flats that by the time I went back the second time I took a plug kit and a small compressor along. This rig goes with me now no matter where I go. In 9 trips with TPRO I only had 1 flat and the guide repaired it while I left to go hunt. A more than sufficient supply of wood is always cut and ready to go. The most you will have to do is make a few strokes into some spruce wood for kindlin.Yes you do heat your own bath water, and carry some water less than the distance you go to get your paper off the lawn. But so are the other 19 guys who are standing around waitin on the water to get hot and take their shower. Personally I have found this to be a bonding time,getting to know the other hunters and swapping tales. Don explains to all prospective clients that is part of the reason he can sell the hunt for the price he does is by the use of clients vehicles. The use of clients vehicles also allows him to cover a much larger area in order to have a better opportunity for all his clients to have a better chance for a bear. Sounds like you should have opted for the southern camp with hot and cold water,oil furnace, and the general store 200 feet away. Me I kinda like the connection of the Salmon Pool camps and the romantic notion that I am walking on the same ground that Theodore Roosevelt did 120 years before me.Numbers don't lie. In 9 trips I have taken 29 hunters with Don. only 1 never saw a bear,The other 28 sighted 83 bear,killed18,missed 5,and 6 came home empty handed after passing on multiple bears each that didn't make our personal minimum size of 250#.Of the 18 killed only one was under 150#, 1 was over 300#,1 over 400# and one in excess of 600#.The other 14 were all in the 200 to 300 pound range. Where else are you going to get this kind of opportunity for quality,experience,at his prices. PS. of my 29 hunters 2 were over the age of 70 and got their bears, and 3 were women who came home with their rugs. DWK

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