October 24, 2007
100 Best Public-Land Hunts: Massachusetts
By Scott Bestul
Moran Wildlife Management Area
Location: west Massachusetts
Size: 1,147 acres
More than 25 percent of Massachusetts bucks are 3 1/2 years or older, according to Tom O’Shea, assistant director of wildlife for the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game. “We’ve got the kind of age structure the Quality Deer Management Association sets as a goal,” O’Shea says, “and our deer densities, while not as high as mid-Atlantic states, are still better than a lot of our New England neighbors.” Big bucks can be found statewide, but the Berkshire Mountains offer some of the most extensive public land acres. Moran is a good place to start: Located on a plateau at 1,700 feet, the WMA’s northern hardwood, spruce, fir, aspen and birch habitat provides lots of security, which means hunters need to mount a drive (a reasonable undertaking on Moran’s relatively gentle terrain) to get deer up and moving.
Nantucket Conservation Foundation lands
Location: east Massachusetts
Size: 8,800 acres
Nantucket Island boasts the state’s highest deer densities and best hunter success rates. “You may not find the biggest bucks there,” O’Shea says, “but you’ll see lots of deer in a really unique hunting environment.” Thirty miles off the Massachusetts coast, Nantucket combines easy terrain with difficult cover: Sandy flats are smothered with gnarly scrub oak and broken pitch-pine canopies. Deer will sit tight until driven out. An island hunt takes some planning to arrange ferry transportation and lodging, but high deer numbers make permits easy to come by over the counter.