June 22, 2018
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First week of moose hunt starts Monday

Contributed | BDN
Contributed | BDN
By John Holyoke, BDN Staff

First week of moose hunt starts Monday

The waiting is over for many who’ve spent years waiting for their chance to embark on an adventure many call “the hunt of a lifetime.”

Yes, it’s moose season again in Maine, and for the next six days, more than 1,000 permit-holders will head afield.

For some, it will be the first time moose hunting after years of applying for the annual lottery. Many others are veteran moose hunters who’ll be driving the back roads, setting up near bogs and trying to call the burly critters within range.

In all, 3,015 moose hunters earned the right to target moose through the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife’s annual lottery. Three seasons are planned for this year, in a departure from past two-session hunts.

This year’s moose hunt will be a bit different from those in past years in another way as well; Typically, there has been a one-week buffer between the two moose-hunting seasons.

This year, there will be two weeks between the first session and the second session.

The first season runs from Monday through Saturday, while the second will be held from Oct. 13-18.

In the past, DIFW officials have explained that the buffer week was inserted so that bird hunters would be able to enjoy their own opening week without vying for space with moose-hunters.

This year, the hunting season for upland birds begins on Oct. 1, which falls on a Wednesday, but they’ll also be able to enjoy a full week of their own from Oct. 6-11.

A total of 1,133 hunters will try to fill moose tags during the first session this year (967 for bulls, 166 for cows). Hunting during the first weeklong season is confined to eight Wildlife Management Districts in northern and northeastern regions of the state.

In October, another 1,747 hunters will head afield (1,133 with bull tags, 614 with cow tags). During the October season, another 11 WMDs will be open to hunting.

And for the first time, a limited November hunt will be staged in some more southerly Wildlife Management Districts. Those 135 permits were awarded in WMDs 15, 16, 23 and 26. Maine hunters can begin hunting on Nov. 1, while non-residents can start on Nov. 3. The season runs until Nov. 29.

Resident hunters whose names were drawn during the June lottery then paid an additional $52 for their moose permits. Non-resident hunters were required to ante up $477 for their moose permit.

Lee Kantar, the state’s head moose biologist, said that hunters may find hunting conditions different than usual in certain parts of the state.

Kantar said that research has indicated that when more than 36 inches of snow is on the ground for prolonged periods during the winter, it may stress some moose.

The severe winter that the moose herd endured in north-ern Maine met that criterion, and hunters in northern WMDs may notice some changes.

“There’s certainly been some anecdotal information out there, observations from both sportsmen and biologists out in the field, that in northern Maine this winter moose suffered in some areas,” Kantar said. “The vulnerability of a moose during the wintertime to mortality is going to be dependent on the sex and age and body condition of that moose.”

That may mean, for example, that female moose which weren’t in good physical condition before the winter may have died in larger numbers than other, healthier male moose.

“That makes a different dynamic for a guy going out there to moose hunt, whether he’s got a bull tag or an antlerless tag,” he said. “It could potentially change, slightly, the availability of that moose that that person’s looking for.”

With that said, Kantar said he didn’t necessarily expect the harvest rate of moose — typically about 75 to 80 percent of hunters bag one — would change.

“It may just mean that [hunters] select a little bit differently than in the past,” Kantar said.

“It will be interesting to see what happens. I hope that cooler conditions prevail and that moose are moving around up north in this first, September, week,” Kantar said. “And then we’ll see what happens in November.”

North Maine Woods update

As you may remember, during the spring and summer months many roads and bridges in the North Maine Woods were damaged or destroyed by flooding.

Seeing as how many moose hunters utilize the 3.5 million acres of commercial forest land that make up the North Maine Woods during their hunts, I got in touch with NMW executive director Al Cowperthwaite and asked for an update on road conditions.

Cowperthwaite said most of the news from the vast North Maine Woods is good.

“Bridges on all the major roads that were damaged by spring and summer flooding have been either temporarily or permanently repaired,” Cowperthwaite said in an e-mail.

“There are still some bridges and culverts out on spur roads, but there are still thousands of miles of private roads available to scout for moose,” he said.

There are possible complications that may arise, however.

“For hunters traveling into [WMD] 1, Moody Bridge that crosses the St. John River near Daaquam has been scheduled for removal in September, but we understand that work crews have been waiting for special equipment to start the job so the bridge may still be passable next week,” Cowperthwaite said. “Once this bridge is removed, then access to the forest land north of the American Realty Road and between the St. John River and the Quebec border will only be accessible from St. Pamphile. Moody Bridge should be removed by the first of October.”

The landowners in the North Maine Woods allow us to utilize their land for recreational purposes, and many of us have taken advantage of that privilege in the past.

Cowperthwaite simply asks that recreational users be considerate of work crews that may be in the area.

“We do ask for cooperation from hunters,” he said. “Participating in a moose hunt is a very exciting experience, especially when hunters spot moose near a roadway. But there is nothing more frustrating for woods workers than coming onto a vehicle parked in the middle of the road — doors wide open with the occupants off in the woods chasing a moose or partridge.

“We ask them to please to pull off the traveled way so people who work in the woods can get to and from their work sites,” he said.

Many hunters take advantage of the fall breeding season and the fact that bulls become more active while seeking a mate, and choose to call in their moose.

Cowperthwaite said that folks in the North Maine Woods have seen evidence that moose hunters might have pretty good luck using that tactic this week.

“The full moon, cooler weather and biological instincts have kicked in and this past week we’ve witnessed a good number of bull moose on the move,” he said.

And for those who are eagerly awaiting bird season, don’t fret: Cowperthwaite has some good news for you, too.

“P.S.,” he wrote. “Grouse are showing up very well.”

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

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