For moose hunters, the opening week of Maine’s split-session season can offer significant opportunities. It can also present serious obstacles that must be overcome.
When it comes time to lure a big-bodied moose out of his shady lair, those September hunters sometimes find themselves at the mercy of Mother Nature.
If it’s cool … things are cool.
And if it’s hot … you might have to reconsider your plan.
According to the state’s head moose biologist, this year’s September hunters had a near-perfect week of weather.
What a difference a year makes.
“This year we had 1,133 permits for September,” Lee Kantar said. “Last year, during September, overall, we had a 71 percent success rate. But I believe last September we had some pretty warm days.”
Moose hunters know that the burly critters aren’t likely to gallop past on hot days, and Kantar said warm hunting weather has another effect as well: The hunters act differently.
Some give up entirely, while others change hunting tactics or only hunt early mornings or late afternoons.
“If we judge a warm day as having an effect on hunter behavior and their selectivity and that kind of stuff, we would expect given the nice weather and the very cool mornings that we’re going to have a better success rate this year,” Kantar said.
Morning moose hunters were greeted to light frost in many of the northern Wildlife Management Districts where hunting was allowed, and afternoon temperatures struggled to reach the 60s.
After the 80-degree afternoons that hunters dealt with early in the September season a year ago, the crisp days were welcome.
Kantar said the success rate for this year’s September season could jump 10 percent, meaning that more than 900 moose may have been taken already.
During the September season hunters were assigned to one of eight Wildlife Management Districts in northern and northeastern parts of the state.
The second six-day session of Maine’s moose-hunting season runs from Oct. 13-18, with another 1,747 hunters trying to fill their tags. An additional 11 WMDs will be open to hunting during the October season.
And for the first time this year, a third session will be held during November in some more southerly districts. A total of 135 permits were awarded for WMDs 15, 16, 23 and 26.
Kantar spent the opening week at a tagging station in Kokadjo, and said he saw 32 moose registered there.
“The biggest one I saw was 975 pounds,” Kantar said. “Up in District 3 [which includes Madawaska and Fort Kent], we had one taken that was 1,125 pounds [field-dressed], which, live weight would be just over 1,500 pounds. So it was a monster.”
Kantar said that past reports of even bigger moose interest him, because at least one scientific text claims eastern moose reach a maximum size of 1,300 to 1,400 pounds, live weight.
“We’re clearly harvesting moose in September that are above and beyond that,” Kantar said.
Kantar said the hunters he spoke to were primarily hunting in WMD 4, which stretches from the Canadian border in the west to the Allagash Wilderness Waterway in the east, and from the Golden Road in the south to the American Realty Road in the north.
The majority of those hunters reported seeing plenty of moose, and Kantar said those reports echo ongoing research of the DIF&W.
Kantar explained that each moose hunter is required to complete a survey that includes a question about moose sightings. During the November deer season, a random sample of hunters is also taken, and those hunters are also asked how many moose they saw.
Paying close attention to both indices is important, because they cast light on divergent situations.
During moose season, for instance, hunters are actively looking for moose, and are often calling them. A disadvantage: Visibility is limited because leaves haven’t dropped from trees.
During November, hunter interaction with moose is more random, since deer hunters aren’t really looking for the animals. Still, hunters are often able to see moose from longer distances because foliage has dropped.
Kantar said when you add those two surveys together to examine six-year moose-sighting trends, WMD 4 is unique.
“That’s the one [WMD] that both indices are showing an upward trend,” he said.
It’s time for breakfast
With only a month to go until the opening day of the state’s firearms deer season it’s time to start setting our priorities.
Specifically, it’s time to start thinking about hunters breakfasts.
Dozens of civic organizations sponsor the epic feeds during the season, and we want to let people know where they can fill up their bellies before spending the day in the woods.
If your group is planning a hunters breakfast … or lunch … or supper … please e-mail the information to the address below. Or, if you choose, you can send them to me at Bangor Daily News, attn: John Holyoke, PO Box 1329, Bangor, 04402-1329.
Many of those hunters meals are scheduled for opening morning — Nov. 1 — but plenty of others will be held throughout November.
We’ll keep track of those meals, and periodically print a rundown so you can plan accordingly.
As I always say, I can’t be sure I’ll see deer when I go hunting. I can’t be sure I’ll stay dry.
But I can always make sure I’m well fed … and that’s a pretty good start.
My stomach’s growling already.