From the BDN Archive: Maine’s moose hunt attracts crowds of onlookers

Posted June 16, 2010, at 1:40 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:21 p.m.

This column originally ran on Wednesday, September 26, 1990.

Monday’s gunmetal-gray sky and raw northwest wind failed to cool the interest of the crowd gathered at the Greenville tagging station on the opening day of Maine’s one-week moose hunt.

“It’s amazing,” said Paul Fournier, media coordinator for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “For nine years now, the enthusiasm has diminished very little; and many of these people are non-hunters.” The attraction, of course, is the opportunity to view at close quarters North America’s largest big-game animal — and an impressive animal it is.

While biologists removed a tooth from each registered moose to determine its age, bystanders old, young, and in between crowded around to touch antlers with webs as wide as snow shovels, to stroke coarse neck hackles, and to soberly examine huge splayed hooves. As winches whined at the weighing station, good-natured bets on the weight of each moose were as abundant as blaze-orange hats.

Obviously, the hunt, which is restricted to the shooting of 1,000 moose, is enjoyed by more than the permitted hunters and their subpermittees.

The first moose checked at the Greenville tagging station was a bull that weighed 910 pounds. A prime specimen, it was shot at Shirley Flats at about 6:25 a.m. by Steve McCabe Sr. of Monmouth. The hunter had scouted the animal earlier, and didn’t waste any time tagging it.

Evident in the earliest activity — moose brought in from nearby locations — at the station was the excellent condition of the animals. Each carcass processed at the mobile County Line Packing and Storage facility displayed layers of white fat accumulated during a summer of browsing in bogs and cuttings.

You’re aware, of course, that getting a moose out of its skin quickly is the most important factor in eliminating spoilage. County Line Packers, therefore, has been a valued and appreciated part of the moose hunt since 1982. More than a few of the opening-day onlookers remarked at the efficiency of the meat cutters.

From the time a carcass was hung on the hooks, no more than 15 minutes elapsed before it was skun, quartered, and trolleyed into the cooler. The meat, packaged and frozen, would be picked up at the company’s main office in Gorham. The cost to process a moose is 35 cents per pound, with head and hooves attached. If you’ve ever carved up one of the critters, you know there were no complaints.

Beginning at about 10:30, activity at the station increased as hunters who spent hours winching moose out of the woods arrived. Bob Profenno of Freeport brought in an 895-pound bull that he shot near the shores of East Moxie Lake when Monday was slightly more than six hours old. It took two shots from the hunter’s .30-06 to drop the large-antlered animal.

John Gallagher of Damariscotta entered the moose lottery at the urging of his teenaged son, David. Needless to say, the boy was hunting as subpermittee when his father sighted his .300 Savage at a young bull moose near Cassidy Deadwater. It was 6:48 a.m. when they began winching the 400-pounder into the bed of Gallagher’s pickup.

Speaking of boys, on that particular morning it would have been difficult to find one more excited than 12-year-old Jason Brown of Cornville. Hunting in the vicinity of Austin Pond with his father and subpermittee, Ronald Brown, the youngster displayed the marksmanship of a veteran rifleman. With a shot fired from a Remington .308, he dropped a cow moose at a range of 200 yards, give or take. At 6:33 the Brown boys attached a block and tackle to the moose and began yarding her out inch by inch. It’s possible that Jason Brown may shoot another moose or two in his lifetime; but you can bet that the memory of his first one will never lose its luster.

“Ric” Riccardi of Armonk, N.Y., and his guide, Bob Lawrence, trucked in an 850-pound bull with enormous antlers. Riccardi dropped the bull which, accompanied by three cows, was browsing in a clearcut near Nursery Pond. The rifle that delivered the .30-06 punch at a range of more than 200 yards WVRR HxGerman-made Blaser “Ultimate.” It was the first Maine moose for the New York sportsman, who has successfully hunted the animals in Alaska and Ontario.

Near Norcross Mountain, Robert Labrecque of Jay spotted a heavyweight bull following two cows into a cutting. A minute or so later, at 6:45 to be exact, the hunter’s .308 Remington left the cows unescorted. Labrecque’s hunting partner, “Butch” Walsh, administered the coup de grace to the moose, which weighed in at 920 pounds.

Last spring, Lois Watson of Eddington applied for a moose permit and her name later was drawn in the lottery. Monday morning, her husband, Dick, hunting as her subpermittee, began calling in an area he had scouted near the shore of Second Roach Pond. Directly, two cow moose appeared in a clearing. Minutes later, after a god-awful ruckus back in the woods, a young bull went galloping across the clearing in high gear. Seconds afterward, what was undoubtedly the undisputed “head and horns” of that territory stepped out.

That was his mistake. At a range of about 150 yards, Dick Watson’s 7mm Mauser put an end to that ol’ swamper’s reign. The hunters then went and fetched Jesse Pierce and his ox, “Duke.” Dick and Lois Watson watched in awe as the ox twitched the moose out of the clearing without even working up a sweat. The majestic ani-mal weighed 980 pounds.

It was the largest of the 50 moose registered at the Greenville tagging station as of 2 p.m. on opening day. The trophy head and antlers will be mounted at Ken Demmonds’ Pine Ridge Taxidermy shop in East Dixmont.

Those were but a few of the moose registered in Greenville on opening day of the 1990 moose hunt.

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