For the better part of a week, Shandy Schroder had a moose hunt that many would have described as miserable. The weather was foul. And the moose didn’t cooperate.
“Come the end of the week, everyone starts wondering,” the Bangor woman said. “I never said, ‘I don’t think I’m going to get a moose.’ I kind of tried to stay positive and said, ‘I’m not going to see anything if I’m not out there hunting.’
On Tuesday it rained. On Wednesday her rifle scope broke. On Friday the remnants of a tropical storm rolled through.
And still, she left the comfortable Ludlow camp she and her husband, Matthew, own, and went hunting.
“Rain, shine, mud, tired, hungry, I went out there,” she said.
Friday, she said, was the worst day of the week.
“I couldn’t have been any wetter if I had fallen in the pond. I was soaked. But I was still out there, every day,” she said.
When Saturday, the final day of her six-day season, dawned brighter — and without rain — Schroder rose early … again … and headed back into the woods, hoping for the best.
“My son and husband stayed at the camp. They were tired of getting up every day and not having any luck,” Schroder said. “So I met with a friend at his farm and we went out on all the back roads and fields again. I took him back to his farm at about 10. He was going to do his chores. We were going to meet up later and go do the fields again.”
That wouldn’t be necessary.
“I went back to camp and made my son, [4-year-old Robbie] lunch, then grabbed a granola bar and a water and went out myself to hunt, alone,” she said. “I said, ‘When you guys are done eating, go out behind the cabin and make your way down to me.’”
When Matthew and Robbie finally started through the woods, they ended up hearing the conclusion of Schroder’s successful hunt.
“About an hour later, they left [camp],” Schroder said. “[Robbie] was skipping down the woods trail with my husband and they were throwing moose calls back and forth to each other. They heard something in the woods and they noticed tracks in the woods. ‘Wow, that’s a big track.’ They start following the tracks and about 10 seconds later they hear me shoot, close by.”
Schroder said she thinks her son’s calls might have prompted the moose to move, though the moose didn’t actually move closer to Robbie and his dad. Even if his calls had nothing to do with her success, she’s happy her son had a good time in the woods.
And she’s happy that her hunt ended so well.
Her bull moose was a bruiser, after all. It weighed 852 pounds, field-dressed, and sported antlers with a 54¾-inch spread.
And she got to spend a lot of time hunting with her husband and Robbie, even though keeping a 4-year-old occupied was sometimes a challenge.
“We had some friends who were riding with us in the truck, two in the front seat, two in the back seat, with Robbie in the middle,” Schroder said. “And a 4-year-old, after an hour or so of riding beside you, they start hitting you. We had baby jail in the back seat. The guys would hold him down in baby jail. We would get out to do the calls and he would yell out the window, ‘Hey! Good job! Or, ‘I have to pee!’ Or, ‘I need more juice!’ He was just excited.”
At times, Matthew sat in the truck with Robbie, closed the windows, and let the other members of the hunting party go on without them. That worked for awhile, but wasn’t ideal.
“That worked for a couple hours, but it wasn’t worth it,” she said. “We were there to hunt together. It was fun. I took him through the woods with me lots of times when we’d stop and get out. He actually did better walking through the woods than he was riding in the car. Because he was doing something that he wanted to be doing.”
And he was learning a skill few other 4-year-olds can boast. Upon his return to Bangor, Robbie didn’t waste much time showing his preschool classmates what he learned in the Maine woods.
“I just met with his teacher last week and she said it was a riot. He went up in front of the class and they all did the moose call together, a bunch of 4-year-olds,” she said.
And Robbie is already making plans to put his moose-calling skills to work in the future, Schroder said.
“He actually asked me if, when he’s big enough to go hunting, I will go with him,” Schroder said. “And if he can be the shooter. He’s excited about it.”
Duo scores big
Back in June, I told you about Herb Melanson of Orono and Tom Cole of Bangor, two longtime hunting buddies who each received moose permits for the same zone, during the same week. Both, as you may recall from a previous column, were listed as the second shooter on his pal’s hunt. And Cole just happened to own a camp in eastern Maine’s Wildlife Management District 19, where the hunts would take place.
This morning I’m happy to give you an update on the duo’s successful hunts.
Melanson bagged his moose, a burly 900-pounder with a 53-inch spread, on Oct. 1 — the second-to-last day of his hunt. Cole ended up using virtually all of his allotted time before he filled his tag.
Here’s Melanson’s account of his buddy’s hunt.
“My hunt on Friday was great, but Tom’s hunt was the icing on the cake,” Melanson said in an e-mail. “On Saturday, I had to get my moose tagged and in the cooler, so I returned to Tom’s camp around noon. Tom had been out that morning with no luck.”
After an afternoon hunt paid no dividends, Cole had an important decision to make.
“I told Tom, ‘We have a little over an hour to hunt, so what do you want to do? Ride the roads, or call one in?’” Melanson wrote. “The weather on Saturday afternoon was perfect for calling in a moose. The temperature was dropping fast and the winds were calm.”
Decision made, they headed to a likely spot on the north side of Cranberry Lake, only to find that another hunter already was there.
Time for Plan B.
Melanson says Cole wanted to ride the roads, but Melanson lobbied hard for the alternative.
“I quickly pointed out that it was the best conditions that we’d had all week and that he should try to call one in,” Melanson wrote. “If you know Tom and his passion to call moose, it wasn’t a hard sell.”
At another spot Cole had picked out, Melanson and friend Dave Pike raked and broke branches and raked the ground, trying to sound like moose. Cole made his best “I’m in love cow calls,” according to Melanson.
“I can only imagine what [Tom’s wife] Erica was thinking at this point,” Melanson wrote.
Whatever she thought, she didn’t have much time to think it: Within five minutes, a bull moose responded to their efforts.
“We heard the antlers going through the bush, what an awesome sound,” Melanson wrote. “He stepped out into the [clearing] and Tom downed him at 60 yards.”
After a hard week of hunting, Cole filled his tag in the final minutes of the season.
“And yes, he was quick to add, ‘You can’t rush these things. It was all part of my master plan,’” Melanson wrote.
Cole’s moose weighed 740 pounds, field-dressed, and its antlers had a 45½-inch spread.
Melanson, while admitting he doubted Cole’s master plan called for waiting until the closing minutes of the season to fill his tag, said the entire week was just what he’d hoped for.
“You had the ups and downs throughout the week, and I was not feeling too positive when I hit the road on Friday, but with great, positive friends who have been through this before, it all worked out,” Melanson wrote. “The moose gods delivered. This was truly a hunting trip of a lifetime and I was so glad to share it with great friends.”
One big old moose
And finally, for those of you who maintain that 30 years of moose-hunting has removed all the biggest critters from the gene pool, consider the story of Harpswell hunter Michael LaPlante.
LaPlante returned to his Aroostook County roots during the first week of the season and hunted in Wildlife Management District 3. On Sept. 28, he filled his tag with a mammoth moose, which weighed 1,192 pounds, field dressed. The moose sported headgear with a 55½-inch spread.
“It was weighed at Northstar Variety Store in New Sweden,” LaPlante reported in a letter he sent to the BDN. “A tooth was extracted to determine its exact age, approximated to be 10-13 years. The local game warden and biologist were just amazed at the size of this majestic giant.”
According to previous published accounts, the largest moose taken during Maine’s modern moose hunt — from 1980 on — was a 1,330-pounder shot in Masardis in 1982.
LaPlante said he hunted near the Deschaines Road in Van Buren and received a lot of help from residents and fellow hunters getting his massive moose out of the woods.
“My thanks are extended to all involved and the hospitality of the Aroostook people is out of this world,” LaPlante wrote.