ASHLAND, Maine — Ed Csenga has hunted big game around the globe, but one classic adventure had been missing from his resume, he admitted late Monday morning.
He’d never been on a Maine moose hunt.
In June, the Keene, N.H., man learned that his luck had changed … twice.
“I’ve put in [to the state-run permit lottery] for 16 years. Sixteeen years. And not only [did I get a permit], my subpermittee, he put in for one year and we have to come back up here in another week and go hunt his moose,” Csenga said.
Csenga and friend Billy Lazzero of Eastchester, N.Y., headed into the woods on Monday morning, the first day of the first session of Maine’s moose hunt. They were among 840 permit holders who were allowed to take part in a bulls-only hunt in one of eight Wildlife Management Districts in extreme northern and northeastern parts of the state.
Hunters taking part in this session will have six days to fill their tags. In all, 3,725 permits have been allotted for this year’s hunting sessions. The other season dates and details:
- Oct. 8-Oct. 13: 19 WMDs open, a total of 1,750 permits allotted (1,225 bulls, 525 cows).
- Nov. 5-Nov. 10: 10 WMDs open, a total of 935 permits allotted (all for cows) allotted.
- Oct. 29-Nov. 24 (including Oct. 27 for Maine residents): Six WMDs open, 200 permits allotted (all for either gender).
Maine’s modern moose hunt was first held on an experimental basis in 1980. After a one-year hiatus, the hunt returned as an annual event in 1982.
Since then, hunters like Csenga and Lazzero had entered the lottery, hoping to someday take part in the state’s moose hunt.
It didn’t take the duo long to put their much-rehearsed moose-calling to good use: The duo combined to bag an 825-pounder with a 48-inch antler spread.
“We’ve been doing that for days,” Csenga said with a chuckle after demonstrating his best cow moose vocalization. “When we call each other on the phone, we do that to just get ready, you know. I called my wife this morning and did that, and she figured that I had got something. I kill it, she grills it, and we eat it. It’s great.”
Csenga and Lazzero wasted little time filling their tag, and their experience wasn’t uncommon. On a cool, crisp morning, 22 moose had been tagged by noon at Gateway Variety in Ashland, the state’s busiest moose registration station.
“Today worked out unbelievably. First day of the hunt, 10 after 6 in the morning, and to come into a big bull moose like that?” Csenga said. “We did some scouting yesterday and found some things and went out there today to a spot, the highest one on the list, first. And guess what? Bullwinkle showed up, right on time.”
Rich Hoppe, regional wildlife biologist for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said this week’s hunters are heading into the woods at the perfect time.
“You compare this year to last year and the year before, and [this is] great weather,” Hoppe said. “Moose are moving. They really started coming into the rut, I noticed, the middle of last week.”
Hoppe said concerned hunters began calling him three weeks ago after fruitless scouting trips into the north woods of Maine. As the moose mating season arrived in earnest, however, the moose began moving around more, and became more responsive to calls.
“The temperature has been down now, and they’ve been moving,” Hoppe said. “[Hunters] are pretty satisfied. They’re seeing some moose, and are passing up the first couple.”
Hoppe said the last week of September is typically productive, especially when the weather is cool.
“It’s peak rut,” Hoppe said. “It’s a great time to be out there hunting moose, and that’s why we kind of focus on a trophy hunt that last week of September … that’s when it’s you and the moose, competing against each other, calling ’em. It’s a great hunt.”
As of noon, the largest moose tagged in Ashland was the one taken by Rudy Tardif and his grandson, Tyler Seeley, both of Presque Isle. The 936-pounder sported a 25-point rack with a 54½-inch spread.
Seeley, 16, shot first. Tardif followed up a moment later with his own shot.
Friend Ed Dube of Caribou called the moose in for them.
“The moose that was answering [my calls] was a small one,” Dube said. “I kept grunting like a bull and it scared him away. It wouldn’t come in. But meanwhile, this guy was listening to the whole show. He was coming in from the backside. He finally came right down the middle of the road.”
The bull got within 90 yards before Seeley and Tardiff shot.
“We shot on ‘three.’ Tyler shot on ‘two,’ and I shot on ‘three,’” Tardif said. “He dropped right there.”
Sam D’Amico of Portland also had an eventful (if short) hunt. Friend Tony Richard of Old Town called in a moose, but D’Amico decided it was too small. About 20 minutes later, when the same moose came out of the woods again, D’Amico reconsidered and shot the 587-pounder.
“The second time I changed my mind,” D’Amico said. “I have a big rack at home [from a previous hunt] and my wife won’t let me hang it. This is a small rack, so I figured maybe she’d let me hang this.”