Greenville guide Chris Young became known as the state’s top moose caller at the annual Moose Lottery Festival on Saturday, June 15, when he competed against seasoned hunters and guides throughout the state to win the 2013 Maine Moose Calling Championship.
Young learned his skills directly from the moose of the Moosehead region, he said.
“Moose calling is just part of what we do every day,” said Young. “Being around moose all the time, you learn how they act and what they like to do and what they don’t like to do. So just like anything, the more that you’re around that animal and pay attention, they’ll teach you stuff. So that’s how I learned to do what I do.”
Owner of Young’s Guide Service, a small family-run outfit in Greenville, Young has been guiding moose hunters and photographers for the past 10 years.
“It’s really neat when you go into a competition like that,” he said. “Obviously we all have different techniques and different things that we use, and it’s really neat to hear them and see what they do too. You learn from that.”
In its second year, the championship — organized by the Maine Professional Guides Association — was both educational and entertaining to an audience largely composed of fellow hunters. It started off with a small surprise.
The first competitor, Laureli Winslow of Washington, stepped into the spotlight wearing a homemade moose-print dress, as well as necklace and earrings made of moose droppings. A 3-year-old girl with silky blond hair, she got straight to work demonstrating how her father, Timothy Winslow, taught her to call in a Maine moose.
With her father as assistant, Laureli clattered together deer antlers, raked antlers through a potted bush and poured water into a bucket to mimic sounds moose make, making the short grunting sound of a bull moose all the while.
Of the competition’s seven adult competitors, Roger Lambert of Strong won second place and $300, and Eric Ward of Greenville Junction won third place and $200. Other competitors were Gary Lamb of Greenville; Tom Hamilton of Jackman; Frank Hathaway of Riley Brook, New Brunswick; and David Leavitt of Woodland. To enter the finals, all competitors competed in regional qualifiers hosted throughout the state.
As the champion, Young won $500, which he planned to use toward purchasing a long-desired gun scope.
“I think a portion of the money should go to that girl that did it,” he said after the competition, “just to let her know that what she’s doing is awesome and that people notice how good she was and it will keep her enticed to do that in the future … I see in 10 years, her beating everybody up there.”
At the opening of the 2013 competition, Don Kleiner, executive director of the Maine Professional Guides Association, recognized state Game Warden Maj. Gregg Sanborn, who died on Feb. 5. Sanborn was one of the competition’s first judges at the 2012 Moose Lottery Festival in Rangeley.
For the 2013 championship, a panel of three judges — Steve Wilcox, a Maine guide from Wytopitlock; Kirby Holcombe, a Maine guide from Rangeley; and Robert Hamer, a guide from Greenville — judged contestants on four categories (25 points each): a bull moose call, a cow moose call, their other attraction techniques and presentation showmanship.
No electronic calls were allowed, though several hunters used birch bark megaphones to amplify their voice, as well as deer antlers and paddles to mimic the sound of a bull moose thrashing through underbrush.
“The most important thing — is there a moose there? I spend a lot of time in the preseason scouting to see where those moose are going to be in the fall,” said Young, who livened up his presentation by having an assistant in a moose costume plod across the stage and hide behind the potted bushes.
In demonstrating how to effectively call in a moose, Young pulled out all the stops, from performing a cow moose call, to masking human scent with moose pee, to safely using decoys, to mimicking the sounds of a bull moose by beating brush with a beat-up canoe paddle.
“We cater to both ends of moose hunting,” Young said of his guide service. “We obviously do moose hunting trips with guns, but we also do a lot of photography-based stuff where we call them in the same way, do the exact same thing, but we shoot them over and over and over and the moose walks off after.”
Most hunters competing in the finals started with a cow moose call, which is used to entice a bull moose searching for a mate. But that’s not always the situation, said Young, and hunters need to understand moose behavior in order to adapt to different situations.
For example, if Young hears that a bull moose is already with a cow moose, he might produce the call of a young bull moose, which could cause the bull moose to approach and defend his territory.
“Being around moose all the time, you kind of learn what they’ll tolerate, what they won’t, what makes them mad, and what doesn’t,” Young said with a grin.
Young, who enters his name in the lottery for a moose hunting permit each year, strongly supports the monitoring of Maine moose to ensure that the correct number of moose hunting permits are offered annually to sustain a healthy moose population.
“I want moose to be here for people to see,” he said. “When [people] come here, I want to make sure that I’m going to be able to find moose and we’re going to be able to photograph moose, but also hunt moose. Once that resource is gone, it’s going to be very hard to get it back.”