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Hunters heading afield in search of moose

Pat Wellenbach | AP
Pat Wellenbach | AP
In this July 2011 photo, a moose picks its head up from eating grass from Pierce Pond in North New Portland, Maine. The state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife announced Friday, Sept. 7, 2012, that a winter aerial moose population survey shows Maine has about 76,000 moose.
By John Holyoke, BDN Staff

When hunters head out on Monday for the opening day of moose-hunting season, biologist Lee Kantar says they’ll have the opportunity to enjoy a hunt they’ll never forget.

“[The first week of the season], it doesn’t get any better than that for moose hunting, anywhere that you want to go,” said Kantar, moose biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “It’s just a great time.”

The Monday-through-Saturday, six-day season is the first of several moose-hunting sessions that will be staged from now until late November. This first session focuses on extreme northern and northeastern Maine Wildlife Management Districts, with 840 of the 3,725 permits issued this year in play.

Kantar said there are a number of reasons he often describes the Maine moose-hunting experience as “world-class.”

“You’re talking about going into a place like Maine that’s very accessible, it’s beautiful country, the North Maine Woods is wide open, basically, for people,” Kantar said. “And the age class of bulls there is fantastic. [Based on our research] we have a healthy, robust moose population in the far north that is world-class because there are big, big eastern bulls that are out there.”

Kantar said that the recreational opportunities that exist in those Maine woods come as a surprise to some.

“It’s like a secret or something. People don’t understand that it’s essentially quasi-wilderness,” Kantar said. “Although there’s a lot of roads up there, there’s very few people. And the commercial forestry folks allow access up there. I mean, that’s fantastic.”

The big question mark — as it is many years — is the weather.

When temperatures rise, moose are less apt to be active during the heat of the day, and will hunker down in cooler spots. That makes hunting more difficult.

“I think [hunter success] is highly weather-related,” Kantar said. “I don’t what the forecast is yet, but it doesn’t appear that it’s going to be a replay of last year, when we had some 80-degree temperatures. I certainly hope that’s not what we’re seeing in the forecast.”

When hunters return to town with their moose, large crowds often await at popular tagging stations.

Among the tagging stations where you’ll be most apt to see a moose during next week’s hunt:

  1. Gateway Variety in Ashland
  2. Quigley’s Building Supply in Fort Kent
  3. Mac’s Trading Post in Houlton
  4. Porter’s Garage in Island Falls
  5. Ben’s Trading Post in Presque Isle
  6. Ouellette’s Trading Post in Van Buren
  7. Raymond’s Store in Northeast Carry

Maine’s first “modern” moose hunt was held on an experimental basis in 1980. After a one-year hiatus, the hunt returned in 1982 and has been held annually ever since.

The breakdown of this year’s hunting sessions:

  1. Sept. 24-Sept. 29: Eight Wildlife Management Districts open, a total of 840 permits (all for bulls) allotted.
  2. Oct. 8-Oct. 13: 19 WMDs open, a total of 1,750 permits allotted (1,225 bulls, 525 cows).
  3. Nov. 5-Nov. 10: 10 WMDs open, a total of 935 permits allotted (all for cows) allotted.
  4. Oct. 29-Nov. 24 (including Oct. 27 for Maine residents): Six WMDs open, 200 permits allotted (all for either gender).

In all, the state has allotted 3,725 permits for the 2012 hunt.

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