Bright and early Monday morning, hundreds of prospective moose hunters will head into the deep woods in search of a burly Maine moose. Joining in on the fun for most: A sub-permittee who’ll also be allowed to carry a gun and a wide variety of family and friends who’ll scout, encourage and watch the hunt play out.
Heck, they might even help field-dress and drag the moose, if needed.
There’s nothing like moose hunting on a crisp fall morning in Maine, setting up in a well-researched spot, calling like a lovesick cow, and receiving a deep, guttural bull grunt in return.
I’ll be out there on Monday, tagging along with a couple of hunters near Ashland, taking notes (and trying to stay out of the way) while working on a story I’ll share later.
If you didn’t have your name drawn in this year’s moose permit lottery (again), you may be left thinking that you won’t be enjoying this year’s moose season. You’ll sit at home, lick your wounds, and dream about next year.
Not so fast.
Luckily, there are all kinds of ways to enjoy the moose hunt (and even the moose woods) without a permit.
Before we get started, a disclaimer that shouldn’t be necessary: Visiting a moose-tagging station can be a bit gory.
With that said, here’s one way you can enjoy someone else’s moose hunt vicariously: Go to a moose-tagging station next week.
My personal favorite is at Gateway Variety in Ashland, where you’re nearly guaranteed to see a parade of happy hunters as they return to town to register their moose. The store annually is the state’s busiest moose-tagging station, and while you’re waiting you can head inside and get some pretty tasty chow. Go early. Stay awhile. Have fun.
And while you’re there, do yourself (and a happy hunter) a favor: Be nosy. Ask questions. Get the hunter to tell you their story.
Trust me on this one: When hunters get to the tagging station, their adrenaline will still be pumping, and they’ll be eager to tell the tale. Again. And again. And again.
Or, if you’re a bit shy, just stand on the perimeter and listen for a bit. You’re sure to hear some great tales from some grateful hunters who’ve just wrapped up the hunt of a lifetime.
We Mainers sometimes take this whole “we’ve got moose” thing for granted, but for those who don’t live here, spotting a moose can be the highlight of a visit to the state. Seeing a live moose in its natural habitat is certainly a thrill, but for some, actually heading out into the woods on a dirt road — you know, into the places that moose usually live — can be intimidating.
Therefore, seeing a moose on a trailer can sometimes be the only way certain visitors end up seeing a moose at all.
That message was reinforced last fall, when my buddies and I stopped at a store in Rockwood with my moose strapped to the trailer.
A woman who was vacationing in Maine nervously, excitedly, walked around the trailer — wearing slippers — checking out my moose from every angle.
Eventually, she pulled out her phone and sheepishly asked permission to take a photo.
No problem, I told her, while pointing out that on the grand scale of massive moose in the Maine woods, mine was actually kind of a shrimp.
She didn’t care one bit.
It turns out that she’d been vacationing near Moosehead and had been getting frustrated that she hadn’t seen a moose. We’d made her day, she told us, and she couldn’t wait to send her photos to friends back home.
We were glad to help out, and we pulled out our trusty DeLorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer to show her a few likely spots to see a real, live moose before she returned home.
And that’s always an option for non-hunting moose-hunt enthusiasts: Pick up the Gazetteer. Look for a road into the woods. Start driving.
Then, periodically (especially when you’re near a cut that was made five or 10 years ago), stop. Look. Listen.
The moose are out there. All you have to do is find ’em.