With weather on the warm side of normal, Maine’s moose hunters faced a challenge on the opening day of the season: How to get that meat cooled down quickly.
Some hunters passed the test with ease, while others struggled a bit.
On Monday morning, BDN photographer Gabor Degre and I headed to Ashland to gather a few stories on the opening day of moose season.
We visited a tagging station, chatted with hunters — both successful and unsuccessful — and spoke with a few interested onlookers from Rhode Island and Pennsylvania who regularly visit Maine during moose season so they can join in on the fun.
And on a warm, steamy day when getting a moose on ice and to a butcher would have seemed to be a top priority, a couple of different approaches to that essential task became evident.
First, let’s focus on a group of well-prepared hunters that all of us can learn a lesson or two from. Dale McWilliams of Virginia came to Maine for his first moose hunt and made a very good choice. He hired guide Shane Maurice of Eustis Ridge Outfitters to lead him into the woods and help him find a moose.
Maurice led McWilliams into a spot that most hunters would not have visited — it was deep in the woods, well away from a road — and found his client a moose.
“There was no way to get it out whole,” McWilliams said. “We were in a tough spot. Probably two miles [off a road].”
Watch: How to field dress a moose
Maurice said that in the North Maine Woods, he rarely plans on taking a moose out whole. Cutting it into pieces allows him to get the meat cooled off quicker and preserves meat that might otherwise begin to spoil.
“It’s nice to have the picture [of a moose] on the pole [at a tagging station], but when it’s this hot, it’s just detrimental to the meat, and that’s what’s most important here,” Maurice said. “We just try to get it taken care of as fast as we can and get it cooled down.”
When he’s guiding up in Wildlife Management District 5, where McWilliams got his moose, Maurice regularly opts to quarter a moose, he said.
“I don’t plan on dragging much up here,” he said. “Down home, in [WMD] 7 or 8, we can get ‘em out pretty easy. But not up here.”
Thus, he quarters the moose, carries out the individual sections, and still beats most of the other hunters to the tagging station.
Not everyone is so prepared, however.
Another hunting party that arrived at Gateway Variety on Monday was ill-prepared for their hunt and ran the risk of losing valuable meat because of it.
The group hauled their moose out of the woods whole, which is a common tactic that needn’t be a problem.
One big issue: They had no ice to put inside the gutted-out moose to cool it down and didn’t purchase any at the tagging station.
Another potential problem: They had not lined up a butcher, and didn’t really know where they were going to take the moose to be skinned, cut and packaged.
Luckily, the crew at the tagging station were able to provide a few suggestions, and after several anxious minutes, the group headed off with a still-warm moose on a trailer, heading to a meat-cutter a half-hour away.
Watch: Opening day of the 2019 moose hunt