Contributed by Matthew LaRoche.
I had the good fortune of being drawn for a moose permit in 2020. My permit was for a bull in Wildlife Management District 4 during the second week in October, which was my first choice. WMD 4 is a huge zone that lies north of the Golden Road, south of American Realty Road, west of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway and stretches all the way to the Canadian border. There is a healthy moose population in the district, especially along the waterway.
After the excitement of being drawn for a moose permit (again) wore off, I got to thinking about my son, who has been serving our country in the Navy for the last 14 years. He loves to hunt and really misses hunting back home in Maine. I had been drawn for a moose permit three other times so I decided to name him as my sub-permittee and told him that he was the shooter and I would be his guide. He was pretty excited when I told him the good news! I also invited my brother-in-law Russell Scott to come on the hunt. Russell had been my sub-permittee on my other hunts, and I had been his sub on his moose hunt. My wife Ruth came along on the hunt too — she made sure we were all well fed and taken care of.
Moose were showing up very well along the waterway all summer, with a huge bull being seen often in the narrows between Churchill and Heron Lakes. Dave Conley, who guides several trips down the AWW every year, sent me a beautiful photo of the bull we intended to target during our moose hunt. I sent this picture along to my son just to keep him pumped up about the coming hunt.
I spent a few days scouting during the end of September and first part of October. Plan A was to hunt from a canoe on the waterway and Plan B was to hunt at locations we could drive to with a short hike to our stand. We would hunt from a canoe as long as the weather cooperated. The AWW is closed to hunting in September but open to general hunting from Oct. 1 through April.
I made an authentic birch bark moose call, practiced calling and felt good about my ability to call in a moose as we got closer to the week of the hunt. In fact, I went up to the Jaws Campsite one evening at the end of September, made a few “cow in heat” calls and had two different bulls respond to my call. A couple days before the hunt, I picked out a location along the shore of Heron Lake that was all tracked up and where the bushes had been worked-over by an angry bull moose.
The first morning of the hunt we got up early, had a big breakfast and headed up the lake before first light to set up our ambush. It was a perfect morning with a beautiful sunrise, fog hanging over the water and no wind. While we were walking to our stand, Russell looked over and said, “What’s that?”
A bull moose was watching us walk to our stand. It wasn’t quite legal time to hunt yet and that moose didn’t hang around long enough for us. I did try calling him out once we got situated but he was on to us and didn’t respond to the calling.
We saw seven moose that day as we checked the likely spots all the way down to Snare Brook on Eagle Lake. Two were bulls, but we couldn’t get close enough for a shot at either of them.
That night we formulated a slightly different plan than we had for the first day. We would canoe out near the spot where we saw the bull on the first morning and just wait for light to come.
The second day dawned as perfect as the first. We canoed to the spot and waited quietly for the fog to lift. As it got lighter, Russell spotted a moose a few hundred yards in front of us. He thought it was a bull, but we were not sure and it was too far away for a good shot. I paddled quietly toward the moose while they watched it with binoculars.
This moose was not the one we were looking for, but it was a bull. My son looked at me for an assurance to shoot and I said, “It is up to you.” A few minutes later, the .308 rang out, the moose took a couple steps and dropped in the mud!
We had all watched the gutless quartering video on the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife website. After come-a-longing the moose to dry ground, we proceeded to skin the moose and remove the meat from the carcass and slipped the quarters into game bags that my wife had made. It went just like it had in the video and I would use that method again without question. When I picked the meat up at the butcher’s, he told me that our quarters were the cleanest he had ever seen that were quartered in the field.
We hung the meat overnight to cool then placed it in a freezer we had on-site, but never let the meat freeze solid. The weather turned warm and rainy for the next few days while we hunted partridge and played cribbage. So, it was probably a good decision to shoot the moose we had in our sights rather than wait for that big one.
My son left for the Naval base in Dahlgren, Virginia, early Saturday morning with one of the outside tenderloins processed into nice meal size packages. He called me at about 7 p.m. and said he could see the base but was stuck in traffic on the bridge over the Potomac River. He thanked me again for the great week and the hunt of a lifetime.
AWW Notes: To reduce possible exposure to COVID-19 the AWW is accepting registrations for the winter campground at Chamberlain Bridge by mail. Call me at the number below for more information.
Matt LaRoche is Superintendent of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, a Registered Maine Guide and an avid outdoorsman. He can be reached at 207-695-2169 or at email@example.com