A moose stands in a brook on Sept. 14, 2020, beside a busy road in Baileyville, Maine. Credit: Courtesy of Aislinn Sarnacki

Roads in Maine’s North Woods and throughout Aroostook County will have a significant uptick in traffic next week.

Starting Monday, logging trucks will be joined by slow-rolling pickups and SUVs for the start of Maine’s annual moose hunt. The first week runs through Oct. 2.

More than 1,000 hunters and their sub-permittees will be distributed across 11 open Wildlife Management Districts that make up all of Aroostook County and parts of Washington, Hancock and Penobscot counties.

Prospects for the first week of moose hunting season appear good, according to Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife moose biologist Lee Kantar. This year’s increase from 3,135 permits to 3,480 is evidence the population is doing well.

“There’s a lot of moose out there and it should be a great time for people who do their homework,” said Kantar, who is hopeful the forecast for seasonable daytime temperatures in the low to mid-60s and cooler nights in the 40s will improve hunters’ odds.

“It doesn’t look like it’s going to be extremely hot, so if we can get some cool nights, that bodes well for the morning,” he said. “Weather is a huge, huge factor for how moose are moving.”

For the second straight year, the opening week of the moose hunt coincides with the start of upland and migratory bird hunting in Maine. That means more hunters will be afield at the same time.

Not everything went smoothly with that dynamic last fall.

“This is the second year where the bird season opens up early, so that’s something that both bird hunters and moose hunters need to be cognizant of, because they both tend to drive the roads,” Kantar said.

He said there were some conflicts among hunters during last year’s simultaneous moose and bird hunts.

“People need to understand they need to share the resource, they need to be conscientious that there’s other hunters out there, and that’s a big deal,” Kantar said.

With more moose permits having been allocated, there will be more hunters this year. The County also happens to be prime ruffed grouse habitat.

Hunters traveling in the North Woods must be aware of the presence of logging trucks and active wood cutting operations as they ride the roads.

In a perfect world, hunters would help each other. Moose hunters could let grouse hunters know where they’re seeing birds, and people targeting birds might point out any moose sightings.

“People are just going to have to show some tolerance and kindness when it comes to sharing the woods with everybody,” Kantar said.

The vast majority of Maine’s so-called big woods are privately owned, so hunters are reminded that they cannot block roads or prevent access to any areas with their vehicles, nor interfere with other hunters who might be pursuing wildlife.

“People need to exercise even more safety and conscientiousness than before, because there’s a lot of different people using the roads for different purposes,” Kantar said.

Preparation is the most important key to ensure a successful moose hunt and time to scout is quickly running out.

Using tools such as Google Earth or the latest version of DeLorme’s “Maine Atlas and Gazetteer” are helpful in identifying potential moose habitat, but there’s no substitute for being in and around the woods.

“In September you can go down some of these logging roads and find out where the bulls have been, beating the snot out of alders, getting into some rutting behavior,” Kantar said. “Fresh sign, even if you don’t visually see a moose, is going to be a place where those moose are.”

So if you happen to see tracks, broken branches and wallows, but no moose, note the location and return another day or time to check it out.

The general moose hunt continues the week of Oct. 11-16 in all but WMDs 15 and 16, then winds down with a week of antlerless-only hunting Oct. 25-30 and a limited hunt Oct. 30 (Maine residents) and Nov. 1-27 in WMDs 15 and 16.

For the first time this year, Maine also is sponsoring an antlerless-only adaptive unit hunt in WMD 4A. The measure is designed to significantly reduce the population of cow moose in a particular area in the hope of studying how having fewer moose there might affect the impact of winter ticks.

That takes place Oct. 18-23, Oct. 25-30 and Nov. 1-6.

Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...