Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to have headed into the woods on a variety of moose hunts — two of my own, three with pals and a couple times as a journalist seeking a cool story to tell.
And while that might not qualify me as a moose-hunting expert — I leave that title for the registered Maine guides who have accompanied dozens of sports afield — I have learned a few things about Maine’s classic hunt, which I’ll share today.
Maybe you’ve been waiting for 20 or 30 or 40 years to finally have your name pop out of the state’s random drawing. Maybe you don’t know exactly what to expect. Or maybe you’re like me, and enjoy listening to others share their own opinions on all kinds of hunting topics. Whatever the case, here are some things you might want to consider.
Drive less. Walk more. Call often … until it’s time to shut up.
One of the keys to success on the hunting parties that I’ve been a part of is that in the weeks ahead of a hunt, we’ve pinpointed several — often dozens — of spots that we’re likely to find a moose or two. We’re looking for tracks and moose droppings, to be sure, but we’re also looking for the kinds of regenerating clearcuts that will serve as salad bars for hungry moose.
Then, come moose season, we can recheck those spots and make plans on which locations to target each day. We do do a bit of slow-rolling, driving along those woods roads, but we’re not planning to spend entire days doing nothing but driving. Instead, we set up in our (hopefully) productive spots, hunker down, and do some calling.
We’re not professional callers, and often rely on electronic calls. We regularly end up talking with moose, and have drawn several within shooting range, whether we’re shooting with rifles or cameras. One thing we’ve learned: Real, live, mating moose can make a lot of racket. We’ve found that some of our most productive sessions have relied on near-constant calling to attract a bull’s attention.
And then, when the bull starts to come in, we tend to idle back on the calling, lower the volume, and spend more time listening. Your mileage may vary, as they say. But if you’re having trouble finding a bull to answer your calls, amping up your approach for a few minutes might pay dividends.
At least, it has for us.
Another tip you might consider: If you are an avid road-runner, and you plan to spend the bulk of your time in your truck, riding those roads in search of a moose, do yourself a favor and slow down.
One year my buddies and I ended up in a truck with a new member of our group during a hunt, and as he drove those bumpy roads I quickly realized that we had a problem: Even if a moose had been standing a few steps into the forest, we never would have seen him.
That’s because the driver — apparently new to moose hunting — was simply traveling too fast for us to see anything. Instead of slow-rolling, he thought we’d be able to peer between the trees while we were traveling 25 mph or so.
About the only good thing I can say about that day is that none of us got carsick as we constantly tried to refocus our vision and find a moose.
It was close, though. Just describing the hunt makes me a bit queasy, in fact.
And finally, I’ll offer up a tip that might make all the difference in the world, both for you and the hunters you may cross paths with: Share.
Share the roads. If you come across a small road that already has a truck parked near the end of it, you might consider letting those other hunters have the area to themselves.
Share information, especially if your hunt is already over. If your tag is full and you come across another hunting party, why not tell them about one of the areas you’d pre-scouted, and that looked promising?
Share your food. Invite the guys from the next camp down over for a feed or a beer after the day’s hunt is over.
And share your equipment or manual labor, should you have the opportunity. Maybe that hunter you just passed on the road is struggling to get their moose to the road. Maybe your help would be appreciated. Offer that help. They’ll be glad you did. And so will you.
And finally, have fun. Enjoy your own Maine moose hunt, and make some memories that you’ll keep for a lifetime.
John Holyoke is the former outdoors editor of the BDN, an aspiring novelist and a future high school English teacher. His first book, EVERGREENS, can be found wherever you buy books. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.