Amanda Demusz, wildlife biologist, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, measures the spread of antlers on a moose at the tagging station at Gateway Variety in Ashland on opening day of the 2020 Maine moose hunt. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Early fall weather has been highly variable in recent years, often providing challenges for those participating in Maine’s annual moose hunt.

This year, conditions were outstanding and certainly benefited the hunters who were in the field for the first week of the 2021 season.

“It was a great week,” said Lee Kantar, moose biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “It seems like it’s been a lot of falls since we’ve seen cool evenings, which bring us cool mornings.”

According to the DIF&W’s Big Game Harvest Dashboard, more than 800 moose were harvested during the six-day session. The unofficial total listed on the website as of Monday morning was 818.

The DIF&W allotted 1,050 permits for the opening week, which was spread across 11 different Wildlife Management Districts including WMDs 1-6, 10-11, 18-19 and 27-28.

That means about 77 percent of hunters cashed in last week.

“I saw some big bulls, saw some beautiful bulls,” Kantar said.

“There’s a ton of moose that came in. The success rates look pretty robust,” he added.

Kantar, who spent time checking moose at the tagging station in Fort Kent, witnessed some large sets of antlers and some big-bodied moose. They included two, 60-inch bulls.

“When you start seeing them come in over 50, 55 inches, that’s a big spread and certainly 60 is pretty big,” he said, mentioning that there also were plenty of antlers that exhibited special character and color.

In all 4,030 hunters were awarded permits to hunt moose in Maine this year.

WMD 1 produced the largest take of 169 moose during Week 1, followed by WMD 4 (152) and WMD 2 (126).

The highest success rate of 88 percent occurred in WMDs 6 and 11, while the least productive zone on a percentage basis was WMD 14 at 70 percent.

Above all, the weather was conducive to moose being up and active and giving hunters the chance to set up and call.

“The critical thing is the cooler temperatures and that seems to be less and less predictable. It was a good week for everybody, I think,” Kantar said.

Here is the breakdown with hunting zone and harvest:

Last year, despite hot temperatures that aren’t generally conducive to hunting, 81 percent of hunters with permits for the first six days of the season harvested a moose.

That was a precursor to the overall success enjoyed by hunters during the 2020 season when 76 percent took a moose. It marked the best harvest rate since 2012.

Week 2 of the 2021 moose hunt begins on Monday, Oct. 11. Open WMDs include 1-14, 17-19, 27 and 28.

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...