The Star-Herald

Moose hunt 2020

I had the good fortune of being drawn for a moose permit in 2020. My permit was for a bull in zone four during the second week in October (my first choice). Zone four is a huge zone that lies north of the Golden Road, south of the Reality Road, west of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway and goes all the way to the Canadian border. It has a healthy moose population, 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. My wife Ruth came along, 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 photo of the bull we intended to target during our moose hunt. I sent this along to my son.

I spent a few days scouting during the end of September and first part of October. My “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 and felt good about my ability to call in a moose. In fact, one evening at the end of September, two different bulls responded 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 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. 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.

That night we formulated a slightly different plan. 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 out to where we had seen the moose the day before 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 towards 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 Fish and Wildlife website. After come-a-longing the moose to dryer ground, we skinned it and removed the meat from the carcass and slipped the quarters into game bags that my wife had made. It went just like it showed in the video and I would use that method again without question. The link to the video is at www.maine.gov/ifw. When I picked the meat up at the butcher’s, he told me ours 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 onsite, 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.  

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 that night, 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 matt.laroche@maine.gov.

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