For many Maine moose hunters lucky enough to get drawn, a moose permit is a once-in-a-lifetime affair. Such was the case with my middle-aged friend Greg Goodman, who has been trying for that permit since he was a young man. Knowing that I had had some experience in the moose woods (and perhaps that I owned a big tent and a chainsaw winch), Greg invited me along as his subpermittee.
In early September, we camped up in Zone One west of the Allagash River, did some scouting, and just got the “lay of the land.” Opening day, Sept. 28, was not a good hunting day. Daybreak found us on stand near a promising moose trail along a classic heath studded with jack firs and gray snags. However, the rising sun soon brought on unseasonal heat and pesky blackflies. Saved by headnets, we toughed it out and kept up the hunt vigil until late morning.
For the next few days, we hunted in T-shirts and head nets. The Presque Isle radio station pegged the temperature in the County at 90 degrees! Some sign, but no action. That evening, as we savored a couple of Cornish game hens cooked by Greg in his Dutch oven, we decided to break camp during the next day’s heat and seek some new hunting ground.
Greg and I have hunted elk successfully a couple of times in Colorado. As his friend and “guide,” our lack of moose sightings, despite covering a lot of ground, had me concerned. “We need a weather break, Greg” I said. “It’s too darned hot. Theses critters just aren’t moving.”
Late Wednesday we found a new hunt area with promising sign. That night there was an answer to our prayers. A front moved in bringing rain, wind and crashing thunder. Waiting out the storm inside the leaky old wall tent, we dined on sardines and soda crackers. We were lulled to sleep by steady but light rain on the tent.
“This could change our luck, huh?” Greg intoned just before nodding off.
“It will,” I said, believing it. “Tomorrow is the day.”
The next morning, enthusiastic about the cool-down, we grabbed coffee and toast and headed out. After a short walk to our most promising moose crossing, we set up the electronic call and put out some cow urine on scent rags. Nothing happened by 10 a.m. and we decided to probe about some of the many “twitch roads” in the area, or do what turkey hunters call “walk and squawk.”
The wind picked up. The weather change was a thing to behold. We wore gloves and stocking caps. I got to thinking, “If I were a bull moose, hungry and randy from laying low during four days of heat, this would be my day to move. We need to move, too, and make the most of this hunting day.”
By noon, with nothing to show for our efforts, we decided to resort to the classic Maine moose hunter tactic: drive the roads. Not 10 minutes later, with his window rolled down, Greg heard a cow in heat.
I stopped the truck, all the while acknowledging that the repeating estrus cow could be another hunter trying to call in a bull. No sooner had we loaded our rifles when a cow stepped into the road at 40 yards, followed by a calf. Not far behind was a bull, which apparently suspected a setup and stopped behind some brush just short of the road.
We could see his rack. Greg had an opening, a shoulder shot, and took it. The bull, hit hard by Greg’s .300 Winchester Magnum, stumbled onto the road. While I fumbled with a stuck safety on my .270 Ruger One, Greg put his prize down with a second shot.
We looked at each other with smiles of disbelief. After four days of walking and sitting in inaccessible areas that would have meant back-breaking lugs of quartered moose out of the woods, a perfect-size young bull steps out not 50 yards from our campsite! And expires on the road!
Talk about luck or divine intervention. Greg, who I now call “Cool Hand” Goodman, and I are grateful.
Our freezers are full and winter’s prospect seems a little less foreboding. As for the stuck safety on my gun, that’s a column in itself, for another time.