September Moose Hunt

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September Moose Hunt

Post  MEhunter on Wed Jan 07, 2015 2:25 pm

I have honestly tried starting this post for the last couple months and just haven't been able to get to it. I could probably type up about 5 pages worth of stories about this hunt, but just haven't had the time. This year was truly a different hunt on a lot of levels. Over the last few years our moose population has taken quite a hit due to a winter tick problem. These ticks are litteraly sucking the life out hundreds of moose a year, mostly calfs. One of the major causes of the tick problem a lot of people feel is that for years there were parts of the state that had a very unhealthy moose population. Unhealthy in the way of too many animals and perhaps far too many animals. Over the last several years the state jacked the permit numbers up in a lot of these zones and really put the pressure on the moose. I can't even guess what the percentage drop in population is over the last 5 years, but it's been fairly significant I would say. The drop was so significant that about a month prior to this years permit drawing they actually dropped the permit numbers by 1,000. It might sounds strange but I think this is really what the state wanted in a way to hopefully curve the tick problem by reducing the amount of host animals for the ticks, but I'm not sure. After this year hunt I think the permit numbers will drop even more significantly next year. Although I haven't heard any numbers yet, this is the first year that I can name quite a few people that went home empty handed. I really think the success rate plumetted this year. I still feel there is a good charge of moose in some areas, but those areas are far more spread out now than in the past. Another part that made this years September hunt tough was that it was by far the earliest I have seen the season fall. I don't know any other animal that can change it's habits over a 1-2 day window quite like a moose can. 1-2 days can make a difference, but 4-5 can make an amazing difference. This first change in habbit always falls right around the first moose season. During the summer and early fall moose are pretty much as much as an aquatic animal as a beaver IMO. Some moose stick to the water into the fall, while others transistion up into choppings. A guy could pretty much go up 2 weeks before his moose hunt and scout a group of moose for 2 weeks, think he has them in the bag, and a day before the hunt they disapear. I've learned that for sure over the last 6-7 years of chasing them. Now instead of scouting moose prior to the hunt, I really try and scout habitat and play the game of where I think they are going to be when it's time to hunt them. I don't necessarily look for bulls any more, really spend the majority of my time looking for old abondoned road systems that the beavers have blocked off or they have just grown in due to lack of travel. These are the places that the moose have made their highways. I try and find these road systems close to water or beaver flowages where I think I might catch the moose transistioning from. I don't ignore  bull sign obviously, but I don't get discouraged if i go to a spot friday and saturday before the hunt and can't find a good bull or evidence there is one there at that moment. If I can find an area I feel is prime habitat with a few cows around, you can bet I'm going to be there at some point in time during the hunt. And once the hunt starts I really change tatics and locations day in and day out. Basically you need to hunt the moose where they are then, that day, that hour, not yesterday, not 6 hours ago. It can be the toughest thing in the world to go into an area that is absolutely polluted with moose sign and leave it, but if they are gone they are gone. We only get 6 days to get the job done and I try and not waste a minute of time, basically like cutting and running for turkeys, I cut and run for moose. Over the years getting that into my head has been tough, but I now, especially after this hunt, truly believe in it.

So any way back to this years hunt. Like I said before I could type pages and pages of stories and encounters from the week, but I will spare you all the long drawn out read. While scouting I was able to find a couple areas I flat out loved. one spot was an old road system that the beavers had blocked off. Behind the first beaver damn was a series of roads and beaver flowages that boarded a fairly major river system to the west (the Allagash waterway for some of you guys that might have heard of it). While scouting in the area on Saturday morning with a guide friend who was guiding in the area as well that week we layed eyes on what was without a doubt the largest bull moose I have ever seen alive. He was without a doubt Alaskan caliber. I have several friends who have killed or guided moose that have scored over 200 BC and there is no doubt that this bull would have scored over 200 and probably close to the current record. He had it all, points, paddles, eye guards, mass, spread, etc... Needless to say, he got the blood flowing. Not long after that we were able to call another stud bull in the area my friend was guiding in to about 15 yards. Spirits were high prior to the hunt and we continued to scout the rest of the weekend. We saw several other small bulls and cows, but no other monsters. I didn't care though I knew where we were going to be come Monday. We were lucky enough to have 3 tags in my group. 2 for one zone and the other permit was for the zone "across the street" so to say. The guys with the two tags in the one zone hunted right with me. One guy wanted to shoot one with his bow and the other with rifle. The way it works is the person who draws the permit is allowed to select a sub-permittee, essentially an extra shooter, that is also aloud to carry a gun during the hunt. My friend who decided to hunt with a rifle had another one of our friends as his sub. My buddy that was bow hunting had me down as his sub, but since he was bow hunting I wasn't going to carry a weapon at all until it got to crunch time and he put decided his bow down. The plan was for the rifle guys to hold off on any bull coming in for a bow shot, but if a large enough one stepped out that didn't offer a bow shot, they would take it.

Over the course of the first 3 days of the hunt we had some fairly good action compared to everyone else we were talking to. Like I mentioned before the season was early so it was hot, very hot. Each day by 10 it was already 50 or 60, and mid day everyday was in the 70s. We had one real nice bull come charging in 2 mornings in a row in the spot I saw the monster in while scouting. We never got a good look at the rack either day becuase of the heavy cover he was in, but both mornings he winded us before he stepped out for a bow shot. We did pass up a couple smaller bulls and even passed up two nice 45-50 inch bulls that the bow hunter would have shot, but they just didn't want to come inside 50 yards. The gun guy elected to hold off for a bigger bull. Each of the first 3 days during the middle of the day (10-4 or so) we picked a different water system to walk and hike. We had some luck seeing cows but no bulls. Wednesday the plan was to do a 3-4 mile hike down a river and up through the woods to anotehr woods road where we would have a truck waiting. The first mile of the hike was pretty good. We were into some decent sign, the next 2 miles were junk. We finally got back into some moose as we started getting closer to the truck, ended up finding a few very fresh wallows as well as a match set of sheds off a pretty nice bull. We got back to the truck around 4 and ran back to camp to change into some clothes that weren't so sweaty for the nights hunt. That evening we got 3 different bulls going within 15 minutes of legal shooting. It was too late to do anything with them that night, but gave us something to try in the am. We spent the first 3 hours of the next day in that same area with only one response. So now it's day 4 of a 6 day hunt, I was starting to get a little antsy/nervous. It was about 9:30 at this point and getting hot fast. We were within about a half hour ride of a place I had scouted over the weekend and like the looks of, but hadn't hunted yet. We took a ride over and on the way down in to where it had looked good we see a small bull, I actually thought was a cow at first, standing in the road. He walked off down into the woods as we were getting out. We got up to where he went in the woods and I started to do some cow calls. Almost immediatly we had a bull going way off in the distance. For such a big animal their grunts are soft and suttle they can be very hard to hear. There was actually 6 of us together at this point and I was the only one hearing the bull grunt. He responded to us 7 or 8 times within a minute or so and started to come, but at soon as he started getting closer a cow let out a bellow right in the same area as him. Like often happens he was already cowed up, she probably had not been paying much attention to him so we got him interested, but once she called he instantly went right back to her and shut up. At this point I knew the only thing we could do was to switch to straight bull calling and go right in after them. So down into the woods the 6 of us go. Yeah I know what you're thinking, way too many guys, way too much scent, but I don't have it in me to tell these kids father's and our other friend to sit in the truck and wait. We headed down in straight to where we had last heard the bull. As I went I used one of my favorite tatics I call "slapping the paddle." Basically I use a canoe paddle and as I'm walking slap about every tree i think a big bull would hit with his rack as he was walking. If any of you have ever heard a big bull coming at you through thick cover, the sound of the paddle is pretty authentic. While I was slapping I was also bull calling a bit. We got to a point that I wanted to stop and listen for a few minutes. Well as soon as we stopped we were greated by the sounds of a bull raking his own horns about 75 yards away. We quickly got setup and it was evident that as long as the wind stayed the same and it was a shooter bull that this hunt was pretty much a done deal. He came in "like a bull" raking, thrashing and grunting. Instead up fully readding the script and coming up the skid road he was on for a perfect 15 yard broadside bow shot he got off the road and came in through some nasty brush. He got about 30 yards away and stopped in a spot where no one had a shot, but we could tell he was a no doubt shooter. At that point my buddy with the bow clearly told the other two that it was their moose and he wanted them to shoot because he didn't wnat to rsik another one spooking while we waited for a clear bow shot. I raked a couple trees and he stepped into a small window and that was it, two shots apiece from both of the guys and we had our first bull down.

Now it was only 3 of us hunting the rest of the trip. We stuck with the bow until mid-day friday, then we both picked up rifles. Friday and saturday were the two hottest days. Temps reached almost 80 both days, but man did we get into some moose. Instead of hunting the flowages we switched to pond hopping. Sounds strange but man did it work. We basically took the atlas, found a pond near a logging road, drove as close as we could to it, hike down in check, call, glass, leave, go to the next one and repeat. From mid-morning Friday til saturday we must have checked over 20 ponds. Some multiple times. Had encounters with two very very nice bulls. One that a float plane i'm pretty sure intentionally spooked on us and the other that I will tell the story about because althrough frustrating it was pretty funny. Hiked an old that unaccessable by vehicle due to a beaver bog back a mile into a pond. Got to the edge of the pond to see 2 cows and a 55-60 inch chocolate horned brute standing about 800-1000 yards across the pond. These ponds are surrounded by thick spruce, cedars, pete moss, brush, just overall nasty stuff. We started sneaking around and got to within about 400 yards fairly quickly. At this point we were still back off the pond about 150 yards and didn't really have a shot because of brush. I figured that we could sneak down through the moss and cedars to the edge of the pond and have a 200-250 yard shot no problem. As we went it was pretty loud with all the brush breaking, so i just started to call a little bit to sound like another bull coming out. Everything was perfect, we have one spot that we could have taken a marginal shot, but the moose were still calm so I said lets get up to that last row of cedars before the pond and shoot from there. We get about 15 yards from where I want my buddy to shoot from and there is a very innocent looking mud puddle about 3 feet across. I take one step in the puddle and instantly go up to almost my freakin neck in the thickest nastiest mud you can imagine, can't move my legs, break sticks as i go down, make all other kinds of noise, almost break my birch bark call, cows get nervous take off, bull follows, buddy has to drag me out of the mud. All we could do was laugh, as frustrating as it was, man was it funny. The worst part was that my phone was in my pocket with about 100 pictures and videos of the hunt that sure enough i lost.

We let another couple small bulls pass Friday night, Saturday mid am is when we had the encounter with the other big bull in the pond the plane spooked. Saturday aroundd 1:30 we ddecide to hike back into the pond where we saw the big one the day before, but this time from the other side hoping we would come out right where the bull and cows were the day before. What a hike, some of the nastiest stuff I have been through, the only plus side was that for every 100 yards of miserable nasty stuff we went through would come a moose super high way. After taking us way longer than it should of to get back into the pond, as you would guess, no moose. At the pond my buddy looked at me, now 3 o'clock on the last day, 75 degrees, and said "Man I aint gonna lie, I haven't been nervous all trip about going home without one, but I'm starting to get that feeling now." I was right there with him. There was no point in hanging out and figured if we worked our way back out to the truck we would still have 2 hours of hunting left to go. On the way out we went a little different direction and came into a series of wallows that were fresh, very fresh. I went into fight mode and start slapping and grunting as we walked wtih my buddy about 15 yards ahead of me. As I'm going I look up and see my buddy stop dead in his tracks,  when he stops, i stop and instantly hear why he stopped. Bull thrashing like crazy and coming, and grunting his head off. At this point we were standing in what was once a road, but was now mostly grown up, the center of the road was all spruce trees, the right of the road was all spruce, but the left was open yellow birches. The bull started coming at us on the right side, and man was it loud, we was running over spruce trees trying to get to us for a fight. He got within 40 yards, at this point we could see trees moving and parting, but no moose, he then turned and got in the road we were on. 40 yards, 35, 30, 25, We still, no joke, can't see this thing, but he is grunting every step he takes and breaking every damn tree thats in his way. At this point i tell my buddy, "Dude if he stays in the road we aren't going to have a shot until he breaks through those spruces at 10 yards so just be ready. No sooner do I say that and he breaks off the road and into the open birches above us to the left, finally he appears and i stop him at 15 yards with a grunt, we both fire and he drops right there. I'm not sure if on September 27th at arond 4:30 any of you guys heard a scream, if you did it was probably me giving a celebration holler up in the northwoods of Maine. Man were we stoked. He was quite a bit smaller than the other bulls we had encountered in the ponds, and even smaller than a few of the others we passed up early in the week, but to say we were jacked up would be an understatement. The only down side of it was how far in we killed him. I shot back to teh camp with the truck while they got him dressed out. I grabbed my guide buddy and other friends at camp and we got back to our downed bull around 7:00. We didn't get back to the camp with the moose until close to 1 am. NOthing beats a good capstan winch. We were going to 1/4 him up, but ended up just capstaning him the entire way out and it honestly went pretty smooth.

So I've successfully written more than I intended to and left a lot out. Oh we ended up seeing another absolute freaking slob while on the way back to start dragging the bull out. My other friends that were part of our group also scored on the last day with a beautiful 50 inch bull that came in on a string on the final morning. They actually hired a guide friend of mine to take them the last day. They struggeled seeing anything decent up until then. My guide buddy gotten his clients done Friday, so he had room for them on the last day.

Here's some pics. Like I said my phone went in the drink, so not nearly as many as I hoped for, especialy of the first bull we shot, but oh well.

I put on a big lobster feed for us and some other friends I had hunting local that swung by our camp on the day before the hunt.


One of the ones we let walk, would have shot with a bow, but didn't get a bow shot


Nice one we called out Saturday AM before the hunt. Was able to save these pics on my phone because i went out and got sevrice on Sunday and backed up my phone.




Boots off to cross this river


Little mid-day break/fire/lunch/sock drying in the woods during one of our hikes. Ham sandwiches toasted over the fire, and some left over lobster scraps will keep you going!


Beaver


Did some aerial scouting on Sunday. This is a view of the camp we stayed at from the air.


These next 3 shots are of a pond we hiked into scouting, these are the types of ponds we found the moose in the last two days of the hunt. Wish We had someone just using my good camera to snap pics as we went. I had too much gear and calls with me to worry about taking pictures during the hunt




The first bull. As you can see from a few of the later pictures we broke out the "moose staches" for good luck. Funny think is my buddy and I shaved Wednesday night, the night before he shot his bull. Coincidence, I think not. Had some other great angles of him on my phone but oh well






When we got home I went over to his house and got some pics of just the rack with my good cam. he had some super character! Funky eye guard on one side, point coming out of the middle of the back side of his paddle, and one super concaved paddle on one side. You really need to hold this rack to get a true apprecation for it, but i tried my best with these photos.









This is me after getting back to the truck the day i fell in


Looking up hill from where we shot to where the bull fell, he fell down hill a little bit after teh shot so he is a little closer in this picutre than he was when we shot


My buddy


And the two of us


Here's one of where base camp was in relation to the state


Figured I would end with this photo of my buddys rack hanging on the game pole at sunset the night he killed him.

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Re: September Moose Hunt

Post  soil on Wed Jan 07, 2015 4:20 pm

sounds like you guys have a ton of fun and put in a lot of work up there!  congratulations on a successful hunt.
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Re: September Moose Hunt

Post  bowGal on Wed Jan 07, 2015 4:26 pm

Outstanding write up  Dave,   Beautiful photo's and  awesome bull,  this is the hunting  story  I look so forward to reading every season, 
 So envious of you guy's. 
as much I would love to get up that way  for a moose hunt,  LOl  I would make a trip up there just  to share  dinner  one night Wink
 Thank you so much for taking the time to  share it with us,

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Re: September Moose Hunt

Post  Pa. Bowhunter on Wed Jan 07, 2015 5:33 pm

Dave I think Chad should get you to write a story for Big Game Illustrated !!!! Awesome read , awesome moose and if you want somebody to take pictures during the hunt , I'm only a phonecall away Very Happy !!! As long as I get in on the lobster boil !!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for sharing.
Now about the ticks , I just saw a show , not sure if it was the warden show from Maine or Montana , but they were showing the ticks on a moose and said how they ticks are actually killing the moose. They were just absolutely LOADED with them.
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Re: September Moose Hunt

Post  MEhunter on Fri Jan 09, 2015 9:36 am

My guess is that it probably was Maine. I do know other states have issues with them as well, but I remember a Northwoods Law episode that talked about it. It's a pretty nasty site that's for sure.

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Re: September Moose Hunt

Post  Willy on Fri Jan 09, 2015 4:21 pm

That's a hunt I would like to go on.  Great pictures and great story
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Re: September Moose Hunt

Post  TheCReW on Fri Jan 09, 2015 8:09 pm

Wow there is a dream hunt. I have a good friend in New Brunswick and his pics really remind me of yours, must be same ground. Thanks for sharing, looks like a lot of fun! Amazing animals

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Re: September Moose Hunt

Post  Mountainman Vic on Sun Jan 18, 2015 1:16 pm

I put this story off until I had time to read and enjoy it. Great read Dave. Thanks for taking the time to post it. I would so love to do another moose hunt. I told Holly that is one that I would really like to take her on. It's amazing how an animal that freak'n huge can be so close and yet invisible. Also, I'm always impressed at the food you put out on your hunts. I know first hand how much work that is.

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