Moose hunters should plan ahead
Question: What’s more exciting than winning a million dollars in Powerball?
Answer: Winning a moose hunting permit in the Maine Moose Lottery.
If you are one of the lucky 2,080 moose permit winners for 2017, a word to the wise: plan ahead for your fall hunt. I mean REALLY plan ahead. Because a Maine moose hunt is often a once-in-a-lifetime affair, and because a freezer of well-processed moose meat is such a culinary coup, it’s important not to botch the deal.
Here are some tips and thoughts in this regard:
1. Do lots of advance scouting. Don’t wait until a few days from your hunt date. Make an August or early September trip to your hunt area. Camp out. Have a good time. Get to know the area, the terrain and, if possible, study moose behavior and habits. Just because close to 70,000 moose inhabit Maine, there are no guarantees. Moose still know how to make themselves scarce – especially when the shooting starts.
2. Spend some time at the shooting range with your sub permittee. Get proficient with shooting tight groups at 100 yards. And don’t fail to know what you and your rifle can or cannot do out to 200 yards. Use a caliber that is big enough to put a moose down, but one that is still within your recoil comfort zone.
3. Decide ahead of time whether you want to be a road hunter, or a more traditional big game hunter, who prefers to bag his or her trophy “off the beaten path.”
4. On my once-in-a-lifetime Maine moose hunt, I chose the latter. We hunted along a stream bed with big canoes and brought my critter out by canoe quartered up in three pieces. We have no regrets. It made for a most memorable hunt!
5. If you do plan to bag your bull the “easy” way ( from the road), make sure that you have an exit strategy. If a 900-pound bull travels a hundred yards into a fir thicket before expiring, how will you get him back to the road? There are more jerry-rigged retrieval systems than there are moose hunters, some are better than others. Chain-saw type power winches are the cat’s meow for getting a big critter back to the road, but they are not cheap. Then there are always beefy ATVs and block and tackle type come-along rigs.
The key is to have an advance plan for whatever animal retrieval contingencies crop up.
6. Finally, the most important consideration: protecting the precious cargo, the meat. This cannot be stressed enough, especially if you bag your moose on a warm Indian Summer day. Moose are heavy-coated creatures and, unfortunately, the hide will inhibit proper cooling of the meat. If you can’t get the hide off fairly soon, rinse the gut cavity and stuff it with frozen milk jugs until you can get to a processor, or start your own processing. Moose hunters who place a higher priority on photo “ops” at the tagging station than caring for their wild meat windfall are misguided, indeed.
Oh, one other thing. A new twist this year from the folks at Fish and Wildlife. If you bag a female moose in Wildlife Management Districts 1-4 or 19, you are required to remove the ovaries from the gut pile and turn them over to the tagging station. The Department offers a video on its website on just how to perform this gastro-intestinal extraction. If you haven’t been to med school you might want to review this video a couple of times with your hunt buddies over a cool one.
The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide and host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books.Online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.com.