Hunting ‘Big Dodge’ the moose
Aroostook County guide and outfitter Nathan Theriault had a pretty good idea where Big Dodge liked to hang out, especially when the rut was on. The season before one of Nathan’s clients got a shot at the big bull, but failed to put him down. Big Dodge eluded the hunters and Theriault, wondering if the moose survived, flew over Big Dodge’s digs in early December. The boss man at OMM Outfitters on Eagle Lake, Theriault said that if you hunt moose enough you get to know one animal from another. When he saw the moose below him from his Husky bush plane, there was no question. Big Dodge had survived!
Later that winter, while flying over the snow-covered area where he last saw the bull, Theriault spotted one of what he thought might be Big Dodge’s shedded antlers. On foot, the Aroostook guide located the antler and eventually found its match not far from the first shed. “I knew that it was Big Dodge’s head gear. There was no question,” he said with a smile.
Then this fall, Missouri hunter Chris “Possum” Sawyer got lucky. After a number of futile attempts he finally drew a Maine moose tag and hired Theriault to show him the ropes. Sawyer had no idea at the time, but he had an appointment with Big Dodge, and would be the second hunter to see the County bull in his rifle scope.
During the hunt week the weather was not cooperating, according to Theriault. He says they were forced to hunt in and around weather “windows.” Early in the week, they got a look at Big Dodge through a grid work of spruce trees but no shots were taken. On Wednesday the weather lifted. Theriault and his fellow guide and good friend, Ken Mayo, were double-teaming the rutting bull with cow calls, bull grunts and a lot of tree raking. Then it got exciting. About 10 a.m. the hunt crew began hearing grunts 200 yards away.
Theriault has an exceptional video of what happened after that. The tension and anticipation among the hunters is clearly evident in the video. Sawyer is at the ready, standing near an opening with his scope-mounted .338 to his shoulder. Theriault is raking the bushes with a moose bone for all his worth and making bull grunts, and Mayo, about 50 yards to their left, is trying to convince Big Dodge that he is a cow in serious heat. The bull is headed their way, and he is not happy. He plans on showing his competition who is boss before visiting his receptive cow.
Suddenly 50 yards from Sawyer, a massive rack of antlers materializes from behind a bushy pine tree. Then, there he is! Big Dodge is black as night and standing broadside, but his powerful neck is twisted toward the sounds and the hunters. Theriault speaks in a whisper to his client and a second later, Sawyer’s .338 barks. It takes two more shots to put the big critter down for good.
Whooping like a banshee, Ken Mayo comes bounding from the fir thicket and can hardly contain himself. Then Sawyer hoots and hollers and three of them hug and jump up and down like the Red Sox infield at the World Series.
Theriault estimates the dressed weight of the moose to be 850 lbs. The rack has a 52.5 inch spread. One side scored 69 and the other 66. What is interesting is that Theriault was able to compare Big Dodge’s 2018 shed antlers with the moose’s 2019 rack. He says that the previous year’s antlers would have scored higher for whatever reason, and, yes, he is positive it is the same moose.
Although OMM outfitters also guides bear and deer hunters, Theriault confesses that guiding moose hunters is “his thing.” Like most of us who hunt, the 36-year-old guide, who started OMM Outfitters in 2003, is not immune to the so-called “hunter’s paradox.” Theriault says that for him taking an animal prompts its introspective moments long after the whooping is over. For Theriault, and no doubt the man from Missouri, Big Dodge will not be soon forgotten.
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. or at www.sportingjournal.com.