My group of hunting buddies has been fortunate over the years. Though all of us haven’t been drawn during the annual moose permit lottery, a couple of us have (twice each), and after the first hunt 11 years ago, we made a solemn pact.
If one of us is drawn, all of us are drawn. And when that does happen, all of us are going on a moose-hunting reunion.
A couple weeks ago, I got lucky again, more than a decade after my first successful permit lottery. My name was drawn … for the zone I really coveted … during a season that we’d not hunted before.
Now, it’s time to get the band back together.
Chris Lander is my sub-permittee (and I, his, on his two moose hunts). Pete Warner’s a great pal who took up hunting because he had so much fun on my first moose hunt. Billy and Timmy Lander, Chris’s brothers, are two of the most accomplished woodsmen I’ve ever met, and are also part of the club. So, too, is Earle Hannigan, Chris’s father-in-law, who’ll be added to this year’s roster.
So, come the second week of October, we’ll head up toward Brassua Lake, set up housekeeping at a camp we’ve come to love, and spend some portion of six days hunting moose. Again.
Not that we’ve totally abandoned moose hunting over the years between permits, of course.
No, a few years ago our band of hunting buddies decided that allowing the state to determine whether we went moose hunting each year showed a defeatist attitude that we simply wouldn’t tolerate.
That’s why most years, we make plans to go on a moose hunt whether any of us have a permit or not.
We stage this “hunt” during the first week of October, which (not coincidentally) marks the beginning of bird hunting season, and which (also not coincidentally) does not overlap with any existing moose season.
That way, we’re not bugging any real moose hunters when we find moose-y looking spots, set up our cameras, and try to call in a big ol’ bull.
In the past, I’ve called those forays afield our “catch and release” moose hunts, and that’s exactly what they are. Call. Take video or photos. Pack up again. Hit the road and hunt birds for a few hours. Then (and this is most important): Eat like a hog.
Note to prospective “neighbors” in Wildlife Management District 8: Our group tends to pack way too much food, and has a habit (especially after filling our tag) of cooking all of our food on our last night in camp …. which leads to a feast … and we share. You won’t want to miss it. (Just follow your nose).
Over the past several years, our group has spent a lot of time in WMD 8, which stretches from the Golden Road in the north to Carrabassett Valley and Coburn Gore in the south, from the Canadian border to the west and the shore of Moosehead Lake in the east.
We’ve driven roads, avoided getting stuck in mud holes and beaver bogs, shot a few birds, and see a lot of moose.
Yes, editor, we’ve seen a lot of moose. (I may have once guaranteed my new, seemingly city-slickerish editor that I could find her a moose, and may have failed, prompting her to believe that moose are a fictional animal that Mainers talk about in order to lure unsuspecting city folk to the boondocks).
In fact, on one of our trips an apparently lovesick bull moose heard my less-than-graceful tromping through the woods and thought I was the cow of his dreams. But that’s another story.
All I’m saying is, I bet we’ll see a few moose this time around, too. Not because I’m particularly good at this moose-hunting game, but because my moose hunting brush-whompers (yes, we have detailed job descriptions like this) are very, very good at whomping brush and sniffing out moose.
So come October, we’ll be heading back there, into the great Maine woods, in search of a bull moose.
We can hardly wait … and we’re planning the menu (and other things) already.
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 990-8214. Follow him on Twitter: @JohnHolyoke