Moose memories on the loose in next week’s hunt

On Monday I will be participating in the September moose hunt with Paul Jacques and Ed Pineau. Most know Paul for his long legislative career and service as Deputy DIF&W Commissioner. Ed and I do a lot of hunting and fishing together, and he and his wife Cate are lobbyists who lobbied for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine when I served as SAM’s executive director.

Paul’s subpermittee was unable to participate in this year’s hunt, so he asked Ed to be his sub. Lucky Ed! Although I fully expect Paul will shoot the bull. Paul’s been on moose hunts every year, but this is the first time he has won his own permit. It’s also the first time I have participated in a September moose hunt, when you can call in the bulls, and I am excited.

Having never been drawn for a permit (I was convinced for years that someone at DIF&W was pulling my name before the drawing because the agency was aggravated with me), I was really excited when I got a letter in August informing me that my name had been drawn as the 153rd alternate in this year’s lottery – and was told it was very likely I would get a permit.

But then came the bad news. My permit would be in one of the central Maine or coastal districts. And that’s what happened. When I got the call, giving me the district numbers where I could have a permit, they were not districts where I really wanted to hunt moose.

But I did note that Ed and Cate Pineau live in one of the districts where I could have a permit. Seeing as how Ed is my subpermittee, I called and asked if he’d like to shoot a moose in his backyard. I was some old relieved when he said no! And I turned down the permit.

I don’t really care about shooting a moose, but I love participating in the moose hunt. I will be writing about this year’s hunt with Paul and Ed and will post that story here.

Two years ago I participated in a moose hunt and wrote a four part story about it. If you would like to read that story, here it is.

Moose Hunting Requires Endurance! – Day One of my 2012 Moose Hunt

The allure of a Maine moose hunt is difficult to convey. Sitting in the open back end of a pick-up, pitch black, 26 degrees, listening to the sounds of trees cracking in the cold, Mike Pineau trying to call in a big bull. I guess you had to be there.

In October I enjoyed my first-ever moose hunt, with Ed and Cate Pineau, Mike Pineau, Norm Pineau, Lester Pineau (partial Pineau list – there were a lot of Pineaus in camp) and our friend Kevin Stewart from Texas – the man with the permit for a bull moose in WMD 4, the location of the Pineau’s camp in Northeast Carry on Moosehead Lake.

On Day One moose hunting is more about endurance, less about enjoyment.

We drove over 1000 miles – at least it seemed like it. Back and forth across “unimproved” woods roads, eyes straining to see a moose. Any moose. Anywhere. It was warm. Moose were not moving. At least, that’s what Maine Guide Mike Pineau told me. As far as I could tell, moose were not there, period.

Other than hearing a single grunt from a bull moose when we got out of the truck this very-early morning, we saw and heard nothing. We did see a mouse – but the slight change of an “o” for a “u” makes quite a difference.

I have very sad news to report. All the wild critters have been eradicated from the north woods – no lynx, no bobcats, no foxes, no coyotes, no deer, and certainly no moose. We did see a lot of grouse – but Ed wouldn’t let me bring my shotgun and shoot them. We were moose hunting and only moose hunting.

As we drove, and drove, and drove, I snacked, and snacked, and snacked, and napped, and read a 2-day old newspaper – and occasionally got up into the Moose Ridah attached to the truck bed, gazing out into the cuttings for those nonexistent moose as we motored along, and along, and along.

But the experience really improved when we finally got back to camp to enjoy an outstanding dinner of moose chili and moose shepherd’s pie. I had three bowls of chili, one plate of shepherd’s pie, and two cold beers. By 8 pm I was in bed, dead to the world. Dreaming of moose.

UP NEXT – My entire moose hunting experience was transformed on Day Two, when Norm’s voice blasted from Ed’s walkie talkie: “Fifty pointer. Number seven road!”

2012 Moose Hunt – Day Two – Electrified by the Bellow of a Bull Moose

I am freezing in the back of the Moose Ridah. We’re parked at an intersection of two woods roads. It’s pitch black, before the crack of dawn, nothing moving, eerily quiet, when from somewhere in Ed Pineau’s pants I hear, “50 pointer! Number 7 Road!”

Ed wildly searched his various pants pockets, trying to find the walkie-talkie that had just broadcast his brother Norm’s voice. Ed didn’t hear what Norm had said, so I repeated it in a shout: “That was Norm! He’s seen a bigggg moose! 50-inch rack! On Number 7 road!”

And with that, I leaped out of the back of the truck and sprinted up the road where Mike Pineau and Kevin Stewart were sitting, trying to call in a bull. We quickly gathered in the truck and sped off for Number 7 road where Norm was posted.

When we arrived, Norm was standing in the road, pointing into the woods. A group of hunters around the corner had shot a small bull, and shortly after that, Norm spotted a huge bull crossing the road.

Mike started calling and immediately, just 100 yards into the woods, a bull bellowed. Oh my God! He’s coming for us! It was electrifying!

And suddenly I got it – the excitement, the anticipation, the adrenalin, the amazing experience that is moose hunting in Maine.


The Pineau boys have taken 27 moose from their Northeast Carry camp, so they’ve got this down to a routine. This is a major project, requiring lots of equipment including saws, come-alongs, chains, a lot of rope and much more, many days spent scouting the area, a snowmobile trailer for transporting the moose, the Moose Ridah hoisted onto the back of the pickup, a butcher shop standing by in Livermore Falls – and enough food to sustain the group for six days, if necessary.

And it almost was. That big bull on Day Two bellowed once and left the area. So it was back in the truck for another day of riding the roads. But now, they couldn’t keep me out of the Moose Ridah. I was pumped!

Usually one other guy would join me in the Ridah, and we spent much of the time sharing stories while staying alert for moose sightings. Many of mine turned out to be very large dark stumps. But occasionally today, we did see moose. That’s when it was my job to pull on the rope that dangled down from the Ridah and through the driver’s window. When I pulled, the driver stopped. Quickly. Hang on!

Mike told me that before they built the Ridah, he rode on the tailgate, watching for moose and trying desperately not to fall off. Glad I missed those hunts!

As we ride the roads, Ed or Mike, in the Ridah with me, would point out, “We got a moose right here once,” and “Here’s where we got a nice bull three years ago.” Very impressive, especially when I was on my first moose hunt.

Near the top of a hill, I heard a loud snap, told Mike, and he pulled the rope, bringing the truck to a fast halt. Ed and Kevin jumped out of the truck, and I pointed up into the woods, where I’d heard the snap.

Mike and I jumped out of the Ridah, and I walked up the road a ways with Kevin while Ed and Mike walked the other way. A few minutes later, I heard Mike making his cow call – from up in the woods. I was amazed that he got up there so fast – until I turned to my left and saw him standing a couple hundred yards away in the road. It was the moose that was calling! And my gosh, she sounded just like Mike!

That call helped the guys decide the moose was a cow, but we stuck it out there for a while, hoping she was with a bull. The moose stayed put up on the ridge. But it was exciting!

We spend a lot of today on high ground, where the views are jaw dropping gorgeous panoramas of mountains, lakes, and foliage at its peak of reds and yellows. We also saw a Golden eagle, some kind of owl, a lot of Canadian jays, spruce grouse, and what seemed like thousands of juncos – plus more Ruffed grouse that the guys would not let me shoot. Not until we got our moose.

But there was no moose today – except in the evening’s meal featuring moose meatloaf. Very very tasty. I also enjoy a couple of ice cold (left outside) Shipyards – respecting the Pineau’s sound requirement that no alcohol is consumed until the day’s hunt is concluded.

Up next: Day Three – Finally, I get to shoot some grouse.

Good Grouse Almighty! Moose Hunting’s Exciting! – Day Three

I awaken to the smells of bacon and coffee and the sound of a crackling fire. This is my idea of hunting camp. Norm is the breakfast chef and he even cooks our eggs to order. Superb!

Conversations in hunting camp are always interesting. We covered, of course, previous hunting and fishing adventures. We also argued politics, and lamented the Red Sox. The talk was often brutally honest, with no egos present. If you can’t stand ridicule, hunting camp is not for you.

Before we hit the roads again this morning in search of a huge bull moose, we engage in a conversation about “malicious compliance,” which means doing something that you are ordered or required to do, when you know it’s the wrong thing. That will be the subject of my editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel sometime soon!

It had rained hard the night before and I thought, as I climbed up into the Ridah before dawn, how far I’d come in two days. On the first day, with temperatures in the mid-40s, I was freezing in the Ridah and rode there for only a short time. On Day Two, when we started spotting some moose, I was happy and comfortable in the Ridah, in mid-20 temperatures.

For the last two hours today, I am alone in the Ridah, in a downpour, a big smile on my face. Everyone else is hunkered down in the truck. Every once in a while, they stopped and asked if I was ok. Of course! I loved it!

Mid-morning, I spotted a small cow up ahead in a chopping, pulled the rope, turned to my left, and was astonished to see a very large bull standing broadside, 30 yards away. Kevin was already out of the truck, taking aim, when I glanced his way. The bull stared. Kevin aimed. The bull stared some more. Kevin put down his gun. The bull continued to stare at us. And then, eventually, he wandered off.

At an estimated weight of 700 pounds, but with a relatively small rack, he was determined to be significantly short of the huge bull we were hoping to get. Ed called it “only 700 pounds” and said it was “identical to my moose last year.”

If I’d been the shooter, that moose would have been down, quickly. I thought he was massive! Actually, he was massive.

Finally, today, my whining about shooting grouse got to Ed and he let me give it a try. I’d noticed a grouse just off the road as we passed by. When Ed turned the truck around a couple hundred yards beyond that spot, I asked if I could get out on the way back and shoot the grouse, and he finally relented.

But I got out of the truck in the wrong place and couldn’t find the grouse. Then Mike rolled down his window and told me the spot was about 75 yards up the road. I got back in the truck, road up to that spot, and saw the grouse scampering under the root of a big stump and disappearing.

Ed got out, saw the bird, and pointed it out to me, but as hard as I stared, I could not see it. “It’s right there,” he said about six times, pointing to the bird. Nope, couldn’t see it. Finally, frustration setting in, Ed said, “Give me the gun. I’ll shoot it.”

“No way!” was my exclamation (or perhaps something a bit stronger). “Its right there,” he nearly shouted, pointing to the stump. Thinking I saw a bit of movement to the side of the stump, I aimed at that spot and fired. Then I had to get around a lot of water in the ditch between me and the stump. And when I finally got up to the stump, I found two dead grouse. I’d gotten two birds with one shot, and didn’t see either one!

“Good guiding,” I told Ed, proudly holding up my two birds. I would get two more that afternoon to complete my daily limit, and returned to camp very contented, even though we didn’t get a moose today.

The moose roast at dinner made up for that!

UP NEXT: Day Four – “It’s a Cow!”

It’s a Cow! – Day Four of our 2012 Moose Hunt

Heavy rain, spitting snow, and a fierce wind last night got every moose in the North Woods up and moving, at least it seemed that way on the morning of Day Four of our 2012 moose hunt at Ed Pineau’s Northeast Carry camp.

Our shooter, Kevin Stewart of Texas, had been very patient, passing up small bulls and one I thought was massive, hoping to get a bull of more than 1000 pounds.

I started the morning in the Moose Ridah with Ed, not wanting to miss a thing. The wind was still very strong, but we started seeing moose almost immediately. Ed would spot the moose and my job would be to pull the rope, alerting the driver to stop.

After an hour and a half, I was getting pretty good at pulling the rope, as we’d spotted seven moose by that time! Alas, I wasn’t getting any better at spotting moose. In the early morning light, I pointed up ahead and asked Ed, “Is that a moose?”

“No,” he said somewhat sarcastically. “That’s a pine tree.” By now, my level of excitement was so high that I was seeing moose everywhere. Most were big dark stumps.

About 8:30 am we were coming down a slight incline when I glanced ahead, up a tote road, and spotted what I was pretty sure was a moose. I pulled the rope, quickly stopping the truck, and brought up my binoculars. Ed was in the Ridah with me.

I pointed out the moose to Ed, quite a ways up the tote road to our left, as Kevin and Mike exited the truck and moved quickly up the road, getting into position where they could see and shoot up the tote road.

There were trees and leaves between Ed and I in the Ridah and the moose, but I thought it was a cow. And here’s how that went.

“It’s a cow.” Bang!

Literally milliseconds after I said the word cow, Kevin shot. I won’t tell you what Ed said next about my ability to identify moose. Very unkind!

2012 mooseIt was a huge bull, slightly larger than the one we’d seen previously, and by far the biggest we’d seen this morning: 717 pounds with a 40 inch rack. Everyone was happy.

Then the work began, although the Pineaus have this down to a science, saws, knives, rope, pulleys, and before I knew it, the bull was on the snowmobile trailer and we were headed to Raymond’s Store in Northeast Carry to register the animal.

Norm had the best comment after we got back to camp. We were all standing around the trailer admiring the moose. “That’s next year’s menu, sitting on that trailer,” said Norm.

I can’t wait!


Having gotten our moose early in the day, I was able to get in some grouse hunting in the afternoon. We all piled in the truck and hit the road, looking for grouse. I shot appallingly poorly, whenever the guys would let me out of the truck to try my luck. I blamed it on the audience.

So after we got back to camp, Mike took pity on me and drove me up and into the hills behind camp. I never missed a shot, getting my limit fairly quickly.            That got me some bragging rights back at camp. And allowed me to return home with my possession limit of 8 grouse.

But what I really brought home was a basket load of memories of a very exciting hunt, great friends, and delicious food, along with a new-found appreciation for moose hunting in Maine.

It’s been years since I applied for a moose permit. But I’ll be doing that in 2013!

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.