This is a terrific moose hunting story, written by my friend James Cote who managed the referendum campaign that successfully defended bear hunting, and who is now very active in a variety of sportsmen’s issues and projects. I was particularly pleased by the key role played by my friends Greg Drummond and Ron Joseph.
The Last Minute Moose, By James Cote, October 15, 2015
Some define the last minute of Maine’s annual moose hunt as those waning minutes before sundown on the last day of the hunt when those moose hunters not fortunate enough to harvest a moose feel their chances slipping away.
For the purposes of this story, we will define the last minute as the time when the moose permit holder’s hunting party is scheduled to head home and leave him alone to find his moose for the remainder of the week.
It was just this past week when my brother in-law Trent (the permittee), my nephews Zack (the sub-permittee) and Abram, friends CJ, Jake, and Sam, and my other brother in-law Tom and I headed to Spring Lake in search of a bull moose.
We arrived Sunday afternoon and all of us did a fair share of scouting. We were in the Pierce Pond/Flagstaff area where all of us had hunted and fished before. A region we are pretty familiar with and enjoy very much.
After dark on Sunday we christened moose camp with great food (and maybe a couple of adult beverages), and many old hunting stories, and got ourselves to bed early in anticipation of an early morning on Monday.
Monday came and we were out the door around 4:30AM. We headed to a marshy area not far from camp where we had heard that a couple of bull moose had been spotted by neighbors. The temperature plummeted as the sun started to rise. Fog blanketed the bog that we were watching as Trent and Zack made their way into the woods to do some calling.
Not long after sun-up, Tom and I spotted a couple of “blow downs” in the bog that we had not seen earlier, but we both attributed the sighting to the fog burning off and allowing us to see a bit deeper. For those of you that may not be familiar, a blow down is a tree that has been knocked over and its roots are sticking up out of the ground.
I pulled my binoculars up to glass the area once more, and to my surprise, one of the blow downs had a head and ears! Alas, we had spotted our first moose- albeit a cow! As we looked closer we could tell that the other “blow down” was a calf. We watched anxiously as Trent called from the woods, hoping to see a bull make his way into the bog. No such luck.
For the remainder of the day we drove and hiked throughout the region. We were lucky to shoot a few partridge as well. It was warm- near 70 degrees, and there were lots of Columbus Day bird hunters in the area. It was a no-moose afternoon.
Our spirits remained high as we made our way back to camp that evening- exhausted. But we made another great meal (thanks to Jake who made homemade meatballs with ingredients entirely from his farm) and made a plan for day two. Tom and I encouraged the group to head to a spot we had scouted on Sunday and Monday that seemed to be great habitat for moose. Another early evening to bed.
4:00AM on Tuesday came and we were a little quicker out the door. We set members of the group in three different bog areas, in hopes that someone would see another “blow down” appear as the sun made its way up. It was much cooler than the day before and overcast. About an hour into the hunt one member of the group let us know he had heard a bull moose grunting on the far end of his area. He made his way out and we sent the hunters in to see if they could find him.
While this was happening, the others in the group decided we would take a ride and see if we could see anything. Tom and I jumped in my truck and Jake took a couple of the younger boys. A few miles passed and Tom and I were enjoying our coffees and a few laughs when all of the sudden we passed yet another bog and to our surprise a nice bull moose right in the middle of it! Instead of pushing it further into the woods Tom decided to take my truck back to get the hunters (Trent and Zack) and I would stay back and watch and listen in hopes of being able to locate the bull when they returned.
A while later, Tom returned with the hunters and we devised a plan to have them walk through the woods from the back side of the bog where there was a pond, in hopes that the bull was on his way to the body of water to feed. Meanwhile, Jake took a walk on the other side of the bog. Eventually, Jake heard the moose making its way back to the road that we first saw him, and decided he would head back and give us all the report. Tom and I headed back to the pond area where we hoped we might cross his path. We found tracks running up the road out of the pond area, and realized that more than likely the moose had tricked us and headed for higher ground.
As we regrouped on the road over lunch, we decided we would pursue the moose into the area where we thought he had gone. We only had a couple hours until Tom and I and the sub-permittee Zack and his brother Abram and friend CJ had to head back home. Just as the last of the sandwiches were being made on the tailgate, we heard several gun shots very close to where we stood. Our hearts may have skipped a beat knowing that the moose we had been chasing had likely been taken by another hunter.
Sure enough, we drove a mile or so down the road to where we heard the shots and met up with a hunting party that had just taken a moose. Ironically, one lady with that hunting party was a former colleague of mine that now works for the National Rifle Association. Tom and I, being the only two that had seen the bull, decided to take a walk in to see if the bull was the same one we had seen. Indeed it was- the rack fit our description of him exactly. We congratulated the hunters, and committed to hunting hard for the last hour or so of our hunt.
During all of this time, we had passed another hunting party that we had seen the day before that had also taken a moose. More on this later.
We headed back out in search of moose sign, and unfortunately were never able to put our eyes on another moose. Realizing that it was time for many of us to head home, we stopped at the end of the road and wished Trent good luck. We topped off our vehicles with gas, had a quick bite to eat and were ready to head for home when the other party that had taken a moose nearby stopped to tell us their story and say hello.
Two of the men, Greg Drummond and Ron Joseph introduced themselves to me. Greg owns Claybrook Mountain Lodge and Ron had written a very supportive op-ed in the Bangor Daily News last year when I was managing the bear referendum. Very pleasant guys and even gave Trent some directions on where to find some other bulls and a tub of moose scent in hopes that he could use it later in the week. They left, wishing the party the best of luck.
Moments later we were again ready to jump in our vehicles and head for home when Drummond and Joseph came back and said they had spotted a bull in a swamp not far from where we were. We hopped in the trucks and headed to the last sighting. Trent and Zack quickly jumped out of their truck and got shots off to drop the moose. They had succeeded!
It appeared to be about a 600 pound bull. After a few minutes of high-fives and congratulations, I realized Trent’s wife was waiting for the younger boys about 5 miles up the road. She had to take them to football practice that afternoon! I hopped in my truck to go get her while the other guys worked the moose up in preparation to transport it back to camp.
Already thinking that Drummond and Joseph were two very nice guys, they surprised us by helping us get the moose out of a deep swampy area. We learned quickly that Drummond wasn’t just a nice guy, he was a pro at retrieving swampy moose. If I ever have the good fortune of drawing my moose tag I hope he is nearby again! He made quick and easy work of dragging the moose to the road.
Finally we got the moose loaded in the truck, and headed away. Tom and I got home in time, and Zack and Abram were both able to make it to football practice on time. What a day!
It truly was a last minute moose!