Moose’s flies all settled on me!

More true tales from Camp Phoenix. In this column, we’ll talk moose.

In August, you could expect to see as many as 10 moose in Little Sourdnahunk Lake, eating the water plants. They would wade into the lake, then dip their heads under water to feast on the plants.

We would often hike from Big to Little Sourdnahunk, where Camp Phoenix keeps a couple of canoes, and then canoe the lake, enjoying the moose.

Moose Flies

A large bull moose with a rack that was huge on one side and stunted on the other, was swimming and eating near the outlet of Little Sourdnahunk. We paddled up to within 15 feet. Our young daughter Hilary was frightened to death!

I got some great photos. Every time the moose dipped his head into the water, the flies would hover in the air over him, waiting for that head to emerge.

Well, we paddled up too close to the bull, and when his head disappeared into the lake, those flies moved over onto me. I was covered in flies! And for some reason, none took a liking to Linda or the kids. Linda later suggested it was because I smelled like a moose. Hilary said it was because I was as big as a moose.

I couldn’t shake the flies. I swatted and killed about 3 dozen while we paddled frantically out into the middle of the lake, where a nice wind blew the rest off of me and away. It was not my most pleasant memory!

Later, on the hike back to our boat on Big Sourdnahunk, Josh spotted a cow moose about 100 yards down the trail. More excitement but no flies, thank goodness!

The one-eyed moose

Many moose used to hang out at Camp Phoenix. This photo shows a cow and calf, enjoying a salt lick behind our camp.

Sightings were so common that when we were driving through Baxter Park and sighted a moose, our young daughter Hilary wouldn’t even look up to see it. Groups of three or four moose were common.

But the one-eyed cow moose was everyone’s favorite. One of her eyes was clouded over, clearly not working for her. And she hung out in and around our camp most of the time. She’d have a calf every year, and the calf would lie on our lawn while One-Eye waded in our kids’ pond, a small body of water on a stream dammed up by beavers.

About five years ago, One-Eye didn’t appear, and we knew her days were over. We still miss her.

Charged by a moose

Linda and I were following a cow moose south on Baxter Park’s perimeter road when a truck came down a small hill headed north and scared the moose. She quickly turned around and started galloping our way.

Yikes! We were only about 30 yards from her, and had just enough time to dart into the woods and get behind a tree. She galloped by us, just feet from where we were standing.

Hiking Moose

Hiking the trail from Daicy Pond to Katahdin Stream, our young daughter Hilary was sprinting ahead and, down around a curve, ran right into a bull moose. The moose sprinted up the trail ahead of Hilary, as she hollered, “Moose, a Moose, a Moose!”

We hustled down around the curve and Hilary was running toward us, her hand over her heart – very very excited.

It was a young bull and it returned toward us for a photo opportunity before charging back up the trail, cutting across to the camps, and jumping into the pond, which I’m sure he had wanted to do when Hilary got in his way.

South Branch Pond moose

Back in the 1970s I was visiting Baxter Park with two buddies. We camped at South Branch Pond, and one morning, grabbed a couple of the park’s canoes to paddle the pond.

I was in the rear of one canoe, while one buddy was in the front, when we spotted a cow moose, swimming across the pond, not far from us. My buddy started paddling ferociously toward the moose, saying he wanted to get on the moose and ride her across the pond!

He didn’t know it, but while he paddled toward the moose, I was paddling the other way. Thankfully, I prevailed and he didn’t get close enough to get on the moose, for what would have probably been the last adventure of his life.

Throughout our years at Camp Phoenix, we’ve seen many moose swimming across Sourdnahunk and other lakes and ponds.

A number of times I’d round a bend in a stream or brook I was fishing, to find a moose standing in the water, staring at me. I always backed up and waited for them to exit the stream or brook before moving ahead.

Mount Vernon Moose

These stories didn’t happen at Camp Phoenix, but one is a favorite moose story.

We used to have moose on our Mount Vernon woodlot. One year, while sitting in my deer stand, four young bull moose walked right by me. Another time, in that same stand, a huge bull moose came along. He seemed to know something was in that stand (moose have poor eyesight), and he ambled over to see what it was.

When he got to my stand, his antlers were even with my feet! I greeted him, and he slowly turned and continued on his way.

One year a moose came onto our front lawn and rolled all over our raspberry bushes, killing them.

My favorite story happened in the bog on my woodlot. It’s full of small brush and vegetation, and I was walking along a narrow trail there one day, when I suddenly heard a cow moose calling to its calf. The moose sounded like it was just ahead of me, and I feared that I might have gotten between the cow and its calf.

Sure enough, a moment later, the cow emerged, walking right toward me on the narrow trail. She was only about 20 yards away, and she immediately charged me, kicking up her hind legs. I barely had time to dive into the bushes to the side of the trail, before she whipped by me, about 4 feet away, with those deadly legs kicking high.

I sat there in the bushes for quite a while, catching my breath!

Photographing Moose

We took lots of photos of moose over the years, and this is one of my favorites: a small pond alongside the perimeter road, with Katahdin in the background.


One More Great Moose Story

From our first day at camp, we’ve kept a journal, and it is loaded with wildlife stories. We were constantly surrounded by deer, moose, and other critters. Here’s a favorite about an adventure with our three kids at Little Sourdnahunk Lake.

August 8, 1991

Becky, Hilary, Josh and I went in to Little Sourdnahunk Lake this morning, after picking raspberries with Lin along the Baxter Park’s perimeter road. Lin stayed home to relax and bake a raspberry pie, while the rest of us piled in the boat for the short ride down the lake to Caribou Cover where the trail to Little Lake begins.

When we got to the Phoenix camp at Little Lake, Becky stepped around the corner of the porch and there was a huge cow moose standing right beside the cabin! Photos were taken and we spied a cow and calf about 100 yards up the east shore. The first cow paraded in front of the cabin making her way toward the outlet, while the cow and calf moved north along the east shore.

We got out a canoe and paddled in the direction of the cow and calf – catching up to them on the north shore and paddling up close to the calf while the cow fed nearby in the lake. More photos.

This calf was quite small. We proceeded to the picnic table on the far shore and enjoyed a nice picnic. While seated at the picnic table, recounting how Becky had rounded the camp corner and excitedly shouted out There’s a moose!, I lifted my arm to act it out and pointed toward the lake. As I did so, and mimicked Becky, shouting “There’s a moose,” another moose actually stepped out into the lake. The kids thought I was still joking when I said, “I MEAN it, there’s a moose!”

This was another cow and larger calf, already dark skinned on top, and after lunch we paddled up to within ten feet of them for more photos. I was very surprised the cow let us get that close to the calf, and that the calf was not spooked by us.

By this time we spotted another moose in the lake near the outlet, so we paddled that way (with very little film left in Becky’s camera). At the outlet a doe deer was in the water. She walked our way, stopped when she saw us, stomped her right hoof in the water several times, then let loose with a warning cry. She snorted all the way across the water to the shore south of the outlet (about 100 yards), scaring the moose which joined her in splashing to shore. It was an incredible sight.

As we headed back to the cabin, a young bull stepped along the shore, allowing us to paddle up to within 10 yards. Yes, more photos!


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.