2021 Maine September Moose Hunt: 802-603hunter

802-603hunter

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After applying for 20 years as a non-resident, I was successful in this year’s drawing. After seeing my name on the website that evening it didn’t take long for me to decide to book a remote hunt with a guide. This zone is a poke from my house at 8 hours of drive time, and being as busy as I was this summer, I knew I wouldn’t have ample time to learn a new area and make all of the preparation that this hunt was going to warrant. That being said, this post will be short on scouting missions and prep work. At the end of the day I feel like I made a wise choice.

Sunday 9/26.
I made the trip to Maine and spent Saturday night at my sub-permittees camp about an hour south of the rendezvous point we planned to meet the guide at. We cooked a hearty camp breakfast and dubbed around camp for the morning before heading to meet up at noon. We did a brief meet and greet with our guide Stephen and the other party who would be hunting out of camp with us and then headed north to the North Maine Woods gate to register. Once registered our wagon train of pick-up trucks headed to the remote tent camp. We got unpacked and settled in before dinner and called it an early night, in the tents by 8:00 with anticipation high for the next morning.

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802-603hunter

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Monday 9/27
After a generally sleepless night full of anticipation we were up early and kindled the fire in the tent to warm it up to get dressed in comfort. We grabbed a quick bite to eat and were off to our opening morning spot. Once there we waited for it to get closer to daylight and then walked in on the winter road quietly, still a few minutes before shooting time. It wasn’t long before we could hear a few grunts in the distance. It sounded as though there were two bulls on the hillside above us.

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As good light drew near we let out a few cow calls and had the bulls responding. They seem to draw nearer at first, then the one coming in from our left stopped responding, we suspect he may have cut our wind. The other, off to our right, seems to be getting a bit further away as well heading along the hillside parallel to the winter road. We flank him as we travel along the winter road, he’s responding but we think he likely has a cow with him who keeps him moving along. We decided to move in through an old cut and up the hillside towards them calling along the way. We close the distance, but they seem to be staying ahead of us. We stop at a spot where the old cutting ceased, and the woods become thick. While we are contemplating our next move some cow calls are made and a bull responds. In order to sell the calling Stephen begins breaking sticks and splashing some water in a small pool near us. The bull keeps coming and we can also hear another one off to our left. The bull’s grunts get louder and louder as he draws near. We can only see about 35 yards at the most and it feels like he should pop out any second. One of the guys sees a quick glimpse as he passed through a tiny opening and surmises he’s a decent bull. The pump gun is up and at the ready, thinking he’s about to pop out any second, and at close range. One of the guys sees what they think is a glimpse of him leaving and sure enough he must of caught our wind and slipped out silently. The changing wind directions would prove to be our challenge the majority of the week. It's about 9:00 and we have solidly been into the bulls since daybreak.

We head out and take a separate fork off the same winter road network and find some rut pits littered along the way.
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After working down the road ¾ of a mile or so, periodically stopping to call and listen, we hear a cow not far of the road from us. Shortly after hearing the cow we hear antlers raking the brush. We decide to move in and challenge the bull, raking with the scapula and grunting along the way. We weren’t into the woods 100 yards and spot the bull peeking back up at us through the woods.

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802-603hunter

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Stephen continues to grunt and the bull comes out to challenge us. We identify him as a decent bull around the mid-40’s wide. He has nice palms and most folks would be happy to take him. I had spent a bunch of time pre-hunt looking at the piles of sheds I had found up to my camp and had a visual of what the bull I wanted to shoot would look like. While this bull, who was now closing the distance between us, was nice he just wasn’t what I had envisioned. He put on a nice show and closed to with 15 yards displaying his stature for us (thinking we were a bull there to steal his girl).


Once he had us figured we slipped out as to not rile the area too much and could quickly hear him relocating his girl once we departed. Lots of excitement and its still not even noon!

On the way out to the truck we bumped into a cow and calf who were barreling up through a cut. We stuck there thinking a bull could be chasing them but no one showed. We headed back to camp for lunch and then returned to the same road system for the afternoon hunt. We had a bull responding to our calls and wanting to come in, but he was hung up with a cow and we ran out of daylight. Thinking they wouldn’t be too far in the morning we planned to return. This place seemed to have plenty of moose regardless. Some great food and conversation back at camp that evening after a solid day of hunting.

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802-603hunter

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Tuesday 9/28
We headed back in and started to call to the area we left the bull the nigh before. The sunrise was another beauty as they were most of the week.

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We got the bull to respond but he seemed to be unwilling to come down off the hillside. We decide to move up the road further and find a bull who might be ab it more lonely. When we got the end of the winter road and called we heard a cow moaning down in the softwood and speculated we may have heard a bull in there with her.

We decide to move in on them in the same fashion we did the day before, raking and grunting. We closed the distance but he cow moaning seems to be moving away from us and she stays just out of sight. We heard another cow off to our left as the one we are following moves off to the right. We figured out there must not have been a bull in there and she was trying to lead us away from the other cow and keep us to herself. We are now out onto another system of winter road unconnected from the one we started on, but somewhat interwoven to the same area. After looking over the satellite images we decide to hunt his section for a bit before heading back to the one we started. We went through some beautiful lowlands and beaver ponds. The alders were torn up the entire length of the road. We had to ford a beaver dam and found that all of the critters were pinched through this spot as well; finding moose, bear, deer, coyote, and beaver tracks that you could have covered with your gun.
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802-603hunter

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We hear one soft grunt in this area before heading back cross country to the winter road we started on. After jumping out a deer we crossed a nice stream and shortly thereafter came across this spot devoid of grass. We poked around it a bit ad noticed a couple small bones and hair. We realize it is the remnant of where a bear passed and after rummaging around a bit more were able to locate four claws. We each took one and carried it in our pocket, hoping for them to bring good luck.

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802-603hunter

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The rest of the trip out only resulted in a brief encounter with a fork bull, and another side trip out a winter road along a hard wood ridge was uneventful. We headed to a relatively fresh cut to close out the day. As we were parking the truck a small bull crossed behind us out into one of the adjacent cuts. We headed into a secluded cut and called for the reminder of the day with no action.
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Listening intently
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802-603hunter

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Wednesday 9/29

We decide to hit the next winter road up from the area we had hunted the last two mornings. This would put us up near the height of the land above the area the bulls seemed to be hanging in the mornings. Nice and cool to start the day.
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Once we reached the end of the road we heard some antlered ticking together down the hill from us after a calling sequence. We could then hear another bull grunting his way in from the opposite direction. As that bull is growing near we can still hear antlers in the saplings below us, not terribly far away. Our heads are on swivels trying to figure out who will show up first, but no one does. We speculate the bull grunting his way in may have either spotted us or smelled us.
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We decide to move in that direction and after a short distance come across a small fork or 6 point bull pushing a cow and calf away form our grunting approach. We doubt this one is the one who was coming to the calls and as we got back out the landing we heard a challenge grunt in the distance. We decide to move deeper into these woods and get to the back of some other cuttings. When we got there they were more grown up than we had hoped and elected to walk back by road to the truck via the road getting passed by a log truck and getting license check by the wardens.

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After a quick snooze in the truck we headed back in to the same spot as Monday morning calling and listening along the way but had no action, just some freshened up rut pits.

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Thursday 9/30

After a brief walk in the same area as the night before only hearing a faint cow calling we headed out to a new spot and walked a winter road past a beaver dam. This road had plenty of sign, with the alders that lined the road thrashed up in good shape the entire length of the road. ON our way back out, after calling and stopping periodically on our walk in, we had a bull grunting and seemed to be coming in. We made a move to get our wind in a bit more favorable direction. Not sure what happened but after seeming to be close and closing in he shut up and disappeared.
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We decide to hit a different area for the night sit and head to a new area in a secluded cut. No action there but as we got back towards the truck saw a smallish bull cross the road as daylight faded, possibly heading in the direction of our recent calls.
 

802-603hunter

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Friday 10/1

Encouraged by the sign we saw along the beaver dam winter road the day before we decide to head down that road and keep going further as the network of roads is quite extensive. We traveled in a long way, calling and listening along the way without any action. The beavers had been very active along this road, reclaiming the roadway as their own.
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The mushrooms we encountered all week were impressive and out of the ordinary for a normal year. This road was particularly loaded.

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As we got out near the end of the road system we heard a cow up above us in the hardwood moaning and decided we would move in on her. As we began to close the distance it became clear she was being harassed, with her bellowing seeming to lose patience by the minute. At one point mid-moan it sounded as though something ran into her chest. We shadowed the sounds for about a ½ mile and as we were listening they made a swing on their back track and went by withing 30 yards; cow, calf, and small bull in tow. He was small in both rack and body but had a small drop time off his front left eye guard. He wasn’t palmated and I wasn’t overly tempted to take him. If we crossed paths on Saturday afternoon it may be a different story. It was an exciting sneak and awesome experience to get in on them like that.


After chatting for a minute about the excitement of the events that just unfolded we headed back out to the winter road for a quick bite to eat.
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Our trip out was uneventful with the exception of some bird hunters to decided to crowd in on us. After tossing around some ideas we decided to head in to the same area we hit Wednesday morning up high on the hillside, but not before a quick 30 minute snooze in the truck.
 

802-603hunter

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We hiked to the top of the land at the end of the winter road and let out a few calls. Stephen decided to drop down and try to locate a bull on a lower side road while we stayed put at the top listening for responses and tickling the brush with a scapula from time to time. We talked about the time we had left to hunt. It was Friday afternoon, and I was starting to wonder if we were going to make this happen. If I went home with a smaller bull than we passed Monday I was okay with that having soaked up all of the experience the week had provided. It would however, be a long ride back to Vermont emptyhanded.

After an hour or so Stephen returns and reports that he had located a bull down off the end of the lower road. The bull had responded to some calls but didn’t sound overly committed to investigating them only responding we with a couple grunts. We decide its worth looking into further and head down that way. Once there a few cow calls are launched and we hear a cow respond, not terribly far away, followed by some bull grunts. As was the case all week the bulls were cowed up and we were going to go in after them. We parted ways with the winter road and were quickly met with a thick layer of slash buried under a canopy of berry bushes. Luckily moose make plenty of noise and we were playing the part. We push towards the moose as they seemed to move around, flushing a group of 7 partridge along the way. We would sneak and pause to listen, tracking the moose by the cow moans as they weaved away from us. Once we were about 300 yards deep we came to some large fir trees left along the edge of a 2 acre beaver meadow. We stop short of the edge of the wood line and spot a cow in the alders on the far side. Soon another cow walks out and joins her. The bull has got to be right here but aren’t seeing him. Stephen lets out a soft cow call and we spot him poking his head out of the alders a distance behind the cows, paddles held high point towards the sky. We can tell immediately he is a good bull but he is going to have to make some moves in order for us to get a shot. Stephen lets out another cow call and he started to walk out into the beaver meadow. He has to clear some of the trees concealing our position inside the wood line, and once he clears those and the cows behind him I touch of the oh-six sending one solidly into his front shoulder. I quickly pump another and aim higher for a spine shot, which is immediately followed by my sub-permittee doing the same. At the report of his rifle the bull collapses to the ground. After a couple excited handshakes we begin to traverse the soggy parts of the bog making our way over to the bulls final resting spot.
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We quickly take some time to get some quality photos before the daylight slips away. It’s 6:15 now, and although we have already logged 14 miles on foot today, our work has only just begun.

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802-603hunter

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We made the ¾ mile trip back to the truck to drop our gear and grab our packs and pack out kit, flagging our path back to the winter road along the way knowing it will be dark upon our return. We brought a tape back with us and measured the greatest spread at 50.5”. We estimated his weight to be between 820 to 850 lbs.

We cleaned up one half of the moose as a group and Stephen packed out two trips of quarters while we dismembered the other half and shuttled it up the winter road.

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We used a jet sled for the bags of loose meat and the head. It was a downhill drag so it went well but we had to gain some steam to cross the deep shale lined water bars that peppered the road back. We got everything loaded in the truck by 12:15am and headed back to camp.

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The guys at camp quickly sprung to their feet when we pulled in and came out to hear our story. They too, after having passed a Monday bull, put a tag on a medium sized bull that morning. After shaking out the meat to cool and firing up the generator and freezer we had brought along to get it cold, we decided the day warranted a couple of beers even if it did keep us up until 2:30 am.
 

802-603hunter

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Saturday 10/2

Despite going to bed at 2:30am we were up early and enjoyed a hearty camp victory breakfast, had a warm camp shower, and prepared our things to depart.
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What an absolute adventure from start to finish. It was everything I had hoped for and more. I learned a lot from a very talented moose hunter/guide, had countless laughs as a group, enjoyed some great meals, saw some beautiful country (we logged over 70 miles on foot), and just generally enjoyed all aspects of the time there. I was fortunate enough to have confidence in the ability of the guide and the area we were in to make some decisions along the way that resulted in a full week of experiences and a nice bull to boot!
 

Muzzleloader

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Nice job creating and illustrating the thread. Congratulations on finding a very nice bull moose. You will eat well this year.
 

mowbizz

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Congrats on a successful hunt! I felt like I was along with you! Nice write up!
 

lester2

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Awesome report and pictures, thanks for taking the time to let us enjoy it. Congrats!
 

JDK

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Congratulations

sounds like a great hunt.
 

Browseline

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Whoever took all the pictures did a great job! Thanks for the report and congratulations on a great hunt and bull. Seems like it couldn't have been any better. The freezer and generator in the back of the truck was a great idea. I never would have thought of that.
 




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