Tucker Temple, 16, of Detroit, packs his moose with ice as Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife biologist Brad Zitske looks on at the Greenville moose tagging station on Monday, the first day of the state's second moose-hunting season this year. Credit: John Holyoke

GREENVILLE, Maine — Daniel Wadleigh of Belgrade arrived at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s moose tagging station on Monday, the opening day of the second session of hunting, with a grin on his face and a tale to tell.

The tale, the 31-year-old hunter quickly pointed out, had been more than two decades in the making.

“I’ve been waiting 21 years to get drawn [to go moose hunting], so I wasn’t going to be fussy,” he said, gesturing to the medium-sized moose lying on a trailer. The bull weighed in at 657 pounds, and sported antlers with a 37-inch spread.

One reason he wasn’t fussy: His guide, Pete Stratton of Stratton and Sons Guide Service, is apparently a very skilled moose-caller.

Some hunters want to get up close to a moose. Every hunter wants a good, clear shot. And some — like Wadleigh — end up a bit closer to their moose than most people would feel comfortable with.

“He called him in to 10 feet,” Wadleigh said. “He pointed and said, ‘It’s coming. It’s coming. Get everything ready.’ I got everything ready and I looked over and he was standing right there.”

While many outdoors enthusiasts have said they’ve been seeing fewer moose in recent years, Stratton isn’t among them.

“I’ve seen more moose this year than I’ve ever seen,” Stratton said, detailing a scouting mission in which he saw 13 moose in one day, including seven in a single clear-cut.

This week marks the second — and busiest — moose-hunting session, with 1,170 hunters allowed to head afield to hunt in one of 18 Wildlife Management Districts in the state. A total of 2,500 moose permits were allotted for 2018.

[Essay: A dead moose in a Subaru and other scenes from a Maine moose hunt]

During the first session of the hunt, which was staged from Sept. 24-29, 835 bull permits were allotted in 11 of the state’s Wildlife Management Districts.

Additional sessions on tap:

— Oct. 22-27, with 450 cow permits allotted in six management districts.

— Oct. 29-Nov. 24 (including Oct. 27 for Maine residents), with 45 permits allotted in two management districts.

Maine’s modern moose hunt began on an experimental basis in 1980. After a one-year hiatus moose-hunting returned in 1981 and a regular moose hunt has been staged annually ever since.

Prospective hunters enter a permit lottery to vie for the chance to participate in the actual hunt.

The day featured favorable moose-hunting weather, with early temperatures in the high 30s and a daytime high just above 50 in Greenville.

But that weather didn’t translate into a busy morning at the tagging station. By noon, just five moose had been tagged in Greenville.

Brad Zitske, who regularly works out of the wildlife department’s Gray office, has volunteered to spend time in Greenville during the moose hunt for six years. Each year, he said, the number of moose he tags seems to go down a bit. He attributes that to the presence of tagging stations in Pittston Farm and Kokadjo that draw hunters that may once have been required to tag moose in Greenville.

“The permit number [in these management districts] has remained the same and the success rate has remained the same,” Zitske said. “It’s just an anomaly.”

With that said, there’s no denying that the scene in Greenville is a lot different than it was 15 or 20 years ago, when the Greenville station was the go-to destination in a section of the state with plenty of moose.

“It was quite the spectacle,” Zitske said. “From what you hear, there used to be freezer trucks lined up and folks would skin the moose right there for you. There were food trucks here and booster groups selling things … that was when this was probably the only tagging station in a 25- or 30-mile radius.”

On Monday, the tagging crew was occasionally joined by a curious onlooker, but a crowd of hundreds, which was once the norm, never materialized.

Zitske was able to check data on the state’s new internet-based game registration system and said that as of 11:17 a.m., only 49 moose had been tagged statewide Monday. That amounted to about three moose per open Wildlife Management District, on average.

That’s not to say there weren’t success stories — and excited hunters — arriving in Greenville.

[Wildlife biologists say Maine may need to shrink its moose herd to keep it healthy]

Tucker Temple, 16, of Detroit was one of them. Temple was hunting with his step-grandfather, 88-year-old Clarence White of Detroit, and he bagged a 627-pound bull moose within 15 minutes of legal shooting time.

“We went to go down one road but there were too many people, so we went down a side road,” Tucker Temple said. “We saw a cow and a calf, and they ran off. He came out after them.”

The Temples turned the hunt into a family affair: Dad Randy Temple and Tucker’s sister, 13-year-old Taylor, arrived towing a camper with miniature dachshund “Honda” riding shotgun. White and his wife, Nancy White, were also a part of the group, and had spent the previous five nights camping out in a tent, scouting and enjoying some wildlife watching.

Nancy White said having a little heater in their tent made a big difference, especially one night when they awoke to find ice on the tent. And they had a great time being in the woods.

“We love to ride around and look at the animals,” she said.

Clarence White said he has always loved being in the woods, but admits that he has slowed down a bit in recent years.

“I’m getting older now, so I just follow [Tucker] around now,” said Clarence White, the permit-holder. “I’m kind of careful what I do now.”

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John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...