Hunter Hoppe of Port Clyde unties the moose his grandfather, Ron Simmons, shot on the first day of the moose hunting season on Sept. 23, 2019, in Ashland. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

Many folks call it the hunt of a lifetime.

And for a lot of hunters, the chance to pursue a moose is special. In many cases, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

That explains the tremendous excitement within the outdoors community surrounding Maine’s annual moose hunt, which begins on Monday.

The first wave of hunters — among 4,080 who were awarded permits in the June lottery — will descend on moose country in Wildlife Management Districts 1-6, 10, 11, 18, 19, 27 and 28.

The opening week, which will involve 1,050 hunters and their sub-permittees, is for bulls only. Hunters may only pursue moose in the designated WMD listed on their permit.

This year, 69,635 people applied for a moose permit, including 45,302 Maine residents and 24,249 out-of-state hunters. That was down slightly from the 71,966 applicants in 2021.

Hunters are hoping for fall conditions this year that feature cool days and chilly nights. That combination helps ensure that moose will be up and about during the day and not hunkered down trying to combat the heat.

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The weather affects moose movement. On hot days and warm nights, as have been regular occurrences in recent years during the two bulls-only weeks, moose heat up quickly because of their thick, black hides.

Last year, warm temperatures were a key factor when only 57 percent of hunters tagged out during the October bulls-only week. That helped push down the overall success rate for the state hunt to 68 percent, the third lowest since its inception in 1980.

Those totals don’t include the special adaptive hunt in WMD 4A.

A year earlier, 76 percent of hunters harvested a moose, the highest harvest since 2012.

The mean temperature in Caribou from 1980-89 was 53.6 degrees in September and 42.8 degrees in October, according to data provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Over the past 10 years, the numbers have risen to 57.8 degrees (September) and 46.0 degrees (October), demonstrating a warming trend.

Last fall, the mean temperature was 58.5 in September and 49.9 degrees in October.

Warm temperatures not only hamper moose movement, but mean hunters must recover and extract their moose quickly and efficiently after the kill to prevent spoilage of the meat.

The forecast next week for Aroostook County, where much of the moose hunting will be taking place, appears favorable. Rain is expected Monday with a chance of showers on Tuesday and Wednesday.

That, coupled with high temperatures that aren’t expected to exceed 60 degrees from Wednesday through Saturday, while staying in the 40s at night, should be conducive to productive hunting.

Lee Kantar, the moose biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said there aren’t any big changes for this year’s moose hunt.

“We added some cow permits in District 8, which is important because District 8 is ground zero for our science on moose and the winter tick dynamic,” Kantar said of the antlerless-only hunt the week of Oct. 24-29.

WMD 8 encompasses the area to the southwest, west and northwest of Moosehead Lake, spanning some 2,000 square miles. Kantar said despite a general reluctance to allow cows to be killed in the region, where moose safaris and moose watching are common activities, it is necessary to harvest some.

“It had been bulls-only for quite a long time,” Kantar said. “There’s a tremendous amount of moose habitat in District 8, so it’s a really light touch, our harvest is, considering what’s out there.”

However, during the first two weeks of the season, Sept. 26-Oct. 1 and Oct. 10-15, only bulls may be taken. Hunters will be scanning the roads, tree harvest areas and woods for antlers, in search of trophy-size bulls that are roaming the Maine woods.

The primary goal of all moose hunters is to procure delicious meat. And according to longtime Registered Maine Guide and moose expert Roger Lambert of Strong, an average moose will yield, conservatively, 325 pounds of meat.

During the past 10 years, hunters in Maine have harvested an average of 2,160 moose, which represents approximately 702,000 pounds of meat per year.

“This year, minimum, there will be 351 tons of high-protein, low-fat, chem-free local food that’s going basically to the New England ladder,” Lambert said.

In the span of a decade, that equates 7 million pounds of Maine moose meat.

The 2022 Maine moose season:

Sept. 26-Oct. 1: (bull only) WMDs 1-6, 10, 11, 18-19, 27-28

Oct. 10-15: (bull only) WMDs 1-14, 17-19, 27-28

Oct. 24-29: (antlerless only) WMDs 1-6, 8

Oct. 29: (any moose) Maine residents only, WMDs 15-16

Oct. 31-Nov. 26: (any moose) WMDs 15-16

Pete Warner

Pete graduated from Bangor High School in 1980 and earned a B.S. in Journalism (Advertising) from the University of Maine in 1986. He grew up fishing at his family's camp on Sebago Lake but didn't take...