SCOPAN LAKE, Maine — Ben Lothrop of Presque Isle began laughing uncontrollably when he heard the news on the radio.
He called his sister, Carrie Reed, who answered only to hear him in hysterics. She started laughing too, even though she didn’t know what was so funny.
It was when Lothrop told Reed that she had been selected for a moose permit that she finally got the joke, as the radio station had been listing off the names of recipients.
Going on a moose hunt has been on Reed’s bucket list, even though she has never hunted. At her brother’s suggestion, she applied for a permit this year in the hope that maybe, someday, she would get the opportunity.
And while some hunters wait decades to draw a permit, she cashed in immediately.
“I guess I just always thought it would be cool to do, but I never anticipated getting one the first time,” said the Presque Isle resident, who had designated her younger brother as her sub-permittee.
Ashland natives Lothrop and Reed celebrated the occasion on Sunday by inviting several family members and friends to Lothrop’s camp on Scopan Lake. The gathering included Lothrop’s wife, Julie, her parents Bob and Pauline Besaw, and friends Ron and Christine Grover and Kevin Hamel.
Lothrop and his wife were married there only three weeks earlier.
The log cabin has for many years been the base camp for Lothrop’s hunting efforts. He is carrying on the tradition of his and Reed’s father, the late Bill Lothrop, who bought it in 1974.
“The fact that we’re staying this week at the camp our dad bought is kind of cool,” Ben Lothrop said.
The walls are adorned with mounted deer heads and antlers, a black bear head and three moose. Hamel’s big bull from a few years ago looks out over the room from above the front door.
To preserve the records of hunting successes past, some of which were written on the walls, Lothrop created a scoreboard where they can all be viewed in one spot. And in 1990, he started a camp log, in which he makes an entry every night with the highlights of the day.
In the hope of adding an exciting new chapter, Reed, Lothrop and Hamel pulled out of the cabin shortly before 5 a.m. on Monday on their way into the woods. Their destination was a spot Lothrop had scouted where a trail camera had, on the previous two days, captured images of a large bull and a small one, respectively.
Reed, 62, is a longtime elementary school teacher who teaches Title 1 reading in the morning and is the librarian in the afternoon at Limestone Community School. Her 52-year-old brother is the principal there.
Reed enjoys hiking and has even canoed the Allagash Wilderness Waterway but her only previous hunting experience came when she was in fourth grade.
On a Friday, Bill Lothrop had his daughter dismissed from school and the two headed to Garfield Plantation for a deer hunt. Reed had been practicing being quiet in the woods and they walked a long way before sitting on a log.
Later, they heard something approaching and Bill Lothrop held up his hand, indicating that Reed should remain silent.
“The buck stepped out and then when I saw dad raise his rifle, I lost it,” Reed said. “I said, ‘it might be Bambi’s mother, don’t shoot!’”
The deer bolted, but Bill Lothrop accepted the result without a fuss. All he said was, “It wasn’t Bambi’s mother.”
Yet he clearly didn’t forget the experience.
“I never went hunting with him again,” Reed said.
All these years later, the moose hunt is giving Reed another chance to get into the woods, albeit hopefully with a different result. And it’s fair to say Ben Lothrop likely won’t be quite so understanding should any such outburst occur this time around.
Both siblings clearly expected some challenges as the successful longtime hunter and his non-hunting sister teamed up to pursue the state’s largest game animal.
If there was any doubt, one need only read the slogan emblazoned on the shirts they had made up specially for the occasion. It reads: “Sister/Brother Moose Hunt 2022. We’re hoping to kill a moose, not each other.”
Despite the sibling rivalry fueled in part by their 10-year age difference, there were no signs of a power struggle as the group made its way on Monday and Tuesday to some targeted moose stakeout locations and other promising areas.
Lothrop has scouted extensively and knows moose hunting in the area, so he had a game plan. He nonetheless often solicited input from Reed and Hamel.
All had jobs to do. Lothrop organized the setup of the blinds and how they would position themselves when calling and watching at the different locations.
Reed was eager to learn and asked questions about their tactics. She even helped lug gear as they negotiated uneven terrain, brush, blowdowns and wet areas.
Hamel, an avid hunter and outdoorsman, was in charge of calling. He used his big woods savvy by firing off an assortment of moose sounds using an electronic call, a cell phone app and some mouth vocalizations.
The calls bellowed across the vast landscape, sometimes echoing off a distant hillside. There were no definitive responses on Monday and Tuesday, although it was agreed that gurgling stomachs produced some noises that bore a close resemblance to some of the calls.
Reed became even more determined that they take home a moose — and preferably a big one — after hearing that some friends and acquaintances had tagged out early on opening day.
“Carrie, it’s only 10 o’clock on Monday morning,” Lothrop said, trying to keep things in perspective for the weeklong effort.
Lothrop has logged four moose on the camp scoreboard and his daughter Kylee also has one to her credit. He was equally motivated or determined to harvest a moose but has learned that often things don’t come together exactly as planned.
Minutes later, at Reed’s suggestion, the party made its way deep into the woods to place a game camera in a secluded spot where one of Lothrop’s cameras had photographed a bruiser bull.
The hunters came across only a handful of other vehicles during the first two days. Perhaps only one or two of them contained what appeared to be moose hunters, while others were targeting grouse.
The gravel roads they traveled to access hunting spots was Bill’s, Paul’s and Dana’s Road, which is named after Bill Lothrop and hunting buddies Paul Fitzhenry and Dana Hagerthy.
Reed calls it simply, “Dad’s Road.”
There were no moose sightings on Monday or Tuesday, with one exception. During a lunch break at the camp on Tuesday, Hamel looked across the lake to see a large cow moose standing on the water’s edge.
It generated some excitement for what hopefully would follow, a bull finally crossing their paths. But no bull ever appeared.
Reed said that even though she was excited about the prospect of going on a moose hunt, there was some underlying motivation for entering the lottery.
“I guess I kind of did do it for him,” she said of her brother. “I knew he would enjoy it. He likes this kind of a hunt. Hunting is in our family.”
That dynamic should work out perfectly, because if the time comes this week that Reed, Lothrop and Hamel have a bull in front of them, Lothrop will be the unquestioned shooter.
Reed completed the hunter safety course online, then intended to prepare to shoot with the hunting rifle once used by her late husband, Ted Reed. But the time got away from her.
“I’ve asked you all summer to practice and you’ve been too busy,” her brother said.
Instead of toting a rifle, Reed is armed this week with binoculars and assisting with carrying other equipment. The experience will be no less satisfying.
“I’ve done the Allagash. Now I’m doing the moose hunt. I was the Potato Blossom Queen,” she said. “Nobody can say I’m not a County girl.”