With the 2023 moose hunt just around the corner, hunting and fishing buddy Chris Lander of Orrington is getting geared up for another week in the Maine woods.
In June, the lucky bum was drawn for a moose permit for the third time since 2008 — while some of us are still waiting to claim our first.
No hard feelings, of course.
A week or so ago, Chris gathered the crew for a scouting excursion to Wildlife Management District 8, west of Moosehead Lake, to check out some promising areas for his October bull hunt. Bill Lander, Chris’ brother and subpermittee, and I also made the trip.
Fortunately, we know the lay of the land pretty well in the region. But on this trip, we poked around in some places where we had spent little or no time previously in search of moose.
The deer sightings started early with a handful browsing in the fields in Kenduskeag and Corinth. The corn appeared to be soaking up all this summer’s rain and growing nicely in both towns.
It never gets old making the trek up Route 15 through Greenville, with an obligatory stop at Indian Hill Trading Post, and into the Greater Brassua Lake metroplex.
We talked about our families, health issues, medications and moose hunt preparations. Chris raised the possibility of picking up a portable winch to aid in the dragging process, should that become necessary.
Hunts involving Chris, Billy and John Holyoke have featured some pretty convenient extractions — this isn’t going to jinx anything, is it? The most difficult was John’s second moose harvest, which involved a relatively short (maybe 200 yards or so) drag through the slash in a cut.
Having a four-wheeler cures a few ills, to be sure. That’s one tool that’s in the shed for WMD 8, but not in the North Maine Woods where ATVs are prohibited.
We have been fortunate to have been on three moose hunts and several bird hunting trips in WMD 8 on both sides of Route 15. It’s fairly predictable: long, mostly desolate gravel roads flanked by millions of trees, a bunch of forest harvest areas and a handful of camps, campsites and pickup trucks.
This year, you can add a significant increase in standing water in the ditches, ponds, swamps and pools.
With a DeLorme Maine Atlas and Gazetteer in hand, GPS operating and eyes peeled, we crossed the bridge at the Moose River and headed up the Northern Road on our recon mission.
It was a nice day for it, partly sunny but cool, with temperatures in the mid-to-upper 60s. It must have been perfect conditions for moose flies, which swarmed around the truck enough that we were forced to keep the windows closed at times.
One of our first stops provided an unexpected surprise as we came upon a relatively large old cut, which, from its highest point, provided a good view covering several hundred yards in most directions.
Perhaps best of all, the location would get us off the beaten path and eliminate the possibility of vehicles approaching, other than the same way we had gone in.
Promising, we thought.
Three or four miles away and an hour later, we drove in off another road, which also came to a relatively abrupt end. Billy remembered the spot at which the road curved, went a short way up a hill and stopped.
In addition to providing some good views from above, there were a few moose tracks and some impressive, and new, deer prints in the mud.
More scouring of the countryside and a stop at another location laden with tracks led us to lunchtime, so we shot over to Jackman and picked up sandwiches and chips at Bishop’s Store.
After eating our fill, we ventured to a good-looking spot that we had stumbled onto a few years earlier. Much to our chagrin, the road had been widened and foresters had done considerable cutting.
The changes definitely altered the pre-existing dynamics significantly, to the point where we ruled out keeping it on our short list. A run up a parallel road resulted in Chris’ truck taking a relentless beating from overgrown alders.
We backtracked, headed up the main road, then turned off on another short piece of road. There, we were rewarded with a black figure standing in the middle of the road.
We maintained a considerable distance and watched as a small bull, whose antlers had not been visible initially, gawked at us intruders. It finally ran into the woods, causing a deer that had been laying down 50 yards behind the moose to bolt.
While we found most of the roads to be in pretty good shape, our efforts on the final leg of our trip were thwarted. Three different roads that were handy to good hunting areas, or access to them, had experienced washouts from the relentless heavy rains in recent months.
Our scouting plans ended when we encountered a washout on a main connector road leading to Route 15, and impassable conditions on a potential shortcut, and were forced to turn around and drive more than a half-hour back around to the asphalt.
Moose hunters and bird hunters alike should take into consideration the possibility that their plans could be affected by damaged gravel roads or road closures. We hit such issues on the Somerset Road, Adams Dam Road and Rocco’s Road.
The inconvenience did little to dampen our enthusiasm. We got a look at some good-looking areas and likely will be scouring the landscape for more in the weeks leading up to the Oct. 9 moose opener in WMD 8.