Being Picked for the Moose Lottery by Stephen Vose
For most sportsmen there is no greater thrill then seeing your name listed among the fortunate few who each year get randomly selected for a moose hunting tag. For me this lifelong dream became a reality in 2004, when after 8 years of applying my name was finally drawn. I consider myself extremely fortunate since most friends and family have applied for more than a decade without the coveted prize. Receiving a tag, a hunter takes on a large amount of responsibility related to finding, dispatching and processing an animal of this size. Many hunters who take these tasks lightly go home disheartened with a tag and lifetime dream unfulfilled. For me many of these requirements were simplified. Not only had I managed to pull a tag that allowed for the shooting of a male or female moose but also my predefined area was in my uncle’s (a registered Maine guide) backyard. While hunting is a fickle sport to say the least I had the benefit of not only having my scouting done before I arrived but the support of my Uncle’s compatriots should I shoot one of these mammoth beasts. With so many elements in my favor, I must say I was feeling a little cocky and perhaps boasted a little bit that I planned to harvest a new state record bull.
Exquisite fear is what I felt as Thursday morning arrived and I still had not shot my moose. Despite the fact that we drove hundreds of miles in the truck down back roads and had been stalking for almost a week with only two days of hunting remaining I still had not harvested a moose. In sheer desperation, I borrowed a moose call from one of the local old timers and bellowed away all morning in a small cedar swamp but by noon no moose had arrived. Somewhat disheartened I headed back to the camp for lunch and then immediately set out again for the swamp I had visited that same morning.
As I walked down the long dirt road leading into the swamp, I could head some splashing like two ducks splashing and my heart began to race. With all of the calling I had done previous I wondered if by chance someone had perhaps answered my call. Upon rounding the corner, I looked down into the swamp and could see a large cow moose slowly feeding on the swamp vegetation. From my elevated position I had a clear broadside shot so I slowly raised my bolt action 30-06 and put the scope on her forward left shoulder. I slowly began to pull the trigger but had to stop twice as I was shaking so hard that the cross hairs seemed to be moving under their on volition. Finally managing to gain my composure with a deep breath I re-centered and pulled the trigger. The sound was deafening and despite being excited I pulled back the bolt, loaded another round and required the cow in my sights. In my amazement she was still standing there and slowly starting to move forward . . . I had missed!?! I immediately dropped to one knee bracing the gun with my skeletal structure, centered the scope just behind the ear and pulled the trigger. At that point the moose dropped immediately and didn’t move again. Not taking any chances, I chambered another round and sat there on the knoll for 20 minutes to calm down.
Connections were made with my Uncle (the Famass Guide) and his friends and in less than 30 minutes I had most of the town of Grand Lake Stream ready to assist me in getting the moose out of the swamp. Taking a short swim across a beaver flowage in late fall I managed to reach the moose to attach a rope and with large trucks, heavy tackle and ropes we managed to within an hour gut the animal and load it onto the bed of a Ford F150. Upon inspection of the carcass it was revealed that I had in fact hit the moose directly through both lungs with my first shot and a follow up had been unnecessary.
Elation is probably a good word for how I felt that day and no doubt there are individuals that will not understand how someone can feel that way shooting an animal as large and beautiful as a moose. However, how many cows, pigs, chickens, etc are eaten by these same people with no thought as to the life and death of the animal they are putting in their mouths. Many non-hunters lack a direct connection to their food and do not understand anything beyond what they find neatly wrapped on a styrofoam tray in the supermarket. The sportsman finds pleasure in all aspects of hunting including personal connections made and renewed with family and friends and even the hard and messy yet rewarding work of butchering and processing their game. This direct connection to what hunters eat allows us to gain an appreciation and respect for what nature provides that is vastly unappreciated by anyone who does not participate in this sport.
Think we as a society we don’t create disconnections? Then why do we call much of the furry critters we commonly eat by other names? Cow is beef, sheep is mutton, pig is pork, deer is venison . . . think about it!