Wednesday, September 9, 2015

The 12 Month Grand Slam

This September, I will be working to complete my lifelong dream of harvesting each of Maine’s big game animals (deer, turkey, bear and moose) in a single calendar year. Know as the Maine “grand slam”, it is an achievement only made possible by drawing a coveted moose tag, being a skilled and lucky hunter and heavily supported by gracious family and friends. After harvesting an 8 point buck last hunting season and shooting a turkey this spring with my bow, I realized after being drawn in the lottery for a September bull tag in zone 2, that if I was successful on the moose hunt and harvested a bear my dream could potentially become a reality.

The first week of September, I will be participating in the Maine bear hunt, sitting at a bait site and patiently awaiting the arrival of a bruin. This hunt will be followed by a few weeks off, before I head back into the wilds of the far north for a chance at a bull moose. Both hunts will require months of plotting and planning, if I hope to have any chance of achieving my goal.

Tantamount to success, will be a solid understanding of the strengths and limitations of my hunting rifle. These skills can only be learned through regular shooting practice. I am convinced that a majority of hunters simply do not spend the proper amount of time on the range, needed to really learn their favorite hunting rifle. This lack of comfort causes a hunter to be much slower to shot and additionally less confident in their abilities, when a shot opportunity arises, slight out of their comfort range. For me, shooting practice will mean weekly visits to the local gravel pit, taking shots at targets from 25-300 yards and from various shooting positions (sitting, kneeling, standing and from shooting sticks).

I encourage all hunters to spend time on the range before heading afield; it will ultimately make a person a better more confident sportsman. Though a truly monstrous size animal with bulls nudging over 1200 pounds, they are still very difficult to locate in the thick woods of Down East, Maine. Low numbers create the proverbial “needle in the hay sack” scenario, creating much difficulty in finding these titanic creatures. To locate a moose, you first need to find appropriate moose habitat. This can be done by studying your Gazeteer or using Google earth to virtually scout areas with limited human access, swamps and areas bordering small lily pad ponds.

Moose hunters heading Down East (Wildlife Management District (WMD) 19) will be well served exploring the vast network of logging roads around Little Musquash Lake (Delorme’s The Maine Atlas and Gazetteer (MAG), Map 35, D-4), West and East Monroe Ponds (Map 35, D-4) and Musquash Stream (Map 35, C-5). Moose can frequently be found, during early mornings and late evenings, patrolling these shallow ponds, dipping their heads under the water to uproot their favorite food, the common water lily. These salt rich plants are a moose favorite. Hunters finding small ponds filled with these treats would be well served to stake out these spots during dusk and dawn.

While a majority of hunters are familiar with calling moose, most do not realize that moose, like deer, can be lured by sexual as well as curiosity scents. Moose are inquisitive creatures and will frequently investigate the smells of other moose or strange smells that are not perceived as dangerous. Hunters can use this trait to their advantage, using scents to pull moose out of the deep Down East woods and into shooting range. Several companies make moose lures but my personal favorite is the type that is ignited and burns like an incense stick. The trick to successfully using this product is to take a 5 gallon bucket and drill 8-10 ½ inch holes in the top sides about 1 inch up from the bottom. Take a shovel and clear a patch of earth down to bare earth in an area slightly bigger than the bottom of a 5 gallon bucket. This “clearing” is to ensure that nothing catches fire while the incense sticks burn. Next take 2 incense sticks, poke them into the ground, light them and place the bucket over the top. The bucket will protect the slowly burning sticks from rain or strong winds that could extinguish them, while still allowing the smoke to slowly escape. This set-up creates a huge scent cloud that saturates the entire target area. Once allowed to burn all night, it is sometimes a simple matter of arriving early the next morning and shooting your love sick bull moose as he stands drooling over the smoldering bucket.

Moose hunters looking for a location to base their zone 19 hunt should consider staying at the Machias River Campsite (Map 25, A-3). While few camp sites exist (one lean-to, two RV and three tent sites) at this first come first serve location, several additional camping opportunities exists further north up the Machias River Corridor, accessible via the Stud Mill Road. Harvesting a moose is the pinnacle of an outdoorsman’s hunting career. To be fortunate enough to be chosen to pursue and potentially harvest the largest game animal in North America is truly a unique experience.

I like nothing better than to help facilitate a sportsman successfully harvesting a moose, as their excitement in the endeavor is always infectious. Anyone is planning a central Maine moose hunt Down East, please contact me and ask questions, I would be happy to assist.

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