Thursday, September 14, 2017

Moose Hunting Washington County

    For most sportsmen there is no greater thrill than seeing your name listed among the fortunate few who each year get randomly selected for a moose hunting tag. I consider myself extremely fortunate to be drawn twice as a primary hunter, harvesting a cow moose in 2004 and a large bull moose in 2015. I also had the pleasure of serving as subpermittee with my Dad, guiding him to shoot his bull moose in 2012.
            Hunting moose is not a task to be taken lightly. Extensive preparations must be taken to prepare for a successful harvest. Through the years, I have passed on several secrets to success that I have learned and here are a few more tips to help ensure hunters don’t go home empty handed this moose season.
It amazes me how many hunters employ game cameras to track bear and deer movements but when it comes to pursuing moose many seem to completely forget this valuable tool.  Instead a vast majority of hunters prefer to ride dirt roads and monitor clear cuts, watching and waiting for that moose to arrive. While this type of hunting is sometimes productive, often times it is not and the moose simply doesn’t show. Moose populations over the last several years have grown smaller and smaller in number and these days often finding that shooter animal requires diverting from these well traveled logging roads.
Instead of driving and wishing, hunters can vastly increase their chances of success by employing the use of game cameras before and during the season to track and monitor moose movements. Just like deer, moose are creatures of habit and maintain a relatively small core area. By using game cameras, hunters can identify these core areas and estimate when the moose are moving through. Once this data is gathered, a hunting plan is organized to harvest the animal.
While cameras can be placed in high traffic areas, such as pinch points, game trails and old logging roads, hunters can also bring moose to cameras by using attractants. Placing sexual scents, like cow in heat is a great way to put moose in viewing distance of the camera. I prefer to take old socks (washed in no-scent of course!), cut them into strips and then tie them as high as I can reach into tree branches. This I then soak with “cow in heat” urine. By placing the rags up high instead of on the ground, the scent is widely dispersed in even the smallest amount of wind, completely permeating the entire area.
An often underused function on game cameras, that works really well for moose hunting is the “plot camera” mode. Of course different game camera companies all have different words to describe this mode but they all function in basically the same way. Say a hunter wants to monitor an entire small pond, open bog or clear cut for moose movement. Typically, unless the animal walks in front of the game camera at a distance of less than 30 yards the camera will not take a photograph. In plot camera mode however, the camera is set to automatically snap photos in various intervals from 5-30 minutes during the last hours of daylight and first light of the morning when moose are most active. By setting the camera back from these areas and 10-12 feet up in a tree, the hunter can monitor a sizeable amount of acreage. To assist hunters in placing the camera high in a suitable tree, consider carrying around a couple ladder climbing sticks. Having these available really simplifies camera placement and checking.
An interesting product that recently arrived on the game camera market is remote monitoring. Remote monitoring allows a hunters game camera to send pictures to his/her smartphone from anywhere in the world with a cellular signal. For the moose hunter, this means that you could set a game camera up to take photos of a clear cut in Van Buren and monitor it from Kittery or even outside of the state! Just remember that game cameras are unfortunately a favorite of thieves so be sure to hide game cameras using camouflage or natural cover. Hiding game cameras from thieves is a relatively easy task accomplished by simply gluing bark or tying on camouflage fabric to break up their outline. The number one way cameras are often identified in the woods is by individuals noticing the horizontal black strap that wraps around the tree to secure the game camera. This can be eliminated by using the screw in mounts that are widely available online or sold at your local Walmart.
            My last bit of advice for those heading afield this season in pursuit of moose is to employ the use of a moose decoy. Having a decoy on hand simply helps to add a small bit of additional realism to calling and the placing of sexual scents. A decoy need not be complicated, as moose have poor vision. A cut out made from cardboard and spray painted black works great but hunters could use something as simple as a black bed sheet suspended between two poles with heavy string.
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.

Good luck to the lucky few who scored a moose tag this season, I wish you all the best!

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