Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A very Maine week

Went moose hunting with my dad last week. Its kind of a big deal since there were only 2140 permits this year. Dad drew wildlife management district 19 which is waaay outside of our normal range. This is "downeast" which is to say the far eastern corner of Maine.

Dad rented the Mickey Finn cottage at Shoreline Camps in Grand Lake Stream, Maine population 109. Driving to Grand Lake Stream takes half an hour less than driving to our camp in Caribou although its nearly 50 miles closer...

A few months ago dad went up to scout around since we don't know the area. Fortunately there woods roads just like up north.  My uncle Guy and dad's friend Dave also came out so the four of us piled into my pickup truck and into the woods we went.
This is good moose country and we saw tons of tracks:

The first day was mostly a bust, we saw one partridge but it was really windy so Dave couldn't get close enough. Dave said he heard a couple others in the woods at different times in the day but no luck there. We saw a porcupine on the side of the road and dad took a couple shots at him with the .410 but he didn't seem terribly bothered by it. We also saw a turkey, I had never seen a turkey on a woods road before since we don't have all that many in Arostook county. I'd also never seen a lone turkey before but we didn't see any others.

Late in the day we found this cow moose:

She was big, probably in the 500-600# range, about 80 yards from the truck. Dad's permit specified a male so she was safe. We all agreed that if she had been a male it would have been worth shooting but she was out in a big swamp and it would have been a long hard job to retrieve the body.

On the way back to camp I noticed a couple roads I hadn't seen in the morning and made a note to try them the next day and I'm glad I did, on day 2 we hadn't even reached the end of the first road when there was a moose standing right in the middle of the road. Moose are big critters and standing in the middle of the road this one looked like a giant towering over the truck even though it was a good 50 yards off.

Being that we were heading east and the moose was right in front of us the glare from the sun made it hard to tell if there were antlers or not. I was quick with the field glasses and called out "Antlers!" Dad sent an 11.5mm, nearly 1oz bullet down range and the moose dropped like a stone. The bullet took him in the right shoulder and while it was a good shot and he wasn't going to get up again he wasn't dying with any real speed. The other barrel of dad's cape gun had a 16ga round ball which being that its 16ga (ie 16 balls to the pound) weighs in right at 1oz. That ball deflated the right lung and ended any suffering real quick.

Thus began the dirty work. Being the good son this falls to me. I'd done the job once in '99 when I shot a moose and again in 2009 when dad shot his little one but on a big moose like this the field dressing is a big job. The skin is thick and theres a membrane between it and the internals that has to be cut, you don't want to cut too deep though since you don't want to puncture the guts which will stink and can spoil the meat. I was very careful and managed to not cut anything bad, in all the field dressing took me close to an hour.

Finally the big job of loading the animal started, we had brought ramps with us and tied a strap between the tie down points at the front of the pickup, we then used a come-along to winch the moose up the ramps. The come-along cable was short so we could only go about 3 feet at a time with the moose trying to slide back down the ramp every time we had to reset. If you've ever used a come-along you know how frustrating they are.

After another hour we were loaded and headed back to camp. We paused for ice, its important to get the body cooled as soon as possible to reduce the possibility of spoilage so I put 10# of ice into the body cavity right away. We quickly packed up camp and headed to Waite, Maine to get the moose weighed, tagged and logged, this is also the traditional time for picture taking:

Waite is a small place (population 101) and we were definitely the biggest thing that happened all day. The cape gun was a character in this story in its own right and something nobody in Waite had seen before.
Places like Waite and Grand Lake Stream are always full of characters and we met a bunch of people who claimed to never have seen a moose before. I find that odd since we had seen so many tracks in the woods but we decided that those people must never leave the paved roads. If you want to see animals you need to go where the animals are.

In Waite I bought another 20# of ice to pack the body with for the 2 hour ride north to Caribou to our butcher Scotty of Scotty's Meat Shop. Scotty has cut all our moose for us and does a fantastic job. Since it was early in the week anyway it got to hang and age for a day or two which really improves the flavor and texture of the meat. The last time we shot a moose the meat still came wrapped in paper, these days its vacuum sealed:

I took the picture after we'd already taken about 1/3 of the meat, in all we used all the coolers we had, plus we borrowed one from Scotty, bought another and filled an apple box:

Scotty cut the skull cap for us so we can have the antlers. When I shot the moose in 1999 I cut the skull cap myself, having done it once paying Scotty $50 to do it is a great investment...

There was so much meat my parent's upright freezer was overwhelmed, we had to tape the door shut so meat wouldn't fall out.

Thats after filling the freezer in the fridge upstairs. Angie and I brought a cooler full of meat home the next day which helped the situation. Dad will give Guy and Dave meat too so this animal will feed lots of folks.

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