Maine’s annual moose hunt begins a half hour before sunrise on Sept. 28 in the state’s northern and eastern Wildlife Management Districts. That’s the first season.

Then, in most of the state’s other WMDs, the second season starts Oct. 12 and runs to Oct. 17.

There’s a new twist again this year, too. For the second time in the long history of Maine’s fall moose hunt, some limited November moose hunting will take place in Maine’s south central corridor and southwestern woods, in WMDs 15, 16, 23, and 26. For those resident hunters with a moose permit in these aforementioned southern WMDs, there is also a Maine Residents Only day, which is Oct. 31.

According to Maine’s moose biologist Lee Kantar, the moose management goals in these new so-called “compromise” moose hunting regions is to find middle ground between reducing moose numbers as a highway safety issue and maintaining sufficient moose numbers for recreational viewing. The new moose hunting zones are the only hunting zones that allow hunters to take a moose of either sex. In the other traditional hunting zones, hunters are limited to bulls only or cows only, depending upon their designated permits.

The state’s estimated moose population, according to Maine’s former moose biologist Karen Morris, is thought to be in the vicinity of 60,000. Kantar cautions, however, that there is much scientific survey work left to be done when it comes to predicting precise moose numbers. As a rule, Maine has been harvesting what was thought to be about 5 percent of the moose population, which was estimated to be about the same as the state’s annual moose population growth rate. Kantar believes that Maine’s moose population growth rate is, in all probability, quite a bit higher than 5 percent. His goal is to create the kind of data that will clearly answer questions like these. The average life expectancy of a moose is 8 years for a cow and 7 years for a bull. Moose may live into their late teens, but rarely live past 20. During Maine’s fall hunting season, the average adult cow weighs 600 pounds (dressed) and the average adult bull weighs 800 pounds (dressed). Large bulls weigh more than 1,000 pounds.

This year’s moose kill quota is 3,015 animals.

If you are a first time moose hunter this year, here are some hunting tips offered by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife:

• Prior to the moose season, sight in your rifle.

• Moose often appear closer than they are, because of their large size. Keep this in consideration when estimating the distance to the moose before you shoot.

• Be prepared to get your moose out of the woods. Rope, come-alongs, pulleys, a chain saw, and waders can be indispensable on your hunt.

• Quartering your moose will make it easier to haul and will reduce the risk of your meat spoiling.

• Skinning your moose, or filling the chest cavity with ice, will also reduce the risk of your meat spoiling.

• A 30-30 can be used for shooting a moose, but it doesn’t have the range of larger guns. A larger caliber gun (308, 30-06, 7 or 8mm) may improve your success and reduce the possibility of wounding a moose.

As an experienced moose and elk hunter, I have long been at a loss to understand why most Maine moose hunters insist on bringing that big critter out of the woods in one piece. Tip No. 4 above is right on! Quartering any large animal, which is perfectly legal in Maine, is a great way to avoid a hernia and protect the quality of this potentially wonderful meat. I brought my moose out in quarters in a canoe on the water. This method may not get you as many photo ops at the tagging station, but it’s the way to go. Quartering an animal also allows the so-called “dry dressing” method, so there is no need for messy evisceration in the field. Just skin the critter down on each side from the backbone, remove the backstraps and the four quarters. Just make sure that you leave some proof of the animal’s sex attached.

If you are a first time moose hunter, good luck to you and expect to have a lot of fun and hard work. A guide would urge you not to rush your shot. These are big animals and good shot placement is a must. Be advised, too, that each year there have been multiple unfortunate cases of double kills after the hunter became confused when two animals were travelling close together. This mistake can be every expensive.

Finally, moose hunters are required to wear hunter orange. If you are hunting upland birds in a moose hunting area during the moose week, you are also required to wear one piece of hunter orange.

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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