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River Valley Hunting
Adventures in moose country
Introducing others to the wonders of the outdoors happens to be one of the most enjoyable aspects of the life of a Maine guide. For moose hunting guides, calling in a rut-crazed, bull moose increases that enjoyment to a level of excitement that most folks never get to experience.
The mating season for moose in Maine runs from mid-September to mid-October, definitely one of the most beautiful times to be in the Maine woods. The leaves start their autumn color change, the cooler fall air feels crisp and refreshing, and most of the biting insects have nearly vanished.
Anyone that steps into the wooded hills surrounding the Androscoggin River Valley this time of year, and knows how to reproduce the lonesome mating call of a cow moose-in-heat, will enjoy some heart-pounding outdoor excitement of their own.
One late-September afternoon I decided to hike in and camp on the shore of a local glacial pond, with my wife Nancy and her brother Bill. The pristine pond, nestled between a couple of three-thousand-foot mountain peaks, offers hiking anglers an opportunity to fish for stocked brook trout amongst the awesome landscape of a breath-taking mountainous horizon.
Once our party had the campsite set up, I decided to make a few moose calls over the pond to see if a moose might respond or show up the next morning. As soon as I let out a few bellows a huge bull moose began thrashing in the brush near our campsite, about fifty yards from my wife.
Nancy looked worried so I moved to the other end of the pond to call, hoping to draw the moose away from our tent site. The bull slowly moved away from my wife and the tent.
I told my wife that the moose wouldn’t hurt us, and that we should just have dinner and go to sleep without worry. She did fall asleep quickly, tired from the rugged hike to the pond. I stayed awake half the night, listening to the rut-crazed bull as he smashed the brush around our mountain-top campsite. The next morning the big bull was gone.
In the spring and summer, moose watchers around here often observe the big ungulates near wet, swampy areas in the woods. They eat large amounts of aquatic vegetation at these times, and seem to appreciate the water’s cooling effect.
When September and October roll around their diet switches from the watery stuff to a more “woodsy” browse. A two- to five-year-old clear cut offers moose quality feed in new-growth vegetation during these months.
At this time of the year, moose look for leafy vegetation and have been known to reach up with their huge mouths and bend over poplar saplings, stripping them of their leaves. In moose country, poplar trees often fill in areas cleared by logging operations.
During the rutting season, big bulls like to bed down on ridges that protrude from the higher elevations of mountain tops. Hikers that climb these mountains often encounter moose, especially if the area has had logging activity in the past several years.
After mature trees have been harvested the forest floor becomes washed with sunlight, promoting fresh new growth – quality browse for hungry moose. An average moose needs to consume 60 pounds of browse per day to maintain good health, so timber harvesting has a secondary benefit.
Other game animals also survive on the new-growth vegetation that logging activity creates. A healthy, controlled population of wildlife inhabiting this region ensures plenty of adventurous encounters for hunters, hikers, or those folks just out wandering the woods with a camera or binoculars. Enjoy it all – just don’t make it too much of an adventure by calling the moose directly into your campsite.