Moose hunt permit holders Brent Elwell and Carl Dubois were up well before dawn on opening day of the 2020 moose hunt. Four of us were located at remote Priestly Camp on the St. John River in far northern Maine. Committed to hunting by canoe, they departed for Shields Branch and Big Black River, an area thoroughly scouted the previous day. An hour after they left, gunshots were heard near the campsite.
After allowing Brent and Carl two hours advance travel time to reach a small pond connected to Big Black River, my companion, preferring the hunting pseudonym, Jimmy Olsen, Cub Reporter, and I, designated trip lackey followed. I paddled a solo canoe to assist with retrieval of the moose and journalist Jimmy provided kayak support. Since the hunters were using a small motor on their tandem canoe while we paddled our crafts on the 3.5 mile passage down Shields Branch and Big Black River to the hunting site, our arrival was about three hours after their hunt began. Fresh moose meat was the expectation.
Moose tracks dominated the muddy entrance to the tiny pond situated about a half mile downriver from the confluence with Shields Branch. Our hunting companions couldn’t be seen and no gunshots had been heard, so we waited in silence next to their canoe. Another hour passed before Brent quietly joined us to report no sightings had occurred. Moose scat was prevalent in the narrow herd path leading to their camouflage shelter ideally positioned on a grassy knoll overlooking the entire marshy basin. Given an abundance of signs, it seemed inexplicable that periodic cow calls hadn’t motivated a fervent bull moose in rut.
Brent speculated the moose weren’t moving as a result of unseasonably warm weather. A decision was made to vacate the site for the day. Cub Reporter and I left first, while Carl and Brent followed hunting from their canoe. Ironically, Jimmy spotted a moose during the return on Shields Branch. The canoes were concealed in a wooded area next to the Shields Branch launch in anticipation of a return the following day.
During the fifteen mile drive from Shields Branch to Priestly Camp, a hunting party was encountered who had downed a large bull. Both of the other groups at Priestly Camp had also been successful. Moose were obviously plentiful. Optimism prevailed despite the first day failure.
Since several moose had been observed near the campsite, our implacable nimrods decided to search the 2.5 mile camp road the first thing the following morning before returning to the pond adjacent Big Black. Departing shortly before sunrise, Brent soon returned to report a large bull moose had been dropped. Located about two hundred yards off the road in an area previously logged; a combination of new growth, toppled trees, and thick brush complicated removal. The exceptionally warm weather necessitated immediate refrigeration.
My mission, should I accept it, was to clear a path for a sled to transport moose remains requiring refrigeration, while Brent and Carl cleaned and quartered it. A sense of urgency was paramount. Brent left hauling his homemade ice box, while I gulped down my coffee and quickly followed.
Crawling over prostrate dead trees and thrashing through thick brush to reach the hunters and their prize, my task seemed daunting. Returning to the road, it was apparent that expeditiously clearing a direct route was impossible so I plotted a longer more circuitous course of less resistance. Using a small battery operated chainsaw, a bow saw, and lots of physical effort, a ragged path gradually unfolded. The chainsaw battery died as Cub Reporter arrived. We finished what I dubbed Lackey Lane with handsaws just in time for Brent and Carl to haul the first sled load to the ice box.
Multiple laborious trips later, the refrigerator was loaded and the hunters were off on a long journey to register the moose. Arrangements were also made to have it professionally butchered and packaged. An estimated 800 pound animal, about 450 pounds were recovered for delivery to the butcher. A beautiful sunny day with my canoe still stashed on Shields Branch, I spent the afternoon paddling the scenic meandering tributary. No moose sightings during my excursion, but they were undoubtedly watching.
In the aftermath, Cub Reporter Jimmy Olsen dispatched his story to Perry White editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet. My reward for blazing Lackey Lane arrived a few days ago. I’m researching recipes. Two seem particularly appealing, Newfoundland Moose Stew and Moose Bourguignon. Moose burgers are a certainty.
Author of “The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery” and “Mountains for Mortals – New England,” Ron Chase resides in Topsham. Visit his website at www.ronchaseoutdoors.com or he can be reached at email@example.com.