Maine’s Big Woods and the wildlife sanctuary surrounding Mount Katahdin in Baxter state park are bastions for North America’s greatest denizens of the deep–moose. You would be hard-pressed to find finer moose hunting anywhere in the lower 48 then in the Big Woods and with many guided hunts priced at a fraction of what it would cost you for one in The Last Frontier, it has been said that Maine is the premier moose destination for working class hunters.
Maine manages its esteemed Moose population through a lottery system, pursuant to wildlife management districts (WMDs) and their corresponding season dates outlined in the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife yearly digest. This year is a bit special: two brand new WMDs (numbers 22 and 25) will be open to moose hunting for the first time in the Big Woods and, of even more interest to Mainers, so will four southern districts (WMDs 15, 16, 23, and 26).
The reasoning for opening these southern tracks of land is twofold. Primarily, it is in response to increases in the moose population in Maine and, in kind, a means to meet an unmercifully high demand for moose tags by out-of-staters. The second reason is to encourage folks Down East to get out in their own backyard. These southern districts present new challenges to seasoned moose slayers who may have grown weary of their old haunts offering sparser numbers and a larger concentration of private property to work around, make bagging a big one a fresh kind of trophy. These new hunting territories are also meant to prompt Mainers “on the fence” about moose hunting to apply for tags (notice how these districts moose dates coincide with deer season).
Most hunters who head north are familiar with what to expect and what they will experience when moose hunting. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife promises however that moose hunting in Maine’s southern Wildlife Management Districts is a different animal entirely, and like the considerate New England folk they are, they’ve issued a statement to help guide prospective moose hunters away from disappointing hunts.
For the best hunting experience, the hunter who puts in for a tag in the southern WMDs should fall under at least one of these categories:
• They live in the WMD they select to hunt or have access to private land in the WMD so that they have an area to scout and hunt;
• They would like the opportunity to hunt moose while deer hunting;
• They have the time to devote to moose hunting in a portion of the state with lower moose numbers, and
• They would enjoy the experience of this unique and challenging opportunity to hunt moose.
So, if you live in Georgia for example and you’re thinking of putting in for a moose tag for the first time, heed this warning and weigh your odds accordingly. A half hour of research could be the difference between a week of fun and success and a week of sitting in a swamp, getting your ass handed to you by mosquitoes and black flies.
But seriously, please consider your choices when you apply carefully, if not for the reason that you’ll increase the success rate of your hunt, for the simple fact that once you accept a permit you will not be able to apply again for two years. Speaking to the actual application process here’s a list of pointers from Maine’s wildlife department:
• Be aware when filling out your Moose Lottery Application of the differences in the September, October, and November seasons; type of permit (Bull-only, Antlerless-only, and Any-moose); and number of permits allocated to the WMDs. This information can be found on our website;
• Be sure of what you are choosing and what you are willing to accept for a hunting zone when you complete your moose hunting application and check the appropriate boxes that reflect your choices;
• Be aware of the possible consequences if you check the box that says you are willing to accept a permit for any WMD; if all the permits for your top choices have already been drawn you will end up hunting in a WMD where you may not want to hunt, and
• Hunting success rates drop from very high in northern Maine to low in southern parts of the state.
Season dates are as follows:
• September 26-October 1: WMDs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 11, 19
• October 10-15: WMDs 1-14, 17, 18, 19, 27, 28
• Nov. 7-12: WMDs 2, 3, 6, 11
• Oct. 31-Nov. 26: WMDs 15, 16, 22, 23, 25, 26
There is also a “Maine Residents Only Day” is set for October 29, in WMDs 15, 16, 22, 23, 25, 26, which is open to Maine hunters only who drew special permits for that day.
So, let’s say you goof and get a WMD that’s beyond your experience or skill—though certainly not ideal, all is not lost. The wildlife department allows moose permit winners to swap permits with other winners. The only restrictions on swapping are that both must be paid in full first and it is a one time only deal—after you swap once, that’s it.
This year, the Wildlife department will allocate 3,205 permits over 28 Wildlife Management Districts, up 65 permits in 2010. Applications are now available online through the department’s website, here. The deadline for online applications is 11:59 p.m. on May 13.