Adirondack Sportswoman: Moose are Indeed on the Loose
By Melanie Houck
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Big bucks, mammoth bears, and huge moose, oh my! This is my own version of that famous Oz song. When hunting here in the Adirondacks, I’m usually sitting on the ‘edge’ of my dirt spot, knowing these trophy animals are out there and just might actually come within sight, even if the chances are slim. I dream of shooting a trophy buck, or any buck in the Adirondacks; I have yet to shoot one in the park. I would love to shoot a mammoth bear, or even a normal sized bear as I’m still waiting on my first. As for moose, there isn’t a season on them here…yet. I have a feeling that will change someday. Moose are most definitely on the loose. More and more people are seeing them in the park and one sighting was by yours truly!
Throughout this past deer season we saw more moose sign than deer sign. We would see their droppings, tracks, and trees stripped of bark at seven feet off the ground. We’ve since learned this indicates that they were eating bark, a common staple of moose at this time of year. I started taking my camera with a zoom lens in the hope that I’d capture a moose this way! There are numerous swamps and lowlands in the area, along with mountains and ridges, apparently perfect grounds for a small, growing moose population.
Enough suspense. It was a Saturday in December, the second to last day of hunting season. We had some friends who came to hunt, with 8 of us altogether. There was still some snow on the ground, just enough so anything moving through the trees would stick out. We were hunting my favorite woods, where, when it wasn’t hunting season, we have seen huge bucks (the irony of hunting). We have caught a huge bear on trail camera here, so we know they are definitely out there at large, keeping me awake many a night, dreaming of a chance at such a grand animal!
After a couple drives and no deer, we settled in to eat lunch. There’s nothing like camaraderie in the woods. We built a fire, and past deer blunders and blooper stories commenced, followed by much laughter.
Shortly thereafter, I was in charge of setting up the next line of watchers, strung out along a major creek. I set up the first three people on good spots with deer trails and open woods for long visibility. Meanwhile four others were climbing the long way up a mountain and would then walk down it, hopefully pushing deer to any of us four sitters.
I was the last person to sit, and by the time I’d got the third person settled, I was entering new territory. All I was going on were descriptions from my husband, Roger, about what the woods here looked like. I had my compass, of course, something I don’t go anywhere without in these big northern woods. I decided to sit on a knoll where off to my left was a shallow creek running down to a main creek. I sat right on a deer trail with fresh tracks going up the mountain. I was excited; I really felt like something cool just might happen.
I couldn’t see all that far, as there were a lot of beech trees with leaves still on. The snow was thicker here and everything was covered. With the sun shining, it glittered exquisitely. Sometimes you really do just know when you’ve found a good spot.
I was in mid-daydream about a huge buck coming down the trail when I heard something that sounded like a deer bounding straight at me. I got my gun up and excitedly waited. I saw movement and realized this was no deer. A huge, dark animal was walking right at me, and then veered to my left. I stared for a second as the Bull Moose moved along the edge of the tiny creek. He casually loped along, his huge, goofy head bobbing a bit, with decent sized paddle horns. Scrambling, I tried to get my camera, which just had to be situated at the very bottom of my pack. This was the one time I didn’t have it easily accessible, on and ready to go. The moose wasn’t even 80 yards away. By the time I got my camera up, he had stopped behind some very thick brush, and my camera wanted to focus only on the branches in front of him. My breath caught, wondering what he’d do next. I’ve heard of them walking towards people unafraid, but he walked on, down the hill and off further to the left, never giving me another chance for a good photo.
I sat there frozen for I don’t know how long. Did that really just happen? I’d hoped fervently for such a moment, and then it came and went so fast. I was breathing hard and shaking, adrenaline pumping. I was bummed I didn’t get a picture, but I know I won’t soon forget the memory. Few people would describe a moose as beautiful, including me, but it was nothing short of awesome, amazing, majestic and super cool! Later I learned that Roger had seen four moose beds in the snow, and we figured that he pushed that moose right to me.
Hunting season is now over. But for me, moose ‘hunting’ has just begun. I am going to keep looking and hopefully capture one on camera. I’ve been out several times and seen a lot of sign that they are still out there somewhere. Some fresh tracking snow would help. Moose are a newer phenomenon in the Adirondacks, and are largely a mystery. This is part one of my planned moose series. Stay tuned for a more in depth look at moose and their habits, their primary food sources, behaviors, etc. And, here’s hoping for a picture or two of one!
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