For a while there, it looked like the men might have to take out the big bay window. No matter how many different positions they tried, they just couldn't quite fit it through the door.
No, it wasn't a new freezer. In fact, the rest of "it" was already in the freezer. Cliff Damon and a few helpers were trying to fit the mount of his state record moose into his house in Livermore, Maine. The mount itself weighs 150 pounds!
The Maine moose hunt lasts just one week per year, usually the first full week of October. Only the northern and western portions of the state are open to moose hunting, and the moose hunting area is divided into seven zones to distribute the hunting pressure.
Permits to hunt moose are awarded on a lottery system, with applications due by the first Monday in April. A person can purchase up to six chances in the moose drawing. Residents can buy one chance for $5, three chances for $10 and six chances for $20; nonresidents can buy one chance for $10, three chances for $20 and six chances for $30. Hunters who are selected in the lottery must then purchase a moose permit ($29 for residents and $300 for nonresidents) and a big game hunting license (residents $21, nonresidents $87).
At the time of application, the hunter also must name two choices for his "sub-permittee," who also may shoot the moose. Moose hunting parties are usually large -- it takes a crew to get one out of the woods -- but only the permittee or subpermittee may shoot the moose. The number of permits allocated has risen steadily in recent years, from 1,500 to 3,000.
Tag Drawing Is A Big Deal
The drawing is held in June, and it's a big deal. Names are read aloud at a public hearing at the state capital, and also posted on the department's web site.
Many people apply for years without getting drawn. In fact, Damon had been trying for a permit for 15 years when he finally got picked in the state's southwest zone.
"I'd been up there twice before with other moose hunting parties, so I was familiar with the area," Damon said. "In fact, the year before I was up there scouting and on Saturday and Sunday before the hunt, we saw 43 moose -- but then it got warmer and you just didn't see them.
"All the big ones I had seen, even scouting, weren't standing next to the road -- they were one jump away from cover," Damon continued. "After waiting all this time to get drawn, I didn't want to go up there and shoot one I could see from the road -- some try for years to get a permit and then in 10 minutes it's all over, and I didn't want that."
Damon went to work on his moose hunt that summer. He picked up an old jeep with a tow bar, and set it up with a winch. He made sure his chain saw was ready for cutting dead trees and high stumps out of the way, in the hoped-for event of dragging a big moose out of the woods.
"I didn't want to be hampered, to have to pass one up because it was too far from the road," Damon said. "I'd been up there scouting, and I knew there were some big moose."
Damon said that he and his friends could have written the "Rand McNally Stump Atlas," after glassing countless far-off black dots that at first appeared to be moose. He remembered one certain spot where he could look across a valley spanning maybe 1,000 acres.
"You could kind of see black dots so far off, then I looked down and the light caught them. They were two huge antlers that looked like shovels when he raised his head," Damon said. "But, I have no way of knowing if that was the one."
Damon, sub-permittee Ken Keene of Livermore and a group of friends headed to the zone on the Friday before the hunt and set up camp in a gravel pit using two pickup trucks with slide-in campers. On the first day of the hunt, Damon passed up five bulls and twelve cows. Near the end of the second day (10/7/97), he and Keene were dropped off around 2:30 p.m. to work through a big patch of woods.
Bull Follows The Cow
"I was just easing through, and came onto moose and they took off running," Damon said. "I caught a glimpse of the cow coming through an opening and then came the bull -- I shot and he went down immediately."
The men quickly hiked back to camp to get their equipment.
"At first we couldn't budge it, and we had to use chainsaws on dead trees and stumps to back the jeep all the way to it," Damon said. "We winched the head right into the back of the jeep, and got it going."
They had 25 miles to go to get to the closest moose registration station, which was Pike's Market in Eustis. The bull moose, which dressed out at 931 pounds, drew a crowd. People knew they were seeing something special. The bull's antlers had 14 points on the right side and 18 points on the left. The total spread of the antlers was 61-4/8 inches. The palms were an amazing representation of what's called a "double-shovel" bull -- 14-3/8 inches wide and 42-6/8 inches long on the right side; and 18-4/8 inches wide and 47-7/8 inches long on the left side.
Damon shot the moose with a Remington 30-06 pump-action rifle. After the 60-day drying period, the (Canadian) moose rack was measured by Boone & Crockett scorer Harvey Libby of Gorham, Maine. The score is 217.
"I learned later -- because they pulled a tooth to get the age of the bull -- that he was 4-1/2-years old," Damon said. "The biologist said that the best years for his rack were still ahead of him."