• Vol. 10
  • Chapter 12
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The Moose Hunt

In Aroostook County, moose season comes around in September and goes on its merry way in October. Each hunter gets to fell one animal — if they have a moose tag. The chances are better if you opt for a cow, but most applicants want the antlers – a 6-foot trophy only produced by the bulls.

I was not in Maine to hunt. I was, however, aware of hunt. How could I not be with the influx of people, the marketing for guides and gear, restaurant specials and the like. The hunt brings in $15 million to the otherwise disadvantaged local economy. I am not in Maine to hunt moose, but when I get a lift into town to buy groceries I can’t help but gawk at the carcasses tied down in the back of pickup trucks, antlers extending beyond the bed.

They pull into the gravel parking lot in front of the tackle shop. I’ve been inside to buy plastic worms to try my luck at luring fish from the Aroostook River onto my dinner plate. They stock hunting gear, flannels, warm hats with ear flaps, knives, bows and arrows, an array of rifles and a section of pink camouflage gear “for the ladies” that won’t help anyone avoid being seen. Though I think that’s the point.

The weigh station outside the shop feels like a sort of gallows, two telephone poles with a cross beam at the top have been cemented into the parking lot. Chains hang from a pulley attached to the cross bar at one end and an eclectic winch at the other.

A woman in a black hoodie and boots comes out with a tape measure. She guides the driver to reverse the bed of the truck between the poles, so the head of the moose is directly centered under the cross beam. She measures the antlers. This is a young buck, antlers barely protruding from the skull. After she measures them, she wraps the chains around the bone, secured with some sort of alchemy I can’t make out from where I sit in the passenger seat of a beat up pickup, trying to observe discreetly.


The Moose Hunt

The woman flips a switch and the winch starts reeling up the slack chain. The limp body of the moose lifts off the flatbed, first the head, then torso and finally the haunches, until the entire carcass is suspended between the poles. The woman reads the number on the electronic display and writes down the weight on a clipboard for the department of Fisheries and Wildlife. She lowers the body back onto the flatbed, unwinding the chains from the antlers and nodding to the hunters that they can take their trophy to the butchers, or the taxidermist, or more likely to an outbuilding on their own farm where the meat will be stripped from the bone and made into burgers stew, chilli, the majority frozen to last the winter. While the weigh station lays dormant, waiting for deer season.