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Humongusmooseamongus

Mosquito netting is a must

Mosquito netting is a must

Moose, Alces Alces, the icon of the north-woods is certainly my favorite mammal. The better part of the past decade have been spent in photographic pursuit of this magnificent beastie. All most all of my Moose photography has taken place in Maine. To the best of my knowledge Maine maintains the highest moose population in the lower 48. Back in 2003 I moved from NYC to Stratton Maine. What a move…. I went from a population of 3 million in my niehborhood to about 600 in my town. The local moose population is probably triple that, likley even more. It was then I began my photography book The namesake of this article…..

HUMONGUSMOOSEAMONGUS!

If you like mosquitos, black flys, leeches, mud, cold, moldy socks, anything that can conjure up a nightmare then this photography quest is for you.

There are many ways photograph Moose. I spent hours driving the wilderness roads of Maine. My favorites include Route 16 between Stratton and Rangeley, 16 miles of moose crossing mayhem. Topping that is the Golden Road out of Millinocket, this private, yet open to the public logging road twists by Mount katahdin and Baxter State Park. Both areas offer a true wilderness Maine experience, be prepared wild is its middle name, and at any time a moose spotting is possible. My first tour on the Golden Road, Greenville to Millinocket I counted 27, I was hooked!

Feeding Moose in the Penobscot River near Abol Bridge on the Golden Road

The Most exciting way to photograph Moose is to call to them. This is best done with a Guide, and works best during the mating season or rut that starts in mid September. For years I have been hiring Matt Tinker of Green Farm Guide Service. This guy knows exactly what to say to a moose. Its truly an exciting time. The day begins before dawn. Frost is good, it makes the moose horny and mobile, essential when calling. Frost is bad, for that means its cold! I bundle up in layers of camo. Some out there say camo dosnt matter. First I think its way cool, my long johns are even camo. Matt has called them in so close, and I know they didnt see me, so I think camo do does matter. We pile into the jeep, and make our way to the site he has picked. During the drive you keep a look out, for this is the wilderness you never know what youll see. Maybe moose, bear, a sasquatch, anything. Having arrived, we hike to the spot.There is (moose) sign everywhere, droppings, prints and antler rubs on various tree. At the spot we get comfy, and Matt begins to call. Its an art, an exersise, and a meditation. First he breaks out his birch bark horn and gives a cow call, sounds kinda like a car skiding, crossed with a baby cying, and a coyote. Then through the same horn he sounds a bull call. This sounds somthing like a 1000 pound frog. Or a Wildabeast grunting. Then he pauses, listens intently for a moment, and repeats the same calls.

Tink calling

He sits down in the brush with me and we wait in silence. And wait, and wait. Our silence maybe, the sounds of the woods envelope you. A few moments later he lifts the horn and gives a brief cow call. We sit in silence. We hear a rustling, its nothing, maybe a chipmonk. Matt stands and out comes another calling tool. A can with a leather strip. With a pull, a loud echoing whine is emitted, another type of cow call. Its the rut, and cows call the bulls when they are ripe. Again we sit in silence. Its cold, a bit wet, and boys will be boys. The silly faces start to be glanced at each other. We bite our lips not break the silence. Then a squweeky bit of gas is emitted and the laughter is set loose. Its takes us a minute to settle down and Matt prepares to call again. This time he rubs a large bone on nearby trees and foilage.

The Thrashing Call

This is done by bulls as a challenge and signal to other bulls that he has found his woman. He even shakes the tree by hand vigorusly, rustling branches etc. During our hike in we spotted trees completly shaken apart by the local bulls. This is what he is mimicking. Again we wait in silence, but not for long. We hear a branch break, not a twig, a branch, and we know we are in! A quick grunt through the horn, this time we get an answer. A bull! Wow, this beastie was crashing through the woods, grunting. More breaking branches and then silence,what happened? For a few momenets nothing. A cow call through the horn, movment and out of the shadows a medium sized bull steps.

A Call and the Moose steps out of the woods

Now its my turn. I point my camera, a Canon EOS-1 Ds, with a 70-200 2.8 zoom. Snapin away! This guy wants to pose for me. I continue to shoot. Really over shooting. I most have been 25 yards away and he was smilling for me. Matt takes out the video and captures this amazing encounter. On occasion moose can be quite tolerant especially this time. There are aggresive signs to watch out for. Stamping of the feet, bowing and and swinging of the head, and mock charges. Moose can kill be careful!

This is the video of the encounter.

The Great picture captured

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