The great moose hunt in Maine

I made a quick run to western Maine for a long weekend. I’d been to coastal Maine several times but I hadn’t been to the inland area. I didn’t know where to go, but I didn’t want to drive forever, so I looked at a map for an area that had lots of lakes and less than five hours away from my Vermont home.

I ended up in the Rangeley area and I was glad I did. It has the most spectacular scenery east of the Rockies. I was stunned.

One of my goals for the weekend was to photograph moose. As I was driving through New Hampshire, there was a moose eating her lunch along the road. If it wasn’t for the five cars that had stopped to watch, I don’t know that I would have seen her. I hopped out of the Jeep, but she was pretty backlit and she headed for the woods after I got off about 10 shots. It was fun but I wanted more.

When I got to Rangeley, my first stop was the Chamber of Commerce to find out what was there. The nice lady told me where to find the local sights. I asked her where to find moose and she told me about “Moose Alley” where they are frequently along Route 16 heading north to the little town of Stratton. She said something about a bog behind a highway department, but I was already envisioning Moose Alley.

Since it was mid-day, I went to some of the local sights and then headed north on Route 16. It looked like prime moose terrain but I didn’t see any critters. It was still a few hours before sunset, so I explored the area around Stratton and had an early dinner at the diner. Of course, I asked the waitress where to find moose and she told me about “Moose Alley” and the bog behind the highway department.

After dinner I headed back toward Route 16 and a storm rolled in bringing rain and darkness. If moose were out, it was too dark to shoot.

The next afternoon I headed back up Moose Alley and still didn’t see anything. I went to the highway department and there were a couple of cars sitting near the bog but no moose. I explored the area some more and found beautiful lakes and rivers and spectacular vistas, so I decided to camp there rather than drive the 16 miles back to Rangeley.

I talked to more locals, asking about moose and each one said to check the highway department bog. It turns out that is where they store the salt for the roads and it seeps into the bog and the moose like to lick the ground for the salt. Wow.

[include file=classes_include.txt]I went past the bog a few times and there were always people there but no moose. A little before sunset I went there and parked. It was the local entertainment for the evening. There weren’t any moose but there were half a dozen cars parked and others coming and going. People were out of their cars, chatting and having fun, just waiting for moose.

I talked to several of them including a group of women from Massachusetts who come there every year. They had parked there each evening all week but hadn’t seen any moose like they did in other years. I waited until the light got so dim that if a moose showed up I wouldn’t be able to photograph it anyway. I left headed out to the lakes to shoot some dusk pictures.
The next morning after shooting an incredible sunrise along the lakes, I was ready to head for home. It was about 7:30 so I thought I’d take one more look at the bog. No cars were there but I pulled in anyway.

There stood mamma moose and her calf. Yahoo! I parked off to the side and got out my gear. Mamma was aware that I was there and kept an eye on me but didn’t really mind my presence. The calf didn’t care at all. They grazed and slowly made their way through the small bog. I shot for nearly 30 minutes but I didn’t get too far away from my Jeep, just in case mamma got spooked. I had seen how quick and agile a large moose is when I was in Alaska, so I stayed cautious.

Mamma and calf wandered around the little bog and were getting close to the trees, which was putting them in dark shade when a pickup truck pulled into the parking area. Mamma decided that was enough and trotted off into the woods with her calf trailing closely behind.

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