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April 2020
Story by John Sawyer
State: Maine
Species: Moose - Canadian

I remember submitting my application for the moose lottery for 2019 and thinking, “I will probably not ever get to hunt moose again.” I was fortunate enough to hunt Alaska and take a nice Yukon in 2002 before the price of moose hunts went through the roof. Then, in 2007, after eight years of applying in Maine, I drew a new unit that had extremely poor quality based on my conversations with guides and the DNR. I had previous commitments as well, so I passed on the tag-of-a-lifetime.

On June 8, 2019, I had just pulled into the driveway after a 12-hour drive from Minnesota to home. I had volunteered to be a smallmouth guide on the upper Mississippi River for the Trolling for Troops event. It was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done, but I was bone tired. I hadn’t had time to check the Maine website for the normal disappointing look at the list I wasn’t on when my cell phone rang. Not recognizing the number, I figured it was a telemarketer and declined the call. A few minutes later, I was notified that I had a voicemail, so I played the message.

“Hi Chris, this is Nathan Theriault at OMM Outfitters. I wanted to congratulate you on drawing a bull tag for September in unit 3 for this year.”

At this point, I blacked out, hung up on the voicemail, and called Nathan. We discussed the hunt options and a bull named “Big Dodge” that had suffered a non-fatal wound the last day of the previous season. Soon after that, Nathan found him walking around just fine and tracked him for over a year. He even recovered his sheds that winter. Let’s just say, Nathan knew exactly where Big Dodge spent all of his time.

 went inside and proceeded to tell my wife, “I am the luckiest guy in the world! I married you, and I just drew another bull moose tag for Maine!” Stephie understands the importance of both statements, and I was glad I got the two statements 140 in the proper order. Needless to say, she was happy for me.

I called Huntin’ Fool about OMM and Nathan and learned enough about them that I didn’t bother calling other references. On Monday, I booked the most bare bones hunt Nathan offered. I have a Yukon on the wall, I just wanted a good representation and a freezer full of meat.

Two weeks before I left, Nathan called and told me that he wanted me to hunt Big Dodge with him. I was flabbergasted but had no problem saying yes having seen his pictures and sheds in the literature they sent me.

Summer waned, my wife recovered from her hip surgery, and I loaded up my Adventure Van and took off on the 1,600 miles one way to meet Nathan and the OMM team. I arrived and was shown my private cabin on Eagle Lake, sighted in my rifle, and waited for the lobster dinner to be served. Nathan discussed the strategy for taking Big Dodge who lived in a one-half mile square area most of the time. With the direction the winds were coming from, the first morning of my hunt would be spent sleeping in and hopefully a break in the winds would come later that day.

The wind direction broke early, and we loaded up and started the one-hour drive to the logging road that lead to Big Dodge’s bedroom. As soon as we got there, we had more rain move in and the winds changed to the wrong direction.

We waited awhile and then Nathan decided we would try and come in from the backside with favorable winds but no logging road access. It turned out to be a log-strewn, uber-thick bog trek that ended up at the backside of an even bigger beaver bog that we couldn’t get around. Once we got back to the truck, everyone said the same thing, “I’m not doing that again!”

We went back to our original spot and waited on the wind to change. We didn’t wait long and started in. At about the two and a half-mile mark with Nathan raking and making a few soft grunt calls, he heard a bull. We stepped out of the road into an open spot to set up facing the incoming bull. Was it Big Dodge? A few minutes later, we heard limbs breaking behind us and here was Big Dodge coming across the logging road at 25 yards with no shot because of the narrow stand of pines between us. He stopped at 15 yards behind the pines, and I searched for an opening to shoot through. I found one, but if I looked away, it took a while to find the spot again. In the end, I didn’t shoot since the odds of being a zero were probably as good as being a hero and nobody in the group could see exactly what I was looking at. Big Dodge walked away unscathed. The mood was what you would expect after such a close encounter, and there were 20 different strategies discussed on the long walk out and ride back to camp. We were definitely going to let him settle down on Tuesday and check the weather for Wednesday.

On Tuesday, I slept in again and then we went out and called for the fun of it elsewhere, knowing that it was unlikely that I would pull the trigger on anything. We finished the day with another of Gloria’s fabulous meals and a sundowner.

The best weather of the week was looking to be Wednesday, and Nathan and Kenny hatched the plan. We would ease back down the two and a half miles to Dodge’s home turf with Nathan raking on the road and Kenny staying 100 yards or so out cow calling now and then.

We were maybe 125 yards from Monday’s near miss and where he had taken a hit the year before when it got real. I got on my shooting stick I had made in camp from a sapling when Nathan leaned in after his final rake and said to get ready. Big Dodge came out of the trees and I could see him, but I didn’t have a clear shot as he walked, so we let him keep coming. At 75 yards and just before he stepped onto the logging road, he stopped. All I could see were his antlers because of a spruce tree about 50 yards out. He finally made one or two steps onto the road and started raking the brush on the other side. With his head down, doing “I’m Big Dodge” stuff to the bushes, I put the first one right where it should be. He spun 180 degrees to see what was pestering him, and I stacked the next one right by the first one. As he started down the logging road away from us, Nathan said, “Put one in his hump.” The third shot was below the hump but right where the first two were, and he was anchored 35 yards from the first shot.

Kenny came running out of the woods from his hiding spot, and Rob was still running the camera. The most genuine excitement and outright joy by guides and one lucky client was all caught on tape along with the hunt.

Many, many thanks to Nathan, Kenny, Joey (the unsung hero of the trip), and Rob who hung in there with his trusty video camera through the ups and downs and even the beaver bog! Thanks to Gloria for the unbelievably fine meals and to all of the great people I met in camp that week, including my road trip to town buddy, Doc.

So, two Maine moose tags drawn between 2007 and 2019. Do I need to say it? Apply, Apply, Apply!