4 am did indeed come early, very early. Having only got 1 hour of sleep the previous day and a half and I was really feeling it. The excitement of the hunt was the only thing that got me up and going. Andrea said the 1st spot we were going to try was pretty close to camp and they had just seen a really big bull there during the previous week. We slowly stalked down the old logging road, cow calling and listening. We made it toward the end of the road and set up to one side in some brush and called for a bit. A twig snapped behind us. The forest was just coming alive and the shadows were like ghosts moving and dancing through the trees. “Did you see that bull?” asked Andrea. “No, I didn’t see anything.” was my response. “He’s back there, and I could just catch a glimpse of him.” Andrea replied. We continued to call and thought the bull might circle around and show himself on the logging road, but he never showed. Andrea and I hit a few more spots with no luck. An hour or so before dark we found another bull on a cow. Now, we never laid eyes on him, but could hear him grunting and calling back and forth with a cow that must have been in heat. We left him and decided to try for him 1st thing in the morning.
Before daylight the next morning we left the truck and walked to where we had put the bull to bed the night before. Half way through the walk and right at legal shooting time we heard a gunshot not a couple hundred yards away. Andrea was almost positive someone had shot “our” bull. Sure enough, we called and called with no response. Slowly we stalked into the pocket of timber that held the bull the night before. The entire area was torn to shreds. Willows slashed and busted up, tracks and moose poop were all over. We could only guess the bull had followed the hot cow over the ridge where another hunter was and that was that. A little frustrated, we again moved on to another spot, first stopping to eat our bag lunch. We shot the breeze, ate, had a soda and started hiking down another logging road. 200 yards in we heard a bull grunting. The wind was good and we cow called on and off. The bull was moving away from us so we decided to quickly get around him and set up, hoping that he would make his way right into our lap.
I noticed Andrea was limping a bit and winching every once in awhile. “You ok?” I asked. “Oh yeah, I’m good,” was confidently nodded back. Our setup was perfect. The wind was in our face and we had great cover if the bull continued his current path. After a half hour of occasional cow-calling I was beginning to wonder where in the heck the bull had gone. All of the sudden, 40 yards away, the bull comes crashing out, moving left to right. I quickly had the crosshairs on him but he turned out to be a little bull, maybe 25″ wide. I elected to pass.
Later that day we set up on another bull but the wind switched on us and he blew out of the valley we were in before a shot presented itself. The ruffed grouse were all over the place. Had it been a week later they would have been in season and I’d have limited out every day. I had a nice black bear at roughly 200 yards as well, I just didn’t have a tag. We ended the day and I was starting to get worried. I had put all of the time and effort into this hunt and going home empty handed was not an option, although doubt was starting to creep in. My head hit the pillow that night and I prayed for the Good Lord to let me kill a good bull this week. I just kept repeating that prayer till I fell asleep.
The next morning It was cold, spitting snow at times. I thought to myself, “this is a good sign, snow is good”. Andrea and I hit a couple of more spots with the same result as the previous two days. Nothing. After lunch we decided to try an out of the way defunct logging road that hadn’t been used in awhile. The dried yellow grass was knee high; a sure signal the road we indeed unused for some time. The truck was just barely out of sight when we slowly rounded a slight bend in the road and saw a cow and calf. Immediately we sat down and got as low as we could in the tall grass. Snaking to the edge of the road for a little more cover we kept the binoculars on the moose. After about 10 minuets we heard a branch break across the logging road. I looked and Andrea and she mouthed the words “bull”. Thirty minuets went by with no bull making an apperance, we were wondering where the bull could have gone. The cow and calf had fed further around the bend in the road and out of sight. We gave them a few minuets and the slowly followed just in the edge of the timber. As we peeked around the bend the logging road straitghend out and we could see for a couple of hundred yards. No moose. Andrea decided we should set up on the outside of the bend and call. This way we could see in both directions down the logging road. I had my 338 up on the shooting sticks at the ready. A few cow calls and over 10 minuets and we hadn’t heard or seen anything. I was looking to the left and having a pity party in my mind when Andrea said ” Josh, theres your bull!”. I glanced to the right and not 50 yards away a giant bull stepped out onto the road. It was surreal and I was in awe of that huge beast. Just as soon as the bull was clear for a shot he turned and walked straight away. In no time the bull was at 70…80..90 yards away. Andrea hammered out a cow call and finally at 94 yards the big bull gave a quick look over the shoulder back in our direction. The angle was a very tight quartering away shot, not ideal. At the shot the bull spun and Andrea excitedly said “hit him again!” I already had another round in the chamber but the bull made it into the timber before a follow up shot could be made. We just looked at each other wide eyed and smiled. “Did you make a good shot?” Andrea asked with a half smile. Before the hunt had started Andrea asked me to break the bull down on the first shot, high shoulder shot or neck shot, as to keep the bull in a easy place to retrieving. My natural deer hunting instinct kicked in at the shot and I aimed tight behind the leg. No sooner had Andrea asked that question, we heard a loud thud. We both thought that “thud” was the bull going down. When we got to where the bull was standing at the shot, we could not find blood. We did however find track where the bull had turned and ran into the timber. Not good sign. Andrea and I stared into the timber looking for the any sign of the bull, blood or broken limbs. We didn’t see anything. My heart was on the verge of breaking. There was a small mound 10 yards off the logging road and as we approached it Andrea says “look, antler!”. My bull was laying right there, 15 yards off the old logging road, hidden by the mound. What an awesome sight and fantastic feeling! We got up to the bull and he seemed to grow, there was absolutely no ground shrinkage. I could not believe the size of the thing! This is something you have to be around to truly appreciate. Just to move the bulls head for pictures took some work. After all of the high fives Andrea said ” I have a confession to make. I have a blown disc in my back and didn’t want you to worry about me so I didn’t say anything.”. I was taken aback by that, but then again that is the type of hard working, butt busting guide she is. While Andrea was in some serious pain, she was also super excited that we had just knocked down a huge bull. I stayed with the bull as Andrea headed back to camp to pick up Don and Matt. I requested a couple of “road sodas” to be brought back for the celebration. I took the time to admire the bull and just soak up the North Maine woods. The beautiful poplar tree and ruffed grouse drumming all over made the time spent with my bull all the more memorable. The crew made it back to me and after high fives, pictures and a little celebrating we started working on getting the bull in the back of the truck. Even with a winch and a couple of snatch blocks, it still took 45 mins to get the 1000 pound bull the 15 yards back on the logging road. A nice 4×8 sheet of plywood and the winch in the bed of the pickup made loading the bull into the bed pretty easy once he was on the logging road. With the giant bull loaded Don and I headed into town to check the bull in and drop him off to be caped, deboned and frozen. Ashland, Maine was only about 70 miles from camp, but on those logging roads that was a 3 hour drive. After dropping the bull off Don and I grabbed a bite to eat and headed back to camp. Laughing and shooting the breeze with Don, I was still on a high from killing the big bull, when about an hour away from camp we saw something in the headlights. The truck creped along and slowly the two bulky shapes turned into a pair of big bull moose. The two were eyeballing each other, posturing and slowly swinging their heads back and forth. This was going to be and epic fight!! Both of the bulls were big, 50″ or so wide. While the posturing continued for a couple of minuets it was obvious as to what was going to happen next. What looked like a slow boring dance all of the sudden turned into a “to the death” fight. The big bulls were just hammering each other, pushing and and sliding all over the road. They were oblivious to our presence. At one point we had to put the truck in reverse or be smashed into! The slightly bigger bull scooped up the smaller bull and lifted him completely off the ground. Finally after a few minuets the winner chased the other bull into the timber. What an insane way to end the day. I got to kill a huge bull and see two mega bulls go at it, that was a day I will vividly remember my entire life no doubt. The next day was spent unwinding and packing. Friday morning came,we said our good byes and headed out of camp to Ashland to pick up the meat. I had the bulls rack strapped to the top of the Tahoe and got a few “thumbs up” as we made our way south through Maine. The drive home was gonna be a long one, but with a mega moose rack and 3 coolers full of meat, I was all smiles.