By Deidre Felming Of the News Staff
Courtesy Bangor Daily News Tuesday October 10, 2000
KOKADJO – Hunting fans numbering in the hundreds were all down in Greenville, from 9:30 a.m. after the dead moose started rolling into the tagging station and into the afternoon. Matt Tainter didn’t need them. The 15-year old from from Woolwich had 11 onlookers in Kokadjo standing by, impressed – and he had an 846-lb. bull moose.
“This makes up for all the work dragging it out of the woods,” said Jim Tainter, as he watched his son retell his tale to the small crowd at the Kokadjo Settlement. “I got drawn (in the moose lottery). Matt was my subpermittee. I didn’t even bring a gun. It’s more of a thrill watching him do it, taking a kid to hunt.”
On the first day of the Maine Moose hunt – and the 20th anniversary of its reinstatement after a 50-year halt – Matt Tainter bagged one of the largest bulls tagged in the south central zone. Dropping it some 20 miles north of Greenville, the moose hunt hot spot, he could have shown off his massive bull, its rack with a 51-inch spread, and the fact he’s just a junior hunter, but hubris is not in the spirit of the hunt.
There were 79 moose tagged in Greenville by 6:20 p.m. Monday, a total way down from last year’s first day, when 101 were tagged by the end of the day. Wildlife biologist Doug Kane said the drop in his region (where 185 permits were given out last year and this year) is part of a downward trend he expects will continue as old clear-cuts grow in and affect hunters’ visibility. He said the trend would make the six-day hunt more difficult.
“I don’t think we’ll break 100 this year,” Kane said at dusk. “The one thing is the change in vegetation. Hunters are at a disadvantage. It will only get worse.
This year, by the fourth day, (the numbers bagged) will balance out (to match last year’s totals). Over time, I expect to see the success decline, just by the way the habitat is changing.”
But on Monday the revelers at Moosehead Lake didn’t care about totals tagged, nor did the hunters. They were all there for the communal thrill.
“I met a woman here (who came to watch) who lives right near me at home. When I was in the 1980 hunt, we were in Millinocket. (Getting the south central zone) is a blessing,” said Diane Morency of Wells after her husband, Raymond, had his 900-pound moose tagged in Greenville. “A lot of people take the week and come up here to see this.”
Chet Hawkins was one such pilgrim. The 80-year old from East Machias drove four hours to see the start of the moose season with hundreds of others in Greenville, as he has for the past seven years. He said he would then drive to three or four other tagging stations – to Clayton Lake, to Ashland and beyond – to share in the mooaw hunt with different hunters.
Hawkins’ name has never been drawn in the lottery, but he has experience nonetheless.
“I’ve hunted moose in Newfoundland for 39 years. I’ve gotten one every year.” Hawkins said. Then added for the sake of disbelievers: “That’s 39 moose.”
C.J. Greene is another pilgrim. Perhaps best know as the singing waitress at Thompson’s Restaurant in Bingham, Greene has no big-game hunting experience. Yet she traveled to Greenville from Skowhegan with her husband, Jeff, for opening day of moose season of the past 13 years. They drove last year in the blizzard. Greene was there with her friend Sandra Kelleher of Benton, on Monday.
“This tagging station is one of the furthest away. But it’s the people, it’s the atmosphere,” Greene said. “I love the Greenville area. My dream is to retire here.”
However, the constant crowd the food vendors and taxidermists, not to mention the continual line of six to eight moose-toting trucks, were of no interest to Tainters.
Their hunt began at 6 a.m., their first moose sighting came at 9:30 a.m., and their work getting it from the skidder hole it fell into to their truck extended another 3 ½ hours as they wrestled with its stiff carcass, wondering whether they’d have to cut it up in the woods. Jim Tainter said the simple, quiet, muddy lot at Kokadjo suited them fine when their work was done. All Matt Tainter wanted was a big bull moose.
“He was the first one we saw. We drove by him and he was just standing there. He ran off and I shot him in the neck and the back,” Matt Tainter said. “He probably was 75 yards away. There wasn’t much around him. I wanted a big one. I would have waited for one.”
Jim Tainter, who does a bit of taxidermy work, said the huge rack would have to become a proper display.
Raymond Morency also was considering having his bull and its 54-inch rack mounted. Morency’s moose was just smaller than the heaviest of the day tagged at Greenville, a 975-pounder.
Overall, keepsakes and trophies were not among the first thoughts of most hunters.
“People who don’t hunt don’t understand, but the meat!” said Diane Morency, her hands to heaven, her eyes closed. “My father is a little Italian from Portland. He’ll make meatballs with it.”
At 9 a.m. at Greenville, Mark Reifschneider of Canaan was filled with as much enthusiasm – and his bull was nearly half the size.
“It’s not a monster, but it’s going to make damn good eating.” Reifschneider said of his 500-pound moose.
Yvonne Reifschneider followed this claim with a substantial list of the people who will have to share in her husband’s prize: the guide who helped them, the woman minding their dog, and her mother. But she said the person who inspired their entry in the moose hunt would not share in the feast, even though he was the most beneficial.
“My father (Henri Caron) died four years ago. He was watching for us,” she said. “He lived to hunt. Twice he brought us hone moose from Canada.”