According to the results of a comprehensive study conducted recently by the tourist industry (OK, it wasn’t that exhaustive; they just spoke to a few people at an information center parking lot), most tourists come to Maine for three reasons: Visit a lighthouse, eat a lobster and see a moose.

It may sound simple to the rest of us, but those seemingly common things are called the three “legs” of the tourist industry’s “milking stool.”

Get it? Milking stool? Milking tourists? Sorry.

Where was I?

Oh, yes, tourists. Try removing any one of those legs and the entire tourist industry would most likely come crashing down around our ears.

Fortunately, for the time being Maine has enough lighthouses to go around, and there’s no shortage of lobsters and moose.

In fact, the number of moose in Maine has increased so rapidly over the years that the state now lets people enter a lottery to win a chance to shoot one.

Is that any way to treat one of the supports of the tourist industry, you might ask. Considering all that moose have done for Maine, it doesn’t seem fair to shoot them, but the wildlife experts say the moose hunt is held for the good of the herd.

Anyway, in a few weeks, if you find tourists wandering around Maine more than 30 miles from the coast, it’s not likely they’re searching for lobsters or lighthouses. Chances are good they will be looking for moose. They may tell you they’re going canoeing or bicycling or hiking or fishing, but don’t believe any of it. They’re using these activities as a thinly veiled excuse to go into the Maine wilderness to look for moose.

Why do these otherwise healthy, normal individuals use these pathetic excuses? Because they don’t want to come right out and say: “The reason I burned over $100 in gas and drove all the way from Secaucus, N.J., the reason I’m willing to endure your black flies, your hordes of hungry mosquitoes, and your seasonally adjusted prices, is to see a live moose up close and try to get a picture of it to show my friends back home.”

That’s it. That’s the reason – to see a Maine moose and get a good picture to show the folks back home.

It pretty easy to figure out why people like to eat tasty lobster and why they seek out scenic lighthouses, but why moose? Why are people attracted to this odd, ungainly mammal?

It’s been said that if a camel is a horse designed by a committee, a moose must have been designed by a committee doing some heavy drinking.

That’s one explanation for why the moose is considered the strangest looking member of the deer family. The other members – white tails, elk, reindeer – all look pretty normal. So what happened to the moose?

The moose looks so odd, so peculiar, that many people don’t even know it’s in the deer family. If they could talk, other deer wouldn’t want to talk about it.

But being tough old Mainers, moose endure the jokes and jibes and never complain. Did you ever hear a moose complain? No sir. And you never will.

Like I said, Moose are tough. They have to be. They’ll never ask for a “makeover” – as if it would help. They just play the hand they were dealt and go on with their solitary lives. They pose for your pictures and move on.

I bring up the whole subject of moose because before long the woods will be teeming with camera-toting tourists who’ll be tramping around near our camp and everywhere else looking for the object of their affection – moose.

Maybe it’s a good time to take a trip. They say Secaucus is nice this time of year.

John McDonald is the author of five books on Maine, including “John McDonald’s Maine Trivia: A User’s Guide to Useless Information.” Contact him at [email protected]