PRESQUE ISLE — Eric Ward is not your typical moose-calling champion. When Ward, 49, displayed his skills in front of several hundred people in Presque Isle two weeks ago, he had a bit more experience before crowds than the average moose caller.

A Registered Maine Guide, Ward conducts fishing, hunting and recreational trips around his hometown of Greenville. But he’s also a county commissioner in Piscataquis County. So Ward has some practice with public speaking.

After finishing as the runner-up last year, Ward wanted another crack at the Maine moose-calling title. This time he won. Now in its third year, the competition is held at the annual moose-hunt lottery.

A merchant marine by trade, Ward considers himself lucky to be able to call the Moosehead region home.

How long have you studied moose calls?

I was brought up in Greenville hunting with my father. I’ve been guiding the last 10 years. But most stuff I do is in the woods. I’m there all the time (when not at sea).

I think as a kid I listened to people. Now you can go on the Internet, and half the state has learned to call in moose from videos. I’d say 10 to 15 years ago I started messing around with it. Now there are all kinds of contraptions you can buy to make the sound. But I think a lot of people buy them and never use them.

Did you compete all three years in the moose-calling championship?

Last year was my first. The only reason I competed last year was it was in my hometown. I was hoping other guides would get involved with it. But they didn’t, unfortunately. There are many more guides who are good at this. But they don’t want to get up in front of a crowd.

I’ve been a county commissioner in Piscataquis for eight years. I’m getting used to being in front of people. I’ve got the Greenville drawl (Maine accent). It kind of used to hurt my feelings when people made fun of it. But it doesn’t anymore.

Have you ever won a moose permit?

Last year was the first year I got a permit. I let my daughter shoot it. She had never shot anything. It’s not about me.

My father was drawn in 2000, and he let me shoot it.

How often do you see moose around Moosehead?

Quite often. It depends on the weather and the time of day. Most people know that they’re out in the morning, and you’re more likely to see them then.

Is it still a thrill?

It is. It’s fun for people here to see them. They’re a pretty big critter. And the bigger the better. Last year, me, my brother and my friend were in a bog and we saw a mother leave her calf. It seemed just hours old. We could hear the baby crying. It couldn’t stand up. We got a video on my GoPro, but we didn’t hang around.

Did the cow return?

She did. We looked back and saw her. We kept a safe distance. But we had to go by them in the canoe.

What is your funniest moose story?

Back in 2002 I got my pilot’s license and had gone to Bangor. Someone there asked me if I had ever seen moose at the Greenville airport and I said no. Well, within a week I saw a bull running around the runway, running around the planes. That was kind of strange.

Are you worried about the moose population, given the news that winter ticks depleted their numbers?

I am concerned. The winter was hard on them. But I’m always concerned. It’s kind of the icon of the Maine woods. We don’t want to screw that up. They’re worth a lot to people. People like to hunt them, and a lot of people like to watch them. It’s a pretty good deal for everyone.

They’re different than they used to be. They don’t tend to hang around like they used to. They’ve always looked numb, but they’ve kind of figured things out, that it’s not safe to hang out in the road.

They’re still unpredictable and I believe not super intelligent. But they seem to be a little more wary. I think they may not be so dumb.

Well, unlike caribou, wolf, cougars and some other animals, they’ve been around the Maine woods in big numbers for a long time.

When I was a kid there were moose around, but not like today. I think the spruce budworm (epidemic that devastated the forest) expanded their population. I remember when I was a kid, I recall seeing moose, but not as often as today. I remember all the kids being really interested when a moose was in town. Now it’s not so uncommon.