ROME — The fog that enveloped parts of Maine on Wednesday was not helping the Vogt men on their moose hunt just north of Augusta. On this hunt – the first for John Vogt Sr. as a permit holder – nothing would come easy.

“Dad put in for a permit since the hunt started, for more than 30 years,” said John Vogt Jr., 38. “And he got the worst zone at the worst time of year.”

The father-and-son hunting team was on a moose hunt in Rome, where they both used to live. Now John Sr., 65, lives in Belgrade and his son also lives nearby, in Oakland. But in this case, hunting in what used to be their backyard is not an advantage.

Maine’s modern-day moose hunt has slowly migrated south over the past three decades. The problem for hunters is the moose have not.

For the hundreds of hunters who win moose permits in northern Maine, the success rate is typically 85 percent to 95 percent. But for those awarded a permit during the November hunt in southern districts, the probability of bagging a moose is only 5 percent to 25 percent.

“There just are not a lot of moose shot during the November hunt,” said Maine moose biologist Lee Kantar.


And what moose there are in the scattered woodlands of central Maine are not answering a hunter’s calls this late in the fall. In September when the statewide herd is mating, a bull will readily come in to a hunter’s call mimicking a cow.

“During the rut you can tell where they’re feeding, where they’ve bedded down. You can’t pattern them this time of year,” said John Jr. as he bushwhacked through the woods of Rome.

Moreover, there may be new challenges in the hunt.

State biologists determined in 2012 that Maine’s moose population numbered more than 70,000, making it the largest in the continental United States. But the state’s herd has suffered signficant mortality because of the winter tick parasite. As a result, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife reduced moose permits this year by nearly 25 percent, from 4,085 to 3,095. This year the November hunt is held as far south as Sebago and Topsham, and up along the central Maine coast. Permits have been alloted to 130 hunters.

“Growing up here we saw moose all the time,” said John Vogt Jr. “There were moose everywhere 25 years ago. But it’s just like they migrated.”

Last winter the elder Vogt put in for a moose permit in Zone 4, up in northwestern Maine near Quebec. He had put in for a moose permit with no success since the modern Maine moose hunt began in 1982. Then his name was finally drawn this summer. However, rather than an epic moose hunt in the North Maine Woods, he got one in central Maine’s fragmented forestland.


For moose hunters, the southern portion of the fall season amounts to a scavenger hunt.

The Vogt men are giving it their best effort.

Each took a week’s vacation – John Sr. from his job at a nautical rope company in Warren and John Jr. from his job at Madison Paper – in hopes that the time off would result in a winter’s worth of frozen steaks.

Before their hunt began, the father and son did their homework. They scouted the few central Maine towns were moose were tagged last year, like Mercer, where two moose were shot, and New Sharon, where one was tagged.

They know the odds are not good.

By comparison, last year in northern Maine towns like Allagash, as many as 53 moose were shot by hunters. In Wallegrass, at the northern tip of Maine, 38 were shot. In Aroostook County’s Connor Township, 29 moose were tagged.


John Vogt Jr. knows the northern hunt well. He has been on six moose hunts in northern Maine. There he saw one buddy shoot a 853-pound bull and another shoot one pushing 1,000 pounds – because they had their choice of moose to take.

The Vogt’s Rome hunt will be different.

As they searched Wednesday for moose tracks, leaves rolled up around sunken dirt, freshly broken branches and moose scat, they remained alert.

“I’ve got 100 people looking, keeping their eyes open,” John Jr. said as he scanned the woods.

He pressed on in the fog with his dad looking for tracks an eighth of a mile away. They followed each other on radios that double as GPS tracking systems as they search for moose they saw the day before, a herd of five too far away to shoot.

“That’s where a moose bedded down,” John Jr. said, pointing to an indentation in the leaves. You can tell from the way the leaves are matted down.”


The find gave him new hope as he waited for his dad. When the two men – deer hunting partners for 25 years – finally met up, the elder Vogt was hopeful, too. It was the first time he has smiled in three hours.

“I’ve never seen that much hair in one place,” he said, showing a photo on his cell of matted moose hair on the ground. “That’s a lot of hair on that tote road, and it wasn’t there yesterday.”

It was only 11 a.m. and they knew moose were nearby.

Without much rest, John Sr. pushed on. He said something about a knee replacement last October and being “old and crippled,” but the 65-year-old hunter waved it off with a smile as he stepped over logs and into brush.

“This is what we’ll be doing all day,” John Jr. said. “Walking around this mountain and hill, hoping the fog clears.”

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