Captain Ahab had Moby Dick.
Wile E. Coyote had the Road Runner.
And Elmer Fudd had that wascally wabbit.
My quarry for 25 years has been a moose.
Not one in particular, just ANY moose. And for the record, not to spear, eat or shoot, but to merely glimpse one of these magnificent creatures in the wild.
It is an obsession that took root when I was a reporter in the Adirondacks in 1990 and participated in a search with wildlife biologists for a moose nicknamed Big Richard (more on that in a minute).
Since then I have been to Maine (three times, including to Moosehead Lake twice, most recently this summer), gone on a moose-spotting adventure tour and traveled to Vermont and New Hampshire (including to a section of roadway known as “Moose Alley”).
Do you think that in all of those trips to places heavily populated by members of the deer family that I have spotted a single one?
Nope. Every time, they have flipped me the hoof.
My enthusiasm for moose started when I was a reporter at the Press-Republican, a newspaper based in Plattsburgh, N.Y.
I was invited by a wildlife biologist from the state Department of Environmental Conservation to tag along with a contingent of researchers who were tracking a moose to change the battery on its radio collar.
As a kid who grew up in the Bronx, my experiences with wildlife were limited to squirrels and pigeons, animals I saw at the Bronx Zoo and whatever I encountered on the subway.
So when the chance arose to observe a moose in the woods, I seized it.
I felt like Marlin Perkins minus the safari jacket.
My first revelation was about the name of our quarry.
When I asked the researchers why he was called Big Richard, they gave me a look that conveyed “Are you that naive?”
And in that moment I had an Edith Bunker epiphany and went “Oooooohhhhh! OH! OH! NOW I get it!”
A contingent of researchers trailed by reporters tromped through the thick woods in a tropical downpour. We were soaked, having taken on more water than the Titanic.
Nonetheless, we trudged on as radio signals indicated we were getting closer to Richard.
But at that point I had to break off from the search since my wife at the time needed to get to her graduate class in Plattsburgh, and we only had one car.
Of course, after I left, the search party spotted Richard. The researcher raised his tranquilizer rifle, aimed and fired. The shot went wide. Richard, spooked by the noise, took off.
A second search for him that I joined weeks later was equally fruitless. Alas, his remains were found about a year later, apparently having succumbed to natural causes.
Despite my absolute dismal record for finding moose, I remain fascinated by these creatures and as interested as ever in seeing one in the wild.
When the rut is on, they are quite active and can travel vast distances in search of a mate.
My no-fail plan?
Hitting the woods during the mating season, bathed in Eau de Mrs. Bullwinkle.
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