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Early in July, my wife and I set out for a vacation to New Hampshire and Maine, part of which included plans to go on a moose expedition.

As you may recall, I have been on a 30-year odyssey to see a moose in the wild.

Three previous attempts – two with a wildlife biologist in New York and one with an outdoors guide in Maine – were fruitless.

Ditto our impromptu efforts driving the highways and byways of places called “Moose Alley” and crisscrossing Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire.

Seeing a bear on our way out of town at our local Dunkin’ Donuts in the Poconos struck me as a good omen.

The bear was foraging for food in the parking lot dumpster and lingered for so long that a crowd gathered to shoot photos and videos.

Surely, I thought, the wildlife gods were signaling me that my quest to see a moose would be successful.

We trekked to Lincoln, N.H., for a night tour of the “wallows” – hot spots where moose gather near the roadside to forage for vegetation or lap up the sodium-rich road salt left over from winter.

Our intrepid guides, More about the author, boasted of a 97 percent moose sighting rate over 18 years.

Ninety-seven percent!

Plus, with their native New Hampshire accents (“wicked smaht”), I felt like we were in the hands of true moose whisperers.

Granted, the night before, their excursion only saw two moose, but hell, that would be two more than I’ve seen in the wild.

I was undaunted.

About 30 of us piled into a small but comfortable bus and we left at 9 p.m. for a three-hour tour.

Our guides emphasized that moose are not animatronic characters who perform on command like the animals at Disney World attractions.

That said, they said they would work hard to find moose – and that they did.

Using spotlights, our guides scanned the roadside places where moose were known to congregate.

The vibe in the bus early in the trip was upbeat and jovial as they cracked hokey jokes. About 90 minutes into the trip, we stopped at a general store for a bathroom break and some sweet treats.

No moose.

No problem, they said. The night before they did not see one until after the break.

But as the night wore on, and our stops became more frequent and less fruitful, the mood grew more quiet and less cheery.

Thankfully we were sitting on the right side of the bus to catch a glimpse of the face of a young moose cow. But that was it – a glimpse – after three and a half hours.

It is hardly what I would consider a full-fledged moose sighting but it did technically break my 30-year drought.

Still, it was a bit like being promised a hamburger from Shake Shack and getting one from White Castle instead.

Related links:

No Moose, No Peace

 

 

No Moose, No Peace

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.

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In Moose Alley and yes, I am wearing a moose T-shirt.

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.

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My collection of moose friends at home.

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!”

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Yes, this is a bona fide moose antler that I bought at a taxidermy shop in the Adirondacks.
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Yeah, right. Didn’t see a single moose, much less crash into one.

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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