In 2016 moose hunting was allowed in 25 of the 29 Maine wildlife management districts. The number of zones allowing moose hunting and the great number of differences between those zones can make applying for a maine moose permit very confusing and even more so if you are drawn.
Were you drawn for a stellar moose zone or a zone that is mediocre at best? Should you consider swapping your permit for a different zone or season? What season were you drawn for? Will you have a remote experience in your zone or will you be driving on paved roads daily during your hunt? Will there be cellular service in your zone? Are there lodging options in your zone? Does your zone hold a healthy population of moose? Is a 50″ bull a reasonable expectation for a trophy bull in your zone? Are there any reputable guides in your zone? These are just some of the questions you will be asking yourself if you are lucky enough to go moose hunting in Maine!
If you take nothing else away from this article, take this…. The simplest way to think of good moose hunting zones in Maine is just think of numbers 1-10. If you remember just that you will be in good shape. If I could modify it slightly to my personal preference I would say remember the numbers 1-9 and 14. Zones 1-9 & 14 are what I consider the best moose hunting in Maine. You have a reasonable chance at finding a trophy bull in any of those zones and these are the zones I consider guiding each year before all others. These zones also hold the healthiest populations of moose. All of the other zones allowing moose hunting each year can be considered mediocre at best. Yes you can find bulls in zones besides 1-9 & 14, but population numbers are lower, lowering trophy expectations. You will also experience a different kind of hunt in those other zones. Areas are less remote, posted land is more common, tracts of land are smaller, and paved roads are more common. All of which will lead to a much different hunt experience than what can be found in the logging country of 1-9 and 14. Part of zones 3 and 6 are all agricultural farm land consisting of potato, broccoli, oats, wheat, and barley mainly. These areas do hold some great trophy bulls, but land access is very tough in those areas and the hunt is not remote at all. When we do guide zones 3 and 6 we guide on the Western half of the zones where the primary habitat is all logging land and moose thrive in it. The good news about the Western half of zones 3 and 6 is that you will have cellular service daily. You are never really any further than about ten or fifteen miles from the amenities of a town. So if you have physical disabilities and medical issues that would prevent you from staying in a remote camp, than zones 3 and 6 are a good option that still allow great trophy quality.
To give you an example of the zones and the paved road systems in Maine here is a map of the hunting zones and a map of the paved roads in Maine. The big empty spot in Northern and Westen Maine is all prime trophy moose habitat!
Even though I consider zones 1-9 and 14 your best options, there are still many differences even between these zones. Zones 1-6 have both a September season and a October season. Zones 7,8,9 and 14 only have a October season. Zones 1-6 can be described as Northern Maine and zones 7,8,9 and 14 can be described as Western Maine. Overall the moose population is higher in Northern Maine than Western Maine, but both areas have great trophy quality. More moose in Northern Maine can sometimes make finding a big bull a little easier than in Western Maine, but that often is decided by other variables during the hunt and not just moose numbers.
Ideally the best time to hunt trophy bulls is during peak rut. This provides the best calling opportunity and peak rut is during the September season. If your intention is to bowhunt, September is the season you want. So peak rut hunts pretty much limit you to zones 1-6. Zones 1,2,4,5 are all inside a 3.5 million acre area of Maine, known as the North Maine Woods. We hold a commercial guide permit with the North Maine Woods to guide hunts inside this area. These zones and the North Maine Woods is what can be considered the bread and butter of Maine moose hunting and this is where we conduct our remote tent hunts. Often times our tent camp will be set up 50-100 miles from the nearest paved road. There is no cellular service. No gas stations. No services at all. Just a true disconnect from the outside world inside the best moose habitat found in the lower 48 and much of Eastern Canada!
Even though zones 7,8,9 and 14 do not offer peak rut hunts during September, they do have some real advantages during the October hunt over the Northern zones of 1-6. The rut seems to be a tad later in this Western area than in Northern Maine. So even though we consider the October hunt post rut, usually the bulls still respond well to calling in 7,8,9 and 14 during October. In zones 1-6 during October the calling is much much tougher. The bulls in those zones have just been hunted two weeks prior to that. The rut is definitely post rut. The bulls have been called a lot and overall a October hunt in zones 1-6 is without a doubt a very hard hunt, requiring more walking and a different approach than just two weeks prior during the September season. Its truly like a switch is flipped between September and October in 1-6.
The last two years I have guided zone 1 in October and my hunters have harvested two of my best bulls, but if given the choice I would still rather be down in 7,8,9 or 14 during October, rather than 1-6.
Overall the habitat is very similar across zones 1-9 and 14, with the exception of zones 7,8,9 and 14 down in Western Maine. These zones consist of more mountainous areas. Some of that area can be more uphill throughout the day, reguiring you to be in better physical shape, but habitat wise its all very similar to the Northern zones consisting mainly of working timbers lands and logging. All prime trophy moose habitat!