Thursday, November 5, 2009

Friday Shoot Out- Skylines

This weeks them is 'Skylines' by Kate.

I had to laugh when I read where Kate said she was not thrilled at her choice (on her site under last weeks theme, and feeling the same about my own choice), so I decided to share a story for her of how discovery can lead to so many things. Whether it be a skyline of a city, or a row of trees as you drive along falls highway...

My skyline stretches from Maine up to Canada and back down again. Displayed like a bragging outdoors mans trophy, so be warned!


The Hunt


by E Stelling

Since I was young, much younger, I always was game for hunting down fun. Whether it was a new skyline that usually mean the chance of meeting new people, or new ground I had not covered. Covering new ground to me means a walk through beautiful parks, small to large scale landscapes; which brings me to my title- the movie ‘Bucket List’ came out and now many people are using that term, but I have always called it ‘The Hunt’.

I want to discover everything life and nature has to offer. All of it! Whoa you say! That can cover a lot of territory, a lot of traveling, and sometimes it’s the luck of the draw on when and where you might happen to be. Being in the right place at the right time is how it works; that, and hiring a professional guide. Most nature photographers have to revisit, sit for hours, and still might walk away with no photos. I hired a professional guide for fishing the Colorado river, and still walked away with an empty stringer.

Visiting a place more than once can also be costly, but many hunters find it’s worth the adrenaline. Like my trip to The Salmon River, and the time I went on three whale boats one year after another, and only until the third year did I walk away happy. The mother and her baby frolicked for our cameras for hours.

Once I stumbled upon dolphins swimming in the surf as I sat on Myrtle Beach with only my cell phone. I have caught Tuna and Barracuda in Florida, as well as swam over sharks over a reef near a friend’s boat in the Keys. That, believe you me was not something I was looking for. Hiking in San Francisco near Half Moon Bay I saw cougar, a really scary long trail tale. I am always ready for a new adventure; it’s in my blood!

I definitely do not take great risks like my father who flew airplanes without ever having a real lesson, was in the Navy and swam in back currents of his ship on the ocean, and had seen the world before he was thirty. I believe I am more cautious than he, and take life one day at a time. Part of being cautious is asking questions and reading as much information as I can before I travel generally helps. Which brings me to my latest adventure; I have always wanted to see a moose. Yes, I want to see full blown gi-enormous antlers and all moose. When you see them in cartoons and photos they seem so darn cute, and like they are smiling right?


My friend Donna and I recently drove up to Maine. I casually mentioned to her that if we saw a moose I would feel like our trip was a success. Of course traveling and having fun with her was enough, but she is a photographer. She agreed that a photo of a moose would satisfy her hunger for adventure as well. The weather was not cooperating for sea scape photos she came for (I had warned her late October was not a great time of year for shooting the wrong kind of equipment), so she insisted we move on.


Off we went in my car with our snacks, water, and enough gear for an army. We quickly decided to drive to Quebec City in Canada. With me, you never know. I get in the mood to take a drive and we might end up in Alaska. The GPS guided us up and straight through some of the most beautiful areas of northern Maine. Moose country here we come! Or, so I had always thought.

Of course we heard about sightings all along our trail, as I would mentioned to passer bys that we wanted to see moose. We were told they only come out after it snows to lick the salt off the road; then we were told that they were seen deep in the woods standing in watery bogs, but the guy did not know why it was not drinking. I was not about to go hiking through the woods, because I heard they charge and are huge, and I am not toting a gun.

Another guy we ran into said he saw a herd of them when they were duck hunting a few days back. Now they run in herds? Like their cousin the deer? What is going on up here? We just missed bird hunting season, and deer hunting started the following weekend, so we were told. The woman who ran the local gas station slash gift shop in Jackman, ME said “they are dumber than a tree stump”, warning us to watch out. Why I asked? “…because they will charge right into the side of your car as they walk across the road, and go through your window with all their might if they feel threatened”; then she advised us to run into its back hind legs, causing it to sit down. Hmmm… Laughter echoed as loud as the silence of the season around us from my car.

We saw no moose on the road to Canada, but we saw plenty of signs warning us that they might cross our path. Flashing bright lights and all! Driving up to Quebec and then following the river that stretches across and down through New Brunswick, we crossed back over the border of the United States. After two and a half days of over peaked and leafless trees, dark cloudy skies, and no wildlife to be seen at all, so we charted our course for Bar Harbor. Champagne on the deck of our room after we shoot the sunset off top of Cadillac Mountain would just have to do on this trip.

A small amount of disappointment brightened back up with familiar skylines of gorgeous orange, reds, and brown leaves that Maine is known for. The thought of moose slowly faded from our minds. Or did it? I still kept one eye on the road and the other along the brush around the bottom of the trees. The road is sloped, and who knows what might be lurking. There still might be a chance for one to pop out of its woodsy home.

I was flying at a speed of seventy miles an hour trying to race the sun. Much of what I saw quickly became a blur. We had made reservations and wanted to get into town before we could not see what it had to offer. Then I saw it! I spotted a moose lifting its head up after taking a mouthful of brush, or whatever it eats. 

Just as soon as I brought the car to a screeching halt, scaring the daylights out of Donna, a big SUV stopped almost right at the spot where I just saw the moose. I slowly began to back up on the shoulder. Inching my way back to where the white vehicle sat waiting. Then in the review mirror I noticed a woman getting out of that driver’s seat with a point and click camera. Oh, how dare her! She was going straight for my moose. I backed up as fast as I could to keep her from scaring off MY prize, and following Donna who had her mega zoom lens ready, and was hopping out of my moving car to go join the woman. I had to get in on the action.

I removed myself from my drivers seat as cars zoomed past, putting myself in an even greater danger; then slowly but surely other cars began to stop along the road. Moose paparazzo was on! Oh well, I was not in the wilds of the jungle after all. I was in civilization, and I got what I wanted. A photo of what I believe to be about a two or three year old male with small antlers doing what nature intended. He is eating as much as possible to grow into a studly male bull, so he can find the female mate of his dreams in the spring. If I ever come across another moose I hope it is once again against this magnificent autumn skyline, and he shows off his matured antlers so that I can have yet another exciting 'hunt' to share.

Information I found on ‘Moose’, along with some of my own observations (do not read any further if you have already fallen asleep):

Are Moose stupid?

Moose are smart enough to have populated large portions of the northern hemisphere and survived for approximately 2 million years. Not bad for an animal many people consider stupid. People who believe moose are stupid are really commenting on the fact that moose do not always flee when danger presents itself. We interpret that as stupidity. In the world of a moose facing danger has the decided benefit of reducing the chances for you or your offspring of being eaten by your primary predators (wolves or bears). As you or I would undoubtedly run for our lives when faced with similar imminent predation we must come to the conclusion that moose are both smart and brave and in comparison we therefore must be stupid and cowardly. I guess it all depends on who's looking at whom.

Why do Moose stand in water?

Because they eat many plants that are aquatic, and often swim in water above their shoulders, holding large amounts of air in their lungs, so they can dive to get plant life below the surface of the water. Therefore they do not just drink the water. This is also a good reason why zoos do not have moose (on occasion orphaned moose are in captivity in forest areas), because their diets are so unique that a feed has not been developed to help them survive in those conditions. I prefer them left in the wild if you ask me!

What do moose eat, and why do they lick the ground on the side of the road?

Moose is an Algonquin term for "eater of twigs." Moose are primarily browsers feeding on leaves, twigs, and buds of hardwood and softwood trees and shrubs. A healthy moose will eat 40-60 pounds of browse daily. Moose favor willows, birches, aspens, maples, fir, and viburnums, in the fall they begin feeding on the bark of some hardwoods, particularly maples and aspens. In the winter moose feed on the buds and new woody growth of these plants. Removal of mature timber through logging and careless use of fire has, in general, benefited moose as new stands of young timber have created vast areas of high-quality moose food.

Moose feed heavily on sodium-rich aquatic plants in summer. Cows also prefer to keep their calves near water as an escape route for their calves. Ponds are used by both sexes to escape from moose flies and other pesky insects and to keep cool. Moose licks form in wet areas on the sides of highways where road salt accumulates. Moose visit these areas to drink the salty water thereby satisfying their salt requirements.

How do you tell a female from a male?

Only bulls grow antlers, and have been known to shed them every two years. Antler growth begins in March or April and is completed by August or September when the velvet is shed. Antlers are dropped starting in November; young bulls may retain their antlers into early spring. Yearlings develop a spike or fork; adults develop antlers that may weigh up to 40 pounds with wide sweeping palms with many long tines. The bell the flap of skin and long hair that hangs from the throat is more pronounced in adult bulls than in cows or immature bulls.

Males grow antlers to attract females during the rut, and as they grow they have a coating called velvet; which after mating they begin to shed this coating. The males try to avoid damage to this part of their antlers and must feed it heavily before the rut; it is part of the attraction from females. My moose could still be considered a ‘Yearling’, due to its spike. Only bulls five years or older are ready to mate. My impression was that my male was at least three but after reading it could possibly be little more than a year old, and had been kicked away from its mother when she gave birth to another baby in the spring. You could also see it molting its fur, another sign of its preparing for winter.

Do moose travel south for the winter?

This is no secret that moose do not winter in Florida. Condo associations refuse to admit them, so moose must find winter quarters in other climes. Luckily for them, they are perfectly adapted to spend the winter in the snowy north, far from Florida's sunny shores. Moose are, after all, a northern species. They exist all across the northern hemisphere from China to Scandinavia in Eurasia and from Utah to Alaska in North America. Moose are perfectly adapted to live in the wintry north. Their large body size reduces heat loss because of the low surface-area-to-volume ratio. Long legs allow adult moose to handle snow depths of 36 inches, although at 28 inches they may seek shelter in softwood cover. In addition, snow crust will cause moose to restrict their movements to a more sheltered environment. Spend five minutes walking without snowshoes on a breaking crust and you'll understand why! While long legs allow moose to handle snow depths far beyond the abilities of white-tailed deer (which can handle about 18 inches), moose do prefer to spend the winter in an area that provides plenty of browse near a sheltering, mature mixed-wood or coniferous forest.

This shelter actually serves a dual purpose—not only does it help moose deal with crust or very deep snow, it protects them from heat! The moose's long and hollow outer hair coat, with its dense soft undercoat, allows it to easily withstand the coldest of temperatures. While calves begin to feel the cold at -22 degrees F, adults are able to withstand far colder temps. Moose are so well insulated from the cold that winter temperatures of 23 degrees F will make them pant. As our winter temperatures can be quite variable, moose depend on the shade of softwood cover to keep them cool during our warmer winter days. On warm winter days, some moose will lie flat in the snow to try to dissipate their body heat. Summer temperatures as low as 57 degrees F can cause moose to begin to suffer from heat stress and moose will begin panting at 68 degrees F. So, while Florida condo associations won't rent to moose, the moose don't care. They'd much rather spend their winters up north—and the colder the better.

Are the moos different in New England compared to Alaska?

Yes, each area has a different species name, but its habits are closely identical. The warmer climate of New England is not preferred by moose in nature, but however some still remain in the area and in cover of the dense trees, and once snow falls they may lay down to keep their temperature as cool as possible. From what I have read and heard, our sighting was rare this time of year. But obviously the yearling was hungry and they are not afraid to go where food might be. Being closely related to deer, and observing deer in the north east it seems (only speculation) that they come out more in the early morning or late evening when it is cooler. Being the largest of animals in North America their predators are black and brown bears, and on occasion wolves and cougars who seek out calves in the spring; otherwise our cars and guns are the only threat to them in and outside of their territory.

[These answers were originally published in New Hampshire Fish and Game's monthly Wildlife Report, and borrowed from ‘Mooselife.com’, as well as State Gaming and Hunting websites I researched]


Want to see better photos of moose; then go see the Slide show, and I swear one is smiling for the camera...

18 comments:

blueviolet said...

I seriously can't believe you found one! That is awesome!

gigi said...

Wow, this was just awesome!

Alexis AKA MOM said...

Girl that is some amazing shots! You go girl!

Gordon said...

Moose burgers are the best. Why did you use a camera to shoot the moose. Aren't you a chef? Just kidding. I enjoyed the post very much.
Elizabeth, you must hear my confession, for I have sinned. I caught fifty two spotted sea trout tonight. I will not say how many I kept and cleaned. It could get me in trouble. Let's just say if you want to visit there is plenty of fish to eat.

Sarah Lulu said...

Seeing a moose is already on my list!!!!

Loved your story.

Ann said...

Seeing the whale mum and baby must be a highlight for you. We have whale watching here, but the boat is quite expensive.

Some one told me that Auckland has most boats per capita in the world, but we don't belong to that statistics.

Linda said...

This post is remarkable! You need to visit Newfoundland. it is illegal to kill the moose in Newfoundland and they are over run with the critters. Moose are everywhere! You have been working hard on this post, Elizabeth. Thanks so much.

Best Wishes, Barry and Linda

Tracey Hodge said...

WOW!

Your pictures are beautiful...

~JarieLyn~ said...

I enjoyed reading about your hunt. And since I was still awake when you got to the research part, I was able to read all of that too. Great post and I'm glad you finally found a moose. You got a really good picture of him.

When my husband and I went to Wyoming in 2006 we were looking for a moose. At one point we saw a bunch of cars pulled over to the side of the road, so of course, our curiosity made us stop to inquire. It turns out that there was a moose down below in the brush, out of sight but every once in awhile it would move just enough so the crowd would get a glimpse. We never did get our picture of a moose. But it was exciting trying to see it.

NanU said...

Great moose story! When I lived in Minnesota we used to go out looking for them once in a while, but I rarely found one. They are quite impressive up close & personal, aren't they!

Rebecca said...

I would love to see a moose! So cool!

Chef E said...

Gordon, I did try moose in Canada, at a French restaurant, but it was boiled (like they do brisket here), very salty, and tough to chew. Was not good to me. I want the fish though, so we will be there!

Thanks for reading it guys, and after editing this three times I gave you the short version, LOL, really!

Pauline said...

Seems we are a lot alike, Elizabeth. Your "hunt" is my "adventure". And that was a grand adventure. The first time I went to Canada I dreamed of seeing a deer and then I get there and they are roaming the streets in town! Talk about deflated - I felt like throwing something at them to make them run! So glad you found your prey. In the wild, doing it's own thing. Wonderful post!

Doreen said...

amazing travels you have had. quite the explorer like your Dad? have a wonderful weekend!!

Just telling it like it is said...

So many questions so little time...
Hubby get home quick...I or I might steal her away

Angie's Recipes said...

I don't think I ever hunted anything, nor did I have any wild meat.
I love the whale picture the most...stunning.

Patience-please said...

Great, just great!

Carrie said...

That's awesome! I'm so glad you got your wish. Our local orthodontist went moose hunting (I don't know where) and brought some moose in for the dentist I work for on Monday. I haven't heard how it tasted. I'd rather shoot one with my Canon :)