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Once-in-a-lifetime Maine Moose Hunt for this Purple Heart Combat Wounded Marine

The coveted Maine Moose Tag, a hunting retreat long sought after by many Mainahs and hunters from across the country. Some residents have been applying for 30 years or more and have never been selected. With an average of 50,000 applicants annually and just 4,080 permits issued in 2022, you can see why being selected for a Maine moose tag is such an honor. Maine is now one of the top moose-hunting destinations in the U.S. and once you see it for yourself you’ll know why.

House in the Woods Military and family retreat is host to a wide variety of incredible hunting

retreats for Veterans, one of which is the Maine Moose Hunt, made possible by the donation of tags from those selected through the lottery process. These hunts are further made possible by the amazing volunteer guides who dedicate not only hunting time with their veteran but the many weeks they spend driving north to scout and plan for the absolute best location of lodging and moose location. During the retreat these volunteer guides not only help locate moose but also help in moose collection, cleaning, transportation, lodging needs, food preparation, and every other aspect of this veterans needs.

Sponsors who support the organization help to pay for the considerable expense incurred on

these retreats including fuel to travel into the North Maine Woods, lodging, food, and other

equipment necessary not only to harvest this large animal but also get the moose out of the

woods, have the meat processed through a professional butcher and shipping of the meat back to the veterans home. The cost of the entire hunt including everything from flights to shipping meat could run upwards of $10,000.00. Taxidermy is not included and is the responsibility of the attending veteran otherwise all other expenses are paid for by House in the Woods and it’s supporting sponsors.

Thanks to the collaborative mindset between House in the Woods and AHERO, David Soto was recommended as a potential participant in this retreat. David is a Purple Heart recipient, a combat-wounded Marine from O’Donnell, Texas, and an incredible man, more than deserving of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

You might find it interesting to know that moose outnumber people three to one in areas of the North Maine Woods with a whopping estimated population of 76,000 moose. That sounds like a sure thing, right? Not exactly. Once you factor in that there are 3.5 million acres of forest land which makes this retreat one that you will remember for a lifetime because although incredibly peaceful and relaxing hunting with your team, this woodland area is going to make you work for it. There are no rangers, no lifeguards, and more often than not, no cell service.  You’ll need to bring in everything you need because it’s a very long way to the nearest gas station. David had nothing to fear as he would be guided by an amazing group of very skilled, qualified, and caring Maine Guides and volunteers. He was joined by the Executive Director of House in the Woods Paul House and volunteers Spencer Randall, Dan Aiken, and Mike McGinnis.

David and his House in the Woods support team spent Sunday settling into camp and getting familiar with the lay of the land. Heading to bed early is key as 3 a.m. will come quickly. Truth be told we’re certain there isn’t much sleep with the excitement of the pending hunt in the morning.

David shared the experience in his own words, “Monday morning we started glassing for moose, calling for moose in an area we had seen tracks the day before, but nothing called back. We glassed for an hour and a half but no response, so we moved to another area. We move from one cut to another call all morning with no response.”

One of the areas you may find moose is a tree clearcut, or an area where most of the trees were logged at the same time and few trees are left standing. 1 year or 2-year-old cuts are ideal for visibility. The moose love to feed on the small saplings and vegetation growing there.

“We did a lot of walking and tracking so around 3 p.m. we all decided to take a nap since the

time moose move most is in the morning or the evening. After a 20-minute nap, we went back to the location we had been earlier, sat there and called. Nothing responded so we went riding again, we saw two cow moose going up a hill and stopped to watch them. Just 80 yards in front of them we spotted the bull moose, so I took a shot at it coming down the hill and made a clean harvest, leaving him just 80 yards off the road.”

David goes on, “Turbo the tracking dog was with us and although it was just a short distance it was impressive to see him work and be part of it all. This was my first-time moose hunting and it was incredible. I did not know about glassing, hiking, or riding, and I learned so much about wildlife in general spending time with Paul and the rest of the team. I enjoyed spotting, stalking, walking, tracking, and looking for sign. Everyone pitched in and helped in every way possible. They were nice, and it was incredible.”

Upon their return, they delivered the moose to the butcher who quickly processed the moose

before he boarded the plane to head home to Texas later that week. David was able to take back 250 pounds of various cuts such as steaks and ground meat. The rest of the meat processed was donated back to the House in the Woods program where it will be enjoyed by veteran attendees of many other retreats which are held all throughout the year. A moose will provide enough meat to feed a family for several years if processed and packaged correctly. 

David had this to share about the moose meat, “We had the steaks, made jerky and burgers. My wife loves the ground moose. It’s better than anything we’ve ever had. We have had whitetail, axis, elk, and beef and this beats it all. There’s better flavor and it’s healthier for our family, not to mention our freezer will be full for quite some time. The jerky was incredible, I just seasoned it up before putting it in the dehydrator. I shared it with my coworkers, and it was finished off in one sitting. I may put some in the smoker today too.”  

His final words about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity were, “This is by far the greatest

experience I have ever had on a hunt. I have been on hunts before, but this is totally different. You work for your harvest rather than just sitting in a blind. I loved spending time with those with me. Thank you to everyone who made this possible.”

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