Sunday, November 4, 2012

Moose -- "Little Bird (Are You Happy In Your Cage?)" (1992)

Then maybe I'd have something more
Something more than getting older

In the spring (wrote Alfred Lord Tennyson) a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of love.

In the fall, however, a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of moose -- at least that seems to be true of young men (and not-so-young men) who live in Maine.

DIFW logo
Earlier this year, my daughter Caroline moved to Maine to take a job in the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (or "DIFW," for short).

To say that my daughter is not exactly an outdoorswoman would be an understatement.  She's athletic and fit, but she'd never been fishing and never been hunting -- never even held a gun -- before taking that job.

Her talents are more in the artistic direction, as this photo of one of her creations demonstrates:

One of Caroline's first assignments was to work on the annual Maine moose-hunting permit lottery.  

Since 1980, the DIFW has awarded permits to hunt moose through a lottery.  This year, there were 3725 hunting permits up for grabs.  But there were 54,338 applicants for those permits.  (The DIFW estimates the Maine moose population at about 76,000 animals.)

The DIFW lottery is extremely complex.  In the first place, residents don't compete against nonresidents -- it's almost like there are two separate lotteries -- and residents have a much better chance of winning.  (No more than 10% of permits are allowed to go to nonresidents, while almost 30% of applicants are from out of state.)

Your best chance of winning is if you are willing to accept any available permit.  But if you have your heart set on a bull moose instead of a cow, or you want to hunt in a particular geographic area, your odds of succeeding are longer.

The good news is that the more years you've entered without winning, the better shot you have.  That's because you get "preference points" for each unsuccessful entry.  A first-time entrant from Maine has about a 1.5% chance of winning.  But a Mainer who's been trying since 1998 without bagging a permit has a 33.9% chance of winning.

The moose permit lottery is a big, big deal in Maine.  The drawing is held live each June -- it's the culmination of a weekend-long "Moose Lottery Festival," which features a fishing contest, turkey shoot, bowling and archery competitions, sailing regatta, art show, baked-bean supper, and the finals of the "World Invitational Moose Calling Contest."

Waiting for the moose lottery drawing to begin
Hundreds attend the drawing live, while others sit at their computers and eagerly wait for the winners' names to be posted online.  (My daughter said that when there was a brief delay in posting the winners' name to the DIFW website, they were flooded with e-mails from anxious entrants.)

All I know about moose is that they are enormous -- the bison is the only North American animal that is larger than the moose, which can weigh well over a thousand pounds and stand six or seven feet tall at the shoulder --  and that if you hit one in your car, you are in a world of hurt.  

Not only do moose weigh a lot, but have very long legs.  If a typical passenger car hits a moose, it will likely break the moose's legs and cause its body to fall on to the hood and crash into the windshield.  If you're sitting in the front seat when you hit a moose, you can pretty much kiss your you-know-what goodbye.

Aftermath of moose-automobile collision
Some people think that you're better off speeding up if you see that your car is about to collide with a moose.  The guys on the MythBusters TV show tested that theory by constructing a six-foot-tall, 620-pound rubber moose and running a car into it while speeding up, slowing down, or maintaining a constant speed.  It turns out that slowing down is the best strategy.

I kept running into moose -- not literally -- when I was in Maine last weekend to visit Caroline and to attend a very special wedding.  (Click here to read about that wedding.)

Here's a big-ass moose head that hangs on the wall of the Broad Arrow Tavern in Freeport, Maine, the town where Caroline lives:

Freeport is best known as the headquarters of that legendary seller of clothing and outdoor equipment, L. L. Bean.  The first product sold by L. L. Bean, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, was the legendary "Maine Hunting Shoe," or "Bean Boot."  Today, the company has an enormous mail-order operation, 115 retail stores (including ten in Japan), and annual sales of about $1.5 billion.

Here's a store display of a 1940s-vintage Bean boot, plus a small axe, a compass, and various other woodsy items:

Here's the biggest Bean boot in the world:

The main L. L. Bean store in Freeport -- which is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year -- also has a big-ass stuffed moose head:

There are plenty of other stuffed animals on display at the Bean store:

For my money, the most amazing taxidermy item in the Bean store is a display titled "The Final Charge."

In May 2006, a resident of New Sweden, Maine, found the remains of two bull moose on her property.  The moose had died after their antlers had become locked while they battled during the previous fall's rut.  (Cherchez la femme!)  She donated the antlers to the DIFW.

DIFW asked L. L. Bean to help pay for a taxidermist to reconstruct the two moose, using their antlers -- which have remained locked ever since that fateful encounter -- as the basis for the tableau.

"The Final Charge"
"The Final Charge" was unveiled in September 2009.  It is usually encased within a specially-built viewing diorama at Bean's flagship store, but can be taken on the road in a custom-built trailer.  Caroline tells me that the DIFW gets many requests to bring "The Final Charge" to events all over Maine.

Perhaps the fearsome collision that caused the antlers to lock also killed the two moose instantly.  But I fear that it didn't, and that those two magnificent bull moose suffered terribly before eventually starving or succumbing to predators because they were unable to defend themselves.  

It's like something out of an ancient myth.  Imagine two magnificent warriors, each determined to have a fair maiden for his own.  They engage in hand-to-hand combat and eventually die in one another's grasp, unable (or unwilling) to call off the battle.  

Moose was an indie rock band who formed in London in 1990, taking its name from guitarist K. J. "Moose" McKillop's nickname.  (The UK doesn't even have moose.)  They were the first so-called "shoegaze" band.  

"Shoegaze" was an alternative rock subgenre characterized by droning, distorted guitars that peaked in the early 1990s.  The name was supposedly applied to Moose by a reviewer who saw them play a concert at which their lead singer taped the song lyrics to the floor and looked down at them as he sang.  (Another theory is that shoegaze guitarists often used several different effects pedals and had to look down at them in order to operate them correctly.)  The term was then applied to other bands playing the same style of music.

Over the next decade, Moose released four studio albums and several singles and EPs, none of which sold very well despite generally favorable reviews.  Like so many cult bands who never found a larger audience, Moose eventually gave up.  

Here's "Little Bird (Are You Happy In Your Cage?)," the first single from Moose's 1992 album, XYZ.  It's not really a classic shoegaze song -- it's more melodic . . . more of a pop song.

Click here to buy the song from Amazon:


  1. Ah! the famous giant boot at LL Bean. It shows up on photos from our 2005 trip to New England which run as a screen saver. And I was also reminded of "Antlers in the treetops, or Who goosed the Moose". A souvenir of another trip is from the New Hampshire Dept. of Fish & Game; it's a bumper sticker reading: "Brake for Moose! It could save your life." It's now on my Honda Accord, which has never been further east than Salt Lake City.


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