The Saga of Big Louie
By Viola Ortiz
ME, Canadian Moose
The difference between a man with a dream and a man with an obsession is the man with a dream tells a better story.
My husband, Jim, and I are avid hunting partners. After 30+ years of marriage, it is a source of great energy and passion in our relationship. Taking a quality moose in a place we could drive to had been a dream for quite a while. Every spring for years, we submitted our applications to the New England moose states and hoped. The tag gods have not been unkind to us. In 2013, I drew a Vermont moose tag. Although I had an opportunity at a bull, I could not close the deal. Unfortunately, tag soup was the meal awaiting us at the end of that hunt. In 2014, Jim drew a cow moose tag for Maine. He let his brother-in-law take the moose, which proved to be the best game meat I have ever tasted. One of Jim’s guides on that hunt was Nathan Theriault of OMM Outfitters. Jim was thoroughly impressed by Nathan’s knowledge, preparation, and enthusiasm. He told me if we drew a tag again, Nathan would be our man.
Last spring, just before the start of the Belmont Stakes, we got a call from Nathan. He had seen that I was successful in the Maine moose lottery and wanted to know if I needed a guide. Nathan was like a kid on Christmas morning on the phone. Apparently, near his camp at Eagle Lake Sporting Camps, he had sighted a monster bull on several occasions for the last couple of seasons. Nathan had multiple pictures of him and even had his sheds from last season. He nicknamed the bull “Big Louie,” and he was to be our quarry.
I felt some pressure building to come through for Jim and Nathan. I started in earnest to get in shape for walking six solid days through the backwoods of Maine. Jim attended to every other detail with Nathan, and we set out to the range at home frequently to get comfortable for some standing shots. Every effort was to help Nathan realize his dream.
We planned a two-day drive from NYC to northern Maine with a stop in Portland for the night. I reminisced there as it was the city my grandparents had immigrated to from Italy, and we had a great lobster dinner. We headed into camp the next day with the help of Tommy getting us through the logging roads. We dumped our gear in the historic cabin and went to the range to sight in my Kimber .308 to be sure the bumpy logging roads did not cause a problem.
After another excellent lobster dinner in camp thanks to our excellent chef, Gloria, Nathan came to our cabin dejected because earlier that day he had seen Big Louie taking off through the “Thoroughfare” and was sure we would not see him again for the hunt. To be honest, I felt some of the pressure was off, but first night anticipation still made it hard to sleep.
We were up before the generator started and were ready to roll with Nathan and Nick by 5:15 a.m. We saw a beautiful sunrise as we headed off down the first logging road. At about 50 yards from the truck, Nathan paddled and a big bull responded nearby. We waited for him to step out, but he never appeared. We decided to walk a big circle through a clear-cut, and halfway through, Nathan called in a nice 42" bull. However, Nick stopped me from pulling the trigger, even after I asked him three times if I should shoot. We continued our 360-degree trek around the clear-cut and came upon three cows and a small bull. Nathan again stirred up a big bull that he could see rustling the trees, but he never did come to us.
We headed back to camp to change into less “swishee” clothes and quickly headed back to the woods. We started down Winter Road, which was only about a couple of miles from camp. About a quarter mile in, Nathan stopped to paddle and throw a few cow calls. We thought we heard something in the distant woods, but we weren’t sure. After about 20 minutes, we continued down the road. Another quarter mile down, Nathan turned back to look through his binos and saw something that caused his eyes to open wide, jaw to drop, and face to become pale. He said, “It’s a big bull. It’s Big Louie!”
Suddenly, my heart started pounding as he directed me off the road behind pine branches and I tried to locate Big Louie through my scope. When I found him, my heart only beat faster because he was a Maine monster. Big Louie was slowly walking straight down the middle of the road, pausing for up to 10 minutes at different spots. Nathan had found a puddle and started splashing with his paddle in the bywater, which was out of sight from the action on the road. Big Louie was more enticed and kept coming straight down the road, presenting me with no shooting angle whatsoever. After painfully watching him slowly lumber and pause down the middle of the road, at about 100 yards away, he ever so slightly turned to the right. I thought that he might bolt, and after trying to discipline myself saying over and over in my head to hold, I fired into his front shoulder. Big Louie just stopped. Nathan emerged from the puddle, and he and Jim said, “Shoot again!” Two rounds later, Big Louie was on the ground right in the middle of the logging road. Nathan could not believe that his dream had come true, and he started jumping up and down like a little kid on Christmas morning. It confirmed why we all take to the field – never let the pure joy leave your hunting heart.
One of the highlights of the hunt was upon leaving camp Nathan presented me with a framed montage of pictures of Big Louie he had taken over the last couple of years as well as his sheds from last year.
I can’t thank my husband enough for all his support and work painstakingly putting in 18 years’ worth of Maine moose points and planning for every detail. Thanks to my dad for teaching me to hunt when I was only 3, and thanks to Nathan for having a dream!