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Moose Hunt 2009: Patience is a Virtue

October 25, 2009

– With the second week of the 2009 Maine moose hunt now a distant memory, I still can’t seem to shake the feelings and images of that week from my head. What made the experience all the more special was getting the chance to share it with my father. As many of you might already know, my moose hunt would not have been possibly without the generosity of good ol’ dad. While many people go their entire lives without getting drawn for a moose permit in Maine, my father was lucky enough to get drawn for a second time this past summer. Few things make dad more happy than moose hunting, and honestly for how hard he works on a daily basis, I would say he deserves a few more permits later on down the road. But while I knew moose hunting was one of dads favorite things in the world, I never expected him designate me the trigger man for his 2009 Hunt. When all was said and done more than 3 months later, I realized that what I had been a part of was much more than a hunt.

Loaded and Ready

Wednesday morning was a frosty one, but then again all October mornings are in the North Maine Woods. Just like the two days previous, 6am found dad and I sipping coffee in his Chevy Silverado, waiting for the sun to come up at the start of mile 24. October is a difficult time to hunt, Monday and Tuesday further reinforced this fact. With the rut nearing completion, only small bulls were left roaming the woods in search of females. This meant that the larger bulls had already found cows and were not responding to the call, something we had expected. Wednesday signifies crunch time for most hunters, a time when the thought of “getting skunked” often convinces most to lower their standards. Admittedly, I was feeling the same way. Lucky for me, dad had other plans.

When the darkness finally lifted it gave way to partly cloudy skies and a bright sunshine. With all the puddles in the road frozen, morning driving would be extremely loud until the sun melted away the ice. I crept my way down the first road, keeping my eye out for any movement in the woods on my side. The first cut that we came to,we spotted two small bulls grazing at the very top. We stopped the truck and got out, hoping dads grunts and thrashing might coax out an even larger bull that might be in the area. Unfortunately, all we got for our efforts were two extremely curious young bulls. We left them behind and made our way further down the road, scanning skidder trails and cuts along the way. By the time we reached the end the sun was blindingly bright. I adjusted my mirrors to get it out of my eyes as we turned around and started our return trip back to the main drag of mile 24. Low and  behold, around the first corner we found something that made us chuckle. Standing in the road where the two small bulls that dad has been calling a mere 15 minutes earlier. Apparently they were curious enough to come searching for us, so that’s exactly what they did. We sat in the truck as the two fellas sized us up for a while, before finally giving up on their chase and vacating into the woods.

The two small bulls. One with a "deer rack" and the other a little spike horn.

The two small bulls. One with a "deer rack" and the other a little spike horn.

The next road was the one that excited us the most. It was the road on which we had seen the big bull on Tuesday, and it always seemed to produce a good amount of moose sightings. We slowly crept forward, our eyes peeled as we sat quietly and more focused that we had been the entire trip. The wind had begun to pick up significantly, which would provide for less that stellar hunting conditions. Little did we know, the wind would become a major factor in our hunt much sooner than we had anticipated. Upon reaching a giant bend in the road, I slowly crept forward as dad and I craned our necks to peak around the corner. Dad stopped me almost immediately, and I soon realized why. In the middle of the road at a distance of about 500 yards stood what was possibly the largest cow of the trip. My father examined her with his binoculars and quickly discovered that she was not alone.

He instructed me to slowly open my door and make my way towards the back of the truck, which was not visible to the moose. Here we quickly loaded our guns and prepared for what would be the most exciting stock of my life. Plywood horn above his head, I stayed glued to the heels of my guide as we made our way slowly down the road in a single file fashion, grunting continuously. Wind at our backs, the cow and her suitor remained unaware of the newly introduced threat we inevitably placed on them. Being careful not to rush, we slowly but surely made our way down the road, inching closer and closer towards the giant bull. My heart was pounding at a rate I had never experienced before, and my hands were shaking furiously. When we reached the first dip in the road, we crouched extremely low and began running to gain more ground quickly. This pattern of slow stalk and steady sprint went on for what felt like an eternity, until at about 130 yards we stopped dead.

This is the road we stalked the moose down. The front of the truck would have been just barely visible around the top corner. Notice the "dips" in the road where we could run, completely undetected. The longest walk of my life...!

This is the road we stalked the moose down. The front of the truck would have been just barely visible around the top corner. Notice the "dips" in the road where we could run, completely undetected. The longest walk of my life...!

The cow now had her head up, fully aware that she was not alone. Eventually the bull noticed us as well, but seemed more amused than alerted. Dad turned to me and asked If I could take him, and I nervously responded that I could. “Put that right between his eyes” he muttered as I zoned in for the kill, most likely suggesting this placement because the bull was staring us down “head on” at this point.

(The events that follow all happened within a few short seconds, although honestly they felt like a lifetime.)

Shaking profusely, I lowered the cross-hairs on his head and pulled the trigger. My 30-06 rang out across the valley and I waited for him to drop….NOTHING! Completely shocked, I wasted no time putting in another round as the both animals stood in the road, completely stoned by the events that had just unfolded. The bull shifted sideways slightly, exposing just enough of his side to give me the vitals shot I was looking for. As I dropped to one knee, I heard a click from my father’s gun. Misfire! Staying completely focused, I immediately pulled again. This shot was true. I watched in my scope as the massive bull dropped where he stood, but contained my excitement as I put yet another round into the chamber, fully prepared for him to make one last escape effort. There would be none.

Where he fell...

Where he fell...

I rose from the ground with a sense of accomplishment unlike any I had experienced before. The thrill of the hunt was truly exhilarating, and I will forever remember how incredibly intense those final seconds were. Immediately realizing how amazingly lucky I was, I shook my head and exclaimed over and over how much I couldn’t believe I had missed my first shot, or how for the first time EVER dads gun simply did not go off. “It’s your bull” he said with a smile, reminding me that regardless of the events that had just unfolded, my second shot was true and I had a beautiful bull to show for it.

My father and guide

My father and guide

Still Smiling!

Still Smiling!

I could go on all day making excuses for my first shot, but the simple fact of the matter is that nerves got the best of me and I missed my target. The strong winds likely helped dampen the sound of the shot, which is why both animals stuck around, more confused than frightened. Aiming at such a small area like the head was probably not the smartest move on my part given my nerves, and I probably shouldn’t have taken dad so literally. Regardless, I was lucky enough to compose myself quickly and deliver the vital blow, and that’s all that counts.

In the end, no one deserves more credit for my successful hunt than my incredible guide and father. His moose calling skills are much more refined than he gives himself credit for, and his confidence in such tense and critical moments of the hunt helped calm my nerves when it mattered the most. Not for a second during the three days did he waiver on our goal of bagging a trophy bull, and with some patience, persistence, and a fair share of luck on my end, we accomplished our goal.

Official Weight

Official Weight

One last picture and it was off to the butcher and eventually the taxidermist!

One last picture and it was off to the butcher and eventually the taxidermist! Which stands taller, the rack or my smile?

The big bull weighed in at a whopping 900lbs field dressed, while the rack was just short of 50 inches with a beam of over 43 inches. But regardless of the numbers, the hunt was about much more than trophies and pride. Sharing such an incredible experience with my father was something more special than I could have ever imagined, and I know he feels the same way. At the end of the day, there is simply no other person In the world I rather hunt moose with.

Thanks dad!

-Ben

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. October 26, 2009 1:45 pm

    Congrats Ben….top read.Felt every movement you made. We had one jump out in front of us the other day.Missed our car by about 10m.great sight.

    • October 26, 2009 11:26 pm

      Thank you good Sir, and I am happy that your close encounter with a moose wasn’t too close. While nice to look at, they can do a number to your car!

  2. October 25, 2009 6:09 pm

    Two misfires in two pulls? That’s bullshit and I would mail a punch-in-the-face to the manufacturer of that ammunition.

    • October 25, 2009 6:11 pm

      Mine wasn’t a misfire, just a miss! Aimed for his head and likely sailed it right between his rack.

      My fathers was a misfire. I can see how thats confusing tho, might wanna change that!

  3. October 25, 2009 11:12 am

    well done Ben. outstanding!

    • October 25, 2009 11:18 am

      That was quick J.P.–you didn’t even get the super clean and error free version! haha

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