From the BDN Archive: Many older hunters appreciate Maine moose hunt

Posted June 16, 2010, at 1:38 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:21 p.m.

This column originally ran on Saturday, October 17, 1998

In spite of the carpings of the few, the many hereabouts realize the multi-faceted benefits of Maine’s annual one-week moose hunt are as attractive as the fall foliage. Yet, one important aspect of the hunt receives scant mention: the opportunity for veteran hunters to crown their careers by setting their sights on North America’s largest big-game animal. With that in mind, pour yourself a second cup of coffee and read the tracks left by a few senior-citizen Sports who signed their moose tags a week or so ago.

First off, older hunters, like athletes, develop the ability to disregard aches and pains. Accordingly, the spirit and determination that resulted in 87-year-old Herbert Brown tagging a moose is truly remarkable. When the Lincolnville resident learned that he had won a moose permit, he immediately listed his nephew Melvin Brown of Orrington as subpermittee.

Now, because the Brown clan, including Melvin’s sons Peter, Jeff, and son-in-law Mike Daigle, tend to spend time off the main road, plans immediately were mapped out to make Melvin’s camp on Chesuncook Lake the main lodge for “Uncle Herb’s” moose hunt. So it was that the aforementioned dropped their duffel in the woodsy retreat on the Sunday before opening day, Oct. 5. As you might imagine, the breakfast dishes were left undone the next morning. While riding the woods roads of TWP 5, R 12, the party scouted five bulls, including an “ol’ swamper” with a broken right antler. However, neither Herb nor Melvin were in a rush to write a moose’s obituary.

Come Tuesday morning, though, at closer range and appearing even larger, the bull with the broken antler stepped onto a woods road. With all hands agreeing the animal was worth tagging, Uncle Herb dropped the 880-pounder quickly and cleanly with a single shot from his .270 Browning. So what’s so unusual about that? Although he didn’t mention it to anyone, Herb was having chest pains that started on Monday. After returning home, he reluctantly went to a doctor and was promptly hospitalized. He had suffered a heart attack.

I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Herb Brown, but judging from that story, I would, with all respect, compare him to an old hound that would die running rather than quit hunting.

On the weekend before the moose hunt, a pair of Gouldsboro gunners, 74-year-old Guy Haycock and Galen Ruhlin, a youngster still shy of 60, set a course for Jim Martin’s camp in Greenfield. Because Guy and Galen hunt bobcats together, the former, who bagged a moose permit, didn’t hesitate in naming the latter as subpermittee. As an aside, the reference to cat hunting tells you what kind of shape Mr. Haycock is in. Tougher than tripe, as they say Down East.

Suffice to say, Jim, Guy, and Galen weren’t alone for long. Because their trail was clear, they were “treed” quickly by several other outdoors notables, namely, Bob Pullen, Al Holmes, Johnny Thompson, and Toby Martin, Jim’s brother. Now, in knowing all the members of that group, I’ll say that if you’re ever among them and want your story to be best, you’d better tell it last. I’ll also guarantee that the fish and game caught and shot in that camp were stacked clear to the rafters. Galen Ruhlin, who has quite a camp of his own on Gouldsboro Point, described the moose-hunt outing as “one of the best times I’ve had in a long time.”

On Monday morning, Guy and Galen were hunting on foot when a bull moose that looked as big as a Budweiser Clydesdale ambled onto a grown-up twitch trail. Without flourish or fanfare, and shooting offhand, the senior Sport downed the animal with a shot from his .35-caliber Remington Model 8, proving that a man who’s smart with a rifle doesn’t need a cannon to kill a moose. Field dressed, the bull, adorned with “double-shovel” antlers, pulled the scales down to the 900-pound mark. Allowing they had enough meat for a camp stew or two, the Gouldsboro gunners packed their gear and headed “downriver” on Tuesday.

Over St. Albans way, word is that Harold and Camilla Nutter, 72 and 71 years old, respectively, have a freezer full of moose meat. More than 400 pounds, actually, figuring the 840-pound bull they shot near Misery Township will provide about half its weight in meat. Mrs. Nutter, the permit winner otherwise known as “Milly,” said she and her subpermittee husband, along with other family members, saw about 100 moose while cruising woods roads before the hunt. “We located some big bulls,” she added, “but come Monday morning they’d disappeared.”

However, handy to sunset on Thursday afternoon, a big bull made the mistake of wandering onto a woods road and into the Nutters’ sights. Perhaps to eliminate future discussions as to who actually shot the moose, Harold and Milly each shouldered their rifles, his a .300 Savage, hers a .270 Remington. When they fired, the animal ran into the woods where, shortly afterward, it was found dead behind a chopping. A four-wheel-drive ATV made easy work of dragging out the heavyweight trophy.

In addition to being a once-in-a-lifetime event, the Nutters’ moose hunt was made even more memorable by the number of family members involved. “There were 14 of us,” said Milly Nutter. “Children, grandchildren, you name it. We stayed in campers at the Demo Yard, a wood yard near Jackman, and we all had a wonderful time.”

And a wonderful time of year it is, autumn in Maine, where, in spite of the carpings of the few, the moose hunt is crowning the careers of many older hunters.

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