The BDN is seeking outdoor submissions from readers. Today’s moose-hunting tale comes from Jacqueline Martin of Fort Fairfield.
I grew up hunting with my dad. Going into camp and just pounding the woods with my dad is something that’s always been something that I look forward to and I love in the fall.
For the 2019 moose hunt I thought, “Oh, the kids are still young, but there’s no real reason that’s holding me back from putting in for a permit, and I’m not going to get one anyway, so I’ll just put in for it.”
Still, it wasn’t even on my radar that my name might be drawn in the permit lottery. My husband and I were actually at a school event, helping with a senior night or something like that, serving apple crisp, and one of our former students, pulled up his phone to my husband and said, “Your wife got a moose permit.”
I grew up with a dad who has put in for a permit every year there’s been a lottery and has never, ever gotten one. I just assumed that I would obviously never get one.
So I got the permit, and got to work thinking, “Where are we going to hunt?” We had some friends up in Caswell who had seen a bunch of moose up their way so we went to start scouting out moose up there. The weekend before the hunt actually started there were a few moose that were hanging out in a broccoli field or potato field, so we went to scout all those moose. We found them Saturday morning and it was a nice, crisp morning. I thought, “this is going to be easy. Once Monday comes, we’ll just find these guys again.” Then we found out that the landowner wasn’t on board with that plan.
So, we had to totally change plans. We were really hoping for a quick, clean, in-and-out on Monday or Tuesday. My husband was my sub-permittee, but he’s also a teacher in the school, and I’m the school counselor. So we were both up against not having a lot of flexibility and much time to make this happen.
At that point, my dad was called in for backup. We’re doing this, we’re gonna need some help, we’re gonna need another body for this. So he came up and started helping us out.
It was such a chaotic week. It was Halloween week so my kids, ages 3 and 5, were super-excited for Halloween. My mother-in-law had come up to stay for a couple of days to help us out so that we could go, because we knew we’d be gone from 5:30 in the morning until 5:30 or 6 at night.
Saturday when we were scouting, we were driving through the woods and there was this nice big cow just standing broadside in a nice chopping and we said, “Yeah, all right, it’s gonna be good, we’re gonna get this.” And of course we never saw a cow standing in a chopping at all the rest of the week.
First thing Monday morning, my dad was driving one road, Garrett and I were on a separate road. Dad called on the radio.”There’s a cow over here standing in the road. I can’t even get out and talk to you guys. This cow is blocking the road. You’ve got to come here.” So we loaded up the truck and flew down, and obviously by the time we got to the next road the cow was gone.
The rest of Monday we saw a bunch of signs. No moose.
Tuesday was the same thing. Got up before the crack of dawn because I’m still packing lunches and making sure that the daycare bags are ready to go, checking my school emails, making sure everything’s still all set back there.
We saw a lot of signs on Tuesday, but the cows weren’t moving around, out and about, at all. So we pounded the woods again and came up empty handed.
My husband and I had decided we each were going to take Monday and Tuesday as personal days off from work. But we have to save one because it’s only October we need one more day each to get through the rest of the school year.
Back in our planning, we had decided Monday and Tuesday we would take off and then we just have to hit the woods again that following Saturday and hope for the best. But looking at the weather, Thursday and Friday were going to be awful — windy and rainy — and then some remnants hanging around on Saturday. I didn’t want to put all my eggs in a basket for a Saturday that’s windy and rainy. I had to get this done.
Wednesday morning I was ready to go back to school. I’ve got my dress on, my fancy shoes, my tights and my dad was hanging his head, packing up his pack, because he was getting ready to head home. It was kind of a somber, “I guess we’ve got to go back to adulting today,” mood.
I asked my dad, “What if I get out of work at lunchtime and we drive up in the woods, and we just hunt the afternoon? That will still leave me another half day of personal time off if I need it for some reason. And that’s what we did. My husband had to go to work, and he’s my sub-permittee, but my dad and I met up at lunchtime and headed into the woods.
I had pounded around a bunch where we were, and I said, “There’s this corner up here and I haven’t checked that out yet, so why don’t you drop me off up there?” Later, he got me on the radio and said he thought moose were down in a low spot where he was, and that I should start moving back that way.
I started hiking and got back down into the spot, probably about a mile from where I originally was, and walked back over to where he was indicating that he was seeing some more signs. I just slowed right down. Took a few steps and stopped. Looked. Listened. At one point I was just standing there listening for a minute and off to my left, I heard, “snap.”
I stopped for a second turn to my left and took a few steps. And then I saw the butt end of a moose running away from me. I thought, “Oh, okay. We got something here.”
There’s a bunch of skidder tracks all parallel to each other. The moose starts heading off on another one so I stopped for a second, got my wits about me, figured out where I was. Took a few more steps in that direction, and it jumped again. And then I realized there were two moose. And they realized they weren’t alone either and we started playing chicken. I thought, at that time of year, there was a 90 percent chance of one being a bull and one being a cow.
After pursuing the moose for a bit, they ran up toward a big clear cut, then turned around and started coming back. And I realized they were going to come right back across my field of view. I raised my rifle and then I saw the bull, and it’s a big bull, huge rack. Right behind him was moose number two and I took a split second to make sure that she didn’t have a rack, and it was bang. Thud. She hit the ground. She just dropped. That was at 4:05 in the afternoon. I was a mile into the woods. And now the fun starts.
Then I did what any millennial would do: I called my dad, and then I took a few selfies. That was my first big game kill, and I’m by myself in the middle of the woods. So I called my dad and said, “I’m gonna need some help.” And he said, “I thought that shot might have been you.”
We had borrowed our friend’s four-wheeler. So it was my dad and me, the neighbor’s four-wheeler and a lot of rope. After gutting the moose, we tied it up, we picked a track 30 or 40 yards long, and we picked our path. We removed any of the logs in the way; stumps, brush, whatever. We had a little scent bottle that had reflector tape on it. We’d set it in a tree, and we’d pull the moose from wherever we were to where that reflector was. Then we’d move the reflector another 30 or 40 yards toward where we wanted to go and repeat the process. We just kind of leapfrogged in the pitch dark back out to the truck. We didn’t get back to the truck until about nine o’clock. When we got out to an actual grassy road, my husband and our friend were there with a trailer.
The tagging station was closed by the time we got back to town, so the next morning — Halloween — we had to take care of the moose. We’d packed it full of ice, and the kids came out in the morning and checked it out and petted it. My husband took the kids to daycare and went to work and my dad and I took her to the tagging station, and then to the butcher. The cow weighed 645 pounds.
Now, thinking back on that experience, there are so many messages I’d like to share. I love just spending time, just being in the woods surrounded by nature. So any opportunity to get a day off from work to go hunt is special. But it was really special for me to be with my dad. My hunting roots really go back to being with my dad in the woods. You know, being six years old, and traipsing along behind him. He would bring me into my grandfather’s camp. On Friday nights during hunting season I literally would come out of ballet class, and have my ballet tights on, then ride into a hunting camp with my rifle in the back.
Those are memories that I have that I’ll always cherish with my dad, just being in the woods with him, so it was really neat how it all worked out.
And then from a female perspective, I just love to challenge the status quo sometimes. For me it was really rewarding to be a woman in her mid 30s, and not only did I have the permit, no one shot the moose for me. I’m using my own hunting skills that I have learned from my dad for so many years.
Another takeaway from this: Just because you’re a mom in the trenches with young kids doesn’t mean you can’t go out and still challenge yourself and do new things and step away. It’s okay to step away from the kids for a little while and go do something different. It’s good.
So, on Halloween morning, I was at the tagging station with my moose hanging from the scales. And by that night I was dressed as Mrs. Potato Head walking around town.
That’s just my life.
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