When Dustin Allen took aim at a 950-pound moose on Monday morning, he wasn’t looking closely enough to notice the small flaw in the critter’s massive rack.
Only after downing the moose with an 80-yard shot did he and his hunting party get the chance to more closely examine those antlers.
The moose had been a busy boy, and one tine of the rack had been sheared off, likely during a battle with another bull moose.
Allen, a 14-year-old from Naples, and his father, Ryan Allen, got to work field-dressing the moose so they could transport it to Greenville for tagging.
It didn’t take long for the mystery of the missing antler to take an unexpected turn.
“A friend of ours had been on that road three days earlier, on Friday,” Ryan Allen said. “Straight line, probably two miles [from where we shot the moose], but on the road, seven or eight miles. They were out scouting.”
After the moose was down, that friend drove by and stopped.
“The one fella came up to look at it, and he said, ‘I have that piece [of antler]. I have that piece back in my truck right now.'” Ryan Allen said. “They wanted to see if they could find [the moose it belonged to].”
He did, in fact, have a large antler tine in his truck, which he had found during that earlier scouting trip. And when he retrieved it and brought it to the Allens, they found that it slipped neatly into place where their moose was lacking … just like the piece of a puzzle.
On Monday, the first day of the state’s second moose-hunting session of the year, 1,705 moose-hunters headed into the woods with permits. During the September season, another 1,125 permit-holders were allowed to hunt.
Monday’s weather was far from ideal for moose hunters – temperatures reached the high 70s in some areas, and may have had an effect on hunter success.
Wally Jacubas, the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife’s mammal group leader, said the weather was abnormal.
“It’s one of the warmest opening moose days that I’ve ever seen,” Jacubas said.
Jacubas said that would likely cause moose to become less active.
“They’re going to be laying down on the ground, trying to find shade and trying to keep cool, so they’re not going to be moving around much,” Jacubas said.
“I don’t think you’re going to see many hunters taking them at this time of day,” he said, as the midday sun beat down on the Greenville tagging station. “I think it will be later in the evening when [the moose] get up and start moving.”
The Allens were one group that took advantage of the day’s cool early morning weather, bagging a moose that was the largest of 11 tagged in Greenville as of 1 p.m.
The 950-pounder had antlers with a 56-inch spread … and even the missing tine didn’t dim the hunting party’s enthusiasm.
“It’s quite a story,” Ryan Allen said with a chuckle.
Earlier, Wally Staples of Durham arrived in Greenville with a story of his own.
He and his hunting party had headed into the woods with a goal in mind … and they succeeded.
“We wanted to get what we considered a trophy moose,” Staples said. “We didn’t want to just settle for something, and we dedicated ourselves to that and did our homework ahead of time. It definitely paid off.”
It sure did.
The moose Staples shot weighed 820 pounds, field-dressed, and sported an impressive rack with a spread of 521/2 inches.
And the moose was just the one Staples and his crew were looking for.
Exactly the one. Honest.
“We actually had him on videotape beforehand. We had seen him before,” Staples said, explaining that two weeks before the hunt, he had come up to the Greenville area and found some likely spots … and his eventual moose. “We weren’t sure it was him when we first saw him [on Monday], but it turned out [that it was].”
Staples said he and his hunting buddies did some scouting and had a pretty good idea where the moose might be, but the bull had been roaming since they filmed him two weeks earlier.
“He was several miles from there. He was covering some territory, that’s for sure,” Staples said.
Staples was smiling broadly as DIF&W staffers measured his moose and extracted a tooth. For him – as for others – the hunt came only after years of frustration.
“This is the first time I’ve been drawn for a permit,” he said. “I’ve been putting in since I was a little kid. So it took a long time to get here.”
And when he got there, Staples knew exactly what to do. After tagging along on other moose hunts with friends, he was prepared for the work that would have to be performed after he pulled the trigger. But being prepared didn’t necessarily mean that it made things any easier.
“It could have been worse,” he said with a chuckle. “It’s work, no matter what. It’s not like dragging a deer out, I’ll tell you that.”
John Holyoke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 990-8214 or 1-800-310-8600.