By Wendy Heatley, Trout Run, Pa.
When I first met my husband, Scott, back in 1992, I was not a hunter. It didn’t take long to realize that the outdoors and hunting were not only Scott’s passion, but his entire family’s passion. I would tag along on trips to the woods and even on a hunt or two. But after sharing in the experience of Scott’s daughter, Ashley, getting her first whitetail buck in 2000, I decided I, too, wanted to hunt. My sister Missie and I took our hunter safety course together, and at the age of 35, I was a first-time hunter. That first year I tagged a spring turkey and a whitetail buck, all with Scott by my side, coaching and sharing his woodsmanship.
Since then I have been blessed to travel and share hunts with Scott all over the United States and Canada. We’ve made the best memories together while hunting. I have learned that while trying to fill your tag is what got you there, it’s the experience that gives you the memories. I’ve had the opportunity to hunt elk, mule deer, antelope, black bear, whitetail deer and three species of wild turkey. I never imagined I would have these opportunities, and up until this year, hunting moose wasn’t even something I had thought about. Here is how that all changed:
Drawing a New Brunswick nonresident moose tag is not easy. My friend Lee from JLR Trophy Bear & Moose called and said he had drawn an outfitter tag for a nonresident hunter. When he asked if I wanted to come hunt moose with him, I couldn’t say yes fast enough. It would be 11 long months before my hunt. During that time I reflected on how lucky we already were. In 2012 Scott drew his own nonresident moose tag and hunted with JLR. He tagged a beautiful 52-inch bull on our 15th wedding anniversary. I could only hope for a chance at a bull of that caliber. I’ve enjoyed my own success with JLR, taking three spring black bears on three consecutive hunts, with each bear being bigger than the last.
September 2015 finally arrived and we rolled into moose camp two days before the hunt. Everyone was excited due to recent bull sightings in our hunting area. Opening morning dawned crisp and cool. My guide, Leo, Scott and I waited for legal shooting time before leaving camp. Our plan was to head to a high point where we could glass several cuttings, hoping to spot a bull. Before we could get to our observation point I told Leo, “Wait, I think I see a moose.”
There he was, 125 yards away, standing at the edge of thick timber, looking our way, his paddles catching the first rays of morning light. Off to his right stood a cow—she remained motionless, like a statue. I loaded my Browning .270 WSM and steadied myself on my rest. Through the scope all I could see were the bull’s massive head and antlers, swaying side to side. I didn’t have a shot. It seemed like forever but he eventually turned toward the cow. I settled my crosshairs behind his shoulder and squeezed the trigger. At the shot he turned and faced away from the cow, offering me a second broadside shot. After my second shot he just stood there, and as I readied for a third shot he tipped over backward. I couldn’t believe it! Only 20 minutes into the hunt and my bull was down!
I knew he had paddles, which is what I had hoped for in my moose, but it wasn’t until we walked up to him that we began to realize how big of a bull he really was. His massive fronts and unique “scooped” paddles added to his character. Words truly can’t explain how I was feeling. Even thinking about it now, it all seams surreal. To say this bull was beyond my expectations would be an understatement.
After checking my moose in, things started to sink in. Still, I wasn’t prepared for all the attention. Paul and René from the New Brunswick Big Game Club measured my bull for the club’s record book. He is currently the No. 8 all-time bull in New Brunswick, No. 1 by a nonresident, No. 1 by a woman and the largest bull measured by the club for the 2015 season.
Preparation, timing and a little luck had me in the right place, at the right time, to tag what is truly the trophy of a lifetime. Special thanks to my husband for sharing his passion and introducing me to hunting. Additional thanks to Lee, Leo and the entire crew at JLR for all they do to make hunting dreams come true.
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