Thursday, March 26, 2009

NH Handgun moose

" John. I have a big surprise for you when you get back from your trip." I asked what it was over my cell phone. I had been away for a week or so with Mary, my soon to be fiance, in the state of Maine on a weeklong camping trip. We had toured a good portion of the state and were headed back home. I found out what the surprise was when I met my parents. In the mail was a New Hampshire moose permit.

I could not believe my eyes. I had been applying for moose permits in the states of Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire for quite some time. I never thought I would get lucky and they would pick my name for the hunt. I had been selected to take one moose in zone B1. This area is located in the region called the Great North Woods in Coos County New Hampshire. This is what you can call quintessential New Hampshire. Many of the small towns such as Columbia Falls, Stewartstown and Colebrook fall into images conjured up by the words of Robert Frost.

At the news of that event I began in earnest to prepare. Not only would I hunt moose but I would use a handgun. I have been enamored with handgun hunting since I was eighteen years old. I had been blessed with the opportunity to take many types of game with a handgun and this would be a crowning achievment in my eyes. Getting picked in the moose lottery is tough and many people have applied for years with no success. I was fortunate to be chosen.

I knew what gun I would be using. I have had a love affair with the Contender and my favorite barrel is a Super 16 chambered in the venerable 45-70 Gov't. This was one of the first Super 16 barrels made by Thompson Center in the mid to late eighties. I remember buying it at Kittery Trading Post on a day trip with some friends. The barrel is tapered and unported. I mounted a Redfield 2-6 x variable scope. I figured that I could use low power for any close shots and crank it up if the game was at the end of the effective range of the round. In the past I had JD Jones of SSK Industries mount a TSOB scope base and had them clean up the chamber. This barrel shoots very well and had up to that point taken deer, wild boar and black bear. Now moose would be added to the list of game .

I practiced incessantly with the gun. I sighted in off the bench at 100 yards but then conducted all of my practice with a Storey Point mono pod. I would shoot twenty rounds in what I called field shooting positions. I'd stand outside the shooting house and using the monopod take a shot at the target. I would shoot five shots and then switch the barrel to a Super 16 in 22 lr. I'd shoot twenty rounds or so and then switch the barrel back for five rounds of the 45-70 . Now as you can tell from my image I am a bit stout but the unported 45-70 in a single shot handgun will test the mettle of anyone. I find five shots is my limit for any extended shooting. After that I need to rest my hand and wrist for a while. The 22 lr helped out quite a bit in my shooting practice.

During that summer I made a number of camping trips with Mary throughout the region to find some good moose hunting grounds. We would see moose and take some pictures but Dad and I talked and we chose to hire a guide. I know some will state that it was foolish but you need to remember that we don't live in the area and there are some places that may not be accessable to us. Then there is the care of the game issue. A moose is a very large animal and you need someone to help bring it out of the woods.

This has happened to me in the past but of all times I had an equipment malfunction. The Redfield scope that served me so well, died. This was three days before the hunt. Talk about having a coronary. I quickly switched scopes to a Burris 4x and sighted in. I was ready.

Dad and I drove north from Massachusetts to the Granite State and across the White Mountains. For some reason the ride up seemed to take an inordinate amount of time. We arrived at the guide's camp and unloaded our gear. The plan was for us to be dropped off at a prescouted area and wait for a moose to show up. This was my first time hunting moose . My father hunted moose before I was born in Newfoundland. In fact while hunting my mother shot one large cow on that trip. What was special about that trip was that she dropped the moose with one shot behind the ear at a good three hundred yards away. Open sigts at that. The guide they had was so flabergasted that he got drunk and was out of commission for a few days.

Back to New Hampshire. That first opening day offered a shot at a huge bull. We were sitting on the edge of a large clear cut when we spotted a small moose cross in front of us and climbed up this mountain like you would negotiate a set of stairs. After about a half hour a huge bull crossed. I wanted to take him but he was too far out. I had tried to crawl into range and I might have been able to take him but chose not to. I didn't want to take a chancey shot. My Dad was with me as a subpermittee and was pushing his 30-06 rifle to me. I declined. I worked too hard to shoot one with the rifle. I wanted to take a bull with the handgun. Soon the big bull was gone.

After that we didn't see anything except one cow moose. In fact while sitting on that hillside we watched a cow and calf go up to my pick up truck and poke their heads into the bed of the truck. I wished I had been able to take a picture of that . We did spot a large bull but we could not figure out how to get within range. We worried that this was the only spot that we could hunt moose. If we burn it here we may go empty handed.

The next day we went out in the morning . It was somewhat foggy and there was a drizzle. The guide had spotted three moose. One cow, a calf and a large fork horn for a lack of a better term. We had walked up the logging road and then stalked to about 100 yards of an opening in the older clear cut.

Off to the north was the bull. The guide let out some throat vocalizations and he stopped. At that point my eyeglasses were fogged over and I had to wipe a lens to see the game. The moose was broadside to me when I rested the cross hairs on it's chest. I squeezed the trigger and the hammer fell. I felt the gun move but could not discerne the recoil. When hunting that seems to be the case. You don't feel the kick, so to speak. The moose turned and ran up the hill. He stopped and then I shot again. The bullet struck the heart area. Soon the mighty bull was begining to stumble. After two or three steps, he fell forward and expired.

I had a sense of elation and accomplishment. One factor that was missing was my father. He was at the bottom of the hill . I had wished he was at my side but he knew I connected with the shots. The moose was hit at 125 yards with two shots to the lungs. The guide was somewhat surprised. He never knew someone could shoot a handgun so well. He found the two bullet holes. They were a measured 1 1/2" apart from each other.

After the ATV was used to drag the bull down we went to the check station in Pittsburg for the metal tag. I was happy and proud of this event. Some people may laugh at a moose and think of it being a buffoon but the truth is, when they are hunted they are anything but the Bullwinkle of animation fame. They become very wary and can use those huge legs to transport themselves out of an area very quickly.

After that moose I got lucky again. My mother obtained a permit for moose and I was the subpermittee. I again shot another handgun moose in 2005 but that is another story and there are some things that are difficult for me to talk about. Some things went wrong on that hunt and created some issues that now have been resolved.

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