Teachable Moments

It was a foggy and damp morning, and the second day of the Maine October cow moose hunt. I was in the back of my truck, standing in the bed with my binoculars around my neck and blowing cow calls across the cut to my north. My clients, a 13-year old permittee and his father the subpermittee were in front of me, off to my left scanning the northwest corner. We had just cut multiple cow tracks on our way back out from a different spot and the tracks couldn’t be any fresher, heading north into a stand of spruce in the corner of the big clearing and imprinted over top of my tire tread laid down only an hour ago.

As I made a second round of mouth calls, I spied movement in the wood line to my right. A moose popped out of the tree line in the northeast corner of the cut and moved into the opening as if on a string, nearly 150 yards away. I quickly got the hunters attention and got them repositioned as I glassed the moose to make sure it was a cow. I hunkered down in the bed of the truck and glanced over to my shooter to make sure he was in position, ready and steady. The grandfather of the permittee was along for the hunt and watching from behind our position. Binoculars up and watching the cow, I told my hunters to give her a second to present a better shot. She was facing us head on, looking for the cow she heard moments before. A few seconds later, the moose turned broadside and I gave the young man the go sign. “Take her!” I whispered and the 7mm-08 barked. The cow went down hard behind a big pine log. Dad never got a shot off. I kept glassing the spot and saw the moose lift its head for a moment as it rolled onto its back and out of sight. The big cow was down.

As the adrenaline left my system and my clients were rejoicing, smiles and handshakes all around, I climbed down out the truck bed and started gathering my field dressing gear from inside the rear of my crew cab. The clients had already started on their way down to the moose in preparation of dispatching if necessary, tagging the cow and retrieval. After a few moments, I heard commotion down the road where the grandfather had the chase truck parked, 75 yards or so behind me and perpendicular to where the moose went down in the cut. As I leaned back out of the truck for the source of the voices calling me, I saw moose moving at a clip halfway up the cut. “Is that the same cow?” the hunting party was calling out to me. They were standing near the chase truck and hadn’t gone on to the moose after all. Knowing we had multiple cows in the area, I asked if they could see the cow that went down as they were a lot closer and had a better sightline than I did; I simply couldn’t take the risk of having the clients shoot another cow. As I watched the moose near the edge of the cut, making her grand escape, the hunting party still could not verify that the moose that went down was still on the ground. Five minutes later the confusion was cleared up. It was the same cow and she was long gone.

Mistakes happen and a lot were made that morning. How we react to mistakes and learn from them are what I call teachable moments. The hunting party should have proceeded directly to the moose to ensure it was expired. The young hunter’s rifle should have been properly zeroed so that the point of impact is reliable when the crosshairs are placed on target; I later learned it was zeroed high ‘for the possibility of a long shot.’ Incorrect assumptions were made – the moose was down for good and that the experienced moose hunters knew that a follow up/dispatch shot is more than likely needed. I let my clients down that morning. I should have ensured they went directly to the downed moose. I should have never taken eyes off of the situation and I should have never assumed prior experience would ensure proper procedures and actions, no matter how obvious and planned beforehand. At the end of the day, that is all my responsibility and my biggest teachable moment in my guiding career to date.

Author: John Floyd

John Floyd is a Registered Maine Guide, an NRA Certified Instructor and is the owner of Tucker Ridge Outdoors in Webster Plantation, Maine. He is a member of the New England Outdoors Writers Association and can be reached at john@tuckerridge.me or on Facebook @tuckerridgeoutdoors

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