Tales from the hunt: North Dakota bull moose, pronghorn buck and new friends make for 26 hours to remember
The moose tag came in May and the antelope in August. I had been applying my whole life and now faced the pressure of filling both of them, with a corn harvest at the same time.
Dale Rust, who farms near the little town of Prosper, N.D., 15 miles northwest of Fargo, shared this story of a hunting trip he’ll never forget, filling a once-in-a-lifetime bull moose tag and an elusive pronghorn tag within 26 hours.
PROSPER, N.D. – I’m a 68-year-old farmer who drew two lottery tags – including a once-in-a-lifetime moose tag – in the same year.
How can this happen and they both start on the same weekend?
The moose tag came in May and the antelope in August. I had been applying my whole life and now faced the pressure of filling both of them, with a corn harvest happening at the same time.
I had no connections for the moose tag so right after the wheat harvest, I headed up to Rock Lake, N.D., and started scouting. In the local cafe, I bought breakfast for three local farmers and the hunt was on. I stopped at every small town in Unit M8 and left my little flier in every bar, elevator, cafe and gas station. Farmers were in their yards waiting for the wheat to dry down so I made several good contacts with them.
For the next month, I received pictures of moose sightings.
We finished the soybean harvest Oct. 6 – the day before season – and my son and I drove up to scout for a moose. As luck would have it, a local retired farmer and avid trapper and hunter called and said he would help us. We spotted one moose that was big enough that evening, but it headed toward Rush Lake, which is a very large slough.
Friday, Oct. 7, dawned with clear skies, no wind and an air temperature of 19 degrees. The three of us drove toward Rush Lake hoping “Phil the Moose” would still be there. We were heading down a prairie trail into the rising glow of a new day when my son spotted a black spot about a half-mile ahead.
The local farmer who was with us grabbed the binoculars and said, “We have a shooter. No, wait – we have four bulls, two cows and a couple of calves; we’ve got a herd.”
As we inched closer with the lights off, the big one was to the north. They were right next to the Rush Lake slough, so if I was going to get a shot, it needed to be now. The range finder showed 256 yards, there was a light southerly breeze and the scope was dialed in.
By this time, I was shaking so I took a couple of breaths.
Steady … steady.
The bull turned, and I slowly squeezed the trigger. The next 10 seconds seemed like forever, but the moose finally dropped.
High fives and screaming like little kids at Christmas ensued. The joy and pressure of filling a once-in-lifetime tag was now over. The bull’s rack had a 44-inch spread, and the moose weighed about 1,000 pounds, providing a whole lot of moose meat just 20 minutes into the season.
With the help of a local farmer’s loader, we got the moose on a trailer and headed for home.
We knew corn harvest was starting Monday, Oct. 10, so we left for Sentinel Butte, N.D., early Saturday morning, Oct. 8, in search of my antelope.
We were having coffee at the Sentinel Butte gas station about 9 a.m. and renewing old friendships when a local rancher came in and said he’d just seen a big buck pronghorn on his land.
Five minutes later, we spotted the big buck. Another 250-yard shot. We had tall grass to hide in, but the buck was in the middle of the herd.
Finally, he was by himself.
I jerked the trigger … nothing happened.
The safety was on.
This time, I slowly squeezed the trigger, and the pronghorn I called “Big Bob” dropped in his tracks. The rack measured 14 inches.
After 26 hours and 650 miles, the two tags that took me 68 years to get were filled and off my bucket list.
I named the two animals “Phil” and “Bob” after the two locals who helped me fill the tags.
We made a lot of new friends during the two hunts, and I can’t thank them enough for making the hunts the best 26 hours of my hunting career.
Do you have a hunting or fishing tale you’d like to share with Herald readers? Email it to Brad Dokken at firstname.lastname@example.org . Please include information about the hunter or angler such as where they live and general area where the fish or game was taken. Tales will be posted to the Herald website, and some will be printed in the Saturday Northland Outdoors section as space permits.