Original Article – Moose Hunt Three Years in the Making
By Bob Barteck, IAFF Local 425 Alumni
“I can’t believe I am standing here,” USA member Mike Jackson remembers thinking. The landscape, topography, local lifestyle on the Newfoundland peninsula made a lasting impression. This was the hunting trip Jackson had been waiting and working for.
The Union Sportsman Alliance is full of men and women who set goals and then live out their dream hunting and fishing adventures. When Jackson submitted a photo of his giant Newfoundland moose in the USA’s Photo of the Week contest, we discovered he was a prime example.
A member of SMART Transportation Local 1374, Jackson serves his fellow railroaders as a Transportation Peer Prevention Coordinator as well as a trustee and Engineer’s LCA secretary. He enjoys traveling the country for his job but prefers to be at home in Pennsylvania with his wife and children. Jackson faced many of the same barriers we all do when we want to take on an epic adventure: getting time off work, working around a family schedule, staying within a budget—the list goes on. Yet he found a way.
PLANNING A MOOST HUNT
Jackson’s trip to Newfoundland didn’t happen overnight; it took several years to achieve. He and three friends had hunted together for many years on smaller trips, but they always talked about going on a “bucket-list” hunt. Moose hunts always caught their eye at the Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania—so the research began.
Newfoundland was within driving distance. Better yet, they didn’t have to wait years to draw a tag. Plus, it was far cheaper than hunting moose in the Yukon or Alaska.
“We attended lots of sport shows and talked with every outfitter we could,” Jackson explained. “We examined their success rates, costs and if we thought they were right for us. After a long search, we narrowed it down to Northern Edge Outfitters. They were humble, honest and we found lots of past clients returned to hunt with them again.”
They made the right choice. The guides, they discovered, were fellow union members.
“The most important thing is to find the right outfitter,” he said. “We have been on a few other guided hunts, and they always treat you as a client. These folks treated us like family. They are hardworking union commercial fisherman during the spring/summer season, and they appreciated what it took for us to get there.”
Mike and his friends booked the trip three years in advance, which allowed them to save money, vacation time and purchase necessary hunting gear over an extended period.
HOW TO SAVE FOR A MOOSE HUNT
The expense of a dream trip is often one of the biggest hurdles, especially when there are big family expenses on the horizon, like college.
“It was difficult for me to justify pulling money away from the family to satisfy my dream hunt,” Jackson said. “However, my family was very supportive and decided now was the time to do it. Plus, the hunt being three years away allowed time to save.”
Jackson and his friends did the math and found that small sacrifices would pay off big.
“We figured we needed to save $50 a week. We spend more than that on lunch, coffee, snacks and doughnuts before work. By cutting those extra expenses, picking up some extra side work and selling a few pieces of older equipment, we could all pull it off.”
They factored in everything: outfitter expenses, tips, meat processing, shared cost for fuel, tolls, ferries, hotels, meals, passports, coolers for the meat, U.S. and Canada customs clearance for the guns, even reloading proper rounds for moose.
And they didn’t stop there; they also considered what gear they would need to purchase. “We needed good shooting sticks, sharp knives, rubber boots, leather boots, rain gear, binoculars, range finder, backpack, etc.” That level of financial planning enabled them to determine an accurate amount to save while eliminating surprises.
THE MOOSE HUNTING EXPERIENCE
When Jackson and his friends arrived at the hunting camp in the heart of the Northern Newfoundland Wilderness, the rut was not quite in full swing. They had mixed results with the calls, and the weather held back normal moose movement. By the fifth evening of the hunt, Jackson had only seen three cows, two calves and 12 caribou. All three of his hunting buddies, though, had filled their tags.
“The pressure was on. I had two hunting days left, and the weather didn’t look like it was going to improve, but the bulls were starting to react to the calls,” Jackson said.
The next morning was cool and overcast. No moose. When high winds moved in, the hunters traveled farther from camp to lower elevation for the evening. They stopped to call a few times, and if nothing happened in 20 minutes, they moved on. The sign and locations got better and better, but they ran out of time and had to head back to camp before dark.
As they worked their way back through areas where they had called earlier, Jackson happened to look to his right and saw something that didn’t belong.
“It was about 100-yards away, behind a small clump of bog trees,” he said. “It wasn’t a shape. It wasn’t an outline. It wasn’t even movement. It was a color that just didn’t fit the landscape. Then it stood up!
“How the hell did that 1,200-pound animal hide behind that tree?” Jackson wondered as he remembered his grandfather’s lessons on sighting-in the kill shot rather than focusing on the head.
The 10” x 10” color that caught Jackson’s eye was the left palm of the antler. Though the tree was small, it blocked his angle to a kill shot. The guide was screaming “shoot before it runs; you will never see it again.”
When Jackson said he didn’t have a shot, the guide grunted. The bull took one large step to his right. Jackson fired a 150-grain .270 round right in the vitals. Less than 10 yards later, the bull fell into the bog.
“A swarm of emotion and relief flooded my soul. I filled my tag! I still didn’t know how big he was, nor did it matter at that moment. My bucket list hunt was now complete,” Jackson said.
As he approached the bull, Jackson realized why the guide was so excited—this bull was something special. He was 49” wide and had 21 points with huge, thick eye guards that would make any bull in the area shutter. He was a true rarity for Newfoundland.
KEY LESSONS FOR YOUR MOOSE HUNT
Jackson’s story can serve as inspiration for all of us. First, get your hunting partners onboard and begin planning years in advance; then slowly and steadily work toward your goal. Second, overcoming the financial barriers can be as easy as giving up a few luxuries—brown-bagging lunch rather that eating out or skipping a $5 fancy coffee. Lastly, the success level of the dream trip is up to you. Mike’s enjoyment of the trip in its entirety, from the road trip to the people to the landscape, made the trip a success before he bagged his moose. Now he can look back at the photos and relive that trip of a lifetime over and over.