Against the Odds

On his way to the optometrist, the author read the confirmation letter acknowledging his winning of the NAHC's great moose hunting sweepstakes to Newfoundland. Once at the doctor's office, he learned he was quickly losing vision in his dominant eye.

During late spring of 2012, on a rainy afternoon, I was reading my “Inside Track” e-newsletter from the NAHC and found an entry form for the “Great Moose Hunting Sweepstakes.” I filled it out one time only, submitted it and then forgot all about it, thinking it was just a waste of time.

My wife and I returned from a family vacation in August to find a note from the post office saying a certified letter was waiting for me. Because I had an optometrist appointment for a recently developed problem, we stopped at the post office to pick up the letter on our way to the appointment.

While I was driving, my wife opened the letter and laughingly told me I’d just won a 2012 moose hunt through Newfoundland Tourism with North American Hunter-TV. I was ecstatic and couldn’t believe my good fortune.

I proceeded to my eye doctor appointment, where I received the devastating news that I had experienced a central retina vein occlusion, which simply means that a vein in my eye was blocked, thus filling the retina with blood and impairing the vision in my right eye—my shooting eye.

My first question to the doctor was, of course, “When will it get better?” His reply: “Unfortunately, this is a permanent condition.”

I was then told that I must receive monthly injections in my eye to help control the swelling. I asked if I would be able to go on a moose hunt, and the optometrist told me that physically I would be able to go, but I wouldn’t be able to use my right eye. I’ve always been a right-handed, right-eye-dominant shooter.

Before I accepted or rejected the trip, I spent several days testing my ability to shoot left-handed, using my left eye. I wanted to make sure I still had the ability to shoot a moose and could do justice to the trip because, if not, I didn’t want to deprive another contest entrant from experiencing this once-in- a-lifetime hunt. Once I decided that I could get proficient enough shooting left-handed and with my left eye, I decided I could accept the moose hunting trip to Newfoundland.

In preparation for the hunt, I made a trip to Cabela’s in Dundee, Michigan, where I sold my right-handed Weatherby .30-06 and bought a left-handed Savage Model 11, chambered in .308 Win., fitted with a Nikon BDC rifle scope and lots of ammunition. I spent the next 2 months making several trips a week to the local shooting range and concentrated shooting at 100 yards. Because I was using the BDC reticle, the distance past 100 yards could be calculated on Nikon’s ballistic table. I was quickly confident in my ability to accurately shoot my new .308 Win.

The moose hunt was scheduled to take place the first week of November.I contacted Ray Broughton, owner of Ray’s Hunting and Fishing Lodge in Howley, Newfoundland, to get some insight on weather conditions for the time of the hunt and to find out what paperwork was needed to bring a firearm into Canada. Ray was more than helpful; he sent me the necessary customs paperwork, and he advised me that the weather could change quickly at any time.

The excitement really started to build when I received all my travel information from Stephanie Daly at Newfoundland Labrador Tourism. I was scheduled to leave Detroit Metro Airport on Saturday, November 3. The first leg of the trip took me from Detroit to Toronto, where I had to clear customs and proceed to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and then on to Deer Lake, Newfoundland.

On Sunday, November 4, I met Terry Boeder, video producer for North American Hunter-TV, and Joe Juervicius, retired professional football player and avid hunter. I felt an immediate connection and knew I would have a fun week with them.

We were all picked up at the hotel Sunday morning by Scott and Chris, our guides for the week. I was more than pleasantly surprised when I arrived at Ray’s Hunting and Fishing Lodge—the rooms were spacious and the accommodations comfortable. Chef Bess was up early every morning preparing a hot breakfast and packing us a sack lunch, and then she worked hard preparing us a delicious meal when we returned in the evening.

The first day of my hunt finally arrived. We spent the day glassing for moose and saw some very impressive bulls, but by this time it was late in the day and we were losing daylight. I was extremely encouraged by our first outing and couldn’t wait until morning.

Morning No. 2 was rainy and foggy. Scott told us that the area he planned to take us to where he’d seen several mature bulls previously while guiding bow hunters. We started up the mountain and Scott spotted some moose. He told us to be quiet and to move only when he moved.

Scott pointed out a mature bull and asked if I thought I could make the shot. I asked him what the distance was. “About 200 yards,” he said. I told Scott I would prefer to be closer. We continued up the mountain; I could feel my heart racing as we got closer—and it wasn’t from the climb.

We got within 120 yards and I could see the moose silhouetted on the mountain. My heart was pounding. The excitement was building as Scott instructed me to get ready. I put the cross-hairs on the moose and asked Scott, “Is this the one?” Scott told me, “No, wait … there’s a bigger one.”

My heart sank as I watched this big moose walk away and waited for the next one to appear. For several minutes I could see an animal moving through the trees, but I could never see it clearly. I thought I had blown my opportunity when the next bull stepped out—and he was bigger. Scott told me to shoot as soon as he stopped the moose with a yell.

Things were suddenly going 100 mph. The moose was in my cross-hairs. I was controlling my breathing. My heart was racing. Scott called. The moose stopped. I pulled the trigger.

The moose dropped!

The feeling of accomplishment made my knees weak. I’d arrived at a point that I never thought would happen. This story goes beyond the loss of my right eye: 19 years ago I suffered a heart attack and thought I’d hunted my last. Through some lifestyle changes (I stopped smoking, stopped drinking and started walking 8 miles every day), I was able to continue hunting—but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be at the top of a mountain, in Newfoundland, with the moose of a lifetime.

I’m 65 years old and have been hunting since the age of 15. I’ve killed 299 whitetails and have hunted in four states—Maine, Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania—and I’m also an avid turkey hunter. An outfitted, guided big-game hunt has always been on my bucket list. Because of winning this contest, the dream became a dream fulfilled. I still enjoy both deer and turkey hunting, but the hunting thrill of my lifetime will always be my moose hunt in Newfoundland.

With my eye problems, I thought I might see a few good bulls, but never did I think I’d be able to tag a 12-point moose. The guides got me in for a shot, dressed the animal, hauled it out, prepared it for the processor and caped it for shipment home.

Because of the NAHC, Ray’s Hunting and Fishing Lodge, Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism, North American Hunter-TV Producer Terry Boeder and my hunting mate, Joe Juervicius, it was an unforgettable experience and an outstanding hunt. I met some wonderful people and forged lifelong friendships. My wife and I are currently awaiting the call from the taxidermist and have picked out a spot on the wall for the mount when it is completed. I have several deer mounted, but the crown jewel will be my moose.