One hunt for a lifetime
A unique experience for two local seventeen-year-olds equals
by Cynthia Brekke | October 18, 2005
Most people wait all their lives for an opportunity at a once-in-a-lifetime moose hunt. In Minnesota, hunters can begin applying for the draw at 16-years-old, and shooting a moose only happens once. So when two 17-year-olds, Jake Hawkinson and Andy Kruse, applied for the draw for a moose hunt this year they figured they might have to wait until they were 25 or 30 years old for their chance.
Their wait was more like thirty or so days.
“I was sleeping and early one morning my dad came in my room, woke me up and threw a little envelope at me and said ‘Here’s your moose hunt stuff’,” Andy explained.
They applied for zone 36, about 180 square miles, about 30 miles northeast of Orr, Minnesota, in the Superior National Forest (BWCA area). After attending a seminar on the hunt, getting advice from locals on what to bring and do, and borrowing gear, the time had come for the hunt. On Saturday, October 1, Chris Johnson and son, Lucas, joined Jeff and Jake Hawkinson and Andy Kruse for the big trip. “We needed the help,” Jeff said and he kept a log of the events.
“We left home at 6:30 a.m. and arrived at Portage Point at 11 a.m. We had a 40 rod portage [16.5 feet per rod] to get to the Little Indian Sioux River. We started paddling at 11:45.”
It was a beautiful day, sunny and 75º degrees. They paddled to their second portage, climbing up hill and down, making four trips to transport gear and three canoes. After paddling another 50 minutes, they came across another portage, straight up and straight down for eight rods. They also crossed over a beaver dam before hitting their camp site on Lower Lake Pauness. It was 3:30 p.m. when they finally arrived at their destination.
“We were going to go into Shell Lake, but we thought the 216 rod portage would be too much,” Jeff says in his log. They set up camp.
“Jake, Andy, Luke and I paddled over to Rock Boardwalk portage and walked toward Shell Lake. Jake and Andy decided to walk down Hustler Sioux Trail to the north and call for moose.”
Jake and Andy went to the north of Shell Lake to hunt in an area where, on the map, there was a small lake, but the lake was dried up. They saw a lot of sign and heard what sounded like a moose. Meanwhile, the rest of the group went fishing, bucking strong, southerly winds. They came up empty and returned to camp around five. Chris went along the shoreline and had better luck than on the lake. He caught two walleyes and three perch, enough to cook up for supper.
Jake and Andy returned to camp around dark (7 p.m.).
Day 3, Monday, October 3
“We awoke at 6 a.m. to a very strong north wind and 55º degrees. We (Chris and I) got the boys up at 6:30 and they left camp at 7:05. Chris and I had coffee, woke Luke up and went out fishing.”
Andy and Jake headed for a location they had scouted out the night before. It was in a teaberry bog which showed lots of promise, with an abundance of trails going through and good moose sign. “We decided to go there in the morning, thinking it was a good spot to be,” Andy began. They paddled their canoe to their portage and walked about a mile up the Hustler Sioux Trail. The two boys cut through the woods about 200 yards to a fairly open, sparsely wooded bog and found a large rock to perch on, overlooking the area.
“Jake started to hear what sounded like a bull moose call,” Andy went on. “I couldn’t hear it so he told me to call back to it.” Andy made a couple of calls back, but nothing happened. Not then. About a half an hour later, they saw antlers gleaming in the sunshine. It was a moose.
“We got side by side and situated. The bull came in and he was headed kind of out of sight. It stopped and we decided we’d count to three and shoot it.”
This was it... the reason for being there... the big moment. Jake held his great-uncle Bert’s Remington 30-06, while Andy was armed with a Browning 7mm semi-automatic. They pulled up and took aim. The count went to three and shooting began, but not from Andy’s 7mm. “It jammed,” he said. Jake shot twice before Andy managed to unjam his gun and take a shot, then Jake shot again and Andy shot once more.
“The thing didn’t move... it just stood there.” Andy said.
Out on the lake, Jeff, Chris and Luke were anchored in a 20-foot hole on Lower Lake Pauness when a shot pierced the air to the north, followed by four more.
“We figured it was Jake and Andy, so we headed back to camp and packed up some food and butchering supplies and headed for the portage to Shell Lake,” Jeff wrote in his log. “Jake and Andy were supposed to be out at 10 a.m. and we were at the portage at 9:45 a.m.”
Meanwhile, in moments that seem like hours, Jake and Andy were wondering if this animal was ever going to drop. “It acted like it wasn’t even hit,” Andy continued. Finally, it stood up on its hind legs and dropped. “We did a little ‘hurray’.”
Jeff’s log: “Then they went out to look at this massive animal. They had all they could do to roll this bull on its side to field dress him.” Andy explained that field dressing it was a lot harder than a deer. He was in the cavity up to the middle of his biceps pulling out a heart approximately the size of a volleyball. When they finally reached the portage to meet Jeff, Chris and Luke, the duo told them they had shot a cow moose then, smiling, they admitted they had shot a 30-inch bull moose. (The rack actually measured 42 and a half inches, with the moose weighing around 1,200 lbs. dressed.)
Jeff stepped off the distance from the rock to the moose. The two boys had hit the moose with three out of five shots at 200 yards, once through the heart, once through the lungs and once in the spine, the last being the shot they felt had brought the bull-moose down. They were only a mile and a half from the portage.
With five guys, the skinning and cutting went quick. They began at 11:15 a.m. and the first load of de-boned meat went to the canoes at 12:05. With antlers and meat in tow, they were all back at camp at 5 p.m. The celebratory meal was macaroni and cheese.
Since the weather stayed cool, they took a vote and decided to stay one more day. “The kids outvoted the adults,” Andy said. They had floated the moose meat in a canoe on the lake, anchoring it and tieing it off to a tree. It started raining hard Tuesday afternoon, which continued through Wednesday, October 5, as the crew began the task of portaging canoes, gear and approximately 400-plus pounds of meat out of the woods.
Jeff’s log: “Last portage at 12:00 (noon). Five trips each on portages, final portage was tough! It was a relief to be loading equipment into trucks. Left site at around 2 p.m. for home (still raining). We registered the moose in Orr, developed pictures at WalMart in Cloquet and were home at 7:30 p.m.”
At first, Jeff thought they shouldn’t go, that it would be too tough to get a moose that far into the BWCA. In his log he wrote: “After going to the mandatory seminar (orientation), I thought we might be able to pull this off.” Jeff is grateful to those who lent advice and gear and helped in the planning and preparation. “I was, and still am, very proud of the men I went in with. I would do it again if I had a similar crew,” Jeff concluded.
Out of 90 applicants, only 15 were chosen for zone 36. Jake and Andy had about a 29 percent chance of being drawn. What was the most exciting part of the trip? “Pulling the trigger,” Andy said and Jake nodded, as he did the whole time throughout the interview. So, who gets the rack? “We’re going to switch off,” Andy said. Jake didn’t comment, and didn’t look convinced. “Jake, we’re keeping it whole.” I figured they’d each take an antler. They might be ‘locking horns’ over that one for a while.
This article first appeared in the October 18, 2005 issue of the Voyageur Press.