Tourtillotte Has State|
By Gary Tourtillotte
As a boy growing up in Passadumkeag, my father and grandfather had taught me to shoot tin cans with a .22 rifle. Dad told me I could hunt when I could shoot well and not before. With that statement and a lot of encouragement I quickly became a very accurate shooter. Dad liked to show off my shooting skills whenever he had the opportunity. I had many great hunting adventures with my Dad and shot my first deer when I was 13. As I reached my 20s and realized I was the last male in my family tree, I began to hope that my wife to be, Karen, and I would have a son one day to carry on the family name, as well as a child I could teach to shoot and hunt, as I had been taught by my father and grand father.
On November 20, 1973 our son Aaron was born and by the time he was 5 years old he had a BB gun and had shot enough tin cans to fill a dumpster. At age 10 he was hunting with me and shot his first deer at 13, as I had. When I could not go Karen would take him daily after school. Today he is 30 years old and is an accomplished hunter and marksman. He has three opening day 10- point bucks to his credit, all weighing over 200 lbs dressed. He has also shot a buck, black bear and a bobcat with a pistol, along with coyotes, raccoons, and other small game. Aaron is a Registered Maine Guide and has guided hunters in Montana, Idaho, and Maine. He has become an expert marksman, especially with a pistol. He has amazed sportsman hitting targets in excess of 150 yards using open sites on his pistols.
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In early June when the moose lottery results were announced Aaron's name appeared on the list. Eventhough I had put in for over 20 years and Aaron for 10, no one in our family had ever been drawn for a Moose permit. So, when Aaron saw his name on the list his first response was "I want a state record Moose with a handgun". I had no doubt if we could find the right moose he could make the shot.
During the next 3 months we prepared for the October hunt, securing a
place to stay and gathering equipment. A week prior to the hunt my wife Karen, Aaron and I headed for zone 3 on a scouting mission. Equipped with a GPS and a Maine Gazetteer, we attempted to learn the lay of the land in this area of Aroostook County. After spending the better part of a day there and talking with a few locals, we felt we had a good handle on where we should be for the best possibility of Moose sightings. The next week we left on Saturday with two pickups full of gear and our trailer. We spent the weekend doing additional scouting and we were ready when the Monday morning alarm clock went off at 4:00 AM. Our strategy was to ride through the high probability areas for the first two hours and then call in selected areas and do additional scouting during the rest of the day. We followed this strategy quite well for the first 4 days, leaving camp at 4:30 AM and returning at 7:30 PM. We saw a few Moose but no bulls we could get a good shot at.
A bit of frustration began to set in Friday morning. About 9:30 AM as we were standing beside the road speaking with several hunters who had just shot a Moose our luck began to change. Ed Christie, a local Game Warden, pulled up and began talking with the other party. After speaking with them he turned to us and asked if we had found the Moose we were looking for yet. Naturally our reply was ~' ~ We had met and spoke with Ed several times during the week and he had been very helpful and friendly. Ed said if we had a map he could give us some ideas that might help us in our search for a record Moose. Once he finished with his description of the area he thought we should hunt he told us we should plan on being there early the following morning. We thanked Ed and left the area. With a renewed sense of excitement at hearing Ed's description of the area and saying that one of the Bulls there might be the one we were looking for, we were thinking we should go to this area and do a little recon before the next morning, so off we went.
After looking the area over and having some lunch we decided to stay in the area for the rest of the afternoon. We were pressured a bit by other hunters wanting to hunt the field with us, but there just wasn't room for everyone to hunt safely. After having a quick lunch we set up a ground blind and watched the area from 1:00 to 6:30 PM with our only excitement being a cow and calf about 600 yards away.
As we drove back to camp we decided the field was where we should be Saturday morning, but we would have to be there early, in case our fellow hunters came back. We awoke at 3:00 AM and left camp at 4:00 AM arriving at our hunting location around 5:00 AM, a full 1112 hours before legal shooting time. We parked on the front edge of the field and began our wait. Shortly thereafter as I looked towards Aaron I could see two Moose silhouetted against the slate colored morning sky. I quickly got Aaron's attention and said" We have to go". Sunrise is nearly an hour away. The Moose were looking our way but we had to find a way to get into shooting position quickly. Since Aaron's side of the truck was facing the Moose he
decided to exit throught the window and crawl around to my side of the truck. I had my wife Karen, cover the dome light and I quietly got out my side of the truck. Using the truck as a blind we quickly got our equipment together. Since the largest part of the field was near the rear behind a small rise we had to get at least 150 yards up the left side of the field so we could see back to the woodline, but how?
We decided to walk in tandem half bent over to give the appearance of a 4 legged animal. It seemed to be our only choice, especially with two moose watching our every move. It must have looked strange but it worked. 10 minutes later we had moved into position near the middle of the field close to the woodline and a cow moose had watched our every step. We can now see the entire field. Keep in mind that Aaron is on his own here, I am not the sub-permittee. Not knowing what to expect and being our last day in the field, Aaron is carrying both a rifle and a pistol. As we scanned the field with our binoculars we could see several other Moose but no bulls. Soon we could see the antlers of a smaller bull which Aaron had planned to shoot come daylight, that was until he saw a much larger set of antlers rise from a bed and take shape against the morning sky. Because of the darkness I never could get a look at the rack from where I sat. Aaron said the Bull had a female companion and they were moving around in a small circle about 175 yards from our location. Aaron continued to keep his eyes focused on the Bull and asked me to quietly tell him when legal shooting time arrived. We still had 10 minutes until legal. Due to the heavy cloud cover it was very dark once legal shooting time arrived and I wanted Aaron to wait a bit longer but he said the Bull was following a cow away from us toward the woodline and he could not wait any longer so on my command the .300 Win. Mag. rang out across this Aroostook County field and Aaron was off on a dead run towards the moose with his .50 caliber S & W pistol in his hand. The .300 lay on the ground beside me. I am doing my best to get some video but It is far from easy when it is to dark to see over 100 yards with the naked eye on a very heavy overcast morning 25 minutes before sunrise. The Moose is hobbling on one front leg towards the woods. Aaron quickly closes the distance between him and the hobbling Moose as it makes its way towards the woodline. I am quickly in hot pursuit with camera in hand. Aaron stops at about the 50 yard mark and hits the moose with a .350 grain round from his pistol and it stumbled to its knees, another shot at 20 yards puts the moose down for good.
Being Saturday morning we were ready to take any bull, but having the 800 lb., 54" Bull stand up was a great surprise. In 2 hours we had the moose cleaned, loaded on the trailer and ready to travel to the tagging station in New Sweden. We want to thank Dave and Sara at North Star Variety Store for their great hospitality and assistance in tagging and weighing the Moose. We also want to thank Game Warden Ed Christie for his valuable assistance during our hunt. The Bull's final score is 201 7/8. It made Boone and Crockett and is a new state record with a handgun. Aarons first shot with the .300 hit the Moose high in the front leg and did not enter the chest cavity. The moose was continuing to move away from us and was caught by Aaron and killed with the pistol. After complete photo, video, and ballistic evidence, along with discussions with MASTC scorers, it was determined that the Bull was clearly killed with a pistol and therefore qualifies as a new state record with a handgun. After spending nearly 100 hours hunting and scouting with very little excitement we had all of our luck in a very short period of time.
Remember, it is never over until it is over. Don't ever give up.
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