St. Johnsbury, Vt. — A record bull taken during Vermont’s early October archery hunt highlighted the state’s 2014 moose season.
Vermont Fish & Wildlife officials labeled the season a success, with preliminary harvest numbers showing 22 moose taken by bowhunters in the Oct. 1-7 archery season and another 147 during the Oct. 18-23 regular season.
“A preliminary count shows that by Oct. 28 the department had received official reports of 22 moose being taken by 54 hunters in the archery season and 147 moose taken by 289 hunters in the regular season,” said Cedric Alexander, Vermont’s moose project leader.
Alexander said a few additional reports may still be sent in by other reporting agents.
Hunters in northern Vermont enjoyed higher success rates, ranging from 68 to 72 percent in wildlife management units in Lamoille, Orleans, Caledonia, and Essex Counties. Hunters in central and southern Vermont had lower success rates, officials said.
The highlight of the season, at least for Kevin Rice of Pomfret, Vt., was the 919-pound bull taken by Rice which ranks as the biggest bull ever taken during Vermont’s archery season and the 15th largest of all moose harvested since Vermont opened its moose season in 1993.
The bull had an antler spread of 52 inches.
After applying for a moose tag for more than 22 years, Rice finally received a moose permit through the lottery drawing and maximized his rare opportunity to harvest a moose. Using his hunting knife and black spray paint, Rice fashioned a cardboard cow moose decoy from a refrigerator box.
On opening morning of the archery season Rice and his hunting partner, Steve Schaefer, of Hartford, tried using a moose call with no luck. But later that morning a huge bull moose Rice had previously seen while scouting saw the decoy and came running straight in.
“He was swaying his antlers from side to side, grunting and drooling,” said Rice, who stood up and drew his bow when the moose was 15 yards away. “He kept coming, anyway. My opportunity for a good shot came when he was just seven yards away.
“All the effort was worth it,” Rice said. “We have a freezer full of delicious moose meat, and it truly was a hunt of a lifetime.”
Alexander said Vermont’s moose population “is being managed scientifically, according to a plan developed on sound wildlife biology and input from the public. The overall regular season hunter success rate reported to date is 51 percent, down slightly from 54 percent last year.”
For the second year in a row, biologists who surveyed for winter tick larva on harvested moose found them much reduced. Tick loads were 41 percent lower than last year, perhaps due to a late snowpack last April. The lower tick numbers should help moose come through this next winter in better shape than in previous years, officials said.
A final report on Vermont’s 2014 moose hunting season will be available in January when all data has been received and reviewed.