Marylee’s Moose

by Brett French

The bull moose stood 7-foot tall at the shoulders, weighed more than a quarter of a ton and carried antlers almost 4 feet wide, yet Marylee Moreland wasn’t the least bit intimidated.

Rising from a crouch to stand, the 73-year-old archery hunter drew her compound bow, aimed and fired in one smooth, confident movement.

“It was almost like slow motion seeing that arrow fly,” she said.

The arrow pierced both of the massive animal’s lungs. It took four steps and crumpled to the ground.

“It was basically textbook the way you practice, and a whole lot of luck,” Moreland said. “I knew he was big, but I didn’t count points.”

It’s hard to tell who is more excited about the adventure, Moreland or her husband, Gary Temple.“This is the biggest bull I’ve ever photographed in 10 years down on this creek,” Temple said, beaming with
pride in his bride. “The mass on it was phenomenal.”

The bull was so big that the couple decided to have a full body mount made, with Cody, Wyo., taxidermist Ray Hatfield creating a unique display.

“It’s the biggest moose we’ve gotten from Montana this year, for sure,” Hatfield said. “Usually we see
moose in the 35- to 40-inch range. Once in a while we get one wider.”

The antlers green scored, before drying and the resulting shrinkage, 319 1/8 inches under Safari Club
International’s measuring system and 128 6/8 under Pope and Young Club guidelines, which deduct points for lack of symmetry between antlers.

2015-10-26 Marylees Moose Hunt.inddThe largest bull scored in Montana under Pope and Young rules was a 169 2/8 moose shot by Sam Terakedis in Park County in 1995. Not one name on that Montana list, though, appears to be a woman, let alone a 73-year-old woman.

Temple has been applying for a bull moose tag for 17 years, Moreland for only three. Last year there
were almost 700 applicants in the south-central Montana hunting district for four bull moose tags.
Temple was so excited when he opened the letter with Moreland’s tag in it that he cut his telephone
conversation short with a client to tell his wife the good news.

Moreland has only been archery hunting about five years. She’s already shot a Canadian black bear
and whitetail deer with a bow that requires her to pull back — called the draw weight — 40 pounds
each time she shoots. Temple said in the sometimes macho world of hunting, some men have pooh-poohed the ability of a bow that size being able to effectively kill big game. So he’s happy Moreland has
proven any naysayers wrong.

The couple had been diligently hunting in the Joliet area on private land along Rock Creek since
the archery season opened, typically getting out twice a week — on Mondays and Thursdays to avoid any
crowds. Their technique was to sit in tree stands while Temple blew a lonely cow moose tune on a
large brown plastic tube resembling a megaphone. Staked in the ground below their stand was a cow
moose decoy.

On the first day out they saw a young bull but passed on the shot.

“So that was encouraging to see a young moose,” Moreland said. “We also saw cows and calves. One
cow in there had twins.”

But the bigger bulls kept eluding them. Neighbors would call to say, “I saw your moose, he was up in
Roberts or, I saw your moose he was crossing the highway,” Moreland noted. One person even had a
bull in their yard eating apples. But the bigger bull avoided the hunters.

It wasn’t until their 13th day of hunting, on Oct. 26, that luck changed. Temple was calling and lured
in a cow moose. Close behind it was a large bull. The bull would come no closer than 75 yards, though,
too far out for Moreland to accurately and effectively shoot.

Eventually the moose wandered off and Temple figured the hunt was over for the morning. He suggested they go home and return in the evening. But as they were driving away it began to rain. Temple had left his video camera in the treestand. Worried it would get too wet, he decided to turn around and go back. As they were navigating the road Moreland looked off to the side and saw the big bull about 100 yards from where they had originally seen him. Temple braked to a stop.

Moreland eased off the four-wheeler, nocked an arrow and began stalking through the brush, under a
barbed wire fence and across a gulley. Temple hung back and blew his moose call, hoping to keep the bull from leaving or maybe draw it closer to Moreland.

“Mrs. Bullwinkle was still with him,” Moreland said. Using a rangefinder, which shoots a beam of light
to measure distances to objects, Moreland discovered the bull was at 55 yards when she first peeked — still out of her comfortable shooting range. So she crept closer, even though she had a clean shot and a knee scheduled for surgery was throbbing. At no time did she feel anxious or excited from a surge of adrenaline, even when standing and shooting, she said.

After the shot, Moreland and Temple backed out of the area. Archery lore suggests hunters give the animal time to bleed out and die. Going to the site right away can sometimes spook an injured animal into running away, never to be recovered.

While waiting for an hour, Temple got on the phone and called Hatfield who volunteered to drive
up from Cody to skin the moose. The landowner offered to haul the large critter out with his tractor
and friend T.J. Smith showed up with his pickup to carry the carcass to the meat processor.

“The funny thing was, it was like Tom Sawyer. Everybody jumped in to help, and we didn’t get our hands bloody,” Temple said.

“That was the other part that made it so special, to watch the faces of these other people, watch their
reactions to this,” Moreland said. “None of us had been up close and personal with a moose. So the
conversation was everything from ‘look how big his feet are,’ to ‘look at the differences in the color of his hair.’”

Upon close examination, the couple found that the bull had likely been in some recent tussles with
another, equally big bull. He had a puncture wound in his shoulder, a large tear in one ear and scars and fresh scabs around his eyes and cheeks.

“There’d been a couple of locomotives really going at it,” Temple said.

Reflecting on the experience, and her exciting involvement in the sport of bow hunting, Moreland
could only shake her silver mane as if hardly believing it herself, admitting she was under a lot of
pressure to succeed when she drew the moose tag.

“It’s an experience like nothing else,” she said, quoting one of her favorite TV hunting show hosts.

“A lot of people don’t realize the joy of just being outside.”

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