A dozen Addison County hunters win moose tags
ADDISON COUNTY — More than 6,000 hunters applied for a Vermont moose-hunting permit this year. Of those 6,212 hopefuls, 12 Addison County residents can now get ready for what the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife calls “the hunt of a lifetime.”
This month, their names were among the 160 drawn in the department’s lottery awarding Vermont’s 25 archery season and 135 rifle season permits. In a second round, an additional five permits were awarded in VFW’s annual moose permit auction, which raises funds for environmental education.
And in some ways, these Addison County residents are luckier than ever to have their names drawn. This year, Fish and Wildlife officials released 40 percent fewer moose hunting permits than in 2015, as they continue to see Vermont’s moose herd struggle with ever more parasites and other stresses caused by human intervention, including global warming. And, as with last year, this year’s hunt is limited to bull moose in every wildlife management unit except two, as winter tick infestations are causing high mortality amongst moose calves, especially.
The hunt helps cull the animals, in the absence of their former predators, such as wolves and catamounts, and thus helps maintain a healthier herd and a healthier ecosystem.
But for these Addison County hunters, moose season offers a chance to put meat on the table, spend time with family and friends, and step into the rhythms of nature.
“I love being outdoors, enjoying nature, just seeing the other wildlife and the thrill
of the seeking,” said permit winner Christina Sheldrick, 31, of Salisbury.
The Vermont moose permit allows a hunter to bring along a “subpermittee” and a guide. Sheldrick will bring her husband, Eugene, as the “second shooter” and her dad, Steve Bourgeois, as her guide. Sheldrick’s permit is for the regular firearms moose season, Oct. 15-20. And she’s been assigned to wildlife management unit “I,” which is the WMU that includes parts of Addison County and stretches roughly from Route 17 west to Route 100, south to Route 4 and back east to Route 7.
Sheldrick started hunting when she was around 12, like many Vermonters.
“I started with my dad. He’s been hunting all his life with his father. So it’s something that he passed on to myself, my younger brother and older sister. All three of us hunt,” Sheldrick said.
For Sheldrick, another important reason for hunting is providing food for her family.
“Putting meat in the freezer — it’s so much healthier and better for you than anything you can buy in the store nowadays,” she said.
Sheldrick loves the self-sufficiency of hunting, knowing she can fend for herself in the woods, and plans to pass on this ethos of self-sufficiency to her daughter, Paisley, now just one year old.
“My husband and I have a one-year-old now. So for us it’s letting her know that it’s OK. It’s the cycle of life. You can go out and get your own meat and butcher it … It’s a reassurance, knowing you’ll never go hungry, that there will always be something on the table something for her to eat.”
Sheldrick won a permit about eight years ago and says that although last time she tried using a blind, this time they’ll be tracking on foot.
“You look for muddy footprints in the mud. You also look for scrapes on trees and downed branches. And then there’s this patch that’s a wallow, so you look for that and if you see that then you know there’s moose in the area.”
One of the most daunting parts of the hunt, says Sheldrick, is getting your moose out, once you’ve shot it.
Last year’s animals, according the VFW’s 2015 moose report, weighed from around 400 to over 900 pounds.
“We’re probably going to get a team of horses in there or just a bunch of guys,” said Sheldrick. “It will probably be a team of horses. I’m still weighing my options on that.”
One key part of the hunt — which takes place during rutting season — is mimicking the female’s bellow when calling for a mate.
“Believe it or not, it’s as simple as just putting your hands together and yelling,” says Sheldrick. The she laughs and quips, “I can’t do it worth a darn. My father’s been the one who’s been mastering the call.”
Like Sheldrick, hunter Mark Young, 62, of Orwell learned to hunt from his father; and, like Sheldrick, Young will be setting off into the woods with family. His second shooter will be his son and longtime hunting partner Bryan Young.
“Sure it’s nice to get a moose; they’re a very big animal” said Young. “But moreover what it is – it’s just a great bonding with my sons.”
For Young, 23 years of persistence has finally paid off. He has applied for a moose permit every year since Fish and Wildlife opened a moose season in 1993, and although he’s gone along with his son Bryan as a second shooter, up till now he never won the lottery. Young was awarded a bow permit (archery season runs Oct. 1-7), and he’s been assigned to a wildlife management unit far up in the Northeast Kingdom.
“I’m thrilled about that,” said Young. “We deer hunt in our family, always have hunted right around here in Orwell. This has been our excuse to do like many people do to go to hunting camp, go away from home and family and business and go to the Northeast Kingdom.”
Young not only brought up his own sons to hunt, he teaches hunter safety to young people in Orwell, paying forward the love of hunting and of the outdoors that he was raised in. Young learned to hunt from his father, who in turn learned from his uncles and from legendary Orwell hunter Edward Lucia.
“I’m the youngest of five boys. Actually it goes back to my father. His father died at an early age and my father was taught to hunt by uncles of his and another gentleman here in town. Back in, I’m going to guess the 1950s, there was a gentleman here in Orwell who was a great hunter. And he kind of took all of us under his wing and helped us become hunters.”
In his own hunter safety classes Young’s ethos is responsibility to oneself — to be fit and properly prepared — and responsibility to the animal — to have the skill and tenacity to make a clean shot.
“The responsibility to the animal obviously is to make a swift, clean kill. I am a firm believer, if you harvest it, God provided it, you harvest it, you use it. You do not waste it.”
If he’s lucky enough to harvest a moose, Young hopes to take it out with a team of horses. Years back, when Young accompanied his son as a subpermittee and got an animal, they had to hitch up friends instead.
“The first one we got was probably in a mile. And it ended up there were seven guys pulling on a nylon rope, like hitching up a team of horses except they were humans instead of horses,” Young chuckles.
Like Sheldrick, Young expects to do a lot of walking and tracking and calling — and he relates a story from a previous hunting trip.
Young was sitting and enjoying the woods, while Bryan was scouting. As Bryan started to come down the mountain, he let out a moose call.
“Believe it or not, he called and I saw a bull moose respond to his call. I’m sitting in the woods, not knowing there was a moose anywhere near me. Bryan called, and I watched a bull moose jump up and take off on a dead run. It was kind of an interesting experience for a father because I’m thinking to myself, ‘OK, Bryan. You just called, and you don’t know but you’ve got something headed your way on a dead run.”
But for Young, the love of hunting always comes back to time with family.
“You sit on the pickup tailgate and you unwrap your egg salad sandwich and you just are sitting there way, way in the woods — no telephone, no people. And you’re with your family or your friends. It’s just a great experience. It really is.”
Reporter Gaen Murphree is reached at [email protected] 2016 MOOSE PERMIT winner Mark Young, left, accompanied his son Bryan Young as the “second shooter” on an earlier moose hunt. For Mark Young, hunting is part of a family tradition that is worth passing down. Young teaches hunter safety to Orwell youth and instills in them his ethic of responsibility to self and animal.
Photo courtesy of Mark Young
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