With all the talk about Newfoundland moose herds and trophy racks brought back, a run to the midsection of that eastern Canadian province was an easy destination choice for this fall hunting season.
Partner Al Lewis had hunted at the Newfoundland Wilderness Outfitters lodge, with successful sightings on two bookings and a respectable bull moose on one of those trips.
So when we signed on for the week of Sept. 29 to Oct. 6 I could look forward to experienced company and successful guide service.
My guide, co-owner Dylan Steffan from Pennsylvania, had bought into this operation with area resident Tom Sargent four years earlier and had hunted the area on five previous occasions. Steffan’s previous hunters this season had taken a few nicely-racked moose from area 24 and one of the six caribou tags allowed for area 64.
To this anxious angler, fishing prospects abounded. Fishing at the lodge, just above the banks of the Gander River, and every ditch creek wider than a foot or so, teemed with trout. Brook trout scattered from just about every pool we peered into or crossed.
Sad to say, fishing in these areas closes on Labor Day, so all of our outdoors labors were devoted to the pursuit of game.
Hunting-site options abound. The outfitters have leases to some 650 square miles of Crown Land. And the results proved regal.
First day out, a Monday, Dylan told me of at least three nice basket heads with nice palmated racks. Our hunt was booked until Saturday afternoon. So when we passed a big, young bull with a small rack at 10 a.m. on Monday, I opted to pass on this one.
Close enough for a bow shot (about 30 yards away) this bull would have been history with my trusty .300 Win. Mag and a 180-grain load. He even posed again for a broadside shot at 70 yards and I passed on that one.
Less than an hour later we came upon the father-son team of Scott and Brian Leinbach, the only other hunters in camp that week. We told them of the sighting, their guide Tom Sargent took them to the area and less than an hour later Brian used his 30-06 for an instant kill at 250 yards.
Steffan noted that high winds and frequent rainfall curbs moose movement, which was the weather pattern for our week of hunting. As the week progressed, it became obvious that any clean kill of a moose would do. Al Lewis and his guide Jim Payne had not had a sighting and shooting opportunity by Wednesday.
Nonetheless, Steffan had me at least seeing, if not in for a kill shot, every time we left camp. Later Tuesday morning he spotted a bull woodland caribou, the only ‘bou we could view the entire week.
A 125-yard shot connected in the kill zone (both lungs and part of the heart), but that beast ran more than 200 yards before dropping.
By Wednesday afternoon it became obvious that the three remaining moose tags might have to be filled with anything open for a clean kill. No bull.
At 5:15 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, Dylan put me into a nice, mid-sized cow moose at 93 yards, which dropped where it stood. With the ‘bou and a cow headed to Al’s, a meat processor in Gran Falls-Winsor, my hunt was a total success. I can leave the trophy hunt to another year.
Al Lewis opted to take a cow on Friday, if he could not find a bull by then. But both Lewis and Scott Lienbach scored on monster cow moose in a rainstorm with hefty crosswinds on Thursday morning. Lewis took a 190-yard shot at 7 a.m.; Leinbach tagged a big cow at 200 yards at 8:50 a.m. Much depends on which photo you view to determine the bigger cow. No bull.
This once-in-a-lifetime hunt destination is one that I plan to make again soon. Wife Jean heard the stories, saw the photos and plans to be there on the next run.
For details on this hunt, visit newfoundlandwildernessoutfitters.com or check with Dylan Steffan when he returns home after Nov. 3 at (814) 387-6660.