When Rob Miller of Bradford headed to Rangeley in June, he hoped that he’d end up winning a coveted moose permit, which would allow him to enjoy a memorable hunt in the Maine woods come fall.
Miller succeeded on that count, to be sure. And so did his wife.
“Sometime in the first hour of the drawing my name was called,” Miller wrote in an account of his autumn adventures. “Shortly after, my wife’s name was drawn. Wow. What do we do now? Prepare for the hunt is what we did.”
Rob Miller received a bull permit for the September six-day season. His wife, Amy, was awarded a bull permit for the October season. Both were in Wildlife Management District 1, a decidedly moose-y region at the northwest tip of the state.
Rob Miller headed north with his buddies Larry Butera and Alden Bean, and Butera wasted no time showing why Miller calls him “the unofficial best moose-caller in Maine.” Butera called a moose with a 40-inch rack within 42 yards.
Miller, who had shot a bigger moose in 1991, passed on that opportunity, holding out hope that he’d see something bigger. He also passed on a second moose that didn’t pass muster, size-wise.
“My friends [both said] that most people would have tagged out happily,” Rob Miller wrote. “I apologized and made an excuse that we still had a lot of food left to eat back at camp, and said I hoped to shoot one a little bigger.”
On Tuesday, he did.
“After some calling we were traveling to the next ridge when we rounded a corner and there he stood,” Rob Miller wrote. “Alden hit the brakes as Larry and I, in unison, said, ‘That’s the one.’ I knew he was big, but wasn’t prepared for how big after the dust settled: 1,103 pounds with a 65 1/2-inch spread.”
As you might expect, Miller was ecstatic.
“I tagged out very happily, without a concern about the amount of food left back at camp,” he wrote.
Then, two weeks later (it seemed like a couple of minutes, according to Rob Miller) it was time for Amy to go on her hunt with her husband, his brother Russ, and two close friends.
“The next day (Sunday), Larry Butera (you know, the world-famous caller) and his girlfriend Teresa showed up to help with the hunt,” Amy Miller wrote in her own account of the hunt.
The hunting party queued up at a North Maine Woods gate early Monday morning, joining a half-dozen other groups that were heading out to find their moose. On that day, their group saw six moose, including two small bulls that they passed up.
“Going back to camp that night [we were] empty-handed, but optimistic that we would get our moose the next day,” Amy Miller wrote.
After seeing a few moose early Tuesday, they met a log truck. The driver told the group that he’d just seen a nice bull not far away. They hustled to the spot, found the moose, but ultimately decided to pass on it as well, hoping for a bigger animal.
“At 5 p.m. we hadn’t seen another moose and I was a little bummed that we didn’t shoot that one when my husband, who was on the back of the truck, signaled that there were moose ahead of us in the road,” Amy Miller wrote.
Two cow moose browsed on raspberry leaves, and when the group approached, a big bull and another cow joined them.
“We were still a long way from them, too far for a good shot,” Amy Miller wrote. “While watching the four moose we started to sneak closer when another bull (just a little smaller) joined the herd. Five moose in sight!”
Another cow — a huge one at that — made six, and finally, a seventh — an even bigger bull — joined the party.
“He was a beauty,” Amy Miller wrote. “I struggled to hold my rifle steady as there was no way I was letting this one get away. I ended up firing from a kneeling position with Rob next to me, backing me up. The bull made it just off the road before he fell.
“When we found him my heart skipped a beat. What a monster!” she wrote. “His rack was 57 inches wide and he weighed 800 even, he’d been rutting pretty hard and his body was all stoved up from fighting. What an awesome hunt. There ended up being eight moose on that road altogether as a calf crossed the road behind my bull.”
The grand total of the two Miller hunts: Two bull moose (weighing a total of 1,903 pounds), with antlers that, combined, stretch 123 inches — a bit more than 10 feet.
“My husband and I had the moose season of a lifetime,” Amy Miller concluded.
No doubt about that.