Long bow success

By Dick Mason, The Observer December 02, 2011 09:48 pm

La Grande archer holds distinction of being one of few hunters in Northeast Oregon to harvest a moose with traditional bow

The wind was in Mark Penninger’s favor, but the La Grande bow hunter feared that the odds were against him.

Penninger was in the Alaskan Mountain Range where he was attempting to take a bull moose with a long bow in September. Penninger, accompanied by fellow La Grande bow hunters Russ Morgan and Brad Hayes, had been observing the animal for four hours. It had been in an open area but now was in the forest, providing the hunting party the opportunity to sneak in and get close enough to take it with a bow.

Now the three men were attempting to draw the moose out of its protective cover with calls.

The hunters knew that the moose could not smell them because the wind was blowing from the moose into them. Still, they feared that the moose might detect them and start running in the opposite direction.

“It always seems like a long shot when you are hunting (big game) in such a huge landscape,’’ Penninger said. “It seems like a daunting task but occasionally things work out.’’

This was one such occasion. Following a 20-minute wait the moose emerged from the forest and began running in Penninger’s direction. When it came within 13 yards of Penninger he made a shot, nailing the moose in the chest. The moose dropped and died 10 about seconds later.

Still, it was too early to celebrate. Penninger now had to determine if the spread of the bull moose’s antlers met the minimum legal requirement of at least 50 inches. Penninger’s hunting party had photographed the moose earlier with a zoom lens and determined that its antlers met the legal standard. Still, Penninger could not relax until he got a close-up view of the antlers.

Brad Hayes calls for a moose in the Alaskan Mountain Range. MARK PENNINGER photo
Brad Hayes calls for a moose in the Alaskan Mountain Range. MARK PENNINGER photo

“I told Brad that I wouldn’t begin celebrating until I knew for sure that it was legal,’’ Penninger said.

A short time later a celebration was under way after a measuring tape was used to evaluate the antler spread and determine that it was at least 50    inches.

“It was solidly legal. We were jubilant,’’ Penninger said.

Penninger now holds the distinction of being one of the few hunters from Northeast Oregon to have taken a moose with a long bow. He credits Morgan and Hayes, who also had traditional bows and moose tags, with playing  instrumental roles in the successful hunt. Penninger said it is critical that when going on such a challenging hunt to have partners like Morgan and Hayes, people who are skilled and  can be counted on in difficult situations.

Morgan said his party saw many bull moose in Alaska, but it was not able to get a good enough look at many to determine if they were legal. Morgan said his party was fortunate to be able to get a good look at the moose Penninger took before it  moved into cover so that it could determine it was legal.

That Penninger took the moose with a long bow instead of a compound one makes his accomplishment more noteworthy. The range of a long bow is 25 yards, about half that of a compound bow.

Penninger enjoys the added degree of difficulty a hunter with a long bow faces.

“It is all part of the challenge.

It makes it fun,’’ Penninger said.

The moose was taken several days after the hunting party arrived via plane into the Alaskan Mountain Range, which is between Anchorage and Fairbanks. Alaska law requires sportsmen to wait a day after arriving by plane before starting their hunt. The purpose of the law is to prevent hunters from getting an unfair advantage since they can easily see where big game animals are when flying into a site.

Morgan said it was invigorating to pursue a big game animal he had not hunted before in a place new to him.

“It was a crash course of learning. It was challenging and fun.’’