Jul 5, 2017
The One-Eyed Moose
By: Hannah Dumke
Sitting down at The Fountain, a classic Wisconsin bar just outside of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, I had the pleasure to meet Don Herman, a local legend and owner of Sunk? Dive & Ice Service over a couple of cold ones. Last fall, returning from a successful moose hunting trip in Ontario, Canada, Don was greeted by some Fountain regulars who were wearing eye patches, teasing him for his one-eyed moose. Don, laughing as he reminisced, explained how he had a story to tell, stating, “I can’t prove my moose was attacked by another moose, but I can prove that I didn't shoot a one-eyed moose.” Hearing plenty of good hunting stories, I could tell this was going to be a dandy.
Don began by explaining how on his first moose hunting trip it was him, three buddies, and two bull tags. Within six hours the hunting trip was over, as two of the buddies almost instantly tagged out. The following year, Don, Bill Monteith, the owner of the camp, Ralph Schaetz, aka the butcher, and Jim Dork planned for another big adventure. Sticking with their tradition, the men stayed at a casino near the Canadian border. Don noted that they didn’t make any money but they did have a lot of fun they felt the next day. Planning to wake up at the crack of dawn to continue their thirteen-hour drive they were awakened by Jim nervously stating Ralph was having severe chest pains. Calling an ambulance, Ralph who had the second bull tag in his name, was medically advised to abandon the trip. The rest of the men continued on their journey, assuming they could change the tag into Don’s name. Arriving at Wilderness North, the men took a float plane to Lake Deshawn, a beautiful lake filled with massive walleye and monstrous northerns. Don loaded his canoe with gear and paddled an hour and a half to the stand he barely had the pleasure of sitting in the previous year because everyone filled their tags so quickly. The stand was nestled in tall brush, overlooking a river that wound its way into the thick Canadian wilderness. Hunting a total of three hours, Don got a radio call informing him that Bill got a moose. Don thought, “Well, that was that, another short moose hunt.” Paddling the hour and a half back to the cabin, Don helped Bill take care of his moose. After several hours of butchering up the moose and waiting for the plane to bring their new tag, the group of men were informed that the department of ministers were unable to switch their second tag into Don’s name. Disappointed in the unfortunate circumstances, the group of men ended their seven-day trip four days early. A couple weeks later, Don got a call from Bill, stating Ralph was medically cleared to go, and he was ready to pack up and head out for another Canadian adventure. Not so easily convinced, Don found himself in a routine becoming quite familiar, a thirteen-hour drive, a drunken casino visit, a breathtaking float plane ride and an hour and a half paddle back to his stand.
Taking a sip of his beverage, Don chuckled, pausing his story to show us a video on his phone. In the video you see Don dressed in camo up in his stand, talking loudly over the howling wind, “It’s windy, cold, and miserable out here. Luckily the moose can't go anywhere, it’s not like they can find a shelter. So I guess we will see… Either way, it’s going to be a BAD day hunting.” Luckily for Don, it wasn’t such a bad day hunting. Continuing the story, Don explained how he was calling every fifteen to twenty minutes. Around noon, over the roaring wind, Don heard rustling about 200 yards from his stand and the bull aggressively calling back. At first questioning if this was his imagination or was this actually a moose? With his hands shaking in excitement, Don continued to call. After about thirty minutes, a large rack emerged. The moose was now 100 yards away, Don continued to call, hoping to coax him into a better shot. The moose moved another few yards closer to the river, still shaking in disbelief and thinking, “Was this really happening?” Hearing Bill’s voice in his mind telling him to aim at the hump, Don aimed his Browning Bar 300 Winchester Mag at this magnificent creature and pulled the trigger. Click. “Nooooooo” Instantly recognizing the problem, he realized when he quietly loaded his gun he didn’t allow the action to slam home hard enough to secure the shell properly. Don ejected his shell, and as it hit the floor, it rolled across the bottom of his stand making a tremendous racket. He jacked another shell in, tried to calm himself, aimed, and with perfect precision, pulled the trigger. Over 60 hours of driving, 7 and a half hours of paddling and less than 20 hours in the stand, Don had finally gotten his first moose!
Don left his stand, hobbled across the ankle twisting, knee busting treacherous terrain to examine his bull. He excitedly took a photo of this 1500-pound trophy. Don, still filled with adrenaline, aggressively paddled the hour and half back to the cabin to pick up the butchering gear, grab Billy and get a boat to haul out his moose. After three and a half hours, they finally returned to Don’s stand. Billy, who has been moose hunting for the past 39 years, stated how he thought this was the biggest shot Deshawn Lake has seen. Billy was unable to hide how impressed he was, that is until he saw the missing eye and couldn’t believe how this wounded bull came to a call. Bursting out laughing Billy mockingly called out, “You shot a one-eyed moose!” Regardless, the 50-inch rack was too massive to deny, Billy convinced Don to get the beast mounted. Laughing, Don told us the mount cost more than the entire trip!
Don returned home, though he was excited about his first moose he was still unable to live down that he killed a one-eyed moose. Don explained it wasn’t until two weeks after the trip when he was going through his photos that he realized his one-eyed moose wasn’t always a one-eyed moose. In disbelief, he zoomed in on the photos examining the moose's eye right and saw it was undamaged. Sure enough, the moose had lost his eye sometime when Don left to go get Bill and the gear. Confirming his suspicion, Don called the taxidermist who was mounting the moose head. The taxidermist noted how when Don had dropped off the moose he noticed how the eye and several other puncture wounds looked extremely fresh. They hypothesized that while Don was at the cabin his moose was attacked by another moose. As Don finished his story, he was proud to exclaim that he, in fact, did NOT shoot a one eyed moose. However, in honor of the wild adventure and humorous memory, Don shared he had requested for the moose to be mounted with only one eye.