HomeOutdoorsMaine 17-Year-Old Shoots Rampaging Cow Moose To Protect Sled Dogs

Maine 17-Year-Old Shoots Rampaging Cow Moose To Protect Sled Dogs

by TK Sanders
(Photo by Michael Smith/Newsmakers)

A teenage musher from Maine was finishing up a 20-mile training run when potential disaster came knocking. Caleb Hayes, 17, of Saint David, encountered an angry cow moose that he and his father, Jonathan, believed had chased their team’s lead dog only days prior.

Jonathan, who was acting as the safety spotter for Caleb at intersections on the run, spotted moose tracks leading toward the dog yard about 1.5 miles ahead of son Caleb. Apparently, the moose was a constant, unwelcome visitor, as the father and son duo said they had seen it a half dozen times during the winter.

“About 300 yards from the kennel, I stopped and waited for Caleb and told him ‘there may be a moose in the dog yard; so be careful as you go in.’” Jonathan said“He went ahead of me. And by the time I got to the dog yard two minutes later, the fight was on.” 

The moose was already in the kennel when Jonathan arrived. It had destroyed the dog house used to shelter 5-month old Seppala Siberian Sled Dog puppies. Then it had tried to kick a few of the pups inside, as well. Caleb said his eight-dog team went nuts outside as he tried to hold them back while Jonathan sped inside on a snowmobile. The snowmobile scare tactics didn’t work, though.

“This made the moose even madder,” Jonathan said. He also said the moose charged right up to the snowmobile, causing him to retreat. “I never knew moose growled a low growl until I was on the ground on one side of my snowmobile and she was looking down on me from the other. She was raging — but we saw fear in her eyes, too.”

The cow moose was scared, but still posed a serious threat to the sled dogs and their owners

Jonathan, who holds a master’s degree in biology, said he thinks the cow moose likely couldn’t differentiate the sled dogs from a pack of wolves. The barking dogs distracted the moose from the pups, but now the moose headed for son, Caleb, who was holding the gangline tight. Jonathan yelled at his son to run, but Caleb got caught in the line.

“The moose was over me, trying to kill the dogs, and I caught my foot in the gangline,” says Caleb. “It was a foot away from stomping my face in.”

The only thing that saved Caleb, in his words, was an ultra-bright LED headlamp, which seemingly blinded the cow moose and saved the sled dogs. Jonathan then tried to distract the moose while he instructed Caleb to fetch a gun.

“I felt anger and pure focus because my father and dogs were in danger,” says Caleb. “But I was trying to keep a level head and get my father’s instructions done quickly and calmly.”

Caleb took the snowmobile to a neighbor’s house in the middle of the night to borrow a .30/06 and brought it back to the kennel. By then, the moose had calmed a bit, but was still charging every few minutes if agitated. Two shots later — and a little forehead blood for Caleb from the kick of the scope — the cow moose fell.

When the warden responded to the scene about an hour later, he assessed the scene and made a judgment. Based on the tracks in the snow and other evidence, he verified that Jonathan and Caleb had acted appropriately and issued them a special tag to possess the moose. The father and son duo field dressed it that evening.

“No sir,” Caleb said when asked if he felt nervous to head back to the wild. “I’m excited to go out again. This is what I live for.”