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“Three hunts, three shots, three moose”

November 25, 2011 at 07:46 AM

Bloomington Pantagraph

BLOOMINGTON (AP) — Mary Brucker of Bloomington has harvested several female white-tail deer in the 20-plus years she’s hunted in Illinois, but she hasn’t seen a single buck.

Moose in Canada are something else altogether. Her first bull moose killed on her most recent moose hunt in October was the largest bull taken in that region of Ontario this season, according to Brian Wallace, co-owner of Kashabowie Outpost Limited in Atikokan, Ontario.

“This thing is huge, huge and really huge,” said Brucker, 65, who is retired from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where she was a tax investigator.

The spread of his antlers reached 57½ inches.

“Don’t forget the half (inch),” she said, laughing.

She killed female moose on her first two moose hunts.

“Three hunts, three shots, three moose,” she said, proudly.

“For Mary to take three moose in three years is a combination of the area, the guide and a little bit of luck,” Wallace said. “But after it’s all said and done, it’s the steady hand and the well-placed shot that makes the hunt a success. Mary is a fantastic lady.”

Her trip was to a fly-in location at Wapikaimaski Lake 90 miles north of the nearest logging road and “near nothing,” Brucker said.

She was traveling with friend and former co-worker Joe Billmeier of Des Plaines. He talked her into going moose hunting for the first time several years ago because she was the best shot among his friends.

The daughter of a former Bloomington police chief, Brucker is no stranger to firearms. She started shooting handguns as a teen. She’s taught classes to teach gun instructors how to teach shooting sports.

Her late husband, Roger, was a carpenter, who didn’t deer hunt. But he’d have hot soup waiting for Brucker when she got home from a chilly day in the tree stand.

The adventurous aspect of moose hunting appealed to her when Billmeier asked. She first thought the guides might think less of her as a woman.

“But I can shoot. I am on an equal plane, period. The concentration, the attitude and the safety needed are equal, no matter the gender,” she said.

Bagging a moose

The first three days of the hunt were warm. Moose moved at night and became invisible when the sun was up. Just as Brucker was losing hope, the temperature fell. Brucker was positioned by a rock overlooking two beaver dams and a babbling brook.

Still no moose appeared, but the gorgeous scene reminded her why she loved hunting so much.

“It was a magnificent honor to be in Canadian northwoods,” she said. “It was an experience of a lifetime.”

The next day was Saturday. Just two hours remained to get an animal. Brucker and Sutherland left Billmeier at a place that looked “fantastic,” with plants to eat and water to drink. He was equipped with a hand-made moose call Sutherland made from birch bark peeled from a tree.

Sutherland and Brucker got back into the boat and motored on. Soon, Brucker saw something dark on shore.

“I thought it was a rock,” she said.

But after traveling a little distance, Sutherland turned the boat toward shore.

They got on dry land. Sutherland yanked the sock Brucker kept over her barrel to keep it dry and whispered something.

“It was either ‘moose’ or ‘shoot.’ I never did catch it.”

She took her time sighting, drew in a deep breath and squeezed the trigger.

The bullet from her Winchester pierced his heart from 60 yards away. He jumped about a half a foot and fell, all 1,200 pounds of him.

The animal was cut into manageable chunks, boated to the cabin, flown out when she left and dropped at a Minnesota meat locker to be processed into hamburger and sausage.

“It’s like sirloin steak,” she said of moose meat.

Brucker plans to trade some of it with her 15-year-old great nephew Jacob Wagner, who killed his first black bear near his home in South Carolina two days after she shot her moose.

The moose head and antlers are being mounted, which will take about nine months. That will give Brucker and some carpenter friends of her husband’s time to devise a way to get it into her house to hang. It’s too big to be taken in through a door.

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