By Nick Simonson
For hunters in North Dakota drawing one of the “Big Three” tags for a once-in-a-lifetime chance at an elk, bighorn sheep or moose, particularly one with some headgear, is hard enough. For some it takes decades to receive a permit and some go without the opportunity their entire lives. As luck would have it, Kelly Dyke of Hebron received her shot at a bull moose in unit M10 in the fall of 2019, but the challenge of getting a tag wasn’t enough for the hard-charging barrel racer; she wanted to punch the tag with her bow.
Plan to Punch
“It was a big goal, but I figured why not go big or go home,” Dyke recalls of her plans after receiving the tag in the mail, recognizing the work that would be in front of her, “I knew I had to have a good weight when drawing back, so I just started lifting weights and prepping for it and practicing shooting with my bow over and over and over again; I think every night I shot my bow,” she recalled of the summer evenings spent getting ready for the beyond-unique opportunity.
To get set for the hunt, she worked with a personal trainer out of Hazen twice a week, strengthening her back, core and arms to increase the draw weight to deliver a more lethal shot. As the season approached, her husband Jordan worked with her to increase the poundage on the bow. At the time she drew her tag, the bow was set at 45 pounds, and she worked her way up to around 55 pounds, eventually settling in at 52, noting that she could easily draw the bow 100 times in a day if she had to at that weight, while still reaching a level of power that could deliver in the fields around the Parshall area where Jordan’s father Milo still resided, and her planned hunting area.
On the Move
The first weekend of hunting did not produce much in the way of excitement for the pair as they took to scouting around Milo’s farm, but Kelly and Jordan used the time to spy on a few rogue moose roaming the open farmland in Mountrail County, and make contact with area landowners and learn more about the resident animals as the rainy conditions of the late summer persisted in the region. The following weekend provided more hospitable conditions on Friday and Saturday, as the sun allowed greater time and more visibility when they returned to the farm and surrounding fields. Despite the sunny skies, things were slow as the pair headed back to the family farm to plan their final day. Waking up on Sunday morning, Kelly, on a gut feeling, suggested visiting a small area near Plaza before heading back to Hebron.
“We were going to start heading home and we ended up driving by this area and I spotted a bull moose just to the south of us, and that got us excited, the whole day changed then,” Kelly recalls, “we started watching him, he was a little bit spooky that morning and we followed him seven miles to the northeast,” she stated, the pair sticking with the meandering animal until they lost sight of him.
Stopped and wondering where the bull had gone, Jordan spied him in a field and the duo watched him head to a nearby four-row shelterbelt of mature pine trees and bed down. Once certain the bull was in place, Kelly and Jordan headed back to the farm to formulate a game plan before asking permission to traverse the swampy soybean field and reach the tree rows from the landowner, who it would turn out was a classmate of Milo’s in the 1970s.
With temperatures rising into the mid-eighties, Kelly and Jordan set out to silently make their way into the stand of trees where they expected the bull would be. However, the rains from the weekend before had inundated much of the soybean fields, and at times the water in their trek across the quarter-and-a-half of farmland to reach the belt was knee deep. The brown, crunchy stalks and leaves of the crops also crackled as they traversed the open expanse. With only the slightest wind to help cover their noise, Kelly was certain the sounds created through their slow walk through the sunflower-turned-soybean field would give them away, but the pair was able to reach the stand of evergreens. Looking down the row, they spied the bull, sound asleep tucked in along the second row of the towering pines.
“The bull is snoring and I can see the dirt kicking up in the tree row, he’s sound asleep, I mean out cold, I range him and he’s at 74 yards,” Jordan recalled as he set his wife up front and the pair began the mission of closing the distance and setting up a shot for Kelly.
Carefully the pair advanced on the bull, silently hugging the tree line and staying out of sight while the moose remained unconscious, but the pop under Jordan’s foot from a stalk of the previous year’s sunflower field woke the beast. Startled, the 1,400-pound bull rose to its feet and began slamming its antlers against the adjacent tree and staring the hunters down, holding them in place as they formulated their next move. While they did, the animal began advancing on their position, head on, forcing their hands.
“Before all of this, I grabbed an old oar from a duckboat at the farm, so I’ve got a busted up wood oar and when he woke up and jumped up I had Kelly get behind me and I told her ‘stay in the trees if he charges,’” Jordan stated, “these are 100-foot evergreens, they’re big trees so I felt like if he charged we’d have some cover at least, so when he woke up and stood up he was at 50 yards,” he recollected.
Raising the old wooden oar to his head, Jordan began mimicking the movements and noises the bull was emitting as he made his way toward them and they advanced toward the bull. For Jordan, he considered the beginning of those final moments of the hunt to be a defining moment in the couple’s six-year marriage, for Kelly it was a realization of some hidden talents her husband had.
“I never knew my husband could call moose, I didn’t know he could do any of that, and he immediately puts that oar to his forehead and starts mimicking a bull and calling him,” Kelly recalled of the reaction, “we start walking towards him, and that bull starts walking head-on, straight toward us, and we’re at like 30 yards, and Jordan says ‘draw back’ and I’m like ‘not yet,’” she stated with a laugh, knowing that a closer shot would provide a cleaner kill.
“So I’ve got this oar over my head, this bull is swaying side-to-side,” Jordan recalls, mimicking the ‘ooah, ooah’ of a moose grunt with a chuckle, adding “we’re at 30 yards and I tell her to draw her bow and she shakes her head and says ‘no, get closer’ – and I’m sure the look on my face was pretty priceless.”
With a head-to-head confrontation looming and the advancing bull not providing any kind of ethical shot, Jordan made the jump into the open of the field in hopes of drawing the moose out and providing an angle at which Kelly could draw and let her arrow fly. With the oar aloft and the rangefinder clicking, Jordan counted down the distance as the moose advanced on him in the muddy soybean field, trusting that his wife, about equidistant from him, would not let the animal get much closer. With the whisper of “twenty-two yards,” from Jordan, Kelly drew back, found the mark and took her shot at the beast turned broadside. The arrow was true, deflating both lungs of the bull with the broadhead wedging in the animal’s far shoulder as it jumped and rumbled off.
“He leaped up in the air and started to trot away, he trotted about 50 yards and stopped,” Kelly recalled, noting a deep wound that slowed the animal down as Jordan continued to call to him, “I’m shaking like a leaf, I’m super excited and can’t believe this just happened; he went another 50 yards and just fell down,” she recalled of the adrenaline-fueled culmination of a summer’s worth of work and an amazing sequence of events.
Joined by Jordan’s father for post-hunt pictures and celebration, from behind the palmated eight-by-eight antlers of the bull moose, Kelly’s smile symbolized what can happen when hard work, luck, a strong partnership and a beat up old duckboat oar come together for a truly once-in-a-lifetime event.
Featured Photo: Kelly (R) and Jordan Dyke with the bull moose Kelly harvested with her bow in 2019. Photo Submitted.