Armstrong’s likely world-record velvet moose set on a shoulder mount form. Courtesy of Trace Armstrong
For five years Trace Armstrong of Rolette, North Dakota, had been buying raffle tickets for the North American Game Warden Museum’s moose tag. He never expected to actually win the North Dakota moose tag, but he figured the money was going to a good cause.
Then in June—on Father’s Day—he learned he had won the coveted statewide North Dakota moose tag.
“I never thought I’d win because they sell 5,000 tickets, with only one statewide moose tag available,” the owner of owner Tall Tines Taxidermy tells Outdoor Life. “I bought four tickets for $10 apiece, then won it on Father’s Day. That’s the best gift I could have gotten because my wife, Dawn, and I were expecting our first child about the time the state moose season opened on Sept. 1.”
A photo of the live bull, taken through an optic. Courtesy of Trace Armstrong
North Dakota has a strong and expanding moose population with about 200 licenses issued annually statewide. Most are for special zone hunts. But Armstrong’s lottery tag was valid wherever moose hunting is allowed in the state, he said.
“Wherever I could find a big moose in an open state zone, I could target that moose,” he says. “Landowners are great for granting hunting access, and if I could find a big bull, I felt sure I could get permission to hunt there.”
As a North Dakota native, long-time bowhunter, and owner of a flourishing taxidermy business, Armstrong has plenty of hunting buddies scattered across the state. They all started keeping an eye out for big bulls. As the summer wore on, Armstrong had pinpointed several great bulls, and was prepared to target one of them as the Sept. 1 opener approached.
But on Aug. 31, Armstrong got a call from his buddy Caulen Haase, who was best man at their wedding. Haase’s wife had spotted a giant bull near their home in Powers Lake, North Dakota. Soon, a different pal sent Armstrong a photo of the same bull. It was the biggest moose Armstrong had ever seen—like a bull that lived in Alaska rather than North Dakota.
The bull was taken not far from the Saskatchewan border. Courtesy of Trace Armstrong
So Armstrong gathered his gear and drove three hours west to meet Hasse in the tiny town of Powers Lake. It’s located near the Saskatchewan border, on the shores of 1,600-acre Powers Lake. The area is with dotted with sprawling farm fields. Armstrong and Haase spent the evening before the opener scouting and located the bull in a large canola field just six miles south of Powers Lake.
Even from several hundred yards away, it looked as big as a large SUV, says Armstrong. The next morning the pair returned to the canola field with Dave Brown, another buddy. But the bull was nowhere to be found.
Finally, they returned to the canola field in the evening, and spotted the bull 250 yards out in the canola. With a good wind, and some cover, Armstrong and Haase stalked to within 100 yards—just as the moose decided to lay down.
Caulen Haase and Trace Armstrong (right) after a long stalk. Courtesy of Trace Armstrong
Brown watched the hunt unfold from a distance through binoculars. For the next 90 minutes, the pair crawled through thick weeds and brush, closing the distance to 35 yards. Then, around 7 p.m., the bull stood up—and Armstrong drew.
“The arrow hit him behind the heart,” Armstrong says. “My arrow passed completely through his chest and both lungs. He only ran 70 yards before falling.”
Brown soon met with Armstrong and Haase to begin the arduous work of getting the bull out of the field. Fortunately, they had used of a Bobcat borrowed from the landowner.
The buddies gather around the bull for a group shot. Courtesy of Trace Armstrong
Hauling the moose out of the field with the aid of a borrowed skid-steer. Courtesy of Trace Armstrong
The hunters transported the bull to a commercial meat locker, where Armstrong caped out the bull. He didn’t get to bed that night until 4 a.m.
The bull’s estimated weight was 1,700 pounds, and the still-in-velvet rack will almost assuredly become the new Pope and Young record for Canada moose in the recently established “velvet” category.
Armstrong has had the bull green scored by an official P&Y scorer. His bull grossed 187 2/8 inches, with a net score of 182 inches. The current P&Y record Canada moose in the velvet category was taken in Alberta in 2002, with a gross score of 173 4/8 inches and a net score of 168 6/8 inches.
Armstrong and his wife, Dawn, just before the birth of their son. Courtesy of Trace Armstrong
Armstrong’s bull can’t be officially scored for the record until the rack has dried for the mandatory 60 days (which is up on Oct. 31). But the odds are excellent that the antlers shrink below the Alberta moose score, making it highly likely that Armstrong’s North Dakota bull tops the P&Y record book.
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Eight days after Armstrong arrowed his record-size bull moose, his son, Beau, was born.
“It’s been an incredible year,” says Armstrong. “My first child and a record-book moose within a week. It’s surreal.”
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