GRAND FORKS — Megan Anderson says she didn’t even know she’d applied for North Dakota elk and moose licenses until she got a notice last spring that she’d been drawn for both of the once-in-a-lifetime tags.
Her husband, Cody, had filled out the online application form on his wife’s behalf.
“My husband actually applied for me behind my back, so I didn’t even know he was doing this,” Anderson, of Grand Forks, said. “And I don’t think he realized I was going to get both.”
The surprises didn’t stop there. Shortly after learning she’d been drawn for cow elk and cow moose tags, Anderson found out she was pregnant.
“I think when I found out I was pregnant, I was instantly, like ‘When is the season?’ and then ‘OK, I’m going to be 28 weeks pregnant,’ ” she said. “So we were just thinking ‘Oh well, we’ll just have to see how it goes.’
“But I knew I wasn’t going to be far enough along where it was going to be an issue. I mean, there was just the fact that I was pregnant.”
Megan delivered her new baby daughter, Lydia Elaine, on Wednesday, Jan. 8. Lydia, who weighed 7 pounds, 7 ounces, joins sister Ruby, who'll be 4 in February.
“She's really excited about being a big sister,” Anderson said.
A caregiver for Easter Seals, Anderson had drawn a cow elk tag for hunting unit E1E in the Walhalla, N.D., area and a cow moose tag for unit M10 in northwest North Dakota. The North Dakota Game and Fish Department issues elk and moose licenses by lottery. The odds of drawing even one of the tags in a given year are slim, but the odds of drawing both are even more of a rarity.
"Pretty shocked," was Cody's reaction to his wife drawing both tags.
"It's one of those things you apply for and don't really expect to get but hope you do get it at the same time," he said.
Megan, who grew up near Manvel, N.D., has hunted deer but says she hasn’t drawn a North Dakota deer gun tag “in probably six years.”
“I haven’t gotten a tag or a deer in a long time,” she said. “I tag along when my husband goes coyote hunting every once in awhile, but otherwise, that’s about it.”
Two too much
Drawing elk and moose licenses in the same year might seem like a stroke of luck, but in reality, it can be a burden because of the travel, scouting and pressure involved in filling two once-in-a-lifetime tags.
Like most hunters who draw both tags in the same year, Anderson says she would have preferred a few years’ break between the hunts.
“And not being pregnant,” she added with a laugh.
Elk season in the unit Anderson hunted opened Friday, Oct. 4, and excessive fall rains that began in late September created challenging hunting conditions when she and her husband ventured north to the Walhalla area.
“It was rainy and it was not good weather — windy and rainy and cloudy and everything was wet, really wet,” Anderson said. “A lot of the spots where we could drive weren’t really driveable or walkable. And we did not see anything.”
Moose season opened Friday, Oct. 11, but Anderson and her husband didn’t venture to northwest North Dakota until the following weekend.
Her husband and father-in-law both had shot moose in previous years near Mohall, N.D., and those connections helped steer Megan in the right direction for her moose hunt. Two retired men from the Mohall area even helped out the first day of the hunt, she said.
“Everyone out there just seems to want to get rid of these moose because they’re in their crops and so on,” Anderson said.
Despite the local help, there were no moose opportunities on Saturday, Oct. 19, the first day she hunted. That changed the next morning, when she and her husband spotted a cow moose at the edge of a sunflower field.
“She laid down and wouldn’t get up for nothing,” Anderson said.
Her husband walked into the field and spooked up the reluctant cow, which finally turned enough for Anderson to shoot when it was about 100 yards away.
“My husband would have had a perfect broadside shot, so I should have walked in with him,” Megan said. “Then she went into a sunflower field so we had to get permission from the owners. It wasn’t posted, but it was not harvested, so we had to get permission from the owners, and they said go for it.”
She made the most of the opportunity and killed the moose with a Ruger M77 .280-caliber Remington about a quarter-mile from where they’d initially spotted it.
"I think it was probably just as fun as pulling the trigger," Cody said of watching his wife shoot the moose. "She did good. We didn't make her do any of the real dirty work once she got it down, but she was doing pretty good for being that far along" in her pregnancy.
They used a four-wheeler to retrieve the moose after getting permission from the landowner to access the unharvested sunflower field. One of the men who’d helped the previous day let Anderson and her husband bring the moose to his shop to hang, skin and quarter.
"They were more than willing to help us out, so everything worked out really well," Cody said.
Because M10 is in an area with chronic wasting disease, no part of the brain or spinal column can be transported outside the unit so they had to quarter the moose before bringing it back to Grand Forks.
Despite being 28 weeks pregnant, Megan said the moose hunt wasn’t a strain.
“It wasn’t bad,” she said. “We didn’t do a whole lot of walking, and the two guys who were with us were a big help, too. It wasn’t bad at all.”
No second chance
Elk season continued through Tuesday, Dec. 31, but Anderson never got the chance for a second try at filling her cow elk tag after the soggy trip in early October.
“Every weekend got busy, and one weekend we were going to go, but it was freezing out, and it was really cold, and I just didn’t want to do it anymore,” she said. “(I was) too pregnant and I’m over it.”
The excitement of shooting a moose made up for it, Anderson says.
“I’m just glad I got one of the two,” she said. “It would have been nice to get both, but it just didn’t work out that way.”
The hunting trips, she says, were a “good husband-wife experience.”
“I was a little hesitant at first but then once we got out there hunting, it was fun,” she said. “I’m glad I was able to do something like that with my husband because he’s all about hunting, so I could be involved with him, and he was really excited, too, that I filled the moose tag.”
And while Anderson didn’t fill her elk tag, the family won’t be lacking for elk.
“My husband actually got an elk in Montana at the beginning of November so we have both elk meat and moose meat” in the freezer, she said. “We’ll be fine.”