Mother and daughter harvest moose on final day of season.
“You must be lying. Are you kidding me?”
That was the response from Darla Helgeson, Minot, when her daughter told her she had received an email from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department notifying her that she was “successful” in being drawn for a once-in-a-lifetime moose tag.
What Leah Helgeson didn’t know was that her mother had received a similar email the same day telling her she too was “successful” in the moose license lottery.
“I thought it can’t be possible. What are the chances of that!” exclaimed Darla Helgeson.
It was the first time that either the mother or daughter had applied for a moose tag. They did so at the urging of Darla’s husband, Rick, who was drawn for and harvested a North Dakota moose in 2018.
Odds of being drawn for a moose tag are quite long. The overall chances of being drawn for a bull/any moose tag this past season was less than one percent. NDG&F received 21,134 applications for 136 tags. The odds of drawing a cow moose tag in Unit M9, where the Helgesons were hunting, was 21% with 365 applicants vying for 75 tags.
Many people have been applying for moose tags for 20 years or more without success, making the Helgesons’ fortunes all the more remarkable.
“I actually felt guilty,” said Darla Helgeson. “Why would I get drawn the first year? Why didn’t I buy a lottery ticket that night?”
Having drawn tags in the same moose hunting unit, the Helgesons made the decision to concentrate their hunting efforts in the Maxbass area.
“We have a friend that owns land up there. He was telling us all along that there were moose there,” said Darla Helgeson. “We were trying to stick close to his place.”
Rick Helgeson had filled his tag in the same general area last year. Based on last year’s success and because they were familiar with the area, Darla Helgeson said she assumed this year’s hunt would be relatively easy.
“It was not,” said Darla Helgeson. “There was a lot more corn still standing this year and it was super tall. You could barely see.”
Nevertheless, encouraged by reports from a farmer harvesting in the area, who said he was seeing moose in the corn, the Helgesons stayed in the area on Saturday of the final weekend of the season. Despite their perseverance, they went home at the end of the day without having an opportunity to bag a moose.
The following morning, the season’s last day, Darla Helgeson said she had “kind of given up” and wanted to stay home, rest up and clean house. Husband Rick had other ideas.
“I wasn’t very positive,” recalled Darla Helgeson. “But we were back at it bright and early and, by chance, there were a couple of moose standing outside a cornfield. We were lucky.”
Leah Helgeson maneuvered around the corner of the cornfield and saw a cow and a bull moose. She took aim and filled her cow moose tag.
“She was so proud. She really wanted this,” said Darla Helgeson.
An hour later the Helgesons spotted a second cow moose just inside the edge of the cornfield. After getting permission from the landowner, Darla Helgeson dropped the moose, making it a very exciting mother-daughter moment.
“It was a neat thing that we got to share together,” said Darla Helgeson.
Leah Helgeson’s moose, said Darla Helgeson, weighed an estimated 900 pounds. She guessed her moose was closer to 800 pounds.
“I’m going to have a lot of moose meat,” remarked Darla Helgeson. “We’ve already bought another freezer.”
North Dakota’s moose gun season opened Oct. 11 and closed Nov. 3.
(Prairie Profile is a weekly feature profiling interesting people in our region. We welcome suggestions from our readers. Call Regional Editor Eloise Ogden at 857-1944 or call 1-800-735-3229. You also can send email suggestions to email@example.com.)