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After 12 years of waiting, Polson woman gets moose

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POLSON — As big game species populations continue to decline and the demand for tags increases, hunting opportunities for rare game like moose are harder and harder to come by. 

According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, hunters harvested 242 bull moose, 42 cows and seven calves during the 2011 season for a total of 291 moose. In 2005, hunters claimed a total of 488 moose. 

Because of these conditions, many hunters wait for a long time before they get the opportunity to take a moose. Deana Knipe’s husband, Ben Knipe, waited 30 years before Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks drew his name for a moose tag in 1999. Once his name was drawn, he had to wait seven years before applying again.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, anymore,” Ben said. 

After tasting Ben’s moose, both decided they loved it, and Deana began putting her name on the list in 2000. After 12 long years of waiting, she got a letter last summer from FWP congratulating her — her name had been drawn, and she’d get the opportunity to take a bull moose. 

“I thought I’d done something wrong when I first got the letter,” Deana laughed. “Just getting the letter is exciting, and then you have all summer to get ready and prepare.”

After a summer of anticipation and waiting, Deana and her husband traveled to Grant, Mont., to find her moose. 

The first day in camp, two days before the official start of the season, a large bull moose came out of a stand of trees and walked within feet of the Knipes’ camper. 

The first day of the season, Deana had a shot but was too short to see over a stand of trees. After that, the couple didn’t see another moose on public land for several days. 

On the fifth and last day of their hunt, Ben climbed 70 yards up a hill to see into a small willow hollow. In the hollow stood their 900-pound moose. 

“Ben came running back down to the truck and yelled, ‘Get the gun; the moose is down here,’” Deana said. 

Deana grabbed the .308 Winchester rifle out of the truck and followed her husband up the hill. Short of breath and with her adrenaline racing, her immediate responsibility was calming down enough to take the shot. 

Two perfectly placed shots later, Deana had taken her first big game animal — a 900-pound bull moose with a larger rack than her husband’s earlier kill, “and then the work started,” Deana laughed. 

It was a warm September day and the sun was going down fast, so getting the animal dressed and back to the truck was a challenge. Luckily, two bow hunters had heard the shots and offered to help. 

“We were so grateful,” Deana said. “Those guys heped us out tremendously. We’d have been out there until 3 a.m. without them.”

Deana said she didn’t sleep at all the night she took the moose; she was too excited. 

“I’m just glad it was a good shot,” she said. “My worst nightmare would be chasing a wounded animal through the woods with a Maglight.”

While Ben and Deana relieved the story of the family’s second moose in 13 years, each was extremely grateful at having been given the opportunity. 

“It’s a-once-in-a lifetime thing,” Ben said. “By the time seven years is up, we’ll be 67 years old. That’s a little old to be off in the woods hunting.”

More than a hunter, Deana has finished in the top five women for Mack Days for the past several years. She was in third place after the first three weeks of this year’s competition. 

Deana said her success can be boiled down to two words: patience and determination. 

“Stay where you’re at,” she said. “Most people spend the majority of their time in their boats going from place to place. Also, make sure you enjoy it. Don’t let it be like work.”

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