ST. DAVID, Maine — A 17-year-old musher training for the Can-Am Crown International Sled Dog Races shot a cow moose Tuesday night that attacked his sled dog team in St. David, according to the teen’s father.
Caleb Hayes and his team of eight dogs had nearly completed a 20-mile training run when the cow attacked and a 45-minute rampage ensued on a privately owned section of trail belonging to Hayes’ father, Poland Spring Seppala Kennels owner Jonathan Nathaniel Hayes. Caleb Hayes planned to compete in the sled dog race this weekend.
The elder Hayes was on a snowmobile ahead of the team spotting intersections for his son when he noticed fresh moose tracks that were not there when the team had departed for the run.
Hayes stopped about 300 yards from the kennel and waited for Caleb and the team, warning his son that there could be a moose in the dog yard and to be careful.
“When we pulled onto our property, the moose was stomping puppies and bashing dog houses,” Hayes said. He thought the dog sled team would scare off the moose.
“It only made it more mad,” Hayes said.
He parked his snowmobile between his son’s dog team and the angry moose, hoping the revving of the engine would scare the giant creature away.
The moose charged at the snowmobile.
“I didn’t know moose growled until I was cowering on one side of my sled and she was standing on the other with her ears back,” Hayes said. “But honestly, I also saw fear in her eyes. We both felt sorry for her the entire time.”
Hayes said he scrambled back about 10 yards, leaving the snowmobile running. This seemed to divert the moose which returned to the kennel.
Meanwhile, Caleb Hayes, a Belfast Area High School junior, held fast to his dog team. His father said Caleb refused to let go of the ganglines – the harness system that connects the dogs – to keep his team safe, but the dogs pulled him halfway to the moose.
A 4-month-old pup then broke free from her post and ran to the dog team for protection.
“This is when things got bad,” Hayes said. He yelled at his son to let go of the team, but by this point, the teen’s boot was tangled in the lines, he said.
“The moose stomped and kicked right up to the team passing over [Caleb]. I think his headlamp was so bright she couldn’t see him, maybe. When she moved back down the team, Caleb got free and he and I pulled the team back a ways,” Hayes said.
The moose turned once again toward the pups at the kennel. That’s when Hayes directed his son to hop on the old 1980s Bombardier snowmobile and head to the neighbors in search of a gun.
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Ten minutes later, Caleb returned with a brand new muzzle loader supplied by a neighbor.
“I’ve never used a muzzle loader before and certainly couldn’t load one in the dark in a storm with a mad moose,” said Hayes, who is a former United States Marine.
So Caleb went back out in search of another gun. While he was gone, the moose kept walking away and then coming back charging and kicking on about a five-minute cycle.
Caleb Hayes returned with a Savage 30.06 rifle, which his father loaded. Caleb Hayes fired at the moose.
“His first shot [the gun] kicked back and bloodied his face, but he steadied himself and took a second and the moose went down,” Jonathan Nathaniel Hayes said.
The moose was alive but not moving, so the Hayeses turned their attention to the dogs, none of which appeared to be injured. The dogs will stay at Hayes’ home until the kennel is repaired.
The Hayeses left the woods and called the Maine Warden Service. A game warden killed the moose with three more shots, and provided a tag for legal possession of the animal to the Hayeses after investigating the situation.
Hayes said he and his son prayed over the moose, thanking God for her life, then field dressed the cow so the meat would not be wasted.
Caleb Hayes said his thoughts during the ordeal were “to stay calm and to think straight, do not freak out and to get what was asked of me done.”
The teen still plans to run the Can- Am 100, but first the Hayeses will do a training run to make sure the dogs are still up for the task.
The younger Hayes said that like his father, he is not a quitter, and noted that Jonathan Nathaniel Hayes last year completed a 261-mile solo expedition through the North Maine Woods to draw attention to the famed sled dog Togo.
Jonathan Nathaniel Hayes said he is proud of how his son handled the harrowing situation.
“Not only is he training hard for this race, but to put the safety of his team first, even when it meant his own life was in danger, made me proud,” Hayes said. “That is what being a musher is all about –- putting your team before yourself, and that was his first instinct.”