FAIRBANKS, Alaska — For her birthday, Adrianne Wyble got a moose.
The 28-year-old Fairbanks woman shot a 58-inch bull moose near the Elliott Highway on Sept. 20, the final day of the hunting season, which also happens to be her birthday.
To put icing on the cake, it was the first moose Wyble had ever shot.
"I really wanted to get a moose and it was my birthday, so I figured I might as well go," she said.
Wyble was road hunting with family friend Kenny Haskins on the Elliott Highway about two hours north of Fairbanks when she bagged the big bull. It was a little after 8 p.m. and they were about ready to call it quits, as the light was fading and they had seen no sign of moose.
Wyble called her husband, Robert, who was working, to tell him they were heading back to Fairbanks.
"I could hear Kenny in the background saying, 'We've still got an hour of light left' and I said, 'No, I think you guys have only got about a half hour,'" Robert Wyble said.
Just a few minutes after she hung up the phone, Haskins spotted what he thought might be moose antlers in some tall grass on the east side of the road.
"We rounded the corner and I saw those white paddles," Haskins said. "I went to grab my binoculars to double check. I said, 'Maybe it's just some sticks, but then she saw it moving."
That's when Adrianne got excited. She jumped out of the truck, ran across the road and took aim at the moose, which was standing about 80 yards away. All she could see was the tops of its antlers. For a minute, she froze.
"I got buck fever," she said. "Kenny was hollering at me, 'Shoot him! He's going to run away and you're never going to see him again.'"
Fortunately for Wyble, the moose cooperated and gave her time to regain her composure.
"Finally I just pulled the trigger," she said. "I just aimed below the the horns. I shot three times and he ran off into the woods."
Wyble was reloading her rifle, unsure whether she hit the bull, when a cow and a calf moose came running out of the woods.
"That bull was following right behind them and I shot him again," she said.
For his part, Haskins offered encouragement.
"I was hollering at her to just keep shooting until it falls," he said. "She'd take five or 10 steps forward and shoot and then take five or 10 steps forward again and shoot."
The bull crossed the road in front of the hunters and climbed up a berm on the other side of the road before it finally dropped dead. It had seven brow tines on one side and six on the other.
"I've never killed anything that big," Haskins said.
Wyble, who grew up in the Yukon River village of Nulato, had her two young sons, Andrew, 4, and Kendall, 3, in the truck with her but watching their mom shoot a moose wasn't exactly their idea of a birthday party.
"They were scared," she said. "They were wondering why I was shooting the moose. Afterward, I told them, 'This is what we eat.' Now they understand what moose is, and they want to go hunting again."
Robert Wyble admits being more than a little surprised when his wife called him back 15 minutes after he had spoken to her to tell him she had a moose. He left work, hopped in his truck and headed north to help cut it up. Even though they were able to drive a pickup up to the moose to make the butchering job easier, they still didn't get home until 3:30 a.m.
Because it was her first moose and she's a Native Athabascan, Robert Wyble had to throw a party for his wife, a Native custom.
"I had to smoke some moose and make a roast," he said.
Haskins said the Wybles should hunt on their birthdays more often.
"Last time I hunted with her husband on his birthday he killed a mountain goat," Haskins said. "They have good luck on their birthdays."
Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com