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Hunter travels the world

November 11, 1999|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Eric Payne was in elementary school when his father taught him and his brother how to hunt small game on their farm near Cearfoss.

Payne, now 31, said his father, Art Payne, never imagined the pastime would evolve into a passion that would take his younger son to remote parts of the world in search of record-size animals.

He said his father sometimes says that if he would have foreseen how much time hunting would take his sons away from home, he would never have gotten them started.

The Maugansville resident said he averages about 15 hunting trips a year to prime spots in the western United States, Alaska, Canada and Mexico.

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He prefers to stalk large game, like moose, bear and elk, alone over rugged terrain in remote areas.

A "trophy hunter," he won't even take a shot at an animal he doesn't estimate could make the record books.

"You have to be patient and you have to be willing to go home empty-handed," said Payne, who said he's probably bagged eight to 10 record-book animals in the past four or five years.

Among them is a 1,400 pound moose with 74-inch-wide horns he killed on his first moose hunt on the Alaskan peninsula this year.

Payne said he passed up eight moose he'd spotted before the prize specimen came along.

On his first trip to the peninsula in May 1998, he bagged a 101/2-foot Alaskan brown bear that made the record books.

Being a trophy hunter is an "expensive habit," said Payne, a computer expert who is one of the owners of a new Internet-based outdoor gear company, xoutdoors.com.

A good elk hunt in the western United States - including the price of an outfitter, airfare, care of the meat and taxidermy - runs $7,000 to $8,000, he said.

On a "super-high-end" private ranch or Indian reservation, the cost would jump to between $12,000 and $15,000, Payne said.

Hunting brown bear in Alaska was his most expensive thrill yet, running about $20,000, he said.

All of his hunting trips aren't as costly, however.

A few years ago, Payne's family invested in a log home in Montana, near the Canadian border, where he and his older brother, Jim Payne, 33, hunt antelope, black bear, white-tailed deer and elk.

Eric Payne was about 9 years old when his father taught him and his brother how to hunt.

They'd kill squirrels, pheasants, rabbits and such on their family farm and neighbors' property.

"We had a blast doing it," he said.

By about 13 or 14, the brothers graduated to bigger game, turkeys and deer.

A couple of years later, they took up bowhunting, still his preferred way to hunt.

Around age 18, Eric Payne took a trip to Maine that would change him as a hunter.

Bagging a black bear on that trip hooked him on going different places to hunt game, he said.

Payne said he probably enjoys bow hunting for elk "out West" most because there's no competition, no people who really infringe on the experience.

Hunting bull elk, hunters impersonate a female elk's call and listen for the loud bugle of the bull to track him, Payne said.

"You're always moving and it's always very active," he said.

By far, Payne's favorite place to hunt is Alaska - "the last frontier."

"It's just like walking back in time. It's a lot of fun to go up there," he said.

On both his Alaskan trips, he was flown in on single-passenger float planes to areas several hundred miles from the nearest dirt road.

During the hunts, he and his guide camped in tents and hiked to the spots where they'd sited animals from high ground.

On the moose hunt, Payne said, he walked an average of four to five miles a day in the hip boots needed on the soggy tundra.

"The harder the hunt is, the more exciting it is when you do get to take an animal," he said.

Next year, Payne will make his first trek to Africa to hunt "man-killers," like Cape buffalo, African lions and leopards.

He'll also hunt various African plains animals, like antelope and warthogs, during the two-week safari.

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