Since I could remember-their large racks and intimidating size have been part of bowhunting lore, at least mine, and even those who may never hunt know these animals well.
Why I hadn’t hunted them yet I never could really answer, since I had been blessed with time and health to chase other species-why hadn’t I hunted moose yet?
The best answer I could ever give, perhaps, was that I needed to have that dream remain where it was, something to look forward to, a peak to one day climb and something to keep me wishing, hoping and dreaming.
Perhaps I grew tired of looking at this picture in my office through the years, or maybe it was just time, but in 2009, I decided to pull the trigger and book a hunt nearly two years later for the fall of 2011 through Mark Beuhrer and BSC with Eric Umphenour and Hunt Alaska.
After all, Alaska is where I had first read stories about these giants that can stand 7 feet at the shoulder and weigh over 1500 pounds. In the two years that I would have to wait, I could save and work towards the goal and dream that would never let me go.
My life changed forever that week as any father can attest, and the past year has been one full of laughs and lack of sleep-but it has been the best thing to happen to me.
We elected to get him a "moose" shirt instead of chasing the monarchs of the north that year but still, the dream remained.
Eric was kind enough to push my hunt back one year, which finds us in September 2012…..
I had been shooting an #80 bow for awhile, from turkeys to whitetails, I like to keep the same set-up if possible.
At 26.5” draw, I am always in the running for any Hobbit films that may come out, but my set-up would be as such:
Carbon Element 80# with a 445 grain Maxima KV shaft, which included a 125 grain Vipertrick at about 278 fps.
Having the good fortune of an archery range with 3D moose I found myself shooting all summer at these large chunks of foam.
I shot near.....
It was the first time I've ever landed on a creek bed- a little interesting to say the least but an amazing experience.
Here is the base camp as we got off the plane. There were 3 other hunters from Texas that went to another camp that evening as Eric and I would hunt from base camp to start the next morning, September 1st.
I couldn't believe how vast the country was and how far it stretched out. We were essentially in the Alaska Range and the moose would travel from the flats to the foothills as they began their fall ritual.
Here we are glassing and it was COLD! The wind was nothing like I expected-blustery, cold and strong.
I was blown away at how well Eric could pic up moose racks WAY down in the valley. Often it would take me a bit but i would then see them with his help, bedded down in the willows.
Much like our whitetails-they move most at dawn and dusk with the midday being a down time in many instances.
This is where one of the biggest surprises of the trip occured. Imagine filling your house with basketballs and that is what it was like walking in the tundra.
What looked like solid ground was a lie, as holes, bogs and unstable ground greeted us with each step.
As one of Eric's sheep hunters said after trying for a grizz upon filling his sheep tag...
'This is worse than sheep hunting!'
We got within 60 yards nearly an hour later but all I could see where the tips of his antlers. We tried to close the distance, but something alarmed the bull and in a flash he was gone. It was amazing how fast they can vanish and all we had now was a downpour, soaked feet, clothes and brusied ego.
On the way back, what we thought was another bull, turned into a shed that fell perfectly vertical into the tundra behind a willow (ha ha) and I found the matched set soon after.
Now I just needed a set attached to a bull :)
As evening approached Eric said, 'Oh boy, i bet you wish you had a grizzly tag?'
Looking through the scope revealed a giant boar feeding on blueberries in the valley below. I have never seen a grizzly in the wild, and I promise you, once you do, you will be in awe of them from that day forward.
The day before I had heard my first wolves howl and seen two crest the ridge, and now with this grizzly show over the next hour, my trip was already a success.
6 days to go and we hoped the next day brought better glassing conditions.
We had decided to spike out the night before and if I thought the wind was howling the day before, I was in for a big surprise over the next 24 hours.
We got the tent spiked down but as we crawled in, realized our propane wasn't working and so we had a 'power bar' dinner and tried to catch some shut-eye.
I think I slept 4 hours between the flapping tarp and deflated pad that allowed me to play "count the tundra rocks on my back."
I don't recommend this game....;)
But today was a new day.
Never have I been on a hunt in which I was speechless in so many instances as I looked at the vastness and beauty of Alaska.
I really was finally here.
I was looking down below but he said, "No, up there."
I looked up the mountain on the far side of the valley and "maybe" saw a patch of brown...maybe.
Plus, we were hunting moose...not mountain goats!
It was out there but Eric just stayed intent in the spotting scope and then said ten minutes later as I had all but given up on the brown speck on the horizon.
"There's another cow Eyad....and a bull."
awesome so far!!!
The wind was picking up speed and you could see the willows and birch through the scope acting like a bamboo pole.
I have hunted goats before, and while I trained for this hunt, I was already surprised by the "basketball" walking tundra-now we were going to have to sprint up a mountain and hope he was still there when we arrived.
We decided to first try and get a better look by driving down the ridge and pulling out the scope again.
We began our descent after pulling camp in the Rhino, and I had just looked at the little red circle warning, with a cross through it and screaming stick people.
Well, we soon became the screaming stick people. The right wheel fell into an abnormally deep "tundra hole" and it happened that fast-we rolled.
I remember I made sure to pull my arms and legs in and before I knew it, we had stopped.
All was ok, save a few bruises, and it took EVERYTHING we had to push it back up.
We parked the rhino, pulled out the scope and unbelievably-the bull was still there in his bed near the top of the mountain.
We had decided to cross the tundra, drop down into a creek, and then walk up the 2nd of three mini-mountains.
I was soaked and had to side-hill and use trees a few times but slowly we made it up the steepest hill-one more to go and then we had to hope he was still there...and that we could find him.
From this point we are half way to where we think he is and have one flat and mountain hillside to traverse.
The wind was howling at least 40 mph and while as bowhunters it is often our enemy-in this case it may be our only chance.
Once we looked at the hiilside-we "thought" he was on the right side near three spruce trees we used as landmarks where we last saw him bedded.
After walking to nearly the top, we veered right and then began to try and find the 3 spruce trees that we had last seen him lying beside.
At this point, we were basically looking 10-15 yards in front of us as it was crazy thick and had really no clue what to expect as the last time we had seen him through the scope it was about 1 1/2 hours before.
We kept working to the right and suddenly saw our landmarks-and knew we must be close-if he was still there.
A few yards further and Eric stopped on a dime, and I could see why. Down in the tangle of willow and spruce, a large palmated beam protruded from the jungle as the wind wipped trees all around him.
We had found him......still in his bed.
I knocked an arrow and Erc stayed behind as I placed one foot before the other. The wind was cover enough, but the hard rock gave me insurance in the silence department.
30 yards....25.....20 and then I knew this might happen.
If you look beyond me you can see the second to last hill before the flat to get a better feel for the terrain.
Like a sonar the big palms spun and as the giant stood I rememeber saying to my self..whoa...Whoa...WHOA.
Because of the steep incline, the willows he laid behind obstructed my shot at his vitals, and all i could see was the rack, his black coat and this Alaskan Giant looking my way.
I noticed he began to move to my left and as i came to full draw, another gust of wind came and literally blew the arrow off my self and I caught it will my release hand before it fell off the string.
This is the ONLY time in my life it has happened, and while Id heard of the full containment arguments, in this case they would have won.
I was now a bit rattled and noticed my hand shaking as I tried to find my loop again and hold the arrow on the self.
I was sure to hear him crashing off through the bush. Then I heard Eric start to grunt and the bull, almost hypnotized, stopped yet again.
By this time, I was at full draw and this time, a sliver of vital was visible, and my arrow was on its way.
Walking down to where he had been at the shot, the arrow lay where he had stood. The blood looked good, albeit a bit dark but the thing that concerned me was the bit of stomach matter.
I knew I had hit him just back of the shoulder but I assumed now in his walk, he must have presented more towards me than I had thought.
I knew then what I had to do, but didnt want to......
So we looked left and no sign, we looked right and no sign...nothing.
We began to walk trials slowly, but I knew the arrow looked good and there was blood somewhere.
Then walking down a trail I looked down and saw this.
High on the trees, more blood.
The bull had traveled maybe 150 yards and likely died within seconds of the shot. He had expired running, with rigor set in and legs in a running posture. The arrow had taken the entry side lung and clipped the stomach.
To say I was excited, exhausted, worn out and everything in between would be an understatement.
He was everything I had ever dreamed of in a bull, the hunt, the waiting, the shot and the area all made it something I doubt I could surpass.
I wanted to feel every blister (which I had), pulled hammy, sore back and everything in between. I knew there would never be another “first" moose, and wanted to remember this moment.
I was covered in moose blood and am not going to lie, was a bit nervous as the sun set and I had failed to take any spray or firearm on my last packs.
It really was everything I had hoped for in a moose hunt, and while I know how lucky and fortunate I was to have things go my way, I’ll take it.
I took one more look around before leaving that last day on the Alaska range with the rack on my back, not knowing when or if I’d make it back.
I hope to return one day myself, but if I don’t, I’ll have enough memories to keep me happy for a lifetime.
Thanks for reading :)
...and fantastic pic's as well. Thanks for sharing that. AK moose is absolutely at the top of my list.
Great bull, great story.
Can I ask the spread of your bull, I am guessing 55", I can only take a 50" or bigger so the info will help me.
Also, thanks to all the guys who helped me over the past three years, answered questions and calls. Thanks.
I used KUIU gear and it worked great as a wind barrier. Tremendous actually in the Chugatch gear. I ripped the legs but 100% my fault and will be fixing soon. It really only rained on day 1 but it was a great piece of equipment.
Also, Grey Wolf Woolens out of Wisconsin was incredible gear in wolfskin-beads water, quiet and TOUGH!
Merino wool is all I used as bases and was incredible also. Got soaked, switched shirts and dried fast.
Dont wear insulated or too thick of boots. I took 1000 gram danners and my uninsulated and all I really wore was the UI.
Don-he was 52" and scored 'rough' and conservative 175 1/8, and I am not sure what P&Y is (think 170?) although I will look. I really just wanted a great hunt and mature bull with character.
There was one bull that we thought was close to 50" but didnt pursue as wanted to be sure, and Eric was great about helping judge.
But, Im telling you, 52" looks huge at 20 yards, not sure what 60" would look like :0
Of interest, he did discuss how many bulls with wide spreads score poor etc. We thought he was 55ish" when went after and werent sure on brows 100% but when on him close Eric thought and was correct that he was a shooter and over 50".
But his tines were so long up front and had such charcter, it all was the perfect package, for me anyway.
One thing Eric said was many guys come up and say, " I want a 70".." and that just isn't realistic #1 and it is hard to be 100% sure (maybe 65" etc).
He said if you have to guess, dont shoot and you'll be ok. Shoot the bull that you know is going to be over 550" (if thats what you want) and embrace the eexperience. If you want bigger, nothing wrong with waiting at all :)
Hope that helps :)
Congtatulations on another bowhunting treasure.
Having been to your house, my next question is..... where is blazes are you going to PUT it?
Thank you, Jeff
Just the fuel I needed. Leaving for Bethel tomorrow. There is no size restriction in our unit and so the first bull I see will have an arrow coming his way.
Nail vs KUIU....nail won :(
I was walking out of my wall tent the second day and a small nail was sticking out of the door. Two days later after the KUIU killing, it attacked my hunting pants.
I walked into the main camp and picked up a hammer and calmly walked back to my tent. Ever seen Offic Space?
Eric told me later he was a little concerned when I walked in, grabbed a hammer, and walked out without saying a word.
In summary-your chances of shooting an 80" bull are much higher than finding that nail again.
KUIU is a great product in the rain gear at least-no experience otherwise. Not nearly as tough as Helly Hansen, but light, a GREAT wind shield, and keeps you dry.
Stay away from nails though :)
I had to read this one more time. I will try and find time to call before, if not after I get back. I just need 20 minutes without the kids:) You will find out soon enough.
What a dandy bull for you.
Good luck, Robb
AWESOME trip and narrative! Thanks for sharing.
I gotta ask... How long was your trip total? How'd your wife handle the little one solo while you were gone? That's always the biggest challenge for me. I'm good for 7 or 8 days without too much fuss usually, but I did a 11 day and a 16 day hunt last year and it did not go over too well at home!
Nate-you talk about an interesting topic and I am right there with you. I left on the 30th, and back home one week later. I stayed two days after filling my tag, but honestly missed my boy so much I took an early flight home.
My wife is an angel, but has her limits :)
So, I had her mother come stay with her for a week to help and made sure EVERYTHING was covered in case she was ill, something happened etc.
I think I was more nervous about them at home than the hunt as my boy turned one yesterday. But, more than a week would be hard, but I she knows I come home with a "fed" soul and how much good that does me.
But, my future hunts all revolve around them, so it is my priority, and not easy, so I know where your coming from.
I promise though, if I left AGAIN for another hunt so soon, I should be sure to return with a bullet proof vest ;)
I had applied for a tag in 2011 BEFORE I knew we were expecting. When I called it was too late to withdraw, but I was unsuccessful so no harm no foul.
Then I tried again this year as I pushed my hunt back to 2012, and no luck again :(
There is no point system and a 10% NR success rate I believe in the unit I hunted. I would love to hunt them in that terrain though, and I know this sounds weird, but being around them all week and glassing the big bulls, I kind of feel like I did.
So in some ways I feel like I filled that void of wanting to hunt BG Bou, at least for now, and I didnt need to kill one to do it.
Thanks for brining this back Rick!
Good luck, robb
How incredibly cool is that???!!!