Day 1. September 4th. Drove from Anchorage to camp. Got last minute food and fueled up for the drive. Driving my 2001 dodge ram 1500 pickup which would be my home for the next 14 days.
Left Anchorage to drive north with temps in the low 50's and light rain falling. Saw zero animals on the 3.5 hours of driving from Anchorage to Cantwell, where the Denali highway begins. The Denali highway is 135 miles of unpaved road. The first 20 or so miles of the road from Cantwell is private land and posted. Owned by the Ahtna native corporation. The hunting in this area is mostly done with 4 wheelers and is hunted heavily, so the moose often are spooky. Where we hunt takes us only about 3 Miles out on the south side of the highway, and there is a walk in only area on the north side. we only go the 3 miles or so in on the 4 wheelers due to a river crossing that is too risky for us. In past years we have seen plenty of legal moose and caribou.
I had a tier 1 permit which allowed me to take a caribou and also had moose, black bear and brown/grizzly bear tags. My tier 1 permit allowed me to take either a cow or bull caribou. A legal moose in this area is complicated. Legal is a bull moose with either a spike or fork on one side, 50 inches or bigger in width or has 4 brow tines on one side. This complicated set of regs for moose would dmake life difficult on many occasions for me!
Once I turned on to the Denali Highway the worries of the world started to melt away. This would be somewhat short lived.
After driving past the private/posted land I slowed down to watch closer for caribou or moose. The highway is not maintained very well so speed of 30 mph is average.
I saw no animals for the first 20 miles or so. Then, spotted something on the south side of the road, about 250 yards out. I Grabbed the spotting scope and took a peek. Turned out to be a cow moose. I glassed for a while but no bull was with her, so I headed on towards camp.
About another 5 miles towards camp I spotted something on the south side of the road again. This time about 150- 200 yards out. Pulled out the spitting scope and it was another cow. Watched and glassed for a while but again there was not a bull with her. So again I moved on towards camp.
After about another hour of driving I had not seen any caribou and no more moose. Was happy to see my friend and his wife. Got my truck settled, had lunch, and prepared to hunt south of the road for the evening.
I got to the trail to the hut, parked the 4 wheeler, and proceeded to walk in to the hut. In past years we saw bulls and cows from this overlook every day, so hopes were high.
I arrived at the hut....did not get in since there was a break in the rain, stepped over into the trees, knelt down and started to get my spotting scope out when something caught my eye. About 125 yards out to my left is a cow moose. I watch through the scope and about 10 minutes later see a second cow behind her.
With 2 cows in the area I am hopeful to see a bull. I watch these 2 cows for about 1 hour, all the while glassing the surrounding area. At one point the come in to only 30 yards away. From this lookout I can see about 6-700 yards straight ahead, about 200 yards left and about 500 yards to the right.
After the hour or so watching the 2 cows, I spot something to the right about 250 yards away. It's another cow. I keep looking and find she is also followed by 4th cow. 4 cows, wow, there has to be a bull around and I keep constantly glassing. These 2 cows slowly work towards the first two and get in to about 75 yards from me and about 50 yards from the first 2 cows. At this point the first cows decide it is time to head back where they came from. I watch the 2nd 2 cows and keep glassing. After about another 45 minutes of glassing I spot something about 350 yards out and slightly to the left.
In this lookout the willows are 6-8 feet high so seeing a moose can be tough. I get the scope up and.....nuts, it is a 5th cow. I keep close watch for a bull, and since it is an hour befor sunset, decide to give a couple of cow calls in case there is a bull in the area.
I lose sight of the cow and watch and listen but sunset comes without anything else. I ride back to camp to find out what my bbuddy and his wife saw. They saw 3 different cows, and 1 bull moose. He almost shot the bull, which was a perfect fork on both sides, but something didn't seem right. He got out his spotting scope and found small brow points/tines on each side. These brow tines were only 2-3 inches long, but made the bull not legal to shoot.
After a great dinner and a beer, I climbed into the back of my truck for sleep. About 10 minutes later there is a knock. The rain has stopped and the northern lights were out. I watched the northern lights for about 20 minutes and then the clouds and rain returned.
We get to a knoll we call blueberry hill about a mile in off the road, and as usual it is loaded with blueberries. I am with my buddy Greg and his wife Theresa. We stop and get up on blueberry hill to glass, and of course gorge on blueberries! After about 20 minutes of glassing we haven't seen anything, no moose or caribou. From blueberry hill we can glass about 1-1.5 square miles.
With nothing in sight, we decide to hike farther in up to what we call the "high lake." The high lake is another 2-2.5 miles in and about 700 to 1000feet in elevation higher than blueberry hill up the mountainside.
It is a very foggy morning with light drizzle, but luckilythere is only a touch of a breeze. About 1/4 of the way from blueberry hill to the high lake we get into a large series of draws that are grassy and follow the draws and caribou trails to the high lake.
It is a gentle climb and we notice how dry the land is. It has been a very dry summer and many of the smaller kettle lakes have NO water. We have never seen it so dry. Despite the dryness we are seeing a OT of caribou tracks and a few moose tracks. This has us feeling good.
We finally get to the high lake and are amazed. The water line is 15-30 feet lower than normal. At the lake I decide to glass to the north, east and southeast. Theresa and Greg decide to glass more north, west (up the mountainsides, and southeast. They move to knolls off the west side of the lake and I go to the east side.
The light rain and drizzle is letting up more and I am able to take my raingear off.
I pull out my spotting scope from my pack and set up to cover as much area as I can. From the high lake we can glass about 5 square miles. Here there are more blueberries, but there have been a couple nights of frost and the blueberries but are a bit mushy but I am able to fill up quite nicely! Gotta love fresh fruit!
With the fog it was touh glassing for me. My friend and his wife were glassing up the mountainside. After about 1/2 hour of glassing leaves and fog, I worked around the lake and up to my friends. They were frustrated.......um......he was frustrated with his wife.
Apparently as I was glassing a big and legal....55 or so inch bull moose had come within shooting range of my friend's wife. Instead of shooting she tried to use hand signals to tell him there was a legal bull. Problem here was that she spread her hands and arms wide and it looked like she was telling him there was a caribou around. He glassed and glassed and the only caribou he saw were 3/4 mile up the mountainside. Ugh!
They ended up telling me where the moose and his cow went. I decided to try and get close. I dropped down the knoll and through a dry kettle lake bed, and through some more willow and another dry kettle lake bed. I got to the ridge, about 300 yards from my friends where they said they last saw the bull, and got the binoculars up. After about 10 minutes of searching I found the bull and his cow....about 400 yards away and moving away some more. I start cow calling and the bull stops 4 or 5 times to try and figureit out, staringdirectly at the willows I am hidden in. This goes on for another 15 minutes or so but he won't leave the cow. They are still moving and away and I know I can't catch up with them and start glassing some more, still keeping an eye on the 2 moose.
After about 20 minutes I spot another cow......and she has a bull with her. She is a good 1000 yards off, but grazing in my direction. I pull out the spitting scope and this bull looks legal. He only has 3 brow tines on both sides, but his main beams are thick and have a good droop to them. I am guessing him at 55-60 inches.
They work towards me and are starting up the beginning of the ridge I am on. Now they are only 600 yards and closing. Then......
The original bull spots the 2 coming my way. The bigger bull comes closer, waving his rack in the air to show the 1st one who is boss, rakes some willow, then turns around and trots off away from me taking his cow with him, and disappearing into some thicker brush near a creek, never to be seen again. After another 10 minutes the original cow and bull disappear and I head back to my friend's.
I get back to my friend's only to find out that while I was on the 2 sets of cows and bulls, they had another bull, a lone bull come by about 350 yards off. They thought he was legal, but never got a look at both sides of his rack to determine if he was legal before he diasappeared in the thick willows.
He tells me that he has spotted 2 bull caribou down by and behind the lake where we took a nice bull caribou 2 years ago. I take a peek in his spotting scope and say to him, "that's no problem, they are big enough, let's go after them!"
There actually WAS a problem though. The bulls were bedded by the edges of a small lake about 1-1/2 miles away. Despite that distance, and the 6-8 foot high willows between us, we knew from previous years that a stalk was fairly easily possible. We had successfully done the same stalk 2 years ago! It was an all downhill stalk from the high lake to within 200 yards of the 2 bedded caribou bulls. And....Despite the willows, we were able to follow caribou trails that were clear and grassy all the way down the mountainside. We got to within 200 yards of the bedded caribou in just over 15 minutes. We had a small hill to climb about 50 yards high to get to the bulls and we dropped our packs. My buddy told me I could have the first crack at the bulls. I got an arrow out of the quiver and carried it in my right hand and my bow in my left. We quietly snuck up the hill and got to the last willows and found the bulls still bedded. It was looking good. We were about 150 yards from the bulls, and they both were facing away. We did not have much cover between us and the bulls, but along the left side of the lake they were bedded behind there was good cover.
At this point my head was racing with too much adrenaline. We got to 100 yards, and I think I had been moving a little too fast. The bigger, closer bull spotted me. I slowly nocked my arrow getting ready to try and move closer.
I was partly exposed at this point with just a tiny 18-20 inch high willow between me and the bull. And with the wind and angle to the bull, it was clear and open.
My buddy whispered to me that he thought the jig was up, and if I wanted I could use his rifle to try and take the bull. After what seemed like2-3 minutes I decided my friend was right and I took his rifle and prepared for the shot.
Now, I know many of you are purists and are questioning me switching to the rifle on only the first morning, but I hadn't had any game meat in my freezer for the last 4 years....except that which I was given......and I am a meat Hunter, plain and simple, so I thought I would take the easy way to fill the freezer.
That said, I grabbed the rifle and the shooting sticks and prepared. I was having trouble getting steady with the shooting sticks due to uneven wet ground, but got ssettled on the bull right behind the shoulder. But....I did not take the shot as he was still bedded. I had always been taught to never take a bedded animal because of all the extra bone in the way. So I waited.
Suddenly the bull stood, broadside, with his head facing right, but looking in our direction. I tried to get on him but he suddenly bolted into the willows before I could get a clean shot. He was out of sight for about 10 seconds, and reappeared on top of a knoll about 200 yards away. He stopped broadside and I went to get on him. Found the crease right behind the shoulder and BOOOM, squeezed the shot off. To my consternation, he showed no sign of being hit and before I could get another shot off he took off directly away from us.
My buddy had been watching in his binoculars and told me I had missed. No way I thought. I have NEVER in 40 years of hunting had a clean miss. I have made 300 plus yard shots offhand on smaller game than a caribou. I couldn't believe it. We climbed the knoll and looked and found no hair, no blood.....nothing. I followed the tracks for another 300 yards and no blood, nothing. Yes...I just had my first clean miss. So still don't know why because I have shot my buddy's rifle many times. But it was true. I had missed.
We walked back to our packs, started hiking back towards the road, and got just at the far end of the lake where my buddy shot his bull caribou 2 years ago. Suddenly For some reason I looked back and saw caribou.....about 20-30.of them. I stopped my buddy and he took off. He got to the last knoll, laid down, put the rifle on top of the pack and got ready. I was kneeling right behind him. We were only 40 yards away and I had an arrow nocked. The boy started coming up from the lake and would be only 30 yards away. We were ready.
We let the first cows go by. All 8 cows had calves with them so they got a pass. Suddenly something spooked the boy and the herd split, 1/2 turning back and 1/2 running right. It was all cows and calves that had turned back. I spotted the bulls and somehow they had gotten out past 50 yards which is beyond my effective range with my bow. I whispered quickly to my friend that the bulls were up and to the right but by the time he Gould get on the bulls they were over the hill and gone for good.
Whew.....too much excitement for one morning. We were beat. We had about 2-1/2 miles to hike back to the road to get picked up. Before heading out we sat down, pulled out some food and drinks and refueled.
I was bummed I missed, and as we started hiking back my buddy jokingly told me "don't look behind you, I don't want to chase anything back there!" .
Of course I looked over my shoulder the whole hike back and didn't see another bou or moose.
We got back to camp just in time to make dinner and get ready for the evening hunt. We had hiked over 8 miles and were beat so we opted to ride the 4 wheelers down towards "the hut" for the evening.
I got settled in anticipating seeing some bull moose and cows. Again, in this spot over the years we have not had a night we did not see a bull moose. it seems to be a migration route for the moose.
After about 45 minutes of seeing and hearing nothing Itake a short walk east. About 20 minutes later something catches my eye. I get out the spitting scope. Turns out to be a lone cow moose. I watch closer for a bull, but 1/2 hour later the cow disappears back intothe big yellow( our name for a big parcel of of willows up to 10 feet tall that is east of the hut.)
I wander back to the hut and After about 30 minutes spot another cow moose. Rain is falling intermittently again. The cow keeps looking in back of her, so I keep watching close for a bull following her. No luck seeing one, but then I hear something. I can't make out what it is so I pick up my moose calling cone and put it to my ear.
The cone amplifies the sound, and I faintly hear what I think is a bull grunt to the west. I listen more and hear a grunt again. But.....I also hear something else, but can't make it out.
After another 10 - 15 minutes of listening and watching the cow and the cow suddenly bolts east. I watch and listen and then I hear it......human voices from the west. They are adult voices and the people a are talking like they are in a crowd. After about another hour I see and hear no moose or caribou. I am getting frustrated because the voices are getting louder. And, amid the adult voices I hear little kids yelling and screaming. WTF?
I decide to go check it out. I walk/bike the 1/2 mile towards the noise, and still hear the adults and kids, and there is someone still doing a bull moose grunt/call. And.....right as I get to the idiots someone fires up a chainsaw. I get to where all the noise is and my jaw drops. 6 four wheelers, 4 tents, 7 adults, 2 kids aged 6 & 7 and their dog. Jesus....the adults are all drinking beer. I say hi and they aren't too friendly. I try and chat a little with them to find out how long they might be in the area and all I get is "a while".
I wander off disgusted and head back to the hut. I watch/listen for another hour, but nothing is around. I hear the noise from the camp now loud and clear without the moose cone. I head out about 45 minutes early, drive by the idiots and take a different way back to our camp.
I am bummed beyond belief. This is an area that historically has produced multiple legal moose and caribou every year. I get my gear put away and grab a beer and wait for my friends to return.
My friends get back about an hour later. My buddy's wife had seen 3 cows, one with a calf. My buddy saw a cow with a calf and 2 bulls. He almost shot one but passed. Here's why!
The regulations for a legal bull moose are complicated for this area. To be legal a bull must have either a spike or a fork on one side, be 50 inches wide or more, or have 4 or more brow tines/points on one side.
Well, the two bulls my buddy saw both looked like legal fork horns on both sides. My buddy saw the forks, almost pulled the trigger, but decided to pull out the spotting scope just to be certain they were fork horns. He saw perfect forks on both sides of each bull, but upon closer looks they both had tiny, 2-3 inch single brow points/tines on each side making them not legal to shoot. So he passed on both. These 2 bulls with the mini brow tines on their racks were the first moose in about 10 years of hunting this area that we had ever seen with this antler configuration.
Another friend had gotten to camp during the afternoon, and from the overlook he went to be saw only 2 cows.
I relayed the story of what I had heard and seen regarding the idiots with the kids and dog, and we all agreed it would be better not to go back to that area till the Yahoo's had left. It was a good choice since theydid not end up leaving until late Tuesday afternoon. The morons ruined the spot for most of the remainder of our hunt, which for me was another 12 days!!
I ride about 4 miles and find a lookout spot that I have been to before but never tried to hunt. It is about 1-1/2 to 2 miles west of the hut and the Yahoo's. . Get off the 4 wheeler, pull my rain hood up and walk about 1/4 to 1/3 mile to the best lookout point away from the wheeler. I set up and watch and listen. I can see about 3/4 of a complete circle from this lookout. After 3 hours of seeing and hearing nothing I decide to give a series of cow calls. Nothing answers and finally about 12:30 I head back to camp for lunch.
It cleared enough for us to go back out in the evening about 4:30-8:30. I saw and heard nothing. My friends saw one cow between the 3 of them. A couple beers and another downpour of rain, and it was off to bed.
I got back to camp about 1PM to find my friend's wife had seen one cow moose, and the 2 guys had seen nothing.
Nap and a hugedinner and it was time for the evening hunt.
It was raining lightly and I decided I wanted to see some a different area, so I went.with my buddy to an overlook of a creek drainage about 1/2 mile east of the hut. In 4 hours me and my friend saw and heard nothing. Our other friend saw 1 cow moose about 3/4 mile east of us and my friend's wife saw 2 cows.
A snack and a beer and it was time for bed.
To the west was a small lake. I was at least 1-1/2 miles farther in than the first morning. My guesstimate was 5 miles total. I was Just about 15 feet below the top of the ridge, not silhouetted, and I kneeled down to start getting a snack when something across the lake caught my eye. I grabbed my binoculars and saw it was a cow moose. I grabbed the rangefinder and she was 350 yards away. I got out the spotting scope and find her. She keeps eating but occasionally looking over her right shoulder. After about 20 minutes I spotted something with her.....it's a bull moose. I increase the magnification and see he is fairly big. I can see he clearly has two brow tines on each side. But he looks possibly legal. I grab my backpack and bow and take off to get around the lake. I get to about 100 yards, put the spotting scope on the bull and study him for about 15 minutes. I think he is over 50 inches but still need to get closer to be sure.
As mentioned before to be legal a bull must have 4 brow tines on one side or be bigger than 50 inches. This bull clearly didn't have 4 brow tines, he had 2 big, thick and long ones one each side. I get to 50 yards and have to make a judgement call. IS he 50 inches or bigger or not????
Most legal bulls we have seen taken over the last 6 years in this area have had only 1,2 or 3 brow tines and were between 51 and 58 inches so they were legal. So I was torn on what to do??
I get to 35 yards it is decision time. I screwed up once in life and shot a sub legal bull and did not want to make that mistake again. I put the spotting scope on him again, get a great head on look, and there is NO droop to the main beams. He has long, thick, brow tines and some good palm tines, but something in my head keeps telling me it is only about 48 inches, the same size as a bull my buddy shot years ago that had 4 brow tines but only measured 48 inches.
I think some more. Meanwhile the bull has moved to only 25 yards. But..... my brain says no, don't do it. I am 5 miles from the road and I just don't want to have to carry a sub legal bull out on my back that distance.
Reluctantly, I put my arrow back in the quiver, hiked back around the lake to the ridge and sat down and finally had my snack and lemonade. I am lucky it is not raining and I grab some blueberries, eat some beef jerky, trail mix and a brownie. I feel better but am bummed about having to make such a tough decision to not shoot. I put up the scope for one last look at the bull and cow, scan the surrounding hillsides and find no caribou and decide to head back. 2 hours later I get back to the road And my truck. It was an exciting morning but I am toast. I get back to camp, have lunch, let my friends know about my morning, then crawl in the back of my truck for a nap. Dinner is at 4 and I am starving.
4:30 rolls around and it is time to head back out for the evening. light rain has started and I decide to head out with my buddy in his side by side to see another different spot he knows and I have never been to. We drive about 5 miles, get to a great lookout and sit and watch.
About 30 minutes later I spot a cow and calf about 1/2 mile off. I keep looking and find a second cow. All 3 of them move in to about 400 yards. We keep looking but the cows is all we can find for the evening.
We head back to camp in the rain and have a beer and I crash early to the sound of more rain.
Keep it coming. You did the right thing BTW for not shooting.
When I first started hunting this area as well as another further south, to be legal, a bull only had to have 2 brow tines or be 36 inches. Then in the area I hunted this year, there was a winter with about 75% of the moose killed by 12-16 feet of snow on the ground. Fish and game closed the area for years and when it was re-opened to be legal a bull had to have 3 brow tines on one side or be 50 inches or bigger. It stayed that way for years, and.then about 6 years ago, the size and brow time restrictions got tougher and to be legal a bull had to have FOUR brow tines or be 50 inches or bigger. This despite the population rebounding and being bigger than it had been since the 50's and 60's. You can also take a bull with a spike or fork on one side. That said, in this area, the hunting pressure is far greater than aany time in the past, so I believe fish and game is just trying to limit the number of bulls taken. But, the moose population is at an near all time high in this area so there is no need to have the restrictions so high.
One other problem in this area where we hunted this year is lack of access. there are very few Trails, roads or 4 wheeler trails. So, it congregates the pressure in a small area. There is so much pressure in the area that over the last weekend I as there, every single turnout had a camp or 4 on it. At the major 4 wheeler trailheads, it looked like a parking lot at a mall with with 50-75 rigs with trailers. It actually is starting to get difficult to get away from people if you don't have a boat or airplane like me!!
Same thing happened in our area we hunted to the south. When I first started hunting down in this southern area, to be legal a bull only needed 2 brow tines or to be 36 inches to be legal. Again, a bad winter dropped the population, and fish and game raised the restrictions to 3 brow tines or 50 inches or bigger. The population.of moose rose but the regs never changed back. Over the next 10-15 year period, the population of moose plummeted due to habitat problems. The habitat aged, moose food availability plummeted, and every single forest fire was put out, so the habitat and food never had a chance to Re generate. In this area we went from seeing up to 12 different bulls in a weekend to see in ZERO moose in a 4 week season. Fish and game is screwing the pooch in this area.
This morning I went to a new area by 4 wheeler. Problem was there were already people at every overlook spot. I motored back a couple miles and just watched and listened from a single vantage along the trail. Did not see or hear a thing. Went back to camp early.....about 11 AM. My friends stayed out till 12:30. They saw nothing too.
Lunch, a nap and another early dinner.
Not sure why, but I decided to go check out the hut for the evening. I wasn't expecting much, but went anyways, now that the noisy Yahoos had been gone for 24 hours. I am a creature of habit, and when an area has been productive over the years, I stick to it.
Like I said I wasn't expecting much because of the previous 5 days of partying in the area. I parked the 4 wheeler, hiked to the hut and decided it was time to put some scent out and do some calling. Mainly because it finally had stopped raining for a few hours. I dropped over the edge of the hill from the hut. The hill is about 50 feet high, and put out 3 scent wicks with moose cow in heat scent/pee.
I climbed back up, got settled, and did a series of cow calls over the next 45 minutes. I waited about 10-15 minutes in between each set of calls. And....nothing.
I waited another hour and did another series of cow calls. 30 minutes later.....nothing. I decide to hike over past where the Yahoos had been. About 75 yards I notice brown bear tracks in the mud. Not a big one, but they are around. They tend to be nocturnal in this area due to the hunting pressure. And, there are so many brown bears in this area that as a resident you don't even need a tag to hunt them. That said, in the 6 years me and my friends have started hunting this area again, we have not seen a bear, only tracks.
I slowly wander the 1/2 mile to the overlook where the idiots had been and find fresh bear track. Also saw tracks from a cow and calf caribou. But no sign of moose. I hike about another 1/2 mile to a different lookout that I haven't been to this year. I spend an hour there watching and listening, but see and hear nothing. I take a slightly different way back to the hut and see as different set of caribou tracks in the mud, but no moose tracks.
I get back to the hut, decide to do one last series of cow calls and settle in for the wait. Something catches my eye about 15 minutes later but it is a cow moose with a calf. I watch them for about 15 minutes till they disappear. About 15 minutes later I spot a lone cow. I watch close but there is no bull with her.
I am surprised to see any moose at alll after the partying that went on, and am hopeful this is a good sign of things to come. I ride back to camp in the rain.
Back at camp, I find out my friends had only seen 1 cow between the 3 of them. We head to sleep with heavier rain and a bit more wind than we have had.
Decided to do another road hunt for the morning. One of my friends came along. We headed east and stopped at all the overlooks to glass. 20 miles later all we have seen is willows, leaves, other vehicles and rain. We start the climb from the MacLaren river towards MacLaren summit. We stop at the first pullout to glass below. Nothing. We stop at the 2nd pullout to glass....nothing. we stop at the 3rd pullout. The rain has let up some. I say to my friend Alan, "hey, walk out to that little knoll and take a look!" He walks out puts the binoculars up and quickly says Moose!!
I grab the spotting scope and get the moose in view. It is a cow. We watch a little more and find she has a calf with her. We start glassing a little more and Alan says "bull!" True cow and calf were about 2-1/2.miles from us. The bull he sees is more like 1-3/4 miles. But it is all downhill. There also are a number of little steps or plateaus between us and the bull. I still have not found the bull in the spotting scope. I look around just in case we get to make a stalk on him. I notice that despite the bull being close to 2 miles down the hill, from where Alan saw him I realize that it is basically a flat hike if not slightly downhill to the first pullout at the start of the climb up to summit. We also realize that at the point Alan last saw the bull it is a clear stalk to him, and being a steep downhill to him, we could cover the distance in about 20 minutes or less.
At this point we can not find the bull due to topography. Alan tells me the bull is big, but he did not get a good enough look to see if he is legal. We walk out another 200 yards or so and.search with binoculars and spotting scope but can't find the bull again. We spend another 30-45 minutes glassing and searching from different angles but can't find the.bull again.
We are starting to get soaked since the rain has picked up again. We decide to try and get higher to find the bull again. We drive to the next to last lookout and after 30 minutes of glassing can't find the bull. Same thing at the highest overlook. We have now spent close to 2 hours glassing for the bull and decide to call it and head farther down the road.
We drive on glassing for caribou. We are going through an area that 2 years ago had a large portion of the herd go through, but today all we see is rain, willows, lakes and rocks!!
About another 4 miles down the road my cell phone dings. Huh? I didn't know there was any coverage on the highway. I stop and find it is a text message from my wife. My heart sinks. Why??
2 years ago on the same trip my wife got overwhelmed while I was on the hunt. All I will say is it was not good and pretty much made it hard to concentrate on my hunt. So, seeing a text from her, as well as a voicemail, I prepared for the worst.
I read her text, and it was her pleading for me to come home. I started to get frustrated, then upset. Also I got worried due to the voicemail. But I couldn't get good enough coverage to even listen to the voicemail, so I decided to drive on till I could get coverage. My buddy was doing his best to keep my spirits up.
Another 20 miles of driving and we finally got voice coverage. We were almost all the way to Paxson. I listen to the voicemail and let out a nervous laugh. It was just our accountant asking if at all possible could we please have our tax papers to her by the 20th. I let out a breath. Next I called my wife. Turns out she sent the text the previous day. She WAS having some difficulty, had had a terrible day at work, and then while our 8 year old son was at play practice and.my wife was out walking our dog, my wife got a call saying our son had fallen and hurt himself fairly badly. Our son is a major drama queen when it comes to falling or owies.
My wife rushed off to the rehearsal and.......our son had indeed fallen, and she found him crying and screaming bloody murder. She got him calmed down enough to find out he had fallen from the edge of a table and nailed his nuts on the bench next to it. All I could do was laugh!! We talked more and she said stay and hunt.
The drive back to camp we saw just a cow and a calf moose. My mood was better but there was still a bit of unhappiness and guilt.
We are all getting tired of the rain and.everything being damp. 7 days of rain for me and 11 for my friends. And......there is no sign of let up in the rainy weather pattern.
With the colder weather we are hopeful that the snow and cold will push more caribou out of the high country.
We all split up but results are the same....a couple cow moose and no caribou seen this morning. It clears slightly in the afternoon and we are hopeful. We head out after dinner, about 4 PM, and I head back to the hut. Yesterday evening I had gone to the hut and put out new scent and did a bunch of cow calling. I passed on going to the hut, and this came back to bite us. I get down by the hut and find a gut pile about 200 yards out.
Crap. We did it again. Scent and call in the evening and not go back in the morning. And......someone else shot a bull moose where we called and scented. Apparently they got a bull and got it out of there in only about 4 hours.
We are upset, more at ourselves but something is odd. There are a lot of 4 wheelers going by this area and normally word spreads fast as to how big a moose was killed, or whether it's a bull caribou or a cow. This time no one was talking about how big a moose it was. All evening I see nothing. And I start wondering why is no one talking about how big a moose it was. Hmmm. Strange!
I slowly head west, I am searching the mountainsides and lowlands. I drive, stop, glass. Repeat. Repeat, Repeat. Nothing. After 35 miles of nothing I decide to head back. In those 35 miles I again notice how few moose and caribou are in camps on meat poles or headed out in trailers or other vehicles. I am starting to feel like we might go home empty handed. At this point I decide I am going to take any legal caribou, bull or cow if one happens to present itself.
I start back towards camp and have gone about 5 miles when coming around a bend something catches my eye. I stop my truck and see caribou. Not just one, but about 20 I can see. I grab my bow, and try to sneak in. They are on the far side of a dry lake bed. I get in to about 100 yards and they start to move off. I try to move again but the head to the thick stuff and I lose them. What to do?? Follow them or give up? I decide to give up on them and head back to my truck. I get back to my truck, bummed I didn't get a shot. I sit there and think and realize I might still have a chance. The disappeared into the thick stuff but were headed parallel to the road. So, I decide to move down the road.
3/4 of a mile further down the road a caribou catches my eye. I ease the truck to a stop and the bou are about 200 yards off the road across a small creek and feeding slowly. The herd has grown. There are now about 30 animals. With so many eyes I think it will be next to impossible to get into bow range, and, I just want meat now, so.....I grab my rifle. I know....I am wussing out not taking my bow!
The herd is still only about 200 yards off. I sneak quickly in and get to about. 125 yards. I watch, study and find a middle sized bull broadside to me, feeding and broadside to me. I set up my shooting sticks, get settled and as I am lowering the crosshairs, the bull moves and a couple cows get between me and the bull. Ugh. I wait, look, find another bull broadside and feeding with no cows within 10 yards and none behind him. I settle in, concentrate, see the crosshairs where I want and BOOM! I Shoot and watch. No reaction. I see no blood. The bull seems fine. Crap! Don't tell me I missed again. I chamber another round. The herd settles and the bull is still feeding. I settle on him again and.....BOOM! I watch him and he lowers his head and starts jerking his head low and to the right, kind of going in a half circle. The herd decides it is time to leave and head up the hill. They are not moving fast, just with purpose.
At this point based on the bull's reaction I think I got him. But......much to my surprise the bull starts to follow. Head high, no limp, no sign of blood. What?? Don't tell me I missed again??!!! Not possible to have missed abother shot!
The last of the herd disappears over the top of the hill and I follow quickly. I get to where the bul was standing and find no hair, no blood. I can't believe it. I search some more and nothing. Yes, I missed again.
At this point I decide to head up the hill after the herd. I hurry up the hill to find them grazing and feeding quietly. I move in to about 100 yards and a couple cows see me. I don't have much cover, but the cows don't seem too worried. I look and find the bull I shot at....he is fine, no blood, no limp. He is just feeding. I get my shooting sticks set and start bringing the crosshairs down on him and Crap!!!! 2 cows walk in front of him and stop. I have no shot.
I regroup look around and see 2 BIG bulls. Bigger than any I have seen in the last 2 trips up here. I start to settle the crosshairs on one and......notice 3 cows right behind him. No shot. At this point the herd starts to move away and I have to move but I have no cover. What to do??
I have an idea. Give myself antlers. I put my rifle on top of my head and take a few steps forward. And a few more steps. I think this is going to work. I watch, move, watch move, and hey, there's the other big bull, only 75 yards away. I get the rifle off my head, setlle on the shooting sticks, bring the crosshairs on him and .......Crap!! Cows step in front of the bull no shot. Ugh. I wait and the cows and bulls don't move. The rest of the herd does move and disappears into the thick spruce. I follow. I know where they are headed. They are headed back to the dry lake where I first saw the herd.
I get moving. I just get to the open by the dry lake and.....BOOM!! A shot rings out from across the lake. The herd disappears up the hill into the thick spruce and continues up the mountainside.
What just happened? Just to add insult to injury of my missed shots, I now had driven the herd to other hunters. I am not sure if they got one. I think they did. I notice someone moving quickly towards the road. I yell, whistle and wave just to let them know I was there. I move quickly back to the road and then walk the 3/4 mile back to my truck.
I get back to my truck, soaked by the rain and dejected. Just to be certain I drive back to the dry lake and see indeed the other hunters got a caribou. it was only a cow, but this makes me even madder and more frustrated.
I turn the truck around and start slowly driving away. At this point I really can't believe I am going to have to tell my friends I blew not just one, but TWO shots and pushed the her to others who got one. Ugh! I pull the truck over on the side of the road again at the spot where I got out and missed the shots, mind wandering and just trying to make another caribou appear from over the hill.
I start driving again, muttering and cussing myself. I go about 1/2 mile and .....spot more caribou. 5 of them about 150 yards off the road. I ease to a stop, grab the rifle and move off the road. I get about 75 yards from this group before I can see them clearly. But, they are all butt end to me and disappear in the spruce up the mountainside.
I get back in my truck, drive another 1/2 mile or so and what.....have to slam on my brakes. 8 caribou cross the road right in front of me. I pull over, grab my rifle and give chase. I get to about 50 yards from one, a bull, but he is butt end to me and I will not take the shot. The bull disappears, I start to move, but it becomes painfully obvious i can't keep up and they disappear into the distance. Damn.
I wander back to the truck and slowly drive on. About 1-1/2 miles on I spot another group of caribou only 125 yards off the road on top of a hill. I ease to a stop around the corner and.....Crap....someone is already there and just starting up the hill to the bou. So I drive on. I Drive another mile and see 5 bou about 1/2 mile out, but I can't get to them. They are on the far side of a piece of private property.
At this point I get to a major trailhead for 4 wheelers and decide to turn around. There are at least 75 vehicles parked in this trailhead. It amazes me that that many people drive their 4 wheelers out the smae trail.
I head onward and get back to the dry lake where I first tr found caribou and I pushed the herd to another Hunter. I turn around again and about a mile on, find another herd of 20 caribou. Again, I can't get to them before they disappear up the mountain.
Ugh! How much more bad luck can I have. I drive on and see 5 more bou, but can't even get the truck stopped before they run off at top speed.
I continue driving, get to that parking lot of a trailhead and this time keep going. I have decided to head back to camp, despite having seen at least 100 caribou in the last hour.
I decide to go for it. I grab my bow.....not confident in my rifle scope now because of the 3issed shots. I drop off the road, and am hidden from view of the caribou for the first 400 yards. I cover that quickly. I am in a wide shallow draw with a couple scattered spruce. I stay low and get to the 1 st spruce. I drop my pack and move slow and low and get to within 200 yards. I wait and look. There are mix of cows calves and bulls. At this point well over half of the herd is bedded. I move again, and a couple cows see me, but I get to about 175 yards. At this point I am second guessing my decision to bring my bow. I just sit on a tussock and watch. I see some good bulls. I calm myself, watch, breathe And.......suddenly I see something at too of the hill. It is another 25 caribou coming to join this herd. At this point, with all those eyes I am REALLY wishing I had my rifle. I let the herds join and settle. Most feed and more bed down. I decide to move again. I get to the bigger spruce stand with more cover. I am still ok. They are still feeding and now I am only 75 yards from the closest animals. I am working hard to keep my nerves calmed. My breathing is good. This just might work!!
Now it is decision time. I can only see 4 caribou at this point. I decide to make another move and manage to get to 50 yards and I now can see almost the whole herd.
I sit down, I breathe and Nock an arrow. About 10.caribou are up and feeding. 5 are staring my way. The bulls are out of my shooting range. I notice the caribou that are up and feeding are slowly coming.my way. I decide I am going to take any animal, bull or cow that comes into range. I just want meat. And with all those eyes, I would be stupid to try and get to the bulls.
I wait and watch and a group of cows is getting closer. 40 yards....ok they are in my shooting range, but I am in a sitting position and am not comfortable shooting that far sitting. I want to move to kneeling, but think twice. The lead caribou is a big cow and I decide I will take her if she gets any closer. I stay seated. She is feeding broadside, head down but still moving.
I am about to explode with excitement. because of the way she is feeding I am slowly twisting to my left. She gets to what I think is 30 yards. I can shoot this distance sitting. She finally stops....About 27-28 yards I think.
I settle my 30 yard pin on her a tad low. Her head is down. I draw, breathe, exhale, breathe in again, exhale, and without knowing the arrow is on it's way.
For some reason I didn't see the impact of the arrow. I heard it hit, but didn't know where. Anticipation hits, I watch her reaction. She jerks her head up, wheels around and........I see blood. Yes!! It is a tad back, but she only takes 3 steps and goes down. She is done in less than 15 seconds.
I just sit there and start shaking. I set my bow down and stand up. I am shaking so bad I almost fall over while trying to stand. I look around and the herd is just staring my way. I move to wipe sweat and rain off my forehead and that is all the herd can take. They take off the other direction and up the hill out of sight.
I collect myself, breathe and head back to my pack. I grab it and move towards my caribou. As I get to her I just stop, look, and then say a word of thanks to God for letting me take this great animal.
After the word of thanks I kneel down, grab a bottle of water, take off the top, I grab a handful of lichen and give her one last drink and feed as her spirit heads to the afterlife.
Now time for the work. I pull out my knives, sharpen them up and get to opening her up. I knew I hit her a little back and I was unlucky. As soon as I get her open I realize I nicked the stomach. I also had hit the back of both lobes of lung and shredded the liver.
I worked as quick as I could and finally got the insides out. I moved her about 75 yards from the guts and decided to go back to my truck for more water and my frame pack. I get to my truck, grab 4 bottles of water a tarp and my frame pack and cords. As I am about to leave the truck 2 vehicles slow. I approach and ask if they are headed out past where our camp is....22 miles east. They are not, but the 2nd car says yes. They take a message to my friends to bring packs and a sled.
I head back to my bou, smile on my face ready to finish gutting and cleaning the stomach matter from the cow.
I get back to the cow look back to the road and have to smile more. There is a Princess tour bus stopped and all the tourists were out watching me. I couldn't resist and gave a big two handed two armedwave!! Soon after my wave...maybe only 2-3 minutes, the bus loaded up and left. I drank some Gatorade and got back to work. I got the remaining guts out, washed out the body cavity as best I could. I was just about to start cutting the lower legs off when I looked toward the road and saw another Princess tour bus stopped and watching me. Again I couldn't resist and gave them the same big 2 handed 2 arm wave. Again, quickly after that the bus loaded up and left!!
I quickly got the 4 lower legs detached , stood up and looked and still didn't see my friends coming from camp so, it was decision time. Do I quarter her up or do I try another one of my stupid human tricks and load her up on the pack frame and hike her out whole?
You may think I am crazy, but I have carried my buddy's 350 pound black bear out on my pack 3/4 of a mile with full hide on and only the guts removed and the hind quarters off. So I thought I could handle the cow caribou. So, I wrapped her up in a tarp, moved her onto my pack frame and began to lash her down. I was almost done when I looked at the road and across the river and saw y friend's wife's truck headed my way. My back was safe!
I walked out to the road, grabbed the sled, and headed back to my bou. We loaded her whole and strapped her down on the sled. Bou in a bag!! We had fashioned a good set of shoulder straps out of a 2-1/2 inch wide tow strap, hooked up to the sled, and I put on the shoulder straps and started dragging her to the road. 1/2 mile and only 10-15 minutes later we were done. The sled went over the set tundra fairly easily.
Wet, but happy I drove back to camp and hung the cow up on the meat pole. We celebrated with grilled steaks and a couple beers!
Needless to say I slept well that night!
Did you check the zero of your rifle when you returned to camp?
Keep it coming.
As the sun is rising.....sort of.....It is hidden by clouds.
I started glassing and spot the gut pile from the bull moose that was killed there. Something just doesn't seem right. Never ever have we not heard how big a moose was that was killed down here. Just too much 4 wheeler traffic passing by. But this time no one has saidor heard a word. Something just doesn't seem right.
Then it hits me. It must have been one of the fork horns with tiny brow points that were not legal. It makes sense. No talk of how big it was. Just a quick race back to the trucks and trailers and suddenly the people are gone. We had the chance to take license plate numbers and call in our suspicions, but didn't. It is the only explanation.
I sit and watch all morning, but see and hear nothing. I am still grumbling about the possible illegal kill. I notice the rain has let up, and decide to take a walk. Still 3-4 hours to go before I head back to camp.
I start walking down the trail towards where I park the 4 wheeler and notice fresh brown bear tracks in the mud. I walk a little further and see one of my boot prints on top of the bear's track. Good, he was here at night, not now. The track isn't that big, from probably a 4 year old, but that would be big enough to kick my butt if I surprised it, so I am happy it was a night time visit and he is likely sleeping out in the thick brush.
I hike on past my 4 wheeler down to the overlook where the Yahoo's had been partying and I am disgusted. Toilet paper, and trash all around. Grrrrrrr.
I decide to hike another 1/2 - 3/4 mile on to another lookout I haven't been to. All the while I am walking I have been doing a series of roaming cow calls. This roaming cow call has been very effective in there past, brining bulls in on a run. I keep calling and eventually get to the spot I was headed. No responses. I settle under a large spruce tree and pull out a snack.
After my snack I give another series of cow calls and wait. I listen for about 1.5 hours and.....nothing. I decide to head back to the hut, take a slight detour, find one lone set of caribou tracks. I make it back to the hut and give one last set of cow calls. I wait an hour and nothing.
It is now 12:30 and I head back to camp. My friends saw 2 cows and one sub legal bull. We have lunch and I decide I need a shower, so I drive to a lodge about 8 miles away.
The shower and shave feel good. I park myself by a wood stove to get warm for the first time since I left home 11 days ago, and I hook my phone up to their wi-fi. To send an e-mail to my wife letting her know I got a caribou and that all are safe. Big mistake......
I get a reply begging me to come home now that I have gotten my caribou. I start to feel guilty despite the fact that she agreed I could go for 17 days. She makes it sound like the world is coming to an end. I am really sad now because I am NOT supposed to feel guilty for doing something that has been a part of me for close to 40 years. After a few e-mails back and forth she tells me to just stay. I know she doesn't mean it.
I decide I am going to stay and head back to camp. I get back and grab my first mid afternoon beer of the trip, sit down and watch the rain again. I am fuming and have a second beer. I take a nap and we have dinner.
It is still raining after dinner and we decide to do a road hunt back towards where I shot my caribou. We have gone about 5-1/2 miles and I see somesomething on the hill above the road. We stop, glass and it is a herd of caribou. There is some discussion back and forth and during this discussion I spot more caribou on the hillside.
One of the guys, Alan, decides he can't pass this up. The other 2 guys want to keep going further. So we dleave Alan, and head west. We head all the way to where I shot my caribou and see nothing. But we see a guy with a car on the side of the road. He is soaked but smiling. He had just gotten a caribou but it was about 400 yards closer to the road than mine!!
We start back towards camp and have seen nothing. We get to where we dropped Alan off and call on the radio. He says bring the sled, he got a cow. So, I hop out, grab the sled and hike the 1/4 mile up to him. He is not visible from the road. I get 50 yards from him, and see he is sipping a beer. We give high fives. He has the cow gutted and the lower legs removed. We load the cow on the sled and head down the hill.
It is a steep hill and rather than me having to drag the sled, we are working to keep the sled from running away from us. My buddy Greg falls and twists his knee. we wait and he is ok. We have the caribou loaded in the truck less than 5 minutes later and head back to camp.
We hang Alan's bou and have a beer and a snack. It is getting late so we hang his bou and he finishes skinning it.
We all head off to bed satisfied with the results, but I can't sleep. My mind is on my wife and her begging me too come home, and I tossed and turn all night.
It all sounds good and I am excited to get down to the hut. I see one set of fresh caribou tracks in the snow on the drive down. I get set up at the hut, stay out of it because the rain has let up and prepare for the bull to come. But, after 4-1/2 hours I have seen and heard nothing. I call more, but nothing. I lose my excitement because I start thinking about my wife and her begging me to come home. At 12:30 I head back to camp. No moose and no caribou sighted.
My friends come back and they have seen 1 sub legal bull. Where are all the bulls? Usually we are seeing multiple bulls a day in this area? We can't figure it out.
After dinner we head out at 3:30. I ride behind Greg and his wife to a different spot. We have not been there before. Only about 1/2 mile from camp while riding I see something. I stop, get my binoculars up and find a moose about 1/3 mile back towards the road. I look closer and it is a cow moose. I scan and find no bull.
I ride on and another 1/2 mile And something else catches my eye. I stop, glass and spot another cow, this time with a calf. Again I search but can find no bull with her. So, I motor on.
I catch up to my friend's and we motor on. We stop at 2 good overlooks but see nothing. We motor on to the new spot. We get to a fork in the trail and I head left to investigate. I go about 100 yards and come to another fork. I stop and suddenly notice a cow moose only 50 yards away. Again I find no bull. I motor on and come within 25 yards of the cow and she still stays feeding. I move on, come to the end of the trail and can still see the cow. I turn off the 4 wheeler and get ready to start glassing, and it starts hailing and raining. I set up my tree umbrella and stay dry and warm.
The cow is still grazing only 50 yards behind me, and after about 20 minutes the rain and hail stop. I decide to start calling and move about 100 yards away from the 4 wheeler. I give a series of wandering cow calls and head back towards the 4 wheeler. Something catches my eye and I stop and glass. It is another lone cow moose. I search and search but she has no bull with her. I now have 2 cows within 100 yards so I start my wandering cow call again. Another 15 minutes and I spot something. I look close and again it is a lone cow.
Where are bulls? I walk past the 4 wheeler and go down the fork of the trail I haven't been on. I am still doing the wandering cow call. I go about 1/3 of a mile and see my friends on their trail about 75 yards away. I decide to keep going, go another 1/3 ainto the swamp we are near and still no bulls. Ugh. I wander back to my friend's. They have seen nothing. But Theresa has heard a bull whack it's antlers on a tree. I wander back to the 4 wheeler and I find another cow. Where are the bulls? Night falls and we head back to camp.
Thanks for sharing
Good luck, Robb
This evening I decide, despite the 12th straight day with rain and 3rd with snow, that I will head back to the hut. My wife's messages are making me feel guilty about still being out, but, at the same time, she has to learn to deal with things better and not blow anthills up into mount Everest sized issues.
On my way to the hut I see fresh bear tracks in the mud and snow. It is the small brown bear that has been in the area the whole time. I park and walk to the hut. Once there I settle in and start glassing. Doesn't take long to spot a cow moose about 100 yards off and angling towards me from my right.
After about 20 minutes of watching her and glassing I spot more movement. It is a small bull about 15 yards behind her. I give a low cow call and the bull heads my way. I check the spotting scope and it is a fork horn on both sides, legal.....finally.
I drop off my glassing spot down into the flats. The bull comes to 50 yards and hangs up. I get the scope up on him and he moves. 45 yards and closing. I only need 5 more yards.
I check the spotting scope again and......Crap!!!! On both sides he has those blasted little 2 inch brow tines. He is not legal, ugh. So back to my overlook I go!
I am somewhat excited to get going again after finally seeing a bull again, and since I called and Re scented last night, I decide to head to the hut again.
It is now the 4th day before the close of moose season. The bulls should be in full rut now and coming through the area I have been watching so much. In past years I have seen anywhere up to 6 different bulls from the hut overlook in a single day, and have seen multiple bulls every day, but this year has been so different. Still can't figure out why.
I motor to the hut parking spot and see a fresh moose track in the snow. I am hopeful this means good things ahead. I start cow calling as I walk to the overlook. I get to the overlook and see and hear a congregation of ravens, Gray jays, bald eagles and 2 small hawks or owls. Pulling out my spotting scope, I find a bear has exposed the gut pile from the moose shot about a week ago and the birds are having a feast!
My hopes of a moose filled morning disappear with the fresh bear activity, and so I settle in with lessened expectations. My wife's messages are really starting to get to me and I start thinking about calling it quits to head home.
To keep these negative thoughts at bay I decide to take a hike. I head west and start to do some wandering cow calls. I get about a mile from the hut, find a small knoll where I can see a couple hundred yards, and cow call again. I throw in some bull grunts, break some branches, do some stomping and then rake a small antler on a tree. If any bull in rut is around, this should bring him in.
15 minutes later I do another series of cow and bull calls coupled with stomping, branch breaking and antler raking in the willows. I repeat this another 30 minutes later. Time for a snack, and I keep listening with the moose cone for an amplifier to my ear. 2 hours later I head back to the hut. I take a short detour on the way, cow calling. I get back to the hut and glass and.... Nothing. It is now almost 1 pm and I am starving so I head back to camp. Where the heck are all the moose? Not even a cow this morning. Ugh!
I am really starting to think about going home now! I get back to camp and grab lunch and a beer. I chat with my friends and they have seen 6 cows and 4 bulls, with 2 bull estimated at 60+ inches. It sounds encouraging, but these moose were across the river and in a swamp that once was a lake bed. No way to get there!!
I get to my glassing/calling spot, am getting ready to call and the skies Darlene considerably. Rain falls harder so I get out my tree umbrella. I set it up quickly and just as I get under it, the worst hail storm all week let's loose. I just hang under the umbrella hoping it will quit. 40 minutes later it does. And the rain stops for a bit too. Maybe this calm in the storm can help.
So, I move from my umbrella and start calling. I use a mix of cow and bull calls mixed with antler raking in the brush, branch breaking and stomping. I do this series about every 15-20 minutes, slowly wandering as I call. This goes on for the next 3-1/2 hours. And...... Nothing, not a cow, calf,bull, bird, or even a human.
My friends saw 3 bulls, one sub legal and 2 legal, but again, they are across the river and not accessible.
This is really discouraging and my thoughts turn to my wife and son again. I am thinking that if I don't see or hear anything tomorrow morning I will head home. With all the negative thoughts rolling through my head I have a hard time sleeping.
I have made my decision. I am done. The disappointing lack of moose and my guilt about my wife's messages to me have beaten me. I will get back to camp, pack up and head out!
I pack my truck, have a sandwich and try to get a hold of my friends on the radio without luck. So, I sit, and wait.
Finally they come back. My buddy had wandered about 2 miles west of the hut and found the reason the moose were not migrating by as usual. And, my buddy is not happy. He found 3 tents set up right in the middle of the moose's normal migration route. And, in only 4 days, this group had shot 3 bull moose over 50 inches.
That is the final nail in the coffin for me. I say farewells and thanks, hop in my truck and start to head home. It has been a good trip, I hav have a caribou, but I am bummed to be leaving. Even more bummed than usual.
All along the drive out the Denali Highway I am watching and glassing, but see nothing. I get to Cantwell, get another message from my wife, one which was actually sent the previous day. And this one really makes me feel shittier than I already do thanks to her previous messages. This is something we are going to have to have some long talks about when I get home.
I send her a message letting her know I am on my way home. I shouldn't be feeling this bad about something we agreed upon.
I head south towards anchorage, which is about 4 hours away, thinking this is the end, but.......
As I'm driving, about 1/2 hour south of Cantwell, I spot something. I stop, get the binoculars up and......it's a moose. I get the spotting scope out, and.....it turns out to be a cow and calf. So on I drive!
About another hour later, only one mile from the end of the management unit my permit is good in, I see something. I slow, stop and get the binoculars up. Moose. But again, it's a cow and a calf, but......something to the right catches my eye and it's a bull. Not just A bull, but a HUGE bull. My heart skips a beat. It has 5 brow tines on one side. I start to grab my rifle, get out of my truck and get about 15 yards off the highway.
I settle in and start to bring the crosshairs down on the bull. This bull is only 30 yards off the highway and I am only 40 yards from him. I am safe and aimed away from the road when suddenly, CRAP!!!
I remember I can't shoot him. He is in Denali State Park, and you must be at least 1/4 mile away from the highway to shoot/discharge a firearm.
I lower the rifle and at this, the bull wheels around, and runs off into the thick spruce at full speed. It's over. Insult added to injury! Needless to say, the rest of the ride home was not a happy one.
Finally I get to my friend's house, drop my caribou into their freezer and try my wife again. I finally get her and it turns out that everyone is fine, and the brakes went bad in our driveway. Whew....I can breathe now!
I get home, and since no one is home head to the neighborhood Mexican restaurant and get a much needed attitude adjustment.......aka......couple margaritas!
I head back home, unload some gear, and head to bed thinking all is over, which it is for me, but......that's not the end of the story!
The issues my wife was not dealing with well and kept sending me messages like the end of the world was near turned out to be minor. She just needs to pull up her big girl panties and deal with it. It makes me mad that I came home early. But I have to keep my emotions in check.
After another round of attitude adjustments.....a few beers, I get an e mail. I almost don't open it but do. It is from my friends still out hunting. And it is good news.
The morning after I left, the oldest friend still in camp had the moose gods smile on him and got a 62 inch bull moose. Yay! I sure wish I was there, if not to have shot the bull, at least to be able to help haul it out.
Another attitude adjustment and I am feeling happy for Carl and my grumpy thoughts melt away.
And that brings my Denali highway hunt to a close. Can't wait to do it again.
Tomorrow, Saturday is butchering day and we will be processing both my caribou and Carl's moose. And because I will help butcher the moose, some of the moose will end up in my freezer!
This trip was full of ups and downs, misses and one successful shot for me.
Got a lot of thinking to do before next year. My friends will be doing a fly in hunt somewhere else and I cannot afford to go on that trip. So, I have to decide whether to go back to the same area Again. This area was hunted by far more people this year than the last 4 years. We saw far fewer moose than in past years.
With my friends going someplace different, I will not have a 4 wheeler to use, so will have to concentrate on the walk in area if I go. And, I will have to find someone else to go with me. I don't do solo hunts well, and doubt my wife will let me go alone.
So, until then, it will be time to enjoy butchering day tomorrow, and then take the next month or so to figure it all out.
It was a fun hunt and I am hoping next year is even more fun!
My best, Paul
14 days of rain and snow would wear on anybody, thumbs up to you for persevering. Thanks for sharing your adventure. That's a great moose your buddy shot.
Gives me reason to go there again in the future! That place gives up legal moose every year. Lots of times just not when I am there!
An Alaskan moose adventure is definitely in the near future.
I have the opposite wife problem. She gets mad if I come home early. God bless her!!!