I consulted with BB regarding a new camera purchase before the trip and purchased a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28. Thank you for the advice, Bill! Besides having an 18x optical zoom and 10 mp, the camera is very user friendly, easy on battery life and takes great photos!
All trips like this start out with a flight in a bush plane of some sort. Our plane was a Beaver. After a 2 hour flight and a 5 mile portage downriver in a jet boat, myself and 2 other hunters were at Dickson's base camp in west central Yukon.
Base camp was very comfortable and well appointed, especially considering the remote location. The hunters cabin had steel frame beds with REAL mattresses and an airtight woodstove!
Spike camp was a recently built 12 x 14 cabin, 10 or so miles up a side drainage to the big river we landed on. A clear, fast flowing creek adjacent to the cabin provided drinking water for us and the horses and ample grass in the valley bottom provided plenty of grazing opportunity for the ponies.
By the time camp was readied, horses were cared for and our gear was organized, there was little daylight remaining. To say I was eager to get hunting would be an understatement.....
This pic and the one above pretty well tell the story of how we spent the better part of the 1st day.
My guide was Rod Collins. He's worked for the Dicksons 8 or 9 years and has been guiding all his adult life. He's guided some interesting characters, including Chuck Adams to his Alberta bighorn years ago. He was a great pleasure to share a camp with.
Kevin "Dillbilly" Dill
We spent a good amount of time on several occasions discussing your stalking skills. We stood at the spot where Rod watched you stalk that black bear for hours and shoot him with your stick at FIVE YARDS! I listened to the play by play as if it was happening right now. Quite a story...
I left my mark in the base camp bunkhouse to the right.....and slightly below....yours.
The other 3 trips were not without opportunity. Not killing a moose was mostly a matter of me being stubbornly selective and, on my last Yukon hunt, having a guide that had never bowhunted moose not being comfortable having a 60" bull at 15 yards, facing us, with no outward signs of concern that we were not a natural part of the landscape. He was also facing us, grunting, slobbering and appearing rather imposing at that distance. The fact that it was obvious that there were only 2 potential outcomes (from the bulls perspective) of an encounter with what he was sure was another moose, may have been the cause for the guides concern. He thought the best option under the circumstances was to make sure that the bull KNEW we had unfriendly intentions and made an obviously unnatural noise with his mouth that may as well been a car horn blowing. The bull DID spook at that and being the last 10 minutes of a 9 day hunt, as they say, that was that.
ALL my moose hunts have been amazing, wonderful experiences even without the death of a moose being a component. I absolutely love the country they inhabit and living where they do in mid to late September. The mountain backdrops, the smells of poplars, spruce and willow, migrating sandhills and snow geese, the northern lights....I truly LOVE to hunt moose!
So, as I left NJ to start this hunt, I partly resigned myself to the fact that I may NEVER kill an A/K moose.
And I could live with that. It would mean an excuse to go again....and again.
By the time we got back to the ponies, it was near dark and we were 5 or so miles from camp. The ride back was not a fun horseback adventure. We were off trail the entire way, in bush that was so tangled and thick I was almost ripped from the saddle at least 3 times. I was sure by bow was going to need some TLC by the time we got back to camp, as I could feel it being tugged at by low hanging limbs almost constantly. I carried the bow in a Primos sling and strappped to my Badlands 2800. While not a perfect method (I don't believe one exists) to carry a bow on a horse in thick brush, I would use the exact same system again. My bow suffered no damage whatsoever, although I did lose a Hellrazor tipped ACC during the bushwhacking adventure described above.
We were riding the horses along an extended ridge when we spotted the bull about a half mile off. We dismounted, tied the horses and started calling. Almost immediately, the bull changed directions and began to move in our direction. I ran the video camera as he quickly closed the distance to 30 yards, dead broadside, as you can see in the pics. With the setting sun behind us and shining directly on the bull, the conditions were perfect for pictures. The video is rather cool, as well.
As I was taking theses pics, the bull was dead down wind, but never spooked. His focus was locked on my horse, Oscar. Oscar had all the makings of a pretty cow moose. Chocolate brown with a lighter muzzle, a long, curving neck and nice eyes. He's actually much prettier than a cow moose and apparently the bull thought so, as well!
Well, old Oscar seemed to sense the bull's intentions, but being tied to a spruce tree, his chance of escape was non existant. Completely ignoring the 2 stinky things that sounded like a moose but obviously weren't, the bull made a bee line towards Oscar, 50 yards behind us. Mind you, the bull is never more than 30 yards away from us the entire time.
At this point, Rod gets concerned for the horse, who by this point is emitting a shrilly whinny like Brad Pitt might in prison. Poor Oscar is sure that he will be violated. On the video, you can hear Rod yelling as he runs towards the horses, "get away from my horse, you son-of-a-bitch!" When Rod reaches Oscar, the moose in less than 20 yards away and STILL never spooks! We cautiously remount and slowly ride away from the bull, who watches his new love walk off with a stinky thing on her back. He truly looked sad. Maybe just like utterly confused.
Apologies for my fat fingers and lack of sufficient time to maintain story continuity!!
I'll try to wrap this up today.....
Most days of my hunt, the weather was sunny with little wind and no precipitation. The temps at night dipped into the teens and warmed up to high 30's to low 40's by early afternoon. My rain gear was a mandatory component of my daypack, but it was never removed from that pack for the entire hunt.
On this particular morning, the sky changed. Daylight was slow in coming due to thick clouds and a low ceiling. Intermittent rain and sleet driven by a slight breeze stung our faces as we rode up the valley towards the area where we had been consistently spotting moose from a distance.
As we broke out of the brushy hillside and onto the open ridges, the rain and sleet had changed to sleet & snow. The higher elevations were dusted like a good Brooklyn Zeppole. (Serb would love these, and probably has no idea what they are. They go good with cigarettes)
At almost the moment we rode above timberline, I looked ahead and spotted a bull and cow that we had apparently spooked. They trotted away from us into some spruce trees about 500 yards ahead. We continued towards the trees, cutting the distance in half and dismounted. Glassing the surrounding hillsides, we spotted what looked to be a smallish bull about a mile away, but on the same ridge as we were. We could also see several distant trails in the snow where traveling moose had knocked the snow off the brush as they passed. It was rather cool to track moose for miles without moving one step...
Listening quietly for about 10 minutes, we heard a bull grunt way down in the bottom of the big bowl below us. I would guess they were 1/2 mile or so away. A cow bawled from the same location. Rod answered with his sexy impression of a lonely cow. Immediately, the bull began to rake brush. I love that noise. It sounds like Serb driving his F650 dually diesel through the woods with 2, 4 x 8 sheets of 3/4" plywood bolted to the front of the truck. (tell me you can't visualize Serb doing that)
Rod continued cow calling as we worked our way towards the calls. Another, different bull grunt stopped us in our tracks. The next grunt sounded closer and confirmed that this bull was on the same elevation as us and closing! I immediately started moving towards this new bull. As I looked for a good set up for an ambush, I had the idea in my head that this was the same smallish bull that we had spotted earlier, as he was coming exactly from that direction. As a result of assuming that this bull was not going to be a bull I wanted to kill, I was woefully unprepared for the encounter.
Sounding like he was still a good ways out, I was taking my time, carefully and quietly working around a small willow thicket so I would have open shooting lanes should the bull come in. I was still moving when I glanced up and saw a set of moose antlers above the spruce trees 100 yards away, stone still and facing right at me! I was sure I had been busted...I froze in place, waiting for the inevitable spooking, running and crashing thing. The timing of Rod's cow call could not have been better...the bull now broke into a trot, heading straight for me!! I put the glasses on him and saw big, palmated brows with lots of points.....
I quickly went from indifferent about what I was sure was a small bull coming in, to total panic button, kill mode, my bow sling is still attached,this bull is going to run me over, I need to nock an arrow, NOWWW! In what seemed like seconds, the bull was standing 12 FEET from me, head on, looking, sniffing. I had no shot, and felt as if I tried to move to draw, he would bolt.
Again, Rod's timing was PERFECT! The bulls attention was now torn between the unseen moose girl 100 yards behind me and the "thing" standing on the trail he wanted to take on his way to meet her. Meeting the girl won out, but he was still concerned enough about what I was that he bolted to my right, but still heading towards Rod. As soon as he moved, I hauled the bow to full draw and let out a cow bawl of my own. He pulled to a stop at 15 yards, perfectly broadside. My arrow disappeared behind his shoulder with a liquid whoosh, centering both lungs and breaking a rib on the way out. I never found that arrow. He trotted out to about 45 yards and stopped again. A blood spot the size of a basketball was already visible. My second arrow was on the string by the time he stopped. Now quartering away, this one struck about 10 inches behind the shoulder, just below midline and exited in front of the opposite shoulder. As he turned to go, I could see the entire arrow protruding from the exit side. He moved 10 yards and stopped again and as he did, I saw 3 or 4 great torrents of blood gush with force from the 2nd exit wound. His back legs then went weak and as he tried to catch himself, he cartwheeled completely over, rolled once and was still. He was on his feet for 20 seconds or less after the 1st arrow.
I'm not sure what I was muttering as I ran with my feet in the air towards Rod who kept yelling, "YOU GOT IM!, YOU GOT IM!" Now, Rod is an old school cowboy that has lived in the woods most of his life and man hugging is something that he likely has limited experience with. Until that moment. I don't believe I ever actually kissed him, but at least 2 passionate bear hugs he DID get! The emotions of the moment are difficult to describe, but I'm certain many of you can relate, so I won't try. I kept shaking my head in disbelief that I had finally done it.
This is where he fell....
Congrats on great bull.
I hope you have many a more great bowhunts. BB
For a guy planning his DIY moose hunt and needing to learn legal moose, I am guessing the spread is 63"? Please let me know.
Also the horse lovin moose, he looked legal to at just over 50"? I am worried about spread only in case I need to judge a moose without 4 brow tines.
So happy you finally got it done there buddy. Way to go.
Here's a photo showing Steve's tender side.
Congratualtions on an awesome hunt! Great story and great photo's - the quality of your write up far exceeds much of what we read in the various outdoor magazines.
I did not expect that kind of response! I appreciate all the kind words!
I remember that pig, but I don't remember what the heck I was doing to him when that photo was snapped.....
Much about that beyond fun trip was a little foggy......
It would be remiss of me not to wrap up the moose hunt.
The outfitter, Dave Dickson and his wife Teena, ran what I think is the best run outfit I've ever had the pleasure of hunting with. I really believe the efficiency is born out of habit from doing something all your life. Dave is a 3rd generation operator. He's been doing this since he was a little kid. As you watch him and his staff work, you can see that there are no wasted moves. No room for inefficiency or places to forget important things. Every detail translates into great experiences for their hunters. Dave himself guides every hunt. He guided my friend Adam Flod to a bull on the 4th day of his hunt. The other hunter in camp got to hunt for all of 20 minutes and killed a slob of a bull with his cannon. He was guided by Dave's nephew, Matt. Dave is in the bush from July until the last moose hunter finishes in mid October. After the rivers and lakes freeze up hard enough to cross on snow machines, he runs sled loads of equipment, horse feed and supplies into the spike camps so everything is in place for the following season. He also traps all winter in the same areas he hunts, which means he is intimately familiar with his territory. The dozens of wolves he traps likely does wonders for the moose population, as well.
Teena runs (rules) things out of Whitehorse. Phone calls, emails, picking up and delivering all the hunters back to the airport, shuttling meat, coordinating bush flights, ensuring paperwork and tags are with the right hunter and legal. The woman is a powerhouse of efficiency. I also would not want to fight her. We were unloading a truckload of moose meat and gear. I was in the back of the truck pulling stuff out and Teena and 2 other hunters were grabbing the bags off the tailgate. I pulled out a bag of meat that I recognized as mine and knew it to weigh 96 pounds. I said to Teena, "this ones heavy". It was late, we were all tired and working hard all day and Teena had driven that truck about 10 hours total by that time. She said "give it here, let's get this done". She bear hugged the 96 lb. bag and walked off into the garage like she was carrying a little baby...
Oh yeah, she also takes care of their 2 children in the midst of all this. She's also VP of the Yukon Outfitters association and has a career of her own besides running Dickson Outfitting. I loved this woman!
All the meat generated by the 3 moose killed while I was there went to good use. Meat not consumed in camp was donated to needy families, used to feed hunters and consumed by the Dickson's and their guides. It is obvious that they don't take the meat from their animals for granted. Very cool to see that.
Rod and I used the gutless method and had my bull quartered, boned and hung in about 3 hours. ALL meat was removed from the carcass, from neck to hock. Adding up the weight of the packboxes showed we pulled 560 lbs. of boneless meat off that bull.
I had a Grizz tag, but we never saw one in 4 days of checking the kill site from a distance. I was surprised that not even a black bear discovered the carcass, as the berry crop was way down this season due to early frost.
I've got to pick up my boy Jacob from school. I'll post a few additional pics later.
Thanks for listening....
That guy is a monster!! Congratulations!!!
I recognize Oscar! 2 years ago he had a pretty serious stab wound on his side, behind the front leg. We didn't ride him at all, and only had him carrying light loads. He was kind of an ornery snot...I think he got spoiled.
Makes me want to go back. Nawww.....
Thanks again for following along...
Were you the hunter that was in camp when the horses took off for base camp and Rod was gone all night into the next AM looking for them??
I'm happy they now set up those portable electric fences....
How are you carrying your rangefinder above your binos like that? Is it in a case or just hangin?
Yeah, Rabbit and Suzy were in camp that year. Rod's horse was Ranger and we both rode him at times. Rod got thrown by Suzy one evening on the way back to camp. We were on the hill above/behind camp. She went berserk and pitched him down brutally hard. I was shared scitless for a few seconds.
One evening Rod went to check on the horses and never came back. I was alone. It turned out the nags got homesick and made a play for going back to base camp. Rod chased them all the way back...then tied them together and brought 'em all back to the Brian Creek camp about 2:30 am. I could scarcely believe it but it happened: we found all kinds of small stuff he dropped along the trail making his way back in the dark.
He was the best guide I've ever had in front or behind me. That guy is the best.
OBTW when I grow up I want to be you.
I LMAO at this, "the horse, who by this point is emitting a shrilly whinny like Brad Pitt might in prison"
You can download your pics onto these sites and create a real book... a small paperback for like $10... a larger, hard cover with 30 pages for like $29... what a way to preserve these memories. I'm gonna do it with a couple of my hunts this year. Ernie
One of my favorite bowsite hunt reports ever.
I brought back just under 100 lbs. of meat from that bull. I regret that I did not bring home more. The logistics of getting any more than 2 cooler fulls back to NJ intact had me a bit spooked, but the process was much simpler than I imagined. The key is to get the meat frozen before it is packed in the coolers, which I did.
I want to cry when I think about no more moose meat in my freezer......I need to remedy that.
I appreciate the repeat kudos from the legendary Canmore Sheep slayer.....