Ever since I was a young boy, I have always dreamed of killing a big moose. My Dad took us hunting a lot, but I think the burning passion that I have for hunting was ignited by the stories that I had read in the magazines like Sports Afield, Outdoor Life, Field & Stream & others in the late 60s & into the 70s. Growing up, my favorite author was Russell Annabel & some of my favorite stories were about moose hunting.
Like most midwest kids that showed an interest in hunting & trapping, I started out on small game & eventually graduated to turkeys & deer. As I got older & took up bowhunting exclusively, elk, antelope & mule deer were added to the list. Eventually, as my financial situation improved, I was finally able to pursue my lifelong goal of moose hunting, & since I have bow hunted exclusively (except varmints) since 1984, it had to be with a bow.
My first foray into moose hunting was done in Ontario.... I didn't SEE a moose! The second trip was to Quebec & I was actually able to call in a decent bull to within 40 yards, however, all that I could see was his head & the top of his back, but I was hooked! It was incredible to listen to that bull crashing through the brush, grunting with each step as he came to the call!
N.W. BC was my next destination to try & check off the top animal on my bucket list. I have read on here & other places about guys bringing along a rifle on their bow hunts "just in case".
About halfway into my BC hunt I had the opportunity to take a HUGE bull legally with the guide's rifle, but could not bring myself to do it. That bull was easily 65''+ & he was at 122 yards (ranged). My guide told me that bull was the biggest bull that he had ever seen in his area & he had been guiding there for over 15 years. Another somewhat well known bowhunter actually killed a bull in this same concession that tied the existing world record. (Canada subspecies). I still have no regrets about not using the rifle on that bull, but I do have nightmares about it occasionally!
I ended up killing a small bull on that trip, calling him in. That trip was a horseback trip & it was an amazing experience, but my bucket list goal still had not been achieved. Here's a pic of that bull. Sorry about the poor pic.
200 lbs. of "Twisted steel & sex appeal!" His words, not mine!
Here's a few pics of camp.
The front entrance & foyer.
As we neared camp in the evening, we spotted this cow that seemed to be doing preflight inspections on Bruce's plane. The first day ended pretty uneventfully, with no responses to our calling & no sightings, save for the cow.
I immediately stopped shooting my bow & contemplated as to what to do. Being limited on the amount of weight that I could bring in, I had not brought a backup bow plus being left handed reduced my options as well. I decided that the best thing that I could do would be to tape the limb up with electrical tape to keep the sliver from catching on any brush & hope & pray for the best. The bow seemed to be shooting fine other than grouping to the right a few inches at 40yds. I would just not shoot it until I needed to, & hold a little to the left.
The rest of Day 3 & Day 4 were much the same with no sightings or responses. The full moon & warm temps were not helping things.
The bull grunted back & began thrashing the brush. As Bruce continued raking, the bull began heading our way, raking trees & grunting as he came. He got to within 25yds before I could see any part of him. Even then, it was only flashes of movement through the brush.
As the bull was about to clear the final willow, I drew my bow, & to my relief, it held together with no problems! The bull stopped 2 steps short of clearing the willows. After what seemed like an eternity, he turned to my left and began circling around the other way. As he was about to break into the clearing, I thought to myself "This is finally going to happen!"
The small bull stepped into the clearing & stood there, looking at me. As I let my bow back down, he lingered a few seconds longer & slowly walked back into the brush. We continued calling but got no other responses. At least we had a little action!
Floating down the river at first light on Day 8, we stopped to call at an old burn that had begun to grow back. Sneaking into the burn about 200yds, we stood quietly & listened for a few minutes like we had done at every other stand.
"Unkwa" (not sure if that is the proper spelling) A bull was farther back in the burn grunting repeatedly! As we stood there, we heard a cow bawl a couple of times as well as the bull's repeated grunts.
We made our way closer to their location as quietly as we could, found a decent spot to set up & began calling, with Bruce about 50yds behind me. The bull responded quickly to our calls & I could tell that he was coming as Bruce moved even farther behind me.
Dozing headlong through the willows, the bull pushed his way into a partial clearing followed by the cow. It was then that I got my first look at him & he was definitely a shooter, maybe 60''. Thrashing the willows, he pushed his way out farther into the burn until he has about 50-60yds away, however, there was always too much brush in the way for a shot. The bull then circled to my right, with the cow in tow,raking the brush as he went. He was putting on quite a show! Finally, he just stopped & stood there looking in Bruce's direction. Bruce tried to piss the bull off as much as he could, but the bull was not buying any of it. He stood there for another 5 minutes or so, and simply turned & walked away.
What an incredible encounter that had been! Although disappointed in not getting a shot, I finally had a front row seat to to view something that I had only dreamed about or watched on videos!
As we walked back to the boat, Bruce asked me what I was grinning about. I looked back at him & quoted one of his signature lines that he used often during the trip....."I'm just livin the dream baby!"
We floated downriver part of the day with nothing to show for it, so we decided to motor upstream past camp a couple of miles to hit some of the better looking spots for the evening hunt.
Late in the day, we got a bull to respond but he would not come in. We floated down to the the next spot known as "The Mudhole".
There were several stands that had nicknames that we hunted during the week's hunt.
Doesn't this place just scream 'moose"?
This spot used to be called "#17" but I changed it to the Choir Pit because when you walk into the clearing, you expect to hear angels singing!
Bruce started his routine & a few minutes into it, a bull responded & it sounded like he was coming! He thrashed the trees & grunted, getting closer & closer. Then, for some reason, the bull just quit. Nothing Bruce tried would get a response. Bruce thought that it sounded like the bull was across the river from us when he stopped grunting. We snuck through the willows to the edge of the river & there he stood, on the sandbar across the river from us, looking in our direction.
He was a nice bull, probably 53'' with 4 points on his left brow, & I would have been very happy to take him, but he would have none of it. He finally turned & trotted across the river upstream from us & ran into the trees. It is amazing how much noise they make going through the trees. We were not sure why he wouldn't come any farther, but perhaps it was the boat in the water.
We headed back to camp in the fading light, knowing we didn't have much more time to make it happen.
We first floated down to the "Burn" where we had the great encounter with the bull on Day 8. Slipping quietly into the burn, we heard a bull grunting from the same place as before! We moved quickly to set up on the bull & got a few grunts back but that was it. Being the last day, we decided to try & get very aggressive with him by going directly towards him after he quit responding, but he had slipped out the back of the burn without us ever getting a glimpse of him.
This is a view of the river as we floated towards "The Burn"
"The Mudhole" was the next stand & as we silently slipped our way through the willows, I reluctantly resolved myself to the fact that it probably wasn't going to happen this year. We took our positions & Bruce began with some raking. He paused a few moments & began raking again.
Bruce looked at me with a little bit of a puzzled look. It almost sounded like a rifle shot. A few seconds later, we both heard it.
The calls came from downriver, but on the same side as where we were located. Bruce responded with more raking & threw in a couple of grunts. The bull began working over some trees as well as grunting occasionally. I slipped over to the edge of the oxbow where I had a totally unobstructed view should the bull come our way.
And here he came! At first, I could not see him, but I was having no problems keeping track of his progress. He would grunt every other step & continued his assault on the trees.
I Finally got my first look at him as he was coming through the Pines. What a sight! Taking slow, methodical steps, he finally made his way to the edge of the oxbow & stopped about 60yds away, surveying the situation.
He stopped in between the 2 biggest pines in the middle of the pic.
This is the oxbow that he walked across. You can barely see his tracks in the mud.
I snuck over to Bruce's position & I could see the bull standing in the tall grass, quartering away, most of his body obscured by the grass. We watched him for a moment, waiting for him to go down. After about a minute, I decided that since he was still standing & I already had 1 arrow in him, I would shoot again. After ranging him at 70yds, I put the corresponding pin where I thought it needed to be & released. The arrow hit a little high but hit him in the near lung.
The bull took off again, running another 150 yds or so before stopping again in the tall grass tussocks. We watched as he stood for a few moments more before bedding down. His antler tops were barely visible above the grass, & we could see his rack turning occasionally. After a few more moments, with the bull still alive, we decided to sneak along the backside of the rise we were on & see if I could slip in & finish him off.
After running along the backside of the berm, I got to where I thought the bull was, slipped up onto the rise & worked my way to the edge of the old oxbow. Some willow bushes were blocking the view into the grass, so I had to slip down into it to try & get a visual on him. I must have made a little bit of noise going through the grass because the bull stood up only 15yds from me. It was then that I could hear his labored breathing. The grass was too high for a shot, so I backed up a couple of steps to gain a little elevation. It helped, however, the bull was facing me & I still could not see his shoulder. Finally, he turned broadside so I picked a spot & released... I hit him squarely in the shoulder! He kicked his hind leg but did not bolt. I knocked another arrow, held a little farther back, shot again & hit both lungs.
The bull took off back up onto the rise, almost running Bruce over again! Seeing Bruce, the bull veered to the left & ran by me at 15yds. I had knocked yet another arrow, So I shot again, hitting him through both lungs, again.
There could not have been two more opposite looks on each of our faces; mine of exhilaration & Bruce's of horror!
I looked at Bruce & asked him if he was still "Livin the dream"? He said "yeah, but today it's going to be a nightmare''!
We notched my tag, took a bunch of pics, then tried to figure out how we were going to get this beast out of the water. We finally just dragged him up as high as we could get him & removed the hind quarter, shoulder, loin, neck meat & as much other meat as we could get off of his left side. We then gutted him, got the tenderloin, & cut the hide covering the ribs & hind qtr. off to lighten him up as much as possible.
Here are a few pics
Shouldering our packs & struggling to our feet,we headed towards the river. Fortunately, the 500yd pack back to the boat was relatively clear of any obstacles except for the final 100yds where we had to deal with the tall grass tussock humps & some willows near the river. Compared to some of the stuff that we were in during the hunt, it could have been much worse!
Here's where we finally got him up on dry ground.
Headed for camp.
I'm done for the night but i'm going to try & finish tomorrow.
It gets even better!
Like the infomercial says "but wait, there's more"!
nothing better than last minute success.
no surprises, though, that it happened with stan's outfit. he is best in class.
Congratulations man, that is one heck of a bull! Awesome story as well, look forward to reading the end of your hunt. Thanks for sharing.
No doubt it was gratifying to have milked every last day out of this hunt, and then ultimately score on a true whopper right at the wire.
I also give you props for stubbornly sticking to your archery goals in this and your previous attempts. You set a goal, wouldn't compromise, and your payoff finally came. Hard-earned and well-deserved.
Congrats again Troy! It's almost as fun reading the story as it was listening to it!
nockup: Here you go:
Mathews Switchback XT set at 70lbs.
Carbon Express Maxima Red 350s
Wasp Boss 3blade 100grain b-head
My total arrow weight was right at 400grains.
After taking a few final pics & getting everything loaded, we pointed the heavily laden boat towards camp in the twilight. I couldn't help but crack a huge grin as I reflected on what had transpired over the last 12hrs or so.
As we pulled into camp, I turned to Bruce & quipped "I'm still livin the dream baby"!
We had to wait for the morning's fog to burn off & Bruce & his client had long since left on their hunt by the time Stan & I finally got airborne for my flight back to Fairbanks, then home. Before taking off, I called my wife on the Sat. phone & told her that I would contact her as soon as I got into town in about 3hrs.
Stan had a couple of drop camp hunters camped about 25 miles downriver from us & although they had a Sat. phone, Stan had not heard from them in a few days. He decided that we would fly over their camp to check on them from the air. We dropped down low over the camp & after seeing no meat hanging or anything else out of the ordinary, Stan commented that he would stop in & check on them tomorrow.
As we began to gain altitude, Stan asked me if my headset sounded odd. "It all sounded fine to me" I said as we continued to climb, "but I do smell a little smoke or exhaust". We continued on for another minute or so as Stan checked his instruments. Everything was reading normal, but the fumes were beginning to get stronger. Banking hard to the left, Stan muttered something about "better safe than sorry" & headed back towards the drop camp hunter's camp. He put the plane down on the river smoothly, taxied to the bank in front of their camp & secured the plane to shore. When we pulled the cowling off, this is what we found!
I had an absolute BLAST with him. He is avid bowhunter & trapper as well. His top 2 passions are sheep hunting & lynx trapping. We talked shop all week about trapping & there just might be a lynx trapping adventure in the near future for me!
He made the trip even more enjoyable, always brimming with optimism along with just a hint of snarkyness to spice things up a little.
Not sure about those stretchy pants, though!
Here's a pic of the drop hunters.
Stan quickly ran back to his plane & got on the radio to contact the pilot. Fortunately, they heard him & banked our way. Stan had them try to contact a good friend of his in Fairbanks & relay what he was going to need to repair the plane. About 10 minutes later, they came back on the radio & informed Stan that they had gotten ahold of Joe & that he would get what we needed & head our way ASAP. As Stan thanked them for all of their help, they decided to give us one parting shot and gave us a flyover about treetop high!
I wish that I could figure out how to attach the video. It was awesome!
As we neared Fairbanks, it was well past sunset & Joe said that it might be a little tricky landing on the float pond where they dock their planes because there are no landing lights! I thought "the way this trip had gone, that's just par for the course"! We could see the lights from Fairbanks on the water a little bit & Joe made a smooth landing without a hitch. Stan came in about 20 minutes later & landed ok as well. We tied the planes down, loaded my gear, grabbed a quick bite at Wendy's & headed to the motel.
Hog River Gary lives off the grid & we would see him early every morning motoring downriver & then again late in the afternoon headed back upriver. We heard him shoot quite a few times during the trip, possibly hunting ducks & grouse. We determine that he was also beaver trapping as we witnessed several snares & a few Conibears set at the river's edge. There were a ton of beaver on the river.
I'm already in for 2016, this time for a drop camp hunt with my best friend. Who knows, we may even come up with story to top this one!
From what I heard, only one other bull was taken. Couple hit but not recovered and one miss.
Moose just would not play by the rules for Anna. Like you, her last day was the best. The guide got two bulls into about 150 yards, before a cow lured them both away.
Again, great story and congratulations!!
I'm gradually getting more and more the desire to moose hunt someday
mnbowhunter, They make me stutter too!!! ;>)
I'll be headed up to the Twin Cities on Thurs. morning to pick up meat, cape & rack from Charlie with Alaska Meat Express. I called Charlie on Sept. 16th (the day I shot my bull) from camp on the Sat. phone, told him I had a moose & to save me a spot. I'm glad that I did.
I contacted him again on the 18th, right before I flew out of Fairbanks & he said " Ive got some good news, some bad news, & some good news"!
I thought "Oh no, what now"!
He told me "the good news is that I have a full trailer, the bad news is I have had to turn a bunch of guys away & the other good news is that you are not one of them"!
Charlie said that he felt really bad about turning those guys away but he says he has to take them first-come-first-served. He is talking about doing 2 trailers in the future.
Sorry I missed you!
Thanx and grats!
He had to turn away a bunch of guys cause he was full. He's looking at going with 2 trucks next year.
I had no problems with Charlie. He was very good at returning my calls.
His website is alaskameatexpress.com
I don't know for sure how long the limb was like that, but I don't think it was messed up till I got to Alaska. Sure glad it held together!
These bumps in the road definitely make it all the more memorable. Congrats on a great last minute bull.
This hunt truly had a little bit of everything and is as real as it gets.
Congrats on a fine trophy.
A year or two from now (assuming that you have your bull mounted with a shoulder mount), you are going to lose track of the number of times that you stare at it, and reminsce about this adventure....and archiving on Bowsite is a great idea as well!!
What is the next bucket list animal you plan on hunting?
He's at the taxidermist already. Hopefully will be done by Christmas! Hope my neck doesn't get too sore from looking up at it!!
Hopefully a bull for my best friend in 2016 on our drop camp hunt. 2 bulls would be even better!
Probably muskox for me in 2017 maybe.