There’s some background info you can skip over if it’s not interesting to you, scroll down till you see some moose pics.
Just to get one other point out of the way, since bull moose in CO is literally once-in-a-lifetime I will be talking about and showing specific hunting areas and spots. If anyone here draws this tag I’ll gladly share more info.
Some bow-siters also volunteered some info before and during the hunt, so before I forget I’d like to thank; cmbbulldog, khunter, the longbow50 couple, otcWill, singlepin, surfbow, TEmbry. Hope I didn't forget someone. I met a lot of other nice folks I’ll mention as the story progresses.
So as the hunt got closer I actually had time to go on an OTC elk hunt in southern Colorado with my nephew. No big screw-ups on that hunt and I shot a cow on day 3. That was my first elk bow-kill in 3 years, and my confidence level recovered a bit. My nephew made his first elk bow-kill on this hunt (5X5) so it was a great time.
Just BTW, since this is a once-in-a-lifetime hunt I don’t think there is any harm in mentioning specific hunt locations, hope no one gets offended. I had a report of a good bull at/near Hunter’s lake (spot B) from singlepin, and later from TEmbry (via octWill). I had enough time on Tuesday PM to drive over there, but upon arrival it was raining, so scouting that day was basically a bust.
AM drive ATV up Rat creek (Spot A). There were several recent kills in this area on the CPW list, but I spent several hours glassing without seeing anything. I also did not see anything here during my scouting trip in August. I’ve been told that moose could be anywhere from the creek bottoms/beaver ponds up to the buckbrush way up high. I did bump into a guy (Jeremy) who was scouting for his muzzleloader elk hunt (also opened Saturday); he would later provide some intel.
Some video panning around the glassing spot in the next post.
People are very generous with information when they find out you have a moose tag.
I had heard that from a few people before the hunt, and I used it to my great benefit during the hunt.
Drove ATV up West Willow Creek north of Creede, where waitress saw bulls. I actually saw 2 small bulls here during my August scouting trip, and it was a good looking spot with numerous beaver ponds and willow patches. But I only saw a cow and calf this morning. This road (very rough) eventually climbs up and over into the Rat Creek drainage; and I got there about 9:30 AM.
Finally!! Standing in the middle of a beaver pond in the valley floor is a great bull moose, with a cow nearby. Label him Bull #1, I took a few pics and then tried to get my spotting scope set up for some close ups. Unfortunately the cow got all skittish and before I could get the scope set up she ran off into the timber on east slope, taking the bull with her.
Unfortunately I never got any great pictures of this bull, but he was definitely a shooter. Way over 40” with brow palms and brow tines. Left side had 4 brow tines, right side was a bit funky with 2 and maybe a 3rd. I would have several encounters with this bull during the hunt; the cow probably saved his life on at least two occasions.
So seeing that bull also clarified one issue I had not resolved up till then; how much a “trophy” hunter would I be during the hunt? I’m not usually much of a trophy hunter, but after seeing that bull I was thinking I would at least be pretty selective for the first week, and try to hold out for something 40” or better. Of course now I'm going to try to kill THAT BULL.
Not much happened this day. I drove ATV up Rat Creek and glassed for several hours, but never saw Bull #1. Drove up top to look down into West Willow creek for a while, also had cell service up there so called home. After lunch I shot my bow for the first time in a few days and discovered that driving those rough rocky roads on an ATV is really hard on your arms and shoulders; I was damn sore. So I decided to take the rest of the day off and relax.
While driving up to Rat Creek I crossed paths with Jeremy (muzzy elk hunter) who told me he saw a big bull moose(almost certainly #1)and a cow ¼ mile north of the beaver pond, the evening before right at dark. At this point in the hunt I didn’t feel the need to be up at the glassing spot at first light, given that I had seen the bull out in the open at ~9 AM a couple of days before. This might have been a mistake, and I ended up making it two days in a row. So I get up to one of the glassing spots up high on the east side about sunrise or just after, and meet a couple of guys with a muzzy deer tag. We ended up glassing the upper end of Rat Creek for a few hours; saw a cow moose with two calves way up high in the buckbrush to the west, but no bull. Mid-morning two bird hunters came driving down the road from up top. They stopped and told me they saw a big moose down near the creek as they drove up the road right before sunrise; this was just below where we were now parked. That was probably the same moose Jeremy told me about from the evening before, and it must have gone into the dead timber before I got there.
So while I was trying to figure out if I had another move to make the cow stepped out of the timber on the west side and he immediately walked back to her, now 200+ yards away. The two moose were mostly hanging out right on the edge of the dead spruce, so I was thinking if I could make my way around and get in the timber I might have a chance. So I worked my way back up to the hill to the ATV and drove it south about ¼ mile down the valley. Crossed the valley on foot and got in the timber, it was looking like this might work! Under the dead and open canopy the grass was 2-3 feet high, but there were some decent trails and I made up ground quickly. I could see moose parts through the dead limbs and easily got within 80 yards, the wind was mostly favorable. As I worked closer I stepped on a dead limb hidden in the grass, and the loud crack got the cows attention, CRAP! She was looking right at me through a hole in the timber, after about 10 seconds she trotted away north, but paralleling the edge of the timber. Of course the bull followed. I followed for about 50 yards and she stopped. She was still acting skittish and looking in the timber in my direction. I had a good window on her body and ranged her at 62 yards. The bull was right there besides her but I didn’t have a clear opening. And 60+ yards was a bit further than I had hoped to shoot anyway, but if I had my muzzleloader the hunt would have been over.
While trying to gain another 10 yards and get a shot window on the bull the cow spooked again, this time running and quartering up the hill to the NW. I decided to back out, afraid that I would end up pushing them way up top into the buckbrush, or perhaps out of the valley. I made my way back to the ATV and drove back up to the glassing spot. I found that the 2 moose had only gone uphill another 150 yards and stayed in the timber, I guess I should have followed them. The cow was not stupid, but she was not an elk either, which almost certainly would be long gone. It was now close to sunset so I just decided to let them be, hoping to get another chance the next day.
Well it was an exciting first day of hunting, got reasonably close to a great bull.
Got up Rat Creek before sunrise this time, but stopped short at another glassing location that let me look straight up the valley, about ½ mile from where I saw the moose the previous day. After 30-45 minutes of seeing nothing I drove up to the spot where I glassed from yesterday. There was a guy sitting there who had driven his truck up from the canyon to the east, he had a muzzleloader elk tag. Forgot his name, but he was a surveyor from Alamosa. Well apparently during the night the cow and bull had crossed from the west side of the valley over to the east side, and climbed up about a third of the way up the hill to another set of beaver ponds that I could not see from my first glassing location. The surveyor saw them go into the timber on the east side when I was driving up to where he was parked. He said the bull was really big so I was nearly certain it was #1. But it was disappointing that I missed seeing them in the early morning, again. This was just uphill from the first beaver pond I saw the bull standing in on scouting day 2 around 9AM, so I thought there might be a chance he would come out mid-morning. But I waited till 10 AM and nothing happened. So I’m looking at that patch of dead spruce and thinking it is not so big, maybe I should try still hunting through it and hope to catch them bedded down. So I looped around to the downwind (south) side and climbed up to near the top. I slowly zig-zagged down the hill through the timber but never saw them. So that didn’t work. I don’t think I spooked them out of there, but who knows.
Now it’s about 1PM and I decided to go back to camp and try out another spot that evening. So while I’m driving the ATV back to camp I look off to the left and there is a bull moose (now #3) walking up the creek, right out in the middle of the valley. He is not real big, but he’s not tiny either; and he looks like he is on some kind of mission. I remembered that the road crossed the creek about ¼ mile up the valley, so I turned the ATV around and drove back to that spot. I didn’t think I would shoot this bull, but just in case I nocked an arrow and got my camera out. He quickly came within 25 yards! I decided I would not shoot and instead took some video and pics. He saw me but didn’t seem too concerned about it, stopped several times and then slowly walked off. I never saw him again during the hunt so don’t know where he ended up.
That evening I drove over to Hunter’s Lake (spot B) and hung around the meadow where I saw Bull #2 while scouting. Unfortunately the spot was now overrun with cattle, mostly black cattle. I’ve heard that bull moose are sometimes attracted to mules and maybe horses, I guess they don’t like cattle, I did not spot the bull. That turned out to be the last time I went to Hunter’s Lake during the hunt, so never saw Bull #2 again.
I decided to try some new areas, in part because I thought I might have buggered up Bull #1 and his cow; this would give them some time off. I had also got a text from Elmer saying his daughter shot a great bull on Sunday, so there was no issue of “competition” from them on the west side of the unit. He later sent pics and it was a monster bull moose, so congrats to his daughter. So I drove over to hunt Spot C and unloaded the ATV near Pearl Lakes. I drove the ATV up to Kitty Creek area (where I saw small bull on scouting trip); glassed a bit, then drove way up high above Heart Lake.
I planned to drive over and also glass the upper end of Lost Trail Creek; both the FS map and MVUM showed the road up top was open, but when I go there it had several “road closed” signs up. [I later talked to the FS guy in Creede, and he was of no help sorting this out]. So I headed back towards the truck. On the way down I met two bowhunters from CA, upon hearing I had a moose tag they showed me some phone pics of a bull they had seen near the 514/516 cross roads a day earlier, which is not far from where I parked the truck. It was hard to tell from the photos how big the bull was, but when I showed them the pics I had of bull #2 they admitted the bull they saw was not as big.
Anyway, one the older guys (Ronnie) said he saw a really big bull in the buckbrush up towards Kitty Creek (where I had been earlier in the day). He thought the bull was in the 40-50” range, but when he gestured with his hands he was only showing me about 3 ft. of width. Then when I pulled out a map and tried to get more details on the spot he wasn’t much help, maybe he didn’t have his reading glasses on. There is a lot of country up there and huge swaths of buckbrush, so I was hoping he could point out exactly where he saw the bull; no luck. Despite the problems with this info, it would ultimately turn out to be useful.
Midday I met up with khunter (Kirby). He had been gathering intel for me and a game warden told him of multiple sightings of a ~48” bull running with a few smaller bulls in the Black Mountain Lake area, not far away. During the rest of the hunt I tried to track down the GW to see if I could get more details, but was unsuccessful. So I drove over to the lake and there were two elk hunters camped there; Don and Andy. They were nice to talk to, one had a muzzy tag and one had archery. I told them there were likely some moose in the area but they had not seen any. Anyway, I told them to keep an eye out and I might be back later to talk to them. I also made a joke about them feeding one or tying him up if a bull walked through camp, they laughed. The two guys went to hunt elk elsewhere in the evening; I walked down by the lake and stayed till dark. Did some calling but heard and saw nothing.
Went back to Black Mountain Lake and sat in some trees on opposite side. Around 8:00 I got bored and walked aways to the north and uphill a bit, mostly along some closed roads. Got back to the Lake about 10:30 and there was a small bull (#7) standing in the shallow water on the east sid! He wasn’t a shooter but I was still a bit PO’d that he showed up when I was gone. The bull eventually ended up walking right through Don and Andy’s camp, they were still off hunting somewhere so they were not there to tie him up or feed him.
In the evening I went back to Black Mtn Lake again and sat till dark, nothing. Before I left I spoke with the guys camped there (Don & Andy), and showed them the pics of the moose that walked through their camp, they were amused. While I was driving out 2 young guys (Jeremy & Colton) flagged me down at the 514/516 crossroads. They were not hunting, but were helping out their grandpa who had a muzzy elk tag. But they had heard I had a moose tag and they had seen a bull near their camp, just down the road. In fact they had actually called the bull in from several 100 yards away, to about 50 yards, and had some decent pics and video. They said it was big but it looked like a “medium” sized bull as near as I could tell, probably in the mid-30” range. It might have been the same bull the CA guys told me about on day 3. So I thanked them for the info and told them I would probably not pursue that bull just yet, as I had seen a bigger one and heard rumors of at least one more big one in the area.
So after hunting Spot C without seeing a shooter for two days, I decided I would go back to Spot A and see if I could find bull #1 again. So I drove ATV up towards Rat Creek and stopped at the lower glassing spot. After looking up the valley and not seeing anything for a while I was thinking the moose might be up in the beaver ponds on the east side where the surveyor guy saw them on day 2; I could not see this area from the lower glassing spot. The ponds where probably ¼ mile away, maybe 100-200 feet uphill, so I started walking in that direction, gaining altitude by side-hilling. As I get closer to the small creek draining out of the uphill beaver pond, I look downhill and CRAP! Down near the beaver pond at the bottom is Bull #1, how did I not see him earlier? He should have been easy to see from the glassing spot I was just at; he must have been bedded down in the willows. Anyway, now he’s just a bit over 100 yards away, I’m on the side of the hill with almost no cover. I scooted over behind the one tree between us and started sliding down the hill mostly on my butt. He started walking away in the willows, I grunted and he stopped for a moment; then started walking off slowly. I got within about 80 yards of him, then his cow stood up, dammit I knew it was over. The cow quickly ran off to the west and headed up into the dead spruce, taking him with her. Well, at least Bull #1 is still hanging out in the same area, but the turn of events was starting to take a toll, how many chances would I get at this bull without getting a shot? It would get worse.
He had bedded down about halfway up the patch of dead spruce, near a large dead tree in a small opening. I picked the area apart with my binos looking for the cow, did not see her. I was also trying to memorize the landscape. The one large tree he was bedded by was pretty unique, so I thought I had a good chance to get my bearings as I tried a stalk. So after coming up with a plan, I drove back to the bottom of the valley and started hiking up through the timber on the west side. My plan was to come out just above the bull, from the south. This would put the sun at my back and the wind mostly in my face, but the wind was acting squirrely at times so it wasn’t a slam dunk. Anyway, as I’m climbing through the timber I am feeling good; I think I might have this thing in the bag! It was a pretty steep climb of about 300 feet elevation gain; really not that bad but near 12000 feet I’m feeling it. I start thinking if I kill this moose I hope he runs downhill, otherwise I’m going to have climb this slope 8 or 9 times, it’s gonna be tough.
Well, as stalks often go, I didn’t end up exactly where I was hoping to be, once in the dead spruce everything looks the same. I ended up about 50-75 yards further uphill than I was planning for, but that was a lot better than bumping the moose, or ending up downhill from him. So I start walking down through the edge of the timber and I see the landmark tree about 75 yards away. But no moose. The grass is rather tall so I’m thinking he still might be there but I just can’t see him from my angle. As I’m creeping closer and glassing near the landmark tree a GIANT black form stands up ~30 yards to my left! I’m usually pretty good about keeping my cool, but I admit I was in shock for a couple of seconds. It was a screw-up no doubt, not seeing the bull earlier. He had obviously moved, and had bedded down in some tall grass in the shade of some trees about 50 yards from his previous bed. Perhaps the biggest screw-up was that I didn’t have an arrow nocked. The other problem was there were two overhanging branches covering the vital areas behind his shoulder. I had a clear view of his head/antlers, shoulder, and rump, did I say he looked HUGE! If I had had an arrow nocked I might have been able to sidestep one way or another and get a shot, but it didn’t happen. A few seconds elapsed before I finally regained my senses and started to nock an arrow, but he turned and trotted off before I could do anything.
The cow was likely around somewhere but I didn’t see her. The bull went to the west towards the buckbrush and I followed him a bit but quickly lost him. I couldn’t tell if he went in the buckbrush or turned 90 degrees and stayed in the timber going south, and uphill. I sat down on a nearby log, and sulked. For the first time in the hunt I felt beaten and depressed, I had been having a blast up till that point. Dang I thought I had him, and maybe I would have if I had been a more careful on the final approach, and had an arrow nocked! I sat there for 30 minutes or so; then walked back downhill to the ATV.
And yet it was still not over. I drove the ATV back up to the upper glassing spot and damned if I didn’t see the bull bedded down again! He had stayed in the timber, and had only gone uphill another 100 yards from where I last saw him. Now he was near the top end of the patch of dead timber. I felt compelled to try it again, this time I would go much slower. But as I got about halfway up the slope I realized the wind was now all wrong. I should have aborted then, but I made one pass through the area and never saw the moose. I gave up and drove back to camp wondering what to do next; it was about 1:30 PM. With the wind now blowing really strong I decided to take the rest of the day off, I went into Creede and did laundry and some grocery shopping.
So figuring I had finally blown Bull #1 out of the drainage, and needing a change of scenery, I decided to try Spot C again. So on Day 6 AM I drove the ATV up to Kitty Creek overlook. On the way up I actually saw a mid-sized bull (#8) in some willows just 200 yards off the road, he was still mostly in velvet, I did not pursue him. When I got to the Kitty Creek overlook I met the two guys from Alamosa who had been camped there; Scott and his dad “Doc”. One of them had an elk tag he filled a few days earlier; they were just sitting around drinking coffee and admiring the beauty of Nature just after sunrise. When asked about moose they immediately said they had been seeing 2 bulls in the buckbrush to the west and SW, a small one and a really big one. Perhaps the “big” one was the one the Arkansas guy (Ronnie) had told me about.
So we started glassing the buckbrush and quickly spotted the small one (bull #9). Scott briefly saw what might have been the big one closer to the creek but it disappeared before I got a look at it. I stayed till about 10:30; then spent mid-day looking at some other spots. Got back about 2:30 and started glassing again. Spotted what looked like a nice bull (#10) way up a fork of Kitty Creek, about a mile away. He looked good but was a bit too far away to tell for sure, I did not have my scope with me, just binos. He was also at a distance and in some terrain that I would be reluctant to kill one in, without some help. I was mainly hoping he was not the big one the Alamosa and Arkansas guys had spotted.
Fortunately, he was not the big one; it was about 4 PM when the big one (Bull #11) stood up in the buckbrush ~800 yards to the WSW. He must have been bedded out there most of the day. One look through the binos and I knew he was a shooter; his paddles looked bigger than any I’ve personally seen on a Shiras outside of Yellowstone. I knew one fork of the road looped around to the south of the bull and would probably get me to within ~200 yards. Seemed like a better plan than trying to bust through a half mile of buckbrush, so I hopped on the ATV and took off. As I drove past their camp I hollered at Scott (who had just got back from a hike) telling him I had seen the big bull and was going after it.
It was a bit of a gamble because taking the road would briefly put me upwind of the bull, but since there had been some traffic on it previous days I figured it would not spook him. So I eventually got to a point that I thought was mostly crosswind of the moose and parked the ATV. I looped around a bit further on foot to the west so I would have the wind more in my favor, and the sun more at my back, at this point I had not seen the moose since I had left the overlook so I was going in somewhat blind. At first the buckbrush was mostly knee-deep to waist-deep, with some fair sized openings, and I was able to spot the moose antlers about 80 yards away, he was now bedded down behind a larger clump. When I got to within 30-40 yards he stood up, but I didn’t have a clear shot. He was a great looking bull moose. He started quartering away from me to the south, but I was able to stay fairly close. By waving the fake antler and grunting he would usually stop walking and look back at me. The buckbrush was starting to get a bit thicker and taller, but he finally stopped mostly broadside and I ranged him at 44 yards, we had gone about 75 yards from where he first stood up.
I guess I felt a little bit rushed when I finally got the shot because I definitely shanked it, dammit! Still, a moose is a big target, it looked like I hit him high and a little far back, but still in the ribcage, I was thinking probably liver. So I followed him another 40-50 yards hoping to get another arrow in him. He stopped once more and I ranged him at 50. I did not see my first arrow in him (later found out I just clipped the top of his hide, so really a miss!) I took my time on this shot and hit him right where I was aiming, tight behind his leg about 1/3 way up. He turned and quickly disappeared in the buckbrush, which was now much taller and thicker. Arrow penetration was not as good as I was expecting, when he turned I saw about a foot of arrow sticking out. But the placement looked great, and I also thought the first arrow was in liver (wrong), so I figured he would not go too much further and should die soon.
But with the vast expanse of buckbrush I admit I was worried about finding him. Rather than waiting I thought I should try to find his trail. Within the first 20 yards I found a few drops of blood, but with the harsh light it was really hard to see blood on the ground. I was expecting to see some blood on the brush but was coming up empty. The trail in the brush split in to two forks and I chose the right hand side, for some reason. At this point I knew I was close to the road I drove in on, so I decided to head out to the dusty road and see if I could find tracks crossing it, the road turned out to be only another 40-50 yards to the south. I had walked maybe 30-40 yards back to the east along the road looking for tracks when Doc rode up on his ATV. They had watched everything from the overlook and said the bull went down pretty quick after I shot it, so it had to be just back to the north of me back in the brush; it must have taken the left fork in the trail. In fact, just as Doc was driving up I stood up on a stump and spotted the bull maybe 80 yards straight back to the north, but he was standing up, not bedded down! Then it walked a few steps to the NW and disappeared in the brush.
Whew! That was a pretty intense and nerve-wracking 30-45 minutes, but it was over, and I had killed a great bull, near the end of Day #6. Moose have a reputation for being relatively “easy” to kill, but it didn’t quite work out that way for me. Some poor shooting on my first shot and marginal arrow penetration didn’t help. Arrow 3 and 4 got broken up, arrow #2 was still intact when I walked up to the bull, but it had somehow come unscrewed from the broad-head and was just dangling from the moose. In the pic above I drew a line where arrow #2 hit the bull.
It got dark when before we even got halfway done so much of the work was done with headlamps. Did gutless, and as I deboned the quarters Scott carried most of the loads back to the ATV. Decided to leave all the meat and head by a tree and retrieve it the next morning. I still had to drive the ATV 8 miles back to the truck, load it up, then 30 miles back to camp, and unload the ATV. I was dead tired when I hit the sack about 11 PM, but hardly got a wink of sleep.
When I drove out I stopped by the Arkansas camp and they were all excited to see the moose. I cut off a 6” chunk of backstrap so they could at least have a taste.
On the way home I stopped by the CPW office in Monte Vista to have moose checked, which is mandatory. I was happy I could get that done before the weekend. I had done a real quick measurement in camp and got something over 48” for the antler width, the CPW lady measured 48-7/8” I think. When I got home I got something closer to 49-1/2”. Way bigger than I was hoping for, couldn’t be happier. I don’t know if Bull #1 would have scored better, but at this point I don’t care.
It took me 3-1/2 days to butcher the moose, here are a few pics.
While headed to Wyoming a few weeks later I dropped off a load of meat in Alamosa for Scott. He owns the San Luis Valley Brewing Co. If you are in Alamosa stop by and tell him thanks for helping out a Bowsiter!
What a great read.
Good luck, Robb
Did you have to get your moose tested of CWD? my best, Paul
CWD didn't cross my mind, I didn't think 76 was one of the "infected" areas. Maybe it is now but too late.
Creede was neat with all the old mining activity in the area. 76 is awesome country, I feel really lucky to have hunted it twice. Unlikely I'll get to do it again.
Another benefit is having a backup. I had a phone crash and loose all the video/pictures unexpectedly but had the best stuff on Bowsite!
I think bou’s comment was meant “tongue in cheek”.
Maybe this will finally be my year. Have managed to gather up all the moose points Colorado let’s a person have, so maybe...
Thanks for taking us along and congratulations on a great bull!
Great idea, but I essentially did this already, in reverse. I first wrote the stand-alone document (in Word) and then cut and pasted paragraphs into the thread (which was more work than I thought it would be, especially dealing with the photos and video).
But it was fun writing this up, glad some of you found it entertaining, thanks for the nice comments guys.
Awesome story telling and pics!!!
Well done, Sir!