Moving into a new place, working on the canoe shop and five days of writing scientific papers effectively took my moose hunting season away. On the evening of the 19th I packed up the canoe and headed north. I was so upset I cursed under my breath and just felt miserable that I had only one day to get a moose. The scenery cheered me up a bit and I tried to take on a more optimistic mind-set and thought to myself: at least I'm trying.
When I got to my put-in point it was dark, and late in the evening. I kicked back the seat of my truck and draped a jacket over myself for a mediocre rest before hitting the water. Around midnight (20th Sept.) I was awoken to my truck rocking in the wind. The wind was so severe that the trees were swaying, it had to have been greater than 40 mph. at times. I tried to get back to sleep hoping that when I awoke, the series of large lakes that I had to cross would be calm. Boy was I wrong.
I woke up one hour before sunrise to put the boat in the water and the wind had calmed a bit but not much. I felt happy to see the canoe in the water but was a bit worried being by myself with no spot beacon and the waves were quite large. The wind made large residual waves that were at times 3-4 four ft. tall. I kept full speed accross the first lake. After crossing the first lake then began the worst of the trip. I could no longer go full throttle on the second large lake because when I did, I would crest the large wave and the bow would dip into the second wave at such a steep angle that I would take on about 10 gallons of water right over the bow. I eventually only throttled hard to crest the wave, and then back off the throttle so that the bow would gradually climb the next wave. I had to leave that 10 gallons of water in the canoe as there was no way I could bale. My six gallon fuel tank was floating.
I felt like everything was working against me, and it wasn't worth one day, I was miserable, cold, and stressed. I was the only boat on the water that morning. I couldn't stay too close to shore bacause the large waves broke violently in the shallows and getting broadside to that sht was not working out too well, I had to hold tightly to the gunwale so I wouldn't get thrown from the canoe. This second lake was the worst waves I had ever traveled through but eventually it was over, I had made it safely to the third lake which wasn't bad at all.
The stress had subsided and I was excited to finally hit the river. I said hello to a friend at his cabin before hitting the river and the old fella told me last night was the worst wind all season. As I hit the river, I slowed down to quarter throttle to be nice n quiet. With my head on a swivel and my eyes going everywhere looking for moose or bear sign, I felt great. I only saw a few boats at the beginning of the river and they appeared to be packing up for the season. I saw a few caribou bedded down alongside the river but no moose. I periodically stopped at points with good elevation to glass and call for moose. Knowing that my odds would increase the further I went, I climbed back into the boat when I saw nothing in the binoculars from my glassing spots. I had now traveled about 40 water miles and turned up a shallow creek.
The creek was so shallow that it was a blast judging which path to take. My motor was trimmed to the highest possible setting with only 5 inches of prop in the water! It would cavitate a bit but finally bit the water nice n good when I got up to speed. As long as I kept up speed, the belly of the ole canoe glided over countless shallow gravel riffles. Thank goodness for those UHMW runners. I only got out of the boat to drag a couple times. This was certainly the lowest water I've ever seen on this particular creek.
Finally, I found two spots (about a mile apart) with freshly rubbed trees and decided to stay there for the rest of the day to call and glass for a legal bull. At this point, I hadn't even saw a single moose accept an old bear killed moose carcass that was nothing but bones and hair left. For the rest of the day, I sat patiently, calling, glassing, and hoping. Around 6 pm, I left that spot to head to the other spot and set up camp as the sun held low in the sky. As I set up camp, I remained as quiet as possible. I took an occasional break to thrash brush, and send out a few calls into the quite wilderness. Around 8pm, it was obvious I wasn't going to harvest a moose. I was so tired that my eyes became heavy and it was time for bed. My camp was about 60-70 water miles from my put in point. It felt great to fall asleep in that peace and quietness so far from everything. I figured with the next day being my last day and moose no longer in season, I'd try for a bear. I theorized that I would find a bear scavenging on a possible gut pile left from caribou and moose season back on the river once I got off the creek.
In the middle of the night I was startled and frantically awoken to the most viscous thrashing of brush and noise. It sounded like the whole world was coming down on my camp sight. Still half awake and half asleep in the pitch dark, I could hear something being drug towards my tent! My heart was pounding as I reached for my rifle and combat light. What was being drug eventually collided with the side of my tent pulling my guy ropes out of the ground. I hesitated to open the zipper until the dragging passed my tent. I then heard a paddle fall to the floor of my canoe. I now ripped open the zippers of my tent as fast I could, racked a cartridge into the chamber, and lit the world on fire with my combat light pinned under my rifle. I thought a bear was taking the food from my canoe. As my pupils narrowed to the light I saw a small tree being pulled by my canoe by a large beaver! As my heart calmed a bit, I began uncontrollably laughing as I realized what happened. I reset my guys ropes and stakes as the beaver nibbled on an aspen branch near my canoe. I never knew that a beaver does this kind of busy work at 3am in the morning. Back to sleep.
The next day (21 sept.) I packed up in the morning and took my time. A herd of 15-20 caribou visited my campsite as I drank my coffee in cold early morning sun. They were lead by a very large bodied bull. Taking my time, I took down camp and headed back down creek with my head on a swivel. With the current helping my canoe along the shallow spots, I spent more time looking for a bear. I saw nothing. Once at the small river, I plugged another six gallon fuel tank into the fuel hose as I only had about a gallon left in the other. I then continued down the small river working my way down the little chutes of shallow water intermingled with deeper pools. I finally made it to the the Big Susitna River without seeing a single bear.
It was now 4 pm and I realized that I had to head back. Somewhere at the halfway point, I saw more nomadic ghosts (caribou). I stopped and sung some songs for the large bulls. They stayed put in amusement, probably never hearing Bob Seger before. One caribou shook his head n big anlters in disbelief. Four hours of boating as fast I could back up river trying to race the setting sun, I finally made it to the big lakes at night. The first of the three lakes seemed calm so I decided to go for it because I didn't want to deal with possible large waves again. I then turned on my head lamp, my GPS and worked my way back across the series of large lakes at full throttle noticing that the wind wasn't bad. Running in the chilly cold night accross big lakes is not on my list of fun things to do. It was very cold and very eerie. I did hit a shallow spot as I got off course a bit in the pitch black, almost lost my footing. My temp gauge read 27 degrees, that would have been a cold dip in the middle of the night. Sometime around 10 pm. I parked the boat and went to bed. It was one long boat ride with a gun. No moose meat this year, but I don't regret trying with what I had to work with.