My dad came up from Michigan this year to go on a moose hunt with me. Usually he comes up in July to fish but I told him that the next time he comes it will be in September for a hunt. After getting my hands on an old Grumman double ender last year I had decided that our hunt was going to be by canoe, but that one canoe was not going to hold us, our gear for a week, and a moose, so I scoured craigslist for a good deal and came up with another old aluminum canoe. I picked up an Alumacraft 17ft square stern in great shape for only a few hundred bucks. Now we had the means to carry all our gear and a moose, we just had to each steer a canoe solo. No big deal really until several hours into the trip my dad informs me that he had never steered a canoe by himself before. He did really great considering this new found information. Well as this was my first real float hunt as well I of course over prepared and over packed. We brought way too much crap but had done several "dry" loads in the canoes to assure we could move said crap to accomodate a moose.
Well the day finally comes and we load the gear and canoes into the truck and head for the launch. There is another pair of hunters launching with us which was no big deal since it was nice to know there could be help if it was needed. Plus it was also nice to get some info since I had never been down this river before. With loaded canoes we head downstream and within the first five bends we are dragging our canoes and we are cursing all the extra crap we brought. The rest of the float was uneventful other than a very large camp already in the spot that looked promising on my map. Oh well, float on I think. Plenty of river for everyone. So we spend the night on a gravel bar and other than the barrage of spruce hens in the early morning hours the camping was uneventful. On we go, seven more hours on the river drifting and dragging and calling from the canoes in the calm spots and climbing up into swamps and calling and more floating. Finally, we get to a nice high bank camp that looks like a good spot for a couple days of hunting. We get a nice camp set up and settle in for the night. The next morning we wake up to rain. Well feeling a bit unenthusiastic and a little sore from dragging canoes the day before and after a cup of hot chocolate while staring upriver through the rain I decide to go check my eyelids again for any holes. I wake back up afternoonish and the rain has ceased. So we drop the camo canoe into and paddle to the back of the oxbow slough behind camp and take a short walk through the woods to a nice big swamp for some evening calling. After a couple hours of off and on calling(cow calls and brush trashing) we hear some twigs breaking behind us as well as antlers hitting limbs. A little more calling and a young bull in the low thirties with two browtines on each side steps out timidly grunting and licking his lips. He sees that we are not really a group of moose and slowling walks through the swamp turning back to check us out again every so often.
Now with high hopes we head back to camp after my dads first real close encounter with an Alaskan bull moose. After a nice hot meal we hit our bedrolls to dream of bull moose and flashing antler palms. We wake up the next morning to the perfect moose morning. Cold and clear. So perfect that the moose are early and my dad sees a bull crossing upriver heading right for the back of our slough. I tell my dad we have to go now and we drop our cups and grab our packs while running for the canoe. We slid quietly across the calm water of the slough heading for where we tied up the night before when I catch a nosefull of bull moose. I stand up in the rear of the canoe looking for antlers above the willows. I let out a few soft cow calls that are quickly answered by heavy grunts and the bull tearing into the nearest small trees. I nose the canoe to the bank in hopes on my dad being able to get on dry land for a shot when I see the tops of the bulls palms come into view over the willows. I give him a soft grunt which turns him facing right at me, but gives me no better view of his rack. I then give another good cow moan and he comes barreling right for us. My dad is now stuck to the bank with no real view of the animal but I am sticking out like a sore thumb in the back of the canoe in the middle of the slough as the moose comes into view. Hes coming straight for us and I guess I dont remember standing up but I do remember popping my scope covers up while drawing a bead on the moose's head now less than 15 yards away. Through the scope I try to count the brows on the moose's right antler but a six or seven foot tall birch that was wrapped up in the anter prevented me from counting the browtines, I quickly turned my attention to the left antler and counted one-two-three browtines and brought the crosshairs back into the middle of the bulls face and squeezed the trigger. As fast as 1000lbs can fall from seven feet that moose hit the ground. We were ready in case he got back up but after a minute I could still hear him breathing so we piled out of the canoe and I quickly dispatched him. He is a great healthy young moose with two and three brows and 46 inches wide. After a few hoots and hollers and hugs and high fives my dad finally got to lay his hands on a nice moose. Exclaiming that they are much bigger than the deer back home that I grew up hunting we grinned and wrestled the beast around for some pictures. In our haste we realized that we hadn't brought the game bags so we paddled back to camp and grabbed them as well as some tarps to lay the meat on. My dad got to enjoy the chore that is field dressing a moose but I told him that I was sorry that he wasnt going to get the full experience of carrying quarters a mile or more across a swamp. After butchering we paddled the meat back to camp and constructed a meat pole and hung the meat in the shade with a nice breeze coming down the river. Now that the pressure of tagging a moose was gone we milled around camp while taking photos and catching some nice grayling and rainbows. That night we feasted on tenderloins to the point of injury and had a hard time falling asleep from the aching in our bellies.
That night it poured rain but the morning broke clear and delightful as we tore down camp and packed the canoes for a full day of river travel in attempts to get closer to the pick-up point for an early extraction. The next seven hours were quite tiresome as the canoes were less responsive heavily burdened with their new cargo. I would say atleast three of the seven hours were dragging the canoes through shallow riffles and rock piles. That night we decided to camp on a large river bar after my dad slammed into a huge rock and I almost overturned in a swift shallow chute. We were getting tired and starting to make mistakes so we pitched camp and cooked dinner. At this point I had enough cell coverage to call my usual hunting partner and do a little bragging about my success. He mentioned that another friend of ours was going to be running his airboat up the river to a spot just down from us for a morning hunt and asked if we wanted a lift in the afternoon. “Heck yes!!!" I said. That night turned windy and rainy and our setup for the meat let it get some good air after being in the canoes so long that day. The next morning was amazingly clear again so we ate breakfast and loaded the canoes once more for another few hours to meet up with our airboat friend. Turns out it was quite windy in town still and our friend got a late start and decided just to run up and find us. We hadn't made it two bends when we heard the roar of the airboat pushing upstream. We pulled over to flag him down and he cursed us for being still so far up the river. It took us an hour or so to unload our canoes and load the airboat. Then came the real question, where do we put the canoes? Tie them to the sides!! Amazingly enough this worked out great and we roared back to town. This saved us atleast two full days of floating and maybe another day of dragging. I was surprised to see how low the mouth of the river was. There was grass growing were I was catching silvers in July. We made it back to the landing around 2pm or so, we really only spent five days out of an intended eight days on the river.
Now five days later I have only a few pounds of burger to grind. This was truly my favorite Alaskan outing since I moved up here eight years ago, mostly because I got to spend this time with my dad and everything happened pretty smoothly without major incidence. I will cherish the memories of this hunt forever and will be flooded with great joy and emotion with every package of meat I take out the freezer to feed my family. I thanked this bull many times as he lay motionless on the ground. I thanked him for strenghtenening the bond between father and son and I thanked him for bringing such a great deal of nutrition and tasty meals to my table and I apologized for any suffering I caused him if even for a short moment. Such a beautiful animal and such a wonderful time spent with loved ones, this hunt is truly what makes me enjoy this state so much and keeps me hunting and fishing and enjoying the great outdoors every year.