I was able to harvest my first muzzle loader big game animal last weekend out on Ft. Richardson. The only bad thing about that hunt is that I am not going to be able to do it again next year!
It took three days for me to connect on a bull. The first day I went out with my 2 year old son and it was like walking through the forest with a jukebox strapped to my back! Needless to say we didn't see any moose that day, but we did have a really good time together and I found some good areas to look at on the following trips. I went back the next weekend with my father and found an area with about ten really fresh rubs and nice wallow. We hunted and called the area then, but since it was 1:00 PM we didn't expect to see anything.
Last Saturday I went back to the area with the heavy sign with a friend and as we were hiking into the area, we saw a bull running away at about 150 yards throught the black spurce swamp. My heart sunk and I thought we must have blown it trying to get back to the "hot" area. It was about 7:45 AM and as soon as the bull was out of sight I let out a fewgrunts and a cow call. I hoped that the bull would turn and come back around. Nothing seemed to happen and we couldn't hear any responses, so we proceeded another 200 yards to the area with the rubs and waited another 5 min to let things cool down.
I let out a really passionate cow call, followed up by some short ones, a little brush thrashing, and some bull grunts. We waited for about 5 min and repeated. At about ten minutes in, we hear a loud bull grunt in response, and see a large shape appear out of the trees about 125 yrs away. We were in a spruce bog, so we had limited visibility. But we could hear grunting coming from the direction of the form and it really got our hearts pumping. We waited for him to come to us, and after a minute I let out a few soft grunts and cow bleats. We knew the bull was just behind some black spruce 125 yrs away because we could see his antlers flashing in the morning half-light, but he wouldn't come.
About 5 minutes after the bull appeared, we lost sight of him and we see/hear a bull charging out of the swamp and back into the forest. My heart sunk again,thinking I blew my second chance as well. I let out a long cow call to see if I could turn him, and all of a sudden the bull moose was back, partially hidden behind some brush at about 125 yards. I let out another short cow call and he started walking towards us quickly. I realized at this moment that the bull running away had been another bull that came in to my calling. The bull we were looking at had just run off by the bull we were looking at and was fully intent on coming over to investigate this cow he was hearing.
We crept forward about 25 yards to an area that would give a few shooting lanes as the bull came in and waited. At about 30 yards the bull entered one of my shooting lanes and turned broadside. I lifted the gun up, and found that I was having a hard time aiming the iron sights on him at that close range. All I could see was brown fur! I aimed to where I thought would be right behind the front shoulder and pulled the trigger. (I am used to shooting with a scope a further ranges and using the cross hairs on the scoped to divide the animal and find my sweet spot...)
In the early light, I could see flames coming out of my barrel and the whole world turned white with all the smoke. There was no wind that morning so the smoke hung in the air. For a second I wondered if I had hit him, and then way off to the side, outside of the smoke cloud, I could see the moose limping off to the left. After reloading and waiting for a bit, we went over towards the direction the bull had gone. I quickly could see him laying down about 50 yards away. As we moved over to get a better look at his injuries, he stood up and I shot him again, broadside and behind the shoulder at about 30 yards. He again walked about 50 yards and then laid down and died.
It was exciting to shoot my first big game with a muzzle loader. An additional benefit was that when the bull finally died, he was only about 100 yards from the nearest road! I was using a in-line .50 cal CVA with 100 grs pyrodex and a 300 grn sabot. Both shots went all the way through the moose and were caught under the skin on the far side of the animal. Moose measured 36".