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Thread: 5 Years in The Making: Success At Last

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    Default 5 Years in The Making: Success At Last

    I know I'm late getting this in, and maybe nobody cares. But, the following is an account of my first success in big-game hunting in Alaska. I grew up in eastern MT hunting Whitetails and Mulies and Pronghorn, so taking a big game animal is not new. I've been involved in one successful moose hunt before, so I knew it wasn't anything like cleaning one of those big 'ol MT Mulies, too. This is an an email I sent to friends and family outside, so bear with the descriptions of the locales. Anyway, I hope you enjoy my story: (I had some problems inserting the photos, I will try and put them in the thread later)

    This all started about a year ago when I was looking around at friends who had gotten moose, and that I had been unsuccessful on 2 consecutive winter moose hunts outside FBX with Mike. Not through anyone’s fault, but that’s why it’s hunting, not killing. So, I started looking at hunt opportunities near the Anchorage area that didn’t require harvesting a bull. Not that I’m particularly lazy, but imaging how good the story is when I am literally 40 miles from my house, 40 minutes from my house to where we offloaded the ATVs. All these hunts are drawing only. I dutifully submitted my application for DM410, an antlerless moose hunt in the Knik River valley, 40 minutes from house, along with the $5 application fee. I submitted my application, along with probably 2,000 other Anchoraginians and a few Valley folk, for a total of 40, that’s right 4-zero total permits in the hunt area. For those of you not so mathematically inclined, that’s about a 2% success rate. Well, sometime mid-spring, the results came out, and I had the beginners luck of drawing a tag. Now to carve out some time and identify a hunting partner. Joe and I began discussing the possibility, and the time that would work out the best. Remember his profession? Turns out weekends are his busy season in the summer/fall. That worked out pretty well, actually, because we didn’t want to hunt the weekend anyway, but instead chose to focus on the weekdays.

    Sidenote here, for those of you with no idea of what the Knik river is, it sits squarely in Redneckville, AK, USA, locally lovingly referred to as “The Valley”. Well, it’s always referred to as The Valley because of the other two larger rivers winding their way from their glacial headwaters to the Knik Arm. As the Knik river starts at a glacier that is rather easily accessible, and the river bed is large, flat, and somewhat easily navigated by 4-wheelers/dirtbikes/Razors/Jeeps/pretty much whatever has wheels that you want to run out to the glacier for a day trip, weekends on the Knik are full of such motorized mayhem roaring up and down the dry river bed, churning up dust, and oh yes, keeping leery moose tucked just inside the thicker brush. Back to the story.

    With our plans made, checked against calendars, time off secured, and our wives happily placated with freezers full of fresh Kenai Peninsula pork (another story for another day), Joe rented a plane for Saturday, to aid us some in our scouting mission. Lucky for us, Saturday was a great day for flying, clear for the most part, and wind low enough for a very pleasant flight. We took off from Merrill Field in Anchorage, and headed out to the hunt area. I’ve been out there some, and had spoken with some friends about the lay of the land a little further back, where we intended to hunt. We passed the area I was familiar with, came across a very distinct geologic landmark, entering the area that looked good to hunt, when Joe cracked through the mic “There’s a cow, no calf”. Calves and cows with calves are fair game in this hunt, but it’s encouraged to not take cows with calves. With the reference to the geologic landmark firmly in place, we continued upriver to another location I had heard about. This further place didn’t seem as productive. Where Joe had spotted the cow looked great with Birch, Aspen, and willows abounding. We headed back to Merrill, dropped off the plane, and in the spirit of optimism, Joe and I picked up a new freezer at Lowe’s and I hauled it up to his house. I now call Joe “Scratch and Dent” because after receiving a substantial discount through an incredible sale Lowe’s was having, Joe secured a further 10% discount because some fool in the warehouse had scratched and dented the side of the freezer. Yes, the side that goes against the wall.

    Sunday morning came and I was nowhere near as prepared as I’d hoped to be. Well, I shouldn’t say it like that. I had fully prepared my rifle, picked up a shiny new trailer to pull behind my 4-wheeler, and more or less packed up. What I was missing was the food. I like food. I like camp food. I love cooking camp food and enjoying it in the woods. It really makes me happy. And here I was, resigned to simply stopping off at the grocery store on our way out of town, picking up whatever looked good and hoping it was going to be enough (our plan was to hunt until Thursday if needed, but return as soon as possible after we had a moose down). Well, Joe shows up and we finally left the house about 1100. A stop at the aforementioned grocery store that also sells gasoline (very important) and booze (equally important, but not until noon on Sunday!). Groceries, gas, Wild Turkey 101 in a plastic traveler, Subway Sandwich all in hand, and we were rolling by 1210, on Sunday. Never mind, though, refer back to the description of the Knik river on the weekend. Keeping in mind also, that this day was clear, calm, perfect. We drove the previously mentioned 40 minutes to where we would unload our 4-wheelers. Which we did, loaded up with what looked like not enough stuff, and readied to take off…
    1.jpg

    A short little jaunt down to the river, and we were heading back to the hunt area, with the Knik Glacier in the background…
    2.jpg

    We cruised out to where we had seen the cow the day before. It took us around an hour-and-a-half or so to traverse the 10 or so miles. Once we got out there, Joe insisted we walk around some. He figured there’s no way you can get a moose if you don’t “hunt hard”. I told him it was more like “5% preparation and 90% luck”. Not that I was shirking the responsibility to be a good hunter, but, there were the hundreds of 4-wheelers/motorcycles/Razors/Jeeps roaring up and down every trail available. We did walk for an hour or so. It was immediately gratifying because of the extremely high level of moose sign: fresh tracks, fresh poop, willow leaves nibbled on, all the good things that point to the possibility of success. But, alas, Sunday was not our day. Even though we could see moose tracks crossing 4-wheeler tracks that were laid down no more than an hour ago, we didn’t see the moose. I guess tracks and no animals are OK. We also saw some exceptionally sized grizz tracks roaming onto and down the 4-wheeler tracks, laid down no more than 1 hour ago. Resigning to deciding to find a location to camp, that’s what we did. Joe spotted a great trail darting off the main trail that had grass growing in it. A good sign, meaning we’d be able to get off the main trail for camp. We got off the trail a little bit, found a good spot that seemed like it would provide some substantial protection from the wind and set up camp. Finishing around 7 and eating a sandwich for supper, I decided to decline the opportunity to have a campfire. I like campfires, but I was tired and we were going to get a good night’s sleep for tomorrow. Besides, I told myself, there will be tomorrow night, anyway.

    Monday morning we got up, enjoyed some coffee and oatmeal (Joe ate something cold because he doesn’t drink coffee and isn’t a big breakfast guy), and took care of our own “moose droppings”. But, we were greeted with a good day…



    We took off. We had unhooked Joe’s trailer, and had mine hooked up still. At the very most, we’d only need one trailer to haul a moose back to camp. When we got out to the main trail, we marked it both on my GPS and a strip of surveyors tape. Joe took off, and I followed about 10-15 seconds behind. I had gone no more than 200 yds when I saw fresh moose tracks cross the trail. I jumped off and looked at them. There were really fresh, obviously on top of the day before’s activities, but also fresh like they hadn’t been blown around yet, either. The last night had been a bit breezy. Getting back on my wheeler, I knew I had to be on a close lookout for any sign of moose in the willows and other browse and vegetation close to the trail. 100 feet further down the trail, I looked to my right, and there she is, just looking at me, munching on some willow leaves. Those of you that are hunters know the feeling of “buck fever”, those of you that don’t, it’s hard to describe. Imagine you heart in your throat, banging in your ears, laser-focus tunnel vision. I jumped off my wheeler and fiddled with my rifle that I had securely strapped to the pack on the back rack of my wheeler. It’s hard to ride with it slung across my shoulder, although it makes it harder to get to when it’s strapped down. It has now been probably 10 seconds since I saw her. I’m sure that she has wandered off, and I’m going to be looking at an empty thicket and trying to figure out where she went and how to track her. But, alas, I walked back the 20 feet or so to the clearing, and she’s still standing there, munching on willows, looking straight at me. All I can see is her head. She’s line up completely and looking straight at me. I raised my rifle and looked at her through the scope. Trying to calm my nerves enough to settle on a good shot and pull the trigger.

    During this time I could hear Joe’s wheeler moving along somewhere ahead of me. It was obvious he had not seen her. At some point his wheeler shut off. It was oddly quiet and still, standing there sighting on the forehead of a cow moose no more than 100 feet away, patiently eating some browse, completely unaware of what was about to happen. Very calm and collected. I finally got myself calmed down and relaxed enough to where I felt confident enough to squeeze the trigger. I’m not much for offhand shooting, but this was one occasion I felt I could justify it. The report of the rifle came unexpectedly, and the rifle bucked wildly. When I settled back down to where the moose had been standing, there was nothing. And she wasn’t running through the woods. A great shot, quick and painless. The bullet entered below her left eye…



    Now I could hear Joe’s wheeler fire up and come screaming back down the trail towards me. It was 9 on Monday morning and while our hunt was over, the work had just begun. For those of you haven’t seen a moose up close and personal, it’s kind of like a horse laying there on the ground. “Now how the hell do we do this?” Slowly, methodically, and painstakingly you remove the two quarters on the side that’s up, then take the backstrap, the ribs, the neck meat, roll her over, and repeat. 2:30 and we were done, had her loaded in the trailer, and headed back to roll up camp and head back to town.



    It was not nearly as glorious coming back out. But, the wind was at our back, so our rubber rain gear did an exceptional job keeping us dry, from the water coming down, anyway…



    This crossing wasn’t too bad. I messed up earlier and floated the whole works on a crossing, getting the tops of my socks wet, but luckily not filling my boots.

  2. #2
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    Attachment 53800Morning View
    Attachment 53801Happy Hunter

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    Attachment 53802Rainy Trip Out

    Attachment 53803Fording Jim Creek

    And, I'm going to put in a shameless plug for Fritz at Husky Manufacturing in the Valley. That shiny new aluminum trailer is one of his (mine now, I couldn't talk him into letting me take one on a trial basis). I really like it. Even with 6 or 700 pounds of gear and moose, it is perfectly balanced, and easily pushed around by one person. Hats off to him and his design. If you've ever met him, he'll tell you he's not a hunter, but his trailers are top notch, and in my mind worth the investment! Fritz has spent some time designing his trailers, and they come with a 2-yr guarantee to boot.

  4. #4
    Member GAredneck's Avatar
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    Congrats and great report, your photos aren't showing up tho!

  5. #5
    Member akjeff's Avatar
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    Congrats on the moose and great write up. Thanks for sharing.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by GAredneck View Post
    Congrats and great report, your photos aren't showing up tho!

    DITTO, Congratulations, no photos.

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    Nice report. It tells the story well...

  8. #8
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    Congrats on your first Moose!

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    Member Smokey's Avatar
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    Very nice story - doesn't have to be a trophy bull to have a fun and sccessful hunt for sure!
    When asked what state I live in I say "The State of Confusion", better known as IL....

  10. #10
    Member PPR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AKdreamn View Post
    it sits squarely in Redneckville, AK.
    apparently you have never been past wasilla to houston/willow. congrats on the moose.
    Last edited by PPR; 10-07-2011 at 08:42. Reason: forgot something

  11. #11
    Member broncoformudv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PPR View Post
    apparently you have never been past wasilla to houston/willow. congrats on the moose.
    Or past Palmer to Sutton and Chickaloon?

  12. #12
    Member broncoformudv's Avatar
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    Great writeup! Congrats on your first moose and a quick hunt. Some times you wish the hunt could have lasted longer but then again its nice to get the meat and get home to spend time with the family.

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