If this kind of thing is too long or not wanted here let me know. This was a recent hunt that I would like to share.
A MORNING FOR MOOSE
The ancient Honda three wheeler lurched and bucked over the rough trail down the old logging cut through the woods. The battery powered headlamp attached to my hunting cap cast its narrow shaky beam ahead lighting up the tall fireweed on each side backed by birch, cottonwood, alder and willow. At 69 years old my shoulders and lower legs were beginning to ache with the tossing of the wheeler but my mind was on a spot a couple miles ahead that I had discovered exploring the area the evening before, a narrow shallow valley with thinner woods, a small clearing and a high ridge on one side providing a view.
Finally arriving I stashed the wheeler to the side of the trail and headed up the ridge hill to the spot I had marked about thirty feet above the valley floor where I should have the best view at daylight. There I slung down my pack and tried to make myself comfortable against a large birch tree. The ground was cold and wet from last night’s rain and the near freezing temperature gave me a shiver, though I was not really cold, just tight with the anticipation of harvesting a moose. Laying my rifle across my lap I flipped the scope covers off, dug out my binoculars and wiped down the lenses of both. Now to wait.
I sat still letting my body meld with my surroundings, relaxing away the sound of the wheeler and the jostling of the trail, letting my eyes adjust to the dark before dawn. Regaining my hearing, the rustle of something small behind, water dripping from the tree above onto the large drum like leaves of the devils club plants nearby. A very slight breeze down the valley from my right bringing dawns first light silhouetted over thick woods, the smell earthy and damp. Another tight shiver as I remembered the huge bear tracks I saw in the trail here last night, a couple days old, probably not nearby, listening, I felt for the bear spray on my belt and loosened its holding strap. Listening.
As grey dawn approached I got up the nerve to break its stillness with a long, loud moaning cow estrus moose call, the sound foreign to the peace of the small valley. Waiting several minutes I let out another cow call, then another. I could see well into the woods now and scanned their depths for movement with the binoculars. All still save for the breeze loosened water drops drumming the devils clubs nearby. A Gray Jay came to investigate and flittered around from branch to branch studying me, finally having breakfast on some low lying berries and disappearing into the cover. Now I broke forth with the loud steady deep huffing rhythm of Bull Moose grunts. The stillness when I stopped dropped like a blanket on the valley, nothing moved. I waited.
A loud crack broke the silence, then another. It sounded like wood being split well down the valley and I wondered if the spot I had chosen to hunt was near a camp. I answered with a series of Bull grunts and waited. Minutes passed. I shivered and felt goose bumps on my flesh as I heard Bull grunts coming towards me from the direction of the “camp”. Calling steadily with each huge step he made his way up the valley towards me. I scanned the woods with the binoculars for movement, branches breaking, grunts coming closer. I caught movement, then color through the trees. Grunting each step he moved quickly, not running but a fast purposeful walk towards me. The flash of so many horn tips above a cluster of willows caught my heart in my throat, bright, shining, magnificent! He dropped his head and thrashed swinging his huge rack from side to side on the insolent brush that dared to stand in his way. I could see him fully now, huge, black, powerful, head held high, massive array of shining points skyward.
At about 50 yards he stopped, dropped his horns again and trashed and alder bush. I dropped the binoculars and found him in my scope standing with his nose pointed up as if sniffing. I didn’t have a shot through the trees and still couldn’t tell for sure if he met the 50 inch or three brow tine hunting regulation requirement for this area. I started sweating in the morning chill, trying to keep him in the scope as he came quickly on grunting and waving his rack side to side.
Suddenly he moved really fast into my small clearing stopping at about 50 feet from me. Dropping his head low he ran a few steps toward the not well hidden red three wheeler. I levered the safety on the old model 70 forward. Now at about 30 feet I couldn’t breathe. Standing tall he stopped all movement and turned his head directly towards me. I was captured by the brown of his eyes and the dilated black pupils. Looking straight on to his head there were only two brow tines on each side. I hurriedly estimated the width of the rack; the eyes averaging 10 inches across, are there two such on each side of his head? Almost two on each side, but not a solid two. Finger on the trigger, decide! I had to decide! “If in doubt, don’t shoot”, the ADFG moose hunting training film I had viewed recently had said.
The behemoth stared at me, posture challenging, nostrils exhausting fierce huffs. Fear replacing previous anticipation how would I escape the charge? I reviewed my immediate surroundings without moving. Dive behind my sitting tree, use the bear spray, last resort the 44 mag on my right hip. Not moving, hypnotized by the beauty of the magnificent animal, huge, shiny black, legs tan below the knees, horns deep leather brown with glistening ivory antler tips. I flinched as he let my eyes go. Bellowing like a fog horn, he quickly disappeared into the woods to my left, an audible ghost grunting angrily with each step. I found myself still frozen needing to breathe, exhilaration welling up from my toes to the top of my head filling my eyes with tears of joy. I breathed deep, stifling the laugh that pressed my throat, listening to the great deer stomp away in his woods, thrashing and crushing the insolent brush in his way.