It was tough hunting at Fort Rich this week. There were moose taken but there was not much fresh sign over many miles of terrain that I covered in the first four days of the season. I was at the top of Stuckagain Heights on Sunday at daylight. The winds nearly blew the door off my truck when I opened it. I waited for awhile before driving down the mountain to another access point. It didn't look too much better down low so I decided to try again a bit later. The winds were supposed to taper in the afternoon so I took a long lunch break and tried again in the afternoon. The winds were still howling at 2:30 at the top but I decided to give it a try. I dropped over the ridge and bushwhacked my way down the mountain. I thought it was unlikely that the moose were moving but I might get lucky and run over one on a bed.
The winds were much less severe under the protection of the ridge and the trees and it was really decent hunting. I saw fresh tracks about 2/3 of the way down the hillside and backtracked to a bed. I must have pushed a moose up on my way down. I continued to follow the fresh tracks, evident because the winds had made the snow very crusty. The white snow in the fresh tracks was very evident. The tracks down lower on the mountain became more difficult to follow. It looked like they were going all over the place. I hunted really slow and finally caught a brief glimpse of a moose heading away from me about 125 yards out. The cover was thick and I lost view of her quickly. It was getting dark but I felt like this was a good opportunity and I better make the most of it. I followed the tracks this way and that and finally saw them break up the ridge a bit.
I cautiously topped a small ridge and saw a cow standing at 83 yards. She was in thick cover but standing still. Another moose joined her and walked off. I moved behind cover to about 60 yards with a hollow full of alder sticking up between us. There was no way I could get a shot moving straight ahead. It was also getting pretty dark. I only had a small amount of daylight left. I moved slowly down to my right to an opening below the alder patch with the hope that she might move downhill. I stopped 40 yards from a break in the trees ahead and set up for a possible shot. She started downhill behind a line of trees. I drew on the opening and waited for her to reach the spot. As she walked through I could only see about 1/4 of her body but she was broadside. I waited for her chest to clear and released on my slowly moving target. The arrow smacked her with a big thud. I watched the second moose run off while this cow slowly walked a short distance and lay down. The time was 4:30 p.m. and it was getting darker by the moment. I couldn't see her but held my ground for about ten minutes. I moved to the ridge and could see her laying on her chest with her head straight out in front of her. As I moved toward her there was blood everywhere. She was laying still in a pool of blood in front of her nose and another beneath her. The arrow was still sticking out from behind the front leg in the middle of her chest. I pulled the broken arrow from a one inch hole in her chest wall. It was an impressive sight.
The biologists showed up about a half hour after I called them with the GPS coordinates. She had a leather collar and was identified as one of the elusive moose that they had been attempting to capture. While I was field dressing her that I could see that the arrow took out both lungs above the heart base and destroyed a section of her trachea. There is no wonder she went down so quickly. I put her to bed for the night and walked the perimeter trail to the top of the mountain.
The pack was easier than expected on the following morning, gliding the game bags downhill all the way on a sled. I understand that a brown bear moved in on the kill site very shortly after I left the scene. I was very appreciative that we are now allowed to bring the truck in to the Bulldog Trail to retrieve the moose. It made a good day even better.
What a great hunt! It is incredible to be able to hunt moose this time of year. It was not an easy hunt but very rewarding. Well, I guess I better get back to making burger and vacuum packing.
Thanks to all that contribute to making these hunts on the base available to all of us.