Here we go again. The 20A antlerless hunt came around for another season and there were a couple guys looking for moose. One his first Alaska moose(JD) and another his first ever(JR). The latter having just returned from a tour in Afghanistan. Our fearless leader that missed our trip last January would miss this one as well having just stepped off the plane the afternoon before we hit the trail. Five of us gather at the trailhead on a Friday morning and begin unloading and packing the rigs. A snowmachine adventure wasnít going to happen this year due to the shorter season so I used a lifted truck I had borrowed for the fall season and the rest were in two 6x6 rangers.
The tremendous amount of rain this fall still had the river at an elevated level and we watched one of the fall season regulars head out in his truck as we drooled over its awesomeness. It made our lifted truck on 38ís look stock. Five of us loaded in the rigs and we headed out into the river valley. Traveling upstream a long ways and being careful picking our way across the braids brought us to the far side 4 hours later. We headed to a camp I knew of and found the other group with the truck set up there. We picked our way down the river and found a suitable spot to camp that would shield us from the wind that the Delta area is known for.
The AO12 was used as the community chow hall and sleeping quarters for two of us. The other 3 slept in their cabelas outfitter tent with a buddy heater to take the chill off. The following morning was a slow starter as we chatted over breakfast and rolled out on the river late. We headed up a trail and began climbing the long hill up the mountain. It began snowing and I knew trying to get the truck off the mountain with any amount of snow on the ground was going to end in disaster. We brought it down, parked at the bottom and all of us jumped in the 2 rangers. We got to the top and started glassing for moose. Heading into the hills we came across a fair number hanging out up in the higher valleys. We walk to the top of a ridge and see some more.
We signaled the returning vet to take the first shot. Laid out on the ground he took aim resting on a rock. He followed as it walked broadside in front of us stopping a few times. The whispering started among us onlookers as to what was taking so long when the moose stopped and looked right at us. Thatís what he was waiting for. She hit the ground like a tank was dropped on her. High fives all around after the surprise passed and we made our way over with the rigs. At 230 yards he put one into the bridge of the nose and out behind the right ear with the bull barreled 308.
Three of us stayed to process while the other two went over the hill to see about finding another one. While we were processing we hear a couple shots. Almost finished we see the ranger come over the top of the hill with one occupant. I didnít get a warm fuzzy feeling about what I was seeing. 323 pulled up and said everything was fine. They had moose down and the other guy decided to stay there. We loaded up the one we were working on and headed over the top. We see where the moose is and begin making our way over. After winching thru a brushy creek we make our way over to JD. He is sitting on 323ís moose and his first Alaska moose is a couple hundred feet away in the thick brush. 323 and I wade into the brush and decide to try and pull it into the clearing next to the other one. He brings the ranger over and we hook him up to the moose. I figured it would get hung in the brush a time or two but he pulled it out with ease. Canít do that with a wheeler!
After the photo session we process both moose and load up. Short cuts rarely work out so we retrace our tracks to the main trail having to winch back thru the drainage and headed down the mountain. We jumped in the truck on the way by and made it to camp around 0130. Eat and hit the rack by 0300. Needless to say we got a rather late start come sunrise and took our time getting ready for the dayís activities. Heading up the hill again we come across a moose before reaching the top. She just stood there looking at us as I took a rest against the roll cage of the ranger. The Barnes 130 grain TSX screamed out of the 270WSM and found its mark. Between the eyes exiting behind the right ear.
323 and hntr head on up the trail while the three of us take care of this one. Just before dark we meet up with them on the mountain and hntr had found another one. She had bedded down while they watched and he placed a beautiful shot just outside of an eye. Headed down the mountain we are surprised by some very fresh bear tracks in the snow coming up the trail. A little eerie in the dark!
The following morning we get everything packed and head for the river. We start following the big truckís tracks as they left the day before. We start making our way across the channels and then come up on a truck stuck in the river with a tent nearby. We pull up across from the tent and yell to see if anyone is inside. No one emerges so we go back to the tracks we are following and cross the next channel. It is a long crossing following the current downstream and the truck cruises right thru it. It was so effortless I thought nothing of it. This is where dropping your guard for a split second causes everything to go sideways.
After winching it onto dry ground we take the truck and find a way across for the other ranger. After getting everyone together we assess the situation. Three of us are wet and it is going to be dark in a couple hours. Weíre not going to mess with getting the ranger running but instead will tow it out. We need to make sure we can get the rest of the way across the valley so the three of us that are wet get in the truck and head for the highway. After crossing the last of the water we head back to the guys at the rangers and discuss our options. The first channel we have to cross is the worst one. We attempt to pull the dead ranger across with a long strap but cannot make it up the steep bank and ice ledge on the other side with him in tow. We spent the next hour looking for a better way to cross and call it quits when the truck breaks thru the ice and gets stuck in the silty goo hidden underneath. After a lot of shoveling and breaking ice we are just barely able to back out of it. At this point I was done messing around. I ran a couple options by the group since one of them was on his maiden voyage in his new ranger. Talk about breaking it in! He was game with option one so we got things rigged up. I made my way across the bad channel and over the ice ledge in the truck. I then waded across and met them as they towed the dead rig out into the river. This was a wide section of water with only the last 20 feet dropping into a deep channel with a steep bank and ice ledge on the far side. Not something the ranger could drive thru. We unhooked him and he drove back to dry ground. Hooking the winch line and strap to the dead rig I waded across and we winched it to the edge of the deep channel then pulled it across and onto dry land. Wading the winch line and strap across the channel one more time we hooked up the other rig, shut off the engine and put it in neutral. I waded back to the truck and pulled him across.
During all the winching and towing we noticed a truck and razr had made their way out to the river upstream of us. They dropped the truck off an ice ledge and promptly got it stuck. They had the rear tires on dry land by the time we got the rangers across but could not get the front end to pop out. We hooked up the dead rig and made our way across the next braid and went over to help those guys with their truck. We winched them out and we all decided we better head to the road together since it was dark and they were only coming out to see if they could get the dead truck out of the river. Told them I thought it was going to take much more than either of us had in order to get that thing out. We all made it to the trucks together and hit the road at 2200 headed for home. All the rigs got unloaded and parked in the shop here to thaw out and assess damages. None of them came out completely unscathed