This was my third season in the bush, but only second season of hunting due to residency issues my first year. Last year I was only able to hunt after school for a few hours and saw plenty of cows, but no bulls. Then I fractured my elbow playing basketball (second time last year) and I lost the last week and half of the season.
Every year the Tribal Council takes our students to a week long cultural camp in our unit. The kids get to do all the work and us adults provide advise/instruction on what to do. I learn a lot from the elders that attend and some of the other people. Occasionally I get to share a little bit of advise (I usually keep my mouth shut and observe). This years camp was only three days long and it was fairly hot, however it was a paid hunting trip so I got to hunt anyways. Saw plenty of bulls and one of the students even used my rifle to fill his tag (He got to drop a bull with my rifle before I did) and I took a backseat hunting while the kids and elders hunted. It was still great and was able to observe 3 bulls quartered, though I didn't get one. I did shoot plenty of grouse and ducks though.
After cultural camp, I knew my time was running short because of job responsibilities and I wasn't able to take time off work. So I bummed a ride from one of my students and we went out on Wednesday. It was rainy and miserable in his open jon boat. After an hour and half of heading up the Innoko, we finally arrived in our hunting territory. I was focused on the edge of a lake that we had entered looking for a bull when my hunting partner pointed to my left at a cow. As I was turned to look a big bull popped up maybe 30 yds away in a willow/spruce tree thicket. He was staring right at me. I threw my rifle up and visibility sucked. Rain was all over my glasses and my scope yet I had a perfect shot. Click...I didn't have a round in the chamber. I've always hunted with a round in the chamber but weapon on safe, until this year. However 30 years of habits are hard to forget, which is throw weapon on fire and squeeze. By time I chambered a round, the bull was running and I fired anyways. I knew I shouldn't have shot, but I took a chance. Missed. Went in to the thicket to look for blood or anything else. Nothing. Climbed a tree and saw 5 cows. Then I knew I should have held my fire, and called him in. Oh well, all I can do is learn from my mistake.
After the miss and the calling attempts for an hour, we decided to relocate to another lake since we figured he left our area by crossing the slough on the other side. Saw a bear and her cubs. Saw plenty of cows. Ended up back in the village after 10:30 at night. Scary ride back to village with no lights and the nasty weather, but we took it slow and luckily my partner knew the river (Though, I should have convinced him to let us camp).
Friday rolls around and I made arrangements to hit the unit hard this weekend. Bought 20 gallons of gas and loaded up for a weekend of hunting. Friday night saw lots of cows and another bear with cubs, but no bulls. We pulled up to camp and unloaded all our stuff. Didn't make any plans for the next day (I was told that I shouldn't make any plans). We awoke and headed out bright and early. It was cold. 33 degrees. Went back to where I missed the big bull and saw nothing but ducks and geese, however I was hunting moose, not birds. Parked and called a little bit. After about an hour and half we decided to call it quits for the morning. We headed back to camp and made breakfast. Decided to go cut some firewood for my partner's dad and have his camp stocked with wood. After cutting and packing the wood to moose camp it was 4:00 pm. Perfect time for hunting. Loaded up,but left axe and saws in camp because of his family tradition of letting moose sit an hour before cutting up, and went hunting. Rounded a bend on the Innoko and saw three cows and and a few calfs, and I was getting anxious. Then I saw something about 500 yds away. I pointed and said, "There's a moose. It's a moose!!" I meant to say bull, but moose came out. We cut the engine and I prepared for my shot. Rather than risk him running away, I pulled out my shooting stick (great idea for shooting on the water btw) and took a kneeling position. The boat was moving up and down like crazy and I was worried I'd miss (expert marksman while in the Corps, so a little ego issues after missing on Wed). I slowed down and took a few deep breaths. At 180 yds away I squeezed the trigger. 180 grains of 30-06 down range. The bull dropped like a sack of taters. Right on the bank. In the grass and thankfully not in the muck (I sunk to my knee when I jumped out of the boat). We decided to go ahead and quarter him without the axe or the saws. I was aiming for his throat/chest area and never found the bullet wound. He had pink blood pouring out of his nose and mouth (thought the bullet went through his chest area and through lungs, but it didn't) and he was kicking a little bit. Put a 5.56 round in the back of his head, then cut his throat. He wasn't big...but he was legal (any size bull area) and he did not stink. He was my first moose. Tradition here is to leave the gut pile covered with the hide, then place head on top of hide facing east. My partner then started his own tradition. Grabbed a hand full of willows and placed inside of mouth. Send him home with his last meal.