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Thread: Unit 13 Redemption (full story w/ pictures)

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    Default Unit 13 Redemption (full story w/ pictures)

    This story really starts last year when we went out from a very common pullout along the Denali highway to look for a caribou, but more importantly, potential moose hunting areas. 6 years ago I had shot my first moose from here, a dumb spiker who came within a mile of the highway and suicidally stood out in the open, as spike-forks often do. My hunting partner’s great uncle had found him and helped us get down to him after a rotten, hellacious hunt which I previously documented on this forum.

    http://forums.outdoorsdirectory.com/...est-Trip-EVER?

    Last year, we set out from the same place, finding a new water crossing we had never knew before which opened a whole entire new are to us. While we had good suspicion about this area being good moose turf, our exploration was cut short when a fine caribou jumped out of the brush 50 yards away from us. The rest of the day was spent getting this big bull all 5 miles back uphill to the truck without any tie-down straps. (always take straps or paracord, no matter what you think your plans are). Being 2 days before moose season, we drove to our typical hunting area southwest of the MacLaren Lodge. On opening morning, I made my big mistake. After years of hoping for a 50” bull to materialize in our spot, I hoped too much and shot one that was 48.5” with the velvet on (47” stripped).


    We did the right thing and got him to the troopers ASAP, who were surprisingly respectful, gracious and easy in dealing with me. Trooper Simeon and Dahl were great professionals and from their treatment and the judges actions, I could tell they were trying to almost reward you for doing the right thing. At least, for your first mistake.

    With that in the backdrop, we headed out again into the antler restricted Unit 13 last Sunday. After much mulling, we decided to not go to an any bull area, but to try one last time in Unit 13, leaving the MacLaren drainage behind. After hunting there for 5 years, we had only pulled one legal moose out of there and passed on countless others. We were hoping to find a place that could be referred to as a ‘honey hole’, but tempered our expectations. The one thing we knew for sure is, any big antlered moose better have the brow tines, or convince me that he’s near 60”. I will not make that mistake again.


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    ith that in the backdrop, we headed out again into the antler restricted Unit 13 last Sunday. After much mulling, we decided to not go to an any bull area, but to try one last time in Unit 13, leaving the MacLaren drainage behind. After hunting there for 5 years, we had only pulled one legal moose out of there and passed on countless others. We were hoping to find a place that could be referred to as a ‘honey hole’, but tempered our expectations. The one thing we knew for sure is, any big antlered moose better have the brow tines, or convince me that he’s near 60”. I will not make that mistake again.

    Sunday, we made it to our pullout by 1:30pm. Skies were clear but the wind was howling, bad. We hurled our quads and bodies into the pucker brush. 4.1 miles through the nasty yellow stuff with no trail and a meat trailer that would go maybe 50 yards and then come off the hitch. Also, because neither of us had a caribou permit this year, the caribou were positively everywhere. Oh well. It took us almost 6 hours to get down the hill, across the water, back up the hill, around the corner and finally to our campsite.



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    We slept in Monday morning, getting up to sunny skies but stiff wind, still. Our first impressions of the spot we had gotten to blew our minds. We had a full view of about 6 miles of valley with a creek crossing that lets us run the high ridge on either side and the whole place, while only 4 miles from the highway, was totally cut off from view of the day hunters. You had to get right up to the edge to see in to it. Couple that with no other hunters in sight and we were ecstatic. We spent the day exploring the area, gathering firewood and learning where we could get to and how fast it could be done. We also found a spot where we somehow got 4G and cell reception. What a treat.

    Glassing Monday afternoon and evening made us even more excited. Cows and calves were all over the place and we saw two bulls, one not legal, one probably legal. We ate well and went to bed, but I drifted in and out of sleep, worrying about sleeping past my alarm clock.


    Did I mention that there were caribou everywhere? The first season in 5 years I didn't pull a bou permit?


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    Default Unit 13 Redemption (full story w/ pictures)


    Tuesday morning, the wind was still blowing, which was starting to really piss me off. I was sunburned, chapped and dry with no relief in sight. As that magic hour hit, when all the moose stand up, We spooked the two bulls we saw the night before, closer to our camp than I would ever have thought. The forked horn that we believed was legal went off trotting like a caribou into the tall yellow stuff. We tried to track and follow him from miles off to get an actual legal/not legal call on him. As we circled wide around him, Jeremiah spotted a flash up on the hill. He couldn’t find it again for about an hour as we moved in stages toward the last place we saw the forked guy. As we’re sitting there, he softly says to me “Andrew, I wasn’t insane.” He excitedly shows me the moose we named Fabricio, who had shown himself for 30 seconds and then hid. This big guy has caused me to lose so much sleep now. We worked our way closer to him. Being opening day, and with the wind still blowing, we couldn’t positively ID him as legal. 2 and 3 brow tines and a good spread. But how good? Arrgh. We went back to camp and glassed right up until the bitter end of daylight. Another perk of having camp in the spot we had it: 270 degree view of great habitat from the tent.




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    Default Unit 13 Redemption (full story w/ pictures)

    Wednesday magically began without any wind. After a good fire to warm us up and a cup of hot coffee, we got our eyes on the hills as the sun was starting to come up. Lo and behold, this morning, a perfectly legal fork showed his hide a mere ¾ miles from camp. While giddy as a kid at the candy store, we watched him until he bedded down, landmarked him very well, pounded a late breakfast and hit the trail to make a big circle around him. We ended up 250 yards above the yellow stand where he was hiding. We outwaited him in the hot sun and sure enough, after 3 hours, he stood up and stared right at us, broadside. One final look through the spotter to confirm legality and Jeremiah let a .338 cal 215 grain boattail fly through his left lung and sternum. The little guy laid down and started fading. We had a bugger of a time racing down the hill to find him and one final shot from my 416 stopped his breathing.



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    2 hours to butcher him and a happy drive back to camp left us feeling quite satisfied. Jeremiah still couldn’t keep his eyes off the spotting scope and sure enough, found two more big bulls, 5 miles off, sparring with each other. My aching joints protested louder than Jeremiah’s excited estimates of how close they were and how easy to get to they would be. We agreed to stick around one more day and see if we could find another for sure legal bull.



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    We slept in until 7:00am to rest our bones a bit and got out of the tent by 8:00am. As the sun warmed everything up we saw our big boy again, this time relatively close and accessible. We repeated our routine from yesterday in watching him bed down, landmarking his spot and circling way around him. On our way, we found two moose sheds which was a totally sweet bonus. We once again found our bull, bedded down and allowing us to get within about 400 yards of him. He stood up and shook himself off after a while. He had 4 cows with him and he seemed quite content to hang around with them. While at this spot, we once again found a single bar or so of reception and 4G service. This is when I posted my previous shoot/don’t shoot post. I was so torn. It was agonizing to watch this bull, so much clearly bigger than the other one I took in the brush and grunting back at us. We used the moose shed to rake the brush and cover our approach on foot. We got to maybe 60 yards of him and got into quite the bull match with him but he wouldn’t leave the thick cover with his cows. If I could have got that one last close look at him I might have gotten pushed over and pulled the trigger but alas, he refused to come out of the yellow patch into the clearing we were trying to call him into. After a while, we pushed back to the quads as he herded his cows downhill away from us. Well now that I’m back I’m kicking myself for not taking him but I suppose it’s good to be terrified of repeating my mistake. It was made easier having a legal moose hanging back in camp. In good spirits, we said our goodbyes until next year to the big boy and got motivated to start shuttling our moose and part of camp out to the truck. I’m glad we did, because as soon as we got up to the parking lot, we began to feel the first few drops of rain. We stashed the moose meat and our gear in the truck and hustled back to camp to get the tarp on the tent.



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    Default Unit 13 Redemption (full story w/ pictures)

    If you look close in this first picture, you can see Fabricios palms sticking out of the brush, top left.



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    Friday we got the rest of our gear strapped down and got the hell out of dodge. As we pulled up to the parking lot, who do we see pull up into the parking lot road hunting but Jeremiah’s uncle and great uncle Cal Datta. For those of you who might know Cal, he is one of the most bada$z, tough, competent and amazing outdoorsmen you would ever meet while simultaneously being one of the most kindhearted, generous and helpful people you could ever meet in your life. It was a joy to see them and catch up again, sitting in the parking lot where 6 years earlier, Cal had pointed down the hill and said ‘Hey, there’s a bull down there. This hunt aint over yet’ and then guided us down and helped me harvest my first moose. What a great moment coming full circle. So many high and low points all coming around and seeming to work themselves out. All in all I had a great trip and feel my faith has been restored that it is worth coming back to Unit 13 despite the antler restrictions and all the hunting pressure. Every year, we would say on our way out how it was such a blessing and privilege to be out in that gorgeous Denali Hwy country with my best friend, enjoying a week free of work and life's other pressures. It was sure nice this time to not have to say that as an exercise to remain grateful after walking away empty handed once again.



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    Good luck and safe travels to everyone heading out. Please be careful in judging a legal animal and by all means, do the right thing if you do make a mistake. Happy 2015 season everybody!

    Now let the new internal debate simmer: Do I run back and make a play on Fabricio or kick back and wait for spring black bear? I’m haunted by this guy…




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    A bonus shout out to my upstairs neighbors. I love the Pacific Islander mindset. Their momma has her teenagers trained to jump up and help if they see anything that needs done. These boys came down and helped butcher and grind for 5 hours without even being asked. Big thanks to Raymond and Daniel! I'm blessed in the neighbor department too. I'm going to try to take them with in the spring for black bear hunting.



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    Man, what a fantastic hunt! I thoroughly enjoyed reading that - thanks for taking the time to share all the details!

    I've never been much of a moose hunter, as I prefer the high country to the lowland forests and swamps. I'm taking a couple days off to hunt the last four days of the season, though, and like you I'll be poking my head back into Unit 13 in the higher willow-covered areas. I'm trying not to get my hopes up too high, as much of Unit 13 is hunted heavily. That said, after reading your post and seeing those pictures...it's hard not to daydream just a bit about the potential. Nicely done, and thanks again!

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    Yep.......that was a fun read, thanks.

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    I would have sworn that after reading the title that you went back and killed that big bull.

    Oh well, congrats on the little guy though for sure.
    Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

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    Default Unit 13 Redemption (full story w/ pictures)

    Quote Originally Posted by 4merguide View Post
    I would have sworn that after reading the title that you went back and killed that big bull.

    Oh well, congrats on the little guy though for sure.
    To me the redemption is finding a place that feels like a productive area that can produce at least one legal bull moose per year. We saw 6 or 7 bulls in 4 days of which, one was a legal tiny spike, one looked like a legal fork, one was a spork with 3 points and a little palm, one was a legal big bull (albeit, without the brow tines) and two big bulls that were too far away to determine but were fighting each other and looked pretty big. Driving to the troopers last year made me want to bail so bad to an any bull unit. I love the terrain on the Denali so much, I didn't want to leave it but it didn't seem worth it, sharing a swamp with other hunting parties that only holds two bulls, both sub legal.


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    Quote Originally Posted by highestview View Post
    To me the redemption is finding a place that feels like a productive area that can produce at least one legal bull moose per year.
    I sure can understand that.....
    Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

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    Dang nice story! Hard to imagine that kind of solitude off the Denali. Looks like you found that honey hole you were looking for

    Is the bull in that first pic the one that was sublegal? I'm no expert judging moose, but this looks legal to me from this angle. Taking a ruler off this picture and assuming 10" from the outside of the eyes, this guy easily looks 50. Can someone please enlighten me what I'm doing wrong here? I hope this isn't hijacking, but I think it may also play toward the intent of you posting this in the first place... educating people about sublegals.

    Thanks for the write up!

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    Quote Originally Posted by highestview View Post
    To me the redemption is finding a place that feels like a productive area that can produce at least one legal bull moose per year. We saw 6 or 7 bulls in 4 days of which, one was a legal tiny spike, one looked like a legal fork, one was a spork with 3 points and a little palm, one was a legal big bull (albeit, without the brow tines) and two big bulls that were too far away to determine but were fighting each other and looked pretty big. Driving to the troopers last year made me want to bail so bad to an any bull unit. I love the terrain on the Denali so much, I didn't want to leave it but it didn't seem worth it, sharing a swamp with other hunting parties that only holds two bulls, both sub legal.


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    Saw the Trooper truck driving back and forth on the Denali last week - with a fresh set of moose antlers in the bed. Someone didn't make the restrictions I'm thinking.

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    You made the right choice passing up that bull since you were not sure.

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