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Thread: Get your bow ready!

  1. #1
    Member willphish4food's Avatar
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    Default Get your bow ready!

    I just arrived home from my final hunt of the year, a remote river float hunt by bow. The first 6 days of the hunt had their highs and lows, but mainly lows, as tension built between client and guide over lack of game, questions of technique and area choice, and high expectations on this the client's second hunt in this area. I'll not dwell on the first week of the hunt; we saw a grizzly and a big bull moose the day of the client's fly in, got close to a sow and grown cub a few days later, and saw another small sow later, but that was it for game the first week of the now 9 day hunt. A highlight was each of us catching a tagged salmon on consecutive days. So lets pick things up at our 3rd and final campsite, September 21st, the 5th day of actual hunting.

    We got to our 3rd campout with plenty of daylight left, fished a little, and got camp set up. While fishing I scouted sign and found a small field with a nice spotting ridge beside it, and lots of cow sign entering and around it. We set up there to call around 5 pm. Mornings had been very cold and crisp, and this evening already had a bite to it, so my expectancy was high. We had a lot of fresh cow sign on the sandbar we were on and the one across the river; even better!

    After settling in, we let the area settle, being quiet about 15 minutes. I then let out two very loud cow calls. Immediately, I heard three short grunts. I motioned to the client to listen, I had heard a moose. I called again, and this time there was a very loud, distinct, drawn out cow call in response. We continued to call back and forth, she on one side of the river, me on the other. Then I heard a bull call. Unsure of exact location and what they could see, we stayed put... she then moved off, calling once more, and it got quiet.

    We decided to move to the river, to see if we could get back onto their trail, but after crossing and calling some more, there was never another response. We returned to camp about dark. It had been a cathartic night; finally, after nearly a week of calling with zero results, we had gotten a good response. The client was able to see that moose really would respond to the guide's calling, and perhaps the guide's setups really could bear fruit. And the guide got confirmation once again that moose really did find him sexy, liked him, and maybe even thought him pretty! (old SNL reference )
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    Member willphish4food's Avatar
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    The next day was windy, and with the direction, and the direction the moose were moving when we last heard them, I decided to hunt downriver about a mile, near the downriver end of a long series of beaver ponds and swamp. We called our way down the gravel bar, moving quietly and grunting a lot as we went. We saw another griz, a small sow. The swamp sit was terrific. Good location, lots of visibility, swans, a duck, but no moose. It was very cold in the morning, sunny but kinda cold in the day, and very cold again in evening. We left the swamp during prime movement light, hoping to see a moose on the way back to camp and warm food. We used the last 20 minutes of shooting light to call from one of our morning call sites; no response.

    It was disappointing, after the calling of the evening prior, to hear and see no moose. We looked forward to a better time the following day.
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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Perfect! Just got done with a day where I worked waayyy too much for a weekend. Drink in hand, ready to read a hunting story as it unfolds. Ready for the next post, sir!

  4. #4
    Member willphish4food's Avatar
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    Default next day..

    This morning we were in the woods before shooting light, entering near where we had last heard the moose 2 evenings earlier. We moved slowly and relatively quietly, stopping in clearings to call and listen. The morning was used up doing this, and by early afternoon we had covered a lot of prime ground, covered in beds, scrapes and rubs... but no moose. More swans and awesome scenery, but no moose. After battling our way through beaver channel crossed willow thickets, we climbed a ridge that overlooked the beaver ponds, and began working our way back to the stream that bounded our hunting area to the west. Basically, we were skirting the upper edge of the area with all the moose sign that we had previously worked our way through.

    Getting to a great sitting location, with clear shooting lanes and apparent heavy moose use, the client gave a cow call, and immediately indicated he had heard a response. I had just started working uphill into a clearing to get a better view, so I went back and sat on his log with him. Soon, I too heard a moose. Definite cow. Then another, longer call, and a low bull grunt too. We talked back and forth a bit, and could hear them coming closer. Then she hung up, didn't hear the bull again, and she quit responding too. We had a little back and forth about whether to chase or wait, and we mutually decided to chase! This was the strategy we had arrived at after going over our experience last time; the theory was that we were hearing a cow because she had a bull with her, and didn't want him going after us. We hoped that by getting closer we could convince him to come over to us.

    We headed down the ridge, stopping and calling. Soon, we had a response! Walked more, called again, more answers. She was moving back toward us, then away... finally it sounded like she was moving and calling, going away from us. The client had a great shooting site, so I went back for my pack, with a plan of calling when I got there, like a cow losing hope in the bull or playing hard to get. I was making so much noise in the dry fireweed, that I stopped and cow called several times on the way to the pack, and again when I put it on and started heading back. And then I heard a bull! Not just a grunt, but a steady, non stop series of grunts, getting steadily closer. I hustled back to the client, calling over my shoulder and hearing the bull getting ever closer. I didn't want the bull to see me before I could get back to the client...
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    Member willphish4food's Avatar
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    I sat down, and told him to get ready, as I had a bull hot on my tail. I found out he had been busy with a sublegal bull, watching it from 20 yards or so for 5 minutes while I was gone. He thought that's who was behind me now; I said get ready anyway, cause it could be different one. About that time, out pops the moose, grunting every other step... a 40 inch youngun, 2x2 with a drop off one palm. I kept him coming, till he was about 10 yards away, with us standing right in the open in front of and directly upwind of him. He slobbered, snuffled and grunted around for a few minutes more before walking off into the woods toward the cow. Client got some great video.

    The decision was quickly made to follow him, letting him lead us to the cow and the hopefully bigger bull that might be with her. Sure enough, we got back on him, and then the cow! A very large, fully mature moose, but no antlers, and nothing else around her with antlers. So we all stood around talking to each other for 10 minutes or so, less than 40 yards separating us, but no other bull materialized. She finally spooked and ran off, taking bullwinkle with her.

    Well, we were stoked! We had finally had a successful calling session. Everything we did worked as it should; both moose were easily dead had one been legal. The client had verification that his guide could be a moose whisperer, and the guides confidence in his abilities was boosted.

    We sat for a while in a good clearing, letting any other bulls in the area let themselves be known, but the woods had settled and were very quiet. We proceeded with our earlier plan to push to the creek, and check the other side. The client, as the shooter, led the way for a bit, but kept turning south instead of west, so I began leading again. I grunted every so often, mainly softly, but a little louder once in a while. We got to the creek, which turned out to be fast, bouldery and slick, but not too deep. I was ready to cross immediately, to look into some fields that the map showed were on the other side. We would be hunting into and across the wind, a near perfect setup for still hunting and glassing. It was now approaching 7 pm, the magic hours of evening hunting...

  6. #6
    Member willphish4food's Avatar
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    Default next day continued

    We crossed, and headed downhill. I had hoped for easier walking, but alas, it wasn't to be. Grassy clearings, willow brush, with holes and deadfalls buried in the grass, just waiting an unsuspecting knee, ankle or foot to intersect them. We slowly picked our way along, stumbling and crashing through the willows as "quietly" as possible. I'd grunt once in a while after or during a bad crash session, usually voluntarily, sometimes involuntarily, and usually in moose language and not willow thicket bound hunter language.

    Stepping into a clearing beyond another small willow thicket, I suddenly froze. "Get your bow ready!" I urgently whispered back to the hunter. There, stepping out from behind a tree, antlers slowly moving back and forth as he walked, was a large bull moose! He slowly, steadily approached, walking broadside and slightly toward us. I grunted as soon as I saw him: I can't remember if my grunt was before or after whispering to M. to ready his bow.

    "Is he legal?" the client whispered. Seeing what appeared to be a legal 3rd brow tine, a massive, downcurved beam, and ear tips inside the inside edge of his wide, tall palms, I said "yes, he's got 3, shoot." "Is it long enough?" "Yes."

    I was standing in front of and just to the left of the client, with the moose in front of me, walking left to right. I pulled my camera out of my front pocket, getting ready for video. Just as I got to camera mode, I heard and saw the arrow strike the moose! He lunged forward, the arrow's nock clearly visible center body just behind the right shoulder; buried deeply in the body.

    We both grunted, then I roared, hoping to stop the bull and turn him for a fight, but he was blacked out, doing his death lunge. Within 40-50 yards, he crashed. The silence did not last long; a squirrel in the spruce beside him began chattering like mad. Poor Rocky, your buddy isn't getting up!

    The whole thing played out so quickly; it was surreal. From first sighting of the bull to final crash was less than a minute. And the range was unbelievable! 10 yards when he was first sighted, and 7 yards at the shot! This bull was in our laps when M. shot it.

    We waited a few minutes for movement, and seeing and hearing none, we went to where we had seen the moose drop. There it was... bigger than life. We had a few anxious moments when we looked at the rack; I measured the 3rd brow, and it was wider at the base than it was tall. Uh oh. And no tape measure. Client knew his arrow length, and the span of his two hands, so using that we determined it was a shade over 50 inches, as my other indicators had shown. Whew! Still a slight chance he would be just under, but we were pretty confident.

    After the mandatory photo session, we got to work. Had him broken down and into game bags by 11pm, and were back to camp at 12. We only packed the tenderloins out, not wanting to navigate uncharted territory by flashlight with a loaded pack. It had already been a very long day, starting out at 5 am.
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    Member willphish4food's Avatar
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    Default Final chapter

    The next day we began our pack. We took our time with breakfast, and slept in a little, starting the day at 7:30. The night before, being very close to a fairly sizeable stream, we decided to try to float the meat out. Client thought we should deflate the raft and I could pack it up to the kill; easy for him to say! The raft weighs 126 pounds, plus the pack weight of around 8 pounds, would mean a pack of roughly 135 pounds, through willow thickets and deadfalls, 1/2 mile uphill. Definitely doable, definitely not fun. I thought we could line it upstream; if unable to line it up, it was likely that we wouldn't be able to get downstream either, especially full of meat! As the rafting officionado, I was very firm about how we were going to go about this! We stripped the raft down to nothing, then added a chainsaw, ropes, straps, and our packing supplies. M. wondered why the chainsaw, and I was absolutely firm; unknown stream, known overhanging brush, unknown logjam situation, unknown packing distance, the chainsaw comes with.

    After a couple hours of hacking and splashing our way up the stream, we ran out of bar oil and into a series of large cottonwoods spanning the creek. According to GPS, we were within 500 feet of the kill; close enough! (If you ever find yourself contemplating a remote Alaska float, do yourself a favor and get waders with wading shoes that have very good traction on slick, rock bottomed streams. My client didn't do this, but had regular bootfoot waders with nearly worthless soles... he was floundering around nearly helplessly trying to stay upright.)

    We pulled the raft onto a little gravel beach, then off into the woods we went. We found the kill site without too much difficulty, though we had to do some triangulation with the GPS to find it. It turned out we were less than 200 yards, with an almost straight shot, to the raft and creek! We were able to load the moose, finish caping out and cutting off the skull plate, and get back to camp by 6 pm. 8 hours to pack a full grown moose about a mile! The float down was almost laughably easy; we had a few minutes of heaving and hawing to get over some log dams, and the client did a brief swim when he jumped out of the raft into water over his head; I cringed when all I saw at the back of the raft of my 6'6" client was white knuckles and a hat. We quickly got the raft into shallower water, and he clambered back aboard, with only a little water down his waders and a brief loss of breath from the cold shock.

    We broke camp and loaded up the next day, and in 9 hours of floating, rowing, and grunting over gravel bars, a submerged log and a few midstream rock hangups, one of which I almost got to test my floatation device on, we arrived back at the airstrip and civilization of sorts. It had been an epic hunt, with its share of ups and downs, emotional roller coasters, and a very sweet finish. Pretty much your typical Alaska hunt!
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    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Man, that just made my night! Thanks for taking the time to put that together. I might have missed it in the last post or two, but did you ever stretch a tape on the antlers? Curious as to how it turned out compared to the client's estimate based on his arrow length.

  9. #9
    Member willphish4food's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
    Man, that just made my night! Thanks for taking the time to put that together. I might have missed it in the last post or two, but did you ever stretch a tape on the antlers? Curious as to how it turned out compared to the client's estimate based on his arrow length.
    Yes, we did. I used a 40" cloth tape to see it was over 50. Final measure was 52 1/4 inch, toward the top of the palm's. There were quite a few spots where it was 51 to 51 1/2". Not very comfortably past 50, but good enough! The palms really tilted up, rather than out, so to me it was a very nice 52 incher that could easily have been 56 or 58 had his antlers laid out. And the 3rd tine on his left brow was a hair over an inch tall, but 1 and 3/16" wide, so did not meet the definition of a point.

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    Thank you for a great write up.

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    Great write up as usual Steve. Man, you sure like to do your job the hard way, lol, congrats!

  12. #12
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    "It had been an epic hunt, with its share of ups and downs, emotional roller coasters, and a very sweet finish. Pretty much your typical Alaska hunt!"

    Well written! Thanks for taking us along on your trip report.

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    Excellent write up sounds truly epic

    Sent from my SM-G900V using Tapatalk

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    Great write up and sounds like an awesome hunt!
    Nurse by night, Alaska adventurer by day!

  15. #15
    Member willphish4food's Avatar
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    Thanks all. It really was a good hunt, with most of the excitement compressed into that few hours the final day.

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    Great write up Thanks

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    Great story and photos! Pretty tough hunt.

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