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Thread: The Chronicles of a Wandering Idiot: Bumbling for Bullwinkle

  1. #1

    Default The Chronicles of a Wandering Idiot: Bumbling for Bullwinkle

    Unfortunately my phone decided to spazz out on me during these outings, so no pictures with this story. Yes, it is long, and yes I don't think most will take the time to read all of it. But if any of you do, I hope you enjoy it. This was quite the experience all said and done, and I learned a lot about myself and moose hunting in general. The long story short is this: We hunted, shot a legal spike/fork in a place we had no business doing so, but managed to get it out without losing the meat or incurring serious bodily harm. Runner19 and I were joined by two new victims on a fresh and hellacious journey in search of meat.

    The Chronicles of a Wandering Idiot:
    Bumbling for Bullwinkle

    Prologue

    “Hey, saw your comment on the 907 page. Trying to figure out hunting also. Been here a year. Would love to get a caribou this year and maybe a moose next. I’m in Eagle River. Chad”

    Have you ever looked back to see exactly where you first went wrong? That moment right there is where Chad screwed up, on August 14, 2018 at 6:48 p.m. You see, earlier I had responded online to some other potential victim that I am always willing to take out beginning hunters, and Chad, like the fool he is, took my bait.

    Now Chris, he first screwed up more than a year ago when he sat his family down at the same picnic table as mine during a kid’s group Easter egg hunt at Oceanview Park. Chris is an incredibly nice guy, but that wouldn’t save him this time.

    What about AJ, you ask? He knew what he was getting into after I egged him into shooting a bull caribou at the top of a mountain, miles from the truck last year. He’s just a special kind of stupid.

    As for me, I’ll just claim it was the brain damage as a child, maybe blame my sister for letting me climb up onto that windowsill. That way I can’t be held responsible for my actions. It’s the American way.

    Fast forward a few weeks and we arrive at the end of August, and I had conned my victims, new and old, into going moose hunting with me.

    “Now guys, seriously, I’m not going to paint a rosy picture for you: We probably won’t even see a bull, let alone a legal one. But you never know. We’re going to do some exploring with the machine, then probably lots of hiking through thick brush and swamps, only to sit for hours until our eyes bleed. Probably in a constant drizzle. Let’s go do something stupid. You in?”

    Yes, that stirring sales pitch worked. Not just once, but three times. Did I mention that Chris and his wife had just had their 2nd kid, a month early, three weeks before the hunt? Chad and his wife had just had their 4th, 10 weeks before, and spent 6 weeks in the NICU with the baby. And AJ and his wife are under contract on a new home, trying to sell their current one. I told you they were stupid.

    I had found this area last year while driving with my kids on a day trip, and felt that it was everything I could want it to be for a great moose area. The plan was to leave Friday afternoon and hunt until dark Labor Day Monday if need be. Between the 4 of us, we had two moose tags, as AJ had done Tier 1 caribou in Unit 13 and couldn’t hunt moose elsewhere in the state, and Chad was literally less than 1 week away from gaining his Alaska residency.

    My truck was in the shop, repairs having skyrocketed in cost and taken more than a week longer than promised, but thankfully Chris had a truck that would work to pull everything. So Chris drove down from the Valley to Los Anchorage and we loaded up my recently purchased, used side by side into my new toy hauler travel trailer, and took off back North in style. We grabbed Chad, and met up with AJ who was driving separately as he wanted to return home on Sunday. Not at all because he didn’t enjoy the prospect of hours and hours in a moving vehicle with yours truly. I’m freaking delightful, gosh darn it. Chad just switched vehicles half way there so that AJ wouldn’t get lonely. Besides, he probably wanted to hear AJ’s version of his caribou hunt for “Chester the Flightless Reindeer” that he shot at the top of a mountain with me last year. Such a nice guy, Chad, but don’t worry, I’ll fix that for him soon enough.

  2. #2

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    Part I

    We arrived in the area and started looking for a campsite with a couple hours left of daylight. The weather was stunning, not a cloud in sight, cool enough for easy meat prep but not cold. Excellent. The primary spot I had had in mind was already taken so we pressed forward into virgin country to hopefully find a campsite with good visibility. Like the idiots we are, as Chris and I thought we had found a less than ideal, but good enough spot next to what could have easily been Walter White’s motorhome, AJ and Chad took off up a steep and narrow gravel road. So we followed, with the 10,000lbs 32’ trailer in tow. Second Mistake.

    As Chris is deftly driving where no sane person would pull such a large trailer, suddenly we come up to a sharp corner and try as he might, we had no way to clear it without pushing the side of the trailer into the mountain. Oh well, just a little cosmetic damage. My wife will understand. Probably.

    Chris was able to work the trailer free and with only 200’ left of the climb, the soft gravel and loss of momentum was too much to overcome. Chris valiantly tried to press onward, but all he could accomplish was to dig his tires deeper into the gravel. We were stuck, with the prospect of backing up around said corner and down ½ a mile of a steep, narrow road with a 400’ drop to the one side and a mountain on the other. Third Mistake.

    And of course, AJ and Chad had kept going and were nowhere to be seen. In my infinite wisdom, I had left my radios in my truck, back at the mechanic’s. Lovely. “Ok Chris, you just sit tight, I’ll start walking and hopefully AJ will turn around and come looking for us. I think we can hook up some tow straps and daisy chain the trucks and get up top so we can find a place to turn around.”

    “You got it, Boss.”

    It didn’t take long for me to find AJ and Chad had turned around and were looking for us. “Are there any good spots for Chris to turn around up there, or even a decent campsite?”

    “There’s a great spot to turn around, but I don’t think we’d want to camp there. Not really a good spot for that.” AJ replied, lyingly as I was to discover later.
    “Ok, well, Chris is stuck in that last steep stretch so I figure we’ll hop down there and get you turned around so we can strap his front end to your hitch and try to get up the hill so he can turn around. Let’s just set up camp down in the bottom next to that meth trailer and try to get somewhere we can see before dark.”

    I hopped on to the running board and we took off back down the road towards our stranded fellow moron. Just as we rounded the final bend, to our amazement there was Chris cresting the top of the hill. I didn’t think I was that fat…but I guess without my pudge he was able to work the truck up that stretch by cranking the wheel left and right until he had purchase. So I hopped in with him, we passed AJ’s truck and headed up to find that spot to turn around, as AJ went down the mountain to the other campsite.

    As we got to the turn around area, I could have shot AJ. It was perfect: flat, miles of visibility of clearings surrounded by pockets of brush and trees, two large ravines. Freaking AJ. Whatever, we turned around and headed down the hill, this time avoiding getting pinned on the mountain.

    We quickly unloaded the side by side, after discovering that the straps had all come loose (and of course I already knew the parking brake needs fixing but I hadn’t done it yet). So who knows how long it had been rolling around bashing things in. I never liked those cabinets anyway. It’s only money, and money happens. My wife will understand. Probably.

    “Hey look, a moose.” AJ remarked casually before we had even left camp. Sure enough, there was a yearling cow just standing in the creek 10 yards away.

    “DANG IT! We forgot to agree to $5 for spotting the first moose!” AJ lamented.

    “Aww schucks!” I gleefully giggled. “Besides AJ, even if that was a legal bull, after your caribou last year, you owe me. I’m only shooting a bull moose if it is at the top of a freaking mountain so you have to carry it for me.” I announced, prophetically. Fourth Mistake.

    “Oh, I know. I wouldn’t expect anything less.” AJ committed. Fifth Mistake. “Hey Chad, Chris. Did we ever tell you about the time we shot a caribou on the top of a mountain?”

    As Chad and Chris rolled their eyes at the umpteenth retelling of Chester, we headed down the road, hoping to reach a trail I had identified on Google Earth to get above the tree line. We crossed several creeks as we raced the sun down the road. Realizing we wouldn’t make it to the trail I wanted, we took another road that climbed out of the ravine, hoping to get some visibility before dark. Up we climbed in the fast fading twilight.

    “WATCH OUT! MOOSE!” AJ, Chad, and Chris all screamed in unison, startling the cow with her calves even more than the machine had already done. They quickly settled off the side of the road in a patch of brush and we crested the top of the ravine. As we hit the end of the road and the start of a trail through the brush, the thermostat began to climb, and the green geyser of coolant shot out of my reserve tank. Well that looks promising.

    So we fiddle and topped off the coolant some more, then limped our way back to camp. There may or may not have been numerous clouds of white smoke and sputtering engines during and after some creek crossings. I also may or may not have attempted to recreate the final scene of splash mountain at one point, sending a 10’ wall of water crashing into the cab through my non-existent windshield. Allegedly.

    As we got to camp, we made dinner, and discovered that the outlets weren’t working in the trailer despite the generator running. Whatever. We made plans to use the truck in the morning to then hike down that trail and see if we could turn up any moose. And of course, for some reason the furnace decided not to work. I tried to call the concierge and complain, maybe get a free foot massage out of it, but AJ was most unaccommodating. Freaking AJ.

    We reached the scene of last night’s geyser right as it was light enough to shoot. From the warm cab of the truck we all looked at each other with that hesitation hunters know all too well.

    “Let’s just push through this brush to that little knoll and see if there is anything to see, or maybe worth hiking to right here. I’m just gonna grab my binos, and leave my scoped rifle in the truck so Chris, you grab the 45-70 as any shots we might have will be close range in this spot.” I ordered, idiotically. Sixth Mistake.

    Right as we crested the knoll, I immediately spotted a moose. “Hey guys, I’m pretty sure I’ve got a cow right here. 200 yards on that ridge by that patch of red fireweed.”

    “Where are you looking?” Asked Chad, earnestly and full of innocence.

    “At the moose.” I helpfully replied. “But it’s not like I’d shoot it even if it were legal, he’s not at the top of a mountain for you AJ. Hey Chad….”

    “What, did you guys shoot a caribou at the top of a mountain or something? I don’t think I’ve heard this one.” Chad replied gamely.

    As we stared at her and confirmed she was a cow, we began to glass further and further out. Chris and I worked into a clearing and continued to glass. “Hey, I’ve got another moose. Pretty sure she’s a cow. Nope. Two moose. Cow and calf. There at the base of the hill, right at the edge of the meadow, maybe ½ mile out.” I told Chris.

    “Oh, I thought you were looking at these two right over here, much closer.” Chris replied, without even the decency of being sarcastic.

    “Whoa, that one is a small bull! I didn’t even see those! Ok, definitely 3 points on the right side, but I need to see his left better. I think he only has two legal points as that third is kind of a paddle. Not your traditional fork-horn, but if so, he’s legal. I have to get closer, as these binocs just aren’t cutting it. If only I had grabbed my rifle, the 18x on the scope would be perfect to confirm.”

    As we grouped up and tried to work in on him, the bull and cow spooked and began trotting away. We tried to cut them off and continued to get distant looks and glimpses until they disappeared across a ravine. Oh well.

    We wrapped up our morning exploring some other areas I had driven with my kids last year. We spotted a grizzly way up on a mountain in Notachancistan, then decided to return to camp, tinker with the trailer and side by side. The plan was to use the side by side and return to that area in the afternoon, watch it until dark and hopefully that bull would be back and we could get a better look. At camp, we quickly got the outlets working, got the furnace blowing (still no foot massage though), tinkered with the side by side and seemingly fixed it. We hopped on the machine and headed back out. We get to the trailhead, no problems. Excellent. We get 500 yards down the trail past a few mud holes and bust.

    “I’m of half a mind to shoot this sucker and be done with it.” I would mutter, repeatedly over the next few days. “Besides, everybody knows that a hunting trip isn’t fun until you are pretty sure you’re gonna die at least twice!”

    So we hiked about a mile down the trail, me scavenging the nagoon berries I was delighted to find, and watching my dog Ava work the brush for grouse or ptarmigan. Poor Ava, she tried so hard to find a bird but no chance. As we sat on a hillside, AJ restless to keep moving, me trying my best to convince everybody that if we just stuck it out till dark we would see something. As AJ wandered, he called out that he just bumped a ptarmigan, so I excitedly took off with Ava (no shotgun, but I hoped to still get some good pointing work in). Turns out the bird had flown far and try as we might, Ava could not turn up another on that ridge, and she tried hard. Poor Ava.

    “You know Jon, it would really suck to have to push that machine down the trail in the dark. Let’s just make our way back, maybe stop and watch a few spots for a bit on the way and plan on spending the last couple hours of light pushing it out.” Said AJ.

    “Fine, sounds good to me.”

    As we made it a ways back, we found another hill and I said I wanted to just sit and glass for an hour. After about 30 minutes of only spotting another grizzly and body of a moose with the head hidden miles and miles a way in Nopeistan (which is further away than Notachanceistan), and only a little muttering about wasting time, a breeze picked up. Ava bolted up from her nap and sat at attention giving me low woofs and gruffs. This is what she has been trained to do when she notices a bear. Adrenaline spiked through the roof as I grab my gun expecting a grizzly to come barreling out of the alders 30 yards to my right. Nothing.

    “Calm down Ava, easy girl. Huh, did you just have a bad dream or something? Easy.” I reassured her.

    After that we all decided it was time to go get my chunk of metal off the mountain and pray that it would get us through the 3 creeks and 4 miles back to camp. We hadn’t gone 20 yards along the ridge when AJ stops and motions us down. So naturally I quickly run right up to where he’s looking. 20 feet away there is a 4-point young bull moose laying down watching us. He’d been there the whole time we were chatting away about nothing being in these meadows, not even 30 yards from where we were sitting! So I guess Ava warns me of moose the same way she does for bears, haven’t really worked on that one, but I’ll take it. Good girl.

    As we watched that sub-legal bull stand up and trot away we marveled at the size of the animal. Then a cow and a calf made a brief appearance following him. None of us had ever killed a moose, and it was intimidating for sure. A quick glance with the binoculars turned up another cow in the little clearing we had been watching earlier in the afternoon.

    “I told you guys we’d see something there if we stayed put. And seriously, that young bull would have eventually gotten up and fed around and we’d have seen him. Usually, hiking like crazy isn’t what is going to kill animals. You just have to park your butt and glass until you can’t take it anymore, then keep glassing.” I pontificated at my victims.

    Luckily, as we reached the side by side, it started up and we were able to get back to the road. As we hit the road it started overheating and puttering along. It would go 50 yards and die. Wait 2 minutes then repeat. Finally, we hit the downhill portion and just rolled in neutral past that cow with her 2 calves. As we got to the bottom of the canyon, it seemed to be working fine and we got back to camp without any major issues.

    “OK, so that isn’t going to be used again this weekend. Time to get it into the shop I guess.”

    We again planned to hike into the same spot the next morning, and see what we could see. As we reached the ridge where the sublegal bull was, we sat down and started glassing. With nothing showing in close, except for the same cow as the night before, our eyes began to wander to the other side of the canyon—the roadless, trail-less void of temptation. Seventh Mistake.

    “Hey Jon, help me find that bull near the grizzly you spotted yesterday.” AJ said, rife with boredom.

    “Why? Its not like we’re going to go over there.”

    “Just do it.”

    “Fine.”

    “Ope. I’ve got a cow low on that plateau across the canyon. And another. And another.” I said immediately.

    “Where? Never mind, I see them. No antlers?” AJ replied.

    “Not that I can see, but those spike/forks can be tricky sometimes. Not like it actually helps as we can’t even get up there, let alone get a moose back down. That would take a week. Chris, Chad, you guys see the cows?” I asked.

    “Where are you looking?” Chad asked, stupidly.

    “At the moose.” I replied flatly, giggling on the inside, before trying to describe it to him.

    “Ok, I think I’ve got them.” Said Chris.

    “I’ve got a couple more, Jon. One plateau over to the right and a little further back.” AJ whispered.

    “Got ‘em. Whoa. Keep going to the right there’s a whole gaggle of meese. What the… I’ve never seen that before! There are like 6 all right next to each other! Three are big bulls, 2 of them definitely over 50” one probably pushing 60!” I quietly shouted. Eighth Mistake.

    “WHOA! OK, how do we get over there?! Once we get up top they are basically in range dude!” AJ responded excitedly.

    “A plane. There’s just no way. There’s no freaking way we can get a moose off of there, even with all 4 of us and 2 days. Maybe if we had until Saturday…but we all have work on Tuesday.” I despondently tried to crush our hopes, as I stared intently at what collectively must have been a couple hundred pounds of antler. “Great. There’s also a definite fork horn on that plateau, right at the edge. Dude that is like, three times worse than Chester. And at least 4 times as big of an animal. No freaking way.”

    “No way dude. We can get up there, easy. Look, we take that ridge, it looks pretty open, and work our way up. I’d be there in like, 45 mins an hour.” Claimed AJ.

    “Uh huh, sure…not a chance dude. Maybe if it is like you are saying, you can do it in say 2 hours. But going up isn’t the hard part. Getting a moose down without breaking something or dying, now that is the challenge. Plus, if we get up there, we’re gonna want to shoot two of them, I just know it. Then we’d be really screwed. Unless we do it, hang the meat, and decide to find a plane to come and land up in that clearing and we split the costs. It might only be about $500-600 each and you’ll get ½ a moose. Those numbers work guys.” I vainly tried to dissuade them.
    As we worked our way back to the truck, pausing every now and then to watch the bulls push each other around, my resolve against finding a way up there began to fade. “Ok fine AJ, I think we can make that ridge….let’s go back to camp, each some food, slim down our packs and give it a try. Chad, Chris, what are your thoughts?” I asked.

    Chad and Chris were naively willing to try it, but I suspect they just wanted some glorious story of triumph to carry around for themselves. Maybe they need to hear the story of Chester again. I’ve got to hand it to these two, for not having any real hunting experience, they sure are trusting. The fools. Chris and Chad were regularly asking great questions about how to glass, what to look for in an area that might indicate that it is worth watching, and more.

    We set up our packs and ate some eggs, and I opted to leave Ava as she had been working like crazy without even a single bird to encourage her. I didn’t want to have to worry about her on what was sure to be a truly hellacious hike. As we drove back down the road, and approached what we thought was our best route, reality set it and our stupidity began to wane.

    “Guys, look, that just isn’t possible. Look at how thick and steep that is. It just can’t be done.” I managed to convince them, finally. “Hey AJ, remember when you shot that bull caribou at the very top of a mountain miles from the truck last year?”

    “Oh did you guys do that? I hadn’t heard….” Chris and Chad chimed in.

    As we returned to camp, we all decided to just head home early and spend the holiday with our families. I had a goat hunt in 2 weeks, Chad was taking his family to Denali then as well, Chris had family coming to town, and AJ had his houses to deal with. We knew we made the right call, and that we could try again next year, maybe block out a whole week, bring our families and give it time.

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    Part II

    Monday morning found AJ and I messaging GPS coordinates and satellite images back and forth to each other. We had found a trail up to the plateau. And a couple others further west that looked like we could use to access the area with some extra miles, but easier hiking. Ninth Mistake.

    Over the week we casually tossed back and forth of giving it a try or not. Friday evening found Chad, AJ, and I headed back with plans to hike up the plateau in the dark the next morning and see if those bulls were still around. Chris had relatives in town and would be on standby if we needed him. Tenth Mistake. I had wisely opted to leave Ava home, as I didn’t want to risk injuring her before my goat hunt the next weekend, as I really wanted her along for that.

    We got to the area just before dark and glassed the plateau, hoping to see even just a cow. Nothing.

    “Wait. Look at the edge of the plateau straight across, left of the bull’s plateau. There’s a moose, but I can’t see its head. Crap. He’s a spike. Definitely legal. AJ, you owe me $5, pay up!” I chortled.

    “Fine. DUDE, let’s go!” AJ replied seriously.

    “Are you kidding? We have 30-45 mins of light left max. Even though that plateau is easier I think to get up, we’d never make it in time.” I responded.

    “You mean YOU would never make it in time.” AJ quipped.

    “Yep. Darn straight! And Chad and I are the ones that have tags…so unless you’re gonna carry me up there… that is at least three times as bad as Chester. Minimum.”

    Chad wisely kept his mouth shut during this back and forth. He has his moments where I think he might not be that dumb…but then he agrees to go back out hunting with me and I remember the truth of it.

    “What’s that over there, just to the right? Bears. Yep. Two of them. Black.” AJ said moments later.

    “Got’em.” I fired back instantly.

    “Where are you guys looking?” Asked Chad, earnestly for the hundredth time.

    “At the bears.” Replied AJ. I knew I liked him.

    As we described the area, Chad found them and we watched the two bears wrestle a few hundred yards away from a legal bull.

    We found a round several miles down the canyon that would get us up that side, but we’d have to cross a couple ravines if we wanted to get to the big bulls’ plateau from the week before. Since there were a number of promising looking meadows before then, we opted to just give it a go in the morning and see where the day would take us. We loaded our packs for a dark-to-dark outing and started up the road an hour before light.

    The whole way up I gave AJ crap for not wanting to take his truck up there as the wash outs weren’t so bad that his whole truck would disappear—only half of it, and we could work with that.

    “Dude, we could have slept for an extra 30 minutes and not had to hike this ½ mile gaining 500’ elevation.” I complained to deaf ears. I guess he just didn’t want to scratch his paint for reasons I’ll never understand. Tundra Racing Stripes are what make a truck a truck.

    “Hey man, I’ve already decided. If you get a moose, I’m naming him Charlie. Just don’t gut shoot him.” Informed AJ. “Oh, and you guys have changes of clothes right? I’m not gonna let you in my truck all nasty. I’ve got body wipes, and we’re all gonna get cleaned up and changed before we get in my truck.”

    I looked at Chad, Chad looked at me, and all I could do was mutter, “I miss my truck.”

    “Hey Chad. Did I ever tell you about the time AJ gut shot a bull caribou at the top of a freaking mountain?”

    “Really? I don’t think I have heard that one. Tell me more.”

    “Yup. You’re my kind of stupid.”

    As we made our way to the meadows, it appeared perfect. There was a great campsite with 2 miles of visibility up a wide meadow with spruce, willow, and alder thickets on the edges. Moosetopia. But of course, we didn’t see any moose.

    We worked our way up the valley to gain elevation for a glassing spot, constantly wanting to go just a bit further, one more ridge, just the other side of that ravine. We would stop occasionally and glass around, but not even a cow. With each passing moose-less hour, AJ and I wordlessly knew that the other wanted to get to THE plateau from the week before. Eleventh Mistake. Poor Chad.

    After 6.5 miles of muskeg, bogs, devil’s club, brush choked ravines, walking along beaver dams, and gaining over 1000’ of elevation, we found ourselves on a ridge ½ mile above where the gaggle of meese had been sparring a week before. We had done it. Twelfth Mistake.

    It was just after 1p.m., over 60 degrees with the sun blazing down from a cloudless sky and the perfect kiss of a breeze to keep you cool when we took off our boots and dried our socks. We were nearly out of the water we had brought up the mountain but I had a Lifestraw filter that we intended to share, filling up AJ’s Nalgene when we found a good creek or pond.

    As AJ and Chad snored, my insomnia reared its ugly head. After an hour of sunbathing, I truly wanted to sleep, but couldn’t stop staring at the patches of trees that had hid enormous paddles of bone only days earlier. Thirteenth Mistake.

    I had almost managed to doze off, when I spotted movement ½ mile away. “I’ve got a moose guys. Two. Pretty sure they are a cow and a calf. Just came out of those trees, crossed that meadow and hooked left. See them?”

    “Where are you looking?” Chad asked sleepily.

    “At the moose.” I smirked.

    “Oh, ok, I got her.” AJ replied, and Chad confirmed shortly thereafter.

    “Ope. I’ve got another one. Two. Cows. In the brush, see her head sticking out of that spruce? Oh wait. There’s another one. Look in the meadow 300 yards back and to the left, that is a bull! Not a big bull…but he might be only a fork on the one side. Maybe not.” I whispered excitedly.

    After ten minutes of intermittent glimpses of only the cows, everything went still again. Soon the sonorous purring of AJ’s nasal cannons was once again caressing the tundra, which quickly turned into a duet as Chad came in on backup. After another twenty minutes of this symphony, again I was nearly asleep only to spot movement. A flash of white 400 yards below us in the brush. I pop up immediate and identify the intruder as a coyote. He worked his way towards and around us, at one point passing a mere 100 yards to our west. We had other things in mind, and a nice coyote pelt was a poor substitute for moose steak.

    Quickly, the boredom returned and again I nearly managed to grasp some sleep when through my eyelids I spotted a nose poking out of the willows ½ mile away. “Guys. Moose. One. Three. Nope, four. This time, just to the right of where the cow and calf crossed the meadow, and a bit back. See the patch of red brush, then the yellow stuff between those spruces? There. Ope. That’s a fork horn. No question. He’s legal.” I whispered, dropping my binos and scrambling to put my socks and boots back on. Fourteenth Mistake. At least my socks and boots had dried out.

    “Chad, do you want to take him? He’s all yours if you think you can do it. We’re all going to get within about 400 yards to that spruce, then drop the packs and send the shooter in to stalk the rest of the way. I think if you can get to that patch of willows, you’ll be able to set up, have visibility and a shot under 200 yards, just wait for him to appear.” I quickly relayed.

    “No way man, I think we’d best have you do it as I don’t want to screw this up. I’ve never stalked an animal before.” Chad replied nobly.

    “Sounds good. Wait what’s that?! Something else is coming in, it might be a big bull. I just saw a flash of white behind that tree. What is that? . . . just left of the 4 moose, 20 yards. They are all staring at it. It’s a bear! A small one, female. Pretty sure it is a black bear, but it kinda looks brown—and there’s not a lot of cinnamon bears running around up here.” I rambled as we sat poised on the edge of action. Eventually the bear turned back into the woods, confirming it was just a lone black bear.

    As we dropped out of sight of the moose, I charged straight through the muck trying to cover ground quickly. We reached the drop off point and I cautiously began to move forward alone. Fifteenth Mistake.

    I would move 5-10 feet, then stop, trying to peer through the brush. There was a cross wind that was less than ideal, but the downwind approach wouldn’t provide visibility, so this would have to do. I had finally reached where I thought I was about 200 yards from the last place we had seen the moose, but couldn’t see it due to the height of the brush. As I glanced around trying to decide my best route forward I suddenly realized I was looking at an antler 15 feet in front and slightly left of me. I pulled up my binos just to make sure he was not legal. Nope. 4 points on the right paddle, 2 brow tines and a small paddle with 2 more points on his left. No dice. So I pulled out my phone to take some pictures and videos with the small bull.

    As I stood there filming, I spotted a calf 30’ to my left, directly downwind and staring right at me. This was it, I had been made I thought. But she just walked a couple steps to the right and disappeared in the brush. Stupid moose, I thought.

    Right as I put my phone back in my pocket, another head appeared where the calf was. My initial thought was that it was still the calf, but that lasted for but a millisecond as I saw it was a fork-horn bull on the one side. Sixteenth Mistake.
    I reflexively raised my gun, put the cross hairs at the base of his ear, then changed my mind and decided to spine him at the top of the shoulder/base of the neck. I pulled the trigger. Seventeenth Mistake.

    I watched him collapse instantly when I pulled the trigger, listening to the small but growing voice of horror screaming in the back of my mind I mechanically worked the bolt and turned to face the other bull that was now less than 10 feet to my right. What I didn’t count on was the cow that stood up BETWEEN me and the sub-legal bull. She had been laying down not even 5 feet away from where I stood for at least 5 minutes prior to pulling the trigger.

    As I started talking to the bull and cow I noticed additional pairs of ears scattered around me within a 40 foot radius. Nobody moved. I began to yell, and wave my arms. The cow and bull closest to me took a cautious step forward—not aggressively mind you, but with what I can only describe as bewilderment. They had to be thinking, “there’s no way this is a hunter. Nobody is dumb enough to shoot a moose up here.” Wrong.

    Eventually I jumped up and down and took a few steps towards the closest moose, while hollering, “Hey Moose! Get out of here!” The brush exploded in a flurry of horn and hooves. I could not tell you for sure how many moose there were in there, but I can say I didn’t see any big bulls!

    As I approached my young bull, he was still trying to get up and I finished him with a shot to the neck, severing his jugular and spine with the bullet. I watched in reverence as the .300 caliber fountain of blood rose up several feet in wine-colored pulses, until the bull laid still for a final time as I notched out my harvest ticket.

    I wrestled his massive head and neck and pried free his antlers from the brush and muskeg where he lay. Huh, turns out he was technically a legal spike on both sides. On his one side, he had broken off his front fork some time before I shot him leaving only a single legal tine. On the other side he had a tine, and what looked like a second, but under the legal definition didn’t count as a point as it was wider than it was long measured 1” from the tip. Legal either way, but interesting. To me though, he’s a fork-horn.

    “Hey Guys! I have good news and bad news! Which do you want?” I yelled through the brush towards the crunching I could hear lumbering my way.

    “What?! I can’t hear you.” Replied a markedly non-ursine voice, to my relief.

    “Do you want the good news, or bad news?”

    “Whatever dude. Did you get a bull?!” AJ asked me, exasperated with my desirable charm.

    “Well, good news is I did not gut-shoot a legal bull moose at the top of a mountain for you AJ. The bad news is, I shot a freaking legal bull moose at the top of a mountain.”

    “Dude, I thought that second shot was you shooting the bear too. I told Chad, ‘that freaking idiot can carry the bear and his share of the moose down all by himself!’ So was he just not dead yet?” AJ asked.

    “Nope. No sign of the bear. Charlie was still kicking a bit, and I just wanted to finish him off quickly. He wouldn’t have gone anywhere, which is why I chose to spine him in the first place, and he would have died in a couple minutes, but no need to drag that out for him.” I replied.

    “So what do you want me to do?” asked Chad.

    Without response, AJ and I laughed darkly at Chad’s dwindling innocence. Nobody would be laughing soon.

    A little after 6, we had him quartered, with the boned out ribs, flap and neck meat (lovingly dubbed the moosellaneous bag), backstraps and tenderloins all bagged up and strapped to our packs. Well over 80lbs of meat for both Chad and I plus our gear, and AJ more than 100lbs. After studying the map on my phone and AJ’s GPS we figured we had about a 3.5 mile pack, losing well over 1000’ in elevation before reaching a road. Then several miles along the road to the truck.

    “Ok AJ, fine, I’ll admit it. I’m glad you didn’t drive up that road this morning before we started hiking. You were right.” I confessed.

    “I love hearing you say that. Crap! I didn’t even think about that though. That would have really been bad.” AJ replied. “Daylight’s burning, let’s just embrace the suck and get on with it.”

    “It is a good thing he was a young bull, there’s no way we could avoid 2 trips on a mature bull.” We all would remark to each other repeatedly over the hours to come, intermixed with various versions of, “Ugh. Freaking Chris! This would be WAY easier if he had been able to come!”

    AJ is a horse. The guy had an entire hind and shoulder on his pack. I took a hind, the backstraps/tenders, and the antlers. We had tried to saw off the antlerplate and keep them together but the skull broke in the process, which ended up being better in the long run. Chad had an older internal frame pack and took a shoulder and the moosellaneous bag.

    We made it a couple hundred yards before deciding to bone and skin out the legs, to shave some weight. An hour later we were at it again, trudging towards the edge of the plateau with the hopes of finding one of the ridges we’d identified as a possible trail up the mountain but never laid eyes on.

    As we crossed willow and alder thickets, bogs and beaver dams, and other tundra tortures we repeatedly found ourselves forced back up the mountain away from the road in the canyon below. Finally, we found the edge of one of the ravines right as darkness set in and my phone with the map died. Luckily, AJ had a GPS that had been pretty reliable. There was a sizeable creek in the bottom and we figured if we could just get to that we’d be able to walk out the final ½ mile to the road easy enough. From there, drop packs and send somebody to get the truck 3.68 miles down the road. Easy peasy.

    We removed our guns from our packs, tightened things up, and rolled them off the edge one by one into the dark abyss, listening as they crashed their way down. We knew we had to drop another 600’ in elevation to reach the creek, then another 200’ drop as we worked to the road. As we scrambled our way to where we heard the packs stop, we pleasantly found all three of them within feet of each other, intact. We would do this two more times before we no longer had enough incline to roll them.

    We found a trickle that was mostly open, and strapped our packs on again. As we stumbled down the ravine, clearing devil’s club with our faces and limited to seeing only the 1-2’ illuminated by our headlamps we all knew we had screwed up. Big time.

    Every so often, we would confer with AJ’s GPS to see how far to the creek, and it lying told us just another couple hundred feet.

    The hours passed with the brush closing in tighter and tighter while the bear scat grew more prevalent. And still, we stumbled forward and down following that trickle. Every so often we’d fill up the Nalgene and pass around the Lifestraw to get a drink. We ate the last of our food hours earlier.

    “I think I can hear the creek!” One of us would repeat every so often as a louder rumble would appear, only to be crushed by another 1-2’ waterfall from our trickling tormentor.

    Finally, just before 1 a.m., we all looked at each other. “I can’t. I just can’t.” AJ gasped, deservedly.

    “What if we just build a fire, crash for a bit and wait for light?” Chad offered helpfully.

    “I dunno man, it is like 35 degrees and dropping, we can see 3-4’ max, it is still pretty steep, there’s nothing flat. We don’t have a spot that we could put the fire even if we could find stuff that’ll burn. And I don’t have the energy to go get firewood and climb back up here.” I confessed. “How far to the creek, AJ?”

    “I dunno. This thing has been saying 200 feet for the past couple hours. I only know that I can’t keep going carrying that pack.”

    “Dude, I can’t believe you made it this far. I can’t believe we all have made it this far. Let’s just drop the packs, get to the truck set up camp and come back in the morning.” I offered. “Hey, I did say I would only shoot a moose at the top of a mountain as payback. I guess we’re even now AJ. Crap. Not a chance, I owe you now. AND I owe Chad even more! Good thing, for me, that you two are my kind of stupid.”

    “YA THINK?!” AJ threw back at me.

    “I can’t believe we all made it this far. Jon, for claiming to be some short pudgy guy, holy crap, you are tough!” Chad remarked.

    We dropped the packs, marked the spot on the GPS, and embraced the suck once more.
    “Ok, 200 feet to the creek, allegedly, then less than ½ a mile to the road. We got this. An hour tops.” AJ said, stupidly.

    It took about 40 minutes to find where our trickle joined the larger creek. To our horror, the larger creek was even more brush choked than our trickle up the side ravine. For the next two hours, we waded ankle to knee deep in the icy water, slipping and stumbling trying to avoid losing an eye to the willows. Finally, we reached the mouth of the creek, crossed the river it drained into, and collapsed up on the road just after 3 a.m.

    As we walked the road, crossing several other creeks over the next hour we debated our next steps. We were broken, both in body and will. In addition to leaving all of the meat, we all had left gear on the mountain.

    “What if we just leave it all? I don’t think I can get back up there.”

    “I’ve been thinking that for the past hour.”

    “Same.”

    “Let’s go back to Anchorage tonight, see our families, rest up and figure out how to report this. Agreed?”

    “Agreed.”

    “Agreed.”

    We finally reached the vehicle, dehydrated and moderately hypothermic just before 4 a.m. We had left that vehicle more than 23 hours prior. As we guzzled water and food, AJ broke out the wipes. “Ok guys, just change your clothes and if you want to wipe down great, but I won’t make you do your full bodies.”

    Stripping down and stumbling into that truck was the single most glorious feeling I could remember up to that moment in my life. I then discovered that my phone had not saved any of the pictures I had taken since about 6 a.m. that morning.

    As AJ drove, Chad and I struggled to ensure at least one of us was awake to keep AJ company. I failed more than I care to admit, and thankfully Chad was able to cover me.

  4. #4

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    Part III

    We made it back to town a few hours later, dropped Chad off then me. As I walked in my front door my children exploded into the living room with excitement.

    “DADDY! DADDY! Did you get a moose?!” they both asked with admiration.

    I have never felt so ashamed in my life as I looked my son and daughter in the eyes and quietly responded through my tears, “Yes. I shot a little bull moose. And then I had to leave it on the mountain.”

    “No Daddy. I wanted to you shoot one and bring it home. Bring it home to me so I can see it Dad.” Gabby sternly scolded me.

    She was right.

    As I hobbled to the bathroom, Jessica came out and asked if I was hurt. Thankfully, not too badly, just some scrapes and bruises, plus a few dozen bug bites and a couple thousand slivers. As I told her what happened, I broke down.

    I got in the shower, then lay in bed looking at the map on my phone trying to will myself to sleep. Within minutes of me laying down, Chad messaged me asking for the GPS coordinates.

    I called him back, and we set a plan to meet up at noon and go do the right thing. We were going to get that moose that we had killed. I then called Chris.

    “Hey Boss, what’s up?”

    “Chris, I did something really stupid and I need your help.” I said, before explaining everything.

    “No problem, bud. Let me just work things out at home and I’ve got you. Just tell me what I need to do.”

    I then called AJ, and told him after all he did there was no way I was asking him to come back out and told him it wasn’t up for debate. AJ protested but had the good sense to stay home and take his son and wife out for an early trick-or-treat event. Between Chad, Chris and I, armed with chainsaws, reciprocating saws and loppers we were just going to blaze a trail up that creek to our packs.

    Finally, I could sleep.

    An hour later, I was up and surprisingly refreshed. Cooking and eating a pound of bacon may have helped with that. I then held my kids and let them know how much I loved them, and that I was really sad to not get to go trick-or-treating that night with them, but I had killed a moose and I needed to do the right thing and bring it all home.

    Gabby looked at me like, ‘Well yeah you do, you freaking idiot. Go get it already’ and David just softly hugged me and said, “Ok. But after you get back, can you snuggle me?”

    And so, loaded up with waders and tools, lots of fresh water and a newfound resolve my wife dropped me off at Chad’s car, then Chad and I joined up with Chris and we headed back north.

    We arrived just after 4:30 p.m. and got to work. I will tell you this: daylight is magical stuff. We found all sorts of trails in that creek that were wide open and wonderful. We just had to finish opening up a few stretches to shave some distance off. An hour later we were at our packs, relieved that nothing had disturbed them. None of us could lift AJ’s pack and carry it safely more than a handful of yards, although Chris did really good for the first 200 feet until we hit the larger creek.

    Chad had brought a small inflatable raft which we then used to get most of the meat and tools back nearly ½ way to the road before the creek was too choked up to be worth the effort. So we rejoined the trail we had blazed and leapfrogged the loads back to the truck, finishing around 8 p.m. I messaged AJ as soon as we had service:

    “We’re gonna need you. We got all of my bull out. Everything. It wasn’t bad, carved a great trail.

    But then we found a couple of big bulls driving out.

    They are down not too far from the road, only about 500 yards out, but down a steep ravine.”

    I know. I’m a terrible person. Brain damage made me do it.

    AJ started messaging me furiously but before I could answer he called. “Ok I still haven’t slept but I can take tomorrow off we’ll leave like 7 and we’ll get it all done. I can’t believe you guys got Charlie out! Wow! AND Chris and Chad both got bulls?!”

    “We did it. We got it all, and it honestly was not that bad. Had it still been light last night, we would have been fine. But dude, remember who you’re talking to. No freaking way did we do all that and then shoot two more moose. Gosh that was too easy.” I laughed.

    “You suck.”

    We were home shortly after midnight, and got some well-deserved rest. We had pulled off the impossible. We are already talking about maybe going back in two weeks, and for sure next year. It has taken a few years of trying to forge together a group to hunt with me, but maybe I have finally found some other willing idiots that are my kind of stupid.

    I have always said, invite me to go running or on a hike and I’ll look at you like the idiot you are, but stick a gun in my hand, a tag in my pocket, and tell me there’s something I can kill at the top of a mountain and I WILL get up there in record time. Unfortunately, I live up to that promise despite my better judgment. Who am I kidding? Without my wife to control me, I don’t have any better judgment.

  5. #5
    Forum Admin Brian M's Avatar
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    Excellent story, sir! Read every word (maybe to avoid doing the dishes and instead sit here in the sun...maaaybe). Way to get it done when things got rough. That says a lot about you and the guys you were with.

    Did you ever try calling the moose to you? Maybe a bit early for that, but might be worth trying if in a similar situation next year. I haven’t done it much myself, but know lots of folks let the moose do the work walking to them instead of going to the moose.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian M View Post
    Excellent story, sir! Read every word (maybe to avoid doing the dishes and instead sit here in the sun...maaaybe). Way to get it done when things got rough. That says a lot about you and the guys you were with.

    Did you ever try calling the moose to you? Maybe a bit early for that, but might be worth trying if in a similar situation next year. I haven’t done it much myself, but know lots of folks let the moose do the work walking to them instead of going to the moose.
    The dirty looks I got from the guys whenever I tried to be a willing cow were dissuasive! Plus, that particular bull was closer to the road than we were! Calling for moose is definitely something I want to learn to do, as I am a hopeless elkaholic and love bugling and cow calling in bull elk.

  7. #7
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    Another great write up. Although I don't think I say dude quite that much. I am pretty sure there were a lot more F bombs and other colorful language that was left out. You can read the full version in a few years when the book is published. Of course, we still have more trouble to get into and more animals to hunt.

    AJ

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    ... and i thought my friends were nuts. "Special kind of stupid there". Good on you guys for sticking it out. I enjoyed the story, you obviously know where you went wrong.

    I watched several bulls (big and little) this year that i knew better than to try to go after. It (usually) doesn't take packing more than 1 or 2 moose very far to learn that some places just aren't "huntable". I tried to talk a friend into shooting a mid 40's bull that i spotted this year. We were less than 5 mins from being able to get it when he called it off. He wasn't up to chainsawing a trail 1/2 mile to it to get the side by side to it. Maybe we aren't as hungry as we once were, or maybe we are getting smarter as we age.

  9. #9
    Member 4merguide's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sambuck12 View Post
    ...Maybe we aren't as hungry as we once were, or maybe we are getting smarter as we age.
    You're still hungry, but probably a whole lot smarter over the years. I had to let a big, beautiful bull go once because I refused to kill it in the middle of the swamp from hell. I had called that bull in the night before and ran out of daylight to determine legality. So then around midnight he woke me up raking outside the tent, but no light whatsoever then. Got up in the morning, jumped him out of his bed and he ran out into the swamp and looked at me, as if to say,"you wouldn't dare". Could have shot him a hundred times...…..but didn't.

    Oh and btw...you're a good writer Jon....enjoyed it.
    Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

  10. #10
    Member Steven_JR's Avatar
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    Great write up! You really have a knack for words. Might have took me four trips to the bathroom to read it, but I read every word!

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G930A using Tapatalk

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    TOP JOB! Detailed write-ups like this is the ultimate use of this forum. I would give anything to be back in Alaska, getting dragged into a nightmarish boondoggle of a hunt like that. My first moose was on almost as crazy of a trip. Great job!
    Born in Alaska: The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. Psalm 16:6

  12. #12

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    Glad that some of you enjoyed it. I like to write these up on the hopes that one day myself, my kids or grandkids will get a kick out of reading what I used to be able to do.

    Plus, since I had cell coverage on the mountain goat hunting on my dg347 tag Friday and today, I was able to reread and relive last weekend and stop myself from doing some seriously stupid crap. Had I not shoot that fork horn moose last weekend I might have taken that cross canyon 400 yard shot on a very nice Billy yesterday. And then discovered just how impossible those cliffs were. They were terrible.
    Or I might have ignored the forecast and we'd have continued being socked in the fog for the next two days.

    Hats off to Seward Ocean Excursions for once again being incredible at transporting us to the beach. Seriously, they are top notch, and I can't say enough to encourage people to use them.

  13. #13

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    Congrats on the moose, Jonathon! Sounds like a helluva adventure...glad it turned out positive in the end.

    Being pushed to the limits and out of your comfort zone is definitely part of the excitement of hunting but there is always that fine line.

    I’ve been wondering how your goat hunt was going.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by AKFreezerFiller View Post
    Congrats on the moose, Jonathon! Sounds like a helluva adventure...glad it turned out positive in the end.

    Being pushed to the limits and out of your comfort zone is definitely part of the excitement of hunting but there is always that fine line.

    I’ve been wondering how your goat hunt was going.
    Yeah it was a bummer watching those clouds roll in. Depending on how things/weather go I might try to get back out for a Saturday/Sunday in a couple weeks. But I'll need a willing idiot or two to join me, and see if my wife will let me leave get with the kids for yet another weekend...

  15. #15
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    Wow.
    Im glad I took the time to plow through that

    1 Moose is alot.....
    If you can't Kill it with a 30-06, you should Hide.

    "Dam it all", The Beaver told me.....

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