Want to know about moose on the Elliott?
My moose hunting experiences relating to a trail off the Elliott Highway not too far from Livingood: the trail is approximately twelve miles long, with some mud by the trailhead, and rough ground with deep holes approximately four miles from the trailhead. The rest of the trail is relatively easy to ride with ATV’s and the like, although the far end of the trail leading to the valley is quite steep and difficult to ride.
I have hunted in this area for over fourteen years, and my hunting partners and I have managed to kill a moose at small pockets and saddles near the trail until perhaps 2002. This year I was lucky enough to kill another moose near the trail after twelve days of getting-up early in the morning and returning to our campsite by nightfall. I know of another moose that was killed closer to the trailhead by a guy from Anchorage, and finally another moose killed past the end of the trail. I have no idea if more moose were killed, since I returned home on the 13th.
Back when I started hunting in this area, approximately twelve hunters including myself hunted the trail, down past the end of it. I used to see from 4 to maybe 10 trucks parked by the trailhead, but nowadays it’s more like 10 to 20 or more. This year there were approximately 35 or more hunters riding back and forth from the trailhead to the end of the trail, and even on the 12th there were hunters riding in to hunt.
Back in 2002 or so, F&G began imposing the 50” antler restriction in the Tanana Flats, and it seemed that the whole town (Fairbanks) was hunting the trail. There were hunters and ATV’s all over the place riding back and forth and making noise, but even then I was still killing my moose each year. I would get up early in the morning, ride to my hunting spot, and stay there until nightfall. I always had food, water, clothing, and everything else I needed to stay out there for hours, and do so to this day. Back then I could start making calls early in the season, and got moose to respond to my calls and come-in to the clearing I watched. That is not the case today, and the trial seems to be dead. There seemed to be lots of moose not far from the trail, but that’s not the case today. Shortly after the Elliott got paved to Livingood, and now the whole town drives/rides to the hunting grounds on the Elliott.
For the past two years I didn’t see nor heard any moose nearby, nor wolves, nor bears, something that was a normal occurrence five to ten years ago. I did see a large black bear this year, across the canyon where I was perhaps 900 yards away. Back then we had to scare bears away from our campsite, bears would travel on the trails by the campsite, and wolves would be scaring the heck out of me in the middle of the night. For the past four years or so, I have noticed lots of cows, but no bulls following then as usual, and the bulls killed are much smaller than five or more years ago. Bulls with 60” antlers were much common back then, and now 36” to 44” is the norm, although I have seen very large moose out of reach in the valleys below.
I know several guys who hunt past the end of the trail, and this year six of them had returned home empty handed by the 13th. These guys told me that they could hear wolves all over the valley, that they had seen quite a lot of cows, but no bulls.
There were approximately six Polaris 6-wheelers past the end of the trail, and from eight to ten 4-wheelers somewhere nearby. There were several more 4-wheelers between mile 8 and 10, five 4-wheeler at mile 8, two to four 4-wheelers riding and staying all day at mile 6 or so, two 4-wheelers at a campsite at mile 6, and approximately 10 more riding back and forth from the trailhead to the end of the trail. I just wanted you to know how it has been on the Elliott for the past 5 to perhaps 6 years, and I am willing to bet that it will be worst for the next few years.
The success rate on this trail down into the valley below has been from 20 hunters : 6 moose (back then) to 35 hunters : 3 moose or so lately.
A friend of mine hunted the Denali this year, and he told me that there were all sorts of campsites along the road, and hunters riding in/out the trails off the road. Did any of you hunt the Denali Highway this year? Were your experiences similar to mine?
Ray I hunted the Denali last year for the first time since 1996 and it is the same way your hunting area is. I saw numerous 4 wheelers riding in and out of the trail every day hoping an animal would jump in front of them. What amazed me even more was when I asked them what they were hunting for and they told me caribou. While driving in and back out of the trail my wife and I saw numerous caribou within shooting distance of the trail if one would just slow down enough and open their eyes. But we didn't have caribou tags.
Sounds like every vehicle accessible spot in Alaska is turning into a circus. I hope as the animal numbers continue to drop some of these hunters stop trying as well.
Had two different friends hunt those areas. 12 mile Ridge on the Elliott. Saw a few bulls early in the hunt, took one small bull, then the wolves moved in and everything was gone, lots of hunters
Lots of hunters on the Denali, 4 wheelers running all over the place. Saw one bear, a few small bulls. Had issues with hunters wheel'n in the no motorized area's
I would expect nothing less in both areas
I was hunting caribou off the Denali during the first two days of moose season. I saw from 15-20 atvs per day, most of which seemed to just be riding from place to place. I did talk to a few fellas that were hunting quite hard, and they claimed to be successful most years by just setting up in good pockets of habitat and letting the masses ride by. I wasn't looking primarily for moose, but while passing through on my way to higher ground I saw 5-6 cows, no bulls, and no calves.
It's the same way down near Delta, lots of hunters and not enough legal bulls. As soon as a bull becomes legal it is shot, we use to get bulls anywhere's from 50" to 60+ inches but now we are lucky to see a 50" bull and to see one with 4 brow tines, good luck with that. I've noticed a lot of so called moose hunters don't really have a clue as to how to really hunt moose. They ride right through where the moose are feeding and bedding, forcing them into the timber where they stay for the res of the season. I can see more areas going to a draw in the near future.
Yes, it seems that some folks want to get closer and closer to moose, so they pass everybody else to get in front, and just push the moose out of sight. That's what is happening in the trail I mentioned above. I also believe that wolves and maybe bears are killing lots of calves.
There is some truth to what you're saying, Patrick, but overall I'm not so sure that I agree. I think that in the cases mentioned above it boils down to lazy hunters who don't want to get off their atv and spend the time and effort necessary to find a moose. As far as access goes, there are thousands of square miles of great moose habitat all along the road system, but the majority of it isn't crossed by an atv trail, thus people consider it "inaccessible". Again, I disagree. I know folks who routinely kill nice moose year in and year out just off the road, simply because they're willing to take a walk and learn how to properly hunt moose, rather that joining the masses for a ride up and down the popular atv trails. I like atv access as much as the next guy and use one myself from time to time, but I have much greater success rates when I leave the machine at home.
Originally Posted by PatrickH
There is plenty of access. Other than private and native corp. land, our access is nearly unfettered statewide.
I use my atv exclusively for hunting moose but the key to hunting them this way what Brian already stated. You have to get off the machine and not be afraid to do some walking. I've watched hunters ride their machines right through prime moose habitat, I mean right through it, not on a trail or road, they tend to make their own which is killing more habitat. In the area near DJ that I've hunted for over a decade there is a spot where I use to ride by myself and sit there all day and glass, now I can't do that anymore, some other people found the trail we made and decided they were going to put a big camp right where I glass. When I found this out I was totally bummed but I figured I would find another spot to glass from and we did. The "me first" mentality is killing the hunting tradition, whatever happened to respecting other people's camps and hunting spots? It's time for my and my pards to find another area to hunt and like Brian said, there's lots of places that are basically still untouched because 99% of the hunters won't get off their lazy butts and work for their animals.