After several tries in different areas of the state, I was finally able to bag a moose this year! Here’s the story and a few pics, for those who like to read and for those who are overseas protecting our freedom.
After three unsuccessful trips (for moose – I did get a caribou each year) to southwest Alaska from 2002-2004, I opted to go north this year. I hunted out of Tok, using 40 Mile Air to get into and out of the field. Since I was hunting moose and grizzly bear and am a non-resident, I enlisted the help of a guide. By coincidence, my guide had played college baseball with my brother (we didn’t realize this until we were en route to the field), so we hit it off right away.
We flew into the field late the afternoon of September 7 – the season was to start on September 8. We weren’t able to land at our hunting location due to high winds and a short airstrip, so we camped at a creek about 45 miles outside Tok that night, with plans to try again in the morning. This would mean that we’d miss hunting on Opening Day, but with a 10-day season that shouldn’t be a big deal.
The next day, after dropping off some other hunters, the Super Cubs again tried to get us on our ridge – no luck, the winds were just too bad and the airstrip was short even by Cub standards. I was glad that we didn’t force it – both days we tried to land from both possible directions, and as we were drifting toward the ground my thought was There’s no way we’re going to be able to stop fast enough. Kudos to Leif and Randy of 40 Mile Air, for making safety the first priority! So we were dropped off on a ridge about 2 miles from our original destination, and set up camp and got organized that evening. Here’s a couple of pictures of our camp, with the sleeping tent on the left, and cooktent on the right.
I had just enough time to glass that evening before dinner, and saw a black bear and a large grizzly – both a long way off, but a good sign and something to help with the anticipation when hitting the sack that night! After a meal of Mountain House and Kool-Aid, we were off to bed about 11:00 under thousands of stars and a full moon.
We rose about 5:30 the next morning, and after breakfast got out the binoculars to give the country a good going over. Our camp was high on a ridge with a good view of the surrounding area, so there was lots to glass! I quickly located the black bear from last night, not far from where he had been; then saw a couple of young bulls (not legal for non-res) a couple of miles away across a valley. After glassing the rest of the area and not seeing other game, we hiked northwest on our ridge for about ¾ mile to get an idea of the surroundings.
We found a large rock outcropping that afforded a good view of the surrounding area, so we climbed up to glass. A weasel evidently lived in the outcropping, and would run up and look us over occasionally, before jumping back down the rocks. After a while I spotted a large white wolf high on a ridge to the east, trotting along on a course that MIGHT take him back by camp; so since we hadn’t seen anything to the west or the north, we hotfooted it back to camp to watch the wolf.
He stayed high on his ridge and never got closer, so since he was a couple of miles off we left him alone for the moment. Since we were back at the tents anyway, we had lunch and checked on the small bulls – couldn’t see them now. In the afternoon we walked south about ¼ mile and glassed that side of the valley; around 5:30, I glanced east while giving my eyes a break from glassing, and saw a wolf trotting our way about ¼ mile away. I went to point it out to the guide….and lost it! The wolf got into the spruce just below us, and we couldn’t see it for a couple of minutes. Then the guide said There he is, and pointed south – the wolf had just popped over the ridge, about 100 yards away.
The guide turned on his camcorder, and the wolf heard the small CLINK that they make when you turn them on…from 100 yards away in the open! He stopped and looked our way, and I dropped him with 1 shot from my .338 Winchester Magnum. We waited a couple of minutes before approaching the wolf, to give things time to settle down from the echo of the shot.
Before we had a chance to approach the wolf, I happened to glance down in the timber…and saw a single canoe paddle sticking up in the spruce, about 400 yards away! I told the guide There’s a bull down in the spruce – I can see one antler! I couldn’t tell if it was legal or not, but it was definitely big enough to get our interest. He must have been asleep down in the thick timber, and my wolf shot probably woke him up.
We started to call and rake trees – the bull wasn’t sure what to do, then slowly started up our way – those darn things can take forever to move when they want to! Every time we couldn’t see him, or heard him raking trees with his antlers, we snuck down the hill a ways. We got set up about 250 yards away, and kept calling and raking – finally he poked his head out about 200 yards away, looking uphill in our direction – after looking at him carefully, we determined he was a legal bull – but looking right at us, wasn’t a good angle for a shot! I told the guide The first good shot I get, I’ll take him.
After a couple more minutes he started to meander to my left – and gave me a broadside shot at 200 yards. I hit him behind the shoulder with the .338 – he didn’t even flinch! But he didn’t move for a second either, and I was sure I had hit him hard. He got behind a tree as I was chambering another round, so I waited until I could see him again, and shot him again behind the shoulder. He started to teeter, but I couldn’t tell if he fell right there, or if he walked off a bit – it was pretty thick where he was. So we waited a couple of minutes, then eased down into the timber to look for him. We heard his antlers scraping a tree as he tried to keep his head up – he was on the ground. We shot him again to finish him off – and he stood up, after the THIRD hit with a .338! But the next one finished him off for good….and I finally had my first moose! A young bull, with a 56 inch antler spread.
After walking back up to our packs, we emptied them of extraneous items (raingear, water bottles, jackets, etc), grabbed our cameras and knives, and walked over to where the wolf lay. Here’s a picture of the wolf, a nice female about 80-90 pounds. The moose is down to the right (out of the picture) about 400 yards away.
After we finished taking pictures of the wolf, we walked down into the timber and started taking pictures with the moose. Here’s a picture of the moose – my first one, and quite a trophy to me!
After we finished taking pictures, it was probably about 7:00 – and time for the REAL work to begin. We began to skin and quarter the bull; it was light until about 9:00, and we continued until 11:00 by moonlight and by my guide’s headlamp – like a goofball, I had left mine up on the hillside when emptying my pack to make room for meat. But the moon was REALLY bright, so it wasn’t a problem; and since we didn’t start until about 7:00 and it was starting to get cool, mosquitoes and blowflies were never a problem either!
By 11:00 we had skinned and quartered the bull. We placed the quarters on dead limbs and placed branches over them to keep the birds away, and we took the tenderloin, backstraps, and a few other small cuts with us in our backpacks back to camp. That first load of meat was tough for me – I forgot to use the little platform on the back of my Camp Trails Moose Pack, and the meat was sitting lower than it should have, and it was moving a little as well. Also, the load we took up first was probably the heaviest, maybe about 75-90 pounds; not a huge load for many, but plenty for a guy who works in an office and has never packed a moose!
Got up to camp about 11:30 – camp was about ½ mile uphill from the moose kill, so we were lucky in terms of how far we had to pack. Cleaned ourselves off a little, had a celebratory dinner of bacon and eggs, and then hit the sack – a great day! Tomorrow would be a full day, for sure.
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