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Anatomy of a Moose Hunt

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  • Anatomy of a Moose Hunt

    Hi folks,

    Story time. I have a good friend whom I've known since we were kids, and his heart's desire has been to take a moose. He first hunted moose with me about 15 years ago, and just last week he finally fulfilled his dream with a larger mature bull he and I hunted in Western Alaska. He's been here four times over the last fifteen years and he finally has a moose! Our first hunt together was a grueling affair involving a floatplane drop-off in a dead zone out in a huge valley, then an overland hike through trackless wilderness about twenty miles, just so he could shoot a caribou instead of the moose that weren't there. Following that, we floated nearly a hundred miles of a very remote river (we were the only ones there). We had six Super Cub loads flown in to a bald ridge top and packed it all three miles to the river (took us three days). Though we saw some moose, numbers were few. He had a grizzly tag also, but the one opportunity we had came when he decided to take a short walk to look off the other side of the hill. I videotaped the bear as it walked by and later played it back for him when he came back for snacks. Isn't technology wonderful? This time, from the time we were dropped off, we swatted bugs (the temperature was really warm) and glassed for an entire day, and the next morning about 11:30 we broke out into a slough with good visibility, where I broke some branches and raked the tree a bit, then gave a few bull grunts as I had with this guy hundreds of times before. But this time was different. The bull stepped out of the willows about 600 yards away and looked right at us. We made a short stalk and he shot the bull at about 250 yards with his .338. My friend was so happy he even kissed me on the cheek! We walked over to make sure the animal was dead then got the raft and rowed to the other side of the slough where he had fallen and began the work of processing. The joke, as I told him, is that this moose wasn't even born when he started hunting him!

    I'll post a series of photos of the hunt so you can see how it all went down.

    This first shot is the first morning of the hunt. There is lots of water where we were dropped off (this wasn't a float hunt, but we needed the raft to get around).

    -Mike
    Attached Files
    Michael Strahan
    Site Owner
    Alaska Hunt Consultant
    1 (907) 229-4501

  • #2
    Bugs!

    The temps were really warm and the bugs were out! We had to wear headnets the entire time. White sox, mosquitoes and no-see-ems were a constant issue. Here I am in full battle dress.
    Attached Files
    Michael Strahan
    Site Owner
    Alaska Hunt Consultant
    1 (907) 229-4501

    Comment


    • #3
      The bull-

      Here's a shot of the moose we got. The ugly guy next to it is yours truly. Any guesses on spread? He fell in a perfect place to work on the meat. Very clean and open.
      Attached Files
      Michael Strahan
      Site Owner
      Alaska Hunt Consultant
      1 (907) 229-4501

      Comment


      • #4
        Locking Tag Problems

        Here we are tagging the moose. Some bulls' antler bases are too big around for the locking tag to fit around. I heard of at least one guy who was busted for not locking his tag on his moose this year. Many hunters don't know that you can get extenders for these tags (they're blank locking tags with no numbers on them). License vendors carry them, and sometimes ADFG has them. I checked just before our hunt and ADFG was out. So I stopped by WalMart and they had just tossed theirs in the trash because one of their tellers mistakenly sold one to a hunter instead of a sheep locking tag (oopsie!). The guy was cited by the troopers but it was later reversed (except for a rather hefty fine) because he thought he had a valid tag. WalMart tossed the rest of the blanks because they had to pay the guy's fine and they wanted to prevent future mistakes. I happened to have a spare in my pack so we were okay. If you do this, you might want to put duct tape around it to hold it down or it can snag on something and break off.
        Attached Files
        Michael Strahan
        Site Owner
        Alaska Hunt Consultant
        1 (907) 229-4501

        Comment


        • #5
          Butchering a moose

          Until you actually have one on the ground, you have no idea how BIG a moose is! They're the size of a horse. I use a tarp to roll the skinned moose over after we've taken off the front and hind quarters, and in this case the backstraps. Keeps the meat very clean. Here we are getting ready to roll the animal over onto the tarp. An alternative is to simply stick the tarp to the carcass and roll it, but this way works too. Be sure to get the edge of the tarp well under the spine area or it will dig into the dirt!
          Attached Files
          Michael Strahan
          Site Owner
          Alaska Hunt Consultant
          1 (907) 229-4501

          Comment


          • #6
            Wow. Mike, that is a spectacular moose! I love the long brow tines and the somewhat gnarled palms. 'Tis my dream to get one like that someday...got any plans for next fall?

            I love that you put so much effort into helping fulfill your friends dreams. I'm finding that with each passing year I get more pleasure out of helping a friend learn to hunt or fill a tag than I do filling a tag of my own. I love having a full freezer, and very much still enjoy hunting on my own, but there is just something so rewarding about helping others experience that joy. Well done.

            -Brian

            Comment


            • #7
              Cooling meat in water

              We've discussed this in the past (search the archives), but when the temps are warm or you're going to be in the field a long time, you might consider cooling the meat in water. Here we are cooling a couple of quarters in the slough. I use the large contractor trash bags (the really big ones you see at Home Depot). They're thick enough to not tear easily. Water dissipates body heat 25 times faster than air of the same temperature, and if you leave the meat in the water for an hour or so, it will chill almost completely to the bone. The cool meat around the outside will literally draw the heat away from the core of the quarter in the next few hours as well. I use the bags to keep debris, contaminants and giardia / crypto off the meat. Tie the tops securely and keep them above the water if you can! Here, we tried to keep the meat in the shady side of the boat too. The bags are black and can attract heat, so at least get the biggest part of the quarters submerged.
              Attached Files
              Michael Strahan
              Site Owner
              Alaska Hunt Consultant
              1 (907) 229-4501

              Comment


              • #8
                Bagging the meat

                Here our meat is bagged and hanging on the meat pole. Hat's off to Larry Bartlett's TAG bags on this trip. This is the first time I've used them and though I'm a slow convert from cotton bags, they really helped on this trip. We cooled our meat in plastic trash bags, and so when we pulled it out of the bags it was wet from condensation. The TAG bags were subsequently soaked, but by the next day had completely dried. A tip on these bags though; they're pretty fragile, one ripped pretty easily on an antler tine. I know my cotton bags could do the same, but not as easily. We tied the hole shut with parachute cord to keep the flies out. Also, for bags with draw cords as the TAG bags have, be sure to take a few wraps of cord below the top of the bag or flies may still be able to get inside where the fabric gathers. Also be sure to be vigilant about pulling the bag material away from the meat or it will stick and be difficult to break loose later. We had no problems on our quarters, but as with cotton bags, our loose meat (neck and prime cuts) stuck to the bags because it wasn't suspended inside. There are ways of suspending it, but we didn't do it on this trip.

                On the down side, the bags are expensive at $60 a set, and there are not enough bags in the set for my liking, but all in all they're great. I would certainly use them again. As to numbers of bags for moose, I would prefer six large bags (one for each quarter and one for each side of ribs, which must be taken out on the bone in many areas) and another large bag for the cape. The small bags are too small in my opinion, for the neck, etc. I'd like to see something about half the size of the large bag for cape, neck / trim, and another bag for the prime cuts (backstraps and tenderloins). So... that would be 6 large bags and four "medium" bags (that don't exist yet... Larry? Any chance of that?).

                I did end up using some cotton bags just to test the difference. I will still use some cottons as backup, but the TAGS are nice.

                One more tip on this; pick up some poly bags at Alaska Mill and Feed. They're great as an overbag for shipping your meat without getting your game bags ripped by rough handling. Northern Air Cargo will ship your meat without boxing it (just on a pallet in game bags). So you might want to use those poly bags if you can. They're less than two bucks.
                Attached Files
                Michael Strahan
                Site Owner
                Alaska Hunt Consultant
                1 (907) 229-4501

                Comment


                • #9
                  Tarping the meat pole

                  Here we are tarping our meat pole. I do this even in clear weather, because dew will settle on your game bags and get them damp. In the daytime, you can draw the tarp up on the shady side so the breeze can keep it cool and dry.

                  I have to emphasize for those who don't know, that once your animal is down, your primary job is taking care of that meat! In our case this year, because of the warm weather, we were babysitting that meat the rest of the trip, and it came out of the field in fine shape. In fact I had a chance to shoot a smaller bull that walked right into camp, (he was about 20 yards between those two trees just over my rear end in the picture) but I passed it up because this other moose was our priority at that point. Downing another animal would have been excessive, and would have compromised our ability to take proper care of this one with the time we had.
                  Attached Files
                  Last edited by Michael Strahan; 09-19-2006, 13:20.
                  Michael Strahan
                  Site Owner
                  Alaska Hunt Consultant
                  1 (907) 229-4501

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    My guess

                    First off congrats

                    Next.......I'll say that moose is 64"

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Taking a break!

                      This is the final picture I'll share on this. With the meat cared for, we had a chance to do a little fishing. Here I am with a smallish northern pike (I'll let you judge which is better looking). This same morning I had a chance to shoot a black bear on the kill site, but I didn't. I made a half-hearted effort, but on the way in I realized that I really didn't need to kill that bear. My son wants a black bear fur on his bed, but that seemed like a pretty stupid reason to kill an animal. Naturally, had I killed it, I would have salvaged the meat. But still... I just couldn't do it.

                      Well, that's a wrap on this hunt. Thanks for reading along! Perhaps this will provide some vicarious hunting for those who cannot be here either because of living elsewhere or because they lost their hunting season serving the people of Iraq and securing their freedom. Thank all of you.

                      -Mike
                      Attached Files
                      Michael Strahan
                      Site Owner
                      Alaska Hunt Consultant
                      1 (907) 229-4501

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Mike, Great post and pics.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Beautiful...

                          even you admitted that he "kissed" you...

                          I would say that the moose is 55" across...nice moose...

                          Sent you a PM Mike...

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            My money sez......

                            Mike,
                            Great post. Judging by the photo of you butchering I will guess 66
                            Normal people believe that if something ain't broke, don't fix it. Engineers believe that if it ain't broke, it doesn't have enough features yet.

                            Scott Adams

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Excellent post, Mike. It's a real treat to read a story by someone who knows how to tel it and also knows how to properly size pics.
                              Amazing set of antlers. A true trophy. Congratulations.
                              I can't help being a lazy, dumb, weekend warrior.......I have a JOB!
                              I have less friends now!!

                              Comment

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