Of Women and Moose
We set up camp in the mountains not far from home for rifle season on Aug. 20th.While we were out scouting one evening I managed to drop my cell phone in a muddy trail not far from camp.We drove the Prowler back to the area and found the phone nestling nicely in the mud. I was glad to have it back.
As we were turning around to head back up the trail, a big bull moose stepped out on a ridge not 30 yards from us.He had big beautiful horns that were still in full velvet, and three brow tines. It takes a mature bull to have the three brow tines which are one of the rules necessary to be legal.We watched him for several minutes before heading back to camp.I would have loved to been the one to bag him, but as fate sometimes grabs you, it wasn't to happen.
Opening morning we were out at the crack of dawn heading back down the same trail. We hadn't gone a quarter of a mile when a nice young bull crossed the trail. He was nice but not quite big enough to be legal.Five minutes later old Rackatula, ( the name I gave the big bull), ran across the trail and stopped not 100 yards from us.He just stood there looking dumb. He didn't stand for long because my little Owner let the air out of him with a well placed round through the shoulder.
My hopes of bagging him went down the drain. The sun had not even came up yet and she was tagged out.I was able to drive the Prowler right up to the downed bull and bag him up and was back in camp before sun up.It never goes that easy. Usually it takes days of rain, mud and pain to get a moose.
The next morning Paul Frome, Lin and I went back out to look for a bull for Paul.We never found anything shootable and were back in camp just as Paul's wife, Charlene, came into camp to bring us a batch of freshly cooked cinnamon rolls.I was standing there munching on a roll when Paul tapped me on the shoulder and pointed into the brush.Not 80 yards away was a nice bull moose feeding along not paying any attention to us who were talking loud.How often does that happen? It didn't take long to glass the bull and see he was legal to take.Paul dropped him there right next to camp. Paul was beginning to think this moose hunting was nothing.
This little five day hunt was done while waiting for the regular hunting season to open in the Caribou Hills, where we hunt on Native Land.
We have been hunting there for 15 years. In other words we were just out play-hunting for a few days before we really went to moose camp.
We cut up the two moose and re-packed our supplies for the "real" moose hunt on Aug. 25th.
I set up a big nice comfortable camp. We have the big Alpinelite Camper on my 4x4 dually.I also set up a 10x20 foot canopy, a fire stove that doubles as a BBQ pit.I have a pressurized water pump set up to transfer water into the camper. It also doubles as a nice water hose for filling coffee pots etc.We set up a micro-wave on one of the tables outside along with another propane stove that we use to make coffee out under the canopy.It is really a nice set-up. No matter how hard it rains, we still have a fire going and a dry place to sit and enjoy the view.
I am up at 0430, and it only takes a minute to turn on the lights and throw a log on the fireplace, which is still burning.I then throw some sweet rolls in the micro-wave and get the water heating for coffee.By the time everyone is dressed, the chow is ready.
We have a quick snack before going out on the trail.We eat breakfast at about 0900, when we get back to camp from the morning hunt. Then Lin brings on the bacon, eggs, blueberry hot cakes etc.
My big mistake came when Paul and I walked up on two large bulls early one morning.They were feeding along and had no idea we were there. One bull was not but about 45 to 48 inches wide. He was not the 50 inches that were necessary to be legal. The other bull was far bigger, but did not have the three brow tines to be legal. Yet I new he was at least 50 inches wide, which would still have been enough to be legal under the 50 inch rule.
I have a personal rule that I live by, which I won't shoot a moose unless I can see the three brow tines.It is far easier to shoot under the three brow tine rule. It is very hard to judge a moose that you THINK is 50 inches wide.
A lot of hunters shoot moose that don't pass the 50 inch rule and get busted. I have been judging moose horns for over 40 years, and I still don't feel confident enough to make the call. A 50 inch moose looks to be 60 inches wide. I just won't take the chance.I let the big bull walk because it did not have the three brow tines.I don't know any hunter that wouldn't have shot him, but I won't.
Paul hunted with us for 10 days, and then had to leave to go back to Oregon.
The wolves and three big grizzly bears moved into our valley. One of the bears that I call, "Monstro", was one of the three. His foot print was 12 inches wide and 16 inches long. He's easily one of the top few bears alive.His twin brother was also hanging around a couple of miles away.I've watched them grow from cubs. Now they are two of the biggest, meanest critters around.They absolutely have no fear of anyone. If you happen to run into one of them on the trail, you will be the one who backs up and leaves.
The other two bears were the average 1000 pound rascals that foot prints ran about 8-9 inches wide.I don't really like being out there around them. Those critters are hard to kill. It usually takes several shots to put one down. They can run 60 feet a second. It isn't kool to have one charge. They are on you before you have time to get a shot off.
I have been lucky and not stupid as some are. I never walk alone. If one does charge, at least one of us should be able to shoot while the bear chews on the other.I try to stay out of places where my visibility is low, and always stay alert.
When one of us has a bull down, we post a guard to watch for bears while the others work on the field dressing of the moose.I teach "Bear Safety Seminars" all over the country, and I certainly practice bear safety in the woods.There is no worse way to die as being ripped apart by an angry bear.
I was up early on Sept. 5th. to find our mountain socked in with fog.
I went back to bed to find the fog lifting a half an hour later.I got back up and Lin got up to drive me up to the high country.
We were going up high to get away from the wolves and bears.
Two miles from camp I spotted a bull standing by the side of the trail. He had just came down from the high country.I stepped out as he ran down across a swamp and up the side of a ridge. He was about two hundred yards away when he made the mistake of stopping to look at an old ornery moose hunter. One 300 grain Nosler Accubond slug turned him upside down. I guessed he didn't understand what a 375 H&H Magnum could reach that far. Bad mistake!
It took me an hour to saw a trail down the ridge to get my 4-wheeler to him.Lin and I bagged him up and was soon back in camp.
The next morning we broke camp and brought him back to our log house over looking the Kenai River.
God has blessed us once again. We have all 4 freezers full of salmon, moose, and frozen berries that we picked at moose camp.We have our 10 cords of wood all stacked and soon will be ready for the long, cold, Alaskan nights that are sure to come.
Lin's bull is far larger than mine. I'm sure I'll hear about it a million times before spring. I know she has called everyone she knows already.
Oh well, it's hard to find a good looking cook up in those hills. It's sure a lot better than those old smelly moose hunting guys I used to hunt with.
I guess there's always next year.
Bubba n Lin, walking the "Wilderness Trail".