It was cold, colder than I expected it to be on this September morning well before light. My brother and I have always gotten a kick out of getting places under the cover of darkness. While everyone else is sleeping we’re making moves!
We spent 3 years running recon back to this area and just last month was my last trip in, I knew the trail well, all 32 miles of it. The going gets tough quick and in less than 1 hour of our 13 hour ride, my dad and brother and I we’re stripped down to a light layer. 8 hours later we were finally coming out of tree line and could begin to see the snowy landscape!
On my recon runs I found a camp at mile 22 and over the 3 years I noticed the stashed gear appeared different every time, I was pretty sure we would meet these guys this year.
Meet them we did and let me tell you not 1 of the 6 or 7 of them was happy. One blocked the trail and proceeded to tell me we were not allowed to hunt here and that we had to turn around right now! I tried to explain that we were just quietly passing through and would be hunting over 8 miles away. Without going into specifics I’ll just say that the tension built and I knew where it was leading, time to go, to their fuming disbelief we continued on. Within 15 minutes we were out of site and back into our own world and left them in theirs!
From the snowy vantage point pictured above, we spotted 3 bulls just below where we intended to camp!! Not only that but a beautiful grizzly to the west, unfortunately the wind was not in our favor for a stock on it.
We motored on and set up camp just before dark, what a day it had been! As the final bits of light slipped away we glassed over 2 bulls fighting a little over a mile away, oh great, now I’ll be dreaming about them all night!
Jared is usually the first one up and this morning was no exception! As twilight began to creep the 3 of us were glassing and within minutes those 2 bulls from last night were spotted within a few hundred yards of last nights location! The decision was made without words being spoken, it’s go time!!
The snow had a good crust froze on it and was very loud to ride through but it was the only way. Because of terrain we rode a big half moon, about 2 miles before leaving the wheelers and walking the remaining ¾ mile.
An hour later we were sitting above them at 800 yards, they had bedded down. Last night the moon was very bright and it’s common for them to stay up late and sleep the warmer afternoons. We spotted 4 cows also bedded down so rather than act out of the ordinary, we bedded down as well!
They got up 4 hours later and we didn’t hesitate, time to call our way into range! Over the next 30 minutes we were able to get the bigger bulls full attention, oh it was on!! 300 yards, 215, 150, 100, and at 70 yards I quit ranging, we just love getting close, it’s super exciting! He closed that distance by half again, my brother and dad submerged in the branches of a spruce and me standing in the open with a shed faced off with the bull!!
It turned left and Jared shot followed immediately by a shot from my dad. I could see both were solid hits, when your 50 yards and under you can see and hear the bullet hit with an intense ‘smack’. He didn’t move, then began walking and Jared got one in the lungs, a gurgled cough indicated that. Then something happened, that moose began to sprint quartering away through some chest high brush!! Not cool.
It was all up to Jared for this next shot and as the bull came back into the clear still sprinting away I called out ranges! “370, 395, you better take em now man!” As I called 428 he squeezed one off, the bulls head dropped but his legs kept moving and…. Out of sight over the far ridge.
Time is of the essence, my dad started walking back for one of the wheelers while Jared and I got moving in the direction of the moose. There was no blood so we headed for a lone bush that it ran past on the crest of the ridge. When we reached that spot our hearts sank, the ridge dove off steep into alders 7-12 feet high. The thought of loosing an animal made me sick but there was no reason to dwell on the negative aspect, just send up a prayer and do your part, keep looking.
We got about 20 yards apart, I could hear him but couldn’t see him at all it was so thick. In 15 minutes Jared walked right to it, nestled up under a spruce was the run away bull!
We made quick work of gutting and marked our way back to the clear side of the ridge with flagging and began the walk back to my dad who we could see now with a wheeler almost a mile away. He was relieved to hear we found the moose!
The slope was steep enough that we had to turn the wheelers around and back down to the moose when it came time to load up and head for camp! It had been another full day, we made it back in time to cook a meal, poke fun at each other, and watch and listen to 2 other bulls right near camp fight into the night! Their antlers crashed together for hours!
We spent the next day doing some leisurely exploring and found more sheds than we could possible carry home on this trip, it’s so hard to stash antlers and leave them until next year. Also laid eyes on a black bear sow with 1 cub!