Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Moose Hunt 2011

There is a tremendous amount to catch, but this hunt was probably the most epic and incredible adventure for me in all of 2011. My hopes are that I can remember the details well enough still to blog it and then keep my memory of this hunt for a long time to come. A good many others have made sure I am well aware that even long time Alaskans have hunted for years and not had the chance to take a moose like this.

The area we hunt is in a remote location that has been hunted by my father in law, Chuck, and his family for  50 years or somewhere there abouts. It is only accessible by float plane, so it is well removed from anyone or anything. We truck all of the gear to Lake Louise and then fly it in from that much closer location to camp. The evening that we drove to the Lake Louise cabin for the night there was enough light that Chuck said he could get one person flown into moose camp if anyone wanted to go by themselves for the night. The only other guys in our hunt party were James, my brother in law from Hawaii and Kimball who had also never been up in that area, so I was the only one that really could get in there by myself and know the surroundings.  I don't know exactly the time we left Lake Louise with my gear, but it is starting to get a little darker this time of year, so Chuck was limited on time to get me dropped off up in the mountains and then himself back to the cabin safely before dark. When we flew into Moose Lake there were five or six moose on the lake already and it seemed that they were all over the mountains as well. Chuck and I off loaded my gear, we turned the plane around and he was  immediately in the air headed back to the cabin where James and Kimball waited.  Once I could no longer hear the airplane, everything around me became extremely quiet and it took a while to sink how alone I really was, I know there would be no chance of seeing anyone until the following day. It was a bit spooky to me thinking about that, so I tried to keep myself busy by setting up camp and getting ready for the night.
Once I had my tent, bag and belongings in place there was not much else to do, so I turned my thoughts to food.  I soon discovered that my camp stove and cooking supplies were all great and dandy, except that the fuel for the stove was not in the container I thought it was, so I had no way of cooking the food.   I planned on making a quick meal out of what I had available (Mountain House needs boiling water), and by this time it was dark and starting to get FREEZING cold. I don't think that I have ever seen it get so cold so fast like it did this night; by 9:00 or 9:30 there was frost on the tent, canopy and the brush all around.  My toes were freezing and I was not in the mood to tromp around trying to find fire wood.  All I wanted was to cook something hot to eat quick and then get in my mummy bag.  Lucky for me the previous occupants of the camp site were slobs and I found among their trash a canister of fuel and was able to use it to boil water for my dinner.

I was so incredibly cold that night! All I could do was crash into my sleeping bag and try to get warm and a little bit of shut eye. Unfortunately TRY is about all I did in the sleep department. The main problem when camping in a tent by yourself in the middle of the Alaska wilderness is that every sound heard absolutely must be a beastly bear coming into camp and I am going to have to sleep with my rifle in hand to save my own life.  I did take some comfort in the fact that there were several moose still in the lake next to me that were sloshing around eating greenery off the bottom, I figured they would be on edge and maybe even leave the area if a grizzly was around. One the other hand they were so noisy that I could not hear much else and my brain was still going crazy trying to figure out what every sound was.  I estimate that a total of three hours of sleep were had that night, that estimate comes from constantly glancing at my phone to see how much longer I had to endure the brutal cold, darkness and noises.
That morning I did catch a few more zzz's feeling more comfortable now that I could see. 

I finally got out of my sleeping bag I could hardly get ready fast enough.  There were already several moose in the lake and it was a beautiful clear day. Prior to the actual hunt I was able to purchase my very first hunting rifle along with a nice set of optics for glassing and a sweet scabbard day pack. My new binoculars were fantastic in scoping out the lake and being able to see the moose so well.  I checked out the lake for a while, but only saw a few cows and a couple small bulls, so I decided to head up behind camp a ways where Chuck had flown a couple weeks earlier and spotted a big bull.  I did not really think a bull like that would still be in the same area from that long ago, but I wanted to check it out anyway. Making my way up a ridge I found a nice nook to stand and glass for a while.  I was able to see down to the lake and other areas quite well.  Being very still and quiet, I remained on this ridge for about half of an hour and saw a few other moose, but nothing of any significant size. It seemed as though the moose and other wildlife in the area were undisturbed and unaware of my presence. It was almost perfect even a little surreal being the only hunter around for miles.  Listening to the various sounds of the Alaska wild, one thing I could hear almost the entire time I was on this hill was what sounded like a grunting moose or something just over the next ridge.  I finally decided to go check out the noise that I had been hearing for some time now and as I turned to go over the next ridge I immediately spotted two gigantic, white palm spreads of a bull moose barley over the brush. "Oh $^%*" is all that popped into my head and I stopped in my tracks, he was looking right at me. I think he was having a hard time making making out what I was and I could not really see his body, so I snuck up the ridge a little further to get some height and for what I prayed could be good shot. When I did this he moved up and towards me seeming to try and get a better view of me as well. Unfortunately for him this gave me a perfect view of his body standing broadside at me and I simply wrapped my arm around the sling to balance my new Weatherby 300 Mag. and squeezed one off... I knew it hit him immediately, but as he flinched and took off I was nervous that the shot was not a kill shot, so I pulled the trigger again in haste and just missed in front of him, but before I could get my cross hairs on him again he stopped and paused for a moment before crashing down like a huge redwood tree. His legs didn't buckle and it was as if in slow motion that he began tilting to one side and with legs straight as can be, the best way I can describe it was like a tree falling... starts off slow. It was spectacular!!!! This was my first moose taken with my very own gun and I knew he was a big bull.

Handling a 1200lb dead  by yourself is not very easily done. I used some rope and nearby trees to adjust the legs so that I could begin skinning this beast. This is really the first big game that I have taken by myself and it was a bit daunting trying to remember what it was Chuck had shown me the year before on the moose we took not but a couple hundred yards from where this moose now was laying. It was a very slow and arduous task, and I finally got some help about 1:00 in the afternoon. Chuck dropped off James and told him to come find me and help, because they did see that I had a moose down when they flew in. James however, got turned around a bit and headed off in the wrong direction. Luckily I spotted him headed over some ridges a long ways away and was able to whistle and get him turned around.

This bull ended up being a 62" spread on his rack, which 50 inches was all I needed to be legal, so he was plenty big enough. The right palm has a really cool fold or buckle in it that you can see in the photos and it give some character to the rack. I plan on mounting it myself, which most of that process is already done now. I have boiled down the skull, and now mainly need to degrease and bleach it and it will be ready to hang. Though there is no where that Amy is going to let me put the darn thing.

Anyway, my buddy Kimball also shot a nice bull on this trip as well. We had only seen one shootable bull all the next three or four days and Kimball was able to get close enough, but a cow and calf were between him and the bull, so he never got a good enough shot to take. Finally though on the last day we had spotted a bull about a mile away in the woods and it is really cool, almost spooky seeing those moose from so far away, because all that can be seen is the white from their antlers every now and again, so it is quite elusive to track one down. We were able to stalk it and James and I put Kimball up on the ridge and had a good plan of attack because after about a half of an hour from splitting up he dropped it with one shot. Although Kimball says it was a skilled shot, we know he is full of Bologna, because he was aiming for the vitals and barely hit him in the back of the neck, shattering his spine, so it dropped like a rock... lucky!

Saturday, January 8, 2011


It is now well in to January of 2011 and it has been a long time since I have been anywhere in the neighborhood of this blog. In no way will I make a serious attempt to catch up with the things that have occurred over the past year.

One reason I have not been on here much is my annoyance with blogs and things like facebook, they have become cumbersome. I really have started to hate facebook. There are times I enjoy viewing what others are doing in their lives, but I am sick of constantly reading the same few peoples pissing and moaning. It is the 30% of my so called friends that are only friends because they are friends of friends or friends of relatives and in truth some of them are even relatives that are constantly posting the most ridiculous updates that I find myself wanting to vomit. I am not anti-facebook, but it has become a pain in the ass more than its worth.

Basically it has been a year almost exactly since the last time I did anything with this dadgum blog. My ranting above is simply some of the frustration that I've felt towards different technological tools that sometimes just a nuisance or distraction, besides no one really has ever read this blog and even more so that its been extinct for so long.

Anyway, I do hope to post and update a lot more in the near future for the sole reason of having something to look back on with my boys and remember what fun things we did.

Here's to a great year!

Of course this little dude is the greatest event of 2010.


Friday, January 15, 2010

The Summit at Hatcher's Pass

The mountains had been wind blown so bad that there was hardly enough snow to get a good ride in. While still at the bottom we had contemplated whether there was sufficient snow in any area to get a decent ride. Amidst all the rocks and ground exposed we were able to scout out a chute that seemed free from rocks and dangerous terrain.

The weather in the valley had been bitterly cold and caused us to think more than twice about just staying indoors to wait for better temperatures. However, it would be my last weekend before heading into knee surgery, so we gathered up our determination and headed out to face the cold head on. The drive up Hatcher's Pass is short, and upon reaching the top of the road we had left the crazy temperaturs behind us and were now looking at weather nothing like that which was in the valley below. It was beautiful, no wind, sunny, and warm enough that on our hike up, my coat was open, and did not need gloves or a hat.

I have included a picture that shows the view from where I strapped on my board. This was just a little ways off the summit, and from there down the snow was outstanding, as long as we kept to the small saddle or valley that had not been depleted from its snow supply. My board, unfortunately did have one intimate encounter with a hidden rock just beneath the surface of the snow, but the rest of the ride was stellar. It was the only trip of the season and might be the last depending on how the knee heals as well on how much snow we get.