When Eric from Cabela's called me last February, I could tell that there was some excitement in his voice. I use the Cabela's T.A.G.S. service for about 20 different draw permits out West. He advised me that I had drawn a killer Alaskan moose tag for the coming September. We now had a dilemma! You see, I already had a moose/Dall sheep hunt booked for the same time in the Alaska Range. I did some quick research and found that the area I had drawn had some of the biggest moose in Alaska, and that drawing this tag on the first go around was really lucky! I figured if this area had the biggest moose in Alaska, and Alaska had the biggest moose in the world, I had to try to make this thing happen. Fortunately, my outfitter graciously allowed me to push my previous hunt out to '06, so I booked the hunt with Cabela's T.A.G.S. and I was on my way.
Flying from Atlanta to Seattle to Anchorage to Fairbanks, then to a little village on a Super Navaho, and then a 75-mile boat ride up river to camp, I was finally there. The camp was a typical Alaskan tented bush camp without all the luxuries of home. However, I didn't come here for baked pies. I came to hunt moose. After settling into camp, we were told that the moose hunting had been tough as it had rained nine out of the past 10 days and they were running late for the rut. The forecast was for more rain, but I figured I had 10 days, and every day going forward was only going to get better. The weather broke that evening and we were treated to seeing a bull and a cow right across the river from camp. As we glassed them in, the guides were joking that he was just a "little" bull at 55 inches. Then another "little" bull over 50 with double-drop tines was swimming across the river at about 500 yards. I was pumped!
We slowly glided down the river in search of moose on the bank. Every new turn brought high expectations. Lots of cows and calves all over the place. We would pull the boat over in search of lakes and meadows and start calling and raking for bulls. I had a grizzly, black bear and wolf tag. Although this would only be an incidental chance, one of the hunters in camp had shot a wolf the day before. There was really good grizzly sign, which always keeps you on your toes.
The two other hunters in camp were passing on 65+" moose in hopes of shooting something for the book. They were really experienced moose hunters and experts in judging and scoring moose on the hoof. I on the other hand have a motto of never passing up on the first day what I would shoot on the last day. We were seeing lots of moose, but they were not coming into the calls. It seemed that raking would be the best way to get their attention.
It was about 7 p.m. and we were making our way back to camp when my guide Eric stopped the boat and pulled over to the cutback, saying he wanted to check out one last meadow before the end of the day. Having dinner on my mind instead of one last attempt, I followed him slowly and quietly but with a bit of pessimism. After only about 100 yards into our walk, we heard the unmistakable sound of horns scraping the willows. We looked over and there was a bull moose about 400 yards away thrashing the trees. We glassed him in and Eric said he looked like a bull in the high 50s. A second later another bull in the 50s starts to approach the other bull, and it looks like we are going to see a fight. We started moving slowly through the bush to get closer as the two bulls were slowly making their way to each other. Before we knew it, another bull showed up and decided he was going to be a spectator and laid down to watch the show. Eric told me that's a big moose, "he'll go over 60, has good palmation and his fronts are awesome with seven symetrical brow tines on each side." I told him we are losing daylight and we needed to get moving fast. I had already made up my mind that I was going to try to take him!
So, there we were only about 100 yards from three bulls, and two of them were about to square off with each other. I would have loved to watch the fight, but shooting light was waning and my bull just stood up and started to walk over to the impending show. A little bit more, more... turning broadside... the .300 Remington Ultra Mag. roared and the big bull stiffened at the hit. Two additional follow-ups and he was down! The other two moose looked at the downed bull and then looked at us and decided to fight another day.
We began to run to the bull and found out the meadow was not a meadow but a lake! Up to our waists in water, it was tough going. My boots were filled with mucky marsh. Each step felt like I was hauling 110 lbs. per boot. Finally, we got to the moose and he was done! He was awesome! We shared high fives all around. I was in the middle of nowhere in the impending darkness with a downed 1,500-lb. moose, and I was, at that moment, the happiest person in the world! Eric, on the other hand, had just been informed by me that we need to do a full cape job for a full mount and was a little less excited. He half smiled and we got to work.
The area Cabela's T.A.G.S. drew for me is probably the best place in the world to get into a book moose. I need to get back there again!