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Moose Hunt

I sat down to begin glassing a large muskeg bog. Through my ten-power binoculars I studied a big, black shadow between two spruce trees. For a brief instant I was scared a black bear was hunting this bog, too.

Still looking at this dark shadow and trying to decide what it really was, it moved. Shadows in brush and ground cover aren’t supposed to do that. I took a shallow breath to remain calm. Then I softly whispered to my guide that I had spotted a big cow. Just as Aaron, my guide, confirmed he had her located; this moose raised its head. When the head came up, it had antlers!

Aaron and I watched this moose continue to feed, and glassing with his spotting scope, Aaron then very calmly revealed he could see two other bulls and two cows. Soon I was able to pick out one of these bulls and one of the cows with my binoculars. For the next hour or more we watched the group. Aaron definitely had the advantage to see all the action through his spotting scope and from his location. Occasionally he would whisper highlights.

Two of the bulls had a long, drawn-out standoff to admire each other’s headgear. I watched the lesser bull walk away with his head held down showing his submission. Aaron began to call.

This lesser bull responded vocally to Aaron’s call while slowly walking across that large muskeg bog. We had just reached our glassing spot on the side of a hill and were at least a mile away. Maybe this bull could see us, maybe he could not. He continued toward us as we slipped into an ambush site lower on the hill. I set up for any shot between 125- and 250 yards by ranging probable reference points the bull would walk past. Very slowly he approached our ambush site. But at 590 yards out he made a right turn into the tree line. A gentle breeze from our location toward the bog below probably helped turn the bull.

We watched him enter the stand of trees and vanish. So back to our glassing spot near the top of the hill. Looking back on all the events leading up tothis point, I can say it absolutely put cold steel into my body and mind. I knew I was ready mentally and physically for this hunt. Aaron was very impressive to watch do his work and equally skilled at glassing or calling. He had spotted three quality bears worth putting a tag on, the biggest of which was a black bear I really liked. The remaining two boars included a good-size Interior brown bear. He also spotted two different sows feeding with their cubs. I did want to take a moose first and hold the two bear tags in case Mr. Blackie and Mr. Brownie wanted to join us for dinner.

We continued to glass that afternoon. About midday or a little later we began to relax after eating snacks on the hill. I would replay or recount each day in the field to pass time. One such replay was of Aaron calling another bull. On that day, while hiking up a hill, Aaron heard a bull grunting. We stopped in a thick stand of trees. I set up for a 151-yard shot into the only clearing near the river. Aaron called the bull into that clearing. I carefully examined the young bull. We agreed he might be close to 50 inches, but “close” is not a risk worth taking.

It’s now day number 8 of an 11-day hunt and we now know this large bog has three really big bulls to put a stalk on. We continued glassing the open bog below our position. Aaron began to collect his gear. I took this as a sign to do the same. We are ready to go and slowly head to our boat. Aaron takes us farther downriver.

As I cleared the mix of thin timberline with sporadic brush I saw a large, tall, light brown willow shrub. For a brief moment my mind raced back into the swamp we just walked through. Without hesitation I followed my guide as he entered near its middle. We did not have time to walk 50 or more yards either way to get around it. The fear of falling down was the first feeling I had to fight off. With my first step, I was in swamp water 9 inches above my right knee. The next steps became a blur as my focus calmly shifted back to the moment at hand. Now in a kneeling position close to that willow shrub, I could see across the open muskeg. I held that setup position for about two hours while my guide called. It was completely silent otherwise. No breeze as the sun was slowly setting. Not even that up close buzzing of flesh-loving, bloodsucking, in-your-eye flying Alaska mosquitoes. I was ready to be bitten and bothered, but I was not going to give my position away.

I saw movement about 600 yards in front of me, but the only objects visible to my eyes were tips of two antler palms. So the moose gave his position away. He was walking directly to me. I froze in position while he continued to walk. It took almost a minute for his entire headgear to rise above the slope of bog between us. I counted two brow tines on each side. When he broke 300 yards, I could see his dark, black eyes fixed on me. I quickly added the distance between his eyes with the lengths of both main beams—that came to about 30 inches. Then I added the widths of each antler palm and the combined total pushed past 50 inches.

He kept walking straight toward my position. I looked at his ears—they never moved. I watched his mouth—it never opened to taste the air around him. He was on his death march at a slow, steady and solemn pace. I continued to study every feature of this magnificent animal as he approached the 100-yard mark. The only presentation for a shot was straight on at his heart. I let that scenario play out in my mind while he closed the distance between us. I wanted to make the perfect kill-shot. I didn’t want this moose to languish before me.

My guide whispered I was clear to take any shot. I slowly raised the bolt handle and pulled it back. That slight movement may have given my position away. The moose stopped and was facing directly at me. I pushed the bolt forward as he began to slowly turn, giving me a perfect left-side presentation. The moose was 57 yards from my position. He began slowly turning to his right another 180 degrees—that would give me another broadside presentation. In super-slow motion I aimed my rifle, slipped my hand into position around the grip and finger over the trigger. My eye found his right shoulder and the trigger made a soft click. The moose never moved while I repeated all my stealthy movements again, but this time I pulled the bolt back far enough to load a round into the chamber. He still didn’t have my position pinpointed. He was facing in a straight line with his body looking over his back trail. I still had a perfect broadside presentation. My eye found his right shoulder again and this time the trigger ignited a 225-grain Barnes TSX bullet. The impact from 57 yards was immediate.

This awesome Alaska moose raised his front legs and then fell to his left 90 degrees. He hit the muskeg and didn’t move. It was all over very quick.

Soon the sun would be gone from the sky. The full moon was rising behind the hill we sat on this day. I helped Aaron gut my moose to start the cooling process. That done we quickly returned to our boat with the last light of day. Now on the river heading back to camp it was dark. The full moon was shining and the river was black. Very slowly we made it to camp without any problems. Aaron prepared another of his gourmet meals and we finally celebrated this hunt. It had been a very long day with truly a perfect ending.

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