Today September 13th 2012, myself along with 7 other hunters are experiencing the most spectacular plane ride ever.
Fortunately we were able to pack everyone's gear on board. The only thing I felt I really needed was my Hoyt bow. This is what I will carry for the next ten days while in search of the giant Yukon moose.
Our pilot has carefully weighed our gear and estimated everyone's weight. He assured us the plane could haul it. I just hope no one lied about their weight.
The mountain peaks of the Northern Yukon are capped with snow. The trees below them are covered with bright yellows and reds. There's a light fog covering the small lakes and streams. I haven't seen any sign of civilization in over forty five minutes. The first leg of our hour long trip is getting near. Now the ground is completely covered with snow. The plane is getting tossed around a bit by the clouds were flying through. My anticipation of an encounter with a huge moose is growing with every minute that passes.
We are now in sight of the lake, where we'll make our first stop. Our pilot lands the single engine Otter on the water. I never felt the pontoons touch, such a smooth landing.
In the distance I can see a small green cabin. This is where one of the fellow passengers will be calling home for the next ten days. He will also be after a big bull moose.
After spending about three hours at one of MacMillen River Adventures spike camps visiting with outfitter Don Lind and obtaining my hunting license. I'm back on the turbo prop Otter in route for my final destination at Moose Lake.
Here I will meet and camp with Greg Wadsworth and Gary Wrzosek, two of the owners of MacMillen. The pilot informed me the flight would only take about twenty minutes. I'm feeling the plane slowing. Wow! Moose Lake is larger than I had expected.
We've landed, I can see my camp and several boats along the shoreline. On the beach my two new hunting companions await my arrival. The camp is way more than I had expected. This is not what I would call a camp. It's a beautiful log cabin with a green metal roof. The cabin sits behind some Aspen trees that come out to make a point into the lake.
It's my first morning out, and we've spotted a small bull moose feeding in the bay at the upper end of the lake. Were watching him feed on on the underwater vegetation in the shallow water. He starts walking and disappears into the dark timber that surrounds the bay.
We have now returned back to camp to warm up a little and take it easy until the next hunt. I can't wait to get back out after a moose.
This afternoon has became quite exciting. We are taking a boat ride around the lake and have spotted a really nice bull moose walking the shore line. He isn't paying much attention to us. He is more concerned about rubbing his antlers on the shoreline brush. As we get closer we can hear his grunts and smell his rutting stinch. Greg kills the motor and the boat drifts in the bulls direction. As we get nearer he turns and aggressively shows us his antlers. My arrow is knocked and Gary has my Nikon rangefinder clicking and giving me our distance. Forty five yards, thirty five, thirty, then I hear Greg say; hold it! He's not big enough. The bull turns and trots along the lakeside away from us. It's the biggest moose I have been that close to in my life.
This is my first trip to the Yukon but my forth trip moose hunting in Canada. I just passed on a bull that my guides said was fifty to fifty three inches in width. Plenty legal but not as big as they were looking for.
Ahead of us and at the end of the lake, Gary spots movement by an old trappers cabin. He looks through his binoculars and says, bear! It's a Black bear. The first one we've ever seen in this area. Fortunately I also bought a bear tag. Greg kills the boat engine and lowers the electric trolling motor into the water. We slowly make our way toward the bear. He appears to be feeding on wild berries between the lake and the cabin. We drift closer.So far he's unaware of our presence. Gary ranges him, he's at one hundred forty yards. I have him range the brushy shoreline. I don't think there's anyway I can get out of the boat quietly. The shore is ninety five yards. If he stays in the same area I may have a shot. My maximum range is forty five yards. As we near the shore I'am nocked and ready. The bear turns and starts walking away. We reach the shore and I slip out of the boat and into the shallow water, looking for a quiet path to climb to shore. I lost sight of the bear and slowly make my way toward the ruins of the trappers cabin. I snuck around the yard that was littered with remains of the old barn. Never to see the bear again.
The next morning were back at the upper end of the lake looking over the slough for moose. A cow and calf work their way out of the timber and start feeding in the shallows of the slough. Greg makes a few moose calls and after no response from a bull we return to the camp to warm up and get coffee.
The sky is clear and the temperature has really warmed up. Gary asked if I would like to go fishing. Of coarse, I said. We loaded our gear and boated across the lake to an area that Gary and Greg had previously fished and had done well. It wasn't long and we were pulling in lake trout for dinner.
This afternoon we've decided to take the boat and travel the lakes edge and look for moose. We're hoping to spot a bull looking for companionship along the lake shore. The sun is falling fast and dark approaches. The temperature isn't as cool as expected. I sure hope it cools off tonight and moose activity picks up tomorrow.
This is my third morning and we have awaken to howling high winds and unusually warm temperatures. It seems to be about forty five degrees outside. We are waiting for daylight to come so we can see if the lake looks safe enough for travel.
It's daylight now and we've just made it to the end of the lake to inspect the bay. The lake was rough and it took us a while to get here. After overlooking the marsh like wetland. We feel that our late arrival or the warm high winds could be to blame for no moose this morning, My guides have decided to take the boat and travel the lakes feeder creek upstream. We've gone about a quarter mile up the winding creek to a spot where Greg has been successful in past years. More importantly it was out of the wind, and much quieter. We tied up the boat and climbed the steep bank. On the other side there's an old burn. The wild fire had killed most of the timber and some of the charred remains we're still standing. The underbrush was starting to get thick but we could still see into it. Greg starts his calling. We have stood motionless for about thirty minutes. Nothing has answered or showed up for our meeting. Now we're back in the boat and going a little further up the creek.
Again we get out, we walk about a hundred yards into a thicket of untouched timber. Greg lets out another moan from his cow moose call. Immediately we hear a bull grunt at us, then we hear his antler rub a tree. We stand quietly and wait for the bull to make his move. Greg calls again and there is no response. We decide, that maybe the bull has already bedded down for the day. Now our plan is to return later this afternoon to see if he decides to come out on the large wetland nearby. We pack our gear and leave the area.
Its about 9:30 am. Were headed to the bottom end of the lake. After our ten mile ride we are now approaching the end of the lake. I lift my binoculars and scan the shoreline for moose. I spot movement about three yards ahead by the old trappers cabin. It's a bear, the same bear we had seen two days ago. Greg turns off the outboard engine and lowers the electric trolling motor into the water. Gary watches the bear while I get my gear ready. The tall spruce trees are blocking the wind at this end of the lake. We watch the bear as he roams around the lower end of what I would call the yard of the cabin. Greg aims the boat in the direction of the old broken dock that stretches out into the lake. I'am anticipating a long shot and hoping we can get within forty yards of the bear. I can hear a bit of splashing behind me caused by the prop of the trolling motor. The bear hears it also and looks our way. Greg sees the bears reaction and shuts off the motor. Our momentum continues to push the sixteen foot jon boat forward. Gary says, get ready he's forty two yards. Suddenly the bear walks our way as if he is meeting us at the dock. I draw my bow, Gary continues to give me ranges as we and the bear both are cutting the distance. The bear turns to my right and walks behind a large pine. Gary gives me the range, Twenty one yards. The boat drifts slightly left and I can only see part of the bear. He's not moving, so I know he's looking at us. Some small brush covers the front end and vitals of the bear. I see a small opening coming, I need the boat to drift a couple more feet. I draw, settle my sights, level my bow, put my top pin on him, and touch my release trigger. The arrow hits its mark. I see the florescent fletching enter the bears vitals. Then I see the shaft exit the opposite side of the bears chest. The bear runs to my right and within five seconds we hear him go down. I have just killed the first black bear my guides have ever seen on Moose lake. Who would have thought we would see this bear a second time, especially at ten o'clock in the morning.
Following an early dinner we are all three in the boat. Yes, you guessed it, heading back to the bay. When we round a corner of the lake we immediately spot a big bull nearly a half mile ahead of us. The bull walks into the willows that line the shore of the bay. Greg continues full speed ahead. I leaned back and asked; how will we approach him? Greg replies, we are going straight at him. I turned around and thought to myself, had he said anything else I would have agreed. Being a hunting guide myself, I had to stop and think, I really don't like someone trying to change my plan of approach. But in my mind, this will not work. Greg drives straight toward the last spot we saw the bull. The engine shuts off, and we troll the final three hundred yards. We near the shore the water is shallow.Greg then lifts the motor out of the water. Unsure where the bull is now, it's been some fifteen minutes since we last seen him. Greg steps out of the boat, into the water to push the boat the final ten yards to shore. He whispers, we're going straight in behind him. Suddenly, straight to our right we hear antlers thrashing brush.Then the sound of a really deep grunt. The moose appears to be less than fifty yards away. The wind parallels the shore in his direction. Greg says, he hears me walking in the water. Get out! I get out and can hear the bull coming through the willows out to the bay. The bull stops, and Greg slops his way through the mud to the willows in front of us. He rubs the brush with a bone from a moose scapula to imitate the antlers of another bull. I know our scent is blowing on the bull. I stand facing the bulls direction. Greg continues to thrash and suddenly the bull spooks and runs out into the bay. I draw my bow and hope he will stop. He does. Gary is still in the boat. I hear him say he's fifty yards. I figured the boat was about fifteen yards behind me. I do the math, settled my pin, and fire the arrow. The arrow flew straight and hit the bull. The shot looks good and the big bull trots across the water. I could see blood pouring out of him. Behind me, I hear Greg say, you got him. I then hear him say, keep walking! He was talking to the moose, he didn't want him to expire in the water. He wanted him to make it to dry ground. The bull continues to walk. To my amazement, he makes it to the trees across from us. I really didn't expect him to go that far. We watch him as he vanishes into the bush. We wait a few minutes and decide to take the boat across to recover the beast. We find blood and lots of it. I follow the trail,and the guides skirt me. We find the bull as dark fell on us. He is standing on a sand bar near the lakes edge. Greg decides against approaching him. "If we disturb him he could try to swim the lake and we may not see him again". It'll be best to leave the animal alone and recover him at day break. The temperatures are supposed to drop near freezing tonight.
Its now breaking light and were approaching the area that we left my bull last night. You cannot appreciate the size of a Yukon moose until you walk up to one. Lying on the ground in front of me is the largest animal I have ever killed. The only thing this native of Florida could compare this to, would be one of my Brahman bulls with legs like a horse.
We have taken pictures, and now the work begins. Greg has got the boat as close as he can. He and Gary are hauling in the processing gear. The three of us start by taking the thick hairy hide off the moose. We have one side of the moose skinned. The meat from the first half is in game bags and were headed to the camps meat pole.
After a short lunch break, we have returned for the other half. It has taken a total of six hours to get the meat out. I might say all of the meat. By law a hunter must take all meat leaving only the entrails and bones. I bet we will all sleep well tonight.
This has been a dream hunt for me. I have waited a long time for this and I'm grateful to all of the folks at MacMillen River Adventures and to Ralph and Vicki Cianciarulo who introduced me to them. This will be a trip I will never forget. Every hunter should try to experience the Yukon.
My flight to Whitehorse just picked me up as well as six to seven hundred pounds of moose meat. I will donating the meat to needy people in town. From the Beaver I'am over looking the same mountains that I seen on my trip in. The trees are even more bright with color than they were days ago.
Although I miss my family and look forward to seeing them. I will really miss the beauty of the Yukon. I hope to visit this ultimate hunting destination again.