Alaska DIY Moose 2000
I'm going to give you the condensed version of this hunt because I will get carpal tunnel if I go into too much detail.
A friend and I headed up to Alaska for a 7 day moose hunt with his bro-in-law (an Alaskan resident).
Day 1.....get to O'Hare airport just to find out that my flight had been canceled due to mechanical problems. The ticket agent told me that he could put me on a different flight and if I hurried, I just might catch it. 30 minutes after arriving at the airport and I was already sitting on a plane. I sure got lucky there.
Now the interesting part....my change in flights had me going to Dallas and Anchorage (that was a long flight!!!)
Day 2....we got up early in Wasilla and got all of our gear, along with an Argo packed and head north to Talkeetna. Once there, we got on the Talkeetna Highway and headed deep into the tundra.
Once we arrived at our designated parking area, we offloaded the Argo and head to an area 12 miles west into the "bush". It started to rain and the absence of any roads or trails made travel quite difficult. Within 1 hour of leaving the truck we were forced to abandoned our Argo trailer because it did not work well in the terrain.
In leaving the trailer, we were forced to leave some of our gear. This has some importance later.
They delays forced by the issues with the trailer made it obvious that we would not make it to our destination that evening. We traveled as far as we could but still left enough light to set up a spike camp.
That camp was nice because we were wet from the rain and need warm, dry clothes and a hot meal.
We woke up the next morning to fresh snow and the most beautiful sunrise I had ever seen.
Day 3....bright sunny morning and only a few miles to go before we got to our destination. We got stuck several times along the way (both days) but the winch on the Argo easily pulled us out.
Then we ran into SUPER SWAMP. If you have never been in Alaska...there is a lot of swamps up there. Swamps = MUD....SUPER MUD. We got stuck in the SUPER MUD and were forced to cut a few trees down in an attempt to get some traction under the wheels....all eight of them. We also had a large post that we would drive into the ground when there wasn't a tree to hook the winch to.
Well, it was during this time in the SUPER SWAMP when the Argo died. We were able to get it started after several cranks but the battery seemed exhausted.
We decided it was no big deal because we had a jump pack. This is when my buddy confessed then he took the jump pack off the Argo to make room for something else. SO.....our jump pack was several miles back in the trailer that we left stuck in another mud hole.
It was then that I realized that my dream of hunting moose was over. There was no way we could continue on without a healthy Argo. We sat there for a while letting the Argo run hoping the generator, battery, (whatever those things have on them) would charge up.
We were now face with a huge decision to make.........continue on with a sick Argo or head back to the truck. Since I had already seen several moose (cows) since we had left the truck, I wanted to hunt. BUT.....the last obstacle before we got to the camp was a small river that we would have to navigate with the Argo. It would suck to make it to camp and then have to swim back across because the Argo wouldn't start.
We decided to let the Argo run for 30 minutes. We would then shut it off and re-start it. If it starts fine....we continue on. If it doesn't start or starts hard....we head back to the truck.
Well....we shut it off and it was dead...."D" "E" "D"....dead. We cussed a bit and then decided to have a big lunch before we headed back to the truck.
FYI....we had already left a bunch of gear in the trailer and now we were forced to leave in the Argo anything that we couldn't carry.
I think there is a limit to the size of a post so I am going to continue Day 3 on a reply........
Day 3 cont'd.......
We loaded our packs up with all of the important stuff...leaving mostly food and camping supplies...and headed back to the truck. We had a 9+ mile hike ahead of us so we didn't want to waste any time.
I can't speak for the other guys...but my pack was so HEAVY!!!! It was going to be a long afternoon. It got worse every time we came to a swamp. I wanted so bad to keep my boots dry but it didn't take long before I sank waste deep into a nasty mud hole. I would still be there today if my friends were there to pull me out. That mud sure is sticky up there.
During our 10 hour trek back to the truck, we had to cross several swamps and even wade across a large beaver pond that was chest deep....all while holding our packs and rifles above our heads.
It was around the time that it started to get dark when we could start hearing vehicle traffic. We new we were getting close to the road.....not close enough. Sound was really carrying up there because it still took us 2 hours to reach the road.
Once on the road, the pain in my "bad" knees was almost too much to take.....and we weren't to the truck yet. We still had to figure out which way to go now that we were on the road.
Well, we guessed right, and as a bonus...a truck came along and gave us a ride to our truck. We ended up only being about a half mile from the truck so our navigation from the Argo wasn't all that bad. (We couldn't follow the same direction back to the road because we had crossed a few creeks and ponds in the Argo on the way in and chose to avoid them)
Once at the truck we decided to drive to a small town for a hot shower, even hotter meal and a warm bed.
THIS IS TURNING INTO THE LONG VERSION:D
Day 4 (I'll keep this one short) Since the Argo was broke down deep in the bush, we decided to at least hike back in and retrieve everything from the trailer. (Just what I need....another 2 mile hike)
While making our way to the trailer, I spotted a gorgeous wolf. As I watched him through my scope I reminded the friend's bro-in-law that he was the one that told me not to waste the $35 on a wolf tag because I would not see one:(
Anyway, we get the gear from the trailer and start our 4+ hour drive back to Wasilla.
(See.....that was short)
Day 5 was spent regrouping and trying to figure out how to salvage a hunt.
Day 6 found us climbing up into the mountains near Palmer. The friend's bro-in-law had killed a HUGE Dahl sheep in this area the year before and he said this would be our only option.
The higher we climbed the more bummed I got because the area was nothing like the areas that I've seen moose hunts in before. After 4 hours of climbing uphill in the rain, we finally made it to a spot to camp.
We were in a bowl on a high ridge but I couldn't see much around us. As were were getting the tent set up I look to my left and spotted a moose. That was the best medicine and I was now feeling much better. I climbed up out of the bowl to get a better look and was shocked at the scenery!!!! All I can say is God's Country. I found myself looking off as far as I could see with giant rocky peaks on either side of us and an ice blue creek rushing by in the green valley below. WOWZA!!!! My description does not do it justice. I'll post a pic if I can find one.
We got camp set up and were sitting around a fire eating some supper when a huge bear ran by us about 300 yards up on the next ridge over. Things were looking good and we hit the rack early so we would be fresh for the next morning.
Awesome story,I would love to see some pics.
I was getting tired:) I'll finish the story later tonight.
Day 7....I'M FINALLY HUNTING!!!!
I woke up kinda' early but my friends slept in. I can't blame them, we had just been through a week from hell!!!
I climbed up on a ridge and started glassing the HUGE valley to the north. It didn't take long for me to spot something brown way off in the distance. It was a cow moose. I watched her for a while and realized she had a radio tracking collar around her neck. I watched her for about 10 minutes and then spotted you youngsters in the alders behind her.
They fed in an open field for a while and then moved on. I was quite excited to finally be hunting moose in Alaska. It sure beat walking...and walking.....and walking.
About a hour later I saw "bone"!!!! It wasn't a big moose, but he looked legal. A moose in this area had to be 50" wide....or have 3 brow tines on one side...or have a spike or fork on one side. This moose appeared to be a spike....and considering the distance we were from the truck, he was definitely a shooter in my book.
I quickly woke the boys up and we made a plan. My friend Kurt stayed back on the ridge to help get us close with hand signals while his bro-in-law Jimmie and I grabbed some gear and headed off in the direction of the moose.
It ended up being a lot farther than I thought. It took us over 2 hours to make our way down into the valley, across the cold rapids, and back up the other side. We had to climb a very steep incline before we got to a relatively flat part of the mountain.
Once on the gentle slope, we quickly realized that we were just below a large boulder which was the last spot we had seen the moose from camp. We gave our legs a rest while glassing the area from the tall grass. Our break was short lived because I spotted the moose bedded in some brush just 250 yards above us.
We crawled to about 150 yards and got into position. We couldn't get a good look at his rack in the brush and we had to make sure he was legal before I took the shot.
I got into a prone position with my rifle ready to go and the wait was on. We sat there for about 30 minutes watching this bull and he would not turn his head so we could get a good look at him.
Finally he stood up and started acting "froggy". I think he winded us and wasn't sure what to do. He stood there for a long minute before starting to walk towards deep cover. I wasted no time sending hot lead in his direction.
As the bullet hit the bull creating a thud, Jimmie cried out..."hit 'em again!!!" I rushed a second shot and missed. I quickly "jacked" in another round and it also found it's mark.
The flow of blood visible from the chest wounds told me that another shot would not be necessary. The bull took another few steps and tipped over.
WOWZA.........I just shot an Alaskan moose!!!! One of my happiest hunting moments:)
We started heading for the moose and realized that we had forgotten all about Kurt. We didn't need his help with hand signals and forgot all about him in the excitement. I dug my 2-way radio out of my pack (which was our plan after a shot) and called him on the radio. I think Kurt forgot the plan because it took a while to get a hold of him.
Once contact was made, we gave him directions to find us and also warned him about the rough creek crossing with the strong current and bitter cold water (glacier runoff).
Jimmie and I starting climbing up the mountain to find my....our moose. It was harder than we thought in the the tall grass. We looked and looked and I was starting to get nervous. Jimmie found the moose and I descended down to his location. When I walked up on the moose, the first thing I said was "where is the saddle?":eek: I never realized how big they actually were and I figured I must have shot a horse out from under a cowboy:D
We were in grizzly country so we didn't spend a lot of time taking pictures. We wanted to take care of the moose and get off the mountain ASAP. I had read that bears have been conditioned to treat a rifle shot as the dinner bell.
We were perched on a pretty steep slope and while taking a few pictures, Jimmie warned me not to get below the moose because it might roll away from us. He had just taken the third photo when voooooom.......the moose rolled away from us and started barrel rolling down the mountain. 100 yards later, the moose had come to rest against a clump of thick brush.
Since we were still pretty high up on the mountain, we decided that getting the moose lower the easiest way possible would save our backs. So.....we pulled him off the brush and sent him tumbling another 75 to 100 yards.
The moose came to rest against a large rock and we decided that was far enough. The slope was still pretty steep so we decided to secure the head of the moose to the rock with a 10' rope and give him one more push.
The moose was now facing up the mountain which made for easy field dressing. As I ran my gut hook up the belly, all of the goodies slid right out of the moose and rolled down below us.
By the time Kurt got to us, we had already skinned, quartered and bagged most of the moose. We removed all of the meat possible (required by law) and loaded our packs. We wanted to make it back to camp in one trip so we loaded them quite heavy.
It took about .000005 second to realize there would be no way for us to get down the mountain in one piece with that much weight on our back. We removed the quarters from the game bags and proceeded to bone everything. Once loaded back in the packs, we felt they were still too heavy considering the terrain but our desire to get off the mountain and back to camp ASAP trumped common sense.
As we started making our way down the mountain, it was one foot in front of the other...slow going the entire way. Whenever we got slightly off balance, we fell. Those falls were not fun because the weight on our backs decided when and where we would fall. The trip down to the creek was brutal.
It was just starting to get dark when we reached the creek. Jimmie crossed first and had just made the 20 yards creep to the other side when Kurt entered the water. The current in the mid-thigh high water was so strong that we had to shuffle. If you unweighted a foot too much, the current would take it down stream causing you to lose your balance.
I felt Kurt was moving a little too fast and just as I started to say "take it easy"..wooooooosh, down stream he went. Thank god Jimmie had taken his pack off because he was able to quickly able to run out and grab Kurt before he tumbled off into the darkness.
Once the three of us were on the other side, our biggest concern was for Kurt. You could see it in his eyes that he was very cold.
to be cont'd...................
Kurt was not injured but his new pack was trashed. The violent tumble and broken several straps and bent the frame.
We were still a good hour+ from camp so we decided to leave the meat by the creek and get back to camp to get Kurt some warm clothes.
It was now dark and we soon realized that assuming that we would be back to camp well before sunset was a bad assumption. We were standing by the creek, under a large tree with no flashlight to see the limbs to lash a rope to. So, getting the packs up out of the reach of a bear was out of the question.
Did I mention that we were standing in an abandoned sheep camp that a grizzer had destroyed the year earlier?!?!:eek: Jimmie found the camp on his sheep hunt the year earlier when it was still fresh. The cooking pot with large bite marks in it sent chills down my spine.
Kurt was cold and we started our journey back to camp in the dark. It was a moonless night and...as a guide in Canada once told me....it was darker that the inside of a cow!!! We were so mad at ourselves for failing to be more prepared.....especially in bear country.
We followed a pack trail back in the direction of camp singing the entire way. We figured that would scare any hungry bear away:) To be honest, I think I was more nervous about not finding camp and having to spend the night in the bush....in the dark.
As we got close to where we thought camp was (remember, camp was in a bowl hidden by a ridge) we strained our eyes trying to make out the outline of the ridge.
After about 2 hours of walking, Jimmie said "there it is". Wowza, we found our ridge!!!!! We got into camp and quickly made a fire while Kurt change his clothes.
We ate enough Mountain House to feed an army and it sure hit the spot. We then washed up the best we could to get the moose smell off of us and went to bed.
We were so tired but I don't think any of us slept a wink. We were convinced a bear would pay us a visit. We tossed and turned all night and were back out of the tent shortly after the sun peaked over the distant mountain.
Day 8....our hunt was over for several reasons. We had more than enough "stuff" to carry back to the truck, plus Kurt had to fly home on day 10. We were just plane out of time.
OK...here is the deal, standing in camp....it was four hours to the truck and a good 90 minutes the other direction to where the meat was (as long as a bear didn't find it)
We decided to make two trips to get the meat. The three of us would go fetch the first load of meat and then Jimmie and I would return for the rest while Kurt stayed back to break down camp.
Trip #1. We realized that we would be heading into an area that had 400 pounds of fresh moose meat and the chances of a bear being in the area was pretty good. We were all on alert as we closed in on the area where the meat was. It was extra spooky because the sound of the rapids drowned out just about any other noise in the area. We were afraid that the noise would either cover the sound of an approaching bear....or mask our sounds allowing us to get too close to a bear that would want to protect his find.
I can honestly say that I was "producing" bricks;) as we closed the distance. Once at the meat, we wasted no time grabbing the first load and heading back up out of the valley.
On our way up the cut-back trail, we heard small rocks tumbling on the trail above us. Just then there was a flash of brown. Three individual magnum loads were quickly chambered as Jimmie yelled out. Just then a rancher on a horse rounded the bend. He laughed as he stated..."I bet you boys thought you were gonna' get eaten?!?"
My reply to him was...."No, you were a trigger pull away from carrying your saddle back to you camp" Kidding of course;)
We chatted for a bit and went our own ways. When we got back to camp, we continued on for another 3 hours to a spot we had predetermined to leave all of the meat until the next day. It was at a trail head where Jimmie could easily retrieve it with the aid of his 4-wheeler that was back at the house.
6 hours later we were back and camp and preparing to retrieve the last of the meat. Kurt stayed back to tear down camp and clean up the area while Jimmie and I headed down the valley to get the last of the meat.
This trip down the valley went without incident but we were still on alert for a bear that may have found the meat. Once back at camp we divided up the meat and our camping supplies and started our 4-hour trek to the truck.
I had been walking for over 12 hours and still had 4 to go. I was so physically and mentally exhausted.....so much so that I swore I would never hunt again as long as I got back to the truck in once piece.
It was now raining and the trail was getting very muddy. Just what I needed....MORE MUD!!!:mad:
When we got to the trail head where we dumped the first load of meat, we ran into two locals that were hunting for a big grizzer that had been seen in the area. I was so glad to be going home:D
Since the guys were standing near the meat we had hidden in the trees, we decided to continue on with what was on our backs. An hour later we were back at the truck. What a sight!!!!! I was so convinced my hunting day were over. I was wet, tired, half-broken and my feet were a mess. (I ruined a new pair of Rocky's on that trip)
We drove to the town of Palmer and after 2 Big Mac's and the best Coke I've ever had....I was ready to do it again!!!!!
With our belly's full, we headed back to Wasilla where a hot shower and soft bed was waiting for us. The next morning we loaded the 4-wheeler in the back of the truck and headed back to get the rest of the meat.
Day 9.......Soon after we had dropped the meat off at a locker, we headed back to Jimmies to start cleaning all of our gear. Kurt was flying out the next day and we had a lot of work to do.
Day 10....Kurt flew home, Jimmie went to work and I did NOTHING!!! I drove to Wasilla Guns that morning and rented a bunch of hunting videos. That is all I did the entire day.
Day 11 was long and boring because Jimmie was working again and my flight didn't leave until midnight.
The rest of the story is pretty boring....except where I almost missed my connection in Seattle because no one woke me up when the plane was boarding.
Oh yeah....then there was the surprise at O'Hare when I discovered that my brand new gun case looked like it was dragged behind the plane on the return flight. It was destroyed!!!! At least the rifle survived the trip.
Thanks you United for the new case!!!
Believe it or not.....I left a lot of detail out. So yes, this is the short version;)
The cost of my DIY Alaskan moose hunt.
Round trip from Chicago $330
Moose tag $500
Hunting license $80ish
Meat processing $240
Overnight shipment of meat home $380
As you can see....it was a very inexpensive moose hunt.
I'll post pictures if I can find my scans.....it was before I had a digital camera.
Great story buddy! What an adventure!
A subtle reminder that the fun doesn't start until after you pull the trigger!:D
Glad you ended up with all your meat and that all of you returned safely.
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