It was overcast and the dead-calm air felt heavy as the eastern sky brightened. I pointed to the far end of the field where a moose was meandering through the large round bales scattered randomly in the alfalfa. Binoculars confirmed this sight was a young bull moose. I looked at my wife, Stef, and asked her if she was ready to go. Our girls Maya and Addy were along for their mom’s first moose hunt, and things looked promising. Seeing the moose and understanding what we needed to do to be successful, the girls chattered with excitement.
It was November 1 and the opening day of the late moose season. We were watching a field I had spotted a few days earlier while scouting and talking to landowners. The zone where Stef drew her license is mostly privately owned. Knocking on doors and talking to landowners tied up about 10 square miles of good moose country. Everyone had stories of moose in the neighborhood, and I felt confident we could find a bull. Getting a shot or closing the distance is always a challenge, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.
My dad had drawn a license in the same area three years before and he was able to take a great bull on the first morning before the sun broke the horizon. Previous successful hunts always add a small quantity of enthusiasm to the experience. Early results are always nice, but spending time afield and working for a productive outcome is rewarding. Having our twin girls along was a wonderful bonus and a great way to share the outdoors with family.
A Steady Pace
I had a set of shooting sticks and Stef was loading her rifle as we ventured into the field. The moose was on a steady pace towards the bush line about half a mile away. We used the undulating terrain and lines of bales to continue our advance. However, we didn’t gain any ground on our antlered quarry. When the bull reached the trees, we stopped to watch what he would do. A second moose showed up on the treeline, and we were confident that this one was a big cow. The bull meandered about 30 yards down the edge of the trees and started raking his antlers. I ranged the bull at 364 yards but knew we could get closer.
We ducked behind bales and slowly closed the distance while keeping an eye on the moose. The moist ground allowed us to move silently, and the moose never knew we were there. We reached the last few bales in the field. I ranged the bull at just over 200 yards. Stef could make the shot since she has taken several cow elk at the same range or farther distances. She was familiar with the rifle, and she was confident she could make a perfect shot.
With a steady rest on the Bog DeathGrip tripod, Stef settled behind the rifle and lined up the bull. The moose stepped into a hollow, where some small aspens screened the vitals for a shot. I told Stef to wait for the moose to step forward and clear the scrubby trees for the best shot opportunity. The bull was full of energy, and a couple of steps provided a full view of the front half of the animal. “There’s your shot,” I said.
The report of the rifle came seconds later, followed by the resounding whack of the bullet finding its mark. The bull stumbled in behind some large deadfall. A second bull ran to the edge of the trees as if curious about what was happening. The cow stood by, watching the entire show. There was no clear follow-up shot at the target bull, and eventually, all the moose wandered into the trees. We were excited but cautious, not having seen the bull go down.
We ventured to where we had last seen Stef’s bull and found blood. We could hear the retreat of a big animal and backed out in case it was the bull Stef had shot. We headed back to the truck, where the girls were bouncing with excitement. They were anxious to get back on the trail with Mom and Dad.
The decision was made to give the moose at least an hour before we picked up the trail. We enjoyed some snacks with the girls and had a cup of tea to try to pass the time. It is never easy waiting on an animal you know that you shot, but it was the right decision.
A little over an hour had transpired when we picked up the spore. The girls were extremely excited and had to be reminded to be as quiet as a mouse. We followed the blood trail and found fresh hoof tracks in the moist ground. We had gone about 100 yards when I pointed ahead to antler tips sticking out of the brush. Stef had successfully taken her first moose.
It was an emotional moment, and we took our time preparing to get the bull back to the truck. Our girls were extremely interested in helping and in getting Mom’s moose packed out. As we progressed, we worked as a team to skin and bone the big animal, carefully putting the precious meat in game bags.
Addy helped to remove rib meat, and Maya worked a blade carefully to help skin one side. Both girls helped with a saw to remove a back leg. It did not take long before half of the moose was completed and cooling. The girls have always been keen to help clean birds or to butcher game. They usually add their artistry to some of the carefully wrapped packages to help show what is put away in the freezer. Removing the brisket, I asked if we should put it on the smoker or grind it to make burgers. Of course, one wanted a smoked brisket and the other wanted burgers.
We eventually had six bags of quarters and meat neatly stored and protected. I had brought my ALPS Elite Series backpack and loaded a front quarter for the first trip back to the truck. The girls walked the game trail with me to get out to the truck, but they didn’t want to go back for the next load. Stef entertained the girls while I brought another hind quarter to the truck. Addy wanted to help and ventured back through the rosebushes to participate in the big event.
I returned to the truck with the other front and bags of boned meat. Stef insisted that she carry out the last hind quarter, and I gave her my pack and took my turn to entertain the girls. The back of the truck was interesting, and we took pictures with our winter’s meat carefully stored for the ride home. About 15 minutes later, Stef appeared on the trail, and I could see the leg bone protruding from the pack above her head. It was a special moment, and the smile on her face showed it.
Stef did not grow up in a hunting family, so she has slowly expanded her experiences. Grouse and pheasants were a starting point, followed by ducks and geese. Stef’s favorite is elk; so it was a natural progression when she expressed interest in hunting something antlerless. The moose was the first antlered animal that she harvested.
We loaded the last of the moose into the truck and tucked the head and antlers in on one side. It took us two hours to do all the fieldwork and pack the moose back out. It was a great opening day of moose season, and you could feel the excitement in the truck as we headed out.
We quickly stopped to thank some landowners, who were also pleased with our success. Everyone had stories of moose pulling down fences, bedding in canola, or showing up on the road when least expected.
A Short Hunt
The moose hunt only lasted four hours, and in some ways, I wish it could have been extended. In retrospect, the time spent spotting and gaining access meant the hunt was closer to three days long. All aspects are important, but the thrill of the hunt is hard to beat. Time in the field with any family is special; seeing our youngsters’’ enthusiasm gives us hope that they will also add to the hunters in the family.
The girls are always excited to have a meal from Mom’s moose and celebrate with appreciation that they know where their food comes from and what it takes to get it home. Hopefully, we can plan another family outing into moose country. With any luck, Mom will draw a mule deer license next year.
It is next to impossible to beat the nose of a moose. We washed the family clothing in Scent Killer Gold Autumn Formula laundry detergent. We washed them again after the hunt, as the specialized detergent removes blood and prevents stains. The Scent Killer Gold field wipes and heavy-duty washcloths are ideal for keeping clean and sanitary between chores and snacks.
The Bog DeathGrip is an aluminum tripod that provides stability for shooting. The legs are fully adjustable, and the unit is lightweight for portability. The biggest benefit comes from the patented clamp that secures a rifle or crossbow for bench rest accuracy. The clamp can be tightened for hands-free firearm support, freeing the user to glass or to do other things.
The Outdoor Edge Wild Pak was used to break down the moose to get it out to the truck. The Wild Pak is an eight-piece set in a hard-side carry case that includes a caping knife, gut-hook skinner, boning/fillet knife, wood/bone saw, ribcage spreader, game cleaning gloves, and a tungsten carbide sharpener. The full-tang 420J2 stainless steel knife blades hold an edge well and are easy to sharpen. Rubberized, blaze-orange handles provide grip and make them easy to find in the field. Our twin girls sawed leg bones and deboned meat without accidents.
The ALPS OutdoorZ Elite Series Ultralight Hunting Packs were developed from years of proven design, providing a lighter, stronger, adjustable, and versatile option to meet various outdoor and hunting adventure demands.
The Elite pack design is based on the Commander X frame but with new and innovative materials that are 30% lighter and 30% stronger. Weighing in at only 3 lbs. 10 oz., the Elite Frame has removable waist belt pouches and a meat shelf. The pack material is 500 D Nylon CORDURA, PU coated, and highly water-resistant with quick-dry technology. The pack and frame are fully adjustable for a perfect fit and balance. Features include easy-access compartments, an integrated quick-deploy rain cover and a drop-down pocket to secure a bow, crossbow or rifle for hands-free walking and climbing. For more information about the new Elite frame and pack bag system or other innovative hunting solutions from ALPS OutdoorZ.