Article Contributed by Field Staff Writer S. Stone.
The excitement from my previous success slowly began to fade as over the next couple days yielded not even a sighting of another animal. I continued to call, hiking back into the same areas, glassing new areas for movement. It was as if everything had vacated the area. After the third morning in a row of not seeing anything I headed back to camp for lunch, to do a little fishing and evaluate what area may be holding animals. I decided to try an area that I know to be a wintering area for moose later in the year. Heading into the area I could see some fresh sign where moose had been feeding on the alder bark, along with much older sign.
I made my way uphill, trying to cut between two pockets of alders. As I proceeded around the corner I notice a shape that was out of place between some browse ahead of me. It was the large, dark ears of a moose and it was under 60 yards away. I crouched down to remove my pack, nock an arrow and prepare myself if an opportunity arrived. Very quickly I was able to tell that this was a cow, but knew there was a good chance that there would be a bull close by. I slowly made my way toward her, stopping every step to scan the surrounding area. She watched me, but was not moving which lead me to believe that my hunch was correct. At that point I then heard crashing in the alder patch to my left. I spun around to see another cow darting off. In that instant a third moose stood up, from where it was bedded, and I noticed the white of its paddles. He took several steps forward before stopping behind a patch of brush.
The first cow had made her way towards the other two moose. The second cow was moving quite a bit and the bull seemed to have his focus on her. He started to follow her as she started to walk away, clearing the brush. I tried to get a clear shooting lane and when I did I let out a cow call and he stopped to look back at me. I ranged him, drew back and released my arrow. As I watched it in flight my heart sank when I heard my arrow make the distinct sound of nicking an unseen branch, which deflected harmlessly over the bull’s back. The sound of that arrow hitting that limb was deafening in the quiet and sent the bull and both cows running deep into the timber. That evening, while lying in my sleeping bag, I was at peace. My main goal for this trip was to get an opportunity at a bull moose with my bow and I had accomplished that. I still had one full day of hunting to go but I knew that no matter the outcome I would look back on this trip as a success.
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I awoke the next morning feeling content. I made my morning coffee and decided on my plan of action for the day. I would head to a few areas that I have seen moose on previous trips. In the evening I would head back to spot where I missed the night before in the hopes that the bull might still be hanging around. My goal was to not venture too far from any logging roads as this being my last full day I did not want to shoot something too far and be pressed for time getting it out as I was by myself and knew that it might take a couple days if I did. I headed out just before first light and headed into my first spot for the morning. As I made my way along the road I noticed a small group of cattle feeding off to the side.
I carried towards the end of the trail to where I planned for a short hike when I noticed something large and black standing to the side of the road. A quick check through my binoculars confirmed my initial thought that it was a moose and bull! I was way too far for a bow shot and needed to get much closer. He was looking up the hill, possibly for a cow that may have been in the area. This allowed me to slowly creep forward without him paying any attention to me. As I got closer to bow range he finally turned to look at me. I continued to press closer trying to close the gap as much as I could until he started to walk. I gave a quick cow call and he stopped, quartering away from me.
My range finder read 62 yards. I drew back, settled my pin behind his shoulder and my release fired. In that instant time slowed down. I watched my arrow arch up and then back down towards its target before disappearing with the distinct thud into the side of bull. Instantly there was a plume of crimson from the chest of the moose, confirming to me my arrow had hit its mark, as he crashed into the brush only to reappear seconds later back on the road. He stopped, then stumbled before falling over. It was done. I was silent. I slowly approached this magnificent bull before laying my hand on him. I had accomplished something that I had wanted to do for a long time.
Once I regained my composure I now had the task of dealing with such a large animal by myself. The words of an old hunting partner, who passed away last year, about moose hunting came back to me in that moment. He would always say “finding them is the hard part, shooting them is the easy part, and then you’re just left with the really heavy part.” I had a good chuckle with myself thinking of that at this moment and then got to work. That evening while sitting around the fire relaxing I just took it all in one last time. The next morning I would be packing up to head home, but at that moment it was a chance to reflect on the past week and half, the failures and successes, being thankful for what nature has provided to me and my family, and to think about what new hunting challenges the future may hold.