Daniel Boone & Davey Crockett Would Be Proud!
I took a week off for this hunt. My buddy Jeff Saxx used to live and hunt the area, so he knew it was very good. He now lives in Valdez and is the owner/operator of the Eagle's Rest Campground. He also had some great resources in the area. His buddy, Chris Phelpps, is a local Cordova fisherman who has an airboat, which, if no one has ever rode in an airboat, is quite the experience. I am starting to realize a bottle of Crown Royal for bartering goes a long way.
The first day, we arrived at the hunting area early in the morning. We unloaded the boat off the trailer onto a gravel bar and I was shocked that this boat was even going to move. We loaded up our gear and took right off. We were heading to a spot that they liked to hunt. It was about a three hour ride in and they had a spot picked out that they like to set up camp and hunt from. I have never been in a airboat before and I suspected that we would be running in water, whether it be a lake or river. It was amazing there was some swamp and some channels of water, but no real big rivers. This boat could actually run pretty fair over dry land too. (All images are clickable with captions.)
Jeff told me right off the bat "Jason we are going to see lots of moose. We have a week; we have plenty of time to be picky the first few days." He was right too. We were only a few minutes in and saw a couple of cows. At this time of year usually where there are cows there are going to be bulls somewhere close. We turned off the airboat and scanned the area. Yep there is a bull, it was a small bull maybe 30''. We watched him for a few minutes hoping a bigger bull would pop out, but it did not so we moved on.
On the way to the camp we saw several other bulls. Jeff kept telling me "Jason don't take the shot, we will find a better one." We arrived at our spot and set up our camp. Our evening scouting did not produce much in the way of potential prospects. The next day it was raining and the wind was blowing hard all day. We spotted some cows but not any bulls. We were soaking wet and miserable and made a decision to hunt a different area the next morning. Jeff and Chris talked about this area about 12 miles away that they have seen some nice bulls in the past. Chris said it would be a real rough ride in and has never taken his boat in there before but was ready for the challenge.
Early the next morning we packed up camp and headed out for our new adventure. It was the wildest boat ride I have ever imagined and would have made an exciting ride at Disneyland. Jeff and I had to jump out of the moving boat several times to push. I was thinking, If we ever get a moose back here we will have to eat half of it to get it out. There was no way we could put any more weight in this boat. We ran into a major river system that was a big help. This system ran into a real maze. We took several wrong turns and was getting discouraged. Jeff told me "Jason that is why the big boys are back here - nobody can get to them."
This river ran out at the ocean. We ran a couple miles along the beach and then turned up another river. We traveled about 15 minutes up this channel and then we pulled up onto the bank. It did not look like anybody had ever been here before except for perhaps the original native Americans generations past. Jeff and I started hiking. We were only 20 minutes into our walk when Jeff climbed a big spruce. Jeff scanned with his binoculars then whispered to me that he saw some cows about 300 yards away. The wind was working to our advantage as we stalked them as quietly as we could.
The alders were quite thick so we had plenty of cover. We saw the group of cows and there were seven total just 100 yards away. Then HE appeared, a huge majestic animal among the perfect stillness of Nature. Jeff started calling and I readied my .300 Winchester mag (a-bolt Browning). The cows almost seemed as if they were protecting him and I could not get a clear shot. The big bull was getting very mad and irritated with Jeff's calling and started walking off through the trees. Jeff kept calling and we followed him.
Five minutes had passed without seeing any animals in the group. I was trying to go easy as I did not want to get to the point were I was huffing and puffing and make a bad shot - especially on a bull of this caliber. We saw him again about 75 yards away and he was mad. There was one cow in front of him obstructing a good shot. I shouldered my gun in the standing position and Jeff uttered another call. He was looking right at us snorting and ready to charge. I was doing everything I could not to even look at the horns knowing full well that this was a bull of a lifetime.
I have been a victim of buck fever before. Not just bad - real bad. To the point that my legs start shaking. And stalking a monster bull as the one in front of me now required incredible composure. The cow took a few steps forward, cleared the flight path of the bullet and I pulled the trigger. I hit him right behind the front shoulder. He took four steps and just collapsed. I was so excited I gave Jeff a big hug.
We walked right up to him and he was stone dead. I hit him right in the lungs. I have had people give me a hard time in the past about a .300 being too small of a caliber for a moose but I was thoroughly impressed and the proof was there before us. We took some pictures and eventually Chris came back and helped us gut it. It was so hard just to move a leg over to gut it. I asked Jeff how in the hell are we going to get this to the boat. He said "We aren't! We are going to bring the boat to the moose."
As amazed as I was for shooting such an amazing trophy I could not believe Jeff maneuvered that air boat right up to the moose. Thank God the boat had a winch and we assembled a modified gin pole. Helping the process was a ramp at the front of the boat and we winched him in. It moved the boat more than we moved him but the end result was the same. We were all so excited but thinking the same thing - Is this boat going to move at all with this hog in it?
I made a comment to Jeff that it's going to be a rough trip back, but he refuted that by pointing out that it was going to be high tide. As Jeff and I walked back to the river to meet the boat I found a really nice moose shed that was pretty impressive in itself. Back at the boat both guys looked at me like yeah right. Jeff said "Jeez Jason don't be greedy." It killed me just to leave it there. The boat was already so crowded Jeff and I both had to sit on top of the moose for the ride out. Once we hit open water we had about 2 inches of free board. It was just a little spooky. We hit high tide just right though. This place did not even look like the same place. It was a smooth ride all the way back to the landing.
We loaded the truck up and headed to a friend's house. Fortunately he had a bobcat and pulled the moose out of the boat for us. We put a tape measure on the rack and it measured out at 70 inches. Needless to say we all had a couple of celebration drinks to mark the event. We skinned it and let it hang for the night hoping the bears would not get into it.
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