If I hadn’t been in on the initial planning of the hunt I would have thought we were on a brown bear hunt rather than a hunt for Alaska moose. We were seeing at least six to nine browns a day as compared to two to three moose. At the moment a trio of browns, a sow and two nearly adult cubs, were forcing us to climb a high rock to avoid a confrontation.
One of the brown bear trio popped out of the alders 100 yards away and without hesitation, spotted us atop the van-sized boulder. Instead of a questioning glance, the bear initiated a menacing charge. Accompanied by a green, 18-year-old camp helper, we readied our weapons in case the charge turned ugly. Afraid to spook the only good bull moose we’d seen, bedded nearby, I whispered to the teenager. “Whatever you do, don’t shoot at the bear. I don’t want to run the bull off.”
Suddenly, events were unfolding faster than a carload of clowns can unload from a miniature circus car. Smelling the bear, the moose stood to get a quick look, then just as suddenly, it dropped back into its bed pouring a sigh of relief through me that was quickly lost as the bear broke the 20-yard barrier. It had slowed from a charge to a lope so we decided a volley of softball-sized rocks was worth a try. It worked. The bear broke off, circled and rejoined the group now barreling down the valley for a feast of easier to catch berries.
Alaska’s unforgiving wilderness can destroy a hunt like a swinging wrecking ball targeting a singlewide trailer house. Surprisingly, the hunt began to spiral out of control without the help of the wilderness factor. I had been saddled with a guide that didn’t care if I lived or died, much less shot a decent moose. Emotional baggage transformed into confrontation and instead of risking a fight in the middle of nowhere, I elected to hunt on my own. The greenhorn camp helper joined me and using fast forward, we were once again on top of the rock waiting for the moose to make its move.
“I’m going to stay up on this boulder for an elevated shooting position. I want you to find a large stick and use that creek bottom to parallel within 80 yards or so of the bedded bull. I’ll give him a couple of cow calls from here, but if he doesn’t stand up, I want you to begin beating the bush like a bull sparring with the brush. He should stand up to check out the competition, hopefully giving me a shot.”
The young lad looked at me like I should be checking into a mental health care facility, but I reassured him the bull wouldn’t charge and if anything went wrong I’d cover his retreat from the elevated, sniper position. With everything in place I bellowed out a nasally cow call and gripped my H.S. Precision rifle chambered in .300 WSM. After 15 minutes and no response, I motioned to begin the fake fight. Immediately the bull stood to find out who was in the neighborhood, but instead of edging in for an inspection the bull moved up the slope and away to peer back into the towering brush. What started out to be a 250-yard shot suddenly had the ingredients for a no-shot opportunity and I prayed for the bull to stop and turn broadside.
When the bull reached the edge of the tundra and an open shot opportunity, I ranged him before he stepped over the horizon. My rangefinder confirmed 350 yards and I pressed the trigger. The first shot smacked home, but my philosophy has always been to keep shooting as long as the target is standing. On the third shot the 1,400-pound giant crumpled marking an end to the hunt and the beginning of real work. Nothing’s more nerve-wracking than butchering a bull while keeping an eye out for the guaranteed run-in with a brown bear, but that’s the adventure of Alaska and why I keep going back.
Cabela’s TAGS, Trophy Application and Guide Service; (800) 755-8247; www.cabelas.com
H-S Precision, Inc.; www.hsprecision.com
Nikon Sport Optics; www.nikonsportoptics.com
Federal Ammunition; www.federalpremium.com