CO Moose Adventure

I’m a day late in posting about yesterday. To sum it up, it sucked with the exception of one thing.

I decided to circle back to where I did to start the hunt and tackle the long drive in hopes I would only need to do it once and be done. What I didn’t take into account was that this was a Sunday on a three day weekend and the last good weather camping opportunity for the year. EVERY place where I had planned to stop and call had a campsite. It was quite discouraging to drive by place that I figured could have held moose. This location is definitely being loved to death, even with a horrendous road.

Once I got up top, all I ran into was other moose hunters. There were three hunters with bull tags and three with cow tags. In an attempt to get away from the pressure we hiked a bit to get to a lake that “had a huge moose last year”. I can see why with this isolation and lily pads

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There was sign there but it was old.

I was trying to figure out a plan for the evening when we came across one of the other bull hunter’s camp. I stopped by to have a conversation so we didn’t step over each other. He and his hunting partner had a quad and a QuietKat. It’s hard to compete with that type of mobility so I took a nap near one of the cow hunter’s camps to contemplate life.

After passing out for 2 hours, I awoke to look out the windshield and see a cow and a calf right by this hunter’s camp! The hunter was nowhere to be found. After driving around a bit we saw them walking back and drove over to chat with them. I told them the story of the nap and seeing the cow right behind their camp and they laughed since they were on a long hike when they should have just sat at camp.

While we were there chatting, the cow stepped back out. The hunter began scrambling to get his boots back on and his gear. He couldn’t just shoot from camp because there was a fly fisherman in between him and the moose. He ended up still hunting through the dark timber and got her. I count this as an assist on my part and hoped the good karma would help me with the hunting gods.

Even though they shot nearby, I figured the best chance to get something was to hike further back behind their camp. We sat for quite a while in this great spot to no avail.


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Here is a picture of me taking one last look back as light was waning in hopes of a last minute miracle.

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Alas, there was no miracle and it was a 2 hour drive home. On the drive we saw a blood moon as it was rising. We took that as a sign the next day would draw blood.

The only good thing that happened yesterday was that I officially submitted my retirement request to the Navy! 364 days to go!
 
I’m not going to lie, it was tough waking up at 4:00 am yesterday to get back after it after 7 consecutive days of grinding with zero shot opportunities. While the blood moon was a made up positive sign, my spirits were low. It just felt like I would never see a bull in shooting range and that weighed on me.

To compound things, the homesickness I was feeling was more acute than normal. Being separated from my family while I serve out the final year of my military career overseas is different than simply going on an out of state hunt. My family is waiting for me in Montana and the only thing keeping me from joining them for just a few days before flying back to the Netherlands is finding success on this hunt.

I honestly thought I would connect during archery season because I had so much good intel from @sneakem and he was even gracious enough to join me on a few outings since he already filled his tag. You guys saw the caliber of bull he tagged and how much scouting he did so you know we were hitting the “right” spots, but they just weren’t there when we happened to be there

This was the backdrop for the start of yesterday morning’s hunt.

I decided to head to a place that I had e-scouted and also gotten the seal of approval from @sneakem. It was a creek drainage that was big and open in spots that you could glass from the road. I was excited to be heading out with @TheGreek and @TheKulprit to go check it out.

We timed it perfectly and were driving in as it began to get light. It was difficult at first to understand where the opening was when we could glass the bottom. Once we got there though it was obvious.

As soon as I put up my NL Pures, that I won in an RMBS raffle, I said, “there‘s a moose down there”. Neither of my friends believed me because they couldn’t see it. I was pretty sure about it so I grabbed by rifle and tripod and headed down the hill to get into position and wait for shooting light. Here is a picture of me glassing to see if it was a bull or a cow.

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It seemed like forever, but was probably only 5 minutes or so until I was 100% positive it was a bull. I wasn’t sure of the size, but I figured it wasn’t that big since we were having trouble figuring out whether or not it was a bull. So here I sit, at 6:45 am with a bull moose in front of me at 264 yards with two of my friends with me and a long build up to get an opportunity…what should I do?

Well, I racked a round, settled down, put the crosshairs on him, and slowly pulled the trigger. I was confident with the shot, but you never know so I racked another round immediately and shot him a second time within seconds of the first shot. I lost him in my sight picture after the second shot so I didn’t see him go down, but @TheGreek confirmed he reared up on his hind legs and fell backwards. Bull moose down! Here is a picture I took of where he was shortly after shooting.

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I was so happy and relieved at the same time. I was able to FaceTime with my wife and kids and share the exciting news with them. It was so much better having friends there with me to share the hunt with. I don’t normally get emotional during a hunt, but I did for a moment on this one.

We knew it would be challenging finding him in the willows so one of us stayed up to walk the other two into him. Thank goodness we did that because it was a jungle down there! Here is a picture as I walked up to him for the first time.

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As suspected, he was a small bull, but he was also my bull and I am happy with my decision to take him. Thankfully he died in one of the few openings to give us room to butcher him. We would have been screwed if he went just 20 more yards and died in 8 foot tall willows. My 340 Weatherby with 225 grain Barnes TSX did its job! Here is a picture of one of the bullets we found along the hide.

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We quickly got to work and I have to say that it was extremely helpful to have two friends there to share this workload. @TheGreek was my professional photographer and helped butcher the moose to include getting the neck meat and rib meat, which I am not skilled at. Here are some pictures of the action:

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@TheKulprit was a meat packing machine! He ferried all four quarters halfway back just by himself. He also then packed the hide, which was the heaviest load, all the way back to the truck!

As we were working, another truck pulled up and a guy bombed down to see what we had taken. I’m guessing he was a guide and he was targeting a specific bull in this drainage and just had to know if we had killed him. Well, I obviously did not. He was great and helped carry a bag of meat back up to the truck. He also mentioned how amazed he was at how close the two shots were to each other. I’ll take that compliment coming from a guide.

Here is a picture of the final load from the kill site as the real work began:

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It was definitely a challenge to get through the willows and creek bottom:

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Here was the trickiest part of the pack out:

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After getting through the thick stuff it was just pure pain getting up the steep hill to the truck. I know that 260 yards is not a far pack out, but this hill sucked pretty bad:

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We got the last load of meat up to the truck at 1200 so it took 5 hours to get everything accomplished. A lot of hard work but worth every bit of effort! As we were about to drive off I looked down in the willows one last time and said, there’s a bull moose down there. Sure enough, when we got the glass on him it turned out to be a very nice bull at least 40” wide. I’m pretty sure it was the target bull the guide and his client were after.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there was a pang of pain as I watched this much larger bull walk by at 200 yards after shooting a small bull. The pain was short lived however when @TheGreek helped put the sighting into context. He said that there was no way in the world we would have been at that exact location at 1200 to see that big bull if we weren’t dealing with my bull. That was so true. We wouldn’t even have known he existed if we were still out looking for other bulls. This just went to show how much of a timing thing it is to get one of these big bulls. They move so much and you just need to be at the right place at the right time.

Is there a part of me that wishes I had been fortunate enough to get a larger bull? Sure there is, but that just wasn’t how my 8 day hunt unfolded. I certainly put in the effort to give myself every opportunity of turning up a big bull, it just wasn’t in the cards this time. I am happy to be heading to see my family soon and feel really good about putting a couple hundred pounds of quality meat in the freezer to feed them over the next year.

Well this brings my journey and story to a close. Thank you all for following along. I’d like to especially thank @sneakem, @TheGreek, and @TheKulprit for all their help and companionship during this adventure! It is one I will remember forever!
 
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Congratulations on getting it done! You deserve it! Enjoy the few days you have with family and all the meat!
 
PEAX Trekking Poles

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