Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Lightning Strikes Twice

The young bull moose died 15 yards from the end of my 35 Whelen muzzle.
The young bull died 15 yards from the end of my 35 Whelen muzzle
In describing the 2015 hunting season the best description I can think of is ... "the freezer is full".

It all began in September, and it was a slow start.  My hunting partners (a friend and my son) and I spent many days trying to score on an elk.  For the most part it was uneventful with lots of miles walked, lot's of calls set up, and many more hours watching the edge of a hay meadow that has generally produced year after year.   In short, there were hardly any elk around.  The few bulls that called were more interested in moving their harems away at the first hint of another bull in the area.  Neither cow calls nor bull calls produced more than a few replies which quickly faded into the distance. The wet fall made it impossible to chase calling bulls because we kept running into swamps and huge beaver ponds. The elk season ended and I can sadly say that I contributed zero to elk depletion.

Mid October found us back in the woods, but this time hunting moose. We set up a call about a mile from where we had been lucky in last season. I generally do the calling and my son and friend set up down wind.  We sneaked in and were set up at first light.  I gave a soft cow moan and almost immediately a bull answered on my upwind side.  For the next 10 minutes I could hear the occasional twig snap, but I could tell that this fellow was not coming in hard.  He came to within about 100 yards but stayed in very heavy cover.  No amount of coaxing calls would pull him out.  After an hour I gave up on him and we moved on.

We worked our way further into the forest and after one more call ended up in the exact spot where I had shot a moose the previous year.

I asked my partners, "Do you think lightning can strike twice in the same spot?"  They chuckled ... "might as well give it a try ... it's getting late."

I ended up standing in the exact spot I had called from the previous year. I was even cocky enough to place my feet in the depressions I had made.  When everyone was set up (down wind) I began to call ... and call.

The sun was high, the temperature was rising, and I figured that day one of moose season was about to end empty handed.  I gave one last call and prepared to fetch my partners when about 150 yards out I caught a glint ... an actual flash of reflected light.  A moment later I caught a fleeting glimpse of a young bull moose working his way right to me ... with the wind at his back.  I had seen the sun flash off of his antlers.

The forest consisted of old aspens and scattered willow undergrowth and as the moose worked it's way towards me I could only get brief glimpses.  The thickness of the undergrowth gave me no good shots and only for a moment at about 100 yards did I get a clear opportunity, which I passed up. And then, the moose disappeared behind a ridge of spruce.  I could hear him moving though, and each breaking branch or rustle was getting closer.  By now my safety was off ... I had double checked to make sure my Nikon was turned down to it's lowest power ... and all I could do was wait.

Suddenly, and actually to my surprise, the breaking of branches was right beside me ... the moose must've picked up the pace.  There was a screen of small spruce about 15 yards to my right, and just like that the branches began to move .. and there he was walking right past me.

Up went the Whelen .. the moose paused ... and wham, I drove a 225 grain Accubond right into his ribs. The moose stopped ... just stopped and stood there.  So, quicker than you can say "reload", I gave him another Nosler in the side.  Mr. Moose' eyes got wide .... he stretched out his neck ... and down he went.

In moments my son showed up, and seconds after that my friend.  He asked my son," did you shoot it?"

My son pointed at me with a grin, "him again".

I shrugged ... "lightning does strike twice."

But of course, that wasn't the end of the hunt.

It needs to be understood that the region where I hunt is not known for large bull moose.  Between wolves, regular hunting, and Indian year round hunting, moose are generally under too much pressure.  Hardly any hunter in these parts trophy hunts bull moose simply because the chances of taking a large bull are rare. In my estimation, forest moose are lucky to live 6 years.  Farmland moose, on the other hand, have a better time of it and most large moose in Saskatchewan are taken on farmland. Hunting on farmland is restricted through a draw system though, and one can wait many years before being drawn.

So it is that my moose hunting is usually conducted in the forest, where moose are generally small and where most hunters do not score.

As previously stated, we had had luck in October and one moose was down.  The rest of the October season was uneventful as the weather warmed and the moose quit responding to the call.

By mid November my partners were itching to go at it again.  The late November season runs from mid to end of November.  In most years there is ample snow on the ground and still-hunting seems to work best.  I'm not good at this kind of hunting ... unless you call sneaking around the woods for days on end and seeing little more than fleeing tracks a success.
This November turned out a bit different.  I was done my moose hunt having scored in October, but since the white-tailed deer season runs concurrent to moose season, I accompanied my hunting buddy on his moose hunt. I didn't have high hopes because we had had mild weather and there was only a dusting of snow which had partially melted then frozen. Walking was incredibly noisy.

For a day and a half we tried to walk the crunchy woods ... and didn't even see a single track.   But, on day three the wind came up to a roar and we felt more confident.  Surely bedded or feeding moose would have as much difficulty hearing us as we did them.  So, my partner set off into the wind and I flanked him to one side.  There was lots of deer sign in this stretch of forest, so I was keen on the chance of taking a deer.

After about forty-five minutes of slow walking I came across a set of running moose tracks headed in my partners direction.  I figured I had spooked it while I was pushing through some heavy willow.  No sooner had I finished examining the tracks than I heard a shot.  Bingo!

After a bit I found my friend and from the grin on his face I knew he'd scored ... but was it a deer or a moose?  He walked me over to his kill; and there laying facing back towards us was the largest bull moose we had ever taken.

I know that for Alaskan or Yukon hunters this moose wasn't large; but for us it was a once in a life-time hog.  And, the story accompanying it was even better.

My friend had spotted a smaller moose bedded right out in the middle of a small frozen pond.  He was just maneuvering to get a shot when the moose suddenly leaped up and bolted.  This was about the time the moose I had spooked up must've been running past somewhere nearby.  My friend was about to shoot when, right close to him, a much larger moose leaped up from it's bed.  My buddy hadn't seen this brute bedded in the thick willows.  In a moment he switched his focus from the smaller one, to the larger one, and in a second was zeroed in.  As the bull turned to flee my friend fired his 300 Winchester Magnum, driving a 180 grain Barnes TSX bullet through both shoulders of the creature. The moose managed to run about 30 yards before piling up.

The Bull Moose was bedded in thick willow.
Jumped from his bed.

Needless to say, the winter has been a tasty one ... what with deer sausages and moose roasts and cutlets and burgers filling the freezer every few days has been a culinary delight. Indeed, it's good to be alive ... it's good to be alive.

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