As you may be aware, I drew a 4A cow moose tag for the October 18-23 season. 4A is part of the new adaptive hunt where IFW wants you to kill cows to reduce the moose population. Things came together nicely and one of MGK's friends had set up a wall tent for an earlier moose hunt and let us use it. Very nice set up that kept us warm and dry during a very wet week. Thank you Travis!
My brother and I arrived in the zone late Saturday afternoon amid driving rain. We saw one moose driving in and by the time we settled, it was getting late. Made a quick drive around the area to get a feel for the zone. Interesting country and a good amount of others scouting. Early on, Jim and I talked about what we wanted to accomplish with this hunt. We both agreed that road hunting wasn't what we wanted and looked for areas that were either remote or had a good network of winter roads. They were difficult to find.
We got up early Sunday and scouted in earnest. Pulled out of the campsite, drove 200 yards and there was a cow in the road who promptly ran to the south zone. We looked to the west of Baker Lake and bumped into a lot of others doing the same plus a rather large guide service. Not really what we were looking for, although we did find one spot that had some potential.
Knowing that Meatseeker was joining us in the afternoon, we headed back to camp and regroup. After he arrived, we tried to form a game plan and decided to look east and north. We split up and both found a few spots that merited further attention.
Jim and I found a road where the culvert was washed out that lead to some older cuts. We decided to begin our hunt there and arrived before first light. As we poked along, we heard a bull grunting and raking trees in a swamp. Hoping that he might have a girlfriend with him, or at least nearby we made an effort to even see him. It was extremely thick and it was just not possible. We also tried to poke in quietly but had a hard time getting through the blowdowns and raspberries. We waited there for about 40-45 minutes but never heard him again. Continuing on for the next mile and one half, we saw or heard nothing but did find a few locations with a few trails.
Mid-morning we met up with Bob who was going to look at a few other spots. Jim and I headed to a location that we found. It was a long ways out and relatively remote but was an area of old cuts and ridges. Absolutely beautiful country. We parked and walked down an old trail between a cut ridge and a cut swamp. Ooozed of moose. There were trails and some of the small water holes on the side of the road were tracked up. Coming to the end of the trail, we continued on around the end of the ridge. A hardwood ridge with finger cuts down into a swamp. We came around a hump and I see a black blob. Putting up the glasses, I see an absolutely huge bull, one of which I haven't seen in a long, long time. The wind was completely wrong but we watched him for a while before he wandered off. We worked that general spot until dark with nothing else seen.
Bob found a spot that had great moose sign. It was about a mile from the main road on an old winter road what was soft, swampy, and wet. Jim and I hiked in and looked around for a few hours. There was a lot of sign but we ended up getting so far out that we both agreed we really didn't want to shoot a moose there. We ended up sitting for a few hours and saw nothing. It was a great looking spot and one that we kept in the back of our minds.
That afternoon, we committed the cardinal sin and started to roam. Ended up to the northwest of Ross Lake. There was a good bit of sign but also a lot of hunters. My brother and I walked a road looking at cuts and saw nothing. On the way back to the truck there were tracking in our tracks where one had crossed the road and went onto a swamp. Bob walked in the opposite direction and had 2 cross behind him. We went into that swamp and it was classic. swale grass, alders, with a spruce background and trails beat down in to the mud. We sat there until dark but saw nothing. On the way out of that road, I believe we saw 6-7 other trucks heading out...way too crowded for me.
We decided to head back to the area where we saw the bull. Arrived just at first light and starting poking our way down the trail. Absolutely perfect morning . We poked, we glassed, we snuck, and we saw nothing for over 2 miles. Jim and I were scratching our heads and asking ourselves why aren't we seeing any moose.
We ended up hitting the end of a logging road we were parked on about a mile from the truck. We looked in a few old cuts across that road but saw nothing. We decided to walk back to the truck and hit another spot closer to the main road. As we were poking along, we looked up the ridge and there was a cow about 100 yards away. Jim dropped to one knee and shot, she ran maybe 30 yards, and dropped. It was 8:50AM.
After the customary high fives we started working on getting her out. The plan all along was to quarter and pack. However, she was close enough to the road that we could get a rope to her and drag to a better spot. Turns out she was 302 feet from the road as we had 300 feet of rope with us.
We got her to within 10 or so yards of the road and began the gutless method of dismembering. It was fun.
As part of any cow moose hunt, you are required to bring the ovaries and the head before you can tag the moose. We had told Meatseeker where we would be and he said he'd be along sometime mid-morning. As we began the quartering process, who shows up? (Bad timing Bob). He immediately jumped in, helped with the processing, AND found the ovaries.
Everything was loaded and ready to go by noon. Off to the tagging station.
We arrived at the Thorofare Brook station about 3-3:30 to find a very bored biologist. We were moose #2 for the week (there). He took a tooth and we headed back to camp where we hung the quarters and celebrated with some Canadian Whiskey.
The rest of the week was spent bird hunting and having fun. Seemed to be a few birds around and we covered a good bit of ground.
Overall a great trip. Not sure how big the moose was but she was a very nice cow. We walked an average of 9 miles every day, ate like kings, drank a few adult beverage, and laughed and told stories. I'm happy I was able to share this hunt with my brother and a good friend. It was equipment and labor intensive but it was a hunt and in the end what we wanted and rewarding.
You were only allowed to tag moose at 4 locations. The closest to us was approximately 50-55 miles away. Not normally a problem but in a gas poor region, IF&W could have made things a little more convenient.
IF&W says there are 8 moose per square mile. I don't know.
If I (we) ever get drawn again, the Alaskan Game bags were the best $20 spent. I'd not even consider bringing an animal out whole.
Shrimp scampi, moose fajitas, marinated chicken, scrambles, and can cooker kielbasa all taste pretty good.
-Jay and Jim are top notch guys. You'd be hard pressed to find two better guys to spend a week in the NMW's with.
-These guys hunted very hard. This was not a crush beers to 10:00 pm, roll out of camp at 9:00 am, and troll logging roads all day kind of hunt. These guys hunted dark to dark, hiked 8 to 9 miles a day, got off the road, and just kept working until the moose was down.
-OnX works well in the NMW's if you have a subscription and download a bunch of offline maps for the area you will be hunted before you leave. This was a great tool be able to determine how far roads went, where the cuts were, and where roads were (most of them).
-Personal opinion: The gutless method of quartering a big game animal is the way to go to get a moose out of the woods. We had the moose quartered and packed in the truck within in hours and the quarters were in game bags cooling within hours. It was easy to hang the quarters and keep them dry and cool.
-Make a good plan and stick with it. The plan was to find and hunt locations where access was difficult and had good moose sign. Its easy to get discouraged when the plan didn't work the first two days. But we stuck with it and it worked out.
-You'll learn a ton about moose hunting even if you are not the permittee or sub. If (when) I draw a moose permit I have a ton more confidence about going into a new area getting it done.