“He’s coming! He’s coming!” Randy my guide said as he was running through the brush toward me. “Load your gun, put it on your shoulder and turn the scope down,” he said excitedly. Of course I had already done all that, but Randy’s excitement and love of moose hunting just added that much more to our adventure.
This adventure began to take place at the end of 2009. Gary is 64 years old and I am 71, but young at heart. Despite the unexpected open heart, triple bypass surgery I had in February of 2010. We researched and eventually decided on Smoky River Outfitters with Greg Sutley out of Grand Prairie, Alberta. His success rate was high and the Canadian moose were better than average.
Gary and I and our families are good friends. We have hunted together in the past. On this hunt, Gary was using archery tackle and I was rifle hunting with my 7mm Remington Magnum in a Winchester model 70 XTR and 165-grain Nosler Partitions. I knew this would be a successful hunt. I never ceased to talk about the upcoming adventure and for my birthday in July, my dear friend Patty bought me a bronze moose that now sits on my living room table. She stated it would be the success statue.
Excitement was building as our departure date arrived. Gary had never hunted moose and I had done so only once before in Utah. We flew into Grand Prairie and spent the night. Our outfitter picked us up in the morning and transported us to his lodge. We were part of a total of six hunters, all very enjoyable and knowledgeable people. Four hunters hunted from the lodge while Gary and I traveled about two hours to a trapper’s cabin. We met our guide, Randy Clement, and without further adieu were on our way.
Shortly thereafter, a bull crossed the gravel road in front of us and Gary and Randy jumped out to hunt while I drove the truck away. Randy began cow moose wailing and turned the bull around, but due to dust and obscuring vegetation, no arrow was released and we retired to the trapper’s cabin. It had no utilities of any kind, but it did have a brand new outhouse–sometimes happiness comes in wooden packages.
Each day we hunted in the bush. Giant birch, poplar trees, tamarack and tall evergreens surrounded us. Alberta has been oil and gas country for the past 100 years. The oil companies have cut through the bush in 50-foot swaths about one half mile apart and parallel to each other. We’d hike the cuts and then wander off on moose trails, calling intermittently.
Moose guides use birch bark calling cones. What I didn’t know is that the cones are simply for sound amplification. The moose calls all come from the guide’s voice. It’s very impressive!
The first evening we saw a young bull and a cow, but nothing we wanted to pursue. The next day rained and we heard and saw…nothing! The rain subsided just in time to afford us a beautiful sunset that renewed my soul and made me glad to be alive.
The weather warmed up (70°-80° F) and the rut quieted down. At the end of day three we decided to hunt about one half mile behind the cabin off an old cut (very grown over) where progress was slow. In general, visibility was limited to 50 yards, maximum. We sat on an elevated creek bank and broke spruce branches for a better vantage point. That noise alone caused a bull to grunt somewhere across the creek in the brush. With branches breaking and saplings snapping, “He’s coming! He’s coming!” Randy said excitedly.
The noises got louder and then there he was, 50 yards away. Two shots from my gun put him down, plus an insurance shot. My bull had nice palms, good width and good overall character. The next four hours consisted of skinning, quartering and loading the quad (ATV). We arrived back at the cabin at 10 p.m. where our reward was a plate of cooked delicious tenderloin.
That night, we placed the meat outside the cabin to cool so we could take it to the butcher in the morning. With grizzlies and wolves in the area, a nighttime trip to the outhouse became a physically and emotionally “tense” trip.
The next few days stayed warm and sight and sounds were minimal to none. We walked and called for many miles, but Randy always had a very positive outlook in spite of the rut rapidly diminishing. Gary persisted with his bow, and I voluntarily became his gun bearer just in case.
On the last evening of the hunt, Gary decided to use the gun and again we returned to the area behind the cabin. By that time, my hiking had become more labored even though we were sharing chores. (Gary and Randy did the cooking and I did the eating. Fair? Right? I even gained weight.)
We located an area about one mile behind the cabin and sat. Randy wailed intermittently for the next three hours as impatience started getting the best of us. Then, in a flash, Randy appeared and repeated his performance of, “He’s coming! He’s coming!” Gary turned around just as a black blob moved silently through the bush at 40 yards. One shot put the bull down. We were all excited as Gary made a great quick shot and we jumped around and hollered congratulating him. This bull was big and very symmetrical with very good fronts. We had a great guide, great adventure, two friends and two bulls.–William J. Ciccone