“ I wanted to share a bit about my moose hunt that I had in Alaska. It all started early in the spring of 2018 when my wife and I were looking at our house, thinking about what would look nice on the wall. My wife made the mistake of saying that she thought a moose would look awesome right above fireplace. It didn’t take long before I had a trip planned to go to Alaska. We had family living there at the time and started talking to them about having my brother-in-law and myself go out and see if we could get ourselves a moose.
Finally in September I caught a plane and headed up there. My brother-in-law and I drove around for a week trying to get to know the area. Not only did we speak with the locals about their moose sightings, we also visited with people who had seen moose on their property. We weren’t having much luck finding a moose that was large enough there. I had restrictions that I could only shoot a bull that was at least fifty inches wide or had at least four brown tines.
Eventually we came to and an any size bull area and came to the realization that it was the area we needed to be in after we saw a herd of cows. While there we hiked clear back in, walking on a trail that we didn’t think was going to be too bad. Before we knew it we were walking through a swampy mess. Luckily we had Muck Boots on, but had to be careful how we walked, if we weren’t careful we would in sink past our boots. We walked a good five to six miles through some of the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen. We came upon a lake and couldn’t cross without without getting waist deep in the water, so we headed back and hiked to the top of a big mountain. We were hoping we would see a clearing down through the Tanana river, but weren’t successful. The entire hike up we saw signs that there were Moose there, but never ran into anything. I can’t say we didn’t try that day, we put in a good ten to eleven miles of walking through the swamp and muck.
The next day we happened to run into a guy in Delta Junction at the local sporting goods store named Cody. We talked quite a bit about what we were doing and he told us that he had a boat and that he could take us up for a run of the river. We made plans with him and hit the river. We saw a bull moose, but he took off before we had a chance to take a good look at him, let alone a shot. We went far back in with Cody calling the entire time. It was a quiet night and ended up stopping by a cabin alongside the the river where members of Cody’s family were staying. There’s not much better of an experience than sitting a around campfire next to older generations that have been around for years, telling fun stories about where they were born and raised in Alaska. I not only learned about them and their families, but their hunting traditions. You could tell that these men truly loved the outdoors, and they truly loved where they grew up. They treasure Alaska and the beauty that comes with hunting, fishing, and camping.
As we were talking there was a big old set of moose antlers sitting right off to the side of us. It was a good 54-inch set that I was just blown away with. I couldn’t stop thinking about when I would get that opportunity, or even if I would get that opportunity to get a moose that big.
We ended up crawling into our sleeping bags with our clothes on, and staying in their half finished cabin on the side of the river. We woke up early the next morning and jumped in the boat, we spent a lot of time paddling down the river waiting for something to come out and cross. We saw several cows run across the river, but not much else. We floated down for a ways and found a spot to tie the boat up and walk in. Cody started calling again, after five minutes I started to get the chills when we heard a bull grunting back at us. I’ve never been around when a moose was being called in before, it was exciting. He must have just been comfortable because we could hear him grunt and move around in the trees, but he wouldn’t come out.
Unfortunately we were pushed for time that day, because Cody had to get back into the store that morning and we also had to go catch flight. We ended up heading back into town, while there Cody was dropping us off at our truck and he said it was unfortunate that we weren’t going to be there in five days as a new unit would be opening up. He thought we would have a good chance of getting a moose. I said “well I’ll be back up here then.”
I went home and got about 4 days underneath me, washed my clothes and headed back out there. In the meantime Cody had arranged some pretty cool experiences. We went out on a hunt with he and his friends. They took us to an awesome pond next to their trapping cabin where we did a lot of fishing and were able to be around some amazing people.
We followed bear tracks right into where we sat and hunted the first day. We got off the machines and started walking down the trail and could hear him grunting, but never saw him. Where we sat that day we saw a whole bunch of bull moose, they were all out of range and couldn’t get them to come in.
The next morning we headed to new unit, we took all day driving there. We were all on high alert checking out the surroundings. We saw caribou in the distance and got all of our hopes up. At that distance all you could see was the big white chest of a caribou and it kind of looked like a big moose antler sitting up there on the hillside. We headed up that direction and the closer we got we realized it was just a bunch of Caribou. It got our hopes up and then let them down again.
Later that same day we looked up the hill and saw two bull Moose that were the perfect size. Unfortunately another hunting crew that was just ahead of us saw them first. They turned right up the hill and we watched as they harvested both moose. To be honest it knocked all the spirits down a little bit.
We went to camp a little frustrated, trying to figure out what to do next. The crew got a wild idea and decided to try another hill. We knew there was a moose up there and decided to try to find him. We all loaded up and headed up the hill on high alert. We weren’t there very long and when I looked to my left and saw a huge bull moose. The guys turned to me and said don’t worry about the size he’s plenty big, the reassured me this was one I could take. We were running through the trees as quick as we could trying to stay out of sight. Anytime that I would get a glimpse of him I would check the rangefinder. We started off at 600 yards and I just wanted to make sure that I was close enough with the 300 Win Mag I had borrowed from brother-in-law. We got closer and closer and tried to make a plan as we were sneaking through the trees, all the time hoping he didn’t disappear. Finally we got to a certain point and checked the Rangefinder, he was 277 yards away. It was the perfect shot I reached up to use a Jack Pine in front of me as a stand, but it wasn’t working, so I just grabbed the top of the tree and snapped it to the side. I set my gun right on top if it, as my adrenaline pumped. I had this giant bull moose in front of me and didn’t want to miss this opportunity. I reached back into my training playing both in college and NFL football, learning how to get yourself under control in a crazy situation. Also thinking of a trick that my dad had taught me as a kid, that if you can’t hold steady to do a figure 8 over the spot you want to shoot. As you cross the middle of the figure 8 slow down nice and steady, then pull the trigger.
As I’m doing my breathing techniques and figure eight I stared at this moose and it felt like an eternity. Finally I got into a rhythm and my breathing calmed down. It all came together perfectly, my cross hairs were right where they need to be and I felt confident. I pulled the trigger and that big old moose took a lunge forward. He ran forward a good 15-20 yards, before I could think of anything else I had one back in the chamber ready to take another shot. I just looked at him and knew at that point that he had been hit, it was only 3-4 seconds before he fell over. We hurried down to him not knowing what to expect, my adrenaline was still pumping as I walked around the corner. Lying there was a big old moose, we all gave high-fives and hugs. I tend to get emotional and excited at these moments, it was just the neatest thing. You don’t realize just how massive Alaskan moose are. I’ve heard stories but you just don’t get it until you’re right there and you see one of them in person.
I got down by him and tried to turn his head around to take a picture, but could hardly move him. I finally got behind him and took a few photos, and taking a moment to think about what just happened. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for Cody and the crew that took me out there. They let me have the first moose that we saw, one that they could have easily taken. They were kind enough to let me have the experience for myself. I am so grateful for them for giving me that crazy opportunity.”
Read part 2 of Brandon’s Alaskan Moose hunt on the next blog post.