Montana - While living most of my life in rural parts of Montana, I learned how to survive in all the unforgiving elements that this area has to offer. And though I grew up in Montana, I never took the opportunity to hunt at all. This all changed over the last year when I finally got interested in archery and in the summer of 2017, I was shocked to find out that I drew a Montana moose tag. Knowing very little about hunting moose, I contacted an old friend to help me scout for and find the beast before my hunt. After months of scouting and having mixed luck on where we saw moose, I decided to hunt a particular draw. The first snow of the year finally came and we had an opportunity to stalk two bull-moose. After stalking through 500 yards of slippery snow and down fall, I blew the stalk at 65 yards. Honestly, I was glad the hunt wasn't over on the first attempt because I learned so much about these animals’ behavior and was determined to have success.
It would be two weeks before I would have my next opportunity at success.
While driving up to the draw, I noticed a single set of fresh tracks heading up the hill. I parked my truck and began to follow the tracks. After a short distance, the tracks came upon some wolf tracks and turned around to go back down the hill. It was interesting to me that this moose would simply turn around to avoid wolves but nonetheless I followed them back down towards where I came from. The tracks in the shade were still visible but in the sunlight they had melted and after following the tracks for about 600 yards I lost them. The ground was just frozen enough to not leave any tracks and the longer the sun was out the less snow there was. So I crossed off the road down the bottom of the draw where we had set up a trail-cam on a small creek.
Upon reaching the site, I saw only deer tracks. I searched around a little bit and saw nothing new, so I decided to sit and glass. After about ten minutes, I let out an elk cow call and ten minutes later, I looked up and saw a black object walking behind two trees. I sat and glassed him for 30 seconds before he moved again. When he stepped out, I couldn't believe I was looking at a bull moose.
I made my way up to him but naturally, he was avoiding me. I picked up his tracks and started the pursuit. So, down the hill we went. I was only about fifty yards behind the bull but it was so thick that I couldn't see him. I followed him all the way to the bottom when I heard the first antler. The chase turned back up the hill and he started to hit trees with his antlers about every 35 yards till I came to a single bush. He was just 15 yards away and the only thing between us was this bush! I knocked an arrow and called for him. I could see only his antlers bob back and forth as he growled at me so I let out one more call and he ran. I then came around the bush and noticed it was a huge bedding area that clearly used regularly.
Up the hill we continued, he pushed through smaller trees trying to shake me. It almost worked as the sun was out and the snow became increasingly scarce by the minute. He continued to bang trees with his antlers. I relocated the tracks and began to pursue him through a wallow giving him the high ground to boost his confidence. I finally broke through to the other side right behind a tree and there he was, standing broadside at fifty yards growling at me.
I slowly stepped out and ranged him. 45 yards. So I drew back my bow and fired right between two branches at 11:00am. I knew by the sound of impact that a good hit was made and the shot landed right behind the front shoulder. I watched as he slowly walked up the hill in confusion as blood poured out of him like a tipped over bottle of water. He came to some small trees and tried to go through them but was stopped due to a lack of strength. He tried once more and fell over. While trying to stand back up, he rolled down the hill. Out of sight I could still hear him growl. 18 minutes pass before the growling stopped and I started making phone calls to get help. My friends, Jake and Blue, as well as Sean, my friend and taxidermist, came out to help me pack out.
It was an hour and forty minutes before anyone would get to where I was, luckily Blue has a search and rescue dog who lead him strait to me. It had been an hour and forty minutes since I shot my first moose and all I had to show for it was one skinned off side. You see, I had recently hunted and harvested a deer, however one leg of this moose weighed as much as my entire deer. Given this, I had to find a small log to prop up the back leg up while I tried to skin out the crotch. It was a nightmare but with two people it became much easier. After thirty minutes, we got more done then the first hour and forty minutes by myself. Right about the time we got the first two quarters off, Sean showed up and began to cape the head for a shoulder mount.
It was time to shoulder the load and start walking up hill. The good thing was that the distance to the road was only 500 yards. The bad thing was that the 500 yards was straight up though trees that were growing about 12 inches apart. It made for an interesting and frustrating maze to the top of the hill. Once we got back to the site of the harvest it was time to flip the moose over. I have never seen four grown men struggle so hard to lift something. It was exhausting trying to get the moose un-wedged from under a piece of downfall. To put the size of this animal in perspective, its tenderloin was the size of the back strap of a deer! Once I had taken up the last hind quarter, all that was left was the antlers. It was well past the point of dark when we started back for the final trip and as I looked around the scene for the last time, I was amazed at how we were able to deconstruct this animal. The only thing left from this massive moose was the spine and pelvis. We collected the knives, garbage, pelt, and antlers and started back up the hill one last time. Loading all this meat in the back of my truck was the most amazing feeling.
We are so blessed to have been left this public land and animals by our forefathers. The sacrifice this animal provided gave me the ability to feed my family. I am truly grateful to this animal as well as all my friends that helped me pack it out and make this hunt happen. This has been one of the most exciting hunts of my life, I cannot wait to be able to do it again!