The Moose Hunt
I stared up towards the top of the mountain as Dan (the hunter who I was filming a television show for) disappeared into the fog as the beginning of a long snow storm rolled over me. I was now alone.
Dan was supposed to be guiding me towards the moose that we had shot two hours earlier, but we were unable to find so far. Now, as I stood in waist deep snow hundreds of yards down a steep incline in the Northwestern Montana Rockies, the hunter who was supposed to be leading me in the direction of a wounded moose, had disappeared into a white-out.
Earlier, we had first seen the bull-moose with a cow-moose grazing below us. We moved across the crest of the mountain and ,because of the distance of the shot, laid down to shoot. There was little time for me to turn the camera on before the bull began running up the side of the mountain. Moments before it disappeared behind a row of pine trees, Dan took the shot. The moment had happened so quickly. We stared down the mountain and we couldn’t to see if he had hit the bull, at what we guessed to be a 350 yard shot.
As we dropped into the piney canyon, we soon realized how depth perception from the top of mountain is completely altered as you drop down into the valley. After hours of searching, we were unable to find the moose. We decided that he would direct me down the mountain, from where we shot it, to get a better direction. This was working fine, until the huge storm rolled in.
Now alone, I looked around me as the fog and snow became thicker disconnecting me from the surrounding world. Just before Dan had vanished into the fog, I thought I had recognized the spot where we believed the moose had fallen. It seemed about 50 yards above me, but was now masked in fog.
By this point of living in Montana, I was getting used to being alone in the woods, but this particular situation still made me feel uncomfortable. Moose were known to charge when they felt threatened and could be quite deadly. I was remembering internet videos ,Dan had showed me, of Moose charging hunters. Now, I was sitting in three feet of snow and other than the brush, there was no tree for a hundred yards to hide behind if the wounded moose decided to charge me. To add to the danger, we were in known grizzly bear territory while a potentially bleeding or dead animal was laying for about two hours. This is more than enough time for a predator to catch a scent and find the carcass. Predators, in Montana, also include wolves, black bear, and mountain lion.
Being that I was unarmed, except for my camera, I decided to play it cool and just stay seated. I figured Dan would soon give up on trying to direct me and drop off the peak.
After about an hour of waiting I heard rustling in the brush as he turned the corner. “I couldn’t see you, with the fog,” I explained. “Its alright. I think I know where we are now.” He didn’t seem to sense the danger I felt. That being said, he’s been known to have people drop him off in remote locations, in the middle of the night, to see if he can find his way home.
We began pushing through the brush. I was the first to spot the moose as a cloud of steam rose from behind a small hill. “There it is. It’s still alive!” The moose hearing us approaching began to rise. As it stood, it became apparent that it was a few feet higher than us with a wide-spread on its antlers. Steam rose from its nostrils as it exhaled. With the crack of the rifle it dropped back to the ground. It took one last deep breath and exhaled fully, while steam and blood poured from its nostrils. Its chest didn’t rise again. It had died. As we cautiously approached, I realized how fast my heart beat was from the previous excitement.
With a few hours of light left, we went to work on the skinning. I didn’t begin to realize how large of an animal, it actually was, until I had to pack out just one back leg. With over a hundred pounds on my back I carved a trail through the snow and brush to the top of the mountain. When I arrived back from the vehicle there was another leg waiting for me and I immediately began the rough hike back up the mountain.
The sun began to set over the peak, and the valley was thrown into a shadow. For the second time that day, I felt uncomfortable while I walked with pounds of bloody meat on my back. I was making myself the perfect target for wolves, grizzly bears, or mountain lions. Luckily, this time I had brought a pistol, but it still would have been little defense against a grizzly bear which have been known to continue their attack after being shot multiple times.
As I reached the top of mountain, I became exhausted. I laid down in the snow and stared up at the starry sky. All alone and surrounded by vast wilderness, that showed no evidence of human existence, I began to feel a strong connection with primitive man. Somehow, the human that lived strictly off nature, knew something spiritual and had a connection to the rest of the world that our house walls and car doors keep us from experiencing. As I laid in the snow, surrounded by a silence that stretched for miles, I almost realized this pure prehistoric connection, but I am still unable to define it. Maybe one day I will find it again.
Unable to remove the moose that night, we returned in the morning with help and finished the job. One thing people who don’t hunt don’t realize, is the work that follows the initial kill. For the next three days we de-boned the entire moose and processed the meat into steaks and hamburger. We removed and salted the skin, so we could mount the cape and tan the remaining hide.
The whole process was topped-off with a large meal of moose steaks and toast with huckleberry jam (a Montana delicacy).
That concludes my moose hunting story. Sign up forthe Traveling Hobo’s email list to follow upcoming adventures!