|We decided to strike out into new territory by heading to Alaska
in September of 2004. We booked a hunt with Kniktuk Outfitters, based
out of Dillingham, Alaska. Dillingham is on the southwest coast of
Alaska. The hunt would be September 5-15. For moose, we would be
in a drop camp on a lake, with a guide and a packer. We could move
from place to place on the lake in an outboard motor skiff. For caribou,
we would be taken to the nearest camp to the herd (remember, caribou
migrate) We had tags for moose, caribou, and wolf. The area enjoyed
a 90% success rate of harvesting trophy bull moose.
We knew we were total rookies with regards to hunting anything
in Alaska, so we did lots of reading and asked lots of questions.
1. Moose hunting means new hunting bullet:
For previous elk/deer/bear hunts, we had chosen Combined Technology
Ballistic Silver Tip 180 grain bullets because of how well they
flew, even out to 1000 yards. However, their propensity to shatter
when they hit bone on an elk or deer worried us. We'd never lost
a trophy animal due to this, but what would these bullets do when
they hit a moose? We kept having nightmares about the bullets simply
bouncing off the moose's hide!
We started developing a new load with a true "big game" bullet
early summer of 2004. Talk about starting over! We tried every
type of big game bullet we could find. Included on the list were
the Nosler Partition, the Nosler Acubond, Lost River Ballistics,
and the Barnes X Triple Shock. The Nosler bullets flew fairly well,
but the smallest group at 100 yards was still 2 inches. The Lost
River bullets were a huge disappointment, considering the hype
that surrounds them. At $2.00 each, you'd expect laser accuracy.
Well, our Nesika actions did NOT like these bullets. The best we
could do was 6 inch groups at 300 yards. The Barnes X Triple Shock
was a pleasant surprise. They grouped nicely at 100 yards, in developing
the ideal powder load. We found they grouped to 1-2 inches at 300
yards. At 1000 yards, off bipods, we routinely could get 6 inch
groups, with the occasional 4 inch group. Not bad!
2. Special equipment for Alaska
OK, we now had the right bullet to harvest a trophy moose (or
stop a charging brown bear!). Our outfitter sent us an equipment
list for what we needed to bring with us to Alaska. Most items
we already had. With a little help from Cabela's, we acquired the
Now--how do we get it there? How do we get the meat home? We were
flying from Dallas to Seattle to Anchorage to Dillingham to get
there, and from Dillingham to Anchorage to Chicago to Dallas to
get home. We did NOT want to have to keep up with any more checked
items than we had to, much less pay the airline fees for excess
baggage! Cindy Wener (Kniktuk Outfitters) suggested we send everything
we could via USPS Priority Mail. Meat in coolers could go as excess
on the return trip. So, off to the moving supplies store to buy
the boxes. I packed the coolers with bedrolls, camp pillows,
etc., and packed the boxes with the coolers and the rest of our
hunting clothing/gear. We shipped the 4 boxes USPS Priority Mail;
they got there in just 3 days! However, the postage fees were high.
This was our first taste of the realities of expensive life in
3. Getting us and our guns up there
We had always flown in our own plane, or driven to, our hunts
in the lower 48 states. What was it going to be like, flying the
friendly skies with rifles? We had additional nightmares about
the gun cases being bounced around like the gorilla in the Samsonite
We were also terrified about the airlines losing our guns somewhere
along the way. The possibility was very real, as we had to change
planes twice to get there. Accordingly, we decided to arrive a
day earlier than requested by Kniktuk, to allow for time for lost
luggage and guns to catch up with us.
We talked at length with the airlines, and carefully planned out
what would go in each gun case. We also acquired a separate case
for our ammo. By sending everything we could via USPS, we only
had our 2 overnight bags, 2 gun cases, the ammo case, and a carry-on
beach bag filled with our "technogeek" stuff (video camera,
digital camera, satellite phone, etc.) to deal with on the plane.
Our flight was at 9:30 am local on September 2. We arrived at
the airport at 6:45 am, to make sure there was enough time to deal
with any snafu's in relation to our firearms. Everything went very
smoothly, though--by careful planning and following the rules/regs
to the letter, the gun cases and ammo case were in full compliance.
Both the airline personnel and the TSA personnel were very professional
and helpful. The only alarming moment was when the TSA inspector
couldn't figure out what the solar recharging panel for our satellite
phone was! He laughed about it, once he figured it out, and promptly
asked where he could get one, too!
Getting to Dillingham from the lower 48 is a PAIN! It means sitting
in airplanes for several hours at a time and seeing several airports.
It also takes ALL day. However, we eventually got to Dillingham.
So did our gun cases and our ammo case. However, Dale's overnight
bag didn't make it. It seems there's a real problem with getting
all the baggage onto the plane from Anchorage to Dillingham when
the hunting season starts up, due to weight limitations and the
sheer amount of stuff hunters carry with them. The airline assured
us the bag wasn't lost, just couldn't go on the plane. It should
be on the next flight--tomorrow!
We opened our gun cases and made sure no obvious damage had occurred.
our gun cases and ammo case with our boxed hunting gear in secure
storage at Renew Air Taxi headquarters (owned by
Kniktuk Outfitters), Cindy Wener took us into Dillingham to a
bed-and-breakfast to spend the night. This was our second lesson
in the expense of living in Alaska: a very marginal bed-and-breakfast,
where we had no towels and had to fix our own breakfast, was a
After dropping off my overnight bag and the technical gear bag,
we headed into Dillingham to scrounge up a meal. It was now 9 pm
local, but midnight Texas time, and we hadn't eaten a proper meal
all day! We discovered that Dillingham is too small to have any
national fast-food or sit-down-restaurant chains represented, so
we settled on a little place that advertised pizzas and Mexican
food. (it confused us, though, as the owners were Japanese!) A
third lesson in how expensive Alaska is followed: a medium pizza
was $25; beer was $5. Wow! You could go broke in this town!
The next morning, after a $50 breakfast, we went back out to the
airport. Dale looked for his missing overnight bag while I opened
up the boxes we had shipped up and started organizing our gear.
Thank goodness I had logged what went into each box! In less than
an hour, I was able to have our hunting clothes into our hunting
duffle bags, our day packs organized, etc. Once Dale found the
missing overnight bag, we would be ready to go!
Unfortunately, the airline personnel were NO help AT ALL about
the missing bag. At least a dozen other hunters, who had come in
the previous day, were missing bags, boxes, even gun cases. Yikes!
If Dale's bag was never found, at least all we'd have to do is
buy him new socks, underwear and a toothbrush!
Finally, late on Friday, September 3, Dale noticed a little black
overnight bag sitting all by itself off to the side in the airline
waiting area. Yup--that was it. The airline people were mystified
as to where it came from. Gives you a real secure feeling, huh?
At any rate, we were now ready to go hunting. Renew Air Taxi was
too busy to take us out to our camp site, so we had to spend the
night in Dillingham again. We asked for a different bed-and-breakfast
(we prefer to take showers where there are towels available!).
Cindy Weiner set us up at Bear View Lodge--it was very comfortable,
well set up, and, again, $160/night. It was our first hint of bad
things to come with Kniktuk Outfitters--Friday, September 3, was
when they wanted us to arrive in Dillingham, yet they didn't provide
a place for their hunters to stay? Hmmmm....
4. Let's go hunting!
Saturday, September 4, dawned clear, sunny and glorious! What
a perfect day to travel. Bob Weiner and his son loaded our (small)
mountain of stuff into their turbine Otter, along with us, one
other hunter and HIS stuff, and took off for the hunting camp.
After a little over an hour flight over some of the most spectacular
terrain, we touched down on Lake Chauekuktuli (pronounced: Chow'-kuck-two'-lee).
There, after off-loading and sorting out all the hunting gear,
food and provisions, we were introduced to our guide, Jim Howe,
and our packer, Donny Price. Jim is a taxidermist from Montana,
and a licensed guide. Donny is a baseball player from Reno; this
was his second year in Alaska.
Our camp was located on the shore of the lake, in a small inlet,
sheltered from the wind. Our tent was small, but seemed adequate.
After unpacking and settling in, we got out the paper target we'd
brought, and checked the sight-in on the rifles at 300 yards. 2
shots each--nothin' but net! We're ready!
We peppered Jim and Donny with questions the rest of the day about
hunting in Alaska. Some interesting things came to light: Jim would
carry a .375 H&H loaded with some wicked mean and nasty bullets;
Donny would carry a 12 gauge riot gun, loaded with double-0 buck
shot and slugs. Hmmm...Jim explained that the state of Alaska encourages
back-up from the guide when a hunter is attempting to harvest a
moose. In addition, brown bears can be a huge problem, especially
when field-dressing a kill or packing out meat. Why did we leave
our handguns in Texas?
5. The hunt begins--hip waders mandatory
Sunday, September 5 dawned cold and cloudy. We left camp at first
walking light, about 7:00 am, walking north directly away from
shore. This first morning introduced me to the 3 types of terrain
you find in Alaska:
1. Firm and flat ground: if you want firm ground, you must be where
the trees are. If it's firm and flat ground, you're in a forest.
The forest floor consists of small hummocks (marking the rotting
stump of a tree that died eons ago), each the size of a large beach
ball cut in half. The hummocks are thickly covered with grass,
ferns, mosses and low brush, so there is no way to see where the
drop off between each occurs. To complicate matters, there are
numerous blow-downs, small seedlings, and bushes. Accordingly,
if you want to break your ankles or wreck your knee ligaments,
try to go through an Alaskan forest fast!
2. Firm but NOT flat ground: if you want firm ground, but don't
mind it not being flat, you're on one of the numerous knobs/upthrusts/benches
to be found in and around the Alaskan marshes. Alaska doesn't go
halfway when it comes to not-flat ground: we couldn't find anything
that wasn't a least a 30 degree slope; 45 degrees was common! You
don't have the hummocks to deal with--the alder bushes and foot-tangling
brush and grasses more than make up for it!
3. Not firm ground: this means you're in a meadow, also known as
a marsh. It's a lot like walking continuously on a water bed. As
you get near the center of the meadow, the vegetation mat, which
floats on top of the water, gets thinner and thinner. Soon you
have transitioned to a sensation of walking on a very unstable
pontoon bridge. If you're really lucky, you'll punch through the
vegetation mat--up to your hip!
We transitioned a small forest, climbed and descended a small
hill, crossed a meadow--and spotted an old cow moose with twin
calves. Things are looking up!
After a long trudge across a mile-wide meadow (out of curiosity,
I checked my pulse halfway across: 164 bpm, just walking across
a marshy meadow, carrying a 25 lb pack and a 12 lb rifle--getting
around in Alaska is WORK!), we climbed a 50 foot knob and set up
to glass a 360 degree area. Suddenly, we spotted a young bull,
way too small to be legal, running across the far edge of the meadow
to the northeast of our vantage point. Even though he was not legal,
and over 700 yards away, he was magnificent and HUGE! These moose
BAM! BAM! BAM! BAM! 4 shots rang out to our right, at least a
half mile away. It was right in the vicinity where the other Kniktuk
hunter, George, had planned on hunting that morning. We all exchanged
big grins and thumbs up, thinking our fellow Kniktuk-er had already
We didn't see anything else the rest of the morning, and headed
in around 11 am. We were hungry--the camp had not been provisioned
properly with candy bars, snack foods, etc., like what all hunters
like to carry in their day packs. After scratching together a peanut
butter/jelly lunch, we jumped in the skiff, and headed down to
the other Kniktuk camp, to admire the bull. To our huge disappointment,
we found out the truth: George was on the bull, ready to pull the
trigger, when another hunter from another camp further east on
the lake shot the bull out from under him. Phil, George's guide,
was so angry he was spitting nails. The LAST thing any of us expected
on a hunt in Alaska was to run into other hunters!
Our hearts collectively sank when we found out that there were
at least 12 camps on the lake! The state of Alaska had limited
the two lakes to the north of us, Chikuminuk and Upnuk, to 3 or
4 camps each, by permit only. Accordingly, the air taxi services
out of Dillingham had dumped everybody who didn't have a permit
on Chauekuktuli! The lake is long and slender, running east/west.
The mountain range on the south side comes right down to the shore,
leaving no suitable habitat for moose to hang out in, so no hunting
on that side. The land on the north side of the lake rises gradually
to the next mountain range, a distance of 1-2 miles. There are
two valleys between mountains on the north side of the lake that
can be hunted, and allow access up to the next lake.
According to George, the other Kniktuk hunter's, calculations,
with the number of moose tags on the lake, each hunter had about
1/4 square mile of shore line/meadows leading back to the mountains
to hunt without encroaching on another hunter!
OK: our camp isn't provisioned properly, and there's too many
hunters around us: we knew it was going to be a long, tough hunt!
6. The hunt continues
That evening, we jumped in the skiff and headed east on the lake.
In previous years, Jim had worked out a trail to the top of a promontory
providing excellent view of a large number of meadows, with shooting
opportunities out to a thousand yards. He felt it was tailor-made
for us snipers. He also felt confident the area would be undisturbed,
even with the abundance of hunters in the area, due to the very
difficult climb to get to the top of the knob, and that the meadows
were a hard 1-2 mile walk from the shore of the lake.
After a very strenuous 40 minute climb, we topped out on Gobbler's
Knob. What a magnificent view! We had a panorama of meadows, narrow
strips of forests, and small knobs laid out below us. The closest
shots were 250 yards. We had clear fields of fire out to 1000+
yards. Dale and I exchanged a glance, and grinned--this looked
Around 8:30 pm, we heard stomp-stomp-splash-splash: a cow moose
had just emerged from the forest just beneath the Knob, and was
feeding in the beaver pond immediately below us. Come on, Mr. Bull!
Unfortunately, all was quiet--no bull appeared, and the cow moose
lazily fed her way along until she was out of sight. No other game
animals appeared. We left at last light. Scrambling down that tough
trail by head lamp was an adventure, but we planned on returning
many times--the spot was just too promising to ignore!
Monday morning, September 6, was cold, cloudy and damp. We took
a short trip in the skiff at first light westward on the lake,
and struck out inland on foot. We traversed a forest, coming out
on the shore of a beaver pond complex. It is a NERVE-WRACKING experience
to cross a beaver dam--they are NOT designed for human foot travel!
However, we managed to teeter our way across and not end up IN
the beaver pond.
We ended up on a small knob about 50 feet above a large meadow
complex. After glassing and watching for several hours, we started
working our way through the meadows, looking for sign and movement.
Unfortunately, Dale discovered the joys of travel in Alaskan marshes--he
punched through the vegetation mat, not once but twice! Argh! This
was one of the few times I've been glad of my small size and light
weight--where Dale, Jim and Donny were in imminent danger of punching
through, I could easily slip along without a worry!
We headed back to camp to clean up, rest and eat (yes, you guessed
it--pb&j sandwiches). That evening, we went back up Gobbler's
Knob. Again, we saw the cow moose. In addition, a nice medium-sized
brown bear came rolling through one of the meadows. Jim estimated
the bear to be 8-10 foot, only 800 lbs or so. (!) Unfortunately,
no other game animals were seen, so back down the trail we went
We decided to be on Gobbler's Knob at first light on Tuesday,
September 7. The day arrived cold and very wet. We spent a miserable
4 hours glassing for game. This drove home the fact that Dale and
I did NOT have the right clothes for cold, wet, windy weather day
after day. It was fun to see a Golden Eagle on the way back to
We headed back to camp at lunch-time, looking forward to a good,
hot meal. Kniktuk was to reprovision us that day. We stopped by
George and Phil's camp on the way, to pick up our provisions. Unfortunately,
our provisions consisted of a bag of egg noodles and a small jar
of cooking oil. Evidently, Bob & Cindy hadn't gotten our want
list! Jim called in the order on the satellite phone Bob had left
with Phil, and we headed back to our camp to scratch together a
meal. We used up the last of the bread at lunch.
That evening, we headed back to the knob we'd been on Sunday morning.
After a long, tough hike of 1 and 1/2 miles, we topped the knob
only to see two other hunters already set up! They were as dismayed
By the time we got back to the shoreline, it was too late to head
out to a different place to hunt. Accordingly, we scratched together
another meal, and went to bed early.
7. The hungry times
The hunt wore on, settling into a fairly predictable pattern.
Day 4, Wednesday, September 8, dawned cold and wet. We elected
to still-hunt the meadows to the north and west of Gobbler's Knob.
We found tracks and sign everywhere we went, but didn't see or
hear a single moose. On the way back to camp for lunch, we stopped
at a drop camp 1/2 mile to the east of Phil and George's camp.
We were introduced to the 5 hunters there, who turned out to be
taxidermy clients of Jim's from Montana! We also found out one
of them was who had shot the bull George was about to shoot. They
had had NO idea Phil and George were on the bull, or they never
would have shot him. After admiring the beautiful 56 inch rack,
their wonderfully equipped and provisioned camp, we dragged back
into our camp. We had the last of the rice for lunch.
The evening hunt saw us back on the beaver pond area, on the little
knob. Things got very exciting when we heard horns rattle and hoof
steps. Unfortunately, it was a very young bull, no more than 30
inches on the spread. It was fun watching him and photographing
him at only 100 yards. Again, no other game animals showed up.
We headed back to camp at dark, and had the last of the chicken
for supper. That night, we discovered our tent leaked.
Day 5, Thursday, September 9, was the usual: cold and wet, with
low hanging clouds. It didn't look like Bob could get in, weather-wise,
to reprovision us (we assumed he was coming as promised). We headed
back to the little knob in the beaver pond area. There, we placed
Dale and Donny. Jim and I slipped on and walked the meadows to
the north and east of where we left Dale and Donny. It was late
enough in September now that the rut should have started, and the
bulls should be talking. Jim and I would set up on the edge of
a meadow, wait 30 minutes to let everything settle, and then start
calling. Unfortunately, we never heard a bull answer. After a grinding
tour of the meadows, we picked up Donny and Dale, and headed back
to camp. Lunch consisted of the last of the bacon and pancakes,
as we weren't reprovisioned yet.
We spent the evening hunt of Day 5 on Gobbler's Knob. With windy,
wet, cloudy conditions, visibility was exceptionally poor. We were
exceptionally miserable, even in our rain suits (remember, we just
didn't have the right clothes for cold/windy/wet). After seeing
nothing but 3 other hunters (who were obviously trying to figure
out how to get where we were!), we headed out at last light. For
supper, I cut up a ham into ham steaks and fried them in pancake
syrup. Thank goodness for my southern roots--we wolfed those ham
steaks down! We agreed to ration what food we had, to stretch it
until we got reprovisioned. Since our tent floor had turned into
a mudpit (dirt tracked in on our boots plus water leaking in from
the rain), Dale and I were now thoroughly uncomfortable. There's
just nothing like having to hang up 10 or 12 wet pieces of clothing
in a small tent, trying to dry them out without the aid of a heater.
We found we could turn the one Coleman lantern we had on full-blast,
to help warm the tent and dry out the clothes.
Day 6, Friday, September 10 started out foggy, misty, rainy, cold
and miserable. Typical Alaskan September weather! No way Bob Weiner
could get in to reprovision us, either.
We went very far west on the lake, to an area we hadn't been to.
Jim said he had saved it for a last resort, because of the booger
of a climb to get in. After an hour of fighting alder bushes, sliding,
slithering and sweating, we emerged on a rocky knob over a little
bowl--and immediately saw two cow moose just 200 yards away! We
knew that, this time of year, two cow moose together meant a bull
somewhere real close!
The cows were quietly grazing, not spooked at all, so we had time
to strip off our packs, get set up, and let our hearts quit racing
from the brutal climb. After watching the cows for about 20 minutes,
and carefully glassing the thick forest they were in for any other
moose, we still hadn't seen any other moose. The cows started ambling
away from us, working their way up a forested slope. When they
were about 450 yards from us, Dale and Jim both spotted horns!
Jim whispered urgently: "that's a good bull, take him if you
can get a clear shot!" I finally found the bull in my binoculars,
and ranged him at 467 yards. I told Dale I had him. Unfortunately,
Dale thought I was on him with my rifle. Dale fired just as I was
acquiring the bull in my scope, so I was unable to watch for any
reaction to the bullet. The bull walked about 20 yards to the right,
and stopped between two trees. I fired with the cross hairs at
mid-body; I knew the bullet drop at 467 yards was around 16 inches,
so my hold should place the bullet right in his wheelhouse. The
bull disappeared from view, moving to the right. 5 minutes later,
Donny had a glimpse of him walking at a 45 degree angle away from
us, at about 650 yards.
After a quick conference, we decided that Dale and Donny would
stay on the rock, to guide us to the spot where the bull was when
we fired. Jim and I dropped off the rock, and headed straight down
the slope. More alder bushes! Argh! After a hair-raising descent,
we worked our way to the spot where the bull was. Donny and Dale
verified our location from the rock, and we verified the distance
by ranging the rock. Jim and I worked carefully, gridding out the
area, looking for blood, hair, bone, broken branches, scarred bark,
anything. To our huge disappointment, we found absolutely nothing.
In addition, where the bull was standing, both for Dale's shot
and for mine, contained a large number of small branches and limbs.
On a gray, rainy, misty day, these bullet obstructions would be
completely unnoticeable in the poor visibility. To make things
worse, it started a steady rain, guaranteed to wipe out a blood
We headed back to camp at mid-day, very dispirited. Lunch was
equally dismal--we ate the last of the eggs.
We went back to the same area for the evening hunt. We had noticed
a knob to the west of the rock we had shot from that looked promising.
After a brief, strenuous climb, we emerged on a small ridge. The
ridge overlooked a river valley to the west, and a large bowl to
the east. Glassing the bluffs across the river from us, about 1/2
mile away, revealed 3 more hunters. Hopefully, we wouldn't interfere
with each other!
Unfortunately, the steady rain turned into a torrential downpour.
I asked Jim just how much rain a moose will tolerate before he
beds down to ride it out. Jim replied, "not this much rain!" Accordingly,
we headed back to camp at only 8 pm. The long ride across the lake
in the downpour was culminated by no supper--we were just about
out of food!
Dale and I talked at length that night, and asked Jim if we could
skip the morning hunt on Day 7, Saturday, September 11, and just
look for the bull. After a breakfast-less morning, we four gridded
out the area and thoroughly checked for any sign of any kind. In
addition, we found the place where he was last seen, spread out
15 yards apart, and walked a straight line until we ran into the
mountains north of the lake, approximately a mile. Again, we found
no sign of blood, bone, hair, body, etc. Finally, Dale and I were
certain that we had, indeed, missed this bull, probably due to
bullet deflection from all the shrubbery and branches around him.
We headed back to camp at lunch-time in better spirits, and ravenously
hungry. Unfortunately, no reprovision had occurred. However, we
knew Bob had to reprovision his camps on each lake, and probably
hadn't been able to do so the past 3 days due to weather. Typically,
he would go to the farthest camps first, then work his way back.
We were sure he just hadn't gotten to us yet. We figured we'd have
a big pile of FOOD waiting for us when we got in from the evening
hunt. The last of the ham as ham steaks made lunch. We decided
to let the west area rest, and work over the beaver pond area again.
Dale and Donny stayed on the little knob, and Jim and I worked
our way to the far northeast meadow. At last light, after calling
on and off for 30 minutes, we heard a horn whack against wood,
but never saw the bull.
We headed back at last light. Still no reprovision. Going supper-less
to bed wasn't fun, but it was nice to be warm and almost dry again.
Jim had been chewed out by Bob for calling him late (we typically
didn't get in to camp until 11 pm), so Dale decided to call Bob
on OUR satellite phone after the Sunday morning hunt.
Day 8, Sunday, September 12 followed the now-usual pattern: cold,
wet, windy, and no breakfast. One meal a day on a strenuous hunt
is NOT a good idea! We headed back to the beaver pond area, hoping
the bull we had heard the night before would present himself. Again,
the now-usual hunting pattern: no game animals seen, no calls heard.
With 20+ hunters on the lake, with guides and packers, the hunting
pressure had pushed the moose off the lake shore back up the valleys
toward Lake Chikuminuk. We had a pleasant surprise for lunch, though:
no, we DIDN'T get reprovisioned; instead, the 5 guys from Montana
had heard of our plight from Phil & George (who were also going
hungry), and had fixed us up a care package, including fresh moose
Wow, did food taste good! We fixed a quadruple pot of Ramen noodles,
grilled some moose meat, and ate like pigs! That's when Dale and
I found out, TO OUR HORROR, that Jim and Donny HAD NOT EATEN IN
TWO DAYS--they had made sure Dale and I had eaten what little food
we had in camp. When I fussed at Jim about not practicing the "share
and share alike" policy, he simply stated, "you and Dale
are our guests. You come first." What can you say to that?
Well, this whole situation just about sent Dale over the edge.
He got out our satellite phone and called Bob. As soon as Bob answered,
Dale asked him when he planned on reprovisioning us. Bob laughed,
and said he'd wondered what we were eating--tree bark? Dale simply
answered, “I’m not laughing…..”
Bob made some excuses, and asked us to call back in 30 minutes.
Dale called again right on time, and Bob immediately apologized
saying that the list was indeed there, it just hadn’t made
it to him. He promised to bring the provisions within the hour,
which would have put him on our lake 2 hours later. He did show
up, 9 hours later, with food, but not much of what was on our list.
You know, it just isn’t that hard to keep a hunting camp
stocked with the proper supplies. Food should be the last thing
you worry about on a guided/outfitted hunting trip! So much for
recommendations for this outfitter.
8. The Bull
That evening, on full bellies for the first time in a while, we
headed out to Gobbler's Knob. We hated that tough climb, but loved
the possibilities such a view provided. Unfortunately, we found
other hunters on the Knob when we got to the top. We headed back
to camp, to get a good night's sleep, and head west in the morning.
That evening, we had an impromptu "dinner party" with
Phil and George. I fixed moose steak fingers, Jim did the hash
browns, and an over-eating good time was had by all. We were ready
to tackle moose-hunting again!
Day 9, Monday, September 13 was cold, cloudy but fairly dry. After
a huge breakfast (amazing how food-oriented we got!), we headed
to the knob we had been on in the torrential downpour. After the
hard climb, we topped out on the ridge, and immediately spotted
a cow moose in the river about 1100 yards away. Jim started calling.
She walked away, but I kept hearing an "echo" to Jim's
call (remember, I hadn't heard a real live bull moose before!)
After the 3rd repetition, I realized I was hearing a bull down
in the bowl to our right. I alerted Jim. He, Dale and I ditched
our packs with Donny, and headed toward the sound of the bull.
The ridge we were on had a finger going in the direction of the
bull, so we dropped down to the finger and followed it. It ended,
abruptly, about 100 feet above the bowl. However, the bull kept
anwering Jim's call, getting closer with every step. Due to the
thick cover, we couldn't actually see him until he was only 200
yards away. He wasn't huge, but he was coming in, and looked gorgeous
to me and Dale! He stopped at the base of the bluff we were sitting
on--a whopping 73 yards away. He raked branches of a tree, determined
to confront the “moose” that kept grunting back at
him (Jim’s call). He pawed an area, urinated in it, and decided
to bed down, waiting on this “moose” who refused to
reveal himself. Meanwhile, Jim would call occasionally, and the
bull would answer every time. It was fascinating watching his behavior!
Finally, the bull got so frustrated he decided to get up and leave.
Dale and I had already decided to shoot in tandem (remember, we
both had bull moose tags). Dale doesn't flinch when I shoot, but
I do when he shoots, so I took the first shot. The moose was standing
broadside to the right. BAM-BAM! The moose just stood there, didn't
even flinch, then trotted off about 50 yards, where I couldn't
see him. Dale could see him, though, and put two more rounds into
him, from the left side. CRASH! Down he went! We had our first
Donny appeared on the ridge behind, and signaled is it ok to come
down? We waved him in. Bless his heart, he had our day packs festooning
his big frame pack, and carried Jim's frame pack by hand.
We scrambled around and down the bluff to the bull, and (quietly)
had a major celebration! Bull moose are awe-inspiring: 7 feet tall,
1500 pounds--their sheer size and scale is sobering! Then the real
work began--getting our big bad boy broken down into manageable
Have you ever hunted with a taxidermist? Well, do so, if you have
the opportunity! I was amazed, watching Jim at work. As a veterinarian,
I'm good with a knife, and know how to take a game animal apart
to pack it out. However, Jim just flat left me in his dust--I've
never seen anybody so fast! In the time it took me to get one backstrap
out, Jim had the moose's head caped out! Meanwhile, Dale and Donny
packed out moose hindquarters and forequarters as fast as we had
them bagged and available.
Because we were using a new hunting round (the Barnes X Triple
Shock 180 grain), I took a little extra time to dissect out the
bullet paths. The first two shots had both been heart shots, and
had effectively blown off the bottom of the moose's heart (remember
the steep downhill angle). FYI, a moose's heart is the size of
a football. The third shot, from the moose's left, took off the
aortic arch just above the heart. The fourth shot, with the moose
quartering away, skipped along the ribs under the skin on the right
side and lodged in the right forearm. I found the fourth bullet;
the other three had entry and exit holes, so were unavailable.
It was hilarious when we started the final trip out. Donny had
the two sacks of piece meat. Dale had his rifle, the moose skull/horns,
and his day pack. I had my pack, my rifle, and Jim's rifle. Jim
had loaded his pack with the cape and the hide, but forgot to readjust
the straps from where Dale had used them. He ended up on his back
like a turtle! Fortunately, no harm done. Also, it was an easy,
firm 1 mile walk to the shore line and the skiff.
The trip back to camp was a triumphant one, although a bit nerve-wracking:
our little skiff was WAY overloaded! The lake is over 500 feet
deep in many areas, so a boating accident in its cold waters, even
with life preservers, would probably be fatal. We decided we just
would take it slow and not worry about it!
We decided Dale would use his tag on the bull; he had his heart
set on me getting a 60+ inch trophy bull.
That evening, we headed back to the beaver pond area (we felt
we needed to let the bowl area rest). Unfortunately, we didn't
see a thing.
9. The hunt winds down
Day 10, Tuesday, September 14 followed the usual weather pattern.
Since the only place we were seeing moose was the bowl area, we
decided to head back that way. We endured the usual long wet ride
down the lake, the tough climb up to the ridge, and started glassing
the river valley to our left and the bowl to our right at first
light. We also noticed the same three hunters on the bluff across
the river from us were there again.
Jim started calling, hoping we'd hear an answer. However, where
we were, the wind was blowing pretty steadily left to right, so
we might not be able to hear very well. After about 20 minutes,
we noticed the three hunters had exploded into activity. They scrambled
along the edge of the bluff they were on, through alder bushes
and trees, on around out of sight to the north, in the general
direction the cow moose had walked two days earlier. BAM BAM BAM
suddenly rang out. Jim looked at us in disgust, and said "they
just shot a bull responding to our calls." We elected to head
back to the skiff, and go to a little meadow nearby, to finish
the morning hunt. Just as we got back to the skiff, we heard one
more shot--the finishing shot. Too many hunters--argh!
We worked over the beaver pond area, and the knob behind camp,
Tuesday night and both hunts on Day 11, Wednesday, September 15,
to no avail. No further game animals were seen.
10. Wrapping things up
We packed up, and broke camp on Thursday morning, September 16.
We compared notes with George, the other Kniktuk hunter on the
lake. Poor George--he hadn't seen another bull the entire hunt.
Unfortunately, he and Phil had continuously run into other hunters
on the lake, messing up both parties' hunts. None of us three ever
had an opportunity to go after caribou. None of us three had seen
or heard a wolf.
When we got back into Dillingham, we hooked back up with other
Kniktuk hunters. They had the same story we had--too many hunters,
too much pressure, scarce game, inadequate reprovisioning. Kniktuk
had a lot of unhappy hunters!
When Dale went to Cindy to settle up, we discovered that our flight
from Dillingham to the camp was NOT included in the hunt (we obviously
didn't read the fine print closely enough!) In addition, toting
our moose meat back to Dillingham wasn't included either! That's
the first time we've EVER been charged to get to or from the hunting
area, or to haul out game meat/horns/hides.
We had been told to make our flight reservations to get home to
Texas on Friday, September 17, as they couldn't guarantee what
time on Thursday, September 16 we would get back to Dillingham.
This meant we needed a hotel room again. That's right, you guessed
it--we got to pay for yet another $160 lodging. This was in the
one decent hotel in town, which was below the standards for a badly
rundown Motel 6!
Friday, September 17 was a busy day--repack the boxes our gear
had come up from Texas in, drop them off at the post office, take
the meat to a processor for initial deboning, packing and freezing
(thank goodness, he'd handle shipping to Dallas, so we didn't have
to worry about it as excess baggage!), saying our goodbyes to the
We left Dillingham at 7 pm, and arrived in Dallas at 1 pm on Saturday.
Whew! we were tired!
We ended up with 387 pounds of moose meat. Yum--lots of good eating
The hide, cape and horns will arrive eventually; Jim is supervising
11. A true learning experience
What all did we learn? Well, here goes:
it's very difficult to find hip waders, ankle-fit, for women
don't bother buying or wearing hip waders, ankle-fit, that don't
fit your feet
you need serious wet-weather gear for Alaska, not just a gore-tex
wear liner socks, so your feet don't get wet due to your gore-tex
boots not being able to breathe due to walking through wet vegetation
don't believe every reference you call, and call every reference
take a satellite phone, or you may starve to death
ask specific questions about how each camp is equipped
Will we go back? You bet! However, Kniktuk Outfitters gets a major