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"My First Moose"
Written by Art Hughes

My First Moose
It was early September, 2004 and I found myself sitting on a lake shore about 20 miles northwest of the Muklung Hills in Southwest Alaska. I was hunting with my friend, Joe, who had invited me to this wild, desolate lake in search of a bull moose. Joe is a spry sixty year old Eskimo, wise in the ways of the moose. I met Joe through my job years ago and we had been talking about doing a hunt for several years. Joe has been hunting and living off the fat-of-the-land his entire life and it was a real pleasure to be out in the wilds of Alaska with this fine gentleman.

We had been hunting for a week and had seen numerous large grizzly bears and some caribou, but no big moose. We were seeing large moose tracks on a daily basis and as we explored the numerous bays and surrounding meadows. We encountered several large racks discarded by subsistence hunters in past years, but the moose were being elusive. Joe had seen a couple bulls near his cabin a couple weeks earlier. He shot the smaller of the two and was surprised the larger bull wasn't still hanging around. He thought that perhaps a local hunter had shot it, so we used the skiff to check out more remote sections of the lake.

One day we pulled up to a steep hill on the lake shore and hiked up for a better view. The area looked good with a view of a massive meadow where we could see several well worn trails that moose used to travel from the surrounding boreal forest to the lake to feed and escape the torturous insects that live in the area. Fortunately for us, the weather was cool and the bugs were only a slight nuisance during the warmer parts of the day. We didn't see any moose, but the area looked promising so we decided to come back again in a couple days.

A couple days later we headed back to that general area, but it was foggy and the going was slow since the lake was low and we had already ruined one propeller. When you are that far from civilization, a broken propeller can be a real disaster, so we just crept along in the boat, stopping here and there to call for moose and look for sign.
It was really quite beautiful being on the lake blanketed with a low-lying layer of heavy fog. We just meandered along the shore admiring the autumn colors reflecting on the lake and listening to the eerie call of an arctic loon which floated unseen on the lake nearby. The trip took a couple hours, but finally around ten in the morning we stopped near the Agulukpuk River which was running low.

The river was too low to attempt, so we continued on and finally stopped on the beach that I mentioned at the beginning of this story. We decided to have lunch while we watched the far shore. Joe pulled out some pilot bread and some of his famous dried fish to snack on and some good jerky, Joe even thought to bring a thermos of hot coffee to warm up in the chilly autumn morning.

While we were sitting there discussing our next move, I saw some movement on the far shore. Sure enough a large bull moose walked out of the meadow and into the lake. He just stood there looking across at us, but we were over a mile away. All I could see were his massive antlers. I didn't need my binoculars to tell I was looking at a real monster!
The bull looked like he had two satellite dishes attached to his head and his body was the size of one of the Budweiser Clydesdale horses. Joe and I quickly jumped in the boat and I jacked a 180 grain round into my well worn, but trusty old .30-06 Winchester. Joe maneuvered the boat to the other side of the lake, but the bull didn't get that big by being dumb. He spied us and trotted back towards the meadow.

My First Moose
Joe told me I needed to shoot quickly before the moose got into the woods. So I jumped into the lake, which was probably not what Joe expected, but I stood there waist deep in the chilly water and took a good bead on the moose which was quartering away from me about 250 yards out. I squeezed the trigger and heard a satisfying "whump" as my bullet slammed high into his shoulder. The old bull didn't even slow down. He kept going, so I shot again into his shoulder.

I've never hit anything with my .30-06 that needed more than two bullets, but this moose was tough. I shot again and I could see blood on his side where I had hit him. Finally, he stopped and one more round drilled him low in the chest dropping him like a bad habit. I walked up to him and admired him thanking the good lord for providing me with this magnificent animal.

He ended up scoring around 200 B&C, just missing the record books. He had a 55 inch spread with 26 points and 45 inch palms with long brow tines. The beams were as thick as my biceps and when all was said and done, I had over 500 lbs. of boned out meat in my freezer plus a rack that weighs about 80 lbs. The hindquarters alone on this massive animal weighed 150 lbs. each and it was all I could do to carry them to the meat pole. I will never forget this hunt and I can tell you that everyone should have a wise old Eskimo for a buddy! Especially one with a cabin and a boat in big moose country!