By Dr. Dave Samuel, Conservation Editor
"THERE'S A BULL, CRAIG, near the bottom of that dark ravine on the far mountain. Can you see him?" Craig Mitton, my guide, quickly found the bull in his spotting scope, and he got excited.
"Dave, that is a super bull, and my guess is that he is headed up the mountain to bed for the day." Even though the bull was two ridges away, our high-powered optics allowed us to watch him feed, make a scrape, urinate, rub trees, and finally disappear into a pocket of aspen and alder. When he didn't emerge, we figured he had bedded, and we headed back to the truck and down the mountain. Twenty minutes later we were at the base of the mountain where we'd seen the moose.
It was day one of my once-in-a-lifetime dream hunt for a Shiras moose. I'd met Craig at the Pope and Young Convention 3 years earlier, and we had talked about hunting moose in Utah. Two other P&Y members had hunted with Craig, and both took moose. Drawing a nonresident tag is almost impossible, so I decided to buy a landowner tag through Craig. Expensive? Yes. The price of the tag was a major concern. But the next 3 hours would give me priceless memories.
It was late September, and after grabbing luggage at the Salt Lake City airport, we headed for Craig's cabin in the mountains northeast of Ogden. His wife, Liz, and brother Doug joined us for a great meal, and early the next morning we were off. Doug headed out one mountain ridge to spot while Craig and I went to the top of another to do the same.
"Dave, I saw six bulls from this peak three days ago, so I know we'll see moose," Craig said. He was right. We spotted a small bull just at daylight. Then we saw some elk and mule deer. Then, at 8 a.m., I spotted the big guyÃ‚€¦
I used a Parker bow at 62 pounds, Easton 2117 shafts, and three-blade, 125-grain Muzzy broadheads. For information on this excellent hunt, contact: Craig Mitton, 487 W. 4050 N., Ogden UT 84414; (801) 782-7756.
AS WE DROVE TOWARD the bull, Craig explained that moose don't behave like deer. "These bulls are not that spooky. Very few permits are given in this area, so they're not pressured. Sometimes they'll take off, but if we don't really stir this bull up, he'll likely just move off and begin feeding. It's common to get a second chance on a bull moose."
His words would prove prophetic.
We met Doug at the base of the mountain and scoped the hillside. Three quarters of the way up was the big pine that marked the thicket where we'd last seen the bull. Craig and I grabbed a sandwich and started the hour-long hike up the mountain. We eased along a well-worn moose trail that paralleled the mountain ridge and passed right by the thicket.
"There's his tracks, Dave, and here is where he entered the thicket," Craig noted. The wind was coming up the mountain, so our entry from above was perfect. Even though we moved painfully slowly, we had gone scarcely 30 yards when the sound of antlers crashing brush told us the bull was moving out. I quickly backtracked and ran along the moose trail, trying to intercept the bull as he headed up the mountain. Craig's whistle stopped me in my tracks, and none too soon. The moose came out of the thicket right below me. I came to full draw as the bull stopped at 15 yards, quartering to me. I anxiously looked for an opening, but it just wasn't there.
After a few seconds the bull turned and bolted, running parallel to the trail. I quickly followed and saw the bull cross in front of me. He stopped at 40 yards, and I knelt, frantically looking for an opening. At the release, the arrow deflected off a limb right in front of me. As the bull ran off I thought the game was over. But Craig approached and reminded me of what he'd said earlier.
"Dave, that bull isn't really sure what happened. My guess is he will stop and feed." We waited a bit then slowly moved out the trail. Not 100 yards away, we saw the bull. He was feeding.
Staying on the trail, we soon were above the feeding bull. He was busy eating when my rangefinder indicated 54 yards. Since he was facing downhill, I started a slow, quiet stalk. Five minutes later I was 35 yards from the bull, but he needed to move 5 more yards to give me a shot. Within a few minutes he did just that, quartering away in a steep downhill position.
Without really thinking, I brought my Parker bow to full draw and aimed at one small opening through the brush. My white-fletched arrows are easy to see, and I saw the arrow hit in front of the back leg. It then penetrated through the moose's chest to the far shoulder. The bull traveled 60 yards and piled up.
Craig and I slowly approached, and after a brief celebration, Craig put a tape on the spread. The rack measured 48 Ã‚½ inches wide. "Dave that is the biggest Shiras any of my hunters have ever taken." We said a prayer of thanks. Then Craig radioed Doug to bring up the meat packs and saws. Now the real work began, but this once-in-a-lifetime Shiras was well worth the effort - and the price.