September 13, 2022
“Hi, Adam, this is Glenn from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. You won the raffle…”
Several months earlier, while applying for my annual Wyoming mule deer tag, I had purchased a couple of chances for the state’s Super Tag raffle and put them all into the drawing for Shiras moose. I had been applying for a Shiras moose tag in Wyoming for 23 years, with no luck. I remember thinking as I clicked the “Pay Now” button on my laptop that buying Super Tag raffle tickets was good karma, since all the money raised goes toward conservation in Wyoming.
…Glenn ended our conversation by saying, “The best part of winning this tag is you won’t lose your 23 preference points and there is no waiting period, so you can still apply for a Shiras tag and possibly draw that tag next season.”
I was in disbelief! As the shock of winning started to wear off, I began to panic, because the archery season opener was only six short weeks away.
I immediately called my friends Calvin Taylor and Doug Miller. Both Calvin and Doug are archery antelope outfitters in Gillette, Wyoming, and very knowledgeable when it comes to hunting opportunities in their home state. They were both very excited for me, but they had hunters booked for early September.
I had been trying to draw the Shiras tag for many years in the southeast units near Laramie, as that was considered the coveted area to hunt Shiras moose, so I decided on those units as my target area. And even though Calvin and Doug couldn’t join me on my hunt, that didn’t stop them from working hard to help me create the best opportunity for success on a trophy bull.
The morning after I won the tag, Calvin texted and said, “Call me, I made some calls and found the guy you need to talk with.” After a short conversation with Calvin, I called his friend Jim, who lived in the Laramie area and had drawn a resident moose tag in this area two years prior. Jim was a retired outfitter who loves to hunt and especially enjoys scouting and watching the local Shiras moose.
Jim and I hit it off, and he agreed to help me. Early on in our conversation when I offered to cover his expenses, he immediately said, “No,” and explained that since he was not a licensed outfitter, he couldn’t even accept a candy bar from me or he could be considered an illegal guide. I spoke with Calvin and told him I felt bad about the expenses Jim would have scouting. “Let me see what I can work out,” Calvin said.
Calvin reached out to the outfitter board and completed paperwork allowing him to legally be the outfitter of record for me to hunt with in our chosen area, and Jim would be my official guide. With Jim now being my guide, I could pay Calvin for his expenses, and Jim could be reimbursed through Calvin’s outfitting business, which now also allowed us to hunt National Forest.
Early in our planning, Jim said he had spoken with Bryon Stinson from Base Camp Hunts. Bryon is an outfitter in the area who had helped Jim a bit when he drew his tag. Jim wanted to let Bryon know what we were doing and that we would also be in the area moose hunting during archery season. Jim suggested I give Bryon a call just to introduce myself and talk moose hunting.
“I have never met anyone who won the Super Tag. You are one lucky guy,” Bryon said during our first conversation. Bryon and his Base Camp Outfitters business guide most of the hunters who buy the Wyoming Shiras Moose Auction tags. He also mentioned several times how important the revenue raised by the Super Tag Raffle is for conservation in Wyoming.
Bryon told me the hunting may be different that year due to a huge fire in the unit that burned almost 177,000 acres. He felt the burn area may concentrate the bulls or push them farther away from access areas. At the end of our conversation Bryon said, “I have a hunter the first week while you’re here. I am sure you and Jim will do well, but I’ll check in and see how you guys are doing and maybe come help a day or so if my hunter tags-out early.”
When I hung up the phone, I was again humbled with how willing everyone was to help with this hunt. I felt blessed to have friends who love to hunt and for their friends who all understood the significance of this dream tag.
The next few weeks I made sure my gear was “moose-ready” and practiced shooting every day. I booked the cabin Jim suggested near the trailhead, which would be my home when the season opened on September 1. I booked my flight to Gillette, where I would use one of Doug’s trucks for the hunt. I had also drawn a mule deer tag for the area around Gillette, so the plan was if I was successful with moose early, I’d drive back to Gillette and spend a couple days hunting muleys.
A couple days prior to the trip, Jim called. I was excited to hear if he had located any nice bulls. Jim spoke quietly on the phone as he told me had been sick with COVID. He said he was feeling better, but he had not been able to do any scouting. His main concern was that he was supposed to quarantine through September 1 — the opener. Since I would be in Gillette with a mule deer tag on opening day, the new plan was for me to hunt September 1 for deer and then drive to the cabin after the morning hunt and meet Jim.
While checking into my cabin, the guy at the front desk asked if I had an ATV or a trailer to park. When I responded that I was hunting, he looked at me and said, “I hope you get a moose early, because this coming weekend is Labor Day weekend and campers and ATVs are jammed tight up here, which may affect your hunting for a few days.”
I unloaded my gear and waited at a restaurant for Jim to arrive. When Jim walked in, he said that even though he didn’t have many moose spotted, he was confident we’d find some good bulls.
I asked him about the ATV traffic for the upcoming weekend. He laughed and said, “It gets crazy up here, with so many campers and ATVs, but don’t worry, we will have a good plan by then.”
As we finished dinner, my phone rang. It was Bryon. His Governor’s Tag bowhunter had been successful on a Boone and Crockett-class bull that morning. He said the burn areas made the moose a little more difficult to find, but there were lots of big bulls around.
The words he spoke next floored me. “We’ve located another B&C-class bull and I’m texting you a picture of him,” Bryon told me. “The bull started shedding his velvet this morning and will probably start searching for cows tomorrow. If you and Jim are up for it, we can give it a try in the morning. Meet you at your cabin at 5 a.m.”
Jim was ecstatic and told me that Bryon and his crew are the best in the state when it comes to big Shiras moose. I couldn’t believe my luck!
I was up early the next morning and had my gear on the porch ready to go as four trucks pulled up and six guys jumped out. After a quick introduction, one of Bryon’s guides, James, showed me more photos and video of the bull we would be targeting that morning…and he was big!
The plan was for us to go to where the bull had been hanging out for the past couple of days. There we would set up and glass at first light. If we spotted him and he was in a good spot, we’d try to stalk him.
After a 30-minute truck ride, we pulled off the road. The guys all set up to glass, some using binoculars and others with spotting scopes.
It was still grey light and limited visibility when someone said, “There he is, and he has two cows and another bull with him already.”
We jumped back into the trucks and drove to the access point closest to where the bull was still bedded. We entered the area along a clearcut the Forest Service made during the fire. The moose were bedded in a swampy area with standing water. The plan was for three of us to slip along the edge of the clearcut, where our approach would be quieter. One of the guys was there as an extra set of eyes, and the other carried a cow moose decoy in case we got spotted.
We slowly approached, scanning the area where we’d spotted the moose at first light, when we realized they’d already entered the clearcut and were on the move.
So we backed out and went to the other side of the clearcut to intercept them where we figured they would exit the burn area. We moved quickly, as we could see them in the burn. The bull I was after was nosing the cows and posturing toward the other bull, which gave us time to get ahead of them.
Now there was just two of us, which reduced our noise and scent. As we got into position, we caught a glimpse of the bull. He was in the lead and coming right toward us!
We were set up about 50 yards into the unburned timber where we had good cover. After 15 minutes of waiting, with no sign of the moose, we slowly moved closer to the burn, scanning with each step. Still no sign of them. Where did they go? I wondered how four animals the size of a moose could slip by us undetected.
When we got back to the truck, Bryon said, “He was coming right to you guys, and then he turned and followed the cows out of the cut.”
We all figured that the way the moose exited the area could only mean they were headed to the swamp on the other side of the timber. So, we jumped into the truck and headed toward the swamp. When we got close, Bryon suggested that we set up where the remaining heavy timber met the burn, because he felt the moose would most likely choose to travel that edge.
We set up about 40 yards from the timber and were only there a few minutes when I spotted a large cow on the timber’s edge. I ranged her at 42 yards, and she was soon followed by a second cow and a velvet bull. I remember saying, “That velvet bull is big!”
The response was, “Shoot the hard-horned bull!”
Suddenly, there he was — 42 yards away. I had an arrow nocked and was ready.
I took a half-step to my right, which opened up a large shooting lane. I assume the bull saw my movement, because he turned toward me and didn’t present a shot. I watched him through my rangefinder as he walked toward me. When he got to 30 yards, I stopped ranging him and quickly dialed my Spot Hogg sight to 20 yards. The bull stood there at approximately 22 yards. My release was clipped on my D-loop, and I was mentally focused.
I slowly drew my bow as the bull turned to move toward his cows, and then I settled my pin midbody in the shoulder crease. When the release went off, I watched my arrow hit the bull exactly where I was aiming.
The bull ran about 50 yards and stopped. I could see my arrow buried to the fletching. As he stood there with his head low, I ranged him at 57 yards, and then watched as my second arrow also hit him perfect! He took two steps, stumbled, and fell dead.
We stood there in disbelief at what had just happened. I couldn’t believe my good fortune. I had won this tag after more than two decades of applying unsuccessfully in the general draw, and I had some pretty amazing friends who helped me more than I ever could have imagined, standing by my side when I finally killed my first Shiras bull.
When Jim, Bryon, and the rest of the crew all arrived, we celebrated with handshakes, hugs, and high-fives. Then we took pictures and got the bull loaded up.
After the hard but necessary work of caring for my bull’s hide, antlers, and meat, we all had breakfast at the restaurant where we’d hatched the hunting plan the night before. And we relived the hunt and talked about how lucky I’d been. But most importantly, we made plans to do it all again as soon as I get a tag in the general draw!
The author is an accomplished bowhunter and friend of the magazine who lives with his wife and kids in Harrisburg, PA.
Equipment on this hunt included a Prime Nexus 4 bow, Black Eagle Deep Impact arrows, G5 broadheads, Kenetrek boots, and Badlands apparel and pack.
Special thanks goes to Calvin Taylor, Doug Miller, Jim Blocker, Bryon Stinson and his crew at Base Camp Hunts, as well as to Wyoming Game and Fish for offering this tag through the Super Tag raffle.