Moose hunting for Alaskans is like whitetail hunting for Midwesterners. It’s an annual family event to fill the freezer. It’s part of the culture. So after researching all summer, my Dad and I decided to hunt for moose in an area that is archery only during the last 10 days of September. Most other moose seasons are closed by then, and with colder temperatures, the moose are fully in the rut. Here’s the photos and stories from our hunt.
The river that we hunted narrows quickly, and there were several “white knuckle” spots during the boat ride in. We got the jet boat as far up river as we could and then made camp on a big gravel bar at the confluence of the river and an equal-sized creek. With tracks, swamps, and every patch of willows chewed down to nothing, we figured we were in a good area.
The Alaskan forest in the fall has one of my favorite smells: souring cranberries. This is the best time of year for moose hunting, and to hunt this area we spent hours cow calling, grunting and raking the brush hoping to draw a bull in.
Both my dad and I hunt with recurves. Although it’s more challenging, it’s a way of stepping back in time, hunting the way Fred Bear might have done decades ago. A note on calling moose: it can take hours or days for a bull to come in. They are known to travel for miles to get to a calling location.
A very important commodity on these late season hunts is hot water and my Primus multifuel ex stove got the job done. What’s really cool about this stove is it can use the Primus fuel canisters, white gas, gasoline, aviation gas, diesel or kerosene.
Temperatures here were dropping down to 10 degrees at night. If you slouch on your sleeping bag, you’ll pay for it at that temperature. I’ve spent a lot of nights in moose camp freezing my butt off. So, what I like to do now is layer my sleeping bags like I would my clothing. In very cold weather like this I put a fleece liner inside my Mountainsmith 20-degree bag, then put that inside a military gore tex bivy cover. The three layers combined keep me warm down to about 0 degrees, and I can always shed a layer for warmer nights.
Even in the field, I find it very important to constantly practice shooting my bow. With traditional bows, form and release are everything, so it pays to stay loose!
Killing some midday time letting one rip at the ol’ Rinehart block. The temperature really dropped off that evening, and the next morning we were a little slow crawling out of our warm sleeping bags. I spent about 20 minutes chopping firewood and getting warmed up. After breakfast, we were flinging arrows to get warmed up when my dad spotted a small bull walking towards us on the opposite bank of the creek. Apparently my wood chopping had called him in!
We quickly ducked down and scooted up behind a small willow bush right next to my bow target, and he turned and walked down into the river coming right at us! He was 40 yards away (my comfortable range on a moose is 45 broadside), but he stopped, turned around and walked back up into the trees. My heart dropped, as I knew it could be very hard to call him back in. But the moose stopped in a clearing and my dad whispered “range?” “…63,” I replied. Before I knew it, dad had drawn and sent an arrow. He hit the moose right square in the heart! Ironically, the farthest shot we can get in our back yard is 63 yards, and he has been practicing for months and shooting consistently at that range.
The moose trotted off on the trail he came in on, but stopped and tipped over after about 35 yards. We had been calling pretty hard, so that may have brought him into the area, but we’re pretty convinced it was my wood chopping that brought him into camp.
After a few of days not even seeing a moose, our hopes weren’t the best, but with persistence, a little luck, and a great shot, our freezer will be full for the year. This certainly isn’t the biggest moose either of us have taken, but he’s in good shape, and the best kind for eating.
My dad shoots Easton XX75 arrows and used a Zwickey broadhead sharpened just like I demonstrated in the video, and there was absolutely zero deformation. It was still nearly as sharp as it was before the shot.
Another stroke of luck, we were able to pull the boat up to a bank within 15 yards of where the bull went down. Most of the time, the biggest challenge is getting a moose back to the boat, but we were fortunate this time.
Even a small Alaska/Yukon moose is a big critter, and my trusty wood chopping, moose calling hatchet also worked great for splitting the brisket.
With a heart just smaller than a volleyball, a moose has a huge vital area. Just like we’d suspected, the broadhead punctured a hole right through the top of the heart. My dad couldn’t have shot him better from 5 yards.
After a few hours of skinning and cutting, we had the whole thing back in the boat. The “river” was so narrow that we could barely get the boat turned around!
As we got back to camp, Dad said something about being hungry and mentioned one of the freeze dried meals we had. I said “WHAT? ….You just killed a moose…we can do better than that!” So I made up a spit and we enjoyed fresh chunks of tenderloin.
Nothing I know of tastes quite as good as fresh tenderloin roasted over an open fire. It’s hard to believe another hunt is over, but with the water level in the river dropping rapidly, we needed to get out of there while we could still float the boat. It was a very satisfying hunt and a great time with my dad.
Live Hunt host Tyler Freel and his Dad take a jet boat deep into the Alaskan bush to call rutting bulls. See the photos and stories here.