Second chance BULL M00SE
Hunting Shiras Moose In British Columbia...
|Randy with his first bull moose, taken in the timbers of British Columbia. This is a typical size Shiras bull moose, not only antler size but weight at approximately 900 pounds.|
November 19, 2008British Columbia is famous for its Shiras moose hunting. Moose are abundant in this mountainous region alright, but if you think it's easy, you'd be sadly mistaken.
Hunting moose, even in British Columbia, can be as tough as finding a needle in a haystack! This, I learned firsthand.
In all successful hunts, conditions have to be right, the weather, the habitat, and of course finding yourself in the right spot at the right time. If any of those conditions are not in your favor, well, you're in for long hard day with nothing more than weary legs to show for it.
This was my second trip to British Columbia to hunt the Shiras moose with Colonel Anderson, owner of Pitka Mountain Outfitters in Fort Fraser. The first hunt, two years ago, ended almost before it started when as luck would have it, the snowstorm of the century hit, dumping nearly four feet of snow on myself and hunting partner, Jeff Erskine. Hunting was impossible.
Jeff and I were determined to make the best of our second chance moose hunt in this beautiful, but rugged country. Hopes were high.
Spot and Stalk...
The best of moose hunts are always during the rut season and then again in late October and early November when the bulls are yarding up in groups at feeding areas. The bulls are attempting to regain strength from the rut and feed in the logging blocks on red willow, poplar bark and natural grasses, along mountain lakes and cut-lines. This time of year can offer the hunter snow to track larger bulls into hot spots and often when you find one bull, you'll find other bulls.
This can be one of the best hunts available during the entire fall season, that is if weather and feeding conditions are right. If they aren't, well you better be prepared to have a good dose of luck in your backpack and strong legs.
"This can be the best or the worse of times," Colonel told me, "Timing is everything!"
We used vehicles to get into prime moose hunting areas. All-terrain vehicles or quads are used only for transporting game out of the bush. Hunting is done on foot and it's no stroll in the park. As I told you this is a mountainous region and the terrain is rugged, so you are wise to be prepared for some tough walking. And remember, five miles into the bush is five miles out of the bush. Our guides, Colonel and Doug Six are masters at this type of hunting.
Once we got to an area we used our binoculars to scour the logging blocks, looking to spot anything black (Shiras moose) and big along the edges of the cut-lines. Once spotted, the stalk begins. You can expect shots to be 75 to 350 yards or more. Colonel prefers his hunters to use at least a 30.06 and larger caliber rifles.
"These are big strong animals and hitting them hard is crucial to recovering them," he explained.
The Shiras moose are the smallest of the five subspecies of moose, with the Yukon subspecies the largest. A Shiras bull moose can still weigh in at about 1,000 pounds, with an average spread of 30 to 50 inches, they stand just shy of six foot at the shoulder.
Ghosts of the timber...
When it comes to moose hunting you had better be prepared to experience the full gamut of emotions. You can be emotionally drained from fear you may not even see a bull moose to the extreme elation of scoring on one.
Rick Austin, of Edmore, Michigan who was in camp with us, has taken a couple of bull moose with Colonel, and perhaps said it best, "I'm telling you, don't put your guard down! Moose can appear at anytime, anyplace in this country and if you aren't prepared to shoot, well they will disappear as fast as they appeared. Don't let your guard down! I'm telling you!"
Colonel has 31 years of experience hunting these 'ghosts of the timber' and is one of British Columbia's most respected guides. Hunting with him was a pure pleasure.
Colonel has a huge area, hundreds of miles of Provincial land to hunt. He has cabins and tent camps on mountain lakes, the views alone are worth the price of admission. I walked around with my mouth wide open from the sights and beauty of this land.
And all of it is home to the 'ghosts of the timber.'
Scoring on a bull...
For seven days my hunting partner, Jeff, and I had yet to see a bull moose. We had only seen seven cows and calves. And we had gone a couple days without seeing a moose at all. Both of us were discouraged, although we both understood, hunting is hunting and with the temperatures rising, the conditions for this hunt were getting worse. The moose simply weren't coming out in the logging blocks. The timber is so thick and enormous going in after them would be a shot in the dark. Where do you start?
Colonel changed hunting strategy, knowing they were not feeding in the logging blocks as they normally are, he felt they must be feeding in the poplar stands along the many mountain creeks that wind down along the mountainsides. Poplar stands are not as dense as the jack pine timbers and getting a shot was a more reasonable possibility.
On the morning of my eighth day of the hunt Colonel and I headed in one direction and Doug and Jeff headed in another, both our destinations were poplar stands. Time was running short and hopes were fading fast.
Once daylight started to reach the mountaintop, Colonel and I began our slow and deliberate stalk down the mountain. There was a heavy frost and grasses and twigs crunched with each step. Colonel would take a few steps then stop, look at red willow browse, check the freshness of any tracks and listen for moose movement. Each step seemed calculated and deliberate.
The slow stalking pace continued for better than an hour, when suddenly we both heard the movement of moose ahead of us. We made our way closer and sure enough, four moose appeared out of the thick creek bottom and into the poplar. And just like that and just that fast it was my time to make the most of this small window of opportunity!
Colonel motioned me closer and whispered, "There are four moose, the bull is the back one, shoot the back one! It's about 120 yards!"
I took a deep breath, stepped from behind the spruce, racked a bullet into the chamber and raised to shoot. By now they were running up the mountain, and Colonel was saying, "Shoot the back one! Shoot! Shoot!"
It was a shot I may not have taken had it not been for the encouragement of my guide, but in an instant, the deafening silence of the poplar stand was awakened with the roar of my 300 Weatherby. I felt I had made a good shot, but then, the mind begins to question you.
"You saw the horns?" Colonel questioned.
"Yes," I reply.
"You shot the back one, right?" he continues.
"Yah, I think I got a good shot on him," I say, now questioning myself.
We walk to the spot where we thought the bull was. No blood!
"It's a big animal, ehh, you should have hit him, don't you think?" my guide asks.
We circle the area, looking for sign of a hit, the emotions bouncing back and forth in my head. I had to face the fact that I missed. I blew my only opportunity at a bull.
Colonel and I rejoined and as I looked down I saw a drop of blood, taking a few steps forward I found more and then a lot of blood. I had hit him hard, or at least I hoped it was a him and somehow hadn't put a bullet in the cow by mistake, which as I later found out is what Colonel had feared all along.
Less than 60 yards later my bull tried to get up, one finishing shot and I had my first bull moose! Again a complete 360 degree turn in emotions.
The Colonel turned to me, both fists above his head shouting, "You did it, Randy! You got 'em!"
After a welcomed hand shake and some high-fives, I got a good look up close at the bull, not the largest set of antlers in the world, but I was pretty proud of it.
"Not many people can say they have taken a bull in the timber, you did it the right way. You got'em, Randy!" Colonel stated.
It was one of the better hunts I had ever had and although the weather wasn't in my favor, I did manage to have 'Lady Luck' in my favor, at least this time!
Editor's Note: I'd like to thank Brad Anderson, of Edmore, Michigan who set up this hunt for me, introducing me to Colonel Anderson, his wife Fiona and a terrific hunting experience. I would highly recommend this hunt.
If you would like to hunt with Colonel Anderson, which I highly recommend, call him at 250-690-7406. His guides are excellent, the food and accommodations are wonderful.