A Yukon moose hunt has been something I’ve dreamed of doing ever since I started hunting. I booked a hunt with Macmillan River Adventures for 2017 but when my booking agent Bowhunting Safari Consultants sent me an email about a cancellation for 2015 I immediately changed my plans.
I flew from St. Louis to Denver to Vancouver to Whitehorse. TIP: When you land in Vancouver you have to pick up your luggage and go through security again. Getting archery equipment through security is very easy. I didn’t encounter any problems. I arrived in Whitehorse a day early just in case there were any issues with luggage. As an added precaution I packed 2 separate pieces of luggage a Badlands terra glide and a SKB bow case each with a set of clothes, boots, and a bow. I packed my one of items in my backpack and used it for my carry on item. That way if only one bag made it I would still be able to hunt. TIP: Oversize luggage always comes out at a different location. After checking into my hotel I called Don Lind to let him know I was in town. He told me I would be picked up by 7:30. I spent the next day walking around town and taking a few pictures.
While waiting to be picked up I met two more hunters going to Macmillan River Adventures. Our driver arrived with two passengers already in the truck. Everyone introduced themselves and I heard a name that sounded familiar. Curt Wells the editor for Bowhunter magazine was among my fellow hunters going on this adventure. It was a short drive to the float plane. After weighing all the equipment and ourselves we packed the plane and headed for base camp.
Don gave me an overview of the camp I would be hunting. It was called the Tay since it was on the Tay river. He also told me I would have two guides and they would be attempting to film my hunt. I got my tags and license, loaded my gear onto another plane and headed to my camp.
The camp was very nice. They just had finished building a kitchen and the sleeping quarters was a canvas tent.
I couldn’t wait for the hunt to begin. We were up at 5 A.M. and after a breakfast of bacon and eggs we loaded the boat and headed up river. We went upriver for about an hour before stopping to call. Within minutes of the first cow call we had a bull respond. I’m thinking wow this moose hunting is easy little did I know how wrong I was. He sounded close maybe 80 yards but I never saw him. The wind swirled and he quit responding. We adjusted our position and called some more. Another bull responded from the ridge above us. However the sun was coming up and the thermals carried our scent up to him. The guides caught a glimpse of his antlers but I only saw his rear end. They both thought he was a shooter. As we started back down the river we soon ran out of gas and realized in our excitement to start hunting we forgot to load an extra “jerry” can. I’ve always called them gas cans. So we got to float back to camp for two hours. Which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because it is a good hunting tactic to just float quietly along the river as you listen for moose calling. That afternoon we didn’t have any encounters.
Day 2 we didn’t get any responses to our calls. Day 3 we awoke to rain. One of the guides slept in the “kitchen” which only had a tarp roof. There was a leak and by sheer bad luck he had placed one of his boots directly under a leak. It was half full of water. TIP: bring 2 pairs of rubber boots. We didn’t get any responses to our calls that day either.
Day 4 I trip and fall on my bow. As I inspect it for damage I notice my rest is bent. No problem we run back to camp, pick up my spare bow, and head back up river. TIP: always take a spare bow. We got a response from our very first call. However it was a bull with a cow and he decided to just push the cow deeper into the timber instead of trying to run us off. That afternoon we used the trolling motor to get into the pond we had heard the bull at that morning. We called from the boat. A cow, calf, and a bull stood up 60 yards away. It became obvious that the bull wasn’t going to come any closer. We decided to try and push the boat to shallow water so we could get out. While pushing with an oar one of the guides dropped it against the boat. The cow gets spooked and takes off with the bull right behind her. A few more pushes later we finally get to knee deep water. I had decided to wear my hiking boots instead of my rubber boots but wet feet wasn’t going to stop me. TIP: always wear your rubber boots. The bull is still in the edge of the timber. They tell me he is around 50″. Not really a shooter but the decision is mine. I elect to try and get a shot. TIP: never pass anything you would shoot on the last day. Lined up single file with a guide in front holding a paddle over his head doing his best to look like a moose, me in the middle and the “camera man” in the back we start walking towards the bull. We get within 20 yards but it’s just to thick for a shot. The bull just isn’t interested in fighting. I’m not sure if it was because he was young or he was spooked. He starts walking and we parallel him for at least three hundred yards. I draw on him 3 times but he keeps moving before I can take the shot. The forth time I get the shot off. I completely miss. At this time I have a little meltdown. I’m not sure if there are enough “beeps” for what I said. I took a shot I shouldn’t have and rushed it. Plain and simple I screwed up. The only positive was that I completely missed. Being somewhat superstitious I decide its my spare bows fault that I missed so I bend my rest back into place on my main bow and get it shooting again.
Day 5 we decide to go way upriver and stay all day. About 8 miles from camp we hit a sand bar which tears a good sized hole in the boat. After pushing the boat off the sand bar we get on plane which drains the water out. Our plan is to land the boat on the first beach we see. However instead of hitting the beach on a flat spot the current pushes us into a high spot on the beach. We scramble out and pull the boat up enough that it quits filling with water. After unloading the boat we assess the damage. One of the guides has hurt his knee pretty bad and I have a cracked limb on my bow. TIP: ALWAYS BRING A SPARE BOW. There is no way we can fix the hole where the boat is and we can’t pull it up any further. The decision is made to push the boat back in the water and hit the beach at the low spot. First pull to crank the motor it doesn’t start. Second pull it doesn’t start. After the seventh pull its starting to get scary. He throws us a rope and by this time he has almost floated past the beach. We are able to pull the boat in at a flat spot and get it completely out of water. TIP: DONT PANIC STAY CALM. The plan is to make a plug for the hole out of a piece of wood. While one guide uses the inreach to appraise Don of our situation I start gathering wood for a fire. I hear the whack of an axe chopping wood and Ryan yells OH MY GOD!! I’m thinking crap he just cut off a finger. Running over to check on him I see him pulling himself up out of the water. Stepping into what he thought was a small puddle of water he sank up to his waist. I built a fire and gave him my spare socks. We ate lunch got Ryan dried out and plugged the hole. The plug worked and we made it back to camp.
Day 6 the decision was made to fly out the injured guide. Ryan and I decided to take the small boat and hunt the lake behind camp. We got back around 10:30 just as the plane landed to fly out the injured guide. Don informed us he was going to get supplies to work on the boat and would be back around 2:00. We got the boat patched but it needed time to dry so Ryan and I hunted the lake again that afternoon.
Day 7 we got up early and ate a quick breakfast because we wanted to get back up the river as quickly as possible. The motor was on boat was in the water and ready to go just as it was getting daylight. I’m about to put my bow in the boat when Ryan says “I hear something in the water”. I’ve heard something in the water all week and it’s always a beaver, muskrat, or ducks. However this splashing was followed by a very loud and distinct grunt. Ryan says “grab your bow”. Checking the wind we get into position and decide to wait for “camera” light. We can see and hear him raking and grunting. I get a little rattled when Ryan says “damn he is a big one”. The moose decided he wasn’t waiting for camera light and starts coming towards us. When he first comes out of the brush he is facing us and I just freeze. Ryan starts doing his moose impression and the bull starts walking. As he goes behind a tree I draw and of course he stops behind a tree. Ryan grunts and he walks out. I’m whispering make him stop but no matter how much Ryan tries to convince this bull to stop he keeps walking. Just before he goes behind more trees I take the shot at 18 yards. There is a distinct cracking sound and the bull takes off. Shortly afterwards we hear him go down. I’m expecting a complete pass through but I can’t find my arrow nor can I find any blood. Obviously doubt starts to creep into my mind. I felt like the shot was good Ryan said it looked good and we are both 100% sure we heard him crash. The decision is made to go look for him. Ryan takes one trail and I follow another one. I hadn’t gone far when Ryan says come over here I found something. Sure enough there’s my moose piled up not more than 80 yards from where I shot him. We celebrate and take pictures for awhile and then the hard work begins.
Click this link for My setup. I wasn’t very happy that my broad head broke but it still made a lethal hit.
We spent the rest of the day skinning and cutting up my moose. It sure was nice to cut off a steak walk to the stove and cook a big lunch.
I’ll end this with some pics of the scenery. Photos courtesy of my guide Ryan Matthews.
He was 58″ wide and unofficial gross of 206 7/8 and nets 198 5/8.
Here is the moose I missed. Vicki of archers choice got him.
Bowhunter TV aired today with Curt Wells. I was in a couple scenes.