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    Treetop Moose

    An Unforgettable Alaska Tale

    After some pre-dawn hot coffee with breakfast, Charles Allen and I geared up and headed out in an old hunting jeep. The morning sky was spectacular as Charles eased across the Tsiu River and over some sand hills to the area where his boat was tied. The two of us double-checked our gear and pushed off. I was amazed by how he could navigate his way through the marshland. It all looked the same to my inexperienced eye. About an hour later, Charles had reduced the boat’s speed to a slow-go. He whispered to me to be very quiet, as our voices would carry a great distance on the marsh.

    It’s worth getting up early to enjoy sunrise in coastal Alaska. When Ron finished hunting, he pick up a rod.
    It’s worth getting up early to enjoy sunrise in coastal Alaska. When Ron finished hunting, he pick up a rod.
    We left the boat and started trekking north. After about 400 yards of a slow wet walk, Charles turned toward a tall pine tree. We dropped our packs and climbed up the tree. About 50 feet up, we trimmed away some branches to create an unobstructed view and a place to sit. Then we got comfortable. I found that hunting moose in the Tsiu River area of Alaska requires a different approach. It was the first time I hunted in fishing waders out of a tree.

    First, when flying over and looking down, the hunting area looks like a very large golf course. There are “fairways” flanked by stands of trees. It looks like “a walk in the park.” The reality is, every open area is covered with six to 15 feet of water. The only dry areas are under some of the stands of trees.

    The hunting area is known for good brown bear hunting and viewing.
    The hunting area is known for good brown bear hunting and viewing.
    Second, to get to the hunting area, we used a flat-bottomed bayou-type boat with a “Go-Devil” motor, the kind of motor used in the swamps of Florida. It sports a long shaft and a motor balanced so the operator can raise and lower the prop, if needed, to navigate in shallow water. Without the boat, there is no way to hunt the area. It’s impossible to walk from camp back into the moose hunting area about four miles away.  Trust me, the boat is the only way it can be done, unless you are part gator or sport a dorsal fin.

    Back in the tree I felt safe, even though I was much higher than my comfort zone usually allows. The tree had dozens of branches below us. I thought if I were to slip and tumble out of my perch, I would bounce from tree branch to branch like a pinball, but never picking up enough speed to do any serious harm to my wader-clad body.
     From the treetop, I could look over one of the “fairways” that was about 200 yards wide and about 600 yards long. Charles started to call. First, he made some mournful cow calls. After calling for about four minutes, he would wait 20 to 30 minutes before repeating the call.

    Ron and Charles are quite pleased with the 67-inch bull.
    Ron and Charles are quite pleased with the 67-inch bull.
    After about an hour, Charles got down and began to rake the brush, simulating a bull polishing its antlers, then produced some bull grunts. Again, his call would only last a few minutes, then we would wait.
    Charles returned to the tree, and within an hour a massive bull moose appeared at the far end of our fairway. I looked through my binocular and could not believe my eyes. There stood the monster bull that we had seen four days earlier from the airplane. Although we were hunting during the pre-rut, this big bull obviously responded to the calling. I quietly said to myself, “We’ve got him now.”  I was sure the bull was curious enough to drift our way to find the cow it had been hearing Charles so skillfully imitate.

    Then my heart sank as I saw a cow moose appear only 200 yards to the right of the big bull, and it was was heading that way. We watched helplessly as the cow and bull got together and slowly walked to the right. Soon they were out of sight and we were once again alone in the top of a tree.

    A boat was used to get deeper into the Alaskan backcountry.
    A boat was used to get deeper into the Alaskan backcountry.
    Now, this is where knowing your area, the game and its habits really pays off. I thought at that point we had just missed out and would have to move on to another area.

    However, Charles knew from his years of experience as a hunting guide in this area that this was (1) a good moose and (2), if we were patient there was a good chance the bull would come back our way. Charles got into a rhythm of calling and waiting, calling and waiting. We were in that tree for four more hours, just waiting and calling and watching. 
    I’ll be darned if I didn’t look up at the far end of our fairway, an area I had just glassed, and there stood a bull moose. Instead of moving out into the open fairway, the bull slipped into the tree line across from us and disappeared. We both agreed the bull would probably work its way through the trees all the way to a position in front of us. That would put the bull at about 150 yards and would provide an easy shot.

    About 45 minutes later, a moose appeared directly across from our tree. The bull stood broadside, but we could not see its rack. I began to wonder: How wide is this bull? Was it our guy? The bull would have to turn its head before we could tell for sure. I had the bull in my cross hairs.  I asked Charles, “Can I take the shot?”
    “Don’t shoot. I can’t tell if he’s legal or if he’s our bull,” he said.

    More than one hunter was successful during the week.
    More than one hunter was successful during the week.
    To be legal a bull moose must have three brow tines on one side or be 50 inches wide.  From the bull’s position, even with my 10x binocular I could not verify how wide or how many brow tines there were.
    Soon the bull moved into the cover of the trees and out of sight. If the moose kept moving to our right, it would soon be downwind and sure to cross our scent trail. Charles decided we should climb down from the tree and make a move on the bull.
    “Our only chance is to move to the right and cut through the trees to another open area to the east of our position,” he said.
    The race was on. We climbed down, retrieved our packs and quickly moved about 400 yards. We cut through the thick tree line over to the next open area. As soon as we stepped from the cover of the trees, we could see the bull standing in the open at about 220 yards.

    I looked for a shooting rest. The ground cover was too high to shoot from prone. We made our way to the brush line on the other side of the open area. I couldn’t find a tree or any heavy brush for a rest. Nothing would work. Charles handed me his rifle, and I took a knee and placed the butt of his gun stock on the ground then grabbed his barrel to rest my gun on. The bull was watching our every move.

    Facing us, the bull presented only a chest shot, and at 200 yards I really wanted the bull to turn for a broadside target. We waited for what seemed like an eternity and the bull would not turn. It took a few steps in our direction, still head-on!  Charles finally said, “Take him now, Ron. I think we may lose our chance if he turns and runs.”

    I took a good deep breath and tried to relax. I focused on the spot I wanted to hit, counted to three and squeezed the trigger. The .375 Ruger boomed and I saw the bullet impact dead center in the bull’s chest. The bull slumped down on its hind quarters and then tried to stand. As it did, the bull wobbled and then fell over on its side. I had my first Alaskan moose.
    In total, we spent about eight hours working that bull. It was a plus that the bull went down on one of the few dry spots in the area. That sure made field dressing and skinning more enjoyable – if the ten thousand bugs are discounted.
    This was one of the most satisfying hunting experiences of my life. Charles used skill, experience and patience... and it paid off bigtime. Check one more hunt off the bucket list.


    Alaska Pointers

    Alaska must be the last “great adventure” destination for the North American hunter. The wild places and wildlife found only in Alaska top bucket lists for most hunters. Charles Allen’s Alaskan Expedition Company offers silver salmon fishing, a few brown bear hunts and only an occasional moose hunt. Charles told me the moose hunts are “way too much work.”
    The fishing camp is located on the Tsiu River between Cordova and Yakutat. The only way in is by plane; there are no roads for more than 120 miles. Every bolt, nail, 2x4, window and door must be flown in at a cost of about $1.00 per pound.
    The time and money commitment Charles has made is obvious from the moment you step off the plane. You see a well-established camp, including a large dining and kitchen log lodge, seven cabins for fishermen and hunters along with a two-story staff building, shop and other outbuildings.

    Keep it Frozen

    When flying out of Anchorage and you have a delay of more than a few hours, check your gear at the airport storage. They will place your fish and meat in a cold storage, and you will be able to hit the restaurants. The eateries do not allow luggage at your table. You pay by the item; it cost me about $50 but it was worth it. I made it home with frozen fish and frozen moose meat.

    Wolfe Publishing Group