Growing up in West Virginia our family hunts were for either squirrel or rabbit. My father came from a large family with fourteen brothers and sisters. He wasn’t into hunting like his brothers, however, when I turned six years old he always took me on the first hunt of the season, a squirrel hunt. My father, his brothers and their friends usually around twenty of them would drag out the big Army cook tent and away we would go. All of the men stayed up most of the night drinking beer and playing cards. We little guys just hung around the card table and listened and watched. That was quite an experience. Even though that wasn’t the way I wanted my children and grandchildren to learn about hunting it did get me into the woods and my uncles taught me many good hunting skills that I use today. I believe if my relatives had lived in Alaska we would have done family moose hunts. That is the way my son-in-law, Sagen, was raised. He loves moose hunting and is very skilled at hunting and calling them.
Once I retired from guiding, we started doing family moose hunts. Usually there is a gang of us, Sagen, his brother Thor, two or three of my grandchildren, one or two of Thor’s kids and me. We normally take four wheelers, sometimes riding double with the kids, and pulling a couple of trailers. We set up a great camp with a wall tent for cooking and hanging out in and a couple of large 4 to 6 man tents for sleeping. I usually do the cooking with a large two burner propane stove. We use an old army wood stove for heating the wall tent. It’s what I call a “guide camp.” The kids have a blast and normally kill one or two moose and occasionally take a caribou.
After a few unsuccessful hunts in the open areas we finally drew a few tags. The first year that we got permits, my grandson Jared drew an any bull tag and Thor’s son Jens drew a caribou tag. When September rolled around we had our gear ready so we packed up and headed out for our seven day hunt.
After a four hour road trip we arrived in the parking area. Everyone was excited about the adventure plus this was my first trip into the back country on 4-wheelers. We loaded all the gear on the 4-wheelers and in the trailers and were on our way. We had seven 4-wheelers, only four of them where 4x4’s, one only rear wheel drive and two were little 90cc’s, not the normal big machines for a trip like this. However, we were told they would work for the first six miles. A couple of miles in we ran into our first obstacle, a 30 yard mud pit in the trail. The larger machines performed without a problem but we had to push/lift the two 90cc to get them through and finally made it to where we were to set up base camp without any more problems. We camped on a small knoll overlooking the first place we had to cross the creek. It was a beautiful campsite and we spent the rest of the day setting up our “guide camp.” Before bed that night Sagen did some moose calling using the sound of a cow moose. He would do that every morning and evening hoping to call a moose in close to camp.
The next morning we stashed the two small 4-wheelers and doubled up on the bigger machines as we would be crossing the creek numerous times while hunting up the valley. I had never crossed a creek on a 4-wheeler and with all my bad experiences with water I was a bit apprehensive. We had to cross the creek twenty to thirty times per day so I learned the art of proper water crossing along with my grandkids. Sagen and Thor had learned how to cross using 3-wheelers. The water never went over half way up on the 4-wheelers so no bad experiences.
During the next few days we became more familiar with the area going four or five miles up the creek stopping to glass about every half mile or so. It was beautiful moose country with lots of willow the farther up the creek we went but we only spotted a couple of cows and a grizzly up high on the mountain. On day three we went about ten miles up the creek glassing and looking the country over. We spotted a few caribou but they were only cows. We had a bull only caribou permit so we were out of luck at that point. About half way back to camp we spotted a bull moose on the lower hillside in the trees. We had been spotting this area the previous two days and had only spotted a cow. We decided that Thor would stay back with the 4-wheelers and give us hand signals to close in on the moose. After getting the wind direction in our favor Sagen, Jared and I headed for the hillside. The moose was only about a thousand yards from us but there were only a few open areas that we could use to locate the moose once we got closer. One thing we had to watch out for was all the other 4-wheeler hunters. There were at least twenty that would travel by us every day in the early morning and late in the afternoon. We never saw any of them stop and spot the hillside so I guess they were just hunting the creek like road hunters. We didn’t want them to see us heading up the mountain so Thor would wait for them to go by before he would give us any hand signals. We made it to within 75 yards of the moose but Sagen and Jared had already passed him and was about twenty yards in front of me. I turned to my right and spotted him below us about the same time that he spotted me. He turned and headed into the woods below us. It was a nice moose, somewhere between 50-55”, which was legal without the permit that we had for any bull. I finally got Sagen’s attention and we headed to our right trying to stay above him and hoping he would come out into an opening somewhere below. We went about 500 yards and stopped, overlooking a small creek. Sagen started calling but we never saw that moose again. As it was getting close to dusk, I spotted two bull moose across the creek from were Thor was standing. I could see one was bigger than the other but couldn’t really tell the size as they were moving in the trees. I told Sagen that we should come back in the morning and try for one of those guys. We headed for the 4-wheelers and loaded up and rode out as it was getting dark.
Day four we headed back to where I had spotted the two moose. They were on a small plateau about 100 feet above the creek. When we got there we climbed the bank and Thor stayed at the top with Rachel, Nathan and Jens while Sagen, Jared and I went about 75 yards in. Sagen started calling and Jared and I moved about ten to fifteen yards farther in waiting for the moose to respond. After only fifteen minutes of calling all of a sudden a moose was heading straight for us. He was moving fast. I had given Jared my new custom built .300 Winchester magnum to take the moose. As the moose kept getting closer and bigger Jared whispered that he was having trouble seeing what part of the moose he was looking at through the scope. I told him if it didn’t stop he might just have to shoot him through the front of the chest. The moose finally stopped at about fifty yards and turned to our left and I told Jared to shoot. The 180 grain Nosler Partition put him down. We were celebrating loudly and started to go get Thor and the others. We could hear them coming our way so we stopped. The next thing we knew the other bull was coming our way, so we yelled for Rachel. I gave her the gun as we were trying to figure out if this was a legal moose. He had to be 50” or have at least four brow tines. After looking him over we decided he was smaller than the one Jared had just taken and only had two brow tines so he wasn’t legal.
We took lots of photos before we started the big job of butchering the 600 pounder. The moose’s antlers were 42” wide, a great start for a thirteen year old. Jared had already taken a black bear, caribou and a Sitka Black tailed deer so he was becoming quite the hunter. The pack was only 125 yards and with all the kids helping it went fast. We loaded everything on the 4-wheelers and headed back to camp. Once there we built a meat hanging area to keep the meat clean and dry. Sagen and Thor do a great job of taking care of the meat.
We still had some time that afternoon so we took the kids back down the trail about a mile to do some snowshoe rabbit hunting. They had a blast with their single shot .22’s and ended up killing a few over twenty rabbits. That made for a long evening of skinning. What a great fun day of hunting for everyone. We definitely would have lots of meat.
The next morning we headed back up the creek looking for a caribou for Jens. We found a great bank to use for spotting about ten miles up the creek. Sometime that afternoon we spotted a small band of caribou coming toward us up the creek bed. They were all about the same age and from a distance we weren’t positive they were bulls since they were small and both cows and bulls have antlers. A couple of the antlers were shaped like bulls so Thor, Sagen and Jens took off to get a closer look. After letting them pass they got an under view that showed they were all bulls. Jens shot his first caribou and again we all celebrated his success. The caribou died on the trail so we were able to move the 4-wheelers to him. That was the kind of pack I like. We made it back home with lots of great memories and lots of good meat. What a blast!
The following year we headed back to the same area with one any bull tag. We took the same 4-wheelers and this time spent a half an hour getting the smaller ones unstuck because we initially took a different trail. It still turned out to be a good trip in and we set up camp in the same location. I love the setting of this camp spot and it is a great place for the kids.
We hunted up the creek the first couple of days with no luck and on day three we stayed closer to camp. It was late that evening when I spotted a moose across the creek from us just below the brush line eating willow. It looked like a nice moose somewhere around 50” maybe legal by general regulations. We needed to check him out. We decided it was too late to try that evening so early the next morning we parked the 4-wheelers at the base of the mountain. It took us about an hour to break out of the brush and trees. Once we were above where we last spotted him Sagen started calling, while Rachel and I continued to glass. I happened to look right above us about three hundred yards and spotted a Dall ram. He was close, but not quite legal. That tells you how high we were and to kill a moose up this high probably wasn’t a great idea, but anything for my grandkids.
Thor and everyone else stayed back about fifty yards on the ridge glassing the next draw over. After about 30 minutes of calling, Thor got our attention and told us the moose had moved to the next draw during the night and was about two hundred yards below and across from them. We moved down on the ridge and got Rachel set up using my pack. I gave her my Rifles Inc. custom .300 Winchester magnum to use. She had always used the little cut down Winchester .243 to practice with and to take her Dall sheep and black bear. I assured her she would be fine. As she looked through the Leopold scope at the moose standing in the brush she whispered, “Am I on him?” I jokingly said, “What! What do you mean are you on him? You are the one looking through the scope!” With that she squeezed the trigger and you could hear the thump. She looked up at me with blood above her eye and said, “Did I hit him?” She was and is one tough cookie! I said, “Yes!” Get ready he is moving up the hillside in the brush. He stopped and looked back. As he was leaving he gave her an opportunity for another shot and then disappeared. Sagen yelled, “She got him, I saw a small tree go down and it didn’t come back up.” When we approached him we saw that he had fallen on the tree and was dead. Rachel had her moose. It was a nice 49 incher with four brow tines on one side. Another great memory with my fourteen year old granddaughter. She was also the first of my grandkids to get a scope ding. After many photos everyone loaded up and we made it in one trip to the bottom of the mountain. It was the first time Jared had carried a pack over 80 pounds. Everyone was tired and very happy at the dinner table that evening.
The following day was spent rabbit hunting in the same area that we had previously hunted. The numbers were down but everyone had a great time.
Family hunts are loads of fun and if you haven’t hunted with your grandkids you’re missing out on some wonderful lifetime memories. I wish I had done even more. Next up, my youngest grandson Nathan!