My Hunt for a Big Moose
BY JOHN MOGLE
My hunt for a big moose started nearly 10 years ago. I was at the Safari Club Show as an exhibitor; like any crazed hunter would do when the show slowed down, I would wander. When I first started going to these shows I would wander away from the booth every chance I could.
I often nearly tripped on my tongue from walking down the aisle, salivating at all the incredible animals and places that a person could hunt. During one of those little wandering events of mine I met a young outfitter who had just bought an area in northern British Columbia. He offered moose, wolf, caribou, black bear, and stone-sheep hunts. We talked for a while, did some horse-trading and before long I had my first moose hunt booked. As I would wander around these type of shows every year, I would see an animal that I would put on my bucket list; at a young age I had a bucket list that was fairly simple and comprised of the following: a 30” mule deer, 350+ elk, a bear, and a moose. No real size for the moose…I just wanted to kill a moose.
Shawn Raymond of Coal Lake Outfitters was going to help me knock one of those critters off the list, so I thought. Joining me on the hunt was my good friend from Swarovski Optics, Dean Capuano. He, too, wanted to cross one of these swamp donkeys off his own list. We were flown in to a lake called “Long Lake”. You guessed it, it was quite long. We hunted mainly from a boat and had little success. The rut was supposed to be in full force but it was quiet. Dean got very lucky and bagged an old moose on the last day and I ate tag soup.
I saw Shawn again, ten years later at the Safari Club show in Las Vegas. We caught up on old times. Shawn informed me he had achieved his dream of getting a hunting area in the Yukon for moose. We immediately made plans to get me up there to get a taste of the true Yukon “Gold.” Shawn informed me there are more moose in the Yukon Big Game Outfitters’ area than any other area in the Yukon. Jeez! With that information I figured I better bring my good friend and business partner, Hugues Vaillancourt along. Hugues is a moose-killing machine. If this guy could, he would hunt moose every day of the fall. By the time our hunt rolled around, Hugues had already bagged two Newfoundland moose for the year.
When Shawn and I planned the hunt, he said he thought we should try late season in October. My first thoughts were that we would freeze our butts off. Being that far north, that late in the season, I knew it would be cold and that the mountains could possibly have several feet of snow. Shawn said he had seen some of the biggest moose, late season. That’s all he had to say and I was on board; as long as Hugues got to hunt moose number three for the year, he was happy.
We arrived in White Horse mid-October. Shawn picked us up from the airport and took us by Yukon Big Game Outfitters’ “dead head” shed. My jaw dropped when he opened the door. There were giant racks everywhere…mainly moose and caribou racks, with a few bear and wolf skulls scattered on the cement floor. I quickly spotted a true pig of a moose. I grabbed the horns and could barely lift them. When I stood up the rack, it was as tall as I was. I am 6’1”. Yep—a 73” wide moose stared me right in the face. I didn’t even think that was possible. After looking at a few more mammoths, Hugues and I couldn’t take it anymore, we requested to get to hunting camp ASAP so we could attempt to find one of those Yukon pigs for ourselves.
We went for quite a drive and when we arrived at camp there was well over a foot of snow in many areas, and drifts that were as deep as two-three feet. Yep. My first thoughts when we planned this hunt came back to me, “We are going to freeze our butts off!”
After a warm night in the cabin, we rode into our hunting area on the Argos. I had hunted off Argo’s earlier that year in the swamps of Africa while hunting for Cape buffalo so I was very familiar with them. The one thing I learned quickly is they have no shocks, they put off some serious heat if you are sitting next to the motor instead of in back, and their top speed is maybe 12 miles an hour. After riding on an Argo with Shawn, I quickly learned these things can swim, jump, climb trees, and scale rocky mountains. I also learned that the Argo has to be the toughest UTV made.
We crested the top of a snowy ridge and after I took my ski mask off and shook the three inches of snow-blown ice off me, I reached for my trusty Swarovski binoculars. I was excited to put them to work. There is something special about glassing virgin area for the first time. You just never know what you are going to see.
It didn’t take long to spot game. There were caribou in every direction we looked. The first caribou we saw was a Booner with great tops, fronts, double shovels, and back scratchers. Shawn estimated him around 400”. We had caribou tags in our pockets but unfortunately that area had already closed for the season for that species. I had plenty of fun admiring those awesome critters. It kind of felt like Santa could pop out at any moment with all of the snow and reindeer around. We traveled on with the Argo’s and about that time I realized that hunting off Argo’s was about the only option that time of year, or maybe snowmobiles. Horses would get worn out in the snow; I know I wouldn’t make it far with a back pack and deep snow. Thank goodness for those eight-wheeled horses.
The next valley turned up two bull-moose and Shawn said one was a shooter. Since it was late season, the bulls were out of the rut, but Shawn started calling and the big bull came from over a mile away—right to us. We hustled into position on a knob covered with scrub oak and pine trees. I followed Shawn to where he thought the big bull would come up to us. We waited and waited and waited. We looked up the hill behind us and Shawn’s assistant guide was pointing to our right. We swung around and saw horns running through the trees several hundred yards away. I said to Shawn, “I thought those things were supposed to be dumb!” I quickly learned that was not the case.
It was getting late in the afternoon so we started heading back to camp. We glassed up another shooter bull but decided we did not have enough light to get to him. Crazy! First day down and we had seen caribou galore and two shooter bull moose. That’s not your normal first day. We cooked up some good eats that night, swapped plenty of tall-tale hunting stories, and nearly roasted in our sleeping bags from the rip roaring oil furnace in the cabin.
Day two took us to the same area as day one, but Shawn wanted to get a bird’s-eye view of the area. He took Argo 1 and 2 up some bare mountains that had nothing on them but snow and rocks. They were steep but the Argos didn’t care. Shortly we were at the top of everything and could see forever. Shawn said, “Well if there are moose in here, we will find them,” as he pulled out his spotting scope. We glassed for several hours when Shawn spotted some moose activity that appeared to be nearly 10 miles away. From what we could gather, there were 2-3 bulls chasing cows around. One of them looked huge. Being so far away we had to make our game plan by making references and targets in the skyline that we needed to reach. We located a bald knob that appeared to be about 1,000 yards from the moose. The plan was to try and get the Argos to the back side of that hill and then go by foot from there. Hugues and I were equipped with rifles and cameras as we were also filming for Hunting Illustrated TV. As soon as we crested the hill we jumped a herd of caribou and thought the party was over. Luckily, they did not run in the direction of the moose. We looked to the line of pine trees below us and there were two big bulls staring at us at 400 yards away. I quickly got down in shooting position and told Hugues to get the camera ready. I could not believe the majestic scene I was seeing in my rifle scope. Those two bulls looked huge to me. I had sized up the one on the right to be just a hair bigger than the one on the left and I was just waiting for Shawn to give me the green light. He kept saying, “Wait, wait.”
Meanwhile I am thinking, “What for? There is about to be some carbon wackin’ and stackin’ to take place with this new Fierce CT Edge .300 Ultra in the form of Barnes 180 TTSX!” Shawn said there was more moose to our right—he was looking for the big boy. I took my head off the gun and looked over at him. As soon as I looked up, the other moose were on the move. Before the hunt, Shawn and I had set a goal of a 60”+ moose. Shawn said neither of those bulls were quite 60” wide. Now “Mr. Moose Killer,” on the other hand, (Hugues), was more into quantity and informed us that he would shoot either bull to make his count three for this season. There was a mad dash to trade positions—Hugues became hunter and I became the camera guy, but the moose were leaving the country.
Shawn started yelling, “Follow me!”, as he ran down the hill. We stayed right behind Shawn and he yelled, “Shoot, Hugues!” We stopped running just in time to see the big bull step out from behind a pine tree. Hugues dropped to his knee and put 180 grains of bad news right in the big bull’s neck at 200 yards. The thing piled up like Mr. Rogers taking a punch from Brock Lesner. What a great shot!
I looked to my right and out popped a giant moose that we had not seen before. Hugues and I traded positions again. I got the crosshairs on the toad just as he disappeared into the brush. What had just happened? It seemed as if we discovered Moose Island. They were everywhere we looked! I couldn’t believe how many moose we had seen in two days. It was awesome!
We got to Hugues’ moose and what a dandy he was. He was 57” wide and had points everywhere, combined with good paddles and fronts too. What a great bull. It was already getting dark, so we gutted him and got off the mountain while we still had some light and before we got stormed in.
We relived the incredible day again and again that night at camp. The camaraderie of hunting camp is as fun as it gets for me. Good times. The next day we headed back to get Hugues’ moose. Before we got to moose heaven, where all the bulls were the night before, we stopped and glassed another drainage. Sure enough—more moose. We spotted 5 bulls and at least 8-9 cows in this area. There were two crankers in the group. Shawn being a wise, experienced guide, sent Hugues and Val off to retrieve the moose from the night before. He said we would stalk in on the big bull from where we were. It would take us several hours to get into position for a shot. We watched the biggest of the two bulls bed down and we were off. The problem was walking through the deep, crunchy snow—quietly. We had to move slowly, all the while keeping the tree in sight that the big bull was bedded next to. We made it to within six hundred yards when the bull got up. I told Shawn that in order to make that shot I needed a good rest, and if we laid down I could not see the bull because of the brush. I spotted a small group of pine trees 50 yards away and knew that would have to be my sniper’s nest. I broke some limbs to hold my backpack and laid it flat in the trees, and then rested my Fierce rifle on it. It was solid enough. The bull was at 560 yards. I dialed my Swarovski scope to the appropriate clicks, breathed, and squeezed the trigger. It sounded like a hit, but the bull kept moving, following a cow, and he disappeared into the trees. I thought I had blown it when Shawn said to look to the right—there he was. He was now at 530. I squeezed the trigger again and there was no question, the shot hit him, it was over. The whiplash from the big bull’s legs collapsing under him nearly broke his neck.
Shawn was raining down high-fives on me as we hopped and hollered. What an awesome stalk. We got up to him and he was a giant—65” wide with huge paddles. He was an old bull as many of his points were worn. I thought to myself, “Can you imagine what this old boy has seen in his life? I am sure he had fought off his share of grizzly bears and wolves only to fall that day to my bullet.” It was an honor to harvest such an animal and I truly felt blessed to be on the mountain that day.
What a hunt; in 3 days we had 2 big bulls down, and had seen nearly 15 bulls. We traveled to the Yukon not knowing what to expect, and came away successful. That night Hugues showed off his cooking skills as he fried up back straps and tenderloin steaks that melted in our mouths. You can imagine the stories we told that night. That was the hunt of a lifetime. Thanks Mr. Raymond for an incredible adventure.
Look for this exciting hunt on Hunting Illustrated TV this year; if any of you are looking for a giant moose, Shawn Raymond is your guy. He has the largest area in the Yukon and they have the moose. Yukon Big Game Outfitters—look ‘em up.