Wyoming Moose Hunt – Area 20 Success!

By Ben Carter

My adventure began the day I opened that envelope from the Wyoming Game and Fish. Unit 20 type 1 successful. My excitement was rehearsed because it was essentially a guaranteed draw. My 10 points would have been plenty now that my residency status had changed from resident to nonresident. I had been applying for Wyoming Moose since I was 14. Now, at age 26, I could finally use my points.

I knew the hunt unit very well, and I had a lot of history in the area. I killed my first elk in that unit. Still I spent the spring thaw pouring over maps and reading everything I could about the area. When summer arrived I spent every weekend making the 5-hour (each way) trip to the Snake River Canyon in western Wyoming. I wanted to know every inch of my unit. I drove every road and 2 track within my hunt unit boundaries. I narrowed down where I was going to focus my “on foot scouting.” I saw lots and lots of moose. But none of the bulls I was finding were what I was looking for.

The week before the bow season opened I spotted a bedded bull across a canyon. I watched him for over 2 hours and he never moved. All I could see is part of one paddle. I could tell it was a mature bull but I needed to see what he was packing. I decided to try and close the distance. The late summer heat had made the mountain plant growth dry and crunchy, and it made it impossible to move quietly. Even still I was determined.

I circled up to the head of the draw so I could come back into the wind and hopefully get a better look at the bull. As I was descending the opposite side hill I heard a shrill scream. Then a cow moose crashed out of the bushed in front of me. She shrieked at me a couple more times and then ran into the pines where the bull was bedded. I could hear him disappearing down the canyon…. Also disappearing were my hopes of catching another glimpse of him.

The following weekend brought the beginning of the bow season. I had 2 last days of scouting before the season opened. I went to a few spots where I had seen the biggest bulls in my previous scouting to try and decide where I was going to begin my hunt. My last day I decided to try and see if I could find that bull that had eluded me the week before. For all I knew he could have been a dink, but I couldn’t get him out of my mind.

It was a misty morning. The heavy rain during the previous night brought out the contrast on the mountains. I moved along the ridge-top glassing every wet stump on the mountain. I froze mid-step when I spotted a bedded bull up the canyon from me.

His coat was jet black from the rain. Even at about 700 yards away I could see his velvet-covered antlers silhouetted against the emerald background of the wet grass. He was defiantly the best bull I had seen all season. I estimated his width in the high forties with nice long paddles. The only thing that I was having a hard time making my mind up with was he only had single fronts. For a bull moose to score well they need to have forked fronts.

After some deliberation, I finally decided this was the bull for me. I snuck off the mountain with out letting him know I had been there. I was going to be there first thing the next morning, hopefully to find him in the same spot.

The next morning was wet and cold. It made the climb up the steep slopes hard and slow. My father was with me and we didn’t crest the ridge-top to where we could view the place I had last seen the bull as early as I would have liked. Even so, it didn’t take us too long before my dad spotted a moose moving through some aspens on the other side of the canyon. It was a cow, but I knew the bull wouldn’t be far behind. I left my dad and dropped down the canyon to hurry into position to where the cow was headed.

I worked my way up the muddy slope as quickly as I could. The brush was drenched and the going was very quiet. I made it to where I thought I needed to be on top of a little knoll. I didn’t see a thing, no tracks and no sign. So I dropped into some pines that I thought the bull would be in. I snuck through them without making a sound. I still didn’t hear or see anything. I came out into a clearing surrounded by aspens. Suddenly I had the feeling I was being watched. I turned around and looked in the wall of aspens directly behind me. There were a couple pines in the grove and their dark shapes looked very moose-like. I threw up my binocs on one tree that looked extra dark. Instead of needles it was covered in hair. It was the bull! He was about 60 yards away and was staring right at me. At least I think he was, I could only see his belly. I took 3 steps to my right to get a better view, and he started moving away. The trees were so thick that I didn’t have a shot. I tracked him for a few hundred yards, but there was no hope he had busted me. I gave up my pursuit, and as I was stopped under the shelter of a large pine contemplating my failure I heard a crashing in the bushes… out popped the cow, she was scared. She ran to within 20 yards of me and stopped. She started screaming, and then took off in the same direction the bull had gone.

I spent the rest of the week looking for the bull. I covered the area and surrounding canyons every day for a week without catching a glimpse of him again. I had shots at several small bulls but my heart was set on him.

I wasn’t able to hunt the opening weekend of the rifle hunt, but the following weekend found me again in the same canyon with a rifle on my back. This time I was accompanied by my roommate Justin. We were on top of the mountain glassing the canyon I had seen the bull in previously. Moving up and down the ridge we saw 6 different moose in the 3 canyons we could see into. Justin spotted a large bull about a mile and half west of us. He was so far away that through my spotting scope I couldn’t make out any detail. All I could see was that he was a large bull. We watched him for a while when we spotted a couple hunters on the same ridge the bull was on. The moose moved out of view and we heard some shooting. The shots sounded like pistol shots to me but non-the-less I could feel my heart sinking into my belly. Deer rifle season was also open in the area, and I was hoping they were deer hunters.

It was getting late in the morning and we weren’t seeing any more animals out feeding. I was feeling very discouraged and was trying to decide if it was worth it to hunt our way back down, or just take the trail we had come up back down. I decided there was one little draw in that I had seen moose in that we could try on the way back.

We worked our way back down the ridge to the head of the draw. We peeked in, but there was nothing bedded in the tall grass where I had previously seen some moose. I told Justin that I wanted to go down a little more and maybe roll a rock into the brush just below the head of the draw. I found an ideal rock, and I told Justin to come hold my gun while I rolled it “down there” and pointed to the where I was going to send the rock. Justin says, “There is a bull” literally directly where I was pointing. He was only 150 yards down slope from us. He was looking at us, and I could see he was wide. I glassed him and he turned his head sideways. His big palms stretched back down his neck. I knew it was my bull. There was a cow bedded just beyond him.

I told Justin “I’m gonna take him!” At that moment the bull started going up the other side of the ridge, with the cow right behind him. The south-facing slope of the other side of the draw was essentially bare. He cleared the brush and I grunted at him like cow moose. They stopped and looked at us. At that instant I sent 130 grains of fiery death right through both lungs. He started to take a couple more steps and Justin told me to put another one in him. I knew he was a dead moose, so the second hit I put directly into his shoulder to stop him. He humped up and then his feet flipped over his head as he rolled once down the hill.

Then the real work began. We caped him out and quartered him. Then we went back to town and picked up the horses.

It truly was a rewarding experience to be able to harvest the bull I had been hunting all those days. I would have loved to take him with a bow, but I can’t complain how it ended.