* Yes, we did take three children moose hunting! No, we aren’t crazy! If you’d like to read about the preparations and packing for out trip, please click here. *
After a weekend of catching up with some good friends and finishing up Aunt Mel’s deck, we left for our vacation! Our plan for the hunt was to find something edible and legal. . . a bull (male) moose, or a bull (male) caribou, or a bear (male or female.)
Monday (Labor Day) we drove through some gorgeous scenery. First we passed by a river, then a glacier. We stopped for lunch on the side of the road a ways out of town and Calf #1 got stung by a bee! The Bull gave him some benadryl (had we been at home, I would have made a paste with meat tenderizer to draw out the poison. . . but we weren’t at home so we had to make do with what we had!) I hoped that would give us some peace and quiet, but he only slept for about a half hour.
We drove through lots of mountains. I LOVE the mountains! And it’s the time of year that the mountains are getting snowy.
(Although, honestly, some are snowy year round.) This is Mount Sanford. She has quite a history that I did not even know about until tonight when I sat down to get this post ready! (Click over to read all about it if you’re curious.)
The fall colors are starting to turn, also. It’s that time of year, too!
We drove, literally, for hours! We had to stop every now and then (there were small children and a pregnant woman in the truck! Oh, and did I mention that we had left our big tub of baby wipes at our friends’ house? We only had the small tub. . . containing FIVE wipes! Thankfully we had two bottles of hand sanitizer!) but we managed to get to the Denali Highway by late afternoon.
The Bull’s plan was to drive somewhat slowly down the road, from Paxson to Cantwell, 135 miles (217 km.) Most of it is unpaved and gravel (about 111 miles, or 178.5 km), and quite dusty and bumpy; it was the only road into Denali National Park from 1957 to 1971.
And yes, it was much better when we did drive slowly! Calf #2 must be having sympathy pregnancy symptoms for me, as he complained of belly aches when the road got too bumpy. We had brought three pairs of binoculars, so we were all able to look out at the tundra and see if anything was moving.
Sure enough, before very long at all, The Bull hurriedly pulled the truck and trailer off to the side of the road (there are pull outs along the whole road, every mile or so; all the better for hunters to stop and stalk their prey.) He looked over towards a distant lake with his binoculars and saw two cow (female) moose. He was about to get us loaded up to move on down the road when he saw a large bull moose standing in the middle of the lake! After watching it for a few minutes, he wasn’t able to tell if it was large enough to be legal. For this area, a bull moose must have four brow tines on at least one side of its antlers. (Or a “spike,” one prong, or a “fork”, two prongs. These are antlers that are growing deformed and won’t mature to brow tines.)
So the kids and I hung out while he stalked the moose! The boys ran up and down a little hill and the little girl and I stayed in the truck and kept warm. I passed around snacks for all. I was tired and starting to get a wee bit cranky. We could see The Bull for a while through the binoculars.
Can you see him? He’s that little orange speck in the middle of the picture.
He returned two hours later, having hiked quite a ways towards the moose; he’d still been unable to get close enough to the moose to accurately see its antlers. Plus, shooting a moose that is standing in a lake is not generally advisable. If it dies right there in the lake, you’re going swimming to recover the meat. And leaving it there in the lake is not an option! This is called “wanton waste” and it’ll get you in big trouble in Alaska.
So we loaded up and wandered down the road a little farther to the Trail Lakes campground, where we stopped for the night. It was really cold that night, but the moon was beautiful at dusk!
The Bull cooked up some of our soup and we had a quick, late supper. This was where I discovered that we were in for a dusty trip, as everything in the trailer and the back of the truck was coated in dust. The trailer was enclosed, true, but it was not airtight. If I hadn’t been so cold and tired, I think I would have broken down and cried and begged to go back to civilization. Well, that and the long drive down a dusty road! Instead, we brushed the dirt off best as we could, shook the sleeping bags outside, and went to bed.
* Tomorrow I’ll talk about our first full day of hunting. See ya then!*