Looking toward brighter days ahead? Here’s a fond look back at a memorable fly-in hunt for moose in the remote northern-Alberta wilderness.
The high-pitched drone of the aircraft reverberated through the cab as our pilot brought us up on step, slowly lifting the pontoons off the water. My friend Kevin’s big smile made it impossible for him to hide the thrill of heading into an area where you know it is just you and the wilds in their pristine, natural state.
The autumn scenery was breathtaking, with the deciduous trees painted in an array of bright colors with the turning of the seasons. For many, it signals the end to summer, but for a moose hunter it is the start of calling season.
Our Cessna 185, often referred to as the “pickup truck of the north,” dropped us and our gear at a strategically chosen lake to hunt moose. It is hard to describe the feeling you get as the plane flies away, leaving you to fend for yourself in the wilderness.
The next morning, a spectacular fall sunrise drenched the distant shoreline in hues of gold. Geese migrated overhead by the thousands while pike created a ruckus chasing baitfish in the shallow water beside camp. All signs we were in for a spectacular week.
Our first order of business was to start calling moose. It isn’t unusual to shoot one right at camp, so I call whenever I am there, whether I’m brewing fresh coffee in the morning or tying the tent shut at night. Consistency usually pays dividends in moose meat, and although we planned to explore our lake it didn’t mean we had to overlook camp as a prime location to draw a bull.
An incredible sunset was our reminder it was time to head back to camp. We spent the first day exploring back bays and sandy shorelines looking for moose sign. There were key locations where the ground and lake bed were heavily poked with moose tracks. The immense weight of these large ungulates leaves an impression difficult to wash away, giving the hunter strategic information on where to set up and call.
The hiss of our lantern was the only thing we expected to hear at night inside the confines of our wall tent. Exploring the backcountry allows you to go to bed at night and take a deep sigh—which is one of extreme content, not stress, as you lay your head on the pillow. Through the darkness we were serenaded by the tremolo of loons and geese utilizing the lake along their migration.
May the vigil begin! We found a peninsula on the north end of the lake ideal for calling. The wind would be in our favor and an incoming moose would have a prime chance to expose itself while traversing through the burnt timber of a fire that had swept through the area just five years previous. With moose tracks everywhere, we planned to camp out at the site from dawn to dusk and serenade the landscape with the sounds of a lovesick cow moose.
On Day 3, our very first call was answered by a distant bull. Scouring the far side of the lake, we found the bull marching along the shoreline, grunting with every step. He came from well over a mile away and covered the distance in little time. It was exciting to watch him close the distance and end up at the mouth of our shallow bay, allowing Kevin to anchor his first bull with a well-placed shot from his .300 WSM.
Now the work begins. I started a small smudge fire upwind of the downed moose to keep the ever-present clouds of black and sand flies at bay. We tag-teamed the bull with our knives, boned all the meat from the carcass, and packed it carefully in game bags to keep it clean and protected. There would be fresh moose tenderloin for dinner to celebrate the success.
We packed our moose back to the boat for transportation down the lake to camp. I took the bag off my ALPS OutdoorZ Commander Frame to pack the meat and moose head. It made the job quick and efficient, allowing us to head back to camp to cache the meat before the warm afternoon sun appeared. Far sooner than expected, we’d reduced the entire moose to just a hide and clean bones that we left with nature.
The old burn sites on the lake were absolutely loaded with wild blueberries; we stuffed ourselves with the delicious, tangy treats at every opportunity. In the end our remote lake provided food in many forms, including the fresh pike fillets that so often graced our Camp Chef frying pans.
There is nothing better than a crackling campfire to help spend an evening in camp cleaning up moose antlers for the flight home. It provided the opportunity to reflect on where we really were, and how fortunate we are, to enjoy earth’s bounty in such a spectacular way. If you’re ready to cross off a true bucket-list adventure, a fly-in hunt for wilderness moose is the stuff of which dreams are made.