Massive Yukon Moose: Team HuntStand Scores Big

My long-awaited moose hunting journey to the remote northeast corner of Canada's Yukon Territories began with the pick-up of hunters and gear in this iconic turbo Otter, from a lake near Whitehorse

by Mark Melotik

HuntStand Pro Contributor MORE FROM Mark

Two hunters, two guides and two wranglers ride into the Canadian wilderness with 18 horses and gear to last 10 days. Come along on an epic adventure where the only thing larger and more majestic than the scenery, are the resident bull moose.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEditor’s Note: Author Bill Little is co-founder of HuntStand; an avid big-game hunter and fly angler, he was born and raised in the Finger Lakes region of Central New York with a bow in one hand and a fly rod in the other. From the early beginnings of HuntStand it was Bill’s intention to bring the very best hunting and fishing weather tools and information to what had been a largely ignored audience; see the fruits of Team HuntStand’s labor by downloading the free HuntStand app here.

The Adventure Begins. My long-awaited moose hunting journey to the remote northeast corner of Canada’s Yukon Territories began with the pick-up of hunters and gear in this iconic turbo Otter, from a lake near Whitehorse, a wilderness city of more than 26,000 nestled on the banks of the famous Yukon River and surrounded by mountains and pristine lakes. Reaching remote hunting territory is near-impossible without dependable float planes; we went in just prior to the peak of the moose rut that usually hits in mid-September.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Time To Saddle Up. Love’em or hate’em, horses were a necessity for getting into our remote spike camp, and from there, making serious headway into the surrounding wilderness country where each day’s hunt would unfold. Our camp featured two pack strings for a total of 18 horses that supported two hunters, along with two guides, and two wranglers. We carried with us every bit of the hunt gear, camp supplies, and food needed for our 10-day adventure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur Backcountry Home. Making camp after a seven-hour trail ride into our chosen hunt area was Step One ahead of our long-awaited hunt. We settled in a small grove of aspens that was a short walk to a fast-flowing wilderness stream. The large red containers visible here are strapped to the horses, two each, and carry food, gear, and eventually, moose meat. They also made good camp chairs, and saw further use as a helpful working surface for a variety of camp projects.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinal Pre-Hunt Preparations. After a few hours we had erected four tents as well as the wall tent for cooking, and organized all of our personal gear. After our first bone-chilling night in the bush, I got smart and threw a couple heavy horse blankets under my inflatable Thermarest pad and sleeping bag. With nighttime temps hovering around 15 degrees, the blankets made a serious difference.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMoose In A Haystack? Moose country is drop-dead gorgeous, but while tackling it on foot it can be fairly inhospitable too. Everywhere you look there are tall, dense, nearly impenetrable stretches of willows, boot-sucking bogs, steep mountains, and plenty stretches of nasty deadfall-laced timber. Our horses helped get us into each day’s general hunting area, but if you’re planning a moose adventure of your own it’s wise to come well prepared, both physically and mentally. Through it all, be willing to expect just about anything. We hunted 12 hours a day and covered a lot of ground. It’s all part of the experience, and I wouldn’t have traded it for any other.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASharp Eyes In The Sky. Glassing for big bull moose antler palms from a high vantage point gobbled up close to half of each of our days afield. Toting quality optics—both binos and spotting scopes—is critical; your eyes will be less strained after long days, and more importantly, they’ll help you spot more game. I carried Leupold and Leica optics, and both performed flawlessly.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Mountainside Cafe Is Open. There’s no returning to camp for lunch; typically this is a mountainside affair, and wonderful when the weather cooperates.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere we’re roasting fresh seasoned moose meat-and-cheddar sandwiches over a willow branch fire, the much-appreciated protein coming courtesy of my buddy’s moose taken earlier in the week. There’s nothing like a little “moose fuel” when you’re hunting a big bull.

horse steam 600Does It Get Any Better? Everywhere you turn in moose country, or in a wilderness moose camp, is an image or vista worthy of a postcard or magazine spread. Just one more great example is this shot of our steaming pack string, cooling off after a typical day’s hunt.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Plan Comes Together. After spotting this fine bull with three cows one morning well over a mile away, we first moved on horseback, and then stalked the remaining mile on foot, using the strong wind in our favor. Some four and a half hours later we were in a near-ideal elevated position for the shot. I was using a 300 WSM and handloaded 200-grain Nosler Partitions with Leupold optics; this proved the perfect combo to anchor the massive 65-inch bull with its huge, distinctive fronts. I love it when a plan comes together; words couldn’t describe my excitement as the mountain monarch fell.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMoose Are Big Animals. The work, as you’ve so often heard, was just beginning. The incredible, near-day-long stalk and harvest seemed leisurely when compared to the real work of butchering the bull where he lay. We returned with a team of horses and spent seven full hours skinning and field-dressing the mountain monarch. In the end the nearly 2,000-pound bull yielded more than 800 pounds of tasty venison.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Sweet Taste Of Success. If you can find anything that beats fresh moose tenderloin with spices grilled over an open fire in the remote Canadian wilderness, send me a photo. Carved up and ready to go, our whole team truly enjoyed this field-to-fork Yukon moose hunting experience, just one more fringe benefit of a truly incredible wilderness adventure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPreserving A Wilderness Trophy. Shortly after anchoring my Yukon trophy I knew the goal would be to preserve the exciting memories so I could relive the incredible experience with just a brief glance. Field-dressing and butchering are only a part of the process to ready the thick hide for the taxidermist; taking plenty of time to remove the gristle, fat, and meat with a razor-sharp knife before putting the hide “in the salt” is tedious and time consuming work—but essential if the goal is a quality mount.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPacking Out Heavy. With heavily laden packs our return to camp was much slower and more methodical, but thankfully without real incident. There’s always the risk of losing an unbalanced load—horses dislike the “redo” even more than the wranglers. Cool temps kept the meat in perfect condition.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne Unforgettable Adventure. I might not look a little worn out in this photo, or any lighter or in better shape than when the adventure began, but you’ll have to take my word for it. I spent a lot of time in rugged country on this horse, Brian, and as horses go, he was one dependable steed. What an incredible wilderness adventure. If you’re thinking about a wilderness moose hunt, planning and saving up for the experience comes highly recommended. After having done it, I believe it’s something every serious hunter should try at least once in life. If you haven’t already begun, start saving for it now!




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