Mitchell businessmen Dick and Paul Muth made the hunting trip of a lifetime in September. After flying to Fairbanks, Alaska, by way of Minneapolis and Seattle, a two-hour bush plane flight took them to Huslia, a remote central Alaskan village. From Huslia, a two-hour boat trip up the Koyikuk River brought them to moose camp for their 10-day hunt. Their tent camp was a Spartan affair, as not even a footprint was to be left behind in this pristine national park.
On a friend’s recommendation, they booked their hunt with Hunt Alaska (huntalaskawithus.com) Outfitters. They chose the Koyikuk National Wildlife Refuge (KNWR) moose hunt option. While Paul bagged his moose on the third of a 10-day hunt, and Dick knocked his down on the fourth day, their hunt took place during the rainy season, a time when it isn’t unusual to spend three or four days in a tent because of driving rain. While our guys did experience wind and rain, for the most part, they enjoyed good weather with 40-degree temperatures.
The Muth brothers went their separate ways each morning with personal guides. The guides were absolutely necessary. The Alaskan moose they killed weighed 1500-1800 pounds. At 900 pounds, it would have been a Herculean task for one person to cut up and carry out my British Columbia Canada moose. Tackling a 1,500-pound Bullwinkle alone would be a mountain man feat.
More important, whether or not a moose was legal was the guide’s call. To be legal, the rack had to be a minimum of 50 inches wide or have four brow tines on one or both sides. That’s a tough call for rookie moose hunters, especially in subdued light. When a bull moose was deemed as legal, it was up to the guide to evaluate whether or not a bigger moose might be found. In the final analysis, that call would rest with the hunter.
I talked to the guys about this very question. Paul passed up shots on three or four legal bulls before dropping his 62-inch behemoth. Dick did the same on two bulls before squeezing the trigger on his 60-inch monster. Sixty inches is an unofficial benchmark for Alaskan moose. Like all members of the deer family, there’s more to a rack than width. I know of a 55-inch bull that would stand out in any collection of moose trophies. Needless to say, I’m anxious to see these two brutes on the wall.
Dick’s bull was taken at 70 yards with a .338 Winchester Magnum rifle shooting 225-grain bullets. Paul’s moose fell to a 175-yard shot from a .300 Weatherby Magnum rifle and 210-grain slugs. For their size, moose will go right down with a good hit, and both men put their shots right on the mark.
I asked the guys about other game. Both men had black bear and wolf tags in their pockets, but neither was presented with a shot.
Moose meat is as good as meat gets. Most of the meat went to an elderly nutrition program with a smaller quantity going to one of their Indian guides. With no intention of being critical of today’s urbanized Indian people, the guys marveled at the skill with which these native people preserved both moose meat and fish with traditional methods. If I were Indian, and if I were younger, I might go to one of these wilderness villages for a year or two to learn both language and skills and then write about it.
My favorite part of this Muth adventure was the evening in camp when they were breaking up branches for campfire wood. The moose were heavily into the rut, and the sound of breaking branches lured in a giant bull that thought the branch busting was a part of another bull’s mating ritual. The bull came into camp during the twilight hour, and the guys recorded some terrific footage of the amorous bull. Can it get better than that?
I know that the blades of canoe paddles brushed against branches and foliage are commonly used to call in moose. In their Koyikuk moose camp, plastic five-quart oil containers with a side cut out were brushed against the alders to create the same effect.
During our interview, Paul and Dick repeatedly talked about the splendor of the northern lights. I could relate to their enthusiasm, as I recalled the night we lay on the Nunavut Territory tundra and watched shifting curtains of green violet, and yellow dance from horizon to horizon as wolves howled in the background. ‘Twas as close as I’ve been to heaven.
I asked the guys if they would recommend their outfitter. They are going back in 2019.
Have a meaningful Christmas holiday. See you next week.