What an adventure to say the least!
It all started when I booked with Outdoors International during the summer of 2015 for September of 2018. I finally was able to pull the trigger on this trip after trying to find a partner to go with, I ended up booking with none other than my own father!
The research and saving started slowly but surely. The following January while talking with my consultant, Russ Meyer, and I discovered that an opening for 2016 presented itself and I was the first to call dibs if I wanted it. Of course my father and I jumped at the opportunity to bump dates, even though I had no idea how to make it work I still said yes.
Fast forward to arriving in Bethel, Alaska the day before the hunt.
There were several hunters waiting to get into the field as the pilots couldn’t fly for two straight days. Luckily we were able to get into the field on schedule the following day, however we barely squeezed in as the last flight of the day. Dad and I were able to get camp set up and to bed and ready for the first day of hunting without an issue. Our lake ended up being how I imagined it; wet, soft, flat ground. On the bright side though there is patches of cover and spruce trees along with the tundra to hold moose.
The first morning of moose hunting we decided to do a short loop around camp to look for calling sites, trails, and just get a game plan for the following days. During this quick scouting trip that’s when we discovered we weren’t alone. Unfortunately, eight Alaska residents were moose hunting the opposite side of our lake from us. We decided to get on the Delorme and see what the outfitter wanted us to do. He was just as surprised as us and at that point we hoped that it was just a family of natives out for the day so he encouraged us to keep hunting and he would do a flyover to double check as soon as he was able. So we kept hunting!
The next couple days we saw a few moose, had a bull wake us up in the middle of the night raking and grunting in our camp, continued to scout the area and improve our tactics, but had some bad weather move in that kept the moose bedded down. Unfortunately we were still seeing the group of people across the lake from us daily and on the third day of hunting they killed a moose and we found some fresh kill sites from earlier in the month. Spirits were low due to circumstances but we just contacted the outfitter and let him know what we were still running into and he decided at that point we were going to get moved in a few days when he could get into us with the weather but continued to encourage us to keep after it. So we kept hunting!
That night we had even more nasty wind and rain move in that kept us up part of the night. Mother nature continued to hand it to us into the morning as well. At first lite I got up and started getting dressed in full waders and rain gear to go out for the morning, Dad says to me “I can’t believe you are about to go out in this shit“, I replied “I’ve waited too long and I’m paying hundreds by the day to be here, I’m going, I’m not staying in the tent.” I left with full intentions to go away from camp to a good glassing calling spot I used the day before but decided to go glass the lake first as we’ve seen moose out in the open in the lake first thing.
That’s when it happened…
I spotted two cows and a bull 5-600 yards up the lake shore from us. I dropped down and got my binos out to glass him up. He looked bigger than anything we had seen so far so I decided to go get a closer look. I realized pretty quick he was in fact the biggest bull we had seen and I wanted to make him mine. Dad was sawing logs in the tent and the moose were grazing away from our location so I pushed off solo to make my play. It was windy, cold, and raining hard but that worked in my favor to cover my noise and scent as wind was blowing straight into my face. I stalked to within 200 yards relatively quickly between crouching and crawling through the brushy lake shore but got pinned in the open without anything to rest the rifle on. However another 75 yards down the shore was a slight raise on the bank that would provide me a rest and conceal me if I could stay low enough. I certainly did as I low crawled up to that point through the Muskeg and tundra soup filling my sleeves up with cold water… I made it, put the rifle up on my binoculars harness, ranged him and glassed him one more time before making the decision to take him in the water. He was still grazing away and just over 200 yards now so I asked myself “how bad do you really want him?” I just smiled and lined up the cross hairs waiting for him to turn broadside. As soon as he turned I opened up the 300 and landed 4 good hits as he just stood there soaking it up. While I was reloading he started spinning and I knew right then, oh boy he’s going… going… splash, he’s down! I got my Bull!
Kyle Hanson with the bull that started his moose hunting addiction.
I decided to go back to wake dad up before putting hands on him for the first time.
I ran back soaked through the slop and beat on the side of the tent hollering bull down! He had already started getting dressed when he heard the shots. We went up got our pictures and started planning the “float out“. We were able to tie his head off to the raft and float him all the way back to camp where we butchered him. We continued to hunt the next few days until we moved camps, still seeing a few moose here and there but no other big Bulls. Our meat hunting guests across the lake also continued to hunt, harvesting another two moose by our guess by the time we left.
Arriving in our new spot, we were amazed to say the least.
Rolling hills, beautiful lake, spruce and birch trees everywhere. Best part, solid ground and no waders! We had camp set up by mid afternoon and due to all the extra trees we were able to set up a cooking tarp as a luxury. Right as we were just getting done putting up the tent a bull walked out in the open across our lake. Younger but pretty bull! Our spirits were high with the new spot away from the natives and a spot with solid ground it was like going on two separate hunts all together!
A camp up out of the mud was a very welcome thing!
Our first legal hunting day we saw no moose whatsoever but heard them, which was a first so far as the last spot we didn’t hear any cows and only the occasional grunt. Throughout the entire hunt up till this point we had been using a combination of raking, grunts and cow moans. We decided to back off a little bit at the new lake and just stick to less aggressive cow moans as the rut seemed behind schedule.
The next morning I heard and spotted a group of two cows and two bulls on the opposite side of a neighboring lake from us. The cows were actually firing back at me before the bulls surprisingly. Too far to make a play though. So that night we stayed up after dark and repeated the calling sequence that got the response that morning in hopes of drawing a bull in overnight near camp. The following morning I was out of the tent before sunrise and picked up my calling sequence where I left off before getting the coffee going. Dad finally rolled out of the tent to come check on the coffee and as soon as he did he noticed a shooter bull standing in the tree line right by camp! White as a ghost he says to me “it’s a shooter I’m going to take him, stay down.” I couldn’t hardly believe it, so I did not stay down. I got up to confirm and there he was dad’s bull was 150 yards from camp taking us down. I talked him through it making sure he waited for the broadside shot and as soon as the bull turned it was all over for him.
Same as my bull, he just stood there soaking it up until he started to spin and he was down. Only this time on solid ground, yes! We finished brewing the coffee and walked out to get our pictures before butchering him up.
Kyle’s Dad with his first moose.
What an amazing Alaska wilderness experience. Everything happened the way it was supposed to. My goals for this hunt were to have a safe, memorable father, son adventure and get both my dad and I decent bulls. We also booked extra days for this hunt which saved us. We killed our bulls on the fourth and twelfth day of the hunt. Had we not book a couple extra days dad would have came home without a bull.
Ptarmigan are everywhere in Alaska, and they’re great eating!
To add to our success at this wonderful spot, Ptarmigan were everywhere. I had already decided if we had time I wanted to get some Ptarmigan hunting in. Well I affectionately nicknamed the day after we killed dad’s bull as “Ptarmigedon”, it most certainly was. By noon I had a couple taken with my Glock pistol for lunch. The following day we had two planes come get both us and our moose out of the field. From this point we packed our heads, self butchered our bulls, and packed to come home.
Having a hunting consultant really takes the headache out of finding good outfits. Thank you Russ Meyer and Outdoors International.
After returning from this hunt, Kyle became an Outdoors International Hunting Consultant and has since thrived. He did keep his promise to himself to go back again after a monster bull the next year. You can hear about that hunt on our podcast.