73 Year Old Alaskan Scores a 73 inch Giant
Once the leaves start to turn and the air gets a bit more crisp, thousands of hunters find themselves in the Alaskan backcountry in hopes of finding a legal bull moose to fill their freezers. Seventy three year old Bob Condon was no exception as he headed north from his home on the Kenai Peninsula in search of a bull he could punch his tag on. What transpired on a cool September day in the Brooks Range of Alaska was something every hunter can only dream of.
Bob was born in New England, and grew up there, but had a thirst for Alaska that brought him here at the age of 19 in a 1953 Ford that he drove up the AlCan highway. Not being able to find employment before funds ran out, Bob traveled back to Maine where he and his wife ran a guide service for a number of years. During that time, Bob developed a love for bow hunting. He was the 1960 Massachusetts field archery champion and had personally met archery legends Fred Bear and Howard Hill. Since coming to Alaska in 1996 permanently, health reasons have inhibited him from continuing his passion for archery but hunting will always be a part of his life.
For his first years of hunting moose in Alaska, Bob had pointed himself toward the Kotzebue area, but had recently been introduced to hunting moose in the Brooks Range. Following the first few successful trips to the Brooks, Bob and his friends (both named Mike) made the now annual trip north. We asked Bob if he had a plane of his own. He said he had owned three at one time or another and after his last ‘rough landing’, he was going to leave the flying to the experts. This year, on September 9th, the group chartered an air taxi that dropped them into a new area they hadn’t hunted the previous few years but they were eager to get boots on the ground.
The weather was everything one could anticipate while hunting mid-September in northern Alaska, with what seemed like storm after storm rolling through. The inflatable raft was a welcome addition to the gear pile after they saw how swollen the rivers were after prolonged rain showers. They used it to haul gear and hunters across to more hunting terrain as the water was impassable on foot. The group experienced high winds, rain, snow, frosty cold mornings and the like, which all made for long days glassing nearby vantage points. Bob prefers to ‘travel light’, not taking a spotting scope, leaving it up to his Zeiss binoculars to complete the job of finding a bull to harvest.
Though 73 years old, and recovering from a serious heart attack in March, Bob was still sticking it out with long days in the field and fairly cold nights in his eight-man Cabela’s Guide Model tent. This hunt almost ended as soon as it started on the first full day of hunting as Bob was nearly successful at calling in a nice moose within shooting range. The group met a pair of hunters from Wisconsin that ended up taking that bull the next day which turned out to be 62 inches. Since seeing that bull on the 10th, the group hadn’t seen another moose that presented itself in a fashion that would enable them to make a stalk. Throughout the first few days hundreds of caribou traveled nearby, a half dozen bears moved through the valley and there was wolf sign everywhere.
The morning of September 13th started like any that you could expect for this time of year; frosty and overcast with a light breeze. Bob and ‘young Mike’ decided to head to a nearby knoll to gain a better perspective and settle in to do some glassing. The other Mike decided to head up river a ways to look that country over to possibly give them a better chance at seeing more game.
After only 15 minutes into what both of them thought was going to be a long morning of scanning the autumn scenery behind a pair of binoculars, young Mike spots a bull nearly a mile away. After they looked at the bull for a spell, initial thoughts were that they both knew that the moose was big, but it was hard to tell just how big as he was moving in and out of the trees and brush. Since the bull was moving away from them a bit, Bob decided that they needed to get around a nearby knob and try to get into a position ahead of him. It was apparent that after the first 50 yards that Bob wasn’t going to quite have the stamina to “beat feet” as was required to get in front of this behemoth bull. Bob really wanted young Mike to get a moose this year so he told him to go on without him.
Initially, the bull was responding to young Mikes calls but with the wind switching in the valley, the moose must have winded him. The bull paused, tested the wind, and stayed put in the thick cover as the hunter was attempting to lure him into more open terrain. At this point, they almost gave up on the bull as it started to move away from them and was again nearly a mile away. Bob decided to inquire if the big bull might be interested in love or a brawl and began to call from his position. Fortunately, luck was on his side as this beast slowly lumbered toward him at their initial vantage point. Over the period of about two hours, this bull meandered toward Bob where he could finally get a good look at it through his binoculars. Bob didn’t want to admit to himself what he was really seeing. He hated to admit to anyone that a man who has hunted as many years as he has, had started to shake! It was obvious at this point that this wasn’t just any bull moose…this bull was something special. From the obviously incredible size of the antlers, the enormous body size, the stature of the moose and the way it moved all painted a picture of this being a true giant.
Closer and closer he came to the calls, as close as 250 yards away, then something happened. Bob didn’t know if it was the wind, old bull intuition, or what, but this moose made up his mind that he was out of there! Bob knew he needed to act quickly and positioned himself with a solid rest on a neighboring spruce tree. At what was estimated to be nearly 400 yards, the bull presented himself for a shot. Bob pressed the trigger on his Browning .375 H&H sending 270 grains of lead screaming toward the moose. It was a hit…a good hit. This seasoned hunter wasn’t going to let this bull get too much further away if he could help it, so he quickly reloaded. One can almost hear the classic sound of a rifle bolt being quickly actioned and hear the hollow brass giving way to a fresh cartridge feeding into the chamber. Before the bull reached 500 yards, Bob sent another 270 grains toward the animal, delivering the clincher. Done deal, this bull was down!
After making his way up to the animal, a flood of thoughts and emotions piled on him and the whole scene felt surreal. Everything from the five bypass surgeries three years ago, to the heart attack in March, to the doctors telling him not to go hunting were all in the forefront of his mind and he knew something special had happened on many levels. Just being out there was an accomplishment at 73 years old, braving the elements despite health setbacks. Because of all this, a freezer-filling spike-fork moose would’ve thrilled his soul. Little did he know that a bull of a lifetime, or several lifetimes, would’ve found its way into his cross-hairs
Young Mike appeared a ways off, not seeing the moose yet, and asked “What did you shoot? Was it a wolf? I heard all sorts of howling!” Bob replied “No, not a wolf, the moose!” Young Mike heard the valley echo Bobs shouts of celebration and had mistaken them with wolf howls! It was apparent that young Mike was just as excited as Bob was as it was hard to keep him quiet. In fact, Bob was nursing black and blue bruises days later from Mike hugging on him in his excitement
Quite a few pictures later, Mike from up the river valley showed up with the two hunters from Wisconsin that they met in the field earlier. Dave and Luke, along with both Mike’s, were extremely happy for Bobs good fortune in taking what was obviously a once in a lifetime bull. Almost immediately everyone decided on a team effort to get the animal back to the airstrip. Bob wasn’t sure if he had ever met nicer guys while out in the field and was blessed to have spent time with them. He was impressed with their willingness to help pack as well!
So began the honest day and a half job of packing this moose the entire mile back to the strip, including gaining elevation up and over a ridge. The party absolutely refused to let Bob help pack due to his health conditions, and he promised to make it up to them sometime, somehow. Pack after pack came to the strip full of meat to help fill multiple freezers, followed by the cape, and finally the enormous set of antlers. On the bathroom scale at home, this big chunk of bone tipped the 98 pound marker and took two guys to pack due to its size and weight. This wasn’t a set of antlers one could kindly strap to a pack frame and haul across the tundra fighting the tussocks and alders along the way.
Being blessed with modern technology, Bob called his wife to share the good news of success and also calm her nerves to let her know he was doing well. A call was then made to the transporter to let him know a meat pickup might be in order. It turns out that another Brooks Range storm was headed their way. He suggested they all pack up and get out quickly before they were weathered in. So began the long trip home.
Word of this beast didn’t start really growing until the friends and family at home were able to share in this success as well. After a few congratulatory meals with more friends and family, a tape measure was put to these antlers and the numbers were staggering. Green score for Safari Club International (SCI) stands at just over 706 inches making it unofficially the second largest moose to ever be taken in their record book. The Boone and Crockett Club has also established a record book but the measuring process is very different than the SCI measuring process. That said, Bob’s bull measures 250 6/8 inches, unofficially placing it in the fourth position.
Besides the record books, media press, and all the noise surrounding this bull, Bob is truly just happy to have taken a moose and is thrilled to still be out there hunting. For many of us in Alaska, hunting is a huge part of our lives. We spend time afield with friends and family, relishing in the victories on a day to day basis, sharing successes and failures together and most of us wouldn’t trade these times in the great Alaskan outdoors for anything. Bob Condon is no different. A ‘good ‘ol boy’ from back east, still out there getting it done, sharing and making memories. It’s as simple as that.
Thanks, Bob, for sharing your story with us and we wish you the best of luck for next season!