Story from Mason Wick[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s a lifelong Alaskan, I grew up running through the woods and loving the outdoors. My dad hunted when I was a child, mostly to get meat for the family, but after he sold his airplane, his hunting days were over...and I don’t blame him. Those were largely the days before ATV’s, synthetic hiking gear, and comfortable backpacks. Hunting was something I never really thought about while growing up and honestly wouldn’t know where to begin. My time outside is mostly spent hiking, mountain biking, and cross-country skiing in the winter.
But deep down inside I’ve always wanted to go hunting. I think of moose hunting as the quintessential Alaskan experience. Once you’ve killed a moose, you can almost unequivocally say you’re a true Alaskan. I’ve caught king salmon and halibut but never bagged any large game. School and sports always occurred during moose hunting season, but I told myself if I ever had free time in the fall I would ask my cousins to take me hunting.Living overseas for nine months made me realize how privileged I was to have grown up in Alaska and how I had taken parts of it for granted. Most European countries have too many people, no large wild game, or simply not enough room to go hunting. Not to say you can’t hunt in Europe, it’s just harder in most places...or it’s terribly expensive. My European friends would have to pay hundreds of dollars just for a license to hunt. Hard to compare with America where I headed down to Fred Meyers and picked up a hunting license for 25 dollars. So when my cousins planned a week-long hunting trip in September (and had all the necessary gear for me to tag along), it was a no-brainer. I started growing a hunting beard and began packing. After hearing countless stories of hunting being cold and miserable I kind of expected the worst. However, I was pleasantly surprised. It was definitely hard work mixed with some bad weather, but I learned that when you’re hunting that’s just all part of the fun. A few days into the trip we spotted a legal-looking bull and rode the wheelers about a mile to check it out. Stalking the bull was another great experience: tiptoeing through a swamp, slinging a rifle, and figuring out which way the wind was blowing. Suddenly we stumbled upon a cow and a little spike-fork bull, only 30 yards away, staring right at us. We decided I would shoot the spike-fork even though it might scare the larger bull away. Trying to slow my breathing was difficult (and putting on earplugs only made it worse as it amplified the sound of my racing heart). My nerves were partly due to the fact that I didn't have as much rifle experience as I would like, coupled with not even aiming at an animal before. During my fumbling around, the spike had wandered a little but then turned broadside about 40 yards away. I finally steadied the rifle, aimed for a heart/lung shot on the moose and fired one round. The moose stumbled a few feet before it quickly fell to the ground and it was all over. Wow! Success! My first moose was on the ground!
It was a great decision to shoot the spike because the larger bull ended up being sub-legal, only 35” or so. I have much more respect for hunters now after this experience. It’s hard work but also fun and very rewarding. Even if I wouldn't have the chance to harvest a moose, I would have loved just learning from experienced hunters and taking in the beauty of the hunting grounds. Did I catch the hunting bug? All I know is I’m already dreaming of bagging a 50”+ moose, and I found myself researching tags for next season while reporting my moose to Alaska Fish & Game. It’s like a whole new world has opened up, and if you’re in a place like Alaska, it’s right outside your door.