Ten days is a long time to hunt. Most hunters are tagged out by five or six, but every once in a while a hunter goes the distance and doesn't get their bull until the last day. Such was the case with Ryan. Every bull I called in for him seemed to get the better of us before he could shoot it. Time and again I called in a moose, and time and again it would give us the slip.
The most memorable was hunting Blueberry Meadow when I had two bulls going at once, and we could hear the one bull in the timber beat the snot out of the other bull, then come right up to us within 30 yards, but all we could see was a flash of antler in the brush, no shot, and he high tailed it out of there when he winded us.
We had hunted hard, but on the tenth day you start to get a little worried it isn't going to happen, especially as the rut winds down towards the end of the hunt. Ryan was really positive though he had had several close encounters and was not deterred. “Never give up,” he said, “the last five minutes are as good as the first”.
I decided for our last hunt to go to Fisher Meadow. Now I had cleared a couple shooting lanes through the trees that grew in the meadow just that summer so that you could shoot 300 yards in one lane now.
Now wait a minute, trees in a meadow you say? Well, I use the term meadow pretty loosely, let's just call it a place where grass grows, and trees grow there too. But not very big trees on account of all the water in the meadow. Water in a meadow you say? Isn't a place full of water where grass and trees grow a swamp or a bog? Hey, lets not get caught up in semantics, I told you I used the term meadow loosely!
Anyhow, so I had cleared, er, well, um, I mean I had my brother Nathan clear a few shooting lanes in Fisher Meadow. That's the great thing about being the boss, you get to take credit for work you told someone else to do! Back to the story.
So Ryan and I with his brother Steve (who was along for the ride as he'd already shot his bull, but lets not get sidetracked with his story) hiked up into Fisher Meadow filled with water and trees and a 300 yard shooting lane I told my brother Nathan to cut that summer, and it was on the afternoon of his tenth day of hunting. Whew, so there the stage is set.
I started calling, making my typical cow calls around three pm and made one or two calls every 15 minutes. No response, and around seven pm as things started to get dark I upped the ante and became more aggressive. Still no response. I'd worn out my entire calling routine and as the last sliver of light disappeared I resigned myself to an unsuccessful hunt.
Now the three of us had been staring down the 300 yard lane for over four hours, and that’s about all there was to see. Everywhere else you could only see about 50 yards. So we were glued to this gap in the trees, only 20 yards wide and 300 yards long. And after you’ve stared at that gap for hours, you’d think you’d notice if something changed, like maybe a honking big bull moose walking in it. Let me reassure you that is not the case.
I looked down at my watch and said to myself, we’ve got five minutes of hunting left and it’s all over. I went back to staring down the lane. As each minute ticked by, it occurred to me to look in my binoculars, more as a matter of habit than anything. And as soon as I put up my binos, there he was, a huge bull moose standing there broadside in all his glory, his rack like satellite dishes. When I put the binos down, he was so obvious even with the naked eye that I can’t explain why none of us saw him until that moment.
I tapped Ryan and gave him the universal moose signal - both hands on top of your head, thumbs in and palms open like a pair of antlers. He looked through his scope and was as surprised as I was to see the bull standing there. For sure the bull hadn’t made a sound, but he was staring intently in our direction, presumably looking for the cow that I’d been imitating. From the shock of his sudden appearance, he may as well have been teleported there by an alien spacecraft.
Ryan instantly turned predator on me, whipped his rifle into shooting position and shot the bull. It was an unbelievable moment when we walked up to the bull. Ryan was completely overwhelmed, and the sensation of success in the dying moments of the day when it seemed as though we were all but certain to fail, well, that’s a feeling I’ll never forget. I turned to Ryan and told him, “never give up, the last five minutes are as good as the first.”
I credit Ryan’s incredible optimism as the reason for his success, a lesser hunter would have left early.