My brothers have always been my best friends, and when we can go hunting together, we redline the fun meter. Twenty- two years ago, my older brother, Roger, drew a CWMU moose tag. He was able to harvest a great moose on the first day of his hunt. I was going to school out of state and was unable to join the party. About seven years ago, my oldest brother, Sherman, was slowly losing a battle with unexpected kidney disease. It came time to look for a donor, and many of us jumped at the opportunity to get tested for a match. Roger turned out to be a fantastic match. He willingly donated one of his kidneys to Sherman. The surgery went well, and they have both been managing fairly well since.
Sherm had been diligently putting in for Utah moose almost since the inception of the point system. He had been a couple points short of the max until this year. After 27 years, he finally drew the tag. The welcome news was greeted with exclamations of, “Finally!” I was determined not to miss this moose hunt, and we all wanted to make time to enjoy this together. Due to work circumstances, Sherm was unable to do any scouting, but I was in a position to go look for moose a couple times before the hunt. We talked to a lot of people and got several good tips. The first trip I made happened to be opening day of the archery deer and elk hunt. I was stunned. I have never seen so many hunters in one day in my life. The unit was full! I had never hunted in this unit before. I did a lot of glassing but turned up no moose. I talked to at least 75 other hunters that day and got responses ranging from, “There are moose in this unit!?” to “I saw a moose over there once!” I narrowed my search and went to an area that tends to not have a lot of moose hunters. I went to the suggested area and found that it was very dry and mostly desertscape. Disappointed, I left and scouted several more areas but didn’t find a single moose. However, I got a lot of great tips from other hunters.
The second trip was a week before the hunt. I was encouraged to go back to the desert area and was admonished that I had gone to the wrong side of the mountain. The information was useful. That time, I found nine cow and calf moose. No bulls, but I was shown pictures of a few bulls in the area and was told about a few large bull sightings. I found several bull elk and enjoyed watching them from a distance. We determined the area was worth coming back to for opening day.
The night before the opener, Sherm and Roger came along with Sherm’s son-in-law, Austin Nielson. Our younger brother, Dave, and our dad were unfortunately not able to come. We set up a good camp at the base of the mountain. Excitement was high as we made plans for the morning. Before light, we split up to sit various glassing points. At first light, I was glassing the face of a large mountain from about three and a half miles away. I immediately turned up a cow, a calf, and a young bull. Later in the morning, I spotted three bull moose, one of which had some really good paddles. I called Sherm and said, “I think I found your bull!”
I got a few Phone Skope pictures and videos and then jumped on the ATV to go wrangle up the rest of our group. It took over an hour to find each other and congregate. By then, the sun had been up for a while and it was getting warm. I was worried the bulls would have found deep cover, and I was right. On the way, I ran into some other moose hunters who turned out to be Russ Nielson’s family (Utah Premier Outfitters). They were super nice and offered to help pack out a moose if we got one.
We slipped down a ridge above where the bulls had been, but the wind wasn’t good. The bulls had made it into a thick stand of aspens, and we almost walked right into them. One went uphill and paused in an opening 50 yards away. He was a decent bull, and Sherm pulled up and put the crosshairs on him. We all told him not to shoot because he wasn’t the big one. We heard some crashing through the trees below us as our scent wafted their way. We slowly made our way through the timber but never saw them.
We were at the edge of a large bowl and decided to sit for the day. I thought they may not go too far and we could wait them out. Sherm and Roger made their way to the other side of the bowl, and we started to pick things apart with our glass. The weather was rather sporadic, and we went through episodes of scorching sun making us sweat to cold wind, clouds, rain, and hail.
At about 3:00 in the afternoon, I got up and decided to take a stroll in the deluge. I headed down the ridge for a long way. I almost turned back several times but kept wanting to check just a little further. As I checked the canyon below us, I spotted something in the brush that looked like it didn’t belong. In the heavy rain, I pulled up my binoculars. It was a moose’s paddle, and it was from the big bull from earlier. He had slipped below us and went one and a half miles down the canyon. At one point, he shook the rain off like a big dog and a cloud of mist rose off his back. I ran back up the ridge and signaled to the boys that I had found him. By this time, Sherm wasn’t feeling 100%. The kidney issues can sap his energy. He began to work his way down the ridge with Roger. Austin came back with me, and we set up our spotting scopes. We marveled and drooled at the size of the bull. When Sherm and Roger arrived, it didn’t take Sherm long to decide that he wanted the bull. They crept down the ridge below us to close some distance for a shot. Austin and I stayed put and watched the stalk. By this time, the rain had stopped.
Austin and I watched the bull, and when he had turned broadside, we thought Sherm would be shooting any second. Suddenly, we heard a big crash that sounded like a large tree falling. What we didn’t know until later was that a tree literally fell on Sherm and pinned him in an awkward position, twisting his back and ankle. He had been resting his rifle on a dead tree that was leaning against another dead tree. Just before he squeezed off the shot, the second tree fell, allowing the other tree to fall on Sherm, pinning him. Roger helped lift the tree enough to help Sherm scramble out. The bull heard the commotion and stepped into thicker cover. It took another 30 minutes for Sherm to locate the bull again. He made a great shot, and the bull went down quickly. We celebrated together as it got dark and began the work of skinning and quartering with a flurry of knives. More cold rain and hail fell before we were ready to head back to the machines.
Sherman and Austin packed out the backstraps and tenderloins, but it was slow going between Sherm’s twisted ankle and kinked back. We got back to camp at about 1:00 in the morning and slept hard. The next morning, Sherm’s injuries had stiffened and made it difficult to walk. We insisted he rest while we went for the rest of his bull. We could hardly keep him down, but he finally relented if he could drive us up the mountain and pick us up at the bottom so that the pack out was all downhill. He paced all day waiting for us to get back. We got the rest in one trip. Roger packed the cape and a neck roast, weighing 100 pounds. Austin packed the shoulders and other meat, also weighing 100 pounds. I put the boned out hind quarters on my Pack Wheel (200 lbs.) and the skinned head in my pack (45 lbs.). Sherm met us at the bottom of the mountain and packed the head and Pack Wheel for the last bit. This hunt was as epic as we had hoped! We enjoy each other’s company, including the endless kibitzing. Our expectations were exceeded on the size of bull we were able to find.