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March 2023
Story by Cade Luckett
State: Colorado
Species: Moose - Shiras

 When I opened the link to check the results of the statewide tag drawings, I about fell out of my chair. There was my name! I had won the most coveted moose tag in the West, the Colorado statewide moose tag. Just that morning, my wife had complained about me wasting money buying more stupid raffle tickets. I could not wait to call and tell her.

The next day, I called Huntin’ Fool and visited with the guys about my good fortune. It was overwhelming trying to decide what part of the state to hunt and how to go about making the most of this tag. Garth gave me great advice on staying grounded and not letting the pressure of the tag ruin the hunt. I visited with several Endorsed Outfitters, but ultimately, I decided to go self-guided with friends and family. Eric shared his experience from multiple Shiras moose tags and pointed me in the direction of several great resources to learn the most I could about moose.

Once I decided which part of the state I wanted to hunt, I e-scouted heavily and made a couple of scouting trips over the summer. I visited with the local biologist and game wardens on multiple occasions. I had located a big bull early in the summer and marked him as number one on the list. A couple of local friends kept tabs on him and kept me updated all summer. Once August rolled around, I got fewer updates and finally got confirmation that my number one bull had moved and no one could turn him up. I immediately put in for more time off work and showed up a full week before season to find him. I grinded for several days but could not find any sign of the big bull.

When I was on my way up to start scouting, a good friend called to say he’d seen a great bull close to his house in a different unit and I needed to go look at him. I had blown him off and kept my attention on the big bull. After half a week of no luck finding the ghost of my giant summer bull, I decided I should go find this other bull my buddy kept calling about. After a quick phone call, he gave me direction on where to find the bull. We packed our gear and jumped several units over to start the pursuit of the bull we named “Rocky.”

As we followed my friend’s directions, I could not believe we were going above tree line. However, we quickly started to find moose and spotted Rocky in no time. After careful examination, he was a great B&C type bull, but not an opening day type bull. I just didn’t want the hunt to end that soon. Rocky was rutting a cow, so we decided to hangout for the rest of the evening. When the golden hour of the evening was upon us, we began to hear grunting in the distance. We scanned the horizon and were shocked when a new bull walked over the hill. No doubt a dinosaur, this new bull was the bull of my dreams. We quickly named him “Gov.”

As soon as we got off the mountain that night, I called all of our friends to tell them we had found the one. It was time to get their packs ready for opening day. We found Gov on Wednesday evening, so we went back up the mountain on Thursday to keep tabs on him. My wife and I watched him all day and loved every minute of it. We really got to know the old brute that day. We watched him graze under the cool morning light, rut cows, and sway back and forth to dissuade other bulls from getting too close to his love interest. Gov had a very distinctive patch of velvet remaining on his otherwise bright white paddles, which always gave up his location when the sun hit them just right. We also noticed a white patch in the middle of his forehead, a birthmark perhaps.

As Friday morning rolled around, we rolled out of bed before dawn and made our way up the mountain. As fate would have it, though, we were not as lucky. We spent the day scouring the hillsides and drainages, but Gov was nowhere to be found. Was he just hiding out? Had he followed a cow into the next drainage? Or had he started the endless march of the rut looking for a hot cow? As last light faded, we were sick. The jubilation from the prior day was gone. It was a sleepless night, but we decided to return to the meadow the next morning with faith that he would be there.

Opening morning, we were at our glassing knob before first light. As gray light started, we began to pick out moose and there were several new bulls. They were smaller, but they were bull moose nonetheless. We continued to scan along the hillside until my wife said, “There’s Gov. I’ve got him!” We were all so relieved. I loaded the muzzleloader and made a plan to move in for the shot. My two buddies would keep Gov in their glass at all times, while my wife flagged me into his location. They all wished me well, and I ducked under the crease of the hill for my approach. I had over a mile long stalk ahead of me. I would periodically glass back to make sure I was headed in the right direction. My wife would hold up an orange cap in the direction I needed to go. Everything was going as planned until I heard ATVs in the distance. Elk hunters were swarming the other hillside. As I glassed back, my wife was franticly waving the cap in the direction of some trees at the head of a deep canyon. Gov must have been bumped and was trying to make a break for safety. I immediately picked up my pace and shifted to the head of the canyon. When I was 20 yards from the canyon, Gov and Rocky came running through the trees. We saw each other at the same time and froze. Gov’s vitals were just under the crest of a hill, and I didn’t have a shot at 30 yards. I started to grunt and rake a tree. Gov took a step towards me and then spun to run back through the trees. I gave chase, grunting along the way. I followed for 100 yards before both bulls stopped to look back. They were in thick trees, so I had to pick a shooting lane through the brush and make sure I was on Gov. I finally had the opportunity, pulled the muzzy up, and touched it off. Smoke rolled out everywhere. Gov took a sideways step and stared at me. Did I hit him? How could I have missed such a huge animal? He didn’t look hurt. I immediately dropped to my knees to dig out my possibles bag to start the reloading process.

Gov and Rocky started to mill around in the brush. It was hard keeping up with their location and reload efficiently. Then I heard a large crash. I packed my barrel and ran to the clearing just in time to see a bull run over the hill. It looked like Rocky, but I didn’t see Gov. He had to have gone down. I went to where I had last seen him but could not find blood. I scoured the canyon and the hillside to make sure he wasn’t getting away. I couldn’t find him. I again went to the last spot where I had seen him and started to make semicircles looking for him. As I was looking, my wife called to ask if I’d gotten him. We were all getting nervous. Before I could get off the phone, I rounded a bush and all I could say was, “Gov down!” There lay the monarch of the mountain. I took an extra orange vest out of my pack and tied it to a tree so everyone could find me.

It took almost an hour for everyone to make it to me. During that time, I sat and admired the beast. My eyes quickly landed between his eyes on what was the white spot we had seen days before. There, embedded in his skull, was a tine. It wiggled around like a loose tooth, and I was tempted to pull it out. I knew I wanted him mounted with the tine in there, so we carefully left it alone. The taxidermist later told me the tine was imbedded in his skull and had made its way into his orbital socket. The tine was starting to degrade, and by the look of it, it had been there for at least a year. He was an old warrior fitting for the Gov tag. He officially grossed 188 6/8" and netted 183 5/8". I will always cherish getting to share this hunt with my close friends and family.