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My Fondest Memories

November 2023
Story by Jason Lepak
State: Idaho
Species: Moose - Shiras

In May, I drew the once-in-a-lifetime Idaho moose tag for unit 62. This zone is as rugged as it is naturally beautiful, much of it being situated on the western slope of the Tetons and a significant portion of it being located within the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. My amazing guide, Danny Taylor, and I spent six days scouring the unit, employing every tactic to find one of these majestic beasts. Despite being the largest members of the deer family in the world, they remained out of sight. We covered hundreds of miles on foot and backroad, scrambling over dense underbrush and glassing valleys, mountain faces, creeks, willows, and even potato farms.

Some of our favorite time was spent hiking into the pristine mountain lakes that seemed far removed from human interference. Quiet, picturesque, and dotted with contrasting green pines and golden- leafed quaking aspens, it was a perfect place to call for that elusive bull moose. We knew our strategy was solid and the habitat was well-suited for the mighty moose, so we spent each night studying our maps, water drainage areas, and which area would need a recheck and additional exploration.

On the last two days, the rain and snow moved in. That proved to be providential as two mature bulls were sighted across a valley walking through the snow by an aspen grove approximately one mile away as a crow flies. These were the first moose we’d seen the whole trip. We made our approach plan and navigated the forest roads as quickly as possible to get closer. Finally, we arrived at our projected location, not knowing if the two bulls would still be there. It felt like we were looking for a needle in the haystack through the heavy timber. My pulse quickened, and our breath was visible in the cold air. The anticipation was palpable.

Suddenly, I spotted a massive dark structure in the trees. I wasn’t sure at first, but then I saw a paddle and then the silhouette of the undisputed bulbous nose and head of a large bull moose. The shot was not at all what I imagined, but fittingly, it required an uphill shot through that same thick, heavy laden forest timber we’d spent so many hours painstakingly hiking through. My 300 Ultra Mag found its target, and within a short period, we were upon this magnificent animal, likely in excess of 1,000 pounds. After a prayer of gratitude, we got to work properly caring for the meat and processing this mighty moose. The adventures, friendships, flora, and fauna of the Targhee National Forrest are now some of my fondest memories.