September was coming to a close and I had a half-day to hunt. I got up in the dark per usual, wolfed down breakfast, and dusted out of the driveway. After about an hour on groomed gravel roads, I pulled off onto a familiar two-track. It was a questionable excuse for a road leading to my secret honey-hole.
I bumped along, headlights illuminating the way through the crisp, dark morning. Out of the corner of the headlights, I caught a flash of movement. I nearly kept driving, but the curiosity in me won, as it almost always does. I slowed to a halt and slapped the F150 into reverse.
Out of thick brush, a cow moose jumped into the road and began trotting away. It was almost like I disturbed her slumber—she had a bad case of bedhead. I always love seeing moose. I'm not sure why but they are simply captivating to watch.
She trotted ahead of me and I followed, trying to keep my distance. The cow wouldn't leave the road and I grew impatient, knowing dawn was closing in and I still had to hike the mountain.
The road wrapped up and around a knob through old timber, just above the creek. She made the left and trotted up. "Come on old gal, get out of the road!" I closed the distance, hoping to pressure her out of my way.
Finally, Miss Moose dove over the bank and out of sight. A moment later, I observed four gangly moose legs sticking straight up in the air. I pulled up next to the unfortunate cow and observed her lying just a step away from my truck.
She was alive; I could see her chest heaving. Her legs were literally straight up in the air and her head was oriented downhill. Was she wounded all along and I just didn't know it? From a hunter? A bear? I scanned her huge frame looking for any sign of her suffering. I couldn't see a mark on her. Her coat looked a little off-colored—maybe disease?
I'm not sure how long I sat next to her, just inches away. I puzzled over the unusual scenario wondering if there was any action I should take. At some point, she rolled to her side. After a few more minutes she rolled to her belly and staggered to her feet. She climbed back up into the road and ungracefully crossed in front of the truck about as awkwardly as a newborn calf. Weird. The best I could imagine was the cow dove off the road and face-planted into an old pine; knocking herself silly. I decided she must be figuring herself out so I pushed on to the trailhead.
The day's hunt was immensely enjoyable and action filled. I dogged a six-point bull with a small herd of cows for three hours, at one point working my way between the bull and his harem. There was nothing I could do to get the bull to fight. I tried every trick I knew. The crafty bull would bugle and run at every opportunity. The tactic saved his life. I worked hard to keep the wind right as we chased from ridge to ridge. Unfortunately, the shifty breeze eventually got the better of me with a swirl and the chase was over.
Realizing where I was on the mountain and the time, I decided I may as well hike out. I once ran into an old-timer who told me of a trail in the bottom of the drainage leading back to the trailhead. I was close and decided to give it a try.
In short order, I determined it had been some years since the old-timer had used the bottom. There was no trail I could find. Instead, I found myself scrambling and crawling through poky underbrush thickly stacked on steep slopes. Then, I hit a cliff and had to work around that. Finally, I stood just above the bottom. The brush tried like hell to hold me back but I leaped into the creek with the idea I could wade my way out.
Bad call. I slipped on the rocks and dove in headfirst. Arrows snapped as my bow broke my fall. I spluttered back to my feet. Amazingly, I was unscathed other than being soaked. I took a moment, thankful I had not hit my head and drowned or impaled myself on an arrow. A small reminder of how fickle life can be.
I slogged my way out of the ravine and made it back to my old trail. As I popped out on the two-track, I met a familiar face. Miss Moose was bedded just off the road. Her head was up and her eyes alert. I smiled at her and spoke to her softly as I made a wide berth. This time, her gaze followed me down the road.
I hopped in my F150 and started bumping back the way I had come that morning. I reflected on the day. What a load of experiences in just a few short hours. But that is why I always love coming to this place. It holds so much promise for adventure; a honey-hole in more ways than one.
- Jess Patrick