Wyoming Shiras Moose 2000
Wyoming Shiras Moose Hunt 2000
I had the opportunity to be part of a long family tradition of hunting Shiras Moose in Southwestern Wyoming. My grandpa Ashton started the tradition in the 70’s. Since then both my parents drew the tag in 89’, both my uncles drew the tag, my brother Wade, Grandpa’s friend Willy, and our friend Dan Best drew the tag after my hunt. The area we like to hint is called Hams Fork and its just out of Cokeville, Wyoming. I remember being part of my parent’s hunt when I was 7 years old. Moose are giant animals and fun to hunt. My grandpa takes his big motorhome and the blue jeep, and we plan on hunting for a couple weeks. I clearly remember on my parent’s moose hunt being out by the fire with Willy and he would always bend over playing in the fire. His jeans would slide down his waste and his butt crack would always show. He earned the nickname, butt-crack Willy. There was one night there was something that looked like a UFO. It was flashing all sorts of different colors and we had the spotting scope on it. Jets would fly up so high and then turn back around. All the sudden there was a flash and it was gone. It was pretty creepy as a kid.
Dad and I went up a little earlier than the rest of the clan. It was opening of the deer hunt and my grandpa was fortunate to draw a deer tag. We were going to be hunting moose and deer. Dad and I were taking it easy going up the main road to the dirt road and deer hunters were flying past us because morning light had already hit and they were running behind. Dad looked out in the farmers field down by the willows and there was a monster buck. He had the kickers, cheaters, mass, width, height, etc. It was painful knowing we had a deer tag coming, but grandpa wasn’t there yet. We wanted to shoot the moose with my Austin and Halleck Muzzloaloader so it was in the front seat instead of the rifle. Otherwise, I may have had to pry it from my dad’s hands. That deer truly was a buck of a lifetime. He was one of the biggest deer I have ever seen, let alone during a deer hunt. We had become friends with the farmer who owned the fields over the years. His name was Lowe Clark. He gave us permission to hunt the drainage and property he owned which was ideal for moose. We had seen a nice one but hadn’t got a super good look at him. Dad and I decided to go down along the river and see if we could get a better look. We had expensive radios for safety to stay in touch with each other if separated. While we were down there in the willows crawling around dad’s radio had fallen out of his pocket and it was lost. He was so upset and wanted to try and back track to find it. It was almost impossible with how thick the grass was, where we had been, and the willows. I stayed in one spot and kept talking on the radio because he had it on. Dad defied all odds and was able to find the radio. Were we both relieved and surprised he found it. Grandpa made it up and was excited to hear about the monster buck and wanted to get a better look at this moose as well.
We decided one day Grandpa would take the jeep on top of the plateau looking down on the river while dad and I hunted the bottom. Early that morning the fog was rolling in and out of the drainage. We came through some willows and there was the bull standing in the river with two cows. It was like a painting. He was a beautiful bull. He had long points and was probably 50” wide. His only fault was his front shovels. He only had one point on the front shovels. You really want at lease two in the front. They were super long like daggers. Dad and I looked at each other for about a min sizing up the bull and I decided to let him walk. We both felt good about the situation that early in the hunt and were grateful for such an amazing experience.
We continued to hunt hard for several days and decided to go back home for work and come back a little later in the season hoping for snow and the rut to be going stronger. When we returned, we hunted hard for a few days and got some new snow. The conditions were prime. We headed over to Nugent Park and spotted a really nice bull working his way up the drainage. I really like him and felt he was a shooter. Grandpa knew right where the bull was going and knew the roads so well. He told us to jump in the jeep and he would take us to the top of the canyon where that bull would pop out. Sure enough, he popped out and was about 150 yards away. We laid the smack down on him with the muzzleloader. It took a couple shots and he was easy to track in the snow. He ended up being a beautiful bull at 44” wide, double shovels, and nice palms. Dad and grandpa wanted to keep hunting moose in the ideal conditions and were hoping for bigger. Given the year and the decline in the moose quality in the region, I was happy with the outcome.
After we cleaned him, we tied a rope around him and winched him up into the tree. Grandpa backed up the green dodge and dropped him into the bed of the truck. It was a great time and a hunt I will always remember. Looking back on it 20 years later I probably should have shot the bull in the river. I think he was a bigger bull even though he lacked the front shovels. In the end. I’m happy to have the moose on my wall and remember the fun times I had with Grandpa and dad.
I want to tell another moose hunting story in the same area. This was Dan Best’s moose hunt. I was going to school at Utah State and it was only a 2-hour drive for me to get over to the unit. I hunted with Dan, grandpa, and dad the first time around. It was a rough hunt and we were struggling to find a shooter bull. Our time was running out on the first trip because everyone needed to get back to work. We were coming down the main canyon about 45 min before dark. We looked up on the steep mountain and there was a shooter. A super nice bull. It was steep, but only about a 150-yard shot to the top where he was standing. Dan shot and missed him, and he went away from us on top of the plateau and we couldn’t see him. Dana and I took of running as fast as we could up the steep mountain to see if we could get another shot. Dan was struggling to make it up the mountain. I told him to give me his gun to make it easier for him. I flew up the rest of the mountain and sure enough that bull was standing in the middle of sage brush with two cows about 200 yards away. He was such a nice bull. I was tempted to shoot him and tell Dan he was wounded, and I just finished him off. I didn’t though. Light was fading quickly, and the bull was moving away from us. By the time Dan made it up the bull was too far into the dark to take a shot. It was a bum deal and Dan was disappointed.
I wanted Dan to get a bull so I told him I would come back on the second trip to help him. Grandpa was always game for a moose hunt, so he came up with Dan to help as well. Dad was unable to get the time off work. We hunted hard in the snow and still struggled to find a decent bull. I remember one morning riding in the back of the blue jeep. Grandpa was driving and Dan was riding shot gun. I had the clearest feeling. “A voice came over me “this is your last hunt with your grandpa. What would you tell him?” I tried to fight it back and brush it off, but it kept coming back to me over and over. I thought a lot about it in the back seat and how much my grandpa Ashton meant to me. He was truly a second father. He had a major influence on me, and we spent a ton of time together. I worked every summer for him starting at age 12 up to my early to mid-20’s. We spent a ton of time on the boat fishing and on the mountain hunting. We had a lot of talks over the years and he knew how much he meant to me. After hearing that voice and prompting I really soaked in the rest of that hunt.
The hunt was coming to end, and Dan wanted to shoot a moose. We found hm a decent bull on top of a mountain. Dan and I went after the moose and grandpa went around on the other side of the mountain where he could see. We had radios for safety communication. Dan shot the moose and I went to the area to track it down in the snow. When I came to the moose he was standing, and Dan was making his way to our direction. We wanted to have the moose go down the mountain to make our pack out a little easier. It would take us forever in the snow where he was currently standing. I got about 50 yards from the bull and threw a few snowballs. It didn’t seem to faze him, and I could hear Dan coming. I had my binoculars around me neck and my radio at my side. I was talking to my grandpa on the radio telling him I had the moose in front of me. He said he could see me across the canyon. I threw another snowball and I saw the moose drop his head and the anger in his eyes. I knew I was in for it. He charged right at me. I turned as fast as I could and there was one small Aspen tree I could bolt around and hope to make safety. The snow was deep, and the bull was right on me. I literally heard and felt his rack inches away from my back as I scrambled to grab and dive behind the Aspen tree the radio went flying one direction and there was a big poof of snow. As I dove around the little tree the moose had his head low to the ground charging and kept going straight. I saw he kept going and I laid in the snow for a second to catch my breathe. The adrenaline was through the roof. I had no clue where my radio was but heard my grandpa yelling through it. I tracked it down and he though the moose got me. He said he was the whole thing through the spotting scope and that moose was right on top of me. I was super lucky and learned a valuable lesson that day. I easily could have been killed by that moose because Dan was still about 5 minutes behind me. When Dan caught up, we got on the tracks and followed him almost to the bottom where Dan finished him off. Grandpa tracked us down and we were lucky to have a road about 10 minutes from where he laid.
Dan was disappointed he didn’t end up with a moose for the wall but was grateful for our help and the animal. We took some pictures which are super meaningful to me. It was the last picture I would take with my grandpa. At the time we had no clue he had any health issues. Grandpa went in for a health check-up about 4 weeks after the hunt and they found he had colon cancer. The doctor told him he wanted to do surgery that night. It caught us all by surprise. He had the surgery and Wade went to visit him in the hospital. I was at school about 2 hours north at Utah State, so I was unable to make it over to the hospital. Wade said he was alert, cracking a few jokes, and doing great. The doctor felt great about the surgery. That night he ended up having a stroke. My dad called me and said that I should get down there quickly and say my goodbyes. It was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life. The stroke paralyzed half his face and most of his body. He was in the hospital for a day and we knew he wasn’t going to make it. I was able to go in with my grandma by his side. When I went in, he tried to sit up and say goodbye to me. I told him what he meant to me and how I felt about him. I know he already knew, and nothing needed to be said from either of us. The past 24 years said it all. He passed away a few hour later with his kids and grandkids by his side. My grandpa’s passing took a tole on me and I had a hard time dealing with it. He would always say “No boobing when I’m gone, I’ve lived a great life. If I get sick take me shark fishing, don’t let me die in an old folks’ home.” I miss him all the time. I think a lot about him while I’m in the mountains or on the Ocean. I’m grateful for that prompting that gave me the notice of our last hunt together. I know I’ll see him again someday.