38 Days and 18 Years for a Moose

By Steve Niedzielski

38 Days and 18 Years For a MooseSteve Niedzielski
Yukon Territory, 2008, Guided

I love bush planes. The simple fact that they are usually the only way to access the truly remote places that I like to hunt makes them fundamentally appealing to me. As much as I love their abilities and what they stand for, they make me sick. On this adventure, I would forego the 12 minutes of sightseeing I am usually afforded before becoming ill. I doubled up on my usual dose of Dramamine, a drug whose intended effectiveness is questionable, but has a truly effective side benefit of causing major drowsiness. I was able to sleep for the entire twohour flight to base camp.

Upon landing, we were met on the sandbar by Dave Dickson himself. After the gear was unloaded from the plane and the requisite meet & greet was complete, Dave expertly piloted his jet boat five or so miles down the endlessly braided river to base camp.

We had a great meal, got to know Dave and the guides and spent the night at the amazingly well appointed camp. The next morning, I did my best to assist my guide, Rod Collin, as we loaded our four packhorses with all the gear we would need for the next eight days. We then saddled our two riding horses and set off for spike camp. The sight of a small chocolate black bear that curiously watched our pack string highlighted the haul to our remote cabin.

Spike camp was a recently built 12x14 cabin, ten miles up a side drainage. A clear, fast-flowing creek adjacent to the cabin provided plenty of pure drinking water for the horses and us.

The cabin had a visitor prior to our arrival. The locked hasp on the plywood door had been ripped from its attachment screws and bent as if a crowbar had been used to twist it out of the wood. The visitor left calling cards in the forms of blonde hair stuck on the rough plywood edges five feet above ground and deep, well-spaced claw marks in the wood. Why the grizzly didn’t enter the cabin to tear open 20 or so bags of oats after he ripped off the latch is a mystery.

The next morning we left camp at the crack of a clear dawn, riding the horses up steep, brushy slopes until we had gained 1500 feet in elevation. We topped out on a long ridge above timberline. From the top, the views were breathtaking! I knew we were camped on the western border of the Yukon, relatively close to its border with Alaska, but I never thought some of Alaska’s most photographed vistas would be so prominently visible from here! The snow-coated Wrangell and St. Elias Ranges rose another 10,000 feet above where we now stood. Mt. McKinley was strikingly visible. This dramatic backdrop provided the perfect frame for what would be a true hunt of a lifetime.

38 Days and 18 Years for a Moose

For a full account of Steve's adventure, go to page 18 in the September/October 2009 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.