Putting the Cart Before the Horse

By Greg Johnston
Colorado, DIY, Public Land

Putting the Cart Before the Horse - Greg JohnstonNovember 2013 EBJ (Issue 80) - This adventure started with my failure to draw an Arizona elk tag, which I just knew I was going to draw. Because I was certain of my impending success, I let the elk tag guide my annual application strategy. I was very disappointed when the Arizona results were posted.

Determined to salvage the season, I started researching moose hunts in Newfoundland. I researched outfitters in the area and came close to booking but for some reason held off. That’s when it happened. One of my best friends, Kevin, sent me an email while I was at work notifying me that the Colorado draw results were up.

As a long-time procrastinator, any distraction at work was a welcome one. I checked my results and stared at the screen in disbelief. Next to the moose preference point total was a big goose egg.

My first thoughts were, "These idiots screwed up! I had a stack of points for moose; I had better make a call. What unit did I put in for anyway?”

After an embarrassing phone call, the only idiot to be found was the one holding my phone. I had applied for the most difficult unit in Colorado, one that only had one nonresident tag available each year. I would be hunting in Roosevelt National Forest, some of the best Shiras moose habitat in the country.

I started my research by going to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website which has all of the kills since 2008 listed by width and location coordinates. My buddy Kevin was nice enough to mark all of them on Google earth and send them to me. I scoured topo maps and Google Earth for weeks. After that I started calling game wardens, biologists and former tag holders. I kept a small notebook with details from each conversation. That came in very useful during my preseason scouting. Additionally, I watched every video I could on how to field-judge trophy Shiras moose.

Eventually, I spoke to multiple outfitters in the area and seriously considered hiring one. On one hand, this was a once-in-a-lifetime tag and outfitters have several guides that look out for big bulls year round. And, an outfitter would be great to have if I got a bull down. However, I had previously elk hunted the unit and the access is excellent. Plus, I had several friends to help me out, one of whom has hunted this unit for 15 years. Ultimately, I decided the experience of doing this with my friends outweighed any advantage an outfitter might bring.

My second dilemma was that Colorado allows moose hunters to hunt only one season, but they may change their chosen method of take prior to the opener. I had a challenging decision to make. I had a rifle tag in my pocket but I wanted to kill my moose with a bow. I made a quick trip into town and came out with a bow tag in hand.

After great anticipation, opening day finally arrived and I was due to rendezvous with my Aunt Jane and Uncle Henry for some scouting in the unit. Finding a suitable camp location free of potential widow-makers, I backed my trailer into place. When I went to unhook the trailer I looked up and not fifty yards across the creek was a young bull moose staring at me, a good omen. I spent the next two days driving, hiking, glassing and talking to elk hunters in the area. As it turned out, the elk hunters were my best scouting resource. Everyone I spoke with had a moose tale to tell.

Unfortunately, most of the moose stories went something like this, "Normally, there are bulls all over the place, but I haven’t seen any bulls this year, its like they disappeared” – not what an excited moose hunter wants to hear.

Putting the Cart Before the Horse - Greg Johnston

For a full account of Greg's adventure, go to page 42 in the November/December 2013 issue of Eastmans' Bowhunting Journal.