High-Country Showdown

By Kyle Mann
Idaho, 2011, DIY, Public Land

Kyle Mann - High-Country ShowdownOctober/November 2012 EHJ (Issue 133) - Northern Idaho is famous for thick, steep, nasty country. Throw some world-class hunting pressure in the mix and this is the place I call home. This particular story starts like most limitedquota hunts. A "congratulations” after my name on the draw results for moose, followed by a whole lot of preparation and anticipation. The odds would be in my favor though as my family has hunted elk and mule deer for forty years in the unit I had drawn. I knew the unit well and I had some payback that was in order. The moose and I in this unit have a history. A history of rutting bulls chasing me, as well as the bull elk I was after. With a fairly high density of moose, they get very territorial and will chase anything that makes noise in the woods. I have gotten close to many bulls only to have a bull moose run in and explode the elk herd all over the mountain. This would be pay back and a chance to hunt an amazing animal.

The summer was a busy fire season, so I wasn’t able to scout nearly as much as I would have liked. Elk season would give me a chance to search for some bulls. Elk rifle season opened up in early October and my moose season didn’t open up until November. I killed my bull early in the season, so I spent the rest of elk camp helping my dad get his bull and scouting for moose. The fall seemed delayed this particular year, as all of the leaves on the brush still clung to life late in to October. The dense brush makes it tough to spot animals in the brush fields. Throughout October, I was able to locate a few nice bulls, plus several family and friends would give me the scouting report on bulls they had seen in the backcountry, which was a great source of information. I had a pretty good idea where to start on opening day and I had 14 days to get a bull on the ground.

Opening day finally came and I was absolutely jacked, I had dreamed of this day for a long time. My first chance to hunt moose and it was on my home field. That first morning I hiked out to my favorite glassing point and sat there in the dark on my perch and thanked God for this opportunity. I stared into the darkness across the canyon, thinking just maybe there would be a big bull moose standing in one of the brush fields across the canyon. Daylight broke and fog, another thing about north Idaho in fall is that fog and wet conditions are a big part of hunting the high country.

Luckily the thermals were rising and pushing the fog around that day, giving me short windows to glass across the basin. After about one hour of playing the speed glassing game between the banks of fog moving in and out, I spotted a moose across the canyon. I knew the caliber of moose this unit could hold and I had a good idea of what I was after. My cousin and I put the Swarvoski on the tripod and took a look. When I saw the right paddle on the moose across from us I immediately knew he was a good one. He was feeding on the edge of a fern patch and was busy getting ready for the long winter ahead. He looked to be in the mid 40s and had nice wide paddles with long spikes for brow tines. After some discussion and some flip flopping, I decided to hold out and look for a bull a notch bigger than this one. The rest of the day was spent going from basin to basin looking for moose. All day glassing turned out to be pretty disappointing, one small bull was all I saw.

I was a little concerned and wondered if I had screwed up by passing on the first bull that morning. Snow was forecasted for the end of the week and I was very concerned about getting snowed out of the high country. I knew my best chance was going to be trying to find a bull before the front moved in. The next day I had my buddy Kevin with me and we headed out to a good glassing point we have seen many moose from in the past. I have to say that watching the sunrise over the Idaho backcountry is one of my favorite scenes in this world. I was enjoying the show that morning and just took a quick glance through my binos through the bottom of the canyon. What I saw nearly made me fall off the cliff I was standing on! I quickly went from sight seeing to game time. We set up the spotting scope and it revealed a beautiful site to any moose hunter. Directly below us was a big bull feeding in a little brush hole in the timber above the creek.

Kyle Mann - High-Country Showdown

For a full account of Kyle's adventure, go to page 28 in the October/November 2012 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.