419 Inches and a Wolf

By Bill Phifer
Alaska, DIY, Public Land

Bill Phifer - 419 Inches and a WolfApril/May 2014 EHJ (Issue 142) - The only thing I could see were the tips of his antlers sticking above the brush. At a range of only 40 yards, it seemed incredible that an Alaskan moose could hide so well. The anticipation was beginning to take a toll on my nerves.

A similar situation had presented itself to my hunting partner, Steve Crump, during the very first hour of our hunt. Having both drawn this tag in 2005, we knew of several areas that had produced good bulls in the past, so it was a no-brainer to return to the area where we had both previously taken great bulls.

Steve hunts moose in Alaska more regularly than I do and a small circle of our friends who apply for this hunt each year keep the group well informed of areas with above-average moose activity. But, moose hunting always seems like a low-odds proposition to me, and without the benefit of the rut, it can be days between sightings, let alone finding a legal bull sporting 50-inch headgear or four brow tines.

Boating into our hunting area the day before and setting up camp, the low water and extreme drought conditions made recognizing landmarks and finding the way in especially challenging. After a few false starts, we beached the boat and headed inland, confident we were in the right area. We split up, diverging from the boat to cover more ground and hunt independently. We very rarely hunt together, but go our separate ways and agree on meeting times later in the day. So imagine my surprise when 45 minutes away from the boat, I heard two shots in rapid succession and knew Steve had a moose down.

Less than half a mile from the boat, Steve had entered the first big grassy meadow he encountered and saw moose antlers sticking out above the chin-high grass. He had a pretty good angle on the bull and the tops of the paddles suggested this bull was legal, and a good one to boot. But, with less than 12 inches of antler visible, Steve began a waiting game that lasted nearly 20 minutes.

Incredibly, while he waited, another legal bull fed into the meadow. This bull was very dark in appearance and his antlers were completely covered in dark black velvet. Steve was tempted to shoot this bull but opted to watch as the black bull fed toward the bedded bull.

Bill Phifer - 419 Inches and a Wolf

For a full account of Bill's adventure, go to page 54 in the April/May 2014 issue of Eastmans' Hunting Journal.