Gale-force winds, cows as big as bulls, late season no-see-ums, and (for the lucky) full freezers...
Offices and classroom desks emptied out over the last few weeks for moose season. Dillingham has seen skiffs and 4-wheelers loaded down with racks and meat... KDLG's Hannah Colton went out to find some of the stories behind that harvest.
I ran into several hunters who decided to skip moose season this fall, including longtime resident Steve German, who says this fall was too warm and buggy.
"I didn’t want to deal with all the no-see-ums and white socks… It’s too much of a hassle. I'd rather hunt geese."
For those who did go out for moose, it was a game of patience and luck. 12-year-old Amaya Wassillie Walker was hoping to get his first moose outside of Clark’s Point, but he didn’t catch one yet.
"When we went out, there was nothing. All I seen was a cow, a big cow that looked like a bull."
Also unsuccessful in his moose efforts was Terry Fuller. But he did share a story from his family’s caribou hunting trip. He said he was a proud dad taking his 15-year-old daughter on her first big game hunt.
"It was a little more daunting than shooting at cardboard cutouts at the dump, and she just missed it clean, and she just felt so bad about it… Anyway, I could not have been more proud. She really impressed me, to the point where I’m thinking... I was kind of against the idea – the idea of her getting a winter moose tag – but I’m warming to the idea now after watching her out there."
Stormy conditions last weekend may have put a damper on some peoples’ trips. We heard a story of one couple who had a wild boat ride bringing back a 60-incher in gale-force winds. But the storm was a nuisance for those on land too.
Here’s solo hunter Andy Aderman:
"I’ll have to admit that I quit hunting at one o’clock in the afternoon and I crawled into the tent and I stayed there til 7 o clock the next morning, because it just rained and blew all night long."
Aderman did get a moose, with lucky timing on last morning of the season. He says he’s looking forward to eating pickled moose heart.
Perhaps the happiest hunting party I found were out Thursday evening, cleaning out their skiff and preparing to cut up a third moose among them. They shared some of their secrets to success…
"Ninja skills! You gotta have ninja skills."
Chad Felts, along with his sister Sherry Grewal and hunting partner John Casteel, spent the better part of a month upriver. Besides stealth, Chad says the key to a successful hunting trip is each person finding the moose that’s meant for THEM. He explained it’s like in video games --
"You know, in video games, your name will kinda always follow your character… So there’s like this bubble name tag above the moose’s head while he’s walking around. You know, it’s gonna say 'John Casteel' above his head, or 'Sherry Greywall' walking around somewhere... You gotta find your moose with your name on it."
Sherry found the one with her name on it the morning after they packed out her brother’s moose.
"I was using John’s 300, and I got as close as I could, and I was so nervous – my scope was fogging up, my glasses were fogging up, I’m like 'This is it! This is it!' So finally John was like, 'If you can see it in the scope, shoot it!' And so I just took a deep breathe, and I shot, out then I seen its antler drop, and I just started chasing after it… And I had gotten my moose. I got the biggest one -- 63 inches! Yeah, I got a trophy.”
Chad’s 12-year-old son Chevy James has been accompanying his dad on hunting trips for four years now. But he thinks he and his sister might not quite have the ninja skills down yet.
"I dunno, as soon as we weren’t there they got a moose! We went to school and then they got a moose -- I think we’re too loud moose hunting."
They might be noisy, but Chevy and his sister, 10-year-old Cheyanne, are a help when it comes to butchering.
"It was cool seeing a moose the inside of a moose and stuff. But the belly was bloated and we accidentally popped a hole in it and it started to smell really bad -- Did it gross you out? -- No, not really, I didn’t puke."
For this crew, the hard work and long days are all worth it for time spent in the outdoors with family and friends. Casteel says it’s an emotional high.
"You’re just happy, sometimes you get a tear or two in your eyes, you guys are hugging each other like crazy, giving high fives, yelling and screaming. You’re the boss for the day if you just got the moose."
Now that the freezer is full, it’s time to think about what’s for dinner this winter. For this hunting clan, it’s Mongolian moose, lots of roast moose sandwiches, and about 20 pounds of moose hotdogs.