Three days into a Brooks Range hunting trip, Bob Condon’s friend spotted the moose.
It was grazing along the tree line, the 73-year-old Soldotna resident said, and it was big.
He was perched on top of a prominence with his friend, who had been glassing the valley, and Condon called the moose for almost two hours.
“I thought he was going somewhere else rather than coming to my call; he didn’t seem to be responsive,” he said. “They do that, though — they ignore you, then all of a sudden they just turn and make up their mind they’re going to come to it.”
The moose cut toward them through a scraggly valley, its 74-inch rack sweeping over the brush.
When it came within 500 yards, Condon raised his rife.
The distance was “extremely far,” he said, but the Septermber winds and snow that had battered them the past two days had subsided.
The valley was calm and grey.
He rested his cheek on the stock.
“It was zeroed a little high at 200 yards, so I figured it to drop a couple hundred of feet,” he said. “But when you consider the depth of a moose’s body, if you hold above him enough and are steady with your windage, it’s not an unheard of shot.”
As he looked down the scope, he said he thought about his mortality.
Three years ago, after a doctor’s appointment, Condon thought he was sentenced to death: he was due for a five-way cardiac bypass. After the surgery, doctors told him he would never hunt again.
Then two years later, a massive heart attack shook his life.
With the largest moose he had ever seen centered in his scope, he asked God for help.
Then he pulled the trigger.
“I think He gave it to me,” he said. “The odds were too much against me.”
His first shot struck the moose, and it laid down.
It is the second largest moose in the Safari Club International’s record books. The fifth in the Boon and Crocket Club’s.
“I’ve done enough hunting that I don’t remember getting as excited as I was over this one,” he said. “I think a lot of it was my age thinking that I’d never be able to get up the mountain and kill another big moose, or kill any moose. And there I was with this big old guy.”
As he caped the old moose — cutting from the shoulders and pealing the hide from its back — he noticed five of its ribs had healed over from a fight.
“They do some pretty good battles,” he said.
The moose that had broken its ribs must have been massive, he said, because he estimated his kill over 1,500 pounds.
“I keep wondering,” he said.
Condon and his three friends — two of which who were hunting elsewhere when Condon pulled the trigger — were an hour plane ride north of Coldfoot. They had expected an 11-day expedition, but when Condon called in the kill, the pilot had a grim forecast.
“He informed us that the weather was turning real bad,” he said, “and he advised us to think about getting out of there, because you are in the Arctic Circle; it can ice up or freeze up pretty quick, and snow.”
After the four men had bagged the bones and the meat and sawed off the rack and strapped it all to pack frames, they began the mile-long haul out to the landing strip.
It took them two days.
“I wasn’t feeling very good,” Condon said. “I guess the excitement and things. I had to keep sitting down. They were really, really great guys.”
Most, he said, would make you carry part of your kill, but they wouldn’t let him. So he occupied himself with a camera.
On the back of one of his photos he shot slightly crooked, two of his friends are carrying the 98-pound antlers on their shoulders down a hill. It was hard work, he said; they had to thrash through bush and forests and ford a river.
Once he was back home in Soldotna, he sent the photo to a friend.
On the back he wrote: “Sometimes getting old isn’t all that bad.”
Dan Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.